Tracy Brabin MP visited Batley Sports and Tennis Centre on Friday 25th September, to see how the facility is coping with operating in a COVID secure way, and to hear the concerns from Leisure operators that the sector might fail without significant support from the government.
Estimates from UKactive, an industry body, show that 67% of all public leisure providers risk permanent closure in the next 9 to 12 months without immediate government support. As 70% of all public leisure facilities are owned by Local Authorities, there is a risk that any closures will ultimately fall back onto taxpayers, as councils are left owning facilities that cannot be used.
Tracy visited Batley Sports and Tennis Centre to meet with the Chief Executive of the KAL Leisure Trust, Alasdair Brown, and the Operations Manager, Gillian Oakland, in order to see how KAL are coping with the restrictions they have had to put in place due to COVID, as well as see what support they need to continue providing health and wellbeing facilities to the people of Batley and Spen.
KAL are currently operating around 60% capacity due to COVID, with measures in place to protect customers and staff and make them feel safe using their facilities. This includes an online booking system for using the gym and pool, as well operating a reduced activity timetable in order to ensure they can hold classes socially distanced.
With low income families disproportionately at risk of being impacted by both COVID and a reduction in a public leisure offering, KAL have worked with Kirklees Council to receive an extra £4m in funding to help make their existing facilities COVID secure, and to accelerate progress on new projects which will replace facilities that are currently closed due to COVID, such as the much anticipated Spen Valley Leisure Centre. Combined with new offers and incentives to ensure that their facilities are accessible for all, no matter their income, KAL is working hard to offer health and wellbeing to all
Speaking after the visit, Tracy Brabin stated “it was really heart-warming to see people getting back to their routines, being active and using our wonderful facilities here in Birstall. The team here from KAL have done an amazing job making sure that people can come in and work out whilst being secure knowing that the team are working hard to keep them safe.”
“It is so vital that people are able to come to exercise and socialise, and in the current crisis, health and wellbeing are more important than ever. It is vital that the government listen to the industry and ensure that they are supporting the leisure industry before it collapses and places even more strain on our local authorities.”