England & Wales Culture, sport and tourism, Education and children's services, Health and social care

Going for gold: councils and community sport

Photo Credit: nooccar via Compfight cc

The LGiU wants to hear from councils with interesting ways of getting people involved in sport and physical activity.

Last week the government launched a public consultation for their new sports strategy. It’s been 13 years since the last one and it was probably due an update. As the consultation document helpfully points out, at the time of its publication Wayne Rooney would have been 16 and double Olympic gold medal winner Laura Trott was still at primary school. A lot has changed, including London winning and hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.

But the timing of the consultation is also partly in answer to a hail of bad press around falling participation figures. While the latest figures for Sport Wales, Sport Scotland and Sport Northern Ireland all show increases in participation levels, Sport England figures show that 222,000 people stopped taking part in regular activity over the six months to March 2015 in England. Swimming has been the worst hit of all, with the number of those swimming weekly down by 245,000 over the course of the year.

School sports has also been struggling. Earlier in the year, the Youth Sport Trust’s National PE, School Sport and Physical Activity Survey Report found that the average number of minutes of PE offered to children in England had dropped well below two hours per week since their previous survey.

Does this mean the legacy of 2012 has ended before it began? And who is responsible? The finger of blame has moved around a lot of late: the failure of NGBs to engage with communities, the Government’s policy on School Sports Partnerships, local authority cuts to leisure and the closure of swimming pools have all been held responsible for rising levels on inactivity in various media stories.

Of course the picture is far more complicated than that. The overall number of people taking part in regular activity remains 1.6m higher than it was when London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics in 2005, and participation in some sports (such as cycling) is still rising. But the fact remains that overall participation has been falling after a peak in 2012.

So where does the local authority fit into this picture? According to the National Audit Office, recreation and sport has been one of the hardest hit service areas when it comes to cuts, with a real-term spending reduction of nearly 40% between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

It’s not all bad – there have also been some great examples of new ways of working. Local residents took over the running of Bramley Baths in 2012 after fears it would be closed, while Sandwell’s new leisure facility, completed in 2013 brings together social care, health and leisure services together under one roof, combining an NHS family practice with a range of health, social care and sports facilities. There are other stories of investment and innovation out there and we’d like to hear them.

We’re interested in hearing from local authorities who have managed to buck the trend in sports participation.

Join in:

  • Has your council managed to secure its investment in local sports and physical activity? Have you developed innovative ways of delivering it differently? Please use the comment box on this page to give us feed back on what’s working locally and leave your contact details to get involved in helpung us shape our approach to community sport.
  • The LGiU has recently published a briefing Where next for the local delivery of the olympic legacy and community sport which is available to our members.
  • Also see our Community Sport project page.

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