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Council top in getting people active

PUBLISHED: 09:27 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 07:53 01 August 2010

SOUTH Norfolk has hit the top spot in a national active people survey after the local council's campaign to get people "off the subs bench of life".

The initiative is starting to reveal spectacular results, according to a survey of 191,000 people by Sport England.

SOUTH Norfolk has hit the top spot in a national active people survey after the local council's campaign to get people "off the subs bench of life".

The initiative is starting to reveal spectacular results, according to a survey of 191,000 people by Sport England.

It shows that in the last year alone south Norfolk has doubled the number of people giving up an hour or more of their time a week to take up sport. It is the biggest single improvement of any council area anywhere in England.

The survey is one of the most comprehensive snapshots of sports and recreation activity in England. The results inform six key indicators of activity - taking part in sport or recreation at least three days a week, club membership, receiving tuition, taking part in organised competitions, satisfaction with sports provision, and volunteering to help with sporting activities.

In Norfolk, south Norfolk came top out of all local council areas - including Norwich - in every single indicator except that on satisfaction with sports provision. Here it came second only to King's Lynn and west Norfolk.

John Fuller, South Norfolk Council leader, said the survey results were "a spectacular turnaround" for a council which had been struggling even to get people to its leisure centres.

He said: "The health and wellbeing of a community and the fight against obesity are strongly linked to how active people are. This survey shows if you lead from the front and match investment with information campaigns, you can start to change lives for the better.

"We came top in Norfolk in every indicator bar one and even there we were second only because we have no major urban centres. On volunteering, we are the fifth best council area in England. That's a real achievement for a small rural district council, albeit one the Audit Commission considers excellent."

Mr Fuller has led the authority's active people campaign with cabinet member Michelle Monck. He was one of the first to scale the tough new climbing wall at Wymondham leisure centre, urging residents around him to "give it a go." Mrs Monck launched the campaign with a plea for people to "get off the subs bench of life and get active".

She said: "We have invested £350,000 in our leisure centres with new equipment alongside new pricing which attracts more people, new awareness campaigns, and we have supported our rising community sports stars with a £30,000 awards scheme and set up an Olympic ambassadors initiative. This campaign with our partners is working and will have a direct benefit on the health and wellbeing of our community."

The council also gives local grants of up to £2,000 to voluntary organisations to help them buy equipment.

The survey suggests that, on average, 9pc of the south Norfolk population of some 117,300 residents are now giving up free time to support sport and recreational activities for an hour or more a week. This equates to about 10,500 people compared with about 5,300 last year.

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