Sheffield Council given £1.5 million leisure recovery funding

Sheffield Council was given £1.5 million in government funding to help reopen leisure facilities.
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The total paid out to the council from the National Leisure Recovery Fund was £1,529,721 to support the reopening and operation of sports and leisure facilities run by Sheffield City Trust and Places for People such as Ponds Forge and the English Institute of Sport.

But it only covers a small amount of the additional £12 million the council has budgeted for leisure and entertainment this financial year.

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It follows lobbying by the council and others including Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, last year. The council overspent a total of £12.8 million to revive leisure facilities but received no support from the government due to its at-arms-length relationship with providers.

Ponds Forge.Ponds Forge.
Ponds Forge.

Mr Betts and other Labour MPs sent a letter to Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for local government, urging the government to support councils like Sheffield.

They said if leisure facilities were in-house, it would get around 75 percent of losses caused by Covid-19 paid for by the government.

In the letter they said: “Without this help the city council will be disadvantaged to the tune of many £millions which they can obviously ill afford at a time when we recognise all local authorities are doing an incredible job along with the health service and voluntary sector locally to deal with the Covid crisis.”

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The lack of funding at the time also forced the council to initially decide to keep Ponds Forge closed but this later reopened following a campaign by the aquatics clubs based there.

In total, the council gave Sheffield City Trust £16.6 million last year and Places for People £1.6 million.

Sport England worked with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to set the fund criteria for the National Leisure Recovery Fund and gave out the money on behalf of the government.

Overall, £100 million was available for local authorities in England to bid for and funding was allocated in a single round between December 1, 2020, and March 31 2021.

Only local authorities in England who hold responsibility for the provision of leisure services and have outsourced their leisure provision to an external body were eligible to apply.