The District Councils’ Network is pleased that the Government has listened to our call to support the crisis-hit leisure sector.
As part of the Spring Budget, the Treasury has announced a one-year £63m fund will support leisure centres with pools, £40m of which is intended to boost energy efficiency in the longer term.
This follows concern about the likelihood of widespread closure and service reduction as the sector reels from the impact of inflation, particularly rising energy bills. Leisure centres were not eligible for the Energy Bills Discount Scheme or Energy and Trade Intensive Industries Scheme, which provide money to many other public services.
The DCN and the wider leisure sector have been calling for extra support for these much-used community facilities which pay a huge role in boosting physical activity and reducing the burden of ill health on the NHS.
Cllr Hannah Dalton, District Councils’ Network spokesperson on health, hardship and housing, said:
“We are pleased the Government has listened to warnings from DCN and the wider leisure sector that so many much-loved leisure centres and pools faced closure or service reduction, which would have had a devastating impact on health and wellbeing in our communities.
“This new funding will be crucial in stopping those centres and pools most at threat of closure from going to the wall, and we look forward to working with Sport England to ensure funds get to council-owned facilities where it will make the greatest difference.
“However, following years in which the pandemic reduced leisure centre use and energy bills have rocketed, this extra support will be insufficient to resolve the crisis faced by our public pools. We look forward to working with the Government to ensure their viability in the longer term.”
Many of DCN’s member councils are taking proactive steps to introduce energy efficient processes and alternative power sources such as heat pumps, solar, and district heat networks to ease the burden of mounting bills and create greener facilities. We hope that this new funding will boost energy efficiency more widely.
However, there has been long term underinvestment in the sector, with many facilities past their lifespan and in poor condition. Further investment will be needed to transform these centres into modern health hubs that promote active lifestyles and prevent greater burden on our health and care services.