A South London council has turned down swimming pool heaters in a desperate bid to save on energy bills.

It is one of a number of measures being taken by Merton Council to cut down on running costs.

A council report said “an unprecedented increase in energy bills” means leisure centre utility bills are forecast to double.

This is predicted to cost the council an extra £434,000 on top of its expected budget.

There is an action plan in place to cut costs, including having 50 per cent of lights off where possible, air conditioning only used at peak times and swimming pool temperatures turned down by one degree.

The council has also spent £30,000 on replacing lights with LED bulbs and is having roof work done at Canons and Wimbledon to reduce energy spend.

There are three council-owned leisure centres in Merton which are run by Better Leisure.

Last month the company, which runs 268 leisure centres across the country, said it would be cutting the opening hours at more than 200 leisure centres.

The company told the BBC: “In practice, some centres will open an hour later or close one hour earlier on some days.

“This will enable us to turn off lighting, plant and equipment at the time of maximum energy use, when it is coldest and darkest. This is also when we are least busy.”

GLL, the parent company of Better Leisure, said its energy costs were now more than three times what they were pre-pandemic and had increased to 25 per cent of total costs.

It said heating a swimming pool complex costs more than £300,000 up from £100,000.

Swim England has warned that leisure centres could be at risk of closure with energy bills rising.

The body started a petition calling on the government to provide additional support to leisure providers beyond March 2023.

Chief executive Jane Nickerson said: “Our sector has faced incredible challenges and setbacks in the last three years and, once again, pools are under threat. 

"The government needs to recognise how important they are to millions of people and give them the financial assistance beyond the initial six months to cope with soaring energy costs.”