I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have had many a wonderful conversation with him regarding Bury football club, and if there is a lesson to be learned about what has happened there, it is that it is now even more important that we protect these facilities, especially because covid-19 has affected many league 1 and league 2 clubs. I am proud to have Port Vale football club in my constituency, for which the fabulous Carol and Kevin Shanahan have done amazing community work. I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I commend him for all the work he is doing for the people of Bury.
Among the constituents who have written in to me, Jayne, who is diabetic, used the early bird swim programme to keep her health in check. She has said:
“The removal of the facility removes much of my own means to self-help to manage my condition. I can’t wait for it to reopen.”
Karen, who has been a regular at the centre since 1995 —this is not my right hon. Friend Karen Bradley—has described the impact of the closure:
“It has just left a hole in the community, and once it is up and running again we shall be returning as at the moment we have to travel. Sadly, there is nothing to do in Kidsgrove now.”
Claire has described how the closure has directly affected her family:
“My four children have no access to swimming and sports now as I do not drive, and travel costs can add up for five of us. The community feels let down and forgotten and there’s nothing for kids to do. Many adults use the centre too, and now they feel more isolated.”
As the negative implications of this closure have affected so many lives, it would be impossible for me to utilise every testimony. The impact of this closure has affected the people I represent in three distinct ways. First, the severe lack of recreational activities in the area has created a void in community cohesion and interaction. Secondly, the impact on public health, especially of those with pre-existing conditions, has been drastic, with 63% of Kidsgrove and Talke now deemed inactive. Finally, the closure has penalised those who cannot afford the money or the time to make concessions and travel further afield to exercise.
The issue faced by the sports centre is not the stickiness of party politics, though it has certainly seen its fair share of that. The sports centre needs the Government to commit to help fund its renovation and to unlock funds from Sport England so that in summer 2021 the people of Kidsgrove will once again have access to exercise facilities. Having spoken to Sport England this morning, I know that £100,000 has already been allocated in principle, but only £150,000 at most can be given from its asset fund. Although it may have other pots, such as the social investment and strategic facilities funds, they have been repurposed due to the damage that covid-19 has done to the leisure sector. Any of the £195 million that Sport England announced in April would be absolutely welcome, but Kidsgrove sports centre requires a cocktail of funding. Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has stood up, as has Sport England. Now, I need the Government to do the same.