How can I deliver operational efficiency savings whilst maintaining and increasing participation?

Understanding the context

Local authorities are under great pressure to find and secure operational efficiencies across the services they provide. This is certainly true for non-statutory services such as sport and leisure. This raises a number of questions such as: How can we reduce the subsidies we provide without adversely affecting current users? How can we balance the need to generate income against delivering social objectives? How can we ensure our facility provision remains competitive within the wider market?

Sport England believes the drive to ensure efficiencies does not have to be at the expense of maintaining and increasing participation in sport and delivering a quality service. These things can be achieved together if a planned approach is taken, the needs of local communities are known and innovative approaches are taken to delivery.

How can Sport England help?

The starting point should be a clear understanding of the vision and strategy for sport in the area that is based on the sporting needs of the local community and how these are currently provided for.

Alongside our guidance on vision and assessing needs, Sport England can help local authorities to deliver operational efficiencies whilst maintaining and increasing participation and delivering a quality service by improving the understanding of:

  • How local facilities are performing and how this compares with provision and good practice elsewhere through the use of the National Benchmarking Service (NBS). NBS has developed performance indicators and national benchmarks for both efficiency and effectiveness that include financial performance, access and utilisation, and importance and satisfaction scores from users
  • How local facilities are performing against the industry’s operational quality mark, Quest, that aims to continue to improve the quality of services provided to customers
  • The different management and delivery options available, including alternative delivery models, and how to procure these
  • The potential for community asset transfer within their area and how to plan and deliver this.


Sport England’s design and cost advice can also help to ensure the design, development and maintenance of facilities which build in operational efficiencies. This advice includes affordable benchmark designs for sports halls, swimming pools and sports centres. The information has a focus on the affordability and future financial sustainability of facilities but at the same time meeting a full range of community needs and complying with best practice standards.

Sport England looks to share a range of useful case studies where local authorities have successfully secured operational efficiencies whilst maintaining and increasing participation.

What's the result?

By using Sport England’s guidance and tools you will be able to:

  • Have a greater understanding of how operational efficiencies could be and have been secured whilst maintaining and increasing participation
  • Understand how to improve the quality of service to customers and help achieve a more effective and efficient service
  • Investigate how such efficiencies and continuous improvement could potentially be secured in your local area
  • Ensure any efficiencies are undertaken as part of a planned approach based on an understanding of the needs of the community.