Government cuts are having a huge impact on council-run leisure centres across the country with many cutting staff, reducing opening hours and pricing locals out of sessions, a recent survey has found.
Councils have cut £71.5m from leisure centre budgets since 2010 – a 13.9 per cent cut overall. Many leisure facilities were also found to be dirty and in need of refurbishment, according to the report by Britain’s public sector union Unison. In the survey of 7,500 women members, 62% who use their local leisure services, said they had got worse over the last year. The top four issues giving cause for concern were; fewer staff (65%), shorter opening hours (55%), old equipment and dated facilities (43%) and rising charges (42%).
UNISON head of local government, Heather Wakefield said: “Leisure centres provide a wonderful opportunity for children and adults to spend time together in an active and social environment, but vicious government cuts are forcing them to close altogether or hike their prices out of reach. “At a time when childhood obesity in the UK is a serious concern, government cuts to funding for leisure services is a misguided approach that will have a negative impact on the quality of life of young people,” she added. In the West Midlands, proposals to close the only 50m swimming pool in the area were recently approved by council bosses, in a bid to save money.
Despite a last-ditch protest by members of the city’s successful swimming club, and recommendations by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), the Coventry Sports & Leisure Centre pool will be replaced by a 25m pool, as part of a new leisure complex on the site. Cllr Kevin Maton, cabinet member for business, enterprise and employment said: “If the money was there, of course we’d love to provide a 50m pool, but we’re simply not able to justify the expense to taxpayers.”