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Active people, healthy places: Councils and their partners leading sport and physical activity in their place

Case studies

Local sport, leisure and physical activity services can help people to live longer, healthier and happier lives. This makes them fundamental to achieving councils’ aspirations for the wellbeing of their communities. Councils have a critical local leadership role for sport and physical activity in their places. In the current economic climate, and in the face of national challenges such as high levels of obesity and inactivity and an ageing population, it is more important than ever that councils and their delivery partners demonstrate strong evidence of impact, value for money and service excellence.

The Local Government Association (LGA), Sporta (the national association of leisure and cultural trusts) and cCLOA (Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association) have collaborated to produce this report, which looks at how councils, charitable leisure trusts and their partners are delivering sport and physical activity services in their localities.

The aim of this report is to share good practice and help decision-makers (primarily councillors and officers with an interest in/ responsibility for sport, leisure and physical activity) consider how their council can deliver on this agenda in the best way for local people and communities.

The report reflects the fact that many services remain facilities based, but readers should note that whole systems approaches to promoting physical activity, with contributions from many other services and partners, are increasingly being promoted. Insight on how this can be done will be captured by Sport England’s local delivery pilots programme, announced in 2016. Getting people more active is a complex issue which should engage a range of service areas – from public health to regeneration and housing, parks, highways, adult social care, education and others. It needs high-level leadership if change is going to be effective.

This report includes 12 case studies from different local authority areas. Six look at how councils are working with charitable leisure trusts to deliver services, facilities and activities (Mendip, Kirklees, Hackney, Oldham, Tameside and Stockton-on-Tees). The other six have a focus on in-house provision of sport and leisure or sports development teams by councils (Oxford, Broxbourne, Wirral, Three Rivers, East Riding and Eastleigh). While other delivery models are available to councils, this publication focuses on the in-house and charitable leisure trust models.

These councils are motivated by a desire to provide or procure good-quality services and interventions that meet community need and help to achieve a range of outcomes, particularly around health and wellbeing. They are using service development, new ways of working, a solid outcomes focus and strong partnership work to ensure that sport and physical activity services remain sustainable over the coming decades.

Councils have a crucial role in leading effective and productive working with all providers, partners and stakeholders to address key local challenges. Good practice
involves bringing all the players together to maximise the health, economic and social outcomes that can be delivered through sport and physical activity – partners such as the broader public sector (particularly health and public health), the voluntary and community sector, outsourced providers, the business community, schools, local sports clubs, county sports partnerships, national sports organisations and many more.

The concern is that ongoing pressure on council budgets can drive a ‘race to the bottom’, with price becoming the critical element in decision making. Effective
commissioning and (where relevant) procurement can guard against this. Through taking a local leadership role and bringing partners together around a shared vision of the potential for sport and physical activity to transform lives, councils can achieve three important ambitions at the same time:

• improved facilities and services for local people
• a reducing cost to the council, whether services are run in-house or through an external provider
• maintaining an overall focus on the council’s strategic priorities and community outcomes.

Any publications, approaches, case studies or delivery models mentioned in this report are not necessarily endorsed by the LGA, Sporta and cCLOA. Councillors and officers should seek to gain independent advice and guidance on what solutions will best meet their local needs. The LGA, Sporta, cCLOA, Sport England and other councils can assist in this process. Full details of publications and strategies mentioned in this report, including web addresses, are provided in the ‘further reading’ section at the end.