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18 May 2021

Study: third of councils fear they have to close health clubs and pools permanently
BY Tom Walker

The study found that 117 leisure centres could run out of money 'within months'

The study found that 117 leisure centres could run out of money 'within months'
photo: Shutterstock/BGStock72

One in three councils in England are expecting to close at least one of their leisure centres permanently during 2021.

What more, up to 117 centres could run out of money within months, while of those councils that are planning to keep all their facilities open, nearly 80 per cent say they will be forced to cut services back.

The chilling figures come from a study by the District Councils' Network (DCN) – a body representing 180 local authorities in England – and reveals the devastating impact of the pandemic on leisure centres.

Other findings include that nearly a fifth of those councils expecting to have to cut services said they were considering shutting three or more leisure centres.

Almost four in 10 said at least two would close in their area, while 19 per cent of councils say centres will go out of business within the next three months and more than half (59 per cent) within the year.

In its analysis, the DCN says that while the government funding to support leisure centres during the pandemic has been helpful, it falls far short of plugging the £325m funding gap faced by district council-run leisure services.

Dan Humphreys, DCN’s lead member for enhancing quality of life, said: "As these alarming findings show, the gyms, swimming pools and local leisure centres that communities rely on every day face a desperately bleak future, with many on the brink of closing in the coming months due to the financial losses they have incurred during the pandemic.

“The survival of our leisure centres will be fundamental to our health and economic recovery. Council leisure services are not like privately ran gyms, they are hubs of community and services helping everyone get active – from school swimming lessons, to over 60s activity schemes.

“A wave of closures will deliver a real body blow to our efforts to boost physical and mental health and address the health inequalities across our communities.

“District councils have done all they can to keep leisure services afloat, but the devastating economic impact of the pandemic means over 100 centres across are now at risk of closing their doors forever.

“The Government must step in to provide leisure centres the financial lifeline needed to spearhead the local health recovery across our villages, towns and cities.”



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