Thursday, 21 October 2010

Youth Sports Slashed in South-East Sheffield: Cuts to sports are too fast and too deep, says Betts

Clive Betts MP [Sheffield South East] warned today that youth and school sports in Sheffield face huge cuts as a result of this week’s Government spending review.

Clive Betts said that the scale of the Coalition’s cuts, announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review, to youth and school sports threaten to reverse the huge advances achieved over the past decade.

Clive Betts said
”The Con-Dem coalition government has announced plans to withdraw the extra money that all recognised specialist schools receive to promote their specialist activity.

This includes specialist sports schools. There are four in Sheffield; two of them - Handsworth Grange Community Sports College and Westfield Sports College – in South-East Sheffield.

This additional ring-fenced funding is £129 per pupil per year. Westfield Sports College is getting nearly £177,000 this year. This additional money is simply being taken away.

Further, the Institute for Financial Studies has now concluded that ‘real-terms spending on school pupils will decrease by 2.25% over the next four years’, even with the inclusion of the pupil premium. So, specialist sports schools are going to get a double whammy.”

Clive Betts continued:

“The government is also scrapping Labour’s guarantee of five hours of PE and sport to young people. Every local school will lose thousands of pounds provided for PE.

Parents want to see their children competing on the pitch, in the pool or in the gym because youth sport is also the best way of keeping youngsters fit, healthy and out of trouble.

I’m sure local parents and coaches will be appalled to see the damage David Cameron and Nick Clegg are about to do to youth sport.

Over the last decade, we’ve made significant progress in levels of participation, including the resurgence of competitive sport. And, here in Sheffield, we have superb sports facilities which thousands of children enjoy using each and every week of the year.

Ten years ago, just one in five local children did five hours of sport a week. After years of extra investment more than nine out of ten do so today”

Clive Betts added:
“This is just the start of major cuts in support for young people and support. It is inevitable that there will be further cuts in youth provision supported by the City Council, because of the huge reduction in government grant announced this week.”

Further information:
In the Spending Review, the government announced that it is:
• Scrapping Labour’s commitment to give a guaranteed five hours per week of PE and Sport to young people, reverting to a basic two hours per week;
• Tearing up Labour’s Sports Strategy for young people
• Cutting almost £160 million of funding for sport in schools;
• Withdrawing government funding for the Youth Sport Trust; and
• Ending the specialist status of sports schools and colleges. This removes their ring-fenced annual funding (£129 per pupil per year). The money will revert to the central schools budget and be re-distributed amongst all secondary schools.

Sheffield has 4 specialist sports schools:
• All Saints Catholic High School
• Handsworth Grange Community Sports College
• Westfield Sports College
• Wisewood School and Community Sports College

Never let the facts get in the way of a good headline

In the last few weeks, we’ve all been treated to media headlines about government plans to ‘slash the number and budgets of quangos’. I expect most people’s immediate response was to think that was a good thing. But, all is not as it seems.

Why do we have quangos? There are different types:
• where government control of decisions would be wrong – like the Crown Prosecution Service
• executive agencies, which are given a degree of operational control to drive innovation and efficiency – like the Land Registry
• advisory bodies – like the Low Pay Commission, which makes recommendations on the minimum wage
• executive bodies – like the British Museum.

Anyone reading the headlines would think they’ve been growing like topsy. They haven’t. There were 1128 in 1997 and 752 now – a cut of 40%. And, last year, the Labour government announced plans to cut another 140, with a budget saving of £500m. That is as it should be – government must continually review ways in which it can be efficient, effective and responsive.

So, what’s the problem? Well, the Conservatives promised in their manifesto to set up 20 new quangos and, then, in the emergency budget, to slash spending on quangos. But last week, as more and more information came to light that their proposals wouldn’t actually do what they said, the government minister responsible, Francis Maude, told us that ‘the main purpose was to increase accountability’.

It is now clear that the proposals were designed to produce lots of populist headlines – certainly achieved – but that they hadn’t been thought through.

Let me take just one example from my area of special interest. Completely out of the blue and with no consultation, Eric Pickles announced that he was going to abolish the Audit Commission and save £50m.

The Audit Commission is responsible for auditing the accounts of councils, health authorities and other public bodies. That work still has to be done in the future, so Mr Pickles says it will be done by private-sector auditors instead. Well, all the evidence, from tendering exercises over the last 10 years, tells us that that is going to cost more.

The Commission has also driven the really successful performance improvement programme. That may go to the National Audit Office, but it won’t cost any less.

And, now it has been revealed that, instead of saving £50m, the way in which Mr Pickles is proposing to wind up the Commission may actually cost £200m.

I’ve already asked a number of Parliamentary Questions to try to get all the facts on the table. The Select Committee, which I chair, will certainly be investigating further.

But, the real lesson is that good headlines are no substitute for good government.

CLIVE BETTS MP [Sheffield South East]