Councils join forces for leisure centre plea
By Rob Freeman | 31st August 2020
Forest of Dean District Council has joined forces with local authorities across the South West to call on the Government for urgent funding to safeguard the future of leisure centres.
They are asking ministers to approve a funding submission to help councils meet the costs of reopening and operating leisure centres following the coronavirus lockdown.
Many leisure centres remain closed while others are facing increased costs due to COVID-secure measures, limited customer numbers and reduced opening hours.
Some providers are reporting up to 50 per cent drops in income which are predicted to continue into the next two years.
The councils which are members of the South West Leisure Group and include North Devon and Cornwall councils, are warning the Government needs to act before it is too late.
Forest of Dean Council leader Councillor Tim Gwilliam said "We in the Forest of Dean Council are all too aware of the financial difficulties facing councils around their leisure provision.
"We had to make some really difficult decisions ourselves in order to enable the phased reopening our leisure centres.
"People want these services, People need these services."
He continued: "As we have learned to our cost at Five Acres it is immensely difficult to reinstate these facilities once they are closed.
"For the good of the councils, for the good of the community and for the good of the country, the Government must support all councils financially to protect leisure services."
Under government funding announced last month, only around a quarter of councils will be able to recover a proportion of the income that has been lost as a result of the pandemic.
Sport England has been leading cross sector support on the challenges facing local authorities' leisure provision due to COVID-19 and have made Government aware of the severe impact on public leisure provision and the need to secure additional financial support as serious concerns remain over its economic viability.
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