Local councils cutting sports facilities - BBC survey

Woman running on treadmill in gym Council-run facilities included in the survey included leisure centres and gyms

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More than a third of UK councils have cut or closed some public sports facilities in the past three years, a BBC investigation has found.

A fifth of the councils that responded to BBC Radio 4's You and Yours survey had closed at least one service.

But 33 councils had added new facilities or increased hours.

In Scotland where sports provision is a legal requirement 15 out of 26 councils (58%) had reduced services compared to 99 out of 276 (36%) English councils.

The figures for Wales were 8 out of 20 councils (40%) and for Northern Ireland 4 out of 24 councils (17%).

Almost a quarter of councils across the UK had cut opening hours.

The survey follows calls to make the most of the success of Team GB at the Olympics and ensure a sporting legacy from the Games.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said there needs to be "a big cultural change" in favour of competitive sports in schools, while the British Olympic Association (BOA) has called for a "step change" in government policy towards sports.

Lord Moynihan, the outgoing chairman of the BOA, said he wanted new laws to force councils to ringfence money for leisure provision.

Multi-million venues

Of the 369 UK councils who responded to the poll of 434 surveyed, 346 operated sports facilities such as swimming pools, leisure centres and athletics tracks.

Seventy local authorities had closed at least one sporting facility, and 126 had reduced what they could provide.

But 33 councils had increased the number of sporting facilities available or lengthened their opening hours.

In Glasgow, services have been increased and improved with several multi-million pound venues being developed ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The survey included anywhere people went to play sport or exercise - ranging from swimming pools and gyms to bowling greens and skate parks.

Sport is a discretionary requirement of local authorities in England.

However the law is different in Scotland where councils have to make adequate provision for sport.

'Protect and secure'

Lord Moynihan told the BBC he will call for legislation to force councils to set aside funding for leisure provision.

He said: "When we see facilities being cut back then those who have been inspired by the Games don't get the opportunity to really engage in sport.

"We should be looking at changing the law to make provision of sport and recreation opportunity a statutory requirement.

"At the moment in England it's discretionary and once it's discretionary it's inevitable that councillors will be looking for discretionary cutbacks first."

Sport England said more than 15 million people were taking part in sport each week - an increase of half-a-million over the past six months.

According to its own survey - which includes non-council facilities there was more provision of sporting overall.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    What exactly is our council tax paying for then?

    I'll empty my own bin once a fortnight, put up with unkempt communal areas and let the kids play in the garden. They can use my road tax to NOT fix the potholes and to NOT clear snow.

    I'll keep my council tax and go on holiday with it. Council tax is just a scam, plain and simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    So is that what the Useless Hunt (now sent to continue the demolition job at the NHS so ably commenced by the equally useless Lansley)) meant by an Olympic Legacy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    171. Little_Old_Me
    Nonsense - there is not a single Council CE who would not have a nought on the end of his/her salary if they ran a stock market business turning over the same £ multi millions........
    So why don't they? Easy answer is they can't. Generating a city's worth of council tax income (in profit) on the stock exchange is hard. Sending out council tax bills is easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    My tory council can afford I pads but the local sports centre is overpriced inadequate and poorly managed (outsourced of c ).
    The I pad theory is nice but taking field notes is just as easy with a cheap digital camcorder. I expect the other 'justification' will be paper savings - and that's exactly what they are, savings on paper only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    We are constantly being reminded that we are rapidly becoming an obese nation so why are facilities which can help people to stay fit and healthy being closed down. Government and local councils need some coherent policies on sports facilities especially when we have just had such a successful Olympics and Paralymics and the Government wants the nation to continue the sporting success.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    166.Bill Walker - "Councils feel they have more important things to spend ratepayers' money on. Things like council fat cat executive salaries....."

    Nonsense - there is not a single Council CE who would not have a nought on the end of his/her salary if they ran a stock market business turning over the same £ multi millions........

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    "ipads do save money as it cuts down on duplication"

    Nonsense, I've worked in a paperless office for years. Also, there are far cheaper tablets and netbooks out there that do just as good a job. They're buying toys at our expense and cutting services plain and simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    9 Minutes ago
    Has someone seriously said local councils are unelected?
    What do you call local elections. It couldn't be more democratic. If you don't like what you get, then vote accordingly.

    I worked for a council. No-one voted for me to be employed there
    Didn't stay long because of corruption. Nothing I could do about it
    If you think your vote can change anything, think again

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    What is more important is not how many council facilities there are, but the quality of the facilities on offer. If a council facility is old, poor quality, and expensive to maintain, and the council does not have the funds to improve it, but has other facilities on offer in the area, then surely it makes sense to close the least economical facilities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    MP's, Councillors, Judges, all these people that dictate how we should live etc etc, number one there spending taxpayers moneys themselves, number they don't actually care if they did would they waste money?, and number three i just don't like them

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Councils feel they have more important things to spend ratepayers' money on. Things like council fat cat executive salaries, their golden handshakes, inspiring statues, mayoral limousines, factfinding missions to the Caribbean, the list is endless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    I think a lot of wasted council tax is down to the "workmen" they employ. A few years ago they were replacing a few bricks and pointing all of the council houses in my street. It took a team of 6 people about 2 weeks to do each house! They were in my street for months repairing a handful of houses. They would literally do 10 minutes work and lay on the grass for an hour, over and over and over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    ipads do save money as it cuts down on duplication. i.e. when they get back to their desk and have to type in all those notes again that they wrote down on paper. With an iPad it's all done in the meeting. Lots of other ways it saves money too. It's the 21st century!

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    In Harwich Town born and raised
    down the leisure centre is where i spent most of my days
    chilling out nice, relaxing all cool
    & doing a bit of backstroke in the local pool
    when a couple of councillors who were up to no good
    started making cutbacks wherever they could
    I asked them one formal question and they got scared
    they said the cutback to the leisure centre couldn't be spared

    Shame on them!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    17 Minutes ago
    .....inflated pay-offs to council officers?
    Councils should cut bureaucracy before they cut services. There are too many easy targets for them; they need to look at what they pay themselves and get real like private firms have to.

    Get real? Who would vote themselves a pay cut? Greed is one of the nastiest traits humans have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    #153 Nottingham city council is 100% labour run & has been for as long as I can remember. Voter turnout is under 20% and in some wards major parties don't bother standing against the incumbent councillor. Proper democracy would have all the people voting on each policy decision, not letting Councillor Jon Collins do whatever lunacy he wants... again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Maybe if councils spent their money wisely the proposed cuts would not be implemented. I often see council workers not doing very much when it comes to carrying out repairs or maintenence. Why does it take four men to dig a hole - one to dig and three to stand around doing nothing or parked up a country road reading newspapers. No wonder we don't get value for money from our council tax!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Imagine if the the Government sacked the 4000 disabled workers of Remploy to save less than 1 percent of what the paralympics cost ?

    Oh they did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Funny how Councils across the UK are equipping their councillors with iPads to save money.

    "iPads to save money".

    Amazing what nonsense they think we'll swallow. Thing is, what are we going to do about it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Glasgow City Council are currently advertising for FOUR 'Running Coaches' (applicants must possess a 'jogScotland' qualification!) to teach people how to jog.

    They're also advertising for an Executive Director (salary £132kpa!).

    Does these sound like a wise way to spend taxpayers money?


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