West Suffolk Council has been awarded £213,500 of funding to help offset increased utility costs and ensure its pools remain open.
This support follows £300,000 agreed by West Suffolk Council as part of the 2023/2024 budget to support facilities remaining open in West Suffolk during these challenging times.
The successful bid for Sport England Phase 1 Swimming Pool Grants funding has been awarded for three swimming pools at Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill and Newmarket leisure centres, owned by the council and operated by not-for-profit social enterprise Abbeycroft Leisure.
Due to inflation and soaring fuel utility bills Abbeycroft has seen, since 2020, energy costs rise by approximately £1.5M per year. Swimming pools are particularly dependent on energy use, both in maintaining the ambient temperature in the facility and in heating the pool water to the right temperature for leisure use. Abbeycroft has taken measures to improve energy efficiency and reduce its consumption.
Cllr Ian Shipp, Cabinet member for Leisure said,
‘I’m delighted with this award. Being physically active is fundamental to our health and swimming pools are valued by a huge range of ages and abilities. The unprecedented rises in energy costs plus inflation have put severe pressure on budgets, but this council has made healthy families and communities a priority and we have been working closely with Abbeycroft Leisure to keep the pools open. This funding is very helpful.’
Warren Smyth, Chief Executive of Abbeycroft Leisure said,
‘Soaring energy costs, the impact of Covid and cost of living pressures are putting swimming pools across the country under huge pressure. We have received excellent support from West Suffolk Council but this is a much wider issue and we are very pleased to have received this national award.’
Sport England’s Director of Place, Lisa Dodd-Mayne said,
‘We know just how vital swimming pools and leisure centres are to our nation’s activity levels, which is why Sport England is proud to have played a central role in the delivery of this fund.
“Many pools have faced a real and significant threat to their survival this year, as local authorities and operators battle the challenge of increased energy and maintenance costs, weakened reserves and difficulties with retaining staff.
“Today’s announcement is an important moment in time, but is by no means the end of the work facing us or the support available as we continue to work with our partners to ensure the long-term viability of these vital community resources.’
Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said,
“Leisure centres and pools are vital for millions of people to stay fit and healthy, and we know that many public swimming pools are experiencing greater pressure due to increased operating costs.
‘We have heard their concerns and have stepped in to help them make ends meet with £20 million immediate relief, and a further £40 million to help improve the sustainability of public swimming pools over the long term.
“This is part of our support for grassroots sports facilities with more than £400 million in order to achieve our ambitious target of getting 3.5 million more people active by 2030.’
To find out about your local pool’s swimming timetable visit https://www.acleisure.com/swimming/swimming-timetables/