Reducing management fees from Local Authorities combined with rising costs for energy and stagnation in customers returning post-Covid are creating the perfect storm for Charitable Trusts across the UK.
Community Leisure UK, a members association for Charitable Trusts – who manage libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools and theatres – said a recent discussion forum with members revealed that some members in Scotland were now considering tough measures including; increasing membership prices, reducing opening hours, closing facilities and stopping or reducing health and wellbeing work altogether to focus on income generating activities.
In England and Wales Charitable Trusts are considering reducing opening hours and increasing prices.
Phil Rumbelow, Chairman of Community Leisure UK, said: “The current global economic climate combined with years of undervaluing public leisure and culture through reduced management fees by Local Authorities is bringing leisure and culture trusts to a critical point in terms of their survival.
“At the same time, leisure and culture trusts are facing an unprecedented increase in their expenditure, which is putting an unsustainable pressure on their operations while their income from returning customers post-Covid hasn’t reached pre-pandemic levels.
“It’s creating a perfect storm and something has to give. Some of our members will be making some very tough decisions in the weeks and months ahead.”
A Community Leisure UK survey of its members showed customer returns in public leisure have been stagnating at the 70-80% mark when compared to pre-Covid levels since October 2021. For the arts and culture sector, there is a similar picture, with the latest insight showing that only 78% of audiences had returned in the first quarter of 2022.
Management fees from Local Authorities have once again started to decrease following a freeze during the pandemic, while energy bills have increased in 2022 by 113% compared to the average cost in 2019.
Further financial pressures include increases to the National Living Wage, National Insurance Contributions and cost of raw materials.
Community Leisure UK is encouraging Councils and Governments to reconsider how they invest in public leisure and culture as they look to balance their own financial struggles.
Kirsty Cumming, CEO of Community Leisure UK said: “The risk of moving to an approach of no investment into leisure and culture from local authorities is that services will be forced to operate more commercially in order to remain viable, which may involve increasing membership and access charges, reducing concessionary and free access and stopping the delivery of non-profitable activities.
“This would have a devastating impact by exacerbating health inequalities, and significantly impacting on the wellbeing of individuals across the country. Countless people rely on their local leisure trust to access physical, cultural and social opportunities, particularly individuals who have long-term conditions or may require additional support.”
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