Local authority leaders have called on the Government to invest more in culture, sport and leisure activities as a new report reveals councils spend over £2bn a year on these areas.
Entitled Leisure under lockdown: how culture and leisure services responded to COVID-19, the report includes a series of case studies showing how people used culture, sport and leisure to connect and take care of each other during the first lockdown.
It argues that these sectors have played a vital role in supporting people’s physical and mental wellbeing and it urges the Government to provide over-stretched councils with the funds they need to continue supporting them.
‘Councils fund and run a wide range of culture and leisure services, including libraries, museums, theatres, parks, sports pitches and leisure centres,’ said Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the Local Government Association (LGA) Culture, Tourism and Sport Board.
‘Their massive popularity during lockdown demonstrates their true value in preserving people’s mental and physical wellbeing, supporting educational outcomes, connecting communities and creating resilient liveable places.
‘We must not forget this lesson as we work through the next phase of the pandemic. Spending on culture and leisure is not a luxury: it is a commitment to the wellbeing of our residents and the economic future of our local places. We hope this report will go some way to illustrating the impact of this commitment.’
Commenting ahead of the Spending Review, Val Birchall, chair of the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association (CLOA), said: ‘Local government services in this sector have proven vital to wellbeing; locally-led responsive approaches play a major role in the local economy and help residents to maintain a quality of life.
‘These case studies referenced in the report show the level of ingenuity with which members have stepped up during such a difficult time, making sure that leisure, sport and culture remain at the heart of communities.
‘CLOA welcomes this report and looks forward to working with LGA and other key strategic allies to continue to advocate, and to help the sector build back to ensure it is fit for the future.’