No council planning to turn down pool temperatures or reduce swimming availability

By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

No Nottinghamshire council currently plans to reduce water temperatures in their pools or limit availability amid rising utility costs.

Some authorities say costs to heat leisure centre pools have doubled, with some bills increasing in the hundreds of thousands.

But there are no plans to make significant operational changes in any of the eight areas where councils run public sector leisure facilities.

Some other leisure companies across the UK have said pool temperatures will be dropped and opening times reduced amid surging running fees.

Better Leisure, which runs 268 leisure centres, is reducing availability until Easter after energy costs trebled compared with 2019.

Earlier this month, Nottingham City Council leader Councillor David Mellen (Lab) said the authority’s pool temperatures had been reduced.

The authority says it is spending £442,000 more on gas and £530,000 on electricity for its six swimming pools.

However, it later emerged this was not the case across the city and it was just one of several options on the table that had not been acted upon.

The council since confirmed it does not plan to reduce temperatures or limit opening hours.

This picture is reflected across the seven other leisure-providing local authorities in Nottinghamshire.

No council plans to make these changes and all but one will not raise membership fees to make up cash gaps.

The only council proposing the latter measure is Broxtowe Borough Council, which plans a rise of about 4.9 per cent – the equivalent of £1.55 per month.

The Labour/Lib Dem coalition-led authority says not every activity would be affected by the rise and the increase would need to be approved.

It comes in response to expected pool running costs at Bramcote Leisure Centre rising from £115,000 to £248,000 – an increase of nearly 116 per cent.

The council says it does not plan to either turn down the temperature of the pool or restrict access “at this moment in time”.

There has also been a 90 per cent cost increase at Conservative-run Newark and Sherwood District Council – equating to about £310,000.

The council says there are no plans “at this stage” to reduce temperatures as different pools have varying heats depending on how they are used.

There are also no plans to reduce opening times or availability as “demand for the pools remains very high”.

Ashfield District Council’s leisure provider Everyone Active says there has been a “significant increase in costs” but no figures were provided.

The council itself says renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, have been installed at centres to bring costs down.

But the provider, which runs Lammas, Kirkby and Hucknall leisure centres – all with pools – also says there are no plans for operational changes.

Neighbouring Mansfield Council – which runs pools at Water Meadows and the Rebecca Adlington Centre – says it will “monitor the impact” of rising bills.

However, the Labour-led authority adds it is also investing in energy reduction measures to reduce costs from February next year.

Labour-run Bassetlaw District Council adds it is too early to know the impact on its budgets due to an existing fixed-rate energy agreement still in place.

Rushcliffe Borough Council says that it is working with its contractor Parkwood Leisure to “ensure energy management is a priority”.

The Tory-run authority says its new Rushcliffe Arena hub was built to be energy-efficient, while the contractor purchased much of its energy supply in advance.

And Labour-led Gedling adds it is also not increasing fees, reducing temperatures or limiting availability to combat rising bills.

The authority runs pools at Arnold, Calverton and Carlton Forum centres and estimates running costs have soared by £15,000 per month.

This is a rise of about £180,000 annually.

It follows a Swim England warning that more than 100 public sector pools are under threat due to the ongoing energy crisis.

The “dire forecast” was made at the start of this month with the body urging the Government to intervene.

“Large numbers of public sector leisure facilities are unlikely to make it through to next spring,” it said.

A Government spokesperson said its Energy Bill Relief Scheme will mean operators pay wholesale energy costs at “well below half expected prices”.

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