Hunt and Gove urged to support leisure sector through energy crisis
DCN has co-written a letter to the Chancellor and Levelling Up secretary urging the government to offer sport and leisure facilities the financial support being offered to other parts of the public sector.
Our member councils’ leisure services face an unprecedented challenge due to the cost-of-living and energy crises, with their energy bills rising by 300 per cent since 2019. This is while providers are still grappling with the long-term impact of Covid-19.
It was therefore disappointing that leisure services and swimming pools were not made eligible for extra support from the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries Scheme and the Energy Bills Discount Scheme, which will provide money to many other public services.
DCN has joined local government partners to write a joint letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove to call for a rethink. The letter highlighted the vital importance of leisure facilities and services to the health and wellbeing of our communities, and the challenges that the sectors face.
The letter can be found here
The reason to support these services is clear: they are key to improving the health of our residents.
DCN has previously commissioned evidence on the health value leisure services could have if incorporated in a national social prescription service.
They could lead people to avoid 45,000 diseases over a decade, providing a potential health value of over £4billion, and reduce the healthy life expectancy gap by 3.7 years.
We’re aware that 94% of leisure centres have already been used for projects to tackle health inequalities; two thirds of cancer rehabilitation happens in leisure centres; and that swimming alone currently saves the health system £357million per year.
Without support now though there is a likelihood of leisure centre closure and cutbacks to the services offered.
A November survey by Ukactive showed that 40 per cent of council areas will likely see leisure centres close or services reduce before 31 March 2023 unless further support is forthcoming.
That is why, we are calling on the Government to recognise the value of public sport and leisure services as a vital public service, to show their support for public swimming pools and leisure centres and to unlock the sector’s potential by:
- Reclassifying swimming pools and leisure centres as energy intensive as part of Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they have access to the higher level of discount on energy prices.
- Set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms and sports facilities – to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised.
- Set out a “plan for the growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, and social wellbeing of the nation.