We’ve launched the National Leisure Recovery Fund to support publicly owned leisure facilities through the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.
The fund, made up of £100m of Exchequer investment, will be open for applications from 14 December-8 January - with eligible local authorities able to submit an expression of interest form from today until 21 December - and aims to assist the reopening and recovery of the leisure service and prevent further closures of outsourced leisure trusts and operators.
Gyms and leisure centres play a vital role in helping people to be active and they’ll be crucial in our nation’s recovery from coronavirus as well as wider health, wellbeing and community benefits.
Restrictions brought in to stop the spread of the virus have had a huge impact on the financial viability of many services. The fund aims to counter this, as well as protect sports provision for those who might otherwise struggle to get the benefits of being physically active.
“The health and mental wellbeing of communities across England relies on access to high quality gyms and leisure centres," said our executive director of property, Charles Johnston.
“While this funding cannot solve all of the financial and operational challenges facing the leisure sector, the National Leisure Recovery Fund will offer a lifeline to society’s least active members and help them to build up the immunity we need to fight coronavirus.”
We’ve worked closely with the Local Government Association, ukactive, Community Leisure UK, Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association and others to make sure the application and funding process is as fast and simple as possible.
Applications will be accepted from local authorities in England who hold responsibility for the provision of leisure services and have outsourced their leisure centre provision to an external body to the council.
The health and mental wellbeing of communities across England relies on access to high quality gyms and leisure centres
Executive director of property, Sport England
The fund's explicitly to help meet the additional costs of operating their services and is focused on the period from 1 December 2020 to 31 March 2021. It also complements other government commitments which have provided support to authorities with an in-house service.
Each eligible local authority will be subject to a notional funding allocation, the purpose of which is to maximise the impact of the fund and provide financial assistance for as many local authorities, and their leisure providers, as possible.
"It's vital that we keep ourselves fighting fit through this winter and local authority leisure centres are crucial to this." said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.
"This £100 million fund will help keep leisure centres across the country open. I urge leisure centres to bid for the money and people to make the most of these precious local facilities."
In addition to allowing facilities to reopen now, the fund is seeking to help drive the sustainability of leisure facilities across England by enabling us to assess and monitor the recovery of sports facilities.
The detail submitted by local authorities will enable us and government to articulate what further support is needed to help protect £6.4 billion of social value created by leisure facilities.
A point welcomed by councillor Dan Humphreys - leader of Worthing Borough Council and the District Councils' Network lead for enhancing quality of life.
“The role of exercise and activity on our wellbeing has been put into sharp focus by the pandemic, with people being told to exercise daily," he said.
“Our leisure centres are at the centre of our health and economic recovery, and the longer term health of our communities. This funding provides a welcome shot of support to our leisure services, so many of which are on the brink as income has plummeted.
“It is important to get this support out to those that need it quickly, and that more should follow as part of a long term effort to support health and happiness in everyone.”