New Report Evidences Continued Financial Challenges for the Public Leisure and Culture Sector

Published on: October 19th 2021

Community Leisure UK has today published a new report which warns that significant challenges remain for leisure and culture trusts. The new report, based on in-depth conversations with CLUK members over the summer of 2021, gives a detailed update on the current state of play and what leisure and culture trusts are preparing for in the future, also highlighting differences between England, Scotland and Wales. This report reflects the landscape for our members specifically, but will link to and echo messages from other bodies across the sector, including ukactive.

Additional financial pressures due to increases in electricity and gas prices, National Insurance contributions, supply chain issues, and projected increases in the National Living Wage, combined with depleted reserves and restrictions in income recovery will squeeze budgets in what is already a very fragile financial landscape.

The public leisure and culture sector is facing an employment crisis. Trusts are unable to recruit for the number of vacancies available, which can be up to a third of their regular workforce, with Government-schemes such as the Kickstart scheme not being effective. Increases in National Minimum and Living Wage are causing further challenges, eroding pay differentials between positions within organisations, and increasing faster than the average salary increases across the organisation.

Trusts are committed to supporting the government in building back better and fairer through their focus on community health and wellbeing. This is their priority with the programmes like social prescribing, exercise referral, and mental health support. Results from the Moving Communities platform clearly evidences that public leisure delivered by trusts generates a significantly higher social value than the national average.

Recovery funding and support from local authority partners has been crucial, as has the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In England, the Culture Recovery Fund has been an important lifeline for members. In contrast, the National Leisure Recovery Fund, though welcomed, provided short-term emergency relief, but was not sufficient to provide longer-term financial support. In Scotland, while there has been some culture funding, this has been limited and there has been no national funding for leisure. However, local authorities have supported their leisure and culture partners, ensuring that no trusts were at risk of insolvency. In Wales, members have received significant support through the Hardship Fund for local government and have been able to access sector-specific funding provided by Sport Wales and through the Culture Recovery Fund. However, like in Scotland, support through the Culture Recovery Fund has been limited with no second and third round available as seen in England.