Half of public leisure facilities could face closure

The government has been warned that half of all public leisure facilities in the UK could close by the end of the year without more government support.

Huw Edwards, chief executive of trade body ukactive, told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that public leisure facilities needed a £800 million bailout in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

Although ministers maintain that they are aiming to reopen facilities in England in mid-July, the concern is that too many sports centres have already ‘fallen between the cracks’ of other services local councils have to provide in law.

Public leisure centres, swimming pools and sports halls are funded by local authorities, although often run by trusts or third-party providers. However unlike other local services such as libraries, waste collection and road repair, councils are not legally obliged to provide them.

ukactive, which represents leisure centres and facility operators, estimates that approximately a third of facilities would not be able to reopen when allowed. An exact date has not yet been announced.

There are 2,727 public leisure facilities in the UK, employing 76,000 full-time staff, in addition to freelance staff and casual workers such as personal trainers.