Headlines: December 8th, 2004

Local government is giving its support to London’s bid to host the Olympic Games but says everything possible must be done to ensure the country as a whole benefits from the games. The Local Government Association says the London bid is an opportunity to highlight the desperate shortages in sport and cultural services funding across the country.The Association has thrown its weight behind a London Olympics, provided the costs aren’t borne disproportionately either by council taxpayers or at the expense of other public services. Chris White, who chairs the LGA Regeneration Board said a successful Games would bring massive regeneration to a relatively deprived area of London, but he stressed the need to make sure the country as a whole derived benefit from the event.

The LGA said it was determined that as the capital prepared for the next stage in its bid, the vulnerability of other local sport and cultural services was addressed. It has agreed to the establishment of a member task group to combat the long-term decline in funding for sport and cultural services.

Councillor White said the services were consistently in a vulnerable position because of the discretionary nature of their funding. Some local authorities were are able to prioritise funding for them but often this was difficult to sustain because of spending pressures in other, usually statutory, services.

He said a successful London Games would demonstrate how local government could deliver radical regeneration but it had to be recognised that local sport and cultural services were essential to regeneration priorities.

Sport England has suggested 2 billion pounds is needed for capital spending on leisure centres and an additional billion is required for Victorian buildings, including libraries and swimming pools. Councillor White said, “If these services continue to suffer ongoing losses it will be at the expense of significant regeneration opportunities throughout the country. We will be working to develop a solid evidence base to support additional funding for these services in the 2006 spending review.”