The black hole that is local government budget reality is mobilising communities into action, with groups emerging to protect “vital” services that have for long been taken for granted.
In my neck of the woods, it is our local swimming pool that faces the axe. Nestling alongside the beach, it provides year round indoor swimming for classes of schoolchildren, fanatical lane swimmers, and older residents who value the social aspect as much as the exercise. It doesn’t matter when you visit, there will be healthy (!) numbers of swimmers, and the modest facilities ensure generations of locals and visitors learn to swim – vital in a seaside location.
Now the white paper for public health in England – “Healthy Lives, Healthy People” – is filled with suggestions about how we can improve the health of our nation – but I don’t think I found any mention of swimming. Maybe I missed it – tell me if I did.
My point is -we are an Island nation. Many of us live close to water (not just the sea – but rivers, canals, lakes, water filled quarries …need I go on?) and yet there is a danger that resources that could well contribute to this strategy to improve the health of our nation will be lost – closed in the urgent drive to make cost savings now.
Perhaps there are other examples of resources that will support the public health outcomes and are in danger of being lost. Ring fenced budgets may arrive too late to save them.
The White Paper talks about schools being active promoters of health in childhood and adolescence: schools used to have their own pools – alas no more. Health and Safety, maintenance costs and changed priorities mean that council run (subsidised) facilities now fill the gap. The White Paper also talks about promoting access to “blue spaces” ( inland waterways and the like – as I mentioned earlier) and “yellow spaces” (beaches and coastlines).
It feels like there is a need for some joined up government – preserving what is clearly good for our health before it is too late.