Bodies and athletes call on UK Government for continued energy bill support
A coalition of more than 200 bodies and individuals across sport, health, recreation and leisure has written to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with an urgent plea to protect grassroots facilities and clubs during the ongoing energy crisis.
Energy cost relief for swimming pools, leisure centres, community facilities and gyms is set to end on March 31, leaving these clubs and facilities at risk of closure or permanently reduced services.
According to non-for-profit organisation UK Active, some of these facilities are facing bills up to 200% higher than normal.
Data from UK Active members also shows that 31% of council areas in England remain at risk of losing their leisure centre or seeing reduced services from April 1. Around 350 facilities across the UK have already witnessed service restrictions, temporary and permanent closures since October last year.
Signatories of the letter include major health bodies, national sports governing bodies, fitness and leisure groups, and athletes such as swimming legend Rebecca Adlington. Some of the bodies include Active Partnerships, the Association for Public Service Excellence, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, the Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association and more.
The letter said: “Failure to identify bespoke support for the sector (and schools operating sports facilities) as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme will be the final straw for many facilities and services – especially swimming pools.
“Without national intervention, communities will see the loss of essential local services, including swimming lessons for children which are vital for water safety; multi-sport offerings; mental health services; bespoke programmes for older citizens, ethnically diverse communities, women and girls, and disabled people; and long-term health programmes including cancer rehabilitation and support for those with musculoskeletal conditions and type 2 diabetes.”
"Pools, gyms, leisure centres, and community facilities form part of our social fabric, and they are vital for our nation’s health and the economy."
The letter also calls on the UK Government to reclassify swimming pools as energy intensive as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme; set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector including gyms, leisure centres, sports facilities and clubs; and create a ‘plan for growth’ for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the spring budget.
Huw Edwards, Chief Executive of UK Active, said: “Over 200 organisations and prominent individuals are united in urging the Government to safeguard essential community facilities across the country that remain under threat of service restrictions and closure, impacting people of all ages and backgrounds.
“Pools, gyms, leisure centres, and community facilities form part of our social fabric, and they are vital for our nation’s health and the economy. Action must be taken to protect our facilities, and to help them recover and grow so they can in turn support the growth of a healthier, happier, more productive nation.”