Leisure trust sector remains strong, but confidence is down
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Leisure trust sector remains strong, but confidence is down

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Leisure trusts are feeling the pinch, with confidence in the medium to long-term down significantly from last year to just 47%, according to findings from the 9th sporta State of the Industry report, carried out by Leisure-net Solutions.

The result, the lowest in the survey's history, demonstrates the sector's concern about the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on the future provision of the wide-ranging services that leisure trusts offer.

Cultural and leisure trusts are social enterprises that partner with local and other government agencies to provide affordable, community services, including sport and leisure facilities, libraries, museums and theatres. sporta members manage more than 900 sites across the UK, welcoming more than 175 million customer visits every year.

The research also showed that the main challenges facing trusts have changed significantly during the last 24 months - illustrating the reasons behind the drop in the sector's long-term confidence. The primary concern for almost a quarter of respondents was reduction in government funding, a new category, followed closely by reducing subsidy from the local authority, last year's biggest worry, and the general economic situation, again a new category to the board. Utility cost increases, which were top of the worries in 2008 at more than 45%, were down to just over 5% in 2010.

However, sporta members appear to be enjoying strong relationships with their local authorities, signifying the understanding these partners have of the value their services bring to the local community. The findings show that the relationship with the client has steadily improved over the last 6 years, with 88% now describing it as good or very good. This has grown steadily from 73% when the survey began in 2005.

Brian Leonard, Chief Executive of sporta said: "The trusts remain effective deliverers of community, sport, culture and leisure services from Scotland to Cornwall, and vital partners for local authorities in providing programmes that positively impact the health and well-being of local communities. This is demonstrated by the strong relationships these social enterprises share with their local authorities."

In line with this, the survey reveals the multitude of community enhancing programmes that sporta members deliver, such as Saturday Sportscene - an award-winning diversionary initiative that offers a free Saturday night sports programme for young people across five sports centres, reducing antisocial behaviour; a strategic partnership with British Swimming, which has resulted in a range of initiatives including free swim lessons, and partnerships with local schools - one trust is delivering 800 hours of physical activity to schools in its area each year.

Sporta members are broadly involved in their Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs), which bring together representatives from the statutory, voluntary, community and private sectors to address local problems, allocate funding, and discuss strategies and initiatives. 67% of respondents stated they are involved and of those, 78% are also involved with other partners, not part of the LSP, such as adult social services, children and young people, the police and probation services.

Craig McAteer, Chair of sporta said: "Although the period ahead will be a challenging one for members, this year has seen further investment in facilities and continuing innovation in our activities and delivery methods. There is clear evidence of how the sporta trusts have the potential and capacity to be key players in the Coailition Government's new policy framework."

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Leisure trusts are feeling the pinch, with confidence in the medium to long-term down significantly from last year to just 47%, according to findings from the 9th sporta State of the Industry report, carried out by Leisure-net Solutions.
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