A multi-million-pound fund to help local authorities keep afloat swimming pools struggling with soaring energy bills has been launched.
A total of £20 million is available in phase one of the Swimming Pool Support Fund and is targeted at those facilities at risk of closure or reduced service provision as a direct result of the increased expenses to operate them.
It will be managed by Sport England on behalf of the Government and is part of the £63 million investment for facilities with pools which was announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the Spring Budget.
The fund is open to all councils in England with a maximum of £500,000 available per applicant, based on data showing the impact of rising costs. Local authorities will need to submit one application covering the publicly-accessible pools in their area.
This includes any requests from charity and community-run pools and school pools that have public access as well as the local authority-led provision.
Councils are advised to read the guidance and assessment criteria closely before applying and a series of seminars will be held to help with the process.
Applications need to be submitted to Sport England before 11 August and those successful will be informed by the end of September with payments starting to be made in October.
Jane Nickerson, Swim England's chief executive, said the fund was ‘needed’.
She said: “Swimming pools were among those hit hardest by the energy crisis earlier this year and many are still feeling the impact.
“The Swimming Pool Support Fund will go some way to ensure that local authorities across the country can keep these much-loved facilities open.
“We campaigned long and hard with several partners to ensure the Government made this cash available as it was so clearly needed.
“Now, we hope as many councils as possible will be able to take advantage of it to help minimise potential closures and ensure local communities have the pools they need for our members, clubs, children learning to swim and the millions who rely on them for their mental and physical health.
“We will also be monitoring the impact of the fund closely to see if additional support is required.”
Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England chief executive, added: “I am pleased the Swimming Pool Support Fund is now open to applications.
“We know that the provision of public swimming pools in England is at real risk because of the threats resulting from increased energy and maintenance costs, weakened operator reserves and staff retention difficulties."
“And that those swimming pools play a critical role in contributing to physical activity participation rates and improving wider health and wellbeing."
“That’s why we’ve worked so closely with the Local Government Association, District Councils’ Network, the Active Partnerships Network, ukactive, Community Leisure UK, Swim England and others when developing this fund on behalf of the DCMS.
“We wanted to make the application and funding process as fast and simple as possible, only requiring information that will be readily available to local authorities."
“While we recognise this funding cannot support all facilities with pools in England, it is a significant level of one-off support to contribute to the pressures being felt now and one that, combined with the capital investment available later in the year, will continue to help those most in need.”
Phase two of the Swimming Pool Support Fund is due to be launched in September and will provide investment to improve the energy efficiency of public facilities with pools in the medium to long term.
To find out more about phase one of the Swimming Pool Support Fund and view the application criteria, please click here.