89% of leisure and culture charities in Scotland are at Risk

Published on: November 24th 2022

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EIGHTY-NINE per cent of charities delivering public leisure and culture in Scotland are at risk, ranging from those that are in crisis now to those that can see the crisis point on the horizon.

That’s the stark warning from members’ association Community Leisure UK (CLUK), who said today that the number of trusts in crisis would only grow in the coming months as more and more trusts head into crises and take difficult decisions to close facilities and services.

CLUK members operate pools, gyms, theatres, libraries and parks and are calling for an extension to the energy price cap to cover public leisure and culture and give them more financial support.

Of the 19 Charitable Trusts in Scotland interviewed in November, 63% say they are in discussions and planning around the impact of closures, in some instances of significant numbers of venues. CLUK has 24 members in total in Scotland.

In Scotland, Sport Aberdeen announced the temporary closure of Beach Leisure Centre earlier this year, and closures have already been announced by some Trusts in England, including Freedom Leisure who has temporarily closed the swimming pool at Rye Sports Centre, East Sussex to combat rising costs, while Richmondshire Leisure Trust says they can no longer run Colburn Leisure Centre, North Yorkshire due to significant rises in operating costs.

Community Leisure Scotland said their latest survey of members across the UK showed a “first wave” of closures was inevitable, with more to follow as those at risk entered into crisis.

Robin Strang, Chair of Community Leisure Scotland, said: “89% of our members in Scotland are at risk, ranging from those that are in crisis now to those that can see the crisis point on the horizon.

“Many members are now making tough decisions, including closing buildings and making redundancies. This is the first wave of what is expected to be a long period of uncertainty and crises for our members due to rising energy prices and the cost of living crisis.

“The majority of Trusts currently at risk will move into crisis within the next twelve months. April and October 2023 are cited as critical points for members due to energy contracts ending, increases in staff wages for the new financial year and local authority funding decisions.”

“Our members make a valuable contribution to helping improve the health and wellbeing of communities. Both the UK and Scottish Governments must recognise them as a vulnerable sector, and we encourage local authority partners to be more flexible with their contracts.”

The survey also found: 

  • Some venues in Scotland have temporarily closed, either due to staffing shortages or as a mitigation measure for increasing energy costs. 
  • The two main pressure points are energy bills and pay awards, with increases to the National Living Wage for large percentages of their employees adding to the financial pressure.
  • Staff budgets have more than doubled since September 2021 due to increased staffing costs due to the need to be competitive with wages to recruit and retain staff, as well as increases to the national minimum wage and National Living Wage.
  • 58% of members will post a deficit at the end of the financial year.
  • Reserves have been significantly depleted due to being used to support spiralling costs.

Members across Scotland have already enacted many mitigating measures to try and offset the increase in their outgoings, including raising prices and being more energy efficient.

Kirsty Cumming, CEO of Community Leisure UK, added: “There is an urgent need to support public leisure and culture to ensure that these services are protected and able to continue their vital work supporting the health and wellbeing of communities across Scotland. They are no longer sustainable and the situation will only get worse.”

Community Leisure UK is calling for: 

  • An extension of the energy price cap to cover charitable leisure and culture services.
  • Flexibility and innovation from Local Authorities to enable their local Leisure and Culture partners to respond to challenging circumstances and take decisions based on local needs and sustainability.
  • Funding to support the unprecedented increase in costs with a joint approach across Scottish Government and Local Authorities.