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Energy price rises pose ‘clear and present threat’ to swimming pools, MPs warned

The huge increases in energy prices pose a ‘clear and present threat’ to swimming pools without urgent government support.

That’s the warning to MPs from Swim England, swimming pool owners and operators, ukactive, the Local Government Association, Community Leisure UK and others at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming in Westminster on Tuesday 26 April.

The meeting, attended by the Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston MP, heard that energy cost increases of between 100 -150 per cent for the leisure sector are forcing pool owners and operators to increase prices and consider closures.

Figures from ukactive revealed that the total energy bill for the leisure sector has risen from £500 million in 2019 to between £1.0 – £1.2 billion for this year.

The sector was united in calling for the Government to work with them to deliver the support needed to ensure swimming pools can continue to provide their services at an affordable cost for users, particularly those from lower socio-economic groups.

Speaking after the meeting, Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said: “We know the huge role swimming plays in the health and wellbeing of the nation – the physical and mental health benefits of swimming for people of all ages are many and are undoubted. Swimming saves the NHS and social care system a minimum of £357 million per year.

“This has never been more important than after the past two years but the energy crisis poses a clear and present threat to the future of many facilities.

“With 40 per cent of people who exercise in the water not doing any other form of exercise, the loss of these facilities would be disastrous.

Incredibly challenging

“Swimming is also a life-skill. Too many of our children already leave school unable to swim, particularly those from less affluent families and those from ethnically diverse communities.

“Price increases and pool closures would only serve to make this situation even worse, widening health inequalities and excluding those most in need of these facilities.”

Pool owners and operators outlined a range of measures they were taking to reduce energy consumption in their pools right now, and longer-term investments in more energy efficient and carbon neutral solutions.

However, they stressed that none of these measures could resolve the acute difficulties immediately facing swimming pools.

Energy costs are typically a leisure operator’s second highest cost after staffing costs, which have also increased, and the costs of chemicals required to treat pool water increasing by as much as 80 per cent.

ukactive Chief Executive, Huw Edwards added: “Our members want to avoid passing on these cost pressures to their customers, especially given the rise in the cost of living, nor do they want to restrict services or close but these outcomes are growing more likely every day that the Government does not act.

“Pools, gyms and leisure centres were recovering steadily following the pandemic to serve their communities at a crucial time for the nation’s mental and physical recovery but with reserves exhausted, and increases in costs across a range of areas, the situation is incredibly challenging.

“We want to work with the Government to secure the support pools and fitness facilities need to ensure our nation’s health inequalities do not widen any further.”