Torridge District Council is working in partnership with local authorities across the South West in urgently calling on the Government to provide funding to safeguard the future of leisure centres.
Councils which are members of the South West Leisure Group are warning that the government needs to act now before the furloughing scheme ends this autumn and it is too late for the sector. Many councils have been or are being asked to provide financial support to keep these companies and organisations financially viable and allow them to open up, but in many cases, councils simply do not have the funds.
Under government funding announced last month, only around a quarter of councils will be able to recover a proportion of the income that has been lost as a result of the pandemic. Where centres in other districts have reopened or partially reopened, they are facing substantial increased costs due to additional Covid-secure measures they have had to put in place, including limiting customer numbers and reduced opening hours.
Sport England have been leading cross sector support on the challenges facing local authorities’ leisure provision due to COVID-19 and have made Government aware of the severe impact on public leisure provision and the need to secure additional financial support as serious concerns remain over its economic viability.
Leader of Torridge Council, Councillor Ken James, said: “The leisure facilities in Torridge are a vital asset for the health and well-being our local communities and Torridge continue to do all that we can to safeguard them. We have worked closely with our leisure management partner since the start of the lockdown, but we have still not reached a position where we can afford to re-open the three leisure centres in Torridge. We would welcome additional financial support from the government so that we can deliver these important services.”
John Hart, Chair, South West Councils, said: “The position is pretty simple really. Councils are being asked to financially support companies purely to enable public facilities to re-open. Councils cannot afford to do this and so there is now a real risk that facilities in some areas will not be opening. That will undermine national initiatives to reduce obesity and make the nation healthier and more resilient. It is vital that the government holds firm to its promise to do whatever is necessary to support councils’ efforts.”