By Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive
The first 100 days of a new government is always disruptive and with that change comes opportunity. The current situation is no exception given this Government is strengthened by its large majority. From ukactive’s position as the representative body for the physical activity sector, the coming months of the political calendar represent a critical moment for influence.
Last week saw the deadline for submissions to the Budget, which will be announced by the Chancellor on 11 March. As promised, ukactive’s budget submission provides a truly comprehensive assessment of the business needs for our sector, documenting the regulatory and financial support required to improve the operating landscape.
The bridge between the Budget and the Spending Review will see ukactive undertake comprehensive engagement with Government. Since sharing our submission on Friday, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response from ukactive members, partners and members of the public who recognise our agenda to put physical activity at the heart of our communities, the heart of our most pressing societal issues.
Of course, in some corners, cynicism remains about the appetite – and capability – of central and local government to invest more in these areas at a time when budgets are stretched. But that is why we must continue to address the contradiction in value which we see when it comes to putting physical activity at the heart of the prevention agenda. We are confident that the ROI for the public purse of each one of our policies is undeniable.
Our list of submissions is designed to establish investment in every part of our sector, no matter the size of your organisation, public or private, local or national.
For example, we know the seismic impact that can be achieved by extending proposed cuts to business rates on the high street to include gyms, leisure centres and any other physical activity providers. Why should these cuts be restricted to pubs, small cinemas and music venues, when our place in communities is just as crucial?
In fact, so vital is our impact that we have asked Government to commit to making sport and leisure a statutory duty for all local authorities in order to better support the health and wellbeing of the population.
Among our other headline calls is the submission that HM Treasury allocate part of the £1bn childcare funding budget to opening school sports facilities for children and young people over the summer holidays in disadvantaged communities, supporting them to access local, affordable and healthy activities. This can help introduce more families to activity and strengthen the opportunity to have a longer-term relationship with our members.
We also made calls for investment in Transforming Working Life and Reimagining Ageing. The former represents a chance to shift fundamentally the way we approach productive, healthy workplaces. The latter represents something of a crossroads for public health – with policies central to the prevention agenda, such as the provision of an ‘activity prescription’ to recipients of long-term prescribed medication.
Every ukactive member has a part to play in at least one of these policies – from the equipment supplier, sport NGB or boutique studio, to the leisure centre, budget operator or tech start-up.
We continue to engage with Government regularly on our growing evidence base, our plans for growth and the opportunities to support our sector. We encourage our members to support this work by letting us know which policy areas you can support, and sharing your evidence for these with us.
The next 10 months will determine our next five years of investment and influence. Let’s work together to make our case to the Government. We look forward to sharing more on our progress over the coming months.
To support ukactive’s policy work, please email the Public Affairs team at firstname.lastname@example.org