Swim England

A nation swimming

Ongoing high energy costs continue to threaten future of pools and facilities

Ongoing high energy costs are continuing to threaten the future of leisure centres and other publicly-operated fitness facilities, according to a new report.

ukactive’s energy risk survey has revealed that nearly 40 per cent are considering reducing services or closing sites entirely by March.

Public sector operators across 164 council areas in the UK and 801 sites from private sector operators responded to the survey and the results paint a worrying picture for the leisure industry moving forward.

Support for some public sector operators came in the form of the Swimming Pool Support Fund announced in March.

However, demand has greatly outstripped supply, with less than 50 per cent of applicants successful and many other providers not eligible.

Swim England has welcomed the investment to date as it will undoubtedly help a number of pools, but as ukactive’s report shows, more needs to be done to deliver the network of sustainable pools we need for the future.

The report found that three quarters (75 per cent) of private facilities are extremely likely to have to increase their customer pricing in the next six months, with 87.5 per cent having already been forced to raise prices over the past year to cope with high operating costs.

In some cases, the rising cost of energy has increased operators bills by more than 200 per cent.

Nearly half (43.8 per cent) of the privately-owned facilities that responded said they will be forced to consider making redundancies within the next six months.

Half (50 per cent) of the respondents said they have already reduced their staff numbers within the 12 months prior to September 2023.

Many services remain under threat

Swim England’s Value of Swimming report, which launched in September, revealed that more than 1,000 publicly accessible pools have closed since 2010 – while, around 1,500 are in excess of 40 years old and coming towards the end of their ‘shelf life’.

The governing body shared its findings with the Government, as have ukactive, whose CEO Huw Edwards said: “The Government’s ambition to get millions more people active can only be achieved if continued business support is provided to gyms, pools, and leisure facilities, alongside detailed plans to drive growth in the use of services.

“Our nation’s gyms, pools and leisure centres represent the engine room of physical activity in the UK, but our survey shows that many services remain under threat from high energy costs.

“Operators are doing everything to avoid passing these costs onto customers, but continuing pressure means service reductions, price rises and redundancies are highly likely, which will only exacerbate health inequalities.

“If we do not ensure the survival and growth of these facilities with targeted measures, it will have serious implications for the nation’s health, the NHS and the economy in terms of workforce illness.”

The Value of Swimming report outlined how swimming is generating £2.4billion of social value a year with water-based activity continuing to make a significant contribution to the physical and mental wellbeing of the nation.

Swim England’s ‘Don’t Put a Cap on Swimming’ campaign is calling on the Government to ensure the country has a network of sustainable pools to support all the activities and sports that rely on them, as well as increasing access to outdoor swimming opportunities.

You can find out more about the campaign by clicking here.