New PM warned soaring energy costs could force closure of ‘crucial’ swimming pools6 September 2022
New Prime Minister Liz Truss has been warned ‘crucial’ swimming pools could be forced in the coming months if they don’t receive financial help to cover soaring energy costs.
Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has written to Ms Truss after she won the vote to be the next Conservative leader and replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
In her letter, Jane states the ‘urgent situation’ has put pools and leisure centres under ‘real threat’ on the back of a challenging time for the sector following the coronavirus pandemic.
Jane wrote: “Swimming pools are crucial to the health and wellbeing of the nation but urgently need government support to survive the huge current challenges posed by the soaring cost of energy.
“Whilst we appreciate the complexity of this energy crisis and its potential solutions, failure to effectively engage will lead to the loss in the coming months of swimming pools and leisure centres that are at the very heart of our communities and which support some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
“Swim England urges your government to recognise the scale of the issue facing swimming pools and leisure facilities and to provide the financial support required to safeguard the future of these vital facilities as a matter of urgency.”
Jane has called for a meeting to discuss the situation further after Ms Truss announced she would be putting together a plan to deal with energy bills.
“A survey of public sector leisure multi-site facility operators revealed that without financial support to mitigate against the impact of these increases we will see up to 85 per cent of facilities likely or extremely likely to be forced to stop operating completely in the next six months,” wrote Jane.
“A total of 78 per cent are likely or extremely likely to increase customer prices and 63 per cent to reduce staffing.
Under real threat
“This feedback is also reflected in the experiences of individual, single site operators.
“Swimming remains one of the most popular activities in England, with around 14 million people taking part each year before the pandemic and pools remain cherished parts of communities the length and breadth of the country.
“Swimming is also a vital life skill that could one day be the difference between life and death.
“Too many of our children still leave school unable to swim and this situation will only get worse without the pools we need for children to learn in.
“Additionally, the unique properties of the water mean it can be an ideal location to support people who may struggle to be active on land to exercise. Swimming saves the NHS and social care system over £357 million each year.
“However, the high energy dependency of our pools and leisure centres means they are under real threat.
“Energy prices for swimming pools and leisure centres have increased from £500 million in 2019 to £1.2 billion in 2022 and are forecast to rise by as much as 185 per cent for public sector leisure operators in 2023 compared to 2021.
“Some private sector operators are forecasting increases of up to 240 per cent.
“This pressure on costs has come at an already challenging time for the sector.
“We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this issue.”