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The charitable trusts and social enterprises under the banner of membership organisation Sporta UK manage 3,700 public services and facilities and a combined turnover of more than £1.5bn, and have driven growth in the leisure and cultural sector and wider support for the most vulnerable in society. The announcement that government will distribute dormant charity accounts to community trusts yields great potential, their commitment to consult and expand the Mutuals Support Programme will directly support members, increasing awareness of flexible contracting at a local level is important, exploring the use of grants, supporting the development of enterprise activity to grow and diversify income, and place-based investment programmes, are all positive missions. Sporta UK particularly welcome the discussion on the Social Value Act and social value in commissioning, but felt the strategy could have gone much further.

Sporta UK Chief Executive Cate Atwater stated: “We have been working with local authorities to protect and improve the quality of public leisure and cultural facilities and services in a difficult financial climate and, at times, wondered if we had the support of national policy.

“This strategy provides an indication that the UK Government does understand the need to protect and support community facilities and services, many of which act as lifelines for many people to physical, social and mental health activity.

“Tracey Crouch’s comments are encouraging and we welcome the Crown Representative’s involvement because to achieve real and positive community outcomes, social value and the Social Value Act need to be at the heart of commissioning at a local level. There is a critical need for cross government support with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that this national policy mission translates to local government.

“We have seen a shift of public facility management to private companies in recent years, where a responsibility to shareholders can outweigh social responsibility, driven by constraints upon local authorities who are under immense pressure to cut costs and find the lowest tenders. Pushing councils to the lowest price on public services is not compatible with building stronger communities and a stronger civil society, and the result is that the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing suffers.

“This strategy is more encouraging, particularly the focus on collaboration, and with strong partnership between national and local government, working closely with the country’s leisure and cultural trusts we can make a real difference to the lives of every person, now and in the future, and so the nation, in a fairer civil society.”

 

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