Warning of growing disrepair at leisure centres

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LEISURE centres could fall into disrepair and even be forced to close after years of austerity, local authorities have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is calling on the government to inject new funding into leisure infrastructure in the autumn budget.

It warns that council-owned sports halls and swimming pools are at risk of becoming “old and tired” as budgets become increasingly squeezed, leaving them at risk of closure.

The LGA has said investment in leisure infrastructure would get more people physically active and help to tackle some of the major health issues facing the country, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

With many sports halls and swimming pools reaching the end of their 25-year life, the LGA claims the government has an opportunity to invest new money that “breathes new life” into the country’s leisure facilities.

Latest figures released by the association reveal more than 58 per cent of sports halls and 60 per cent of swimming pools across the country are over 20 years old. The report adds nearly a quarter of those facilities have not been refurbished in two decades.

Local authorities have seen reductions of £16bn to their core government funding between 2010 and 2020. The LGA report claims the funding gap facing councils will be £5.8bn by the end of the decade. In its Budget submission to the Treasury, the LGA is calling on the Government to introduce a £400m funding pot to help pay for improvements to infrastructure to safeguard health and wellbeing.

The association says this would allow councils to upgrade and renovate facilities to the standard needed to support healthy, active communities.

The submission adds that new funding from the Government is needed now to avoid having to completely replace the facilities, which could cost in the region of £1.5bn further down the line.

Coun Gerald Vernon-Jackson, of the LGA, said: “Leisure facilities are the cornerstone of a physically and mentally healthy community.”