Welsh Government response to Senedd report into increasing costs’ impact on culture and sport
Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden MS, recently gave a response to the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee’s ‘Increasing Costs – Impact on Culture and Sport’ report, published in November 2022.
The report – for which the Welsh Sports Association (WSA) gave evidence regarding the existential implications that continually increasing energy prices will have on sport providers and leisure facilities, as well as the worrying trend of attendance levels since the COVID-19 pandemic – set out ten recommendations for Welsh Government to take account of.
Of the ten, eight were accepted and two were declined.
In her response to the Committee Chair Delyth Jewell MS, Dawn Bowden referenced several schemes and provisions that Welsh Government have already set out in order to support the sport and culture sectors in Wales.
Regarding additional targeted funding to support venues and facilities at threat of closure, the response outlined the £3.75m that was distributed among several bodies, including Sport Wales, during the 2022/23 financial year.
The response also referenced £1m that Welsh Government has also already awarded to local government for Warm Hubs, inclusive spots driven by local need and available for all in communities across Wales. Some of this support will be delivered by sports facilities, including public leisure and community clubs.
Dawn Bowden also explained how Welsh Government funding to Sport Wales is being used to help tackle financial challenges.
“Sport Wales is also funding Community Champions,” the report read, “who will support community organisations in accessing Sport Wales funding and services, particularly those from underserved communities.”
Welsh Government “also make additional project funding available to support wider Programme for Government commitments around improving access and inclusion. One example is the Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan grant scheme, which seeks to improve participation and inclusion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.”
While committing to supporting the sector amid the vast challenges that the current financial landscape presents, there is little outline of what form it will take in the immediate future.
The response also made reference to the fact that some responsibility lies outside of Welsh Government remit and, without nationwide measures, their capacity for support is limited.
Regarding the report’s recommendation to initiate emergency talks over a UK-wide support package, the response stated:
“This is wholly a matter for UK Government. The impact of the increased cost of living and the failure of the UK Government’s promises to replace EU funding in full has created significant challenges. As a Welsh Government, we will continue to work to prioritise our budgets to shield the most vulnerable and maintain our commitment to create a stronger, fairer and greener Wales.”
Meanwhile, the report also recommended that the UK Government extend its energy cost relief beyond the six months of the initial scheme, which Welsh Government accepted and to which Dawn Bowden’s response read:
“The Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) is a UK Government initiative. The Minister for Economy has responded to the UK Government on the scheme and officials are engaging with the EBRS team within BEIS. We agree that certainty is needed urgently as to the future of the scheme, and that the criteria for support should be make public so that the decision-making process is transparent.”
Before Christmas, Community Leisure UK reported that up to two thirds of leisure operators in Wales are in, or on the brink of, crisis. Without additional support from Government we expect the medium-term picture for leisure term facilities to be difficult. The WSA will continue to call on the UK Government and Welsh Government to support the sector over and above the limited funds already announced.
The WSA will continue to monitor Welsh Government and Senedd business as well as engage with Members of the Senedd in order to keep our members as updated and aware as possible regarding the issues that are pertinent to them.
We will also be hosting a cost of living crisis sector call at 14:00 on Wednesday 11th January. If members haven’t received an invitation to tis, then please make sure to get in touch with our team!