A level playing field: social inclusion in public leisure

2014-06-05T14:12:04Z (GMT) by Ian Hodgkinson Paul Hughes
Purpose: The transfer to partnership in public sector management has created significantly new modes of service delivery, and is suggested to be the best means of ensuring that disadvantaged groups are socially included. The purpose of this paper is to examine New Leisure Trust (NLT) structures in public leisure provision relative to direct, in-house managed facilities and privately run Leisure Management Contractor (LMC) facilities. In particular, NLTs receive significant government funds and subsidies through tax breaks that are not forthcoming to rivals, which raises questions as to whether NLTs deserve such aid for delivering upon the social inclusion agenda of the government. Design/methodology/approach: The research involved a national survey questionnaire to 1,060 public leisure service providers in England. Empirical testing through multiple analysis of variance and regression analysis was applied to the dataset. Findings: The authors find that NLTs do not follow social orientation strategies to any significantly greater degree than rivals, nor seem to create social inclusion to any greater degree. Further, NLTs have the least to gain in terms of business performance from creating social inclusion, whilst in-house (in particular) and LMC facilities stand to gain the most. Practical implications: Though each approach to provision examined places a considerable strategic emphasis on being socially oriented, they are not effective at increasing the social inclusion of recreationally disadvantaged groups. Originality/value: This paper calls for the current public leisure management playing field to be levelled in a rebalance of opportunity and investment through the removal of anti-competitive measures. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.