Labour has accused the Tories of leaving the London 2012 Olympic legacy in tatters after slashing grassroots sport funding by nearly half since coming to power.
The party said that during 2009/10, the final year Labour was in government, councils spent more than £1 billion on sports and recreation facilities.
Adjusted with inflation to £1.24 billion in today’s money, it means the £657 million spent in 2019/20 by local authorities under a Conservative administration marked a real-terms drop of more than 47 per cent.
With local government funding cut by 60 per cent since 2010, Labour said it meant there was less money available to maintain publicly owned swimming pools, parks and other leisure facilities, while the number of PE teachers has also fallen, according to party research.
Cuts, cuts, cuts
The warning comes as Great Britain stood in sixth place on the medals leader board for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with a particularly strong showing in the swimming and diving pools.
Shadow sports minister Alison McGovern said: “Team GB have performed brilliantly in these games so far and our athletes are fantastic ambassadors for our country – brave and determined, pushing the boundaries, winning medals and breaking records.
“Sadly, the Olympics legacy that should have been built on from 2012 onwards – not in medals, but in a country that puts health, physical and mental, first – is not there.
“That is because of the actions of the Tory government from 2010 onwards. A Labour government is urgently needed to meet the country’s ambition for sport and fitness.”
Labour pointed to the Tory cut in funding for free swimming and the dropping of a target to increase sporting participation by two million – policies brought in under New Labour – as examples of the legacy of the London Games being put at risk.
A recent parliamentary question showed that under the Tories, the number of PE teachers is down from 26,005 in 2011 to 23,513 in 2020.
Cutbacks to council budgets in England have also had a wide-ranging impact on grassroots sport, Labour said, with local authorities responsible for the upkeep of a third of swimming pools, 31 per cent of grass pitches, 13 per cent of sports halls and almost a fifth of health and fitness facilities.
Sport recovery plan
The party said a future Labour government would use its Children’s Recovery Plan to help build physical activity into the school experience by using school facilities to deliver a range of before and after-school clubs and activities, including sport.
It is also calling for sports to be put at the heart of a post-pandemic education recovery, citing the example of its own National Education Recovery Plan.
A government spokesman said: “We are backing councils with record funding and have increased their core spending power in England by 4.6 per cent in cash terms to £51.3 billion this financial year.
“We have also worked with Sport England on its 10-year strategy to drive up activity levels and improve people’s physical and mental health.
“This is alongside prioritising sport and physical activity during the pandemic and working closely with Sport England, UK Sport and the National Lottery to provide £1 billion to ensure the survival of grassroots, elite and leisure sectors.”