WSA welcomes Local Authority Leisure and Library Services report published by Local Government and Housing Committee 

WSA welcomes Local Authority Leisure and Library Services report published by Local Government and Housing Committee 

The Welsh Sports Association (WSA) welcomes the report into Local Authority Leisure and Library Services, which has today been published by the Senedd’s Local Government and Housing Committee. 

The WSA provided evidence to the inquiry alongside our member Swim Wales and partner Community Leisure UK, and are pleased to support the Committee’s calls for urgent relief for the sport and leisure sector. 

In evidence, the WSA called for stronger duties in the Future Generations Act to ensure ongoing delivery of accessible, affordable local services in Welsh communities; enhanced cross-Government working to support public leisure services; a long-term plan for the financial stability of public leisure services; and recommended that the key role of leisure services in delivering against the mix of priorities in sport, public health and community wellbeing should allow for a clear and defined place for physical activity in Governance and decision making within public service boards, Local Authority cabinets, and the Welsh Government. 

The WSA is very concerned at the crisis surrounding community leisure services, in particular swimming pools, and we are aware of a small number of temporary closures that have already happened in Wales. 

Among the recommendations in the report, the WSA welcomes the call to examine and plan for the long-term future of the sector. 

In its recommendations within the report, the Committee recommended that the “Welsh Government allocates the £3.5m of consequential from the UK Government’s energy support package to swimming pools”, while also “(endorsing) the recommendation of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee that the Welsh Government should provide additional targeted funding to the sports and culture sectors to help venues and organisations that face closure.” 

The Committee also called on Welsh Government to “review the effectiveness of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 in ensuring the provision of public leisure services in Wales”, as well as “take all reasonable steps to develop stronger links between public leisure and health services.” 

The Committee recommended that “the Welsh Government invest in supporting the decarbonisation and refurbishment of leisure and library facilities across Wales… as a matter of urgency.” 

Find the full report, with the Committee’s recommendations to the Welsh Government, here.

The provision of affordable and safe sport and leisure in our communities is key to Wales’ ongoing wellbeing and international visibility. Without the infrastructure on our doorstep, it is harder for all of us to enjoy the benefits of regular exercise, pressures will mount on other public services, and we will miss out on future talent. 

The sport and leisure sector has made substantial investment in decarbonisation over recent years. However, with the squeeze on energy prices, our legal commitment to net zero, and swimming pools’ high energy consumption, we need Government support to get us over the final hurdle. 

The WSA, Swim Wales and Community Leisure UK will continue to work with Welsh Government, Sport Wales and the Senedd to advocate on behalf of the breadth of our membership base and state the case for investment in the sport and leisure sector, at a time when the sector faces unprecedented challenges. 

Swim Wales CEO Fergus Feeney commented:  

“The published report from Welsh Government’s Local Government and Housing Committee into Local Authority Leisure and Library services gives us a comprehensive picture of the uncertain reality our partners are facing across the sector.  

“Once again, Swim Wales were pleased to be called on to support a committee inquiry into an important national issue. Our Save Our Pools campaign is now in its seventh month, and we continue to raise the issue of swimming pool protection to ensure that the 500,000 aquatically active people every week can continue to access the wide range of health and social benefits aquatic activities provide. 

“We applaud the thorough work of this inquiry, and we welcome the Committee’s recommendations which emphasise the need for an immediate investment to support current energy costs and capital to address sustainability across the aging pool estate in Wales. We take this opportunity to reemphasise the urgency for this support – 80% of Welsh pools are 20 years old or more, and only six local authority pools have been built since 2003, which alone present significant futureproofing challenges for our facility partners.” 

WSA CEO Andrew Howard added: 

“The WSA was delighted to be able to respond to this inquiry in support of our members. The report comes at a key time for the sector and offers some insightful recommendations as we look to the future. 

“The long-term financial sustainability of public leisure provision, and all the social and wellbeing benefits that it brings needs serious consideration. Much work is needed to lower energy demands and carbon footprints whilst providing an affordable service. This report is a useful contribution to the debate.” 

Don’t hesitate in getting in contact with the WSA team should you have any questions, and to find out how our services can support you amid current challenges.

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