Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Syms.)
It is a pleasure to be opening this debate with you in the Chair, Mr Leigh. It means a great deal to those of us from Sheffield to have secured the debate; most of us are here and all plan to speak. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) regrets that he cannot join us, due to a commitment away from Westminster, and I am sorry that the Deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg), is not present either, although I shall be turning to his contribution to the debate in due course.
The Olympic and Paralympic games were clearly a great moment for Britain, showing the best of our sporting talent, sportsmanship, hospitality and world-class sporting facilities. They were, however, meant to be more than only a moment; they were supposed to provide a legacy for sport, with lasting opportunities for our people, our young people in particular.
In Sheffield, we know all about the benefits of sport. We were the country’s first city of sport and are home to some genuinely world-class facilities, not only the Don Valley stadium, located in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), but also the Sheffield Arena, the Ponds Forge international swimming and diving complex and some great community sports facilities. Given their reputations, we have secured more investment over the years, with the establishment of the English Institute of Sport and iceSheffield. Such investment has delivered a huge return. For example, we have beaten the trend nationally in increasing swimming participation and in engagement in other sports. The facilities at Don Valley have inspired a generation of young people, of whom Jessica Ennis is obviously the most successful and best known.
The investment in sport has also demonstrated economic benefits. In the first 12 years of the new facilities, sporting events brought in almost 640,000 visitors to the city and more than £46 million, creating about 990 full-time jobs. For every reason, therefore, it is ironic and deeply disappointing that barely six months after the Olympics and Paralympics, the city council has been put in the position of having no alternative but to close Don Valley stadium.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East will talk more about Don Valley, but it is worth noting that it was the first completely new national sporting venue built outdoors in Great Britain since Wembley in the early 1920s. It is the second largest athletics stadium in the UK, after the Olympic stadium, with a seating capacity of 25,000. As well as hosting international athletics meetings, it is home to a number of sporting clubs and facilities that are used by the whole community. It is currently used by the City of Sheffield athletic club which provides training, coaching and competition in athletics events, as well as in cross-country and road-running events, and offers coaching for children aged from eight years old.
Jessica Ennis is a member of the City of Sheffield athletic club. She has said that the venue held “great memories”, as it was where she started her athletic career. She has also said of the stadium closure:
“It’s a huge shame. To see it demolished would be a massive, massive disappointment…We’ve achieved so much as a country in the London Olympics, so to lose some great facilities sends out the wrong message, really.”
Her trainer, Toni Minichiello, has worried about the effect of the closure on the children of Sheffield who are engaged in athletics,
“because when Jess started she had the Don Valley stadium where, yes, we could train outdoors but there was also a smaller indoor area which we could use that made us fairly weatherproof”.
He also made the point that the closure reflects
“a series of systemic errors in government policy that are affecting a whole generation of kids who want to be involved in sport. It’s about neglecting basic joined-up thinking on health, education and sport...It is about failing to learn lessons from past mistakes, lessons we’ve had years to get right.”
Perhaps more surprising among those expressing regret about the closure of the Don Valley stadium was the Sports Minister, the Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the right hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Hugh Robertson); I am sorry that he has been unable to join us for today’s debate. In an interview on Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme on 1 March, he said:
“I don’t want to see any facilities close”,
in particular one as “emblematic” as Don Valley. In full, he said:
“I very, very much hope that the local council, when they consider this, this afternoon, realise that London 2012 has created a unique opportunity for sport in this county, and I know it’s tough, and I know it’s difficult, and I know there are no easy answers, but it would be a huge, huge shame—it’s such an emblematic facility that means so much to so many local people…to close at such a time.”
We need to be clear, however, that the responsibility for the closure lies not with the city council but with the Government, who have given it no alternative. The stadium costs the council £700,000 a year to run. It is a national asset and, as the Sports Minister said, “ an emblematic facility”, but its costs are borne by one council. When the council is being forced to take £1.6 million out of libraries and £3.5 million out of early years, there are no easy options. Over the past two years Sheffield city council has been forced to make £140 million of cuts due to Government policy, with a further £50 million in both this year and next.
The cuts are unfairly targeted at cities such as Sheffield. That is why the Bishops of Sheffield and of Hallam, together with other faith leaders and community and voluntary sector leaders, have launched the campaign for “A Fair Deal for Sheffield”. In 2011-12 alone, Sheffield council’s revenue spending power reduced by £47.5 million or 8.15%, while Richmond upon Thames, which by any measure is a much wealthier part of the country, had a cut of a mere £1 million or 0.61%. If the Sports Minister were present, he might find it hard to appreciate the impact that that level of cuts can have. His constituency covers parts of the boroughs of Swale and Maidstone. Their cuts per person between 2010-11 and 2014-15 are £73 and £51, respectively, far less than the £200 cut per person imposed on Sheffield council.
Cuts of that severity mean that Sheffield city council and many other local authorities are no longer in a position to keep facilities such as Don Valley open. Notwithstanding the comments I quoted earlier, even the Sports Minister had to acknowledge that when he was asked on “You and Yours”:
“There is a direct causal link, isn’t there, it can’t be avoided, between the almost 30% cuts in local authority support and closing this stadium?”
“Yes, there is a direct causal link, you’re entirely right”.
Nevertheless, he went on to blame the council for failing to maintain the stadium properly and indicated that that was one of the reasons for its closure:
“The Don Valley stadium hasn’t suddenly declined in the last six months. This is presumably an ageing process that has been going on for most of the past 20 years because successive councils haven’t invested money in it on a yearly basis that keeps it going and keeps it to a stage where it doesn’t suddenly require a huge bill at the end of the road, and this probably points to a lack of investment over a prolonged period.”
I take strong exception to that further attempt to shift the blame, personally and on behalf of the city council.
I was chair of Sheffield City Trust for the 11 years up to 2008. The trust is the charity that runs Don Valley and our other major facilities on behalf of the council through our operating subsidiary, Sheffield International Venues. As a trust and a city, we maintained Don Valley to the highest standards. There is absolutely no lack of investment, and there has been no decline over 20 years. I have the capital and maintenance budgets for the last five years, which show that £1.6 million was invested in keeping it as a top international stadium. There is a capital requirement in forward costs, not because of under-investment, but simply because it is sensible to anticipate future need.
It was not just the Sports Minister who weighed into the debate; the Deputy Prime Minister also did so, calling on the council to keep the stadium open. It is perhaps reassuring to know that the Liberal Democrats are consistent in a perverse sort of way. They are now against closing it, but they were opposed to opening it in the first place. The Deputy Prime Minister’s arithmetic does not stack up. He argued that one-off closure costs could be offset against running costs simply to delay the closure, leaving no money to deal with it when it happened a few months down the line.
The Deputy Prime Minister has form on these issues. Less than two weeks ago, the city council’s chief executive wrote to correct him on “inaccuracies and misrepresentations” in his comments when opposing cuts in council services. The Deputy Prime Minister cannot have it both ways. He supported and implemented massive and disproportionate cuts on Sheffield council and then stood outside local libraries in his constituency collecting signatures opposing their closure. The same applies to Don Valley.
The impact on Sheffield sport goes well beyond the stadium. There will be an impact on community sports facilities, which I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) will speak about, and on school sport, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn) will want to make a contribution. There will also be an impact on Activity Sheffield, the Youth Service and the voluntary and community sector, all of which engage the young and the old in the sports activities that are so important to their well-being. Yet when councils in our big cities are facing a struggle to maintain services, it is increasingly difficult for them to support and sustain facilities such as Don Valley. We need a national strategic plan for sports facilities and for the Government to work with councils to keep facilities such as Don Valley open and genuinely to help to deliver an Olympic legacy. The Government must play a role with the councils to ensure that we have stadiums where events can inspire the next generation.
The Government have given the council no alternative to the existing use of Don Valley, but the council is looking at alternatives to provide a sporting legacy. It has made a commitment to the refurbishment of the nearby Woodbourn Road athletics track to provide good-quality outdoor facilities in partnership with local athletics clubs at a much lower cost. It invited my predecessor, Richard Caborn, who is also one of the Sports Minister’s predecessors, to look at alternatives for the site. He has been in discussion with the two universities, Sheffield college, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield city region local enterprise partnership, the Baker Dearing Trust and Sport England to explore the creation of a new advanced sports and well-being park to provide comprehensive delivery of the Olympic legacy through a facility providing rugby, basketball and gymnastics, by adding an indoor straight at Woodbourn road to the facilities that the council is planning, and by linking to a medical devices advanced manufacturing research centre and a life sciences university technical college. This morning, at a press conference at the English Institute of Sport, he shared that proposal publicly. It has the backing of the city region local enterprise partnership and the other partners I mentioned as a project deserving consideration. Indeed, it also has the backing of Lord Coe.
I hope that the Minister will, on behalf of the Sports Minister, agree to meet those involved in the project to discuss how the Government can, instead of crying crocodile tears, offer practical support to an initiative that might provide an Olympic legacy for our city.
It is a pleasure, Mr Leigh, to serve under your chairmanship. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing this important debate. I am pleased to see my fellow Sheffield MPs, my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith). My right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) would have wanted to be here because he has a long-standing interest in the World student games and the legacy of sporting facilities in the city. The Sheffield approach is united, with perhaps the one exception that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central mentioned.
I have apologised to you, Mr Leigh, because I must leave early, but I did not have a chance to apologise to the Minister in advance. I have a plane to catch, and the timetable is too tight to allow me to stay to the end of the debate, but I will read with interest the Minister’s commitment of support at the end of the debate.
I was at the opening of the World student games in 1991 when the Don Valley stadium had its finest among many fine moments. I was leader of the council and proud to welcome more than 6,000 young people from all over the world to our city to see the magnificent sporting facilities that we had built and which are still a benefit to the people of Sheffield today. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central said, it is not just the Don Valley stadium. The Arena is used regularly and attracts events from all around the world, bringing in an audience from the wider region. Ponds Forge international sports centre is visited by more than 1 million people a year and there are the Hillsborough leisure centre and the Graves tennis and leisure facility in Heeley. The Lyceum theatre in the city centre was also magnificently restored as part of the cultural events for the games. Some £147 million was spent not just on a one-off occasion, but for the people of Sheffield to enjoy, which they have done for the last 22 years. They have done so as spectators and participants, and just by looking at the stadium, because its architecture is magnificent.
Don Valley was part of the city’s regeneration, and we must remember where we were at in the late 1980s when we thought about building sporting facilities for the event. Sheffield city had gone through a horrendous time and had lost 40,000 steel engineering jobs in the Don valley alone, and that had a cataclysmic effect on the city, its industrial structure and its social life. Doing something new and showing that new things could be built on the rubble of the old steel works was extremely important in changing the city’s psychology and thinking about moving forward rather than reflecting on what had gone before in our proud history and heritage in steel engineering, although that is still alive with major companies and organisations such as the advanced manufacturing research centre keeping us at the forefront of new technology. Don Valley stadium is about not just sporting events, but physical and psychological regeneration.
Don Valley has seen many great athletic events. It has seen world champions compete, and it has been home to Jessica Ennis, a local Sheffield girl. I was fortunate to be at the Olympics on the first day of her competition and saw what she had achieved, which was great. It was emotional, and when she came to thank the people of Sheffield she made it clear that she had not had to go abroad to access top-quality training facilities because they were available in Sheffield, and that she was proud to have used those facilities. We understand that, and I feel a personal attachment to the Don Valley stadium for a variety of reasons.
Some people ask why we did not think in advance about whether the stadium would ultimately have sufficient use to justify its existence. At the time and before it was built, we talked to Sheffield football clubs about the potential for them to move into it afterwards. That is recorded in minutes that are now in the Sheffield archives. Sheffield Wednesday said from the beginning that it was not interested, but we talked to directors of Sheffield United, who expressed an initial interest, but eventually decided that it was not for them to continue and they wanted to redevelop Bramall Lane. That was entirely the proper decision for the football club to take, but it shows that we did not simply dismiss the possibilities for other uses at some stage in the future. It simply was not going to happen, and all the issues around the future of the athletics stadium in Manchester, and in relation to the Olympic stadium in London, showed that that is not an easy way forward. However, we have had Sheffield Eagles play there and Rotherham United for a period of time, which helped keep the club going, so the stadium has had other uses over the years.
The reality is that it costs £700,000 a year to maintain the stadium, which still provides superb training facilities and a base for many community activities, but no longer gets major national or international events. At a time of real funding cuts for the local council in Sheffield, can we continue to afford a national and international venue, when national and international events do not come there? That is a major question. We have to say to both the Government and the national sporting bodies that if they want a national stadium to hold national and international events, there has to be national support for it. Clearly, there is no sign or evidence that that is the case and that the Government want to come forward with assistance.
Let us make this clear: unlike Manchester and the Commonwealth games, for which the Labour Government at the time provided an awful lot of support, Sheffield funded the World student games itself. All the costs have been borne by the people of Sheffield. Good facilities have been provided for our people, as well as national facilities, so we are truly a national and international sporting city. The £147 million was paid by the people of Sheffield. The only bit of Government support that we got—I gave him credit at the time, and have done since—was from the then Minister, David Trippier, who gave an urban development grant to help renovate the flats that formed the basis of the student village. Those flats are still in use today, but that is the situation that we face.
I will make a passing reference to the situation of the Liberal Democrats, which is even more convoluted than my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central gave them credit for. They voted in favour of the games to begin with. When the facilities, including the Don Valley stadium, were half built, they changed their mind and voted against them—what they were going to do with the half-built stadium I am not quite sure. They have since voted twice to remortgage the facilities and use the money on the remortgage for other things, and then blamed the cost of the games for £650 million of debt, which is nonsense. The games never had £650 million of debt—that includes a roll-up of interest and the two remortgages used for other purposes, not even for the facilities themselves. The Liberal Democrats were then in favour of Government cuts, which is forcing the council into its current financial position, and then they were in favour of keeping the stadium open, without saying what else they would cut instead. That is a pretty consistent position—for the Liberal Democrats—to be in over a period of years.
That is the current situation for the council. The facts are clear: more than £200 million of cuts need to be made. There will be library closures and cuts to advice centres and early years provision. We are on alternate weekly collections for our refuse. I am sure that the Minister will tell us how awful that is—at least reflecting the views of the Secretary of State on matters so dear to his heart. However, the council has to do those things to balance its books.
We all have our examples; I like the one about Windsor. There have been cuts of £200 a head for the people of Sheffield, but £40 a head for the people of Windsor. I know that historically, Windsor has had less grant, but it has also had fewer needs and more resources, which is why northern cities are getting bigger cuts—they have more grant to cut. Why? Historically, they have had greater needs. They still have greater needs and fewer resources, but they are still being penalised. Given the council’s position, it is very difficult to see how we can justify—despite the stadium’s history, the attachment that I feel to it, and all the good things that it has done for Sheffield—keeping the Don Valley stadium. Of course, the rest of the World student games legacy will be there—the Lyceum theatre, the Arena, Ponds Forge, Hillsborough leisure centre, Graves tennis and leisure centre—for the future benefit of the people of Sheffield and the surrounding area, and for people nationally.
It is important that we do not simply stand still. We can have our disagreements with the Minister about Government funding, and we will no doubt continue to. We can all hold our heads in our hands and say, “Woe is me. We can’t do much about it”. However, the fact that Sheffield has a can-do attitude is shown by Richard Caborn, the former Sports Minister, who still is very much my friend, and who is leading a group of people with the support of the council, the local enterprise partnership and the two universities, to look at bold and imaginative potential regeneration, involving rugby and other sports, the college, and a link-up with universities on sports medicine. With those sorts of things, we can really look to the future. It is not merely about combining sports, medicine and education together, but about that acting as another powerful vehicle for regeneration of the area.
Work still needs to be done in this area, which is between the city centre and the much improved area around Meadowhall. There are great opportunities, with possibilities around the canal, where British Waterways has ideas that it was going to go ahead with before the recession in 2008. I pay tribute in passing to David Slater, a local businessman, who has been really active and keen, and who wants to see the area regenerated. The ending of Don Valley stadium will offer the opportunity to have that space. It is important that we use it constructively and keep the links with sport. We probably cannot do that without Government help.
I know that the Minister cannot give a commitment this morning, but he should look at the regional growth fund and other potential sources, and recognise that this is a real opportunity for the council, with the Government, to take the area forward. We can say, “Don Valley, you have performed a great service for our people in Sheffield. You have been a magnificent institution.” We now have to look to the future and see how improvements can be made on the site when the stadium is finally cleared.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Leigh. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing the debate and on outlining so clearly some of the issues relating to sports facilities in Sheffield. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts). Don Valley stadium is in his constituency, as he said, and more than any of us, he understands the issues relating to the role played by the facilities in Sheffield in regenerating the city and in particular, the lower Don valley, as well as what we need to see going forward.
I want to direct most of my contribution to two specific areas of sporting provision in Sheffield: local leisure facilities and sporting provisions in schools, both of which are key elements of sports provision not only in the city but across the country, especially for young people. Unfortunately, both are under attack, because of the self-defeating scale of the austerity being implemented by the coalition Government. However, before I venture into discussing those areas, I would like to briefly reiterate some points made by my Sheffield colleagues.
In my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East, we have, as he said, a former leader of Sheffield city council. Although he would not say so himself, more than anyone else, he and Councillor Peter Price, who was deputy leader of the council at the time, are responsible not only for making Sheffield the country’s first city of sport, but for the construction of the original three facilities—Ponds Forge, Don Valley stadium and Sheffield Arena. As my hon. Friend mentioned, there were also other facilities, such as Hillsborough leisure centre. All were built for the World student games in 1991.
Whatever people’s opinions of the staging of those games—I have always been consistent in supporting them, the investment that they brought with them and what they have achieved—I want to pay tribute to both my hon. Friend and Councillor Peter Price for the foresight and leadership that they showed, not only in taking the city of Sheffield through some very difficult times, but in developing a new future for it as a major sporting city. Anyone who remembers the lower Don valley at it was when the steelworks had gone can only agree that it was a major achievement to put in place Don Valley stadium and all the other infrastructure that has developed on a major scale around it. In later years, and thanks to the investment put in place by the Labour Government, Sheffield added the English Institute of Sport and iceSheffield to its portfolio. Of course, iceSheffield and the EIS are in effect next door to Don Valley. We now have an impressive array of facilities in the city. Because of that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East said, we have managed to stage national and international events, from grand prix athletics—Kelly Holmes made her last ever appearance at the Don Valley stadium; I was there on the day—to world swimming events. The national junior swimming championships were held at Ponds Forge only the weekend before last.
As a result of these investments, Sheffield became the first city of sport in 1995. It has seen rates of participation in sport rise—by almost 6% just in the past three years, 3.5% above the national average. One in seven of Britain’s Olympic athletes for 2012 trained at some point in Sheffield’s facilities. Of course, the pin-up girl for Team GB, Jess Ennis, comes from the city and developed her talent in Sheffield’s facilities. I pay tribute to her for being announced as world sportswoman of the year only last night, and I place on the record our congratulations to Jess on that achievement. Next week, she will rightly be given the freedom of the city of Sheffield. We are all very proud of her, and I look forward to seeing her receive that award.
However, all the developments I have mentioned came at a cost—one that the city and its citizens have borne for many years, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central pointed out. We are still bearing the cost, but the cuts being made now to Sheffield’s local government budget makes it all but impossible to keep all the facilities open. In that context, the decision to close Don Valley stadium is inevitable. That is something that Lord Coe sympathised with yesterday. He made it clear that he entirely understood the reasons why the council has taken the decision that it has.
However, even if the Government’s funding decisions are so careless of the legacy made possible by Sheffield’s investment and by the investment in elite sport put in place by the previous, Labour Government, it is clear that Sheffield is not, hence the alternative proposal now being shaped and taken forward by Richard Caborn, an ex-Sports Minister with a record second to none. I therefore echo the challenges laid down by my hon. Friends; we need to see the Government supporting Sheffield as it attempts to secure its future as a provider of opportunities for elite sport. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response on that point.
The summer of 2012 was probably the greatest summer of sport that this country has ever witnessed, but Team GB’s success in both sets of games—the Paralympic games and the ordinary, if I can call them that, Olympic games—was not built in a day, a week or a year. To develop and nurture the talent that blossomed so beautifully last August and September takes many years. Often—in fact, nearly always—future Olympians start their sport as youngsters, taking up their interest at local facilities and in local schools. It is the cuts in funding for those local opportunities that lead many of us to fear that 2012 might have been a false dawn—a high watermark for British achievement, rather than the first stage in a long-term renaissance of British sport.
We are hearing of local authorities closing leisure facilities throughout the country. For many, the choice is unenviable—close a leisure facility or cut back on adult care or another statutory service. A significant number of local authorities are seeing 30% reductions in budgets. Sheffield has already seen £100 million taken out of its budget. Next year’s budget, as from April of this year, will see another £50 million cut as the council attempts to balance the books and, in common with what is happening in many other local authority areas, it is leisure and sports facilities that are finding themselves in the firing line.
One example is Stocksbridge leisure centre, in my constituency. The centre was paid for by public subscription by local people and opened in 1970. It was a genuine case of local people clubbing together to provide their own facilities—the big society, if you like. However, the local council, because of the financial pressures that it finds itself under, has decided that it will no longer fund the subsidy required to keep the facility open. That is a not inconsiderable sum; it is about £400,000 a year. People will agree that the centre is expensive to run, but most will agree that it still provides a critically important service to the local community. That point was agreed by Sport England itself only yesterday. Sport England has produced a report on sports facilities in the town and has made it clear that there is a need for a facility along the lines of what is already in place in that community. The reasons are clear—they are fairly obvious.
For those who do not know the area, Stocksbridge is a small town some 12 miles from the centre of Sheffield. It is—still—a steel town. It is semi-rural in nature and completely surrounded by fairly intensely rural hamlets and villages. It is isolated in many ways from the urban centre to which it is attached in a local government context.
With good reason, local people have been concerned—indeed, very angry—about the proposal to close the leisure centre. An impressive working group, led by a very capable and dedicated local businesswoman, has opened negotiations with the council on an alternative way forward. I remain hopeful that the council can find a way of keeping the current facility open for a period long enough for the development of a sustainable plan for the future of sports provision in the town. However, that will not be easy, given the scale of the cuts faced by the local authority.
I therefore pay tribute to people such as Emma Gregory and Fay Howard, who have stepped forward—again, it is women who just roll their sleeves up and get on with the job—and shown what they are made of. They are fighting for their community even in the midst of the worst funding settlement for local government in our lifetimes. They are the big society writ large. It is not only the local authority that owes them, but the Government. They are doing that not just because they understand the importance of sport for the health of their children or because they understand that children should be given the opportunity to learn to swim. They are also doing it because they know that youngsters living in their community may well have the potential to compete in future Olympic Games.
Already, the area surrounding Stocksbridge is home to the world downhill biking champion. Already, it has strengths in key areas such as rock climbing, mountain biking and cycling more generally. But, who knows, perhaps the real tragedy will be that if this facility closes, the country loses the next Rebecca Adlington or Sharron Davies. That may happen if the community loses the facility. The council and the community need to find a way forward, and these transitions are never cost-free. Whether or not the way forward is a refurbishment of the current facility or the building of a brand-new facility that is cheaper to run and managed on a community trust basis, which is the most likely way forward, there is a need to invest time and money in establishing a positive resolution to the issue.
I therefore issue a challenge to the Minister. It is entirely in line with Government thinking on finding alternative ways forward in the context of their cuts. We are doing exactly what you are telling us to do—what the Government are telling us to do. I apologise, Mr Leigh.
I am aware that legacy funds have been made available and that NHS moneys are available to invest, but those funds do not address the scale of the threats facing sports facilities created by funding cuts. There is clearly a problem relating to small, isolated communities such as Stocksbridge. Although the trend towards creating fewer and larger facilities to cover any given area may well be fine for densely populated areas, for rural or semi-rural communities the model falls short of what is needed.
I am therefore adding to the requests that we are making today of the Minister. After all, if we are asking for Government support to find a way forward on Don Valley, clearly it is also imperative that we ask for effective Government support for communities such as Stocksbridge. Will the Minister recognise that point, and will he commit today to looking at the issue and to trying to establish the transitional funds necessary to enable communities and local authorities, working together, to remould their current sports provision in order to develop sustainable solutions to the funding challenges building up in rural and semi-rural areas? It is often forgotten that south Yorkshire is broadly rural. Sheffield is to a large extent rural; one third of the city is in the national park. This is not only an issue for the south of England—Sussex or Kent—it matters as much to south Yorkshire as anywhere else. We may be metropolitan, but we are in some aspects fundamentally rural.
Sport England itself agrees. Its report, issued only yesterday, on the sports facilities in Stocksbridge makes it clear that while it is important to deal with the current situation by developing new district sports centres—there is a clear idea in Sheffield about what those centres might look like—areas such as Stocksbridge need local, albeit small, facilities due to their isolation.
I shall conclude with one more point. The funding problems faced by sports facilities in areas such as Sheffield are being made a whole lot worse because of the coalition Government’s decision to cut funding for school sport partnerships. The £162 million cut to the school sport partnership programme, alongside cuts to specialist sports colleges, was a devastating blow to sport in schools. It means that 60% less time is now being spent on organising school sport than was once the case. Almost half of local authorities have recorded a decrease in the number of school sport partnerships operating, with a staggering one-third of local authorities having no school sport partnerships in operation. Under the previous Government, record investment in school sport saw huge increases in participation, in both competitive and non-competitive sport. The last school sport survey, in 2009-10, found that 78% of pupils took part in intra-school competitive activities, up from 58% in 2006-07. Unfortunately, the current Government do not see sport in the same way, but I would be pleased to hear the Minister prove me wrong on that. They have even axed the two-hour participation target, claiming that it was just a box-ticking exercise.
London 2012 was a glorious achievement. It built on the success we enjoyed in Beijing. It did not, however, happen by accident. It happened first and foremost because of the impressive performances turned in by a talented generation of athletes, but they could not and would not have achieved that success without funding from Government and political will from the Government of the day to achieve great things. However, sport is not solely about winning medals; it is about competing, a healthy lifestyle and having fun. When we, as a nation, should be investing in physical activity to alleviate the obesity crisis, the Government are instead doing the opposite. Cuts to local authorities will inevitably fall disproportionately on our sports facilities—Sheffield is not an isolated case. The Local Government Association has produced a report that says that there is evidence of more participation, but the worst of the funding cuts have yet to come, and if the facilities are not there, participation levels will decrease. Sheffield’s participation rates will almost certainly decrease if both facilities—Don Valley and Stocksbridge—close. Cuts to sporting bodies and Sport England will affect elite and non-elite sport. The cumulative impact of the cuts will, I fear, mean that instead of the London Olympics being the springboard for greater things, they will be seen merely as the high water mark, with a steep decline in performance on the international scene to follow.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing the debate. It is a pleasure to be alongside my good friends to argue our case.
In the summer, I had two amazing weeks in London, and being a proper Yorkshire person, that is not something I say lightly. The first amazing week was at the beginning of August, when I was privileged to be there on super Saturday to see athletes win three gold medals, including Sheffield’s very own Jessica Ennis. A month later, I had tickets to the Paralympics, and I was there on thriller Thursday to see another great Yorkshire woman, Hannah Cockroft, and two other brilliant athletes win golds. We know that the wonderful stadium in which I spent much of my amazing time in London is struggling to continue and cannot continue only as an athletics stadium. The facts of life mean that athletics stadiums are very difficult to support, and yet Don Valley has kept going through the will of the people of Sheffield for more than 20 years, but that involves a subsidy of £700,000 a year, which is no longer sustainable.
Don Valley opened in 1991. I did not live in Sheffield at the time; I had a brief period working out that Yorkshire really is the best place to live and hurried back only a couple of years later. I took time off from my job in social services and, rather than go on holiday, I went to Sheffield to spend time at the World student games. It was a phenomenal event. Over the years, I have visited Don Valley regularly, turning up to many of the great events held there. I have seen World records; I was there, at the same time as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), for the last appearance of Kelly Holmes; and I have even been on the track, having completed a race for life there.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central said, although the stadium is in Sheffield, it is a national asset. The previous Government and the current Government were both clear and determined that the legacy of 2012 should not just be a legacy for London. In many areas of life—transport, communication, media or whatever—the majority of money is spent in the region we are in now. If we want to be one nation— dare I say it?—money should be available and spent in the north.
I have done a lot of work looking at tennis facilities, in my role in the all-party tennis group. For a long time, we have looked at developing tennis facilities at the Graves leisure area in my constituency, which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) kindly mentioned earlier. One reason for that is that talented young people in any sport do better if they can train near home. We are talking about youngsters; young people who need to go to school and need their family’s support. Without local facilities, we will not get a range of people with a range of ability from around the country. Of course, we cannot have facilities of that calibre everywhere, but what a tragedy if we were to lose this facility, which is in the north, has delivered a world champion and, we feel, can go on supporting many young people in the future if only the finance is there.
My hon. Friends the Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge and for Eltham (Clive Efford) have often spoken about school sport partnerships, because legacy is not only about facilities, but about our investment in young people. For a couple of minutes I want to focus on the effect of the cut to school sport partnerships funding to Sheffield. Prior to the cuts, Sheffield had four thriving partnerships, each working closely with their schools, providing training, development, resources, curriculum support, coaching, competition and participation events for them. A key feature of the work was the network that supported it: the profile of PE and sport in school was raised and time was given to release a member of primary staff to assist the process, to enable valuable development work to take place. We now understand, more than ever, that getting children active from primary is key to keeping them active through life.
Since the removal of funding, partnerships have been forced to set up as private enterprises, which means that they are no longer directly funded. Schools have had to make tough decisions, when their budgets are under pressure, on whether they can afford to buy in the service for their children.
Not only did the funding end in 2011, but so did the PE and sports strategy for young people, which supported the partnerships’ work. As part of the strategy, partnerships undertook a full audit annually to monitor the engagement of their schools in PE and sporting activity. It is a bit disingenuous of the Government, while we are trying to encourage participation, to say, “As part of our cuts to paperwork, partnerships will no longer have to monitor that.” Some of us might think that that is just a way of covering up the fact that, as we know, participation will decrease.
During the school sports partnerships era, schools that were previously unengaged became more engaged, as they had dedicated funding to do so. As soon as the funding went, along with the network, the engaged schools continued to be involved at some level, but less-interested schools started to become unengaged once more. That impacts most greatly on families in which PE and sports are not common parts of their daily life and on families that are financially constrained.
An important part of the partnerships was that there were clear links between schools and clubs in the community. I know from my constituency that although clubs were available—some are not that expensive, such as the Beauchief tennis club—families were not used to going there, so the link was not made. The school sports partnership identified children who were interested and keen and helped them into the local clubs. The removal of the funding has therefore been a huge blow. In some areas of Sheffield, provision has started to disappear. As my hon. Friends have already asked, what future champions are we now missing?
There was a big issue at the Olympics about the proportion of our elite athletes who come from a private or public schooling background rather than from ordinary schools in ordinary communities. Jessica Ennis came from an ordinary school in an ordinary community, and yet she achieved the highest possible level she could. We all felt wonderful about that, but how many others will not get that chance if we do not cast the net wide and get talented young people, who can come from any background and from anywhere, into sport?
A report by Ofsted into schools’ sport provision was published just last month. It looked at what had happened in those four years. The report supported the work of the partnerships and encouraged the Department for Education to consider developing a new national strategy. The report stated:
“Ofsted recommends that the Department for Education considers devising a new national strategy for PE and school sport that builds on the successes of school sport partnerships and enables schools to make a major contribution to the sporting legacy left by the 2012 Olympic Games…The impact of school sport partnerships in maximising participation and increasing regular competition was clearly evident in the vast majority of schools visited.”
We need national facilities and a national strategic plan. Sport England is doing a good job. I have with me a list of projects that shows all sorts of work going on. I am excited about the investment into the Graves sports facilities in my constituency, which will, importantly, look at the link between health and sport and enable people with disabilities and long-term conditions to look at how sport can help them improve. There is a lot going on, but surely the investment should not just be about new facilities all the time; surely we must look to support facilities that have delivered for us in the past.
The Government promised a legacy. They must redouble their efforts to make it happen.
It is a pleasure to participate in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Leigh. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing this debate, and my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) and for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn) on the way in which they have represented their constituencies in this important debate.
This debate is important because Sheffield is synonymous with sport in this country; it has made itself so over a long time. This debate is about fairness, consistency and planning. There is discussion about legacy in one section of Government—that we must deliver and build the legacy—but in another section of the Government— the Department for Communities and Local Government —we see a complete failure to have any strategy whatever and to plan ahead for sports facilities, in order to ensure that the enthusiasm inspired by 2012 can be met by the capacity to provide sports services for people.
This debate highlights the Government’s reckless approach towards local authorities and sport services. We consistently find that the Government have no coherent plan when it comes to sport. Local government has an essential role to play in encouraging participation in sport and physical recreation, but what we see from the Government are consistent attacks on local government and precious little evidence of working in partnership with it.
Research by the Local Government Association, published last Friday, shows that demand is growing in local authority areas post-2012, but with the cuts imposed by this Government, we are moving in the opposite direction from the one in which we should be moving. The lack of any strategy from the Government is highlighted by the comments of Toni Minichiello, Jessica Ennis’s coach, with regard to Don Valley. He asked why the Secretary of State for Education
“twice had to delay announcements on sport in primary schools? Why have school sports partnerships been cut? Why are athletics tracks up and down the country—not just in Sheffield—having to close? All of these errors could have been foreseen. That is the point of legacy—investment and planning.”
Across the whole sporting community, we consistently hear the same comment: this Government have no coherent sport strategy to deliver the legacy. There is a lack of cross-departmental, joined-up thinking, threatening the 2012 legacy.
Sheffield has become a centre of excellence for sport. It hosted the student games in 1991 and laid the foundations for a sporting legacy in that city. If we look back to the 1980s, when I was in local government and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East was on Sheffield city council, Sheffield was showing the way for planning for sport for a generation. We have all celebrated what has gone on in Sheffield over the past year, but it did not come either cheaply or at a moment’s notice. It started back in the 1980s, when Sheffield planned for the World student games. It has built on that legacy, showing an innovative way of approaching sports development—years ahead of other local authorities. It planned to have not just a centre of excellence for sport, but a place where major entertainment events could take place and to use the income generated from that to cross-subsidise a state-of-the-art sports facility.
Sadly, time has caught up with that; competition from other venues has meant that it has not been possible to sustain that business plan over many years. However, if the people of Sheffield look back, they will see that they have been extremely well served by the forward thinking of the people who planned the student games and the facilities back then. Last year showed what that sort of long-term planning can deliver. The Olympics were a great event not only for London, but for places such as Sheffield, which have been providing state-of-the-art facilities for our best athletes to train in so that they could compete at the top of their sport and bring an enormous amount of national pride to the United Kingdom. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneers back in the 1980s who planned for the student games and delivered a legacy for us last year. That is why it is important that we support their endeavours in Sheffield.
I am not suggesting that anyone can provide £700,000 a year to sustain the Don Valley stadium; no one is asking for that. The current financial situation in Sheffield has forced it to make the decision, but changes in the business plan for the stadium would probably in any case have forced a decision about its future.
Even in the light of what is taking place, Sheffield has still shown a commitment to the provision of state-of-the-art sports facilities. It is still prepared to put £150 million of capital into the refurbishment of the Woodbourn facility to bring it up to standard, so that it can remain an athletics training facility, to put £70,000 a year of revenue into it and to hand it over to local athletics clubs for them to run, so that it continues to provide sports facilities, particularly for athletics. Even at this time of severe cuts, Sheffield is prepared to support state-of-the-art sports facilities for future generations.
Many people have queued to have their picture taken with the athletes who have benefited from the facilities provided in Sheffield—particularly with the likes of Jess Ennis. I have to say, however, that some of the people at the front of that queue have not entirely supported Sheffield’s investment in sports facilities over the years. My hon. Friends have highlighted some of the double dealing of local politicians in Sheffield over the financial package for Don Valley—criticising it at one time, while defending it and saying that they want the stadium kept open at another time.
In Sheffield, only Labour politicians have shown a consistent commitment over a generation to investing in sports facilities, for which they are to be commended. Sheffield did not become a centre of excellence in sport by accident; it had to show a commitment over many years to deliver the legacy of 2012, and we must provide the support in kind that it requires. The Government should be an honest broker and bring together all the parties to work out a plan of action for not only the Don Valley site, but Woodbourn. We are not talking about the Government committing huge resources, but using their good offices to ensure that Sheffield gets the support that it needs.
Up and down the country, local authorities are making decisions about vital sports facilities. They are having to ensure that such facilities—many are being outsourced to outside organisations—are financially viable and sustainable. I want to hear from the Minister what he is doing to ensure that people are not being excluded from sports facilities because of cost. The more local government finance is squeezed, the greater the need to raise income from fees and charges and the more that people on low incomes—the very people we must encourage to participate more, as all the research shows—are excluded from services. What exactly is he doing to ensure that we do not exclude people on the basis of cost from participating in local government sports facilities in these times of austerity?
The Government need to work with local authorities to ensure that they do all they can to have the capacity to meet the demands highlighted by the Local Government Association research. What discussions has the Minister had with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about the future of sports facilities? If there is a cross-Government approach to sport, I am sure that he will have had meetings with that Department to assess the impact of cuts on local government services. Exactly what discussions have taken place, and what can he tell us about their outcome for protecting the sporting legacy in local government services?
The Government’s own councillors are criticising their approach to austerity in local government services. The Local Government Association has declared Tory- led West Somerset council to be “not viable” over the longer term. The Tory former LGA chair Baroness Eaton has said that the understanding of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government about the impact of the cuts on local government is
“detached from the reality councils are dealing with”.
Merrick Cockell has suggested that the cuts are unsustainable in future.
Labour authorities across the country are working hard to protect community sports facilities. Research by my office has found that Tory authorities are, on average, making greater cuts to sport development and facilities expenditure than Labour authorities, so the idea that any of the cuts are politically motivated is ridiculous. No one is saying that there should be no cuts—I am sure that the Minister will say that there is no money, an argument we have heard before—but the unfair cuts are forcing the loss of so many facilities in areas of high deprivation.
Local government is hitting the poorest hardest. The spending power of the 10 most deprived local authorities is being cut by eight times that of the 10 least deprived local authorities. Taking the cuts per head of population, 43 of the top 50 are Labour, three are Conservative and the rest have no overall control; none is Liberal Democrat. Sheffield is 39th in that list, and is being forced to cut £139.57 per head. The Prime Minister’s area is losing only £34 per head.
Government cuts to Sheffield’s funding, rising prices and increasing demand mean that Sheffield has to find £50 million of savings next year, on top of the £140 million of savings already made over the past two years. The Government have said that the cuts will continue until 2018, which leaves Sheffield in the desperate situation of having no choice but to make such decisions as the one about Don Valley.
Despite that cut, Labour councils are playing their part. Although the hardest cuts to sports expenditure are being imposed on Labour authorities across the country, Labour authorities are cutting 6% of sports spend, Tory authorities are cutting 11% and Liberal Democrat authorities are cutting 17%. Even in these times of austerity, Labour authorities, which are at the top of the list for cuts to local spending capacity, are showing the way in protecting sports services and facilities.
I want to hear exactly what the Minister will do in relation to Sheffield. I am not for a minute suggesting that he can rush in and spend a whole load of Government money, but I want to know what, if anything, anyone in the Government has done to liaise with the local authority, UK Athletics and any of the parties interested in the Don Valley site to ensure that we sustain state-of-the-art sports facilities in Sheffield and that the Don Valley site is developed for the benefit of the local community.
We have heard about the consortium led by the former Minister for Sport Dick Caborn. That scheme is worthy of great consideration and has been given initial backing by Lord Coe, who is the Government’s adviser on the Olympic legacy. What do the Government intend to do in relation to that scheme and what part will they play in examining its viability and, if necessary, in ensuring that the scheme moves forward? The scheme has the potential to regenerate a major site in the city and to create nearly 1,000 jobs. It is innovative in how it approaches the whole well-being issue of health, sports and recreation; and it could be unique and a beacon for other areas to follow. The Government have a lot to gain by examining such a scheme, which was proposed by Dick Caborn this morning.
Sheffield has become synonymous with sport in this country and with sporting success. That success has been a long time in creation, which shows that a legacy is something that is developed over many years. We can all learn from that as we try to build on the 2012 legacy. Sheffield has laid down a challenge for the Government—what will they do to help regenerate the site and to ensure that Sheffield continues to play its part as a major sporting centre of excellence for the next generation?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Leigh. I congratulate the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing this debate, and other hon. Members on showing their support for Sheffield and the stadium.
Hon. Members will no doubt be aware that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport sets the policy framework for sport funding decisions, but that the day-to-day decision making on the funding for local sports facilities lies with the local authority, with Sport England providing advice, guidance and, in some cases, funding. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport would have liked to have been here this morning, but unfortunately he had to attend a Bill Committee sitting. Let me deal with some of the issues that have been raised about the local government finance settlement before talking a bit about the Olympic legacy and the situation in Sheffield.
A couple of hon. Members questioned whether the local government finance settlement was fair. They might have been present in the Chamber when that matter was debated, and when we were able to outline, as a House of Commons Library report confirms, that the settlement was fair to north and south, east and west, urban and rural. Some of the comparisons that are used, and we have heard some this morning from the hon. Members for Eltham (Clive Efford) and for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), are—I choose my words carefully—not appropriate. It is difficult to make a fair comparison between some of the metropolitan city councils in the north that get a per dwelling spend of around £3,500 to £3,700 with a council such as the one in the Prime Minister’s west Oxfordshire constituency, which has a per dwelling spend of £1,800, or even to a council in a constituency such as mine, which has a couple of the most deprived wards in the country, and has one of the highest per dwelling spends in Norfolk, but is still only at £2,200. It is wholly inappropriate to compare such authorities, and the changes in their expenditure, to authorities that get substantially more in the first place because their baseline is much higher.
The problem for West Somerset, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Eltham, is not related to the percentage of its funding—it actually had an increase this year—but to the fact that it has 35,000 residents across a big rural area, leaving the council with a critical mass issue to deal with. In fact, I have a meeting with Somerset MPs this morning about that very issue.
I am tempted to take literally the words of the hon. Gentleman, who seemed to suggest that we should go back to central control of local government and to dictate from the centre what councils must do, but I must remind him that with the Localism Act 2011, the Government have made it clear that we believe in localism. Local determination should decide how councils spend their money; they are best placed to consider what their local community needs and to service it. We are working with local authorities, as is the LGA, to ensure that we see more innovative and efficient ways of working, whether that is through shared services, shared management or outsourcing. We are looking at how they work and facilitate to ensure that they spend their money on important front-line services for residents, not on bureaucracy, red tape and back-office management costs. They can still go further on that, but ultimately it is for those authorities to make their local decisions.
As hon. Members have said, the Olympic games last summer were truly magnificent and a great boost to the whole country, both psychologically and in a sporting sense, showcasing the very best of what we as a country have to offer. Specifically for this debate, we must recognise the great talent of Jessica Ennis. Like the hon. Member for Sheffield South East, I was fortunate enough to be in the stadium on her first day of competition. It was fantastic to see what she achieved and the inspiration that she and other athletes have given to those who might follow in their footsteps. If we are to repeat the success in 2016, we must ensure that our athletes have the best possible conditions in which to train, which is something on which we can all agree.
Let me make a few general points about what the Government are doing to secure a lasting sporting legacy to the games before addressing the specifics of what is happening in Sheffield. In December, UK Sport and Sport England, the public bodies responsible for the delivery of elite and grass-roots sport, announced the funding they will be providing over the next four years. UK Sport will invest £347 million in elite sport and Sport England will provide £493 million to the national governing bodies of sport for community sport.
In addition, more than £100 million of lottery and public funding is being invested in school games over the next three years; and £500,000 is being invested in youth sport over the next five years through the youth sport strategy, with £150 million being invested through the Places People Play programme to upgrade 1,000 local sports venues. Some 15.5 million people aged 16 and over are now playing sport at least once a week, which is 750,000 more than a year ago and 1.57 million more than when London won the Olympic and Paralympic bid. In the current economic climate that is a significant investment in sport. I can reassure hon. Members that both UK Sport and Sport England have record levels of funding thanks to this Government’s decision to restore the lottery shares to the original good causes, including sport.
UK Sport is investing almost £500,000 to ensure that our athletes can build on the success of last year and do even better in Rio in 2016. Over the next four years, Sport England is investing more than £1 billion in youth and community sport, which includes more than 1,000 local sports facilities.
The Government are fully committed to providing high-quality sport in schools as well as in communities. Our new schools games programme introduces competitive sport in schools, between schools and at county, regional and national level. We have invested more than £100 million in the programme, and well over half of all schools are taking part. Indeed, the national finals are being held in Sheffield this year. The programme is getting young people to play sport regularly and not creating bureaucratic, top-down networks. However, we must not be complacent. We share the desire to inspire a generation to take up and enjoy sport throughout their lives. I can confidently say that an innovative and exciting announcement on school sport will be made shortly.
Additionally, let me draw hon. Members’ attention to the Government’s 10-point sports action plan, which sets out how much is being done to deliver a real legacy from the London games. With those announcements down the line, I hope that hon. Members will be pleased with the Government’s direction of travel.
On the specifics of Government spending and the legacy for Sheffield, naturally nobody wants to see a sports facility close, but local authorities need to make tough decisions to ensure that they are providing the best possible services to all their communities, and that includes strategic management of the public estate at a cost that is affordable within their budget constraints. The hon. Member for Eltham alluded to how much money is out there, but the reality is we are having to deal with the previous Government’s atrocious legacy of deficit and debt, so we must start to live within our means. Local government accounts for around a quarter of public expenditure, so it has its part to play in this process. That is why councils must make decisions about what they are doing and how best they provide facilities for local people. I suspect that is also why Lord Coe himself has said, in support of the decisions that Sheffield city council has to make, that he understands why a local authority must look at these situations and make decisions.
As has been said, Don Valley stadium is 23 years old and costs about £700,000 a year to operate. It also has an estimated repair bill of more than £1.5 million and there is another stadium, less than a mile away, which costs £70,000 a year to operate. Therefore, it is for Sheffield city council to make the decision about which of these facilities they can afford and to justify that decision to their people locally, without central Government dictating whether it is a right or wrong decision.
I am informed that the council has given clear assurances that local people will still have access to first-class outdoor athletics facilities; indeed, Sheffield is extremely well served in that respect. The council is also talking to local athletics groups about how they can become involved in the management of those facilities, and I will come back to that point in a moment. Sport England has agreed to work with the council to ensure that Woodbourn becomes a first-class, sustainable venue for community and elite athlete training, and for regional competition.
Of course, Sheffield also has a first-class indoor facility in the form of the English Institute of Sport, which is where Jessica Ennis herself does much of her UK training. I was also heartened to hear that Sheffield has been the recipient of a number of grants for facilities, both large and small, including a grant in 2011 of almost £5 million for the English Institute of Sport. As I have already said, Sheffield will also host the national finals of the school games in September 2013.
I welcome the imaginative proposal unveiled this morning by the former Sports Minister, and I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will be pleased to meet those involved in developing that proposal. I also encourage them to meet Sport England, to discuss how they might apply for funding under the sports legacy iconic facilities programme.
None of this activity means that either central or local government can or should be complacent; we simply cannot afford to be. We all want to build on the success that we saw in 2012. However, just providing the facilities will not guarantee a lasting legacy, which is why my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, laid out the 10-point plan to ensure a sporting legacy, including school sport, getting more children involved in competitive sport, specific disability sports programmes, talent development and elite sport, attracting and delivering major coaching and volunteer programmes, and world-class facilities.
We have made it quite clear that we are trying to move away from asking local authorities and local areas to report back lots and lots of information; that is part of helping them to reduce their costs. We also trust local authorities. Unlike Labour, we trust local authorities and local people to make the right decisions for their local communities. That is what local elections and local democracy are about, and that is obviously where the difference lies between central and local control.
The Minister has said a great deal about trusting local councils and local people. He talked earlier about the importance of all that—indeed, he has referred to it twice—but as yet he has said nothing about the leisure facility in my constituency, even though I asked that he give a response to the argument that the Government could do more to support the council and the community in finding a future for sports in that area.
Actually, I think that I have directly addressed that point in my comments. It is for local authorities to look at what they need for their local community and how they spend their money in the interests of servicing their local community. As I have always said, if any local council has a particular issue that they wish to come to discuss with me, I am very happy for them to do that; indeed, I am very happy for the hon. Lady to do that too.
The combination of all the things that I mentioned earlier is exactly what made the Olympic games last year such a success, and it is that combination—not one thing alone, but a combination of things—that will provide a legacy to 2012, a legacy that I hope Sheffield continues to help to deliver, through the inspiration of Jessica Ennis and others like her, as well as through the local communities who support their local facilities.