NHDC leisure centres not under threat, amid national call for investment

North Herts Lesiure Centre in Letchworth. Picture: NHDC

North Herts Lesiure Centre in Letchworth. Picture: NHDC - Credit: Archant

A national body of councils has warned leisure centres could be forced to close without urgent government investment – but North Hertfordshire’s authority doesn’t see any imminent threat.

Councillor Jane Gray is responsible for leisure at North Herts District Council. Picture: NHDC

Councillor Jane Gray is responsible for leisure at North Herts District Council. Picture: NHDC - Credit: Archant

North Herts District Council has reassured leisure centre users in the wake of a rallying cry from the Local Government Association, which has expressed concern about closures’ potential impact on public health.

The LGA statement said most council-owned sports halls and swimming pools risked becoming “old and tired” as local authorities’ budgets were increasingly slashed, forcing them to make cuts and forego renovations.

In its budget submission to HM Treasury ahead of the Autumn Budget – due on November 22 – it has called for a £400 million funding pot for improved health and wellbeing infrastructure, to avoid having to replace facilities completely down the line.

The LGA’s Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: “Following significant government cuts to councils’ funding and growing demand for services such as caring for the elderly, protecting children and reducing homelessness, many local authorities can no longer foot the bill of maintaining decent, quality leisure facilities.”

Councillor Jane Gray, holder of the NHDC leisure portfolio, has told this paper in response that the district council does not foresee imminent problems for its centres in Letchworth, Hitchin and Royston.

She said: “Although as a council we are under great pressure to save money, we do not currently foresee NHDC finding itself in the unfortunate position that many other local authorities are in.

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“Where they have not, like us, had a policy of rolling investment in improvements, it seems likely in quite a few areas that leisure facilities are now vulnerable to closure.

“At NHDC we have so far managed to avoid this prospect by continually investing in our leisure facilities, thus preventing them reaching the cliff edge now faced by others.

“However, in the long term we may struggle to maintain services such as our outdoor pools, and an injection of funds from central government could be very usefully directed towards such much-loved and needed leisure facilities.”

She added: “NHDC is committed to providing high quality leisure facilities to ensure residents have as much opportunity as possible to live healthy lifestyles.

“We have continually invested in the leisure facilities in our district over the years, with major improvements having been made to our leisure centres in Royston, Hitchin, and most recently Letchworth – which has benefitted from investment of over £3 million, resulting in an exciting redevelopment including a new teaching pool.”

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