More than 16,000 jobs are at risk among not-for-profit organisations running local leisure services, new research shows.
A survey carried out by Community Leisure UK, which represents charities, societies and community interest companies that provide leisure, sport and cultural services in the UK, found that 26 per cent of the contracted workforce, equivalent to to almost 7,000 jobs, is at risk because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
It said half of the casual workforce, equal to more than 9,200 positions, is also under threat because of the outbreak.
The membership body said these potential job losses were in addition to more than 6,000 contracted and casual staff whose roles had already been made redundant or who had not been offered work.
CLUK said the public leisure sector had been hit hard by Covid-19, with most venues having been closed for an extended period since March.
It warned of dire consequences for the community leisure sector if a second lockdown had to be put in place, because many affected organisations have been forced to rely on dwindling reserves.
“Current reserves, compared with pre-Covid levels, have dropped to 64 per cent, with an expectation that only 10 per cent of reserves will remain by the end of the current financial year, meaning most trusts will have insufficient working capital to operate.
“If there is a second lockdown, trusts will have no reserves to rely on and it is unlikely they would be able to remain solvent.”
It warned the public leisure and culture landscape would be in a “fragile position” for a significant amount of time, with a lengthy recovery period.
“There is a high risk of venues and facilities closing permanently as a result of rationalisation and financial pressures,” it said.
“There are currently 342 facilities at risk of permanent closure, including 35 libraries, 85 leisure centres and 24 swimming pools.”
CLUK said loans from the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme had generally been too risky for trusts to take on, while they had been ineligible for money from the Business Support Grant Funding because their buildings had a rateable value that was too high.
The association has 110 members, which operate more than 3,700 facilities – including 780 leisure centres, 835 outdoor sports courts and pitches, and 224 community and town halls.
Members had a combined turnover of more than £1.2bn last year and collectively employ more than 46,000 staff, CLUK said.