Revealed: the key policies needed to reopen UK gyms and health clubs
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Revealed: the key policies needed to reopen UK gyms and health clubs

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VAT rebates and an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are among the list of policies the government needs to adopt, in order for the UK's physical activity sector to open in a safe and economically sustainable way.

The policies – drawn up by ukactive following consultations with its members – cover five major areas in which help will be needed: the workforce, rent, children's activity providers, local authority leisure providers and support to rebuild.

ukactive said the proposed policies look to solve issues identified as "crucial" by its members during the consultations.

"For example, workforce is a critical area where support is needed once facilities reopen, because operators are initially likely to experience limited capacity and footfall – and therefore revenue – meaning they will be unable to return to full staffing capacity immediately," ukactive said.

"We are also calling on the government to follow the example of Germany in protecting businesses from prohibitive VAT and staff costs. While the government has already introduced a business rates holiday for all operators until the end of March 2021, businesses continue to face significant operational costs despite revenues falling to zero."

The policies that ukactive is proposing the government to adopt across the five areas are:

Workforce

• Extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until October, and for as long as necessary, to ensure businesses have continued support as social distancing measures progress

• Ensure a regular review of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and at least 45 days’ notice before the scheme closes, to allow businesses to make staffing decisions with confidence, and protect jobs

• Establish a partial furlough or salary support scheme for the physical activity sector while social distancing rules apply, providing up to 50% cover for salaries, up to a maximum of £1,250 per month

Support to rebuild

• A VAT Output Tax rebate in the retail and leisure sectors, resulting in an effective Output Tax rate of 10 per cent

• A holiday from Employer National Insurance and PAYE within the leisure sector, from the date of closure until December 2020

Local authority leisure providers

• Provide additional funding for local authorities, ring-fenced to support public leisure facilities and trusts

• Ensure local authorities have the means to provide flexibility and support in their contractual relationships with public leisure operators and trusts, as set out in the Cabinet Office PPN 02/20, March 2020

• Noting that PPN 02/20 is silent on the situation where fees and rent are payable by leisure operators to local authorities, ensure local authorities have the means to also apply flexibility and support for leisure operators operating under such arrangements

Rent

• Extend the Memorandum of Forfeiture until October 2020 (the end of the third financial quarter)

Children and Young People

• Provide clarity on the future of the PE and Sport Premium ahead of June 2020, and guarantee ring-fenced funding for PE, school sport and physical activity in primary schools for the academic year 2020-21

• Provide a framework and tailored support for suitable schools to open as places for engagement and activity this summer, to ensure adequate support for the most vulnerable children and families, prioritising the safety of children, staff and families

Commenting on the policies, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “While we are working tirelessly to ensure the physical activity sector is ready to open when called upon by the Government, we cannot ignore the looming threat posed to thousands of organisations and hundreds of thousands of jobs once restrictions do begin to ease.

“In order for the physical activity sector to reopen successfully so that it can support our communities in their hour of need, it is crucial the Government delivers the conditions required to help fitness and leisure providers to get back on their feet.

“We are calling for a raft of essential measures that will enable both public and private organisations to reopen their doors with confidence when the time comes.”

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VAT rebates and an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are among the list of "crucial policies" the government needs to adopt, in order for the UK's physical activity sector to open in a safe and economically sustainable way.
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