0 Parks and leisure centre budgets at risk due to £4.3 billion social care black hole

Bowring park Aug 2012 001The LGA warns that council-run parks and physical activity services could be under threat due to a social care funding shortfall. Council-run parks and leisure centres could be in jeopardy thanks to a £4.3bn funding 'black hole' in adult care services caused by austerity cuts and an ageing population, a new study has warned.

The latest analysis of council budgets led by the Local Government Association (LGA) - which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales - says that overstretched councils could be forced to divert funds from other budgets to prevent a social care crisis.

In the face of an ageing population, local authorities have seen overall funding effectively drop by 40 per cent since austerity cuts began in 2010, the study estimates.

As a result, services for disabled and elderly care now face a nationwide funding shortfall of £4.3bn by 2020. Given that councils are legally obliged to maintain these services (along with refuse collection), 'discretionary' services such as parks and leisure centres are at risk of having their budgets slashed to bridge the gap.

The warnings of leisure services being under threat come just a week after Public Health England.

Published its Everybody Active, Every Day framework, which noted that the "burden of health and social care will destabilise public services" if current physical inactivity trends continue. With inactivity estimated to cost the UK between £10-20bn per year, it begs the question whether slashing leisure offerings could plunge the health and social care system further into the mire.

To read the full Leisure Management article click here.

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