The Government has got its kit on - what the new spending review means for the sport and recreation sector

James Allen, Head of Policy at the Sport & Recreation Alliance, sifts through the detail of the Spending Review and what it means for the sport and recreation sector.

The Chancellor has now delivered the long awaited Spending Review setting out departmental spending plans for the next five years. Whilst not a giveaway statement, with more money flowing across departments, this represents a very positive day for our sector. The headlines will, I suspect, focus on the politically very significant decision to abolish the proposed cuts to tax credits but there is some very positive news for us too.

It looks at an early stage, that:

• The Government has listened and recognised the importance and benefits of the work we do. Funding will be protected for the sector through the life of this Parliament
• The Sport England grant in aid budget will increase and the 2017-21 budget will be very similar to 2013-17, which represents a much more positive scenario than many had anticipated
• The UK Sport budget will rise significantly
• UKAD’s funding will be maintained
• The funding for the Sports Grounds Safety Authority will be increased

There are some notes of caution – first, let’s wait and see more of the detail and secondly we need to wait to hear more about what happens elsewhere – including in local government and public health spending (with likely cuts of around 4% a year announced).

The theme of the speech overall was on building security – national security and long term financial sustainability and security. The major focus was on building a new Britain – our defences, our prosperity and the reduction of the welfare bill to be complemented by a higher wage economy were all mentioned prominently.

The point we have been making through the #GetYourKitOn campaign and for much longer than that is that sport, recreation and physical activity should have a more prominent role in government policy.

Getting the population more active is not a ‘nice to have’ and we have made the argument that the long term investment in our ‘hard’ infrastructure should be matched with equal attention and investment in our most important infrastructure asset of all – our population. Without tackling the inactivity crisis, we cannot have a more productive, skilled, higher wage workforce.

The deficit and debt cannot be tackled without addressing some of our most significant structural problems as a country – and the rise in preventable ill health and the massive costs associated with this must be seen as a key element of that.

The Chancellor talked today of wanting to leave behind a stronger country for the next generation. We entirely agree with that – and let that include a future where people are equipped and have the opportunity to make healthy choices and to be active in whatever way they choose. A real focus on preventative investment and building a population fit for the future is essential.

Spending Review Summary

Departmental settlements

The role of arts, media, culture and of course sport in the economy were acknowledged;
The DCMS administration budget will be cut by 20%
The UK Sport budget will be increased by 29%
Free museum entry and other key projects will be protected
NHS spending will increase (though of course demand is also increasing). The total of this will be £10bn, with £6bn delivered in the first year. There is however to be a 25% cut in the Department of Health’s Whitehall budget.
There will be an increase in education spending, with the schools budget protected;
The new national funding formula will equalise funding per pupil across England, which will mean reduced funding in higher cost areas and in areas of higher need.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spending to be cut by 17%.
Department for Transport spending will be reduced by 37%, though there was a specific mention for cycling infrastructure with planned investments of £300m to go ahead.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spending will be reduced by 15%.
Department for Energy and Climate Change will be reduced by 22%.

Key facts

The average departmental cut in real terms will be 0.8% per annum in this Parliament. This figure was around 2% per annum in the last Parliament.
Welfare spending will fall sharply, with some increases to infrastructure spending.
Mental health was mentioned prominently in the speech – there will be an additional £600m of funds including for talking services, perinatal mental health services and crisis care.
Further significant plans to devolve power – including over transport, skills and planning were announced. We’d like to see this go hand in hand with increased attention from local government on providing opportunities for activity and for these to be linked more closely to their overarching strategies.
There was a reiteration of plans to devolve business rates policy. We will need to wait and see what this means for registered charities and CASCs who benefit from both statutory and discretionary business rate relief.
Further work for social impact funding will be explored – the Alliance is planning to do more work in this area. 


First published on 26 November 2015