Leisure services ‘key to nation’s health’

Investment in public sport and leisure services is key to levelling up the health of the nation, tackling health inequalities and supporting climate change targets, according to a new report supported by the LGA.

‘Securing the future of public sport and leisure services’, published with the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) and Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association (CLOA), evaluates the current state of the sector and sets out recommendations to ensure its survival.

Councils are the biggest investor in sport, leisure, parks and green spaces, spending £1.1 billion a year in England and providing lifelong opportunities for all to be active.

However, the pandemic has hit the sector hard, compounding existing challenges, including a lack of strategic coordination between health and leisure at a national level. 

The report recommends that the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities ensures the contribution of public leisure services to the nation’s wellbeing is communicated to health partners and included in strategies to promote good health.

The LGA is calling for the Spending Review to include £1 billion in capital investment to bring the leisure estate up to modern design and environmental standards. Ageing public sport and leisure facilities account for up to 40 per cent of a council’s carbon emissions, hampering efforts to meet net zero targets.  

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “These 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.”


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