Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Membership fees for council-run gyms – including Armley and Pudsey – may have to reduce in future to encourage more people on lower incomes to get active, a meeting of Leeds city councillors has heard.
It follows a report which stated that Covid-19 was causing people in the city to live more sedentary lifestyles, which could be storing up further health problems for the future.
The document added that many people from wealthier backgrounds were more likely to be physically active, adding that the pandemic has “widened health inequalities”.
Speaking at a Leeds City Council scrutiny board meeting, the authority’s director of public health Victoria Eaton said:
“I do think it is a critical issue around how much we can invest in removing some of those financial barriers, for example when we have been able to pull down prices or have free sessions. That is not where we are at the moment, but it is an absolutely critical issue for us to look at.
“We need to know what those financial barriers are in order for all communities to have as few barriers as possible.
“Resources is the key issue, as it is down to the service providers like us as a council, but there may be other creative ways to do this.”
According to Leeds City Council’s website, a full Active Leeds membership, which allows users to visit any council swim, gym, fitness or climbing facilities, costs £249.50 a year for adults and £159.50 for juniors.
The council’s executive member for health Coun Salma Arif said: “It would be remiss of me not to note that some parts of our community, particularly inner-city areas, can’t afford to go to the gym, because they have to make a decision about bringing food to the table and paying their electricity bills.
“I have asked the question about if we can make it more accessible with regards the cost pricing for people to access it.
“If you look at the footfall it is far larger in the outer areas and in the inner areas it is where you see health inequalities widening.
“It is something we will be pursuing over the coming months.”