Warning over council sports centre funding

Image caption,
Audit Scotland said many indoor sports facilities were in a "poor condition"

The future of Scotland's community sports centres is under threat, a new report has warned.

Audit Scotland said "the current financial outlook" made it difficult to maintain the current services offered by the country's 11,528 centres.

They warned that councils were struggling to find the £656m spent on physical recreation facilities in 2008.

The findings come despite figures showing attendance at swimming pools and leisure centres was increasing.

The watchdog said that although there had been recent spending increases, many indoor sports centres were "still in a poor condition".

In its report, Audit Scotland said: "The current financial outlook will make it difficult to find the investment that is needed in local facilities and to sustain service levels and quality over the longer term."

In the five years up to 2008-09, spending on physical recreation services increased by 4%, while spending on social work went up by 18.6% and housing and education had rises of 7.3% and 6.2% respectively.

The public spending watchdog said the lower increase for physical recreation could indicate that "local government priorities may lie elsewhere".

The report, prepared for the Accounts Commission, warned: "While 2008-09 saw some signs of budgetary pressures, the full impact of the recession on physical recreation services is not yet clear."

'Closely monitor'

Councils were urged to "find more creative and cost-effective ways to deliver services while maintaining their focus on increasing levels of physical activity".

John Baillie, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: "Councils are very aware that they need to make best use of their resources.

"Many are already looking at their physical recreation services and facilities to consider how sustainable they are."

Despite an increase in the number of people using community funded swimming pools and sports centres, the report said there was a lack of information about the reasons why some people did not use such services.

Audit Scotland recommended councils should "closely monitor" the impact of reductions in public spending on investment in leisure facilities.

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