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22 Dec 2021
£1bn support package for leisure businesses in the UK will exclude health clubs and gyms
By Tom Walker
£1bn support package for leisure businesses in the UK will exclude health clubs and gyms
The decision to exclude gyms from the scheme was described as 'shameful'
Photo: Shutterstock.com/​​Lyashenko Egor
HCM has confirmed that the UK government's £1bn support package for the hospitality and leisure industry, which allows businesses to claim a cash grant of £6,000, is not currently available to health clubs.

It's understood talks are ongoing with government departments in an attempt to reverse this decision.

Announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak, the funding has been designed to help businesses survive the adverse impact on trade caused by the government's "Plan B" measures – such as the guidance to work from home.

This has seen city centre gyms – especially those with a pay-as-you-go pricing model, feeling the pain as they report falling numbers.

Both UK Active and CIMSPA have raised formal protests about the omission.

The decision to exclude health clubs, gyms, swimming pools and leisure centre operators has been described as "shameful" by industry body, UK Active.

Based on evidence from its members, ukactive has estimated that the sector has already suffered a drop in revenue of more than £200m as a result of the current ‘Plan B’ measures in England. The existing measures have already caused a reduction in footfall to some city centre facilities of up to 70 per cent.

Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active, said: “The decision by the Government to omit gyms, pools, and leisure centres from access to new grant support within this financial package, following hours of confusion, is shameful.

“It will lead to some businesses that support the health and wellbeing of communities going to the wall.

“It is also ignorant of all the evidence provided to the Government on the damaging impact of the existing Plan B measures to these facilities.

“We will work alongside our members and partners to reverse this omission and ensure our members are fully supported and protected, alongside additional support required, such as VAT relief in line with other sectors, furlough support, and extensions to business rates relief and the National Leisure Recovery Fund.

“This is a health crisis, so to dismiss calls for support for these essential organisations that improve people’s health is inexcusable and will lead to our nation’s physical activity levels – which are already in a lamentable state – becoming even worse.

“Looking forward, the Government also needs to recognise that our sector is entering its most crucial operating period. It needs to ensure that the tens of millions of people in this country that depend on these facilities are able to use them, especially as we enter the depths of winter and the impact this has on people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“We urge the government in the strongest possible terms to think again.”

Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA said: “It is extremely important that we see clarity and support for the sector workforce, going into the crucial New Year period.

“This professional workforce plays a vital role in supporting the health of the nation, and many were hit hard by previous restrictions.

“Many facilities and providers are already facing staff shortages, so it is essential that the government does everything it can to support them, and the sector as a whole."

UK Active has called for the following financial package:
• Suspend business rates for Q1 2022 for all health, fitness and leisure businesses, and agree to review the 2022/3 cap.
• Introduce new grants to compensate for a lack of trade from Government intervention.
• Include gyms and fitness centres in the reduced rate of VAT, ahead of a review into an extended and permanent reduction.
• Extend the National Leisure Recovery Fund – with the pandemic’s catastrophic impact on public leisure, the previous £100m recovery fund must be extended to cover the additional periods of closure and restrictions.
• Reinstate the furlough scheme and sick pay.

Background briefing
There are around 7,000 gyms, pools and leisure facilities across the UK, employing more than 189,000 full-time staff, 60,000 self-employed or freelance staff, such as PTs.

Together, they serve more than 17 million people from a broad and diverse range of communities, including more than 10 million members.

In addition to sport and fitness services, the sector also provides vital health services, such as 66 per cent of the nation’s cancer rehabilitation and prehabilitation services, swimming lessons for millions of children, and pre- and post-natal services.

Every £1 spent on community physical activity and sport generates nearly £4 for the English economy and society (Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University), with an annual contribution of £85.5bn through social and economic benefits, and £72bn each year in social value – measured in terms of a healthier population, consumer expenditure, greater work productivity, improved education attainment, reduced crime and stronger communities.

Jobs in this issue
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