Alarm bells are ringing in the offices of sports bodies up and down the UK as rumours persist that the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is about to impose swingeing cuts in an attempt to boost his career and gain a place on the Government’s ministerial committee deciding on departmental cuts, the so-called ‘star chamber’.
Writing in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph Paul Kelso reported that while the Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson is fighting sport’s corner, Hunt is likely to favour the culture and media sectors of his portfolio and savagely cut the funding of sport.
Given that the DCMS typically receives a very small budget compared to many Government departments, any cuts could seriously undermine the future of sport in this country, an important by-product of which is also the nation’s health.
Undoubtedly some savings could be made by reducing the duplication of work and streamlining the structure that delivers sport through implementing vertical integration of strategies where currently only horizontal planning takes place. However the cuts Hunt is believed to be in favour of will go much deeper.
How much deeper? The Telegraph reports that Hunt is considering cutting funding to sport by 40%.
In real terms what does 40% mean? Using Sport England as an example, they received £123m of exchequer funding for the current financial year. A 40% reduction in that figure would reduce it to £73.2m, a loss of £49.2m to the development of grass-roots sport in England. That is almost double the annual contribution to the entire County Sports Partnership network!
Cuts will, of course, need to be made but surely the role of the Culture Secretary is to treat each section of his portfolio as an equal partner while making the case to the Exchequer to keep cuts to a minimum?
If The Telegraph’s report is correct and Hunt is about to sacrifice sport for his career then the Prime Minister should examine the actions of Hunt, believed to be a Cameron favourite, closely.
If he is not fully committed to working in the best interests of his entire department then surely he should be replaced by someone who will serve those interests. And if he is putting his ambition to become a member of the ‘star chamber’ ahead of the demands of his appointed role then he should not be considered a suitable candidate for either.
Of course, in the foggy world of politics there is another way to interpret The Telegraph’s story.
Should cuts be lower than the feared 40%, let’s say a still draconian 30%, will we have been conned into believing we got a good result? The story also portrays Sports Minister Robertson as someone well-regarded within sport, yet that is not the opinion of all as we still await evidence of the improvements in the structure and delivery of sport promised prior to and during the election suggesting the story could be a means to improve his image.
D-Day is 20th October. In the meantime, British sport is holding its collective breath.
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010