The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs has called on the Government to invest more in sport and leisure facilities, as the Local Government Association (LGA) warns that 63% of main sports halls and 60% of swimming pools are past their expected lifespans or overdue refurbishment, resulting in some facilities remaining closed after the pandemic and in need of costly repairs.

The LGA has urged ministers to provide a second round of National Leisure Recovery Funding, worth £700 million, to enable facilities to remain open.

UK Active estimates that 400 gyms, leisure centres and pools across the sector had closed by the end of the first quarter in 2021 – and thousands more will be at risk of closure if the Government does not provide more support.

A new report from Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has also recommended that the Government ‘work with Sport England, UK Sport and the National Lottery to review and revise the current funding models.’ The report also highlighted the warning from the LGA about the impact of austerity on leisure, as ‘sport spending may be “more vulnerable” to funding cuts as councils have to balance increased financial pressures with funding their statutory services such a social care.’

The Mayor’s Covid Recovery Fund, a £3m fund aimed at kickstarting the borough’s recovery from the pandemic and launched earlier this summer, included funding for various sporting activities throughout the summer.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Years of funding cuts forced on our local councils have meant that many sport and leisure facilities right across the country have had to close since 2010, and the pandemic has heaped even more pressure onto councils and leisure facilities.

“I’m calling on the Government to urgently invest in sports and leisure to ensure that people can continue to access facilities, and I hope ministers will listen to the LGA and launch a second round of funding to help our leisure facilities get back up and running as part of our recovery from the pandemic.”

Cllr Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit, said: “Sport and physical activity is so important and it will play a major role in our health recovery from Covid-19. I’m pleased that as a council we continue to invest in sports and leisure, for example through our Mayor’s Covid Recovery Fund, but we our leisure facilities across the country need wholesale investment from the Government if they are to remain open and providing services for residents.”

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