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LGA: UK's public leisure centres facing 'crisis point'

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Leisure centre operators are facing crisis point without access to emergency government funding or support, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

The LGA has written to culture secretary Oliver Dowden, urging the government to ensure leisure trusts are given access to the new £750m grant-based package earmarked for the charity and social enterprise sector.

In the letter, LGA says councils are already working hard to support Leisure providers and facilities during the COVID-19 lockdown, by introducing a range of emergency measures. These include relaxing performance requirements, advance payments, waiving management fees and offering financial support.

According to the LGA, however, in some cases, the support at local authority level isn't enough.

“Councils are deeply concerned about the future of leisure trusts, who are charities, societies or community interest companies," said Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board.

“Leisure facilities provide an affordable space for our communities to exercise and socialise with family and friends. They play a key role in improving our communities’ physical and mental wellbeing.

“If we do not act to save these vital community resources, it will cost us much more in the long-term both socially and economically. It is vital that the government works with councils and leisure providers to identify any potential funding to avoid reaching a crisis point.”

Local authorities are responsible for around a third of the UK's swimming pools, almost 20 per cent of health and fitness facilities and 31 per cent of grass pitches.

Earlier this month, the LGA published a comprehensive guide, titled Options for councils in supporting leisure providers through COVID-19, which outlines a number of measures local councils can introduce to assist leisure contractors and operators.

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Leisure providers are facing crisis point without access to emergency government funding or support, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.
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