While much understandably focussed on the government’s immediate response to the coronavirus, it also contained several important announcements for the sport and recreation sector.
Reflecting on the statement, Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, said: “While this Budget was light on detail, overall it was pleasing to see a progressive approach adopted with a number of our members concerns addressed and the ability to engage in meaningful conversation across government.
“We are extremely pleased to see the government confirm there will be an updated School Sport and Activity Action Plan later in the year alongside a commitment of £29 million a year by 2023/24 to support primary school PE teaching and help schools make best use of their sports facilities.
“Providing protected time for school sport and making sure that our children are able to enjoy the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day is vital if we want to get our youngest generations active.
“We must also focus on opening up our school facilities outside of operating hours, allowing whole communities to be able to access the health benefits from getting active in locations right on their doorstep.
“Whilst at the moment this funding is low on details, it is a good start and we will be keen to engage further with government and sector partners to understand the precise breakdown of this money and how it might be best spent to maximise impact.”
A policy area which has previously supported school sport funding is the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, or Sugar Tax. The Budget suggests that this support would continue as it contains details of revenues from this tax until 2024/25.
Looking at this issue, Wainwright added: “The inclusion of this revenue stream hopefully puts to bed the pre-election fears of the possibility that this would be dropped altogether.
“However, it is disappointing there is no explicit commitment to continued ring-fencing of the money to supplement, support and deliver PE and school sport.
“Our own research shows that schools need certainty in order to plan their spending effectively, so we will be seeking more clarity on this as soon as possible.”
One of the highlights of the statement was the announcement for tax reliefs to be provided for the sport and leisure sector over the coming year, a key ask made by the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
Wainwright said: “We are delighted to see the Chancellor has listened to our calls to cut the business rates burden on grassroots sports clubs and physical activity providers by extending the temporary 100% retail rate relief to the leisure and hospitality sectors for 2020/21.
“This means eligible sports clubs in England with a rateable value less than £51,000 will not pay business rates next year.
“In further good news, sports clubs eligible for Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rate Relief will receive a one-off £3,000 grant.
“The government also announced a fundamental review of the business rates system with a view to recommendations being made in the Autumn Statement. We look forward to contributing to this review to make sure any new system supports the physical activity sector to grow and thrive.”
Finally, the Budget fired the starting gun on the Comprehensive Spending Review 2020 (CSR) which will run until July, although the precise timescales will be kept under review in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Looking ahead to the Spending Review, Wainwright added: “It is particularly pleasing to see the Budget recognise that the CSR must consider policy issues across departmental boundaries to maximise the effectiveness and value for money of government spending.
“We know that sport and recreation delivers huge social impact and delivers against a wide range of public policy goals so we will be making a robust case for more investment across the whole of government on behalf of our members.”