Mayor asks cross-party group of councillors to come together on Jubilee Pool: Jubilee Swimming Pool  2s - Knowle - CB Bristol Design 2020

22 Sep 2020

Mayor asks cross-party group of councillors to come together on Jubilee Pool

The mayor has asked a cross-party group of councillors to come together to work with local people in a bid to find a community-led solution to keeping Jubilee Pool in Knowle open. 

The current consultation on Jubilee Pool which is seeking the public’s opinions on the future of the facility has been extended by a month while this option is explored.

The consultation will now close on Sunday 8 November.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said,

“We are committed to working with the community to find a workable, financially viable solution to keeping Jubilee Pool open. 

“This is a challenge. The reality is that the pool isn’t financially viable following the impact of Covid-19 along with the financially commitment need to make the pool long term sustainable, so everyone needs to come to the table with practical options for the pool’s future.  With almost five thousand people signing a petition, the community is best placed to grow the usage the pool needs to sustain its future. If a viable business plan can be developed by local residents and councillors, we will transfer the asset free to the community.

I also encourage everyone to join me in lobbying central government to follow through on their promise to support local councils and sectors such as leisure that have been particularly affected by the pandemic.” 

Mayor Marvin Rees, together with fellow leaders of England’s Core Cities, has written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, requesting urgent action to safeguard the future of sport in the UK. The letters the additional short-term support required to prevent hundreds of publicly owned leisure facilities from remaining closed for the foreseeable future.1

Responses to the consultation can be given online at www.bristol.gov.uk/jubileepool.

Coronavirus restrictions mean the council is not currently able to offer face-to-face opportunities to discuss the proposal, but phone surgeries are available. Email sport@bristol.gov.uk or leave a message on 0117 92 23320 to speak to the council. 

For a paper copy or to receive the information in an alternative format, contact the council on the number or email above.

 

ENDS

Notes to editors

[1] Letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP

Dear Mr Sunak,

We are writing to request urgent action to be taken by DCMS, MHCLG and Treasury to safeguard the future of sport and physical activity in the UK and to highlight the additional short-term support required to prevent hundreds of publicly owned leisure facilities from remaining closed for the foreseeable future.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the public leisure sector remains commercially unviable in the short-term. The sector is at significant risk of market failure in the provision of a key public service and this is presenting local authorities with a sizable financial liability for this and most likely, the next financial year. Throughout the pandemic, the government has rightly championed the importance of physical activity, this is a sentiment we wholeheartedly support. Additionally, schemes such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme have been welcomed, and extensively utilised, by the sector, which has helped to mitigate some impacts in the short term. However, further support is required to mitigate the loss of income and to assist the sector in reopening facilities to support the needs of the communities, build resilience and to assist in the recovery from lockdown.

There are approximately 7,200 leisure centres and gyms in England. 2,727 are public sector-owned assets. The leisure sector supports approximately 36% of England’s physical activity - in excess of 12.8 million people use leisure centres, gyms and many more are engaged in outreach programmes designed to get the nation active. Local authorities support 2.5 million swimmers and provide venues for supporting grassroots sporting activity as well as the nation’s physical and mental health. Estimates indicate that the public element of the leisure market employs approximately 76,000 FTEs, plus a sizable number of casual /self-employed workers.

The closure of all leisure facilities in March in response to the pandemic reduced trading income virtually to zero, due to the majority of revenue coming from facility usage. Operators of these facilities have continued to incur costs and, with limited cash reserves are therefore threatened with insolvency. Local authorities and trusts have stepped up during this period to provide resources from reserves or by borrowing at risk in order safeguard the future of public sector leisure.

The government made an announcement to reopen leisure facilities from the 25th July but crucially did not provide additional financial support to meet the costs associated with delivering these vital services. The reopening and recovery phase has presented local authorities with a significant risk with an extended period of high costs and lower incomes. Leisure providers are looking to local authorities to provide ongoing financial support during the recovery period, which has resulted in some increased costs and total operational costs outstripping income levels. Without financial intervention to meet the higher costs of the provision there will be significant disruption to services and impacts on wider local and central government agendas. Over the last four weeks, local authorities have had to balance the needs of providing a meaningful offer with the significant financial risk this presents. As a consequence, approximately half of our facilities remain closed and difficult decisions will need to be made in the coming weeks about maintaining existing provision and reopening further facilities.

As with the welcomed support that has recently been provided to the culture sector, there is strong justification for urgent government intervention in the sport and leisure sector – this is as follows:

  1. The Sales, Fees and Charges Compensation Scheme which has recently been introduced by the Government falls short of what is needed. Unfortunately as currently presented the scheme does not provide any assistance for local authorities who have gone through a best value procurement exercise and contracted with a third party provider. This adversely and disproportionately affects 257 local authorities and over 2,200 (80% of) publicly owned facilities. Furthermore, this does not cover the full financial consequences associated with delivering the full resumption of service provision for the remaining 20% of facilities.
  1. There is significant risk of market failure in the provision of leisure services. The collapse of the public leisure sector would lead to the loss of physical activity provision, which is now an ever more vital public health requirement. Local authority leisure provides services for underrepresented groups and disadvantaged communities as well as providing activities that are not well-served by the private sector, such as swimming and community outreach programmes. Whilst leisure centres provided by local authorities have a necessary commercial element, they are indeed true community facilities which provide concessionary rates to those less able to pay and will be extremely difficult and costly to replace in the event of market failure. In particular, swimming pools, community halls and outward bound centres are at significant risk. The prolonged or permanent closure of these facilities would be catastrophic for disadvantaged communities, it will lead to widening health inequalities and will be a significant setback for the levelling up agenda.
  1. Regardless of which leisure operating model a local authority has selected, the burden of any market collapse would ultimately fall back to local and central governments. The costs of which will grow if early intervention is delayed.
  1. The loss of swimming pools in particular would result in some Primary Schools being unable to meet the statutory requirements to teach pupils to swim at Key Stage 2, which is likely to result in increased open water drownings.
  1. There is significant reputational risk to the government if a significant proportion of the public leisure sector fails in parallel with the population being encouraged to stay active and build greater resilience against Covid-19. This would bring into question the new national government led campaign recently announced, which aims to encourage people to kick start their health improvement and reduce the risk of serious illness.

Local authorities have stood together with leisure providers over the last six months to ensure that as a nation we can build back better. We have also worked closely with UK Active and Sport England to highlight the impact on the whole sector. We are aware that both UK Active and Sport England remain in active dialogue with DCMS, MHCLG and Treasury officials about a package of support and we would add our voice to re-emphasize the importance of this and the urgency of the situation.

Evidence supports that sport and physical activity improves people’s physical health and mental wellbeing, supports community cohesion and saves the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year. The continued mothballing of leisure facilities and curtailing of physical activity and sports programmes (for financial reasons only) will compound the widening inequalities we are witnessing as a consequence of the pandemic. It is therefore vital that we ensure people still have access to these facilities and programmes in the future.

We know with your assistance and decisive action that the sector can build back stronger and become sustainable over the medium to long term. Local authorities and the sector as a whole is committed to accelerating change, making tough decisions and collaborating more effectively. However, this will only be realised if the Treasury provides the support and stimulus that is necessary to achieve the full resumption of local government leisure provision.

We are writing in similar terms to your colleagues the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP and Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP and have shared this letter with MP’s across the Core City Constituencies.

Yours Sincerely

Cllr Judith Vivienne Blake CBE

(Chair of the Core Cities and Leader of Leeds City Council)

Cllr Sir Richard Leese (Leader of Manchester City Council)

Mayor Marvin Rees (Mayor of Bristol City Council)

Cllr Ian Ward (Leader of Birmingham City Council)

Cllr Julie Dore (Leader of Sheffield City Council)

Cllr Nick Forbes (Leader of Newcastle City Council)

Cllr David Mellen (Leader of Nottingham City Council)

Mayor Joe Anderson OBE (Mayor of Liverpool)