Big Swim Day 2023: Community Leisure UK urge Government to continue Leisure Sector energy support amid crisis

Big Swim Day takes place today, Friday 24 February
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It was announced on Wednesday 22 February that over 200 sports governing bodies and athletes, both former and active, had signed a letter to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunakurging him to reconsider the government’s decision to scale back the energy support scheme from April.

While Libraries, museums and galleries will still be eligible for extra help from Westminster, the leisure sector will not be protected and leaves thousands of jobs vulnerable with closures of leisure centres and pools a real possibility.

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New data from Community Leisure UK has now reported that half of UK community swimming pools face closure or further cuts amid the crippling energy crisis.

Leisure industry leaders have said 17,000 employees of pools are in danger of losing their jobs and the message from this year’s “Big Swim Day” is to demand the UK Government to reverse its decision to axe the support.

CLUK, the industry body which represents operators of 880 pools across England, Scotland and Wales have said half of the UK’s community swimming pools face closure or service cuts within six months. More than one million children learn to swim at community pools in England and fears are growing that the potential wave of closures will lead to the loss of life-saving skills for a generation.

CLUK have also said they had written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling on him to designate leisure and cultural charitable trusts as a Vulnerable Sector as part of the UK Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme but this has not been included in the latest list of eligible sectors.

Rebecca Adlington was one of 200 signatories on letter to Rishi SunakRebecca Adlington was one of 200 signatories on letter to Rishi Sunak
Rebecca Adlington was one of 200 signatories on letter to Rishi Sunak

What is ‘Big Swim Day’?

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This day has been set up by CLUK as an opportunity for everybody to demonstrate their love of swimming and local community pools as they are under threat like never before due to the rising Energy Prices. It takes place today, Friday 24 February 2022.

As part of Big Swim Day, it is encouraging people to show their support for pools on social media using the hashtag #saveourpools, highlighting the invaluable role they play in communities.

Heating an average 25-metre six-lane swimming pool uses about one million kwh of power per year. That compares to the average 2,900 kwh of electricity and 12,000 kwh of gas that energy regulator Ofgem says is used by the average British household annually.

CLUK say pool closures would not only block a reroute to better public health, but cause an irreparable blow to elite sporting development, losing medal-winners of the future.

What has been said?

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The 1980 Olympic Gold Medallist Duncan Goodhew has said: “This is make-or-break time for an alarming number of swimming pools across the UK. It’s madness that the Government doesn’t seem able to see the danger they are in.

“Without pools and leisure centres being classed as vulnerable, the astronomical energy price hikes their operators face will sadly be the final fatal blow for many.

“It’s obvious that we cannot afford for communities to be robbed of swimming pools. People have never needed help with their health and wellbeing more. Yet, without political and financial support, they are going to have fewer places than ever to do that.

“I’ve seen thousands of children learn to swim in their local pools. If there aren’t the places to teach these life-improving - lifesaving - skills they will be lost for a generation.”

What have CLUK said?

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The chair of CLUK, Phil Rumbelow, has said: “Without continued Government support, our members tell us that up to half of their pools could close or face service cuts. They simply will not be able to afford to run them fully - if at all.

“That could mean hundreds of communities being robbed of a pool - potentially putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy. Allowing that to happen would be a national disgrace.

“Given that our members provide community services at affordable prices, it’s the most vulnerable - those already hit hardest by the cost of living crisis and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 - who will suffer the greatest at a time when they need support with their health and wellbeing most.”

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