The pandemic has worsened challenges in the sector such as ageing venues, Local Government Association (LGA) studies found.
Such services are vital in giving children the best start, with 72 percent of schools relying on public pools to teach pupils to swim. But the LGA said many need costly repairs.
The report said: “With councils under pressure to fund statutory services such as adult social care, sport and leisure services are at risk of further cuts. Investment in public sport and leisure facilities and services is key to levelling up the health of the nation… and supporting climate change targets.”
Team GB may also be at risk if training facilities are made to shut.
The Daily Express is running a Save Our Olympic Dreams campaign to ensure youngsters have access to sufficient sporting services across the country.
The LGA’s report said sports facilities “are relied upon by everyone, from people who want to be more active, to grassroots clubs and elite athletes training to compete nationally and internationally, including future Olympians and Paralympians”.
Councils are the biggest investors in sport, leisure, parks and green spaces, spending £1.1billion a year in England alone – which includes one in three swimming pools. The LGA is calling on the Government, in next month’s Spending Review, to provide £1billion investment to bring facilities up to modern design and environmental standards.
- Are sporting facilities in your area under threat? Please email – [email protected]
COMMENT BY GERALD VERNON JACKSON
Sport and leisure facilities and services are integral to communities.
But without the right support and investment from Government and stakeholders their immense social value risks being lost.
Councils step in with accessible, affordable sporting venues and services where private gyms cannot.
However, with nearly two thirds past their replacement date, many facilities are at risk of permanent closure.
Budgets are being stretched, putting local sport and leisure at risk. Investment will not only ensure providers can continue offering these services but also support Government climate targets. Councils need to be able to use existing decarbonisation schemes to update facilities and use dedicated investment to build ones that meet energy efficiency targets.
The LGA is calling for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to recognise and promote the contribution of public facilities and services in future health strategies.
- Gerald Vernon Jackson is the Chairman of Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board