Community Leisure UK Response to the Government’s phased reopening plans for England

Published on: June 24th 2020

We are delighted that cultural venues including museums, galleries and libraries have been given the go ahead to open on 4 July. While it is disappointing that live performances will not be able to resume, there is the potential for members to reopen their theatres but in a very limited fashion. Like other cultural venues, theatres are able to show films, open their cafes, and do some community activities providing social distancing is observed.   

We are disappointed that the Government could not announce a date for the reopening of swimming pools, gyms and sports halls. Our members serve some of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK and provide targeted services for some of the most vulnerable people in society, so without compromising safety, we want to ensure our members have the opportunity to reopen as soon as possible so services and high quality experiences to be active can resume. Our members across public leisure and culture play a critical role in maintaining the nation’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, and with regard to Covid-19 they will play a key role to support people to build resilience and to rehabilitate when recovering from the virus.

We have worked closely with our national sport and leisure infrastructure partners, ukactive, CIMSPA and Sport England, to provide a framework to help the Government determine that leisure facilities can reopen safely with satisfactory measures in place. We remain committed to work together to agree the steps necessary to fully understand Government requirements so that reopening can be achieved safely at the appropriate time. Equally, we are working closely with our partners at Libraries Connected, Theatres Trust and Arts Council England to understand what the reopening of cultural facilities will look like for our members.

Covid-19 has put the leisure and cultural sector in a critical financial position and so it is important that we continue to work hard with our national partners, including the LGA, to emphasise to the Government that immediate financial support is required. We are very sorry that one of our outstanding member Leisure and Cultural Trusts (Vivacity) has already announced that it will cease trading as a direct result of Covid-19 which indicates how serious the situation has become. Without financial support many of our members will not remain viable during the extended closure period, and we know that financial recovery will take a considerable amount of time because income will be compromised by continued social distancing measures and reduced customer confidence levels.

Our Chief Executive, Mark Tweedie said:

“Irrespective of the reopening date, Covid-19 has left the public leisure and cultural sector in a critical financial position. The reduction of the social distance rule to 1m plus will help when the go ahead is given to reopen, but unless the sector receives financial support we will see cherished community facilities close and job losses. The decision not to reopen gyms, pools and sports halls on 4 July will come as a disappointment to people eager to resume their exercise which is so important for the maintenance of health and wellbeing, and the rationale behind this decision will seem questionable when balanced against decisions to reopen the hospitality sector. However, we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that the Government receives robust information to make decisions so the public can return to leisure facilities safely and confidently. Our members have worked incredibly hard to make ready for reopening by adapting services and introducing extensive sanitisation measures, and when the sector is finally given the go ahead sufficient notice is necessary to ensure staff can be remobilised from furlough and services can resume effectively.”