In the House of Commons yesterday, Cat addressed Nigel Huddleston MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – asking him what the government is doing to ensure poorer towns like Fleetwood maintain vital sports and health facilities.
“Initiatives like Healthier Fleetwood show that the people in the town that I represent take seriously the poor health outcomes that we have in the town and are serious about making a difference,” Cat told the Minister. “But our swimming pool has been closed since the beginning of the first lockdown and was not reopened when restrictions allowed it to be. Wyre Borough Council and the YMCA who run it keep telling me that they are concerned about the level of footfall not being financially viable for the reopening of the pool – so can I ask the Minister what conversations he has had with Treasury colleagues about financial support for swimming pools in areas of deprivation?”
Cat launched a campaign earlier in the year asking the operators to re-open Fleetwood pool when it was safe to do so following the first lockdown. Within 24 hours more than 3000 local residents had signed Cat’s petition. The pool has still not re-opened and Cat says she’s hugely concerned about the impact this is having on school children – many of whom have not now had a swimming lesson in nine months. Similarly she is concerned that for many residents swimming offers a low impact form of exercise that couldn’t be accessed otherwise. In addition there are other residents who have told Ms Smith they rely on the pool to help with mental ill health or to lose weight.
The Minister told Cat that he completely understood the challenges facing many leisure facilities right across the country. “Some of them have been able to open, some of them haven’t, some are open but we are aware they are in a precarious financial state. DCMS is working closely with Sport England and MHCLG on the design of a £100m scheme to help leisure centres and leisure facilities. Further details of this will be released shortly, and once the fund is open we urge leisure centres to bid for the money and people to make the most of these precious facilities.”
Cat says she’ll continue to fight to make sure the pool is re-opened as soon as possible.