CRITICISM: DCMS comes under fire from Lord Moynihan
PA - Aaron Chown
Sport can no longer be “at the fringes of Government” and must sit with the Department of Health and Social Care, Lord Moynihan has said.
The former Sports Minister sits on the House of Lords Sport and Recreation Committee, which has called for a radical plan in England to improve levels of physical activity, which it says have “flat lined”.
Central to its recommendations in a report published on Friday is shifting responsibility for sport from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – which the committee say “lacks clout” – to DHSC, where a national plan for recreational sport can more easily be co-ordinated.
It also wants Treasury money to local authorities for sports facilities to be ringfenced to avoid them falling into disrepair or being forced to close, and for tax breaks to be considered for the sports and physical activity sector in recognition of the economic boost a healthier population would bring.
Lord Moynihan said: “By bringing them together, sports and recreation can have a higher priority in Government.
“It’s right at the centre of Government, which means it can address cross-departmental work more effectively, because you’re within a large and important department and it really follows international best practice as well.
“We looked at putting in place ministerial responsibility for sport, health and wellbeing together, as they have done in New Zealand, as they have done in Australia. The direction of policy in the 21st century is not to see sport isolated on the fringes of Government but right at the heart of a proactive health policy.”
Committee chair Lord Willis said it was vital local authority funding for sports facilities was protected, describing the current provision overall as “very depressing”.
“We’ve seen the diminution of local government and its work within the sport and recreation field, partly because this is a non-statutory function, which is why our report says it must be statutory,” he said.
“Local authorities have seen their budgets diminish, diminish, diminish. If you have to choose between investing in a new swimming pool, or even keeping a swimming pool open and providing care for the elderly or for sick children, quite frankly, it’s a no-brainer for local councils.”
Committee member Baroness Grey-Thompson, a winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals, added: “You can’t afford to lose this provision in areas of some of the greatest socio-economic challenge. It requires a rethink on what we do.
“People shouldn’t be hitting frailty in their 40s, they should be hitting frailty in their 80s.”
On the subject of tax breaks, she added: “There is a cost saving in terms of people being fitter and healthier and staying out of the NHS, but in some of my work I can see that it can be easier to open a chicken shop on the high street than it is to open a yoga studio.
“For London 2012 and events like it, there’s always a spike in participation after the Games, and it’s great and it’s lovely. But if we’re going to radically change participation levels, we need to do more than host major events. It doesn’t do it on its own.”
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