Tackling The Treasury
Posted: Mon, 03 Jul 2023 09:28
Much of the debate amongst my colleagues in the sport and physical activity sector seems to be dominated by convincing health about the preventative benefits of the sector. At the Sport for Development Coalition we believe the positive impact goes further and deeper, into other government departments. There are decent returns on social outcomes and thanks to many people leading the debate we are all now talking much more about this.
When I was in government I too tried making this case, but as I have told many audiences over the years I realised it was the Treasury rules and orthodoxy that was the problem. Practitioners realise that prevention and early intervention is much better. Some programmes like Sure Start demonstrated long term investment in early intervention with cross cutting departmental input is possible! Sadly it is not that common.
So it was good to join the Demos debate last night at their event on Paying for Prevention!
While few would disagree with the shift to prevention, no one has found a way to square this circle within the government's current funding mechanisms. Treasury orthodoxy prioritises known costs over the more risky long-term spending that prevention will require.
As calls for a shift to prevention grow ever stronger, the panel tried to answer the question: could reformed government spending rules and frameworks unlock an upstream revolution in public services?
As the political parties gear up for the next election, public service reform is back on the agenda. This includes a renewed focus on prevention – for example Labour has recently called for problems to be tackled "with a long-term, preventative approach".
So over the coming months even more of our time at the The Sports Think Tank is going to be focussed and debating these detailed policy changes, not more reports about how great we are! This is where the wins will be - if we can finally shift Treasury orthodoxy and create funding for prevention. This is our holy grail. I know its boring and technical and much less fun than launching another report but its where stuff will get done and chnage will happen.