The CFPI responds to leading health, sport, fitness and leisure bodies urging the Prime Minister to intervene on energy bill relief
The Campaign for Public Infrastructure expresses support for the coalition of almost 200 sport governing bodies, health organisations and top athletes that has written to UK prime minister Rishi Sunak warning of the “final straw” for many gyms, pools and clubs if energy cost relief is withdrawn in April.
The letter makes an “urgent plea” for the government to “think again and provide the necessary support to the sport, recreation and physical activity sector”.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU), England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), British Cycling, Swim England and the British Paralympic Association are other signatories representing many sports bodies across the UK.
With energy costs relief for the UK’s swimming pools, leisure centres, community facilities, and gyms ending on 31 March, thousands of facilities and clubs are at risk of permanent closure or reduced services.
Public and private sector organisations of all sizes will face unprecedented financial challenges, with bills up to 200% higher than normal.
For public leisure operators running services within local authorities, the latest data from ukactive’s members finds that 31% of council areas in England remain at risk of losing or seeing reduced services at their leisure centres, from 1 April.
So far, around 350 facilities nationally already having seen service restrictions, temporary and permanent closures since October 2022. In the past year, 29 leisure centres, pools or gyms have closed temporarily or permanently because of rising energy prices.
The group – which also includes the Youth Sport Trust, Active Partnerships and the Local Government Association, asks the prime minister to reclassify swimming pools as energy intensive so they have access to a higher level of discount on prices.
It also wants ministers to set out what “tangible support” it will provide to the wider sector to help navigate the energy crisis, warning the current approach will have “incredibly damaging consequences for our national health and prosperity”.
The closure of leisure facilities will also result in the loss of thousands of skilled, professional jobs, and damage to local economies through the impact on suppliers and related businesses.
The letter calls for the Government to work with the sector to:
- Reclassify swimming pools as energy intensive as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they have access to the higher level of discount on energy prices.
- Set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms, leisure centres, sports facilities, and clubs – to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised.
- Set out a “plan for growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, educational and social wellbeing of the nation.
In response to the letter, the CFPI’s Advocacy Manager, Francis Thomas, stated:
As essential public infrastructure, swimming pools, gyms, community facilities, clubs and leisure centres represent so much to our communities. As the letter describes, recreation is woven into our social fabric.
It is deeply concerning that facilities within a third of council areas are at risk. Increased energy bills are having profound impacts across the public sphere, and the withdrawal of energy bill support for swimming pools is a significant threat.
The Government’s commitment to promoting and restoring pride of place is welcomed. But this cannot be achieved without sport, recreation, and physical activity.
The CFPI expresses wholehearted support for the coalition’s calls and urge the Government to consider them in full.