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Swim England join coalition of leading organisations issuing Government warning

Swim England has joined a coalition of leading organisations to issue a stark warning to the Government that rising energy costs could force the closure of hundreds of public leisure facilities in the next six months.

ukactive, the Local Government Association, the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, Community Leisure UK and Swim England have all signed a letter calling for urgent support.

It has been sent to Michael Gove and Nadine Dorries – the Secretaries of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport respectively.

In a national survey carried out by ukactive of its members, operators have warned of potential price rises, job losses or even closures if they do not receive urgent relief after energy bills increased by 150 per cent compared to last year.

With forecasts of those rising to 185 per cent in 2023, compared to 2021, all operators said they would cease operating within 18 months if no support was provided due to the ‘extreme’ pressures they are facing.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “The findings from the survey of pool owners and operators paints a very stark picture of the future for our swimming pools and leisure centres with price hikes, service reductions and pool closures on the horizon.

“The number of organisations coming together to highlight the seriousness of this issue for the health and wellbeing of our nation must be a wake-up call to the Government that an urgent solution must be found to support these vital facilities.”

Address the impact of energy crisis

The letter says without help, communities across the country will be impacted as parts of the sport and physical activity infrastructure faces collapse.

It states: “We are writing to request your commitment to being part of urgent talks with local government leaders and industry groups to address the impact of the energy crisis on the fitness and leisure sector, and that these discussions begin in the coming days.

“Whilst we appreciate this is a crisis that is impacting all aspects of our economy and society, the projected figures we set out in this letter forecast the collapse of parts of the sport and physical activity infrastructure in this country over the coming months – at a time when the nation will be taking inspiration from the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“They document the extreme pressure elements of the sector are under right now, especially operators of swimming pools with high energy dependency.

“The implications of these very important services ceasing to operate, especially given some provide statutory services, will not only be business failure and job losses, but the restriction of vital health and wellbeing services for millions of people of all ages and all backgrounds that are a core part of levelling up the UK.

“We hope the scale of this situation is fully understood, and that you will join us in bringing our collective energy, urgency, and focus to bear on this issue which will impact communities across the UK.”

Support the sector

The letter calls on the Government to help offset the growing financial pressures using the following measures:

  • An in-year grant with an increase to the local government settlement from 2023/24 to ring-fence and protect public leisure facilities.
  • An immediate review of sector taxation and regulation, that minimises other outgoing costs, with longer-term business tax reform to collectively support the sustainability and growth of the sector.
  • Support for a move to non-carbon intensive heating methods.

The annual contribution of sport and physical activity to the economy is £13bn and it provides 400,000 jobs, while also delivering £450m annual savings to healthcare, by preventing 30 million additional GP visits, according to research by Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University.

People are being encouraged to support the coalition by writing to their MP.

To read the full letter, click here.