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15 May 2021

54 per cent of public sector health clubs and leisure centres at risk of closure without government help
BY Tom Walker

Tanni's letter highlighted the pandemic's devastating impact on both public leisure facilities, as well as small and medium-sized fitness businesses

Tanni's letter highlighted the pandemic's devastating impact on both public leisure facilities, as well as small and medium-sized fitness businesses
photo: Shutterstock/Flamingo Images

Thousands of health clubs, swimming pools and leisure centres are under the threat of permanent closure, unless the government provides increased financial support for the sector.

That is the stark warning issued by ukactive chair Tanni Grey-Thompson in a letter written to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Her strongly-worded letter outlines how more than 400 gyms, pools and community centres have already shut since the start of the pandemic – and that many more could follow.

She also highlighted the impact had been particularly severe for small and medium-sized businesses and said that failure to provide further tailored support “will contribute to a worsening of our health inequalities, with inactivity levels continuing to climb”.

In the letter, Grey-Thompson urges the PM to deliver on the priorities set out in this week's Queen’s Speech, which included a pledge by the government to “deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the UK stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before”.

The Queen's Speech – which outlined the government’s agenda and focus for the forthcoming parliamentary session – also featured a promise to address the impact of the pandemic on public services.

While the speech talked of preventative care to support the health and wellbeing of the nation, the physical activity sector has received only limited tailored support to date.

In her letter, Baroness Grey-Thompson writes: “I'm writing to request your support, and for you to personally intervene, to ensure that thousands of gyms, pools, and leisure centres are able to stay open and continue to support communities across our country.

“In 2020, we welcomed your pledge to ensure Britain built back fitter and happier from Covid-19. And just this week, we were pleased to see the Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s priority to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the UK stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before.

“However, while recognising this ambition, it concerns me deeply to see a gap between the ambition and the reality which sees a continued lack of financial support for facilities that will be integral to improving the nation’s health.

“In order for us to turn this tide of inactivity, we must ensure that the infrastructure of the sport and physical activity sector is able to survive and recover from the long periods of closure faced by facility operators.”

The letter follows a new survey by ukactive, which has found that more than half (54 per cent) of England’s leisure centres that are operated by trusts or under Leisure Management Contracts (LMCs) are at risk of closure within six months unless they receive extended funding.

• To read the full letter in full, click here



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