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Reduced Energy Bills Support to Pull the Plug on Leisure in Wakefield

Wakefield Council says that leisure centres across the district have been dealt another blow after being excluded from the latest Government support. 

“Not Enough” support from the Government

Cllr Michael Graham, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport has spoken out following this week’s Government announcement on energy bill support for leisure centres – branding the latest support “not enough”.

The Government has revealed that, following the conclusion of the current relief scheme, there will be a new ‘Energy Bills Discount Scheme’ which will come into effect from April and run for 12 months. This universal scheme is much less generous than previous support provided, and swimming pools and leisure centres have been excluded from this extra support.

Cllr Graham expressed his views saying “The support announced by Government this week could put leisure centres in jeopardy and runs the real risk of pulling the plug on pools. If the Government is genuinely committed, as it says it is, to encouraging people to be physically active and reducing pressure on the NHS, it must provide more support for our leisure centres and pools.”

The energy costs of running the Wakefield district’s leisure centres could be as high as £1.9m in 2023/24 which is almost four times the cost compared to 2021/22.

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Exploring decarbonisation in Wakefield

The Council is looking at ways to help reduce costs at its leisure centres, including a new decarbonisation scheme at Normanton Leisure Centre which will ensure the centre has less reliance on energy from the national grid, improve water quality and reduce energy costs. The future works will be part funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and more information will be released soon.

“We urge the Government to act now, and give councils the support needed with the energy bills for all their local services. Now more than ever, we need our services to be affordable and stay open and provide the essential services that residents need during the cost-of-living crisis.”

Cllr Michael Graham, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport

Final Thought

The views of the councillors in Wakefield certainly express long term planning, where leisure is not only seen for its short term benefits but its returns to mental and physical well-being over time. With NHS pressures and cost-of-living difficulties, investing in health through leisure should not be an avenue that is sidelined by the government. Such instances, however, also highlight our reliance on traditional energy sources that may in fact raise funding costs while harming the environment. Wakefield’s exploration of decarbonization schemes is timely, given the current environmental crisis, and may in fact lead the council to invest in greener ways of funding leisure.

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