As the cost of living crisis continues, energy prices rise ever higher and so Fenland District Council (FDC) are looking into ways to maintain the districts leisure services. 

Not-for-profit trust Freedom Leisure has the contract to run Fenland’s four leisure centres in March, Wisbech, Whittlesey and Chatteris. 

While they continue recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with some success, they now face an additional £600,000 of energy costs next year due to the price increase deemed exceptional and unavoidable. 

This is despite receiving a recent support package from central government to cap energy prices for businesses. 

Freedom Leisure is now asking FDC to consider a range of practical and financial support as well as potential changes to opening hours and concession prices alongside energy efficiency methods already adopted by the leisure centres. 

Cllr Sam Clark, the Council’s Cabinet member for Leisure, said: “Despite Freedom working incredibly hard to recover from the pandemic, the rise in energy costs that the country is currently experiencing is creating a unique challenge.  

“We recognise how important the services are to local people and want to do our best to preserve them.”  

The council is set to discuss this subject and agree on options on Monday, November 14. 

Fenland District Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Chris Boden, said: “The challenges facing Freedom Leisure in Fenland are replicated across the UK leisure industry, and we’ve already seen stories in other areas of prices increasing significantly, or services being cut and facilities closing – especially swimming pools which cost so much to heat. 

“Leisure facilities are vital to the health and wellbeing of our residents so we’re determined to do what we can to safeguard the services that Freedom Leisure provides.  

“We will look at what action can be taken to relieve the impact of rocketing energy prices and what longer-term measures can be put in place to ensure their sustainability in future.” 

The option to make the centres’ operation in-house under the Council was considered but discounted at the time as the Council would be put in Freedom’s position paying increased energy costs and additional significant costs in transitioning the service back.