One of the perennially popular posts on this website is the one detailing the Leeds Let’s Get Active programme. If our experience is anything to go by, this has been a hugely successful scheme which has inspired thousands of people to take part in sport and physical activity across Leeds.
Most of them may not have been aware that the scheme was only a pilot – and was threatened with closure at the end of this year – because, as so often the case now, its future funding was uncertain.
So we’re delighted that Leeds Labour Council has announced the continuation of the programme into the new year.
The programme started in 2013. It was funded by Sport England. But the huge health benefits of physical activity meant that it also received funding from the Public Health budget and from local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGS).
It has offered a range of free gym, swim and court sessions at council leisure centres and other classes held in communities across the city.
The success has been impressive. 90,000 people have taken up the offer of a Leeds Let’s Get Active Card, and there have been a total of 410,000 visits funded by the programme. Perhaps most significant, 45% of participants described themselves as inactive before signing up. This scheme has really worked.
The problem, of course, is the insupportable budget cuts Leeds has suffered since the Tory/LibDem Coalition took power in 2010. Those cuts mean that Leeds City Council finds it has no option other than to make cuts to its services – including popular services like this one.
But even in these difficult times, the council has felt able to step in with an offer to keep the Let’s Get Active programme in place – though in a modified form.
From January 1 2017 LLGA sessions will be provided at a subsidised rate at the Council’s leisure centres.
An annual pass will be priced at £120 or as part of a continuous no-contract offer, £10 per month via Direct Debit.
In addition each session can also be accessed, subject to availability, on a pay and play basis for just £2.
Selected free LLGA sessions will also still be made available as part of the Council’s community programmes.
The current LLGA programmed sessions will continue to be run for free until the end of December 2016.
To find out more, and to sign up to the new offer, please see: http://www.leedsletsgetactive.co.uk or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Lewis, the Labour Councillor responsible for sport, was clear about how keen the Council is to keep such a popular and beneficial scheme running – in spite of severe budgetary restrictions. He’s frustrated that
“due to our budgetary situation it will not be possible to offer sessions at our leisure centres for free as before.”
But he feels confident that the package of subsidised fees the Council has been able to put together are still ‘extremely attractive’.
“These will sit aside targeted community programmes that will still offer LLGA classes for free. This will mean that existing users and hopefully many more people will be able to take advantage of what LLGA has to offer in the future.”
It’s at times like this that we realize just how Local Government Funding matters to all of us – and just how much the cuts which the Tories, together with their LibDem allies after 2010, have imposed are hitting home.
And it’s at times like this that we’re grateful we have a Labour Council in Leeds. Labour can’t reverse the central government cuts. But it’s doing its level best to protect the people of this city in the face of them.