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Cash warning as West Norfolk leisure facilities begin to re-open

As gyms and leisure centres in West Norfolk start to re-open from today, an organisation representing district councils has demanded urgent government support for the sector.

Borough council officials here have already warned the body which runs its leisure facilities will need support to ensure it remains solvent in the short term.

And the District Councils Network (DCN), of which West Norfolk Council is a member, fears many centres will go bust unless ministers act to address an estimated £305 million shortfall this year.

Alive Lynnsport will begin to re-open today.
Alive Lynnsport will begin to re-open today.

Dan Humphreys, the network's lead member for enhancing quality of life, said: “It is great that gyms and leisure centres are able to reopen today – with safety for staff and users paramount.

“But they open on the brink, their income has plummeted over the lockdown and many face an uncertain future.

“This is why it is absolutely critical the Treasury comes up with a rescue package for leisure centres yet to receive financial support.

“The national recovery from coronavirus will need places like leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools to remain open and survive, so as to help improve the physical and mental health of people of all ages.”

Like most public buildings, leisure centres have been shut since for nearly four months during the coronavirus lockdown.

The DCN represents 187 district authorities across England. All of Norfolk's district councils are members.

Its comments come after ukactive and Community Leisure UK recently claimed that nearly half of all public leisure facilities in the UK face permanent closure by the end of the year, unless councils receive urgent ring-fenced funding from the Government.

The network has also highlighted research from the King's Fund, which concluded that district council leisure services generated £23 in revenue for every pound spent on them.

West Norfolk Council officials are currently drawing up a revised budget for the current year to reflect the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The authority has indicated that the plans will go before its ruling cabinet in August. The next scheduled cabinet meeting is on August 19.

But, speaking during a meeting last month, Honor Howell, assistant to the chief executive Lorraine Gore, said council-owned organisations like Alive West Norfolk, which runs the borough's leisure centres, will need support in order to remain solvent in the immediate future.

The authority is also lobbying ministers for compensation to cover lost revenue from car parks and other fees.

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