Community swimming pools across the UK will close at an alarming rate without urgent Government support to tackle crippling energy bills, leisure industry leaders fear.
Members of Community Leisure UK (CLUK) – the organisation that represents charitable trusts delivering public leisure and culture services – say 80% of its members have told them they are at financial risk amid skyrocketing costs.
Swimming pools are particularly vulnerable because of their high energy bills to heat water and the ambient environment.
CLUK has written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, calling on him to designate leisure and cultural charity trusts as a Vulnerable Sector as part of the UK Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme. The letter can be read here.
Alistair Robertson, Vice-Chair of CLUK, said: “The UK’s community leisure sector is in peril as operators struggle to pay huge energy bills while still trying to recover from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Without designation as a vulnerable sector, the situation will become existential after 31st March.
“Bills are bad enough now, but the prospect of them rising further after April 1st is frightening.
“Many swimming pools in particular are in the last-chance saloon. Without urgent Government support to pay their energy bills, many operators simply will not be able to afford to open them.
“We fear closures at an alarming rate, right across the country. Once closed, it is hard to see them reopening.
“Given that our members provide community services at affordable prices, it’s the most vulnerable – those already hit hardest by the cost of living crisis – who will suffer the greatest at a time when they need support with their health and wellbeing most.”
The UK Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme provides relief for non-domestic users across Great Britain and Northern Ireland by reducing gas and electricity unit prices.
The sector was supported over the first six months of the scheme, but no guarantees have yet been made for the period after 1st April.
Mr Robertson added: “Vulnerable Sector Designation is necessary for our members’ survival, a critical tool in our armour as we at least attempt to stabilise and look for some kind of recovery.
“Every one of our members is taking a long, hard look at its finances against a backdrop of depleted reserves after almost three years of once unimaginable disruption with local authorities – themselves under pressure – having no capacity to financially support the scale of price increases we are experiencing.”
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