Embracing change 

In a world constantly evolving, where change is the only constant, the importance of understanding and celebrating the impact of our services cannot be overstated. 

Local government is one of the biggest single investors in arts, culture, tourism and heritage. Councils spend more than £1 billion directly on cultural services; approximately £650 million annually on libraries, and £430 million on museums, heritage and the arts. 

Around 8.9 million people make 165 million visits to our leisure centres, which are also relied on by three-quarters of grassroots sports clubs. 

We have 7.6 million people using our libraries, making more than 40 million visits, and 33 per cent of all adults use library websites at least three or four times a year. 

These are valued and much-loved, visible community services. 

If we lose them, then we store up trouble for the health and wellbeing of our residents in the future, hinder our local economies from growing, and take away a vital route to learning skills for those who don’t learn best in an educational setting.

However, LGA analysis shows that councils in England face a £4 billion funding gap over the next two years just to keep services standing still. 

As councils face one of the most challenging budget-setting cycles in their history, we need to come together to work out how we can continue to deliver these much-valued services, supporting our residents and our local businesses to thrive. 

We need to do things differently, locally and nationally. 

The LGA’s lobbying secured £63 million for the Swimming Pool Support Fund, but further funding is unlikely to arrive any time soon. We are, therefore, looking at how else we can support the sector. 

Two areas have emerged – improving sustainability and, thereby, reducing running costs; and making the impact of our services go further by reaching those who can benefit most from them. 

Building on the existing five routemaps in the LGA’s Sustainability in Council Services hub, we are developing new routemaps for culture and for leisure, to support councils to become intelligent commissioners and improve sustainability within their culture and leisure services. 

To help services maximise their impact, our latest LGA publication, ‘Reaching the less active’, draws on the evidence base showing that the most effective preventative measure for ill health and wellbeing is being active. 

People who are active are likely to have less time off work through illness or poor mental health and they are able to manage long-term conditions more effectively, reducing pressure on social care and NHS acute services. Delivering physiotherapy in community settings rather than clinical ones has also been shown to reduce missed appointments by up to a third.

These two changes are within our gift, but what about the wider system in which these services operate? 

Devolution may sound abstract when considering that culture and leisure are already fully devolved services, allowing us to demonstrate local leadership. 

But significant opportunities still exist, such as devolution of the skills funding needed to support the pipeline of talented people who sustain and nurture the cultural and creative sector, or the shift to place-based investment approaches from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s arms-length bodies. 

We have commissioned a series of think pieces to explore how devolution can strengthen and support councils’ work in these areas. 

We will be discussing these issues further with leading experts and councils at the LGA’s annual culture, tourism and sport conference on 5 March in South Shields. 

As well as an unrivalled opportunity to network with colleagues from across the country, delegates will get the chance to breathe some fresh sea air in the walking tours showcasing South Tyneside’s fantastic culture, tourism and sport services, which are benefiting the local community.

Reaching the less active

Significant research shows that the most effective preventative measure for ill health and wellbeing is being active. Yet, despite the evidence, the level of physical activity in England is continuing to decline. 

Both Sport England’s and the Government’s strategies call for greater collaboration and innovation between councils, professionals, different sectors and organisations to encourage more people to be active and reap the benefits. 

Specifically, the Government’s new sports strategy calls on councils to work with their partners to develop local plans that go beyond traditional leisure venues to encourage people to be active in their everyday lives.

However, the underlying reasons for an individual being inactive are varied and complex, and may include lack of access to, and awareness of opportunities, individual motivation; and prohibitive costs. Therefore, the solutions are not straightforward. 

Councils’ wide-ranging responsibilities, across public health, social care, education, planning, reducing carbon emissions, and sport and leisure services, put them in a unique position to be able to provide services and experiences that are rooted and driven by the community, based on genuine need that has been identified through consultation and local strategies. 

The LGA’s new guide, ‘Reaching the less active’, makes the case for tackling physical inactivity and supporting the less active; sets out how councils can identify and support the less active; suggests opportunities for innovative, creative and lower-cost ways of delivering activities; and provides case studies and examples from councils.

Find out more about the LGA’s culture, tourism and sport conference and book your place.
You can download ‘Reaching the less active’ for free on our website.


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