Fitness project under fire for spending less than half of its budget

The I Will If You Will project has more than half of its budget left with only three months left

The I Will If You Will project has more than half of its budget left with only three months left

First published in News Bury Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A PIONEERING women’s fitness project has been criticised for under-spending with just three months of the pilot left and more than half the budget remaining.

Since the £2.38 million I Will If You Will (IWIYW) campaign was launched in Bury, just over £1 million has been spent on changing female sporting habits in the borough.

Last May the borough was selected to host the year-long Sport England experiment to increase women’s physical activity, and the initiative began last September.

But a remaining budget of £1.34 million — more than half the total — remains to be spent in the next three months before the pilot ends.

Conservative councillor James Daly has criticised organisers for failing to publicise the grants.

The IWIYW figures were released at a full council meeting. Cllr Daly, who represents North Manor ward, said: “I am extremely surprised and disappointed that only £15,000 of a total of £2.3 million has been given to clubs and organisations in Bury. With only three months left the worry is that not all the money will be spent or the pilot will not leave a lasting impact.

“I would suggest using the remaining £1.3 million on a legacy project supporting one of the borough’s groups which provide elite coaching.”

Organisations can also access up to £1,000 from a £25,000 pot to host activities or buy equipment to increase the number of women and girls taking part in sport.

So far about £15,000 has been awarded to 19 groups including Bury Cancer Support Centre, Hawk-shaw Tennis Club, Manchester Jewish Community Care and Topping Fold Community Centre, engaging 471 women and girls. But the remaining £10,000 is only available until the end of September.

Cllr Daly said the money could be used towards a new diving pool for Bury Dragons diving club, which faces losing its facilities.

So far £1 million has been spent on hiring instructors, equipment and rooms for fitness schemes and almost 5,000 women and girls have benefited. The money has paid for a pop-up 12m by 6m pool at Broad Oak Sports College, a Later Life fitness scheme for residents aged 50 and over, staff salaries, and marketing.

The remaining budget will be used for new activities, programmes and community events, marketing and communications, and to pay staff contracts — some of which extend past this September.

The Bury Times understands Sport England and Bury Council are in talks to develop a “phase two” of the pilot, but currently no decision has been made.

A council spokesman said any remaining money would not have to be “given back” if it was not spent by the end of the pilot.

Cllr Rishi Shori, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “There has been an increase in the number of women doing 30 minutes of exercise a week to above the national average. We are delighted with the success so far.”

He added: “Money will be spent on exciting activities include chair-based exercise classes, cardio tennis, beginners’ Zumba, family and celebrity events, funding local groups, promoting IWIYW and reopening the pop-up shop in the Mill Gate Centre.”

To apply for a grant, call Liz Saunders on 0161 253 6357 or email e.saunders@bury.gov.uk

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