Today, along with other Sheffield MPs, I have joined with Sheffield’s sports clubs to call on the Government to urgently step-in to secure local sports clubs’ futures. “Perverse” rules meant Sheffield was denied emergency funding for leisure facilities like Ponds Forge.
Cities across the country have received funding to help recover lost costs and income due to Coronavirus, but because Sheffield leisure facilities are run by an arms-length trust that funding has been denied. As a result, Sheffield City Council has been forced to fund the reopening of Ponds Forge without the financial assistance that other local authorities have enjoyed.
The full text of our joint letter to the Government:
Ponds Forge leisure centre is a jewel in the crown for Sheffield, providing elite-level sporting facilities for clubs and families across our city. As well as being a community sports venue, Ponds Forge serves as a major international swimming pool and is home to Sheffield’s main swimming, diving and water polo squads as well as the Sheffield Sharks Basketball teams. These clubs, making use of the Ponds Forge facility, have produced dozens of Olympians over the years and Sheffield is rightly proud of that extraordinary sporting partnership. Ponds Forge is the beating heart of those clubs, and of that success.
The facility, however, is falling between the gaps of support that is being made available by the Government to cities across the country to safeguard their leisure facilities. As you know, the funding package for leisure facilities provided by the Government in July, will only contribute towards loss of income for services which a local authority provides direct. As we are sure you are aware, Sheffield and some other local authorities have developed arrangements whereby others may run a service for them but effectively the local authority underwrites the cost, and is therefore responsible any short-fall in the income. This is precisely the situation in Sheffield where Sheffield City Trust runs the services but ultimately any losses are underwritten by Sheffield City Council. It was established to enable leisure facilities to be built in the city which have remained since then, extremely popular and well-used and of international quality.
We are sure it was not the intention of the Government to create a situation in which similar facilities provided by the Council would receive assistance, while no government support has been made available to cover cost increases for leisure trusts like SCT. Nevertheless, the consequence of the Government’s approach is that Sheffield City Council has been forced to fund the reopening of Ponds Forge without the financial assistance that other local authorities have enjoyed. We welcome Sheffield City Council’s support but questions remain regarding the site’s longer-term funding.
We are sure, like us, you would agree that a solution must be found that secures Sheffield’s share of the emergency funding made available by the Government which, we believe, would safeguard the long-term future of Ponds Forge.
We are disappointed that we have not yet received a response to our earlier letters on this topic. We would like to urgently request a meeting with you, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield City Trust and arms-length bodies Sport England and Swimming England to discuss these serious challenges and the support you might provide.
Clive Betts MP
Olivia Blake MP
Paul Blomfield MP
Gill Furniss MP
Louise Haigh MP
City of Sheffield Diving
City of Sheffield Swim Squad
City Sheffield Water Polo
University Swimming and Water Polo Squads