The leisure sector has warned that swimming pools urgently need Government support due to the rise in energy costs.
Swim England, swimming pool owners and operators, ukactive, the Local Government Association, Community Leisure UK and others attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming in Westminster this week and told MPs, including Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston MP, that energy cost increases of between 100 -150% for the leisure sector are forcing pool owners and operators to increase prices and consider closures.
Figures from ukactive revealed that the total energy bill for the leisure sector has risen from £500 million in 2019 to between £1.0 – £1.2 billion for this year.
The sector was united in calling for the Government to work with them to deliver the support needed to ensure swimming pools can continue to provide their services at an affordable cost for users, particularly those from lower socio-economic groups.
Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said: “We know the huge role swimming plays in the health and wellbeing of the nation – the physical and mental health benefits of swimming for people of all ages are many and are undoubted. Swimming saves the NHS and social care system a minimum of £357 million per year.
“This has never been more important than after the past two years but the energy crisis poses a clear and present threat to the future of many facilities.
“With 40% of people who exercise in the water not doing any other form of exercise, the loss of these facilities would be disastrous.
“Swimming is also a life-skill. Too many of our children already leave school unable to swim, particularly those from less affluent families and those from ethnically diverse communities.
“Price increases and pool closures would only serve to make this situation even worse, widening health inequalities and excluding those most in need of these facilities.”
Pool owners and operators outlined a range of measures they were taking to reduce energy consumption in their pools right now, and longer-term investments in more energy efficient and carbon neutral solutions.
However, they stressed that none of these measures could resolve the acute difficulties immediately facing swimming pools.
Energy costs are typically a leisure operator’s second highest cost after staffing costs, which have also increased, and the costs of chemicals required to treat pool water increasing by as much as 80%.