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Crisis looming for leisure and community centres – half will close without government support

By Liz Terry    30 Jun 2020
Half of the UK's leisure centres could be lost without government support / Shutterstock/Mintybear

Almost half of all public health and fitness, leisure and community facilities in the UK, including swimming pools and leisure centres with gyms, will close by the end of the year unless councils get a cash injection from the government in the form of ring-fenced funding.

It's not known how many of these are community centres and how many have gyms.


Industry bodies Community Leisure UK (CLUK) and ukactive estimate leisure centres, swimming pools and community services face a shortfall of more than £800m in the current financial year (2020–21).


Following consultations with members, the two trade bodies say 48 per cent are facing closure, meaning as many as 1,300 facilities could be shut by the end of the year, along with the loss of 58,000 jobs.


The consultations also suggest up to 35 per cent of the facilities, which are funded via local authorities and delivered either in-house or by trusts and management providers, will not be able to reopen when given the permission to do so by the government. 


CLUK and ukactive have written to every MP, outlining the financial position operators face this financial year.


The bodies are urging MPs to call on central government to provide funding to support local authorities in maintaining community assets.

Mark Tweedie, CEO of Community Leisure UK, said: “These facilities are vital to help millions of people maintain their physical and mental health, build resilience to and rehabilitate from COVID-19.


“Communities without leisure centres are unimaginable. It's time for politicians and the public to unite behind the drive to insist on Government support.”


“The UK is sleepwalking into the loss of thousands of community gyms and leisure centres which form part of the fabric of our society and serve as the frontline of the NHS," said Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive. 


“We call on the Government to support local authorities to protect the future of public leisure provision by providing ring-fenced funding, now and during the recovery period.


“It falls on every MP to support councils and for providers to come together and protect these vital facilities for this generation and the next.”

ukactive has been lobbying to protect both its public and private sector members throughout the pandemic, with this latest move to support leisure trusts and councils being part of a wider campaigning programme.

In April, the organisation lobbied to support private sector operators in making claims for furlough and government loan schemes, while in June, it turned its attention to work on protecting operators from landlords seeking to recover rent payments and having this protection extended.

ukactive-CLUK  Community Leisure UK  Mark Tweedie  Huw Edwards 
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