Message from the Chair

Dear Colleagues,

2011 was a challenging year I’m sure for most of us, with the impact of savings beginning to bite, and change the one certainty in our daily business. I’m sure that like me, it has been a case of repositioning the culture and sport sector in local political and managerial thinking, and steering painful cuts hopefully into a sustainable opportunity for services to grow, when recovery arrives.

Many of us have been waiting with real excitement and anticipation for 2012, this year of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, to arrive. Up until recently 2012 was hailed as the much anticipated “golden” year for the sector – an opportunity across the country for the sport, cultural and tourism sectors to shine, and engage a whole range of new audiences. The Games were an opportunity to illustrate that culture, and sport were core public investments for a healthier, stronger and more vibrant community.

None of the aspirations or ambition described above has changed of course for many of us – it’s just become a little clouded by the gloom of the economic climate, and reality of rapid reduction in public spending this year and in the foreseeable future.

I’m confident that cCLOA and cCLOA members are ready to make the most of, not just the 2012 Games and local legacy, but also the opportunities that leaders in this sector are so adept at taking to diversify and align service offers to developing markets, across health and well being and the prevention agendas notably. This stuff isn’t easy, and cCLOA and it’s members have a leadership role to play nationally in opening more doors, and locally in facilitating and sharing innovation and good practice.

cCLOA is in good shape to do more of this, and do it better in 2012. In my first months as Chair, the cCLOA Executive have driven three important steps forward.

Firstly we’ve looked at what we do, and recognised that as an organisation we need to work effectively and efficiently in changing times. A renegotiated sponsorship with Big Wave, has provided us with this fantastic new website, offering a more interactive model to keep cCLOA members engaged in strategic policy development, innovation, learning and sharing of good practice. 2012 will be a year that cCLOA members have more opportunity than ever to get involved.

Our other CLOA sponsors for 2012 are XN Leisure, Lifetime and Powerleague and more opportunities to interact with these sponsors will emerge through the new website. cCLOA greatly values the support of these strategic partners for 2012.

We are also now supported by a new administration and development service, through Culture First, led by cCLOA member Heidi Bellamy.  I’m sure you will join me in thanking David and Sarah at Leisure-Net for all their support to cCLOA – this has been much valued appreciated by the whole membership.

Secondly, we have made important strides in reconnecting with strategic partners in 2011. Relationships with LGA, ACE and Sport England have all been redefined in the post CSR world, and there have been successes in building trust and understanding particularly in relation to the unwrapping of localism for local agencies. DCMS and Government departments are also listening to cCLOA advocacy, and the excellent Culture and Sport advocacy document around Crime Reduction and ASB has received an encouraging response. Ian Varah’s successful efforts to maintain and refresh the NCF, and DCMS commitment should also be noted and applauded, as well as our support to enable a forth programme of Leading Learning to developing sector strategic executives.

The forthcoming LGA/cCLOA conference in Cardiff also looks to be a really interesting couple of days in a great city, with thanks to John Bell in helping shape the programme.

Thirdly, despite a sticky outlook around ‘improvement’ resources in the early part of the year, cCLOA has played a significant role in helping to shape with partners some encouraging support programmes with a sector wide focus on supporting strategic commissioning in 2012 emerging. cCLOA of course has led the way in terms of broader thinking around health and well being, with an excellent event hosted by Birmingham City Council, and SERCO, kick-starting our advocacy for HWB in 2012.

Despite the financial support for improvement networks falling away from central and regional agencies, the sector is still trying to sustain network activity, and this is something I am keen that cCLOA develops in 2012, supporting thriving networks such as London cCLOA, and the East, and South East and nurturing new groupings in local areas.

So my first 7 months as Chair have flown by, and I’d like to thank all of the Executive for their support. With the glass more than half full, I’m optimistic that 2012 will be our ‘golden’ year. It might not be overladen with resources, but surely plenty of opportunity. As sector leaders we have to take these opportunities and share the expertise and knowledge.

Best regards,

Richard Hunt, Chair, Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association.