Leisure organizations call for urgent support amid rising energy costs

Rising energy costs could force councils and other providers of public leisure centers to close facilities, the government has warned.

The Local Government Association is part of a coalition of bodies that have written to Communities Secretary Michael Gove and Culture Secretary Nadine Dories demanding urgent discussions.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dem), LGA Chairman, Tourism and Sports Council, said: “Councils are working incredibly hard to prevent centers from closing and understand that many people are facing increasing individual costs, therefore have no desire to raise prices if this can be avoided.

Other signatories to the letter include: UK Active, the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association, Swim England, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, the District Councils’ Network and Community Leisure UK.

A survey by UK Active, an association representing leisure centers and gyms, suggests that energy costs for public leisure facilities are set to rise by 150% for 2022 and then 185% for 2023.

To mitigate their rising costs, most carriers said they would raise prices, cut staff and reduce or even stop services.

The letter states: “We hope the magnitude of this situation is fully understood and that you will join us in bringing our collective energy, urgency and focus to this issue which will impact communities across the UK. United.”

The letter also highlights other pressures on councils and adds: ‘These rising costs cannot be met by council tax increases alone, especially as councils try to balance their own financial pressures with the sharp increase in the cost of living for households.

Instead, the letter suggests that the government provide an in-year grant to councils to support leisure services.

It also calls for a review of how the sector is taxed “along with longer-term corporate tax reform to collectively support the sustainability and growth of the sector”.

Third, industry representatives called for support to switch to low-carbon heating methods.

Contacted for comment, the government highlighted previous funding to support leisure facilities during the Covid pandemic.

A government spokesperson said: ‘We recognize the impact that rising global gas prices will have on businesses of all sizes, which is why we are in regular contact with Ofgem, business groups and energy providers to understand the challenges they face and see how they can best. be supported.

“We are giving councils the resources they need to maintain and improve their services, with an additional £3.7bn made available for 2022-23. Much of this funding is not earmarked in recognition of the fact that local authorities are best placed to understand local priorities, such as local recreation centers and libraries.