Community Leisure UK ezine
May 2022
UK Active asks government to provide support for the fitness sector

20 Dec 2021

UK Active has sent letters to three government departments, asking for them to provide the fitness and physical activity sector with direct financial support.

The industry body sent letters to the Treasury, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the DCMS, outlining the industry's needs, as well as offering its help in tackling the resurgence of COVID-19.

The letters to the DHSC and DCMS offer the physical activity sector’s "full support" – by making the case for how the industry is already keeping people healthy and re-purposing facilities as local vaccination centres.

Meanwhile, the letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak seeks assurances of the government's support and protection, as the country is now "entering a critical phase of the pandemic" with measures to counter the omicron variant.

In the letter to the Treasury, UK Active CEO, Huw Edwards, writes: "The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the fitness and leisure sector over the past year.

"Our sector headed into the 2020-21 financial year as one of the fastest-growing areas on the high street, but with nine months of closure across the lockdown periods, and just seven months of suppressed trading since 25 July 2020, industry finances are fragile.

"The commencement of Plan B restrictions this week will unquestionably slow our sector’s recovery and we are already seeing reductions in footfall, especially in city centres.

"With each Government announcement, consumers are becoming more risk-averse and ahead of such a critical trading period for our businesses in January, we are seeking assurances on the additional support required."

HCM understands that Edwards will be meeting ministers – from different departments – in the run-up to Christmas, to make the case for dedicated support for the sector and in a bid to keep gyms open in the event of lockdown.

HCMeditor, Liz Terry said: "We've had nearly two years of lobbying government since the start of the pandemic, and it's to be hoped that we have built solid relationships that will enable us to represent and protect the sector as we enter this critical winter phase.

"It's vital we make a strong case to the government to show why health clubs and gyms should be allowed to remain open in terms of the economic value of the sector, the number of jobs it supports and the impact our work has on UK plc in terms of underpinning the fitness of the workforce.

"We must also continue to provide clear evidence that we can operate safely in spite of the pandemic and that health clubs and gyms are some of the safest places people can spend time.

"But most importantly, we must present all the scientific data which shows how being fit and healthy, with lower levels of bodyfat, leaves people far less susceptible to poor outcomes from COVID-19.

"Once all these points are stacked up, it makes a compelling argument for the government to not only support the sector with VAT breaks matching those offered to hospitality but also to let us carry on trading.

"If we can keep the industry open this winter, it will be a major achievement and a milestone on our road to establishing the sector as an essential service. This must be our goal."


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