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Brand partnerships can 'counter funding cuts' for physical activity

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Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has urged local authorities to partner with brands to maintain their physical activity provisions in their communities amid funding cuts.

Talking at the Local Government Association’s Annual Culture, Tourism and sport Conference yesterday (25 February), Grey-Thompson highlighted the Coca-Cola Parklives programme – which runs free activities in 61 parks across six cities – and Football in the Community as partnerships which have helped make up for the shortfall in funding.

“It is initiatives such as these which show, how, in spite of cuts, we can still get people moving, to make small changes to their routines that will have a big impact on their health,” said the ukactive chair, who has previously spoken out on the need to collaborate with big brands to broaden activity, despite criticism of ukactive's relationship with Coca-Cola.

“I encourage local authorities to be open to these projects, and recognise the impacts that partnerships can have for both parties.”

As part of chancellor George Osborne’s spending review last November, local authorities were told that they would have their budgets cut by up to 30 per cent. While the former Paralympian conceded that “times are tough”, she added that she remained “really confident that there is a growing role for local government to play in creating healthy, active lives”.

Grey-Thompson acknowledged that the climate presented local authorities with “tough decisions”, and that non-statutory services such as the provision of leisure and sport were vulnerable. However, she warned that cuts to leisure and sport would have a “long-term impact” on the health of the population and the economy.

“We are making short-term savings but at a very high cost,” Grey-Thompson added. “Whether it’s the skyrocketing health and social care budgets or the £20bn (US$27.9bn, €25.3bn) lost due to inactivity; it’s really unsustainable.”

Grey-Thompson also reserved praise for the recently-published government sports strategy – Sporting Future. “What’s refreshing about this strategy is for the first time, the community element of physical activity and sport are front and centre – a key deliverable for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“It’s a document which I believe demonstrates the huge potential activity and sport have for positively impacting local outcomes not just in health and wellbeing, but in social care, equality, in education and many more,” added Grey-Thompson, who will head up a Duty of Care working group under the terms of the strategy.

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Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has urged local authorities to partner with brands to maintain their physical activity provisions in their communities amid funding cuts.
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