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Why I’ve got the energy to fight for our pools we love and need

Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming, on the current threat facing pools across the country.

I am passionate about swimming.

In particular about ensuring every child has the opportunity to learn how to swim and be safe in and around the water.

This is why I’m proud to be chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming.

As well as being a vital life skill, the health and well-being benefits of swimming – and all aquatic activities – are huge and, at present, under-utilised.

The water is an ideal environment for people to be active, particularly for those with a range of health conditions that can make it harder to be active on land.

Whilst many enjoy swimming outdoors, the reality is that for most people, if they are going to go for a swim it is in their local community pool.

Swimming pools and leisure centres play crucial role

These pools are vital hubs of the community in my patch of Hornsey and Wood Green, as they are up and down the country.

But make no mistake, pools are under real threat right now as a result of the huge increases in energy prices we are witnessing.

It has been sobering to read the stark figures from organisations across the aquatics, sport and physical activity sectors as well as the concerns being raised by representatives from local government who are at the sharp end of this situation.

Coming so soon off the back of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, swimming pool owners and operators simply don’t have the capacity to absorb these severe financial pressures.

We need to see the Government recognise the crucial role swimming pools and leisure centres play in the health and wellbeing of our communities and provide some much needed assistance.

Without such support within the next five months, leisure operators have reported that:

  • 78 per cent of facilities are likely or extremely likely to increase customer prices
  • 85 per cent of facilities are likely or extremely likely to reduce services
  • 63 per cent of facilities are likely or extremely likely to reduce staffing

This is heart-breaking for all of us who recognise the important role these facilities play in our communities.

The last thing I want to see is people being priced out of being able to take part – widening inequalities, or the pool doors shutting completely.

But this is not just some emotional appeal – investing in swimming makes clear economic sense as well.

Every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates £4 and swimming has been shown to save the NHS more than £350 million each year.

I commend organisations like Swim England, ukactive, the Local Government Association, District Council’s Network, Chief Leisure Operators Association, Community Leisure UK, Sport and Recreation Alliance, Royal Life Saving Society, the Chartered Institute of the Management of Sport and Physical Activity and many others for their ongoing efforts to raise this issue.

I am in regular contact with colleagues in parliament about this issue and will continue to lobby and do all I can to encourage the Government to do the right thing and step in to protect the facilities we love and need.

Main image: Catherine West MP Twitter

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