Swimming pools in Wales discussed in the Senedd
Following the UK Government’s Spring Budget and the omission of Welsh facilities in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement of £63m of additional support to English swimming pools, the Senedd discussed swimming pools in Wales on Tuesday afternoon.
During First Minister’s Questions, Jenny Rathbone MS asked what Welsh Government’s strategy for sustaining swimming pools was.
“Funding for swimming pools and leisure centres is provided to local authorities through the Local Government Settlement,” replied First Minister, Mark Drakeford.
“Despite the challenging financial situation, we have agreed significant additional investment for local government for the next financial year, and that will enable local authorities to continue to deliver the services their communities need.”
“We have half a million people actively using our swimming pools in Wales,” responded Jenny Rathbone, “so they’re a really important resource for ensuring everybody’s active as far as possible.
“The Chancellor announced £63m for English swimming pools in last week’s Budget; can we expect a consequential to be invest in sustainable heating solutions in Welsh pools, or has the Treasury decided there is no consequential for Wales as Welsh people are free to use English pools?”
Mark Drakeford continued:
“It’s often to disentangle where money that comes to Wales through a Budget is derived, because money arrives through one funding line and disappears through cuts in another line.
“In the end… the decisions about money that comes to Wales… are made here. Members will hear from the Finance Minister on how she intends to make use of the very small amounts of additional funding – both revenue and capital – that are available as a result of the Spring Budget.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS raised the struggle that facilities are facing by citing the example of Hamdden Harlech and Ardudwy – whose voluntary board recently sent him a message announcing the imminent closure of their swimming pool – asking what support Welsh Government can provide the facility in the short-term and what support can they provide in the long run.
“The announcement comes with an appalling increase in their costs,” explained Mabon ap Gwynfor. “The costs of the centre have risen from £4,000 per month to £12,000 per month, and this £12,000 includes the UK Energy Support Scheme.
“Investment in solar panels and new machinery would be a great help in the longer-term,” he stated, “but they’re facing the crisis now. Gwynedd Council have provided short-term support which will keep wolf from the door, but they have to find capital as a matter of urgency to secure the viability of this important community asset.”
“We are open to any discussions that local individuals might want to have through the local and council and through Sport Wales,” responded Mark Drakeford.
“Initially, it is a local issue, and in the first instance, it is important that they have those conversations with the local authority. If there is something that we can do, then of course we are willing to look into any bid that local people want to make.”
The Welsh Sports Association (WSA) will continue to work with the Welsh Government and Sport Wales on the future of public leisure.
We are committed to providing as much support as possible for our membership base amid the incredibly challenging financial landscape that currently threatens the sector. Our Procurement Portal, for example, has already supported grassroots clubs with their energy costs to great effect. We will also continue to host sector calls to address the situation, having delivered the first recently. Please get in contact with the WSA team if you didn’t receive an invitation to the last but would like to attend the next.