LEISURE CENTRES REOPEN BUT REMAIN ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE – COUNCILS WARN

Gyms and leisure centres are able to reopen today, but many face an uncertain future as latest figures reveal the significant financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Since the start of the lockdown, leisure services have suffered an overall £180 million financial hit, compared with the same period last year (March to July)

Many anticipate further cash losses as a result of cancelled memberships and falling demand and reduced capacity to run services in the months ahead.

It is expected the sector will lose around £305 million this year – without additional help, many leisure centres are at risk of going bust.

The District Councils’ Network, which represents 187 district councils in England that provide leisure services, is calling on the Treasury to provide a rescue package to save leisure centres from collapse.

Just recently, ukactive and Community Leisure UK warned that nearly half of all public leisure facilities in the UK face permanent closure by the end of the year, unless local authorities receive urgent ring-fenced funding from the Government.

The DCN says leisure centres have a fundamental role to play in the national recovery from the pandemic, by improving physical and mental health and tackling health inequalities.

Sport and leisure will be critical to improving the health of people of all ages and from all backgrounds and keeping people out of overstretched and expensive NHS and social care services.

Investing in leisure centres will also deliver greater returns in the long term, with the King’s Fund finding that district council leisure services and green spaces create up to £23 in value for every £1 invested.

Cllr Dan Humphreys, DCN lead member for enhancing quality of life, said:

“It is great that gyms and leisure centres are able to reopen today – with safety for staff and users paramount.

“But they open on the brink, their income has plummeted over the lockdown and many face an uncertain future.

“This is why it is absolutely critical the Treasury comes up with a rescue package for leisure centres yet to receive financial support.

“The national recovery from coronavirus will need places like leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools to remain open and survive, so as to help improve the physical and mental health of people of all ages.”