New funding to help keep leisure centres with pools afloat
Posted: Fri, 24 Mar 2023 09:00
Publicly-owned leisure centres with swimming pools have been handed a financial boost following the announcement of a major new fund in today's Spring Budget.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer outlined that £63 million of new money will be made available in a one-year fund.
The fund, which will be managed by Sport England, will allow local authorities to apply for funding for leisure centres with pools that face immediate cost pressures including operational and maintenance costs, and energy bills.
There are more than 2,000 public leisure centres in England, over 800 of which have pools, and these play a vital role in helping communities engage with sport and physical activity. They provide vital services which are not available through other providers.
Tim Hollingsworth, our chief executive, said it is vital this money goes where it can make the greatest difference.
"This is a significant and welcome amount of support from the Government that will offer a lifeline to many public leisure centres across England as well as help sustain them into the future," he said.
"Swimming pools play a vital role in our communities and are enormously important in helping people to be physically active in their daily lives.
"We know how difficult the present situation is and have been working hard to ensure these providers get the support they need. We'll now turn our efforts to supporting the process in the weeks ahead to distribute the funding made available today to ensure it goes where it is needed the most."
A key aim of the fund will be to help these facilities to become more energy efficient.
In total, £40 million of the fund will be made available for investment in decarbonisation and long-term energy efficiency, while £23 million will help with costs to make these essential local hubs more energy efficient.
Council-run pools, pools run on behalf of councils by private companies and by charities are all eligible for support.
"This is a significant and welcome amount of support from the Government that will offer a lifeline to many public leisure centres across England as well as help sustain them into the future."
Tim Hollingsworth - Chief executive, Sport England
Commenting on the funding, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, hailed the importance of swimming pools to local communities.
"Soaring bills are hitting us all hard, and community pools have been thrown in the deep end. I know they are loved by millions of people," he said. "This vital lifeline will keep them afloat."
Sport England know the rising cost of energy, along with chemical shortages and staff retention have created a challenging landscape for the public leisure sector.
Sport England have been able to track this in real time through our Moving Communities service alongside participation data across different activities to understand the wider social value generated from activity in these vital community facilities.
Efforts from local authorities and their service providers in sharing this data have been integral to the funding decision and created a positive step change that can continue to show the impact of these centres moving forward.
In order to build a sustainable sector, Sport England have worked with key stakeholders in the industry to produce the future of public sector leisure report.
The report provides an overview of the current landscape and outlines a model direction of travel that will enable the sector to create a more sustainable future.
More information on how local authorities can apply for funding and detailed eligibility criteria will be made available in due course.
(Source & Image: Sport England)