‘The future of community sport and recreation is under serious threat’ - Energy Bill Discount Scheme falls short for the sector, according to Sport and Recreation Alliance

Energy Bill Discount Scheme announcement ()

The Government has announced details of its proposed Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS) for 2023/24. This will replace the existing Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) which runs until the end of March.

Responding to the announcement, Lisa Wainwright MBE, Alliance CEO said: “While we welcome the additional help the EBDS will provide over the coming year, the scheme as proposed fails to provide the same level of support as the current EBRS scheme and will leave many parts of the sector more exposed to rising energy costs.

“We, and other sector partners, are seriously concerned at the omission of sport and leisure from the list of sectors which will be eligible for additional support.

“With 1 in 4 grassroot community clubs already in serious financial difficulty and energy bills projected to almost double according to latest Alliance research, the new scheme will do little to support our members who everyday deliver huge economic, health and social benefits through keeping our nation active.

“It is essential that ministers review and change this decision as soon as possible, or we face the very real threat of closures of community facilities and the stripping away of crucial opportunities for people to take part in the activities they love.

“Over 80% of our grassroots clubs wholly depend on community facilities to deliver their activities. Currently, access to facilities is the highest concern for three quarters of our clubs’ and many of our members have already raised serious concerns about the short-term sustainability of the facilities they use.

“We have already seen a 16% drop in participation being offered in local communities since pre-pandemic levels and this trend will rapidly continue.

“Alarmingly, with more and more community clubs facing the perfect financial storm of reduced reserves and rising costs, clubs have little other choice than to pass on higher costs to members and users at a time they can least afford it.

“We urge Government to rethink their decision and we will continue to work collaboratively and at pace with our members, sector partners and Government to find solutions to these challenges.”

Alliance members Swim England face acute pressures with highly energy dependent swimming pools being excluded from receiving additional support – Jane Nickerson MBE, Chief Executive said: “It is a huge mistake for the Government not to include swimming pools in the list of energy intensive businesses eligible for additional support. Swimming pools are incredibly energy dependent and extremely vulnerable as a result of soaring energy bills, with pools frequently reporting energy bills going up by 300%.

"This decision will undoubtedly lead to more pools closing at a time when they are needed more than ever to help people’s physical and mental wellbeing and reduce the pressures on the NHS. The Government needs to urgently rethink this decision.”