Shropshire Star

Anger over three-month closure of leisure centres amid soaring costs

A decision to close some leisure centres and swimming pools in Powys for three months after Christmas has been met with anger.

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Llanidloes sports centre

The cost of living crisis and a catastrophic increase in energy costs has Powys County Council says, led to the decision to shut Llanfair Caereinion, Llanfyllin and Presteigne leisure centres to the public and the swimming pools at Llanidloes, Rhayader and Builth to the public and schools from December 24 to March 31.

Freedom Leisure, which has a contract to run the pools, said it was predicted to be over budget by £287,000 on its £2.5 million contract.

One of those calling for the council to find a way to support Freedom Leisure to keep the facilities open is Llanfyllin councillor Peter Lewis, who said: "Freedom Leisure has asked for support off the current cabinet to meet them half way. This has been refused without proper scrutiny or consultation.

Councillor Peter Lewis

"This is devastating news for our town and will have a huge impact on many groups and our schools."

He said that it was only five years ago that the community came together to secure the future of Llanfyllin Leisure Centre.

"This decision is a very short sighted one and there must be found a way forward to support Freedom Leisure keep open these vital resources for our communities."

Councillor Lewis said that, ironically, this week the town's new 3G pitch was handed over to the leisure centre.

"Now we won't have anyone to run the new facility to its full potential after school hours," he added.

"This closure takes away an essential part of our community, not just Llanfyllin but our surrounding rural areas, who all use the leisure centres, whether that is through schools who rent or have swimming sessions booked, to clubs that promote fitness and wellbeing – but also community hubs. The loss of this will be substantial to our locality."

The council's cabinet member for a more prosperous Powys, Councillor David Selby said: “The current energy crisis is having a devastating impact on our leisure services and the short-term action is needed to reduce overall costs and give us time to conduct a thorough review of leisure service provision in the county.

“The decision was not taken lightly but is essential to ensure the long-term viability of the service. We very much hope that it is short-term pain for long-term gain. To delay or take no action would risk the future of all leisure provision and put an unacceptable burden on the council’s budget."

Freedom Leisure’s CEO, Ivan Horsfall, said; “We are frankly devastated that it has come to this. Public sector leisure is one of the most exposed sectors because energy costs are such a large proportion of our overall costs, particularly with swimming pools, and as a not-for-profit leisure trust we operate at very low surpluses and these increases simply cannot be absorbed.”

“These increases present us and the council with a significant challenge where very difficult and painful decisions need to be made about expenditure and what effectively we can operate in the current climate."

“These vital services are now under threat. The wider leisure sector needs meaningful and long-term support from the UK Government now in order to secure its future."

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