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Sports Council

Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has completed his review of the Northern Ireland Sports Council; and if he is in a position to make a statement.

The review of the Sports Council for Northern Ireland has now been completed. The purpose of the review was to determine the most suitable future role for the council, given the need to exercise restraint on public expenditure and, where possible, to improve efficiency in the public service, as well as taking into account existing arrangements for the provision of grant-aid for sport and physical recreation in Northern Ireland. The review has also taken into account the present high administrative costs of the Sports Council.As a result of the review, it is accepted that there is a need for a central body representative of the various sports and physical recreation interests to advise the Department of Education for Northern Ireland on the continuing development and co-ordination of sporting and recreational activities, on the payment of grants, and on the organisation of conferences, courses of training, and research into and studies concerning these activities. Since local government reorganisation the district councils have been rapidly building up considerable expertise at local level to an extent which now calls into question the overlapping of functions of the district councils, Department of Education and an executive Sports Council in an area as small as Northern Ireland with a population of 1½ million.The Government propose, therefore, to seek parliamentary approval to amend the relevant legislation, which would have the effect of making Sports Council for Northern Ireland an advisory body without executive functions. Secretarial support for the Sports Council, and for any sub-committees it may establish from time to time, would be supplied from the Department of Education for Northern Ireland, and this would mean that the council would no longer have its own paid staff and premises. District councils will be invited to use their existing powers to take over management of a grants scheme for voluntary bodies as well as continuing with the summer opportunities scheme, sports for all, sportstown etc. These new arrangements should lead to elimination of much of the present duplication of effort and overlapping of functions and result in significant savings in administrative costs, to the benefit of sports organisations.