Charitable trusts across the UK have launched a new identity as they step up a campaign to improve the nation’s health through public leisure and culture services and facilities. Swimming pools, parks, leisure centres, museums, libraries and galleries are among a host of public services now delivered by independent community trusts. The trust model, which invests every penny generated back into community services and facilities, has proven successful across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But funding pressures on local government, increasing demand for services, combined with procurement decisions based on cheapest cost or highest bidder, are creating a fragile landscape. There is concern that public leisure services are being drawn into a ‘race to the bottom’.
The umbrella organisation for trusts, Sporta UK, has changed its name to tackle a false perception of being a sporting body. The new name, Community Leisure UK, reflects members’ focus on improving the physical and mental health and wellbeing of communities across the UK, breaking down barriers to social inclusion and working with national and local partners to support all people in our communities.
Cate Atwater, Chief Executive of Community Leisure UK, explained: “The new name, brand and proposition for the association came from bespoke research and is far more representative of our members’ work. Our members are there for everyone in the community, whatever they want to do in their leisure time. The charitable trust model has helped to protect public services in tough economic times, ensuring every penny of income goes back into the community. Every one of our members share that common purpose. Communities need local, public leisure services, delivered by those who put the needs of their community first. Charitable trusts are a key part of civil society, developing deep roots in their communities. They have independent charitable boards of trustees, local people and entrepreneurs, and work in partnership with councils, health services, community organisations and many more. They don’t tend to shout about it, but they have managed to not only keep facilities open and effective services delivering, but improve and develop them thanks to the valuable support of their communities and partners. But, as we hear on the news daily, many public services are now at breaking point. So, it’s a simple request now – if we want public leisure and cultural facilities and services to still be there in ten years, we need to support local authorities, policy makers and community leisure trusts to protect and invest in those services. And it’s more than financial investment – investment is about building a true, transparent, outcome-based and long-term partnership.”
Ms Atwater added: “Real and significant opportunities exist through trusts to develop thriving, local, community leisure services delivering socio-economic and health benefits that underpin national and local government policy. We know our communities and we know that through national and local collaborations, community-focused partnerships, we can ensure we have the public facilities and services necessary to improve the health and wellbeing of current and future generations. Community Leisure UK is committed to helping everyone understand that and providing ways to support our public services.”