ukactive has issued the following statement in response to the Spring Budget announced by the Chancellor today (15 March 2023)
Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “The Chancellor’s ambition to support people into work, increase productivity, and drive economic growth is an ambition we share, and integral to this is the need to improve the nation’s health.
“With projections that ill health costs the UK economy £150bn a year – which has increased by 60% in the past six years – addressing this is now essential for any government.
“In that context, the Budget does make some important interventions. We welcome the £63m package of financial support that will help parts of the sector most exposed to the increase in energy prices, helping retain services and keep facilities open, especially swimming pools.
“Furthermore, there are a range of measures announced in the Budget – notably additional funding for wraparound childcare, the apprenticeship scheme for over 50s, and full expensing tax relief – that could support both our members and their customers, and we will analyse these proposals in more detail and assess their connection to our members’ work.
“The Chancellor’s focus on supporting people with long-term health conditions is of relevance to our members, and it is especially positive to see the commitment for the scaling up of musculoskeletal (MSK) hubs which is a project ukactive and partners have been driving forward in pilot phase.
“However, there are certain parts of the sector that remain vulnerable due to the energy crisis and dialogue with the Government will continue on their behalf. Furthermore, we remain fully committed to working with the Government to secure vital reforms on both business rates and VAT which currently hold back the growth of parts of our sector and suppress access to physical activity for many.
“The Chancellor’s focus on greater regulatory liberty post-Brexit must extend to our sector and the Government must address the fact that our closest trading partner, Ireland, has a VAT rate of just 9% on fitness and leisure services. The presented benefits of Brexit must extend to our sector as well.
“Going forward, the Prime Minister should set a national mission for health improvement that places sport, recreation, and physical activity at its heart. There is a real opportunity to create a credible strategy that unlocks the potential of the sector and allows it to play its fullest role in the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the nation.”