Sport and leisure provision discussed in Senedd Finance Committee debate
The provision of sport and leisure was discussed in a Finance Committee debate on Welsh Government’s spending priorities for the 2024-25 budget in the Senedd on Wednesday 12th July.
The ongoing cost-of-living crisis and increasing cost of running leisure facilities has placed an immense strain of the provision of sport and leisure across local authorities in Wales.
The Welsh Sports Association (WSA) has provided evidence of the sector’s crisis and leisure providers’ existential challenges to the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee, whose Chair Delyth Jewell MS spoke during the debate.
“I’d like to touch briefly on funding for the leisure industry in Wales,” she stated. “Recent financial pressures have had a significant impact on this industry. We heard from organisations in the industry that the increased cost of running leisure resources, particularly swimming pools, has led to a crisis situation.
“The committee has already called on the Government to provide additional funding—targeted funding—to the sports and culture sectors to support venues and organisations that face having to close, but that have a sustainable future beyond the financial crisis.
“In addition,” she added, “this year, the Welsh Government received around £3.5 million in Barnett funding following recent expenditure in this sector in England. We say that the Welsh Government must be clear about how it is going to spend this money on leisure services this year, particularly for the most vulnerable elements of the industry, such as community pools that are run by volunteers.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS added that “local authorities provide a large number of those essential front-line services on which we depend so much—from education to social care, not to mention vital services such as adoption and fostering and leisure provision.
“(Welsh Government) must seriously consider the level of funding allocated to local government to ensure that they receive vital funding to provide these services,” he commented.
In closing the debate, Finance Committee Chair Peredur Owen Griffiths MS acknowledged Delyth Jewell’s comments, highlighting “the need for targeted funds to support leisure services, given the pressures that they face.”
Finance Minister in Welsh Government, Rebecca Evans MS, also addressed the chamber during the debate, affirming and stating very clearly that it “will not be a budget where we are able to do more.
“The impact of inflation and the refusal of the UK Government to increase spending does mean that the funding that we do have won’t stretch as far as when we set our plans originally,” she said. “So, this will be a budget where we have to focus on our most important priorities. It will be a budget that will mean that, in some areas, we will not be able to deliver on our ambitions.”
The Minister continued to state that she was “pleased to see the recognition of the challenging financial landscape confronting the Welsh Government in the Finance Committee’s engagement report”, as well as during the debate.
“Many of the concerns raised in the report,” she continued, “are ones that I and my fellow Ministers share,” including around “the sustainability of public services.”
“The limitations on our settlement that I have set out do mean that there is little if any opportunity to fund new activity,” the Minister went on. “We have less funding available to do all the things that we would have to do, let alone to do the things that we would want to do… and all of this at a time when the people and communities of Wales need our help the most.”
Rebecca Evans later confirmed that “the limited amount of funding means that we will have to be laser focused on what is a priority for the upcoming year and what activity we have to stretch, delay or stop entirely,” while clarifying that the “budget next year will be tough, the toughest that we’ve ever faced, and we all need to work together to meet this challenge.”
The WSA will continue to work with Welsh Government and the Senedd to state the case for investment in the sport and leisure sector, at a time when the sector faces unprecedented challenges.
We are committed to providing as much support as possible for our membership base amid the incredibly challenging financial landscape that currently threatens the industry. Our Procurement Portal, for example, has already supported grassroots clubs with their energy costs to great effect.
Contact the WSA team to discover more about how we can support!