NEWS that half of Caerphilly county borough's leisure centres are under risk of closure has prompted an impassioned joint statement from the area's current MP, Chris Evans, and his two predecessors, Lord Kinnock and Lord Touhig.

Under plans to redesign leisure services in the authority, Caerphilly County Borough Council, which manages more leisure centres than any other Welsh local authority, says its is no longer able to sustain all its facilities, given the current financial climate.

But the joint statement by the three Labour Party figures says the importance of the leisure centres to the region's citizens goes beyond money.

In that statement, the three said: "In many of our local villages and towns, leisure centres are the beating heart of the community. They are a place for families to teach their children to swim and to learn to play sports. They are somewhere for the young and old to enjoy themselves with friends while leading an active lifestyle.

"That is why we strongly oppose the potential closure of leisure centres in Islwyn. They are too important to close and their loss would be deeply and widely felt across the community."

Mr Evans and Lords Kinnock and Touhig go on to consider the long-term implications of removing leisure facilities from the community, highlighting obesity statistics that estimate 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women, and 25 per cent of children living in the area will be obese by the year 2050.

Those figures were taken from the council's draft Sports and Active Recreation Strategy, which also revealed how the current percentage of adults living in the area who were overweight or obese was four per cent higher than the Welsh average.

"The link between exercise and health, including mental health, is clear and well-established", the statement read. "It is vital that residents have the best possible access to sports and physical activities. This is what leisure centres are about."

The three concede budgetary restrictions, for which they blamed the Conservative government, are putting pressure on councils' services, but say closing facilities is not the answer.

"We know that times are difficult for local government, and they have to make eye-watering reductions in their budgets", the statement read. "Nobody can deny the challenges faced by local government. But closure of leisure centres would be a terrible retreat from good community standards.

"That is why imaginative and innovative solutions are more important now than ever before."

There will be a public meeting at the Cefn Fforest community centre on Wednesday (September 5), at 7pm, to discuss the potential closures.