The chancellor, Sajid Javid, has revealed that the government will present its budget on 11 March. Javid has hinted that the budget will include measures to ignite a 'decade of renewal' for Britain – and analysts predict that he will announce a string of major investment projects.
Among these could be a shake-up of the way the Treasury allocates investment in order to even up spending between the regions. Encouragingly for the leisure industry, spending measures will focus on health and the cost of living, while Javid’s investment plans could see billions being earmarked for capital projects.
“With this budget we will unleash Britain’s potential – opening a new chapter for our economy and ushering in a decade of renewal," Javid said.
Ukactive CEO Huw Edwards said the government should use the budget to "back forcibly" the ambitions of the NHS to collaborate and partner with the physical activity sector.
Edwards said there remains an inconsistent approach to the sector within Whitehall. He highlighted two recent news items which, he said, were perfect examples of a "contradiction in value" regarding the role of the sport and physical activity sector – an issue which the government should look to end.
"The first, in The Times, reported that its own analysis of council accounts showed spending on council-run sports facilities had fallen by two thirds over the past decade," Edwards said.
"It revealed that local authorities spent £244m on leisure centres, swimming pools, running tracks and other sports sites in 2018, down from £565m in 2009 as they have struggled to cope with central government funding cuts.
"The second news we saw was NHS plans for newly diagnosed cancer patients to be offered gym sessions before they start treatment, in the hope of boosting the speed of their recovery. Thousands will be invited to sign up for a ‘prehab’ fitness programme following their diagnosis.
"The NHS rightly wants to make our members – both public and private – supporting people with long-term conditions to manage their health.
"But part of this provision – funded by councils across the country – has felt the bite of national austerity acutely, and authorities are shackled to the reality that sport and leisure has too often been top of the cuts list given its non-statutory status. An almost impossible situation for authorities to find a solution to.
"This contradiction in value, captured in these two stories, must be addressed urgently by our new Government."