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Concerns as fewer people using public sport centres

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The recession and high charges are driving people away from Leicester's leisure centres, according to sport bosses.

In the past 12 months there have been just over two million visits to the city's seven council-run sports centres – a drop of almost 200,000 in two years.

Officials say customers are spending less on playing sports and exercising in public gyms and pools because of the tough financial climate.

A membership for the council's sports centres, which includes the use of any of its pools, courts, and gyms, costs £31 a month for an adult, or £340 for a year.

At a meeting last week, Paul Edwards, the city council's head of sports services, told councillors: "In our last customer survey, 50 per cent of them said prices were too high or verging on too high.

"Firstly, they cannot afford it and, secondly, they questioned the value for money. Given the economic situation, it is not a shock to me.

"The financial climate does mean people are choosing to spend their money on other essentials, although we'd argue health and fitness are essential."

The council's seven sports centres are in Braunstone, Aylestone, Beaumont Leys, Evington, New Parks, Spence Street and Cossington Street.

The fall in use has also meant the council's income has dropped by £200,000.

Mr Edwards said this was in line with the experience of other large cities.

He said the age of some of the venues was also putting people off.

He said: "If you build a new leisure centre, people will flock to it. Our leisure offer is 90 per cent old 1970s leisure centres.

"The city's most recently built centre is Braunstone's, which opened eight years ago, but some, such as Cossington Street, were built in the 1800s."

Nationally, the number of adults involved in sports activities is below average. The council's heritage, leisure and sport scrutiny commission has launched a review to try to find out why the number of adults involved in sport is so low.

It is looking at ways of getting more people to use the authority's leisure centres.

One recommendation could be to reduce prices in the hope that increased use would mean the council does not lose out.

Sport England figures, based on a survey, said 30 per cent of adults in the city took part in sport at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes on 12 days out of 30, from April 2011 to April this year.

This is compared to 40 per cent in Derby and 36 per cent in Nottingham. Only Luton scores lower than Leicester, with 27 per cent.

Unemployed John Stokes, 25, of Eyres Monsell, said he used to be a regular squash player at the New Parks leisure centre.

He said: "At one point, I had a membership and played a couple of times a week. Thirty-odd quid a month is a good rate compared with a private gym but I'm not working so couldn't afford it."


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