With the Government’s obesity strategy expected as first went to press, the LGA has warned that significant losses of income have left many leisure centres on the brink of financial collapse.
Leisure facilities are a key tool in the national effort to reduce obesity, but they need urgent funding to cover lost income during the pandemic, as well as maintenance and utility costs, according to the LGA.
Many leisure providers are concerned that memberships and visits to facilities will not return to pre-pandemic levels for some time, meaning they will be unable to generate the income needed to cover the service costs of reopening.
While some people have been able to try online classes and new forms of exercise during lockdown, many others have seen their activity levels decrease, with health experts warning the lockdown has worsened the epidemic in childhood obesity.
The LGA also said the coronavirus pandemic has hit those from more deprived backgrounds and from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities hardest, whether that be through deaths, digital poverty or a lack of access to parks, private gardens and green spaces to exercise.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “The Government urgently needs to provide funding to ensure leisure facilities stay open to all communities and to recognise their role in the fight against obesity, inactivity and poor mental health, which in turn will help to save the NHS being overburdened in the future.”