Leisure centres 'on brink of collapse' as they reopen from coronavirus shutdown
The DCN warned leisure centres were facing a major funding squeeze
Leisure centres across the country are on the "brink of collapse" due to the coronavirus cash squeeze, councils have warned.
The forecast comes on the day that indoor gyms and leisure centres in England are given the greenlight to reopen for business for the first time since lockdown began.
Fresh analysis from the District Councils' Network (DCN), which represents 187 authorities across the country, has found local services have already taken a £180million hit as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.
And the group warned the overall financial loss facing the sector could reach £305million by the end of year, leaving many leisures centres at risk from going bust.
The analysis comes after industry groups ukactive and Community Leisure UK warned nearly half of public leisure facilities faced permanent closure by 2021 unless ministers provided emergency funding for local authorities.
Cllr Dan Humphreys, DCN lead member for enhancing quality of life, said it was "absolutely critical" for the Treasury to come up with extra cash to protect council funded services.
"It is great that gyms and leisure centres are able to reopen today - with safety for staff and users paramount," he said.
"But they open on the bring, 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 recieve financial support.
"The national recovery from coronavirus wil need place like leisdure 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."
The analysis comes as Boris Johnson prepares to launch his long-awaited obesity strategy, which could see a crackdown on junk food advertising as well as a ban on stores promoting unhealth foods.
But Labour's shadow sports minister Alison McGovern said the anti-obesity plans would ring "hollow" without help m for leisure facilities.
"The change to get back on the treadmill or in the pool means a lot to so many people who have found it hard to keep themselves active during lockdown," she said.
"The health benefits of exercise are obvious but for many the gym is also about keeping mentally fit and a big part of their social life.
"The Tories have failed to invest in gyms, leisure centres and other services for years which shows how hollow their new found commitment to ending obesity is."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe