Urgent need to secure future of leisure facilities and services

The Local Government Association has said that investment in public sport and leisure facilities and services is key to levelling up the health of the nation, tackling health inequalities and supporting climate change targets.

A new LGA report, Securing the Future of Public Sport and Leisure Services, evaluates the current state of public sport and leisure services and sets out recommendations to ensure the survival and development of the sector.  

Councils are currently the biggest investor in sport, leisure, parks and green spaces, spending £1.1 billion per year in England. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of serious illness and disease. With obesity rates forecast to cost £9.7 billion per year by 2050, the delivery of low cost and free facilities and social prescribing opportunities from councils is key in responding to this crisis, addressing health inequalities, and reducing the burden on the NHS and public health services.

The report recommends that the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities take on a key role in ensuring the contribution of public leisure services to the nation’s wellbeing is communicated to health partners and included in strategies to promote good health, reduce obesity, promote physical activity and prevent illness.

The LGA is also calling for next month’s Spending Review to include £1 billion in capital investment into the leisure estate to bring it up to modern design and environmental standards. Nearly two thirds of the leisure estate is ageing and past its replacement date. With public sport and leisure facilities currently accounting for up to 40 per cent of a council’s carbon emission output, ageing facilities are hampering both national and local efforts to meet net zero targets and must be addressed as part of efforts to tackle the climate emergency.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “Councils have demonstrated, more than ever, that they are best placed to deliver services at pace for their local communities, if empowered and resourced to do so. Public sport and leisure facilities and services are a part of the social infrastructure of the nation. With the right investment and Government support, councils can do far more to maximise the benefits of sport and leisure services and build on their existing work to level up their communities, from improving health, to reducing emissions and driving regeneration.”

Event Diary

The Security Event is set to be the first major exhibition to take place in the sector when it opens its doors on 7-9 September 2021 at the NEC in Birmingham and for the first time it will also encompass the National Cyber Security Show.

digitech21 will seek to demystify the increasingly complex technology landscape and will showcase a host of public sector best practice case studies and the very best solution providers, each of whom are helping organisations to transform and improve the way in which the public sector delivers services to the citizen.

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