Mayor and Paralympian hero join forces to boost physical activity in the West Midlands

Huw Edwards of ukactive, left, Andy Street, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Simon Hall, Cllr Bob Sleigh, and Mark Fosbrook.

Improving health, happiness and wellbeing in communities across the West Midlands are the targets of an agreement between the region’s mayor Andy Street and Paralympian legend Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

A partnership has been struck between the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and ukactive, the body representing the UK fitness industry and which is chaired by Tanni Grey-Thompson.

It was agreed in principle at a meeting in Birmingham and will be announced officially at ukactive’s national summit on September 12 by WMCA deputy mayor Cllr Bob Sleigh.The Mayor also voiced his support for National Fitness Day, which takes place on September 26 and encourages people to celebrate the benefits of fitness. He said:

“This is an important milestone in our ambitions to make the West Midlands a healthier, happier place for all, and I am extremely excited about working with ukactive to mobilise its membership base to help us reach our goals.

“We had lots to discuss with ukactive and there are some fantastic opportunities ahead – particularly exploring the benefits that wellness hubs can bring to the region as part of our regeneration plans.

“People in the West Midlands have so much passion for physical activity and that’s something we can’t wait to celebrate as part of National Fitness Day 2018.”

Tanni Grey-Thompson is one of the UK’s most successful Paralympian wheelchair racers. In a career spanning five Paralympics she won a total of 16 medals, including 11 golds. She has also held 30 world records and won the London Marathon six times. Now a crossbench peer, she said:

“It is clear from my meeting with the Mayor that the West Midlands is committed to improving the health of its residents by building the foundations to get more people, more active, more often.

“ukactive research shows that community leisure contributes at least £3.3bn in social value, but that figure represents just a snapshot of its potential.

“I want physical activity providers to become a key partner of local authorities and the appetite we have seen today from the Mayor and his team prove we are moving in the right direction.”

The meeting, at Birmingham City University on Wednesday June 27, was also attended by Cllr Sleigh, WMCA physical activity policy and delivery lead Simon Hall, Mark Fosbrook of the Activity Alliance which promotes sport for the disabled, and ukactive Director of Public Affairs and Communications Huw Edwards.

The partnership will see ukactive and its members support the Mayor’s ambitions in several areas, including Workout from Work, with ukactive set to endorse the Thrive at Work campaign in the West Midlands.

The Mayor said he was keen for it to also explore how local services could integrate with leisure centres and gyms and support regeneration work that formed part of the WMCA’s housing plan.

The group also discussed the disability agenda and improving accessibility ahead of the 2020 Commonwealth Games, including forging closer ties with the Department of Work and Pensions’ Disability Sector Champions Group.

They also discussed plans to work together to deliver mental health first aid training for up to 5,000 staff working in the physical activity sector.


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