Sport, recreation and the 'Big Society'
Sport and recreation organisations were driving the ‘Big Society’ and the localism agenda long before the phrase entered the British political landscape.
A tight definition of the term has been hard to come by, but essentially it refers to the flow of power away from government and into the hands of communities.
- There are more volunteers in sport and recreation than in any other sector, accounting for over 1 in 5 (22%) of all volunteers in England.
- This means that nearly 2 million adults contribute at least one hour a week to volunteering in sport and recreation, the economic value of which is estimated to be just under £2 billion.
- Research conducted for the Government (Delaney and Keaney, 2005) found that club members are more likely to be politically engaged, meet socially with friends and place trust in civil institutions.
- Community clubs embody the new localism agenda, but face an increasingly challenging environment. The average club has an annual surplus of just £1091. Average income is falling, and over a quarter of community clubs are running at a loss.
- The Government has argued that its Localism Bill – which aims to promote local decision making – will confer protection on sport and recreation by introducing community rights to buy and to challenge when facilities are under threat.
- However, the opportunities afforded by the ‘Right to Challenge’ and Community Asset Transfer are heavily dependent on the level of resources, knowledge and experience available to clubs. These initiatives must therefore be backed up by real support from government and not just warm words.
- The Government has also put forward a draft of the radically slimmed down National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), based on a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
- The Alliance’s Local Authority Working Group will continue to monitor and assess the impact of local authority spending cuts across the sport and recreation sector.
- The Alliance will continue to campaign for a strengthened planning framework which requires authorities to ensure a replacement is provided when a valued facility is built upon – protecting the spaces in which the ‘Big Society’ can flourish.
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