THE temporary closure of leisure centres due to Covid-19 has cost a Hampshire council more than £800,000 –  it has been revealed, amid concerns over the future of leisure facilities.

New Forest District Council said it has lost just over £800,000 between April and May due to the closure of the five council-run  Health and Leisure Centres in Applemore, Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood and Totton.

The news comes as the District Councils’ Network (DCN), which represents 187 district councils in England, warned that some leisure centres may never re-open unless the government brings forward a financial rescue package to save the sector. 

Most leisure centres in Hampshire are run by providers on behalf of councils.

Local authorities and the government have pledged to support providers.

But the  majority of councils across the county are yet to disclose the financial impact the pandemic has had on leisure centres.

However, the DCN is forecasting a financial hit to leisure centres across the country of around £305m this year. 

New Forest District Council said the impact to the portfolio budget for April and May is “a net increase in budget requirement of £835,000”.

The council said the closure of leisure centres resulted in an income loss of about £600,000 in April and £600,000 in May but for each of these months the authority received £200,000 from the government through the furlough scheme.

“Taking the net cost to the council of the leisure centre closures to just over 800k for April and May”, the council said.

Test Valley Borough Council said it is working closely with Places Leisure, which runs the council’s leisure centres across the borough. 

These include Romsey Rapids, Andover Leisure Centre, Knightwood Leisure Centre, and Chalrton Lakeside.

A spokesperson for Eastleigh Borough Council said none of the leisure centres across the borough is at risk of closure.

The council also said it is in  talks with Places Leisure Eastleigh to help with their financial payments and to support them when Government advice allows them to reopen the centre.

The DCN is now calling on the government to provide emergency funding.

Cllr Dan Humphreys, DCN lead member for enhancing quality of life, said: “Our leisure centres are in a crisis right now. Their income has plummeted and some may never recover without a lifeline from government which helps stabilise leisure centres in the short term. We should now come together to create a leisure and sport service that plays its full role in the national health and economic recovery.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise how important leisure centres are for people’s health and wellbeing and we are working closely with the sector to support them to reopen as soon as this is safe. Across the country we’re providing councils with an unprecedented £3.2 billion to tackle immediate pressures they have told us they are facing, including £96 million in Hampshire. This funding is part of around £27 billion which the Government has provided to support local councils, businesses and communities in fighting the pandemic.” 

All councils in Hampshire (except Portsmouth City Council), have been approached for comment but some were unable to provide one before the paper went to press.