Manchester City Council has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging him to bring forward the necessary funding for leisure centres to survive in the post-pandemic world.
The letter to Rishi Sunak MP, sent by the council’s Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, emphasises that local authority-owned leisure centres should not be ignored in the distribution of Government recovery funding.
The Treasury made £100m of additional funding available for the sector to cover the period from December 2020 – March 2021, but the recent Budget spending proposals did not confirm any additional help for sport and leisure facilities from April 2021 onwards, while no additional support was provided to cover lost income from March – November 2020.
The many leisure facilities across the country which are run by third sector or charitable trusts on behalf of a council have not been able to benefit from the local authority income protection scheme. This has left many local authorities across the country facing difficult decisions about how to continue providing their existing offer of leisure services beyond the current financial year.
Underlying health conditions including obesity have proved to be factors in COVID-19 related mortality rates over the last year and the importance of building healthier communities to strengthen resilience against the virus has been established. During the pandemic, the leisure sector has found new ways to support residents through online activity, focusing efforts on remote activities which help people exercise at home.
Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure, Councilor Luthfur Rahman OBE, said: “In Manchester, we take great pride in providing opportunities for our residents to take part in sport and physical activity and we will do all we can to continue to maintain provision at pre-COVID-19 levels.
“However, to support our city and many other local authorities across the country to continue to offer these vital community services, we need urgent confirmation that financial support from the government will continue into the next financial year.
“We know that the impact of the pandemic will be with us well into the future and while some funds were provided to help leisure providers weather the winter storm, that effort will prove worthless if further support is not provided to help in the new financial year. This issue is particularly pressing at a time when residents are being strongly urged to keep active, to help build greater resilience against the virus.
“Now is the time for the Chancellor to come forward with the necessary financial package to allow the work done by this critical sector to continue for the benefit of our residents.”