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Local authority Sport and Recreation Services in England: Where next?

Local authority Sport and Recreation Services in England: Where next?

In the wake of the Coalition Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) 2010 (HM Treasury, 2010a), Emergency Budget of 2010 (HM Treasury, 2010b) and subsequent local government finance settlements (Berman and Keep, 2011; Department of Communities and Local Government, 2010), this report begins to assess:

  • The impact of the ‘cuts’ for Sport and Recreation Services (SRS)
  • Responses to the ‘cuts’
  • The options for SRS moving forward.

As highlighted in a recent report from the Audit Commission (2011), local authorities face significant challenges in the current economic climate. As a discretionary service in England, SRS face disproportional reductions to budgets by comparison with statutory services, potentially affecting front-line services and community benefit.

This report assesses SRS as a whole but centres on two core components of the SRS portfolio in particular:

  • Facility management (for community and elite sport use) either financed through mainstream budgets and managed by SRS and/or external operators, notably leisure trusts (charitable bodies and/or private sector operators) (Audit Commission, 2006)
  • Welfare-oriented sport development such as outreach (increasingly funded from external sources; mainly agencies of central government). Only 20% of councils fund programmes to ‘widen participation’ including outreach through mainstream budgets (see case study)

To a lesser extent, the report makes reference to,

  • Programmes that utilise sport and physical activity to improve health (financed to a significant extent by Primary Care Trusts or other external agencies, although Health is to returned to local government control)

Other components of the SRS portfolio are not the specific focus of this report, but are referred to ‘in passing’ due the limitations of space, including:

  • Event management related to economic and/or social/community objectives, and/or place shaping or showcasing agendas (financed by local authorities in most cases)
  • Sport-specific development related to competition and performance (increasingly funded through National Government Bodies of Sport utilising National Lottery monies)
  • Programmes related to youth crime and anti-social behaviour (funded by external agencies in the main)
  • Programmes related to educational objectives (funded through council education budgets and/or external sources)
  • Parks, playing field and pitch management (part internal and part external funded or operated and funded by a separate council department from SRS)
  • Other initiatives related to sport, recreation, physical activity and/or play.

The research indicated that the portfolio of policy objectives has expanded over the last decade despite decreasing mainstream budgets. However, the ‘core business’ in most SRS was not clearly articulated in many cases. Instead, SRS has been ‘pulled in different directions’ as policy trajectories tend to ‘follow the funding’.

A copy of the full report is available to download below:

Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit local government body working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.

           

 

          

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