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Cut VAT on gym membership to lower obesity burden on NHS, urges gym boss
October 12, 2015
The boss of one of the UK’s largest gym chains has said removing VAT on fitness club membership would boost numbers at a time when obesity is costing the state billions of pounds.
Peter Roberts, who founded the no-frills gym chain in 2009, said only 13pc of people in the UK regularly attend a gym, and making membership cheaper could cause this to rise by more than seven percentage points.
VAT at 20pc is levied on all monthly gym subscriptions in the UK, and Mr Roberts wants the charge to either be lowered or scrapped entirely.
He also called on the Government to persuade doctors to prescribe more exercise as a solution to health problems, reducing the reliance on prescriptions.
“There’s a tradition of everything being solved by pills, when a lot could be solved by exercise. Problems relating to the health of the nation are costing the Government over £40bn a year,” he said.
Pure Gym ,which is now the country’s biggest chain by membership, disrupted the fitness market by introducing low-cost monthly gym membership without contracts.
Mr Roberts pointed to the example of Germany, where around 21pc of the population are members of a gym. In Scandinavia, the figure is as high as 30pc.
His comments echo the indignation felt by pub owners over the compulsory VAT charge. The bosses of Punch Taverns and JD Wetherspoons have both criticised the levy, which is charged on food sales in pubs but not on food sold in supermarkets.
Campaigners argue that this tax saving allows supermarkets to sell cut-price alcohol, leaving pubs struggling to compete.
The company, which is majority-owned by private equity house CCMP Capital Advisors, has 112 Pure Gym sites across the country and also owns another 43 LA fitness gyms.
Mr Roberts said he plans to boost total numbers to over 200 within the next two years.