Swimming pools plea for more support to help with 'serious' rise in energy costs

Many swimming pools have been forced to lower the temperature of the water to help save money Credit: PA
  • By ITV Sharp End Producer - Guto Llewelyn

Swimming pools and leisure centres across Wales need more support from the Welsh Government if they are to cope with rising energy costs, according to industry experts.

As the cost of energy continues to rise, these facilities are increasingly feeling the pinch and a number of them are in danger of closure.

Speaking on ITV Wales’s Sharp End programme, the CEO of Swim Wales, Fergus Feeney described the situation as “very serious.”

He added: “Post-Covid we were hit with a lot of closures, 42 weeks out of the 52 we were closed. There’s been a hesitancy, we’ve been building up the numbers across these pools and to be hit with this cost of living crisis on top of that, it’s been really serious.”

Fergus Feeney, CEO of Swim Wales

Energy consumption tends to be very high among leisure centres and swimming pools. In many cases, their age and designs leave buildings energy inefficient.

Earlier this year, Mr Feeney claimed up to 30% of Welsh public pools were at risk of closure.

Many facilities are taking radical measures to cut their bills, including lowering the water temperature in pools.

Jo Smith is the Cardiff partnership manager for Better, a company which operates many of the city’s public leisure centres.

Speaking from Llanrumney’s Eastern Leisure Centre, she said the industry was facing major challenges.

Jo Smith, Cardiff partnership manager for Better

“The costs are now astronomical. For this site for example, the cost for 2022 just to run the pool was £173,000 which is about a 50 per cent increase against 2019.”

She added: “(Energy) Usage is about 33 per cent down against 2019 however our costs are still 50 per cent more. It’s not making enough of a difference for us.”

In Powys, the local authority has announced a review into all the council’s leisure services and many other councils are facing difficult decisions of their own over how they fund leisure centres.

Eastern Leisure Centre in Cardiff has reduced the temperature in its pools to cope with rising energy costs.

Councillor Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council and economy spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association said after years of cuts, leisure facilities now needed support from the Welsh Government to get them through a difficult period.

He said: “Swimming pools across Wales are very lean, very efficient. There is no tweak that can be done, there’s no silver bullet so it does come down to more money.”

The Welsh Government said it has given Sport Wales £16m over the next two years to upgrade facilities to help with energy saving measures.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: "Support for leisure facilities is provided to local authorities through the general Local Government settlement.

"Despite the challenging financial settlement we have received from the UK Government, we have reprioritised funding to protect public services and deliver a 7.9 per cent increase in money for local authorities in this financial year.

“We have also made £20m available to local authorities to decarbonise their estate, which may include leisure centres, and we have committed £16m to Sport Wales over the next two years to upgrade facilities including helping with energy saving measures.

“We recognise high levels of inflation are leaving local authorities with difficult decisions and continue to work closely with councils to meet the shared challenges we face.”