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Martyn Allison – "let's drive growth then ask the new government to invest in our success"

By Kath Hudson    19 Jun 2024
Prove our success, then ask for investment, says Martyn Allison / Shutterstock/Jacob Lund
Time to stop asking government for money, says Martyn Allison
Allison calls on the sector to take the lead and then ask for investment in success
He warns against being caught behind the curve as happened in 1997
The power of physical activity is largely left out of the main party manifestos

With the UK General Election imminent, industry strategist, Martyn Allison, says it’s time for the sector in the UK to stop asking for money and show the next government solutions.

Speaking exclusively to HCM, Allison said: “We know the direction of travel, let’s show the government we're already tackling its priorities and we have solutions to the current challenges. As a sector, we need to stop campaigning and start delivering the change needed.

“Let’s show we can address health inequality rather than just make the active more active. Let’s rationalise and reform what we have and – by working together – make it work better.

"Instead of asking government to take the lead, it’s time for us to take the lead. And if economic growth happens and resources become available we can then legitimately ask government to invest in our success.”

Allison welcomes the Take the Lead campaign, which makes a co-ordinated pitch with eight core policy proposals. However, he believes the focus on asking for more investment and government lead is the wrong approach: “For me the pitch is wrong, asking for more money will not land with a new government with other priorities.”

He says there are lessons to be learned from the 1997 election, when Tony Blair kicked off a huge public service reform agenda on day one: “The sport and leisure sector was behind the curve from the start then and – some years in – were still being squeezed in both national policy and funding and council policy and funding. It took us the first parliamentary term to catch up.

“We must avoid the same thing happening again," says Allison, "our focus now must be on influencing the government’s policy development and implementation process. This is where change really happens.”

The Labour Party manifesto is clear on the need to commence the switch to health prevention in the context of tackling health inequality. “With the focus on childhood obesity and smoking, the case for increasing physical activity does not seem to have yet been recognised,” says Allison.

The Labour Party has pledged support for major sport events on economic and soft power grounds; reform of football; undefined support for grass root sport clubs, some commitments on school PE and sport in schools and a nod to greater access to sport and culture.

Allison is disappointed that none of the political parties fully acknowledge the pressures faced by councils, or the social care crisis, which is draining council resources and preventing them from investing in leisure services.

Martyn Allison has been involved with sport and physical activity policy for many decades, having been involved with writing Sport England strategy and previously acting as National Advisor for culture and sport at the LGA. He is also a chartered fellow of CIMSPA and contributed to the House of Lords Select Committee on a National Plan for Sport and Recreation.

The Labour Party  General Election  Martyn Allison  
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