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 216.

    "35. mhonesty

    Erm, no I think the headline here is "Government cuts to Councils force them to make difficult decisions." Not as inflammatory in terms of generating some HYS hot air, and clearly obvious, but that's all it is.

    Nowt wrong with the headline. Local councils are cutting sports facilities. Embarrassing to Cameron spinning Olympic legacy, and whilst he sits at the Paralympics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.


    Corporate sponsorship is a really bad idea, in the U.S, during the 80’s they got involved in local sports & sport education, now they sponsor text book's, computer’s and ensure only there products are sold in schools, they sensor text book content, they reduce sex-ed lessons to absence lessons, they basically own entire school districts, or as we in the UK call them LEA’s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    84.In Gold I Trust
    Meanwhile council workers pensions remain as gold-plated as ever.

    Council Managers maybe but not council workers. BTW what has that got to do with many sporting facilities being closed due to govt spending cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Davey Boy Cameron didn't help matters either

    He unilaterally decided that he wanted to pay 15% less council Tax next year, and cut the Governments contribution to councils

    Nice to have the luxury of deciding how much council tax you want to pay eh?

    But the Government is a bigger gangsta than the Council, so the council had to accept that

    Guess who's getting the pain? The little guy You and me

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    The provision of sporting facilities should never be a Council responsibility. It's a matter for the Private Sector and the users need to pay for the use. Councils have other, much more important responsibilities and legal requirements to meet, they have to take preference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    'Local councils cutting sports facilities' - of fat cat local council bosses will cut facilities for thei constituants, they're certainly not going to be cutting their massivly over inflated pensions fund.

    There is still massive massive waste in local councils all over the country, and yet again, the people have to have to take the cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    That'll be the Olympic legacy then

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    What is the point of the govt encouraging people to go out and do more sport as a legacy to the Olympic Games, when a lot of the sporting facilities in all areas of the country have been closed due to govt cuts. Put your money where your mouth is Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Corporate sponsorship may be the way forward. Playing fields, kit and coaches are not that expensive and business would pay if they got a return on their investment through advertising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Dear the BBC.

    Your investigation is not surprising, in fact it has been happening for years,


    Due to 9 billion plus of UK taxes being spent on the Olympic park, including the withdrawal of money from UK wide national lottery project’s to pay for it is it right that the main stadium is going to be handed to a Premiership club, whilst local sports venues are being shut?

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.


    "How on earth are we supposed to be playing sport if there are no facilities."

    Join a gym and pay. You can't afford it? Tough, get rich then.

    Tory MP
    Towel folding champion 2009/10

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    It's not just the availability of sports facilities that's the problem but the cost of using them and the cost of getting there. When you are on a limitted income leisure spending is not a top priority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    200 totally_bill_hicks

    ''I wonder what I pay my council tax for - the only services I don't have to pay for again is the rubbish collected from the side of the road and library."

    Really. I don't pay again for schools and advisors, street lighting, road repairs, footpaths,stormwater drainage, parks, local road safety, picnic areas,crime prevention advice.
    That's off the top of my head.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    You just could not make it up. Thos tory government are a shambles.

    On the one hand the tories are saying everybody should be playing sport and on the other hand they are closing all the sporting facilities down.

    How on earth are we supposed to be playing sport if there are no facilities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    As others have said council sports facilities have been expensive to use for decades. They are also mostly only available to people who have joined cliquey clubs. Public swimming at most council baths is for about 1 hour at 6am and 1 hour when most people are at work. Added to that there are more important things for councils to provide such as social care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Are the councils who close sports facilities , museums and the like now able to cut staff responsible for overseeing them back at county and city halls? Maybe even reduce the salaries of the relevant directors and chief executives as their responsibilities shrink?

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    I wonder what I pay my council tax for - the only services I don't have to pay for again is the rubbish collected from the side of the road and library. Taking 2 children swimming costs almost £10, if I didn't work it would be free. We have a major problem with health in this country, it seems very short sighted to store up problems for the NHS, when people are put off excercise by the cost

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Where I live the only leisure centre within 10 miles shut in mid-July for refurbishments and will be re-opening in October. Once it re-opens it will be run privately with a £40/month subscription.

    Therefore this facility, built with tax-payer money, was shut throughout the Olympics and will price many people out of using it afterwards.

    I'll stick to running - they haven't privatised that yet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    It's the quality of sports venues that counts, not the quantity.

    Take the excellent new Ravenscraig facility in Motherwell. It has to be one of the best sports facilities in Europe. I was there last week and there were literally hundreds of kids taking part in sporting activities and dancing. The full size indoor football training pitch is incredible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    If you get £1000 a week and spend £1200 a week. How much do I have after 4 weeks.......

    Continue this for a few years and tell me how it went.

    Don't forget wonga will be able to help if you get into trouble....


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