Sports facilities and leisure development funding has been slashed by Merton Council despite figures showing a steady increase in demand.
An FOI by SW Londoner reveals a dramatic drop in funding for both of the council-run leisure centres in the borough over the last four years.
Both Canons Leisure Centre in Mitcham and Wimbledon Leisure Centre have seen an impressive growth of users, but saw funding cut from £202,502 in 2014 down to £109,130 in 2015.
A Merton Council spokesperson said: “The level of funding reflects our renegotiated contract with our leisure providers to ensure improved facilities and better value for taxpayers’ money.”
The multi-purpose facility in Mitcham went from 220,341 visitors in 2012 to 356,508 by 2015, while Wimbledon’s saw an increase from 141,974 to 313,904 in the same period.
The figures equate to a 38% increase of Canons’ users and 54% for Wimbledon’s since 2012.
This significant increase is coupled with similar growth at the council-run Wimbledon Park Water Sports Centre, which saw 20,039 more users from 2014 to 2015.
The overall picture of sustained growth in the area is impressive and suggests Merton residents are keen to get active and use local facilities.
However, while more people are visiting, leisure development spending for the Merton borough has suffered, being cut by 53% since 2012 – from £87,381 to £40,810.
A Merton Council spokesperson said: “We have invested in our facilities and opening two new multi-use games areas, which are available for tournaments and coaching, has succeeded in increasing the amount of revenue we generate.
“We’ve also installed solar panels on the roof to reduce our energy bills.”
Despite these significant funding cuts Merton Council are currently trying to find an extra £1.7-£1.9million to fund a proposed new leisure centre in Morden.
A planning application for the new centre is to be submitted soon for the site at St Thomas College’s Merton Campus and, if the money can be found, building work will begin in October.
Meanwhile, since 2012, the council has spent £195,000 on a new BMX track on Acacia Road, Mitcham and £245,000 on a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) at Canons Leisure Centre.
While funding for the London Youth Games in the borough has remained steady, water sports funding has suffered cuts, dropping from £236,779 in 2014 to £149,910 in 2015.