On June 30th, I attended the SKDC Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Comimttee (aka FEDetc), I asked the Deputy Leader for an update on the Working Groups on Leisure Centres established, in a confused manner, at two of the Council’s Committees. I was promised a written update and, 40 minutes before today’s FEDetc meeting I was sent the following which does not appear in the public agenda pack:
Written update from the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Growth and Leisure (Cllr Barry Dobson)
Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Committee – 28th July 2020
This written update is in response to the following minute and action from 30th June 2020:
A member [Cllr Ashley Baxter] questioned the membership of leisure centre working groups and asked for an update on the working groups or if they had been abandoned since the last meeting. He went on to ask if the list of recreation grounds assets requested at the February meeting could be circulated to other Councillors, as well as to Committee members.
A written response on the status of the leisure centre working groups to be provided
Response from Councillor Barry Dobson:
The proposed Member Working Group for Leisure was considered at FEDCO on the 4th February 2020. The minutes noted that:
As the Deputy Leader of the Council, I introduced an item relating to the review of the leisure provision across the district. I informed the Committee that visits to all of the leisure centres would be carried out and that the input of local Councillors would be welcomed when considering the options for the specific leisure sites.
A Member Working Group for Leisure was being formed to help shape and develop the overall leisure review process, to allow a small group of Members to track progress and feed back to the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committees as needed. Although the Terms of Reference stated that two Members of the Committee would be required, there were four members of the Committee who volunteered, and I agreed to amend the requirement to allow all four Members to join the Working Group. The Committee also suggested that it would be beneficial for a representative from the Finance Department be invited to join the group.
Whilst no timescale was given for its implementation, it was proposed that the group should remain in place until the new management option has been implemented in April 2022.
A further update was provided to Cabinet on the 16th June. The minutes note that:
A question was asked [by Cllr Baxter] about the leisure transformation programme and the Working Groups that had been nominated by the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) and the Culture and Visitor Economy OSC. These working groups had not met but I had spoken to Parish Councils on the subject. Investment Plans for the Leisure Centres was on the Forward Plan to report at the September Cabinet and the non-Cabinet Member [Cllr Baxter] wanted to know the scrutiny path for the issue and whether consultation would take place with Ward Members. The non-Cabinet Member [Cllr Baxter] also asked whether a joint OSC meeting would take place between the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services OSC and the Culture and Visitor Economy OSC.
I referred to my meeting at the end of January 2020 with Members for the Deepings area and the meeting I had also attended with Deeping St James Parish Council. Before the September meeting of the Cabinet a meeting would be arranged with the Chairman of the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services OSC to confirm a date for a joint meeting to discuss the leisure programme and the options available to the Council. The leisure programme would require significant investment and feedback from the joint OSC meeting would allow for the refinement of the report and future engagement and consultation with Members.
I further reported that I had visited all the leisure centres with Members from all groups [which is simply not true!] and the proposal was to upgrade, facilities in Bourne, Grantham and Stamford and build a new centre in the Deepings. Consultation had been carried out with an architect who had undertaken design for Sport England projects and I hoped to progress the issue as soon as possible.
The Leader of the Council stated that the leisure programme would be the largest expenditure that the Council would have and confirmed that engagement would take place with local Ward Members. There would be opportunity for Members to debate the issue at the joint OSC meeting, Cabinet and Council, which would make the final decision.
In February it was originally intended to set-up a Member Working Group for Leisure and that this working group would be responsible for providing advice and direction for the leisure improvement programme, together with monitoring progress and providing advocacy for the project. Since that time, Cabinet have established a Leisure Board to include the key Members of the Cabinet whose areas of responsibility are connected to the leisure improvement programme.
The Members of the Board and their respective portfolios are:
Cllr Kelham Cooke [Con] – Leader, and Cabinet Member for Property
Cllr Barry Dobson [Con]- Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Growth and Leisure
Cllr Adam Stokes [Con]- Cabinet Member for Finance
Cllr Rosemary Trollope-Bellew [Con] – Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy
In addition to this the Project Board, an officer working group, led by the Chief Executive, has been established to advise the board on relevant matters.
Significant steps have been made in respect of leisure since the last update to FEdCo:
- The feasibility work undertaken by MACE has been concluded and the Council received the draft report on the 17th February this year, the finalised report being received on the 17th March. Following receipt of the draft report it was apparent that additional feasibility work was required, and [an] Architect was commissioned on the 13th March to identify alternative schemes and provide the associated capital costs in relation to these. This work is ongoing.
- As a result of Covid-19 the Government closed all leisure facilities on the 21st March 2020. Since that time the Council have been assessing the impact of Covid-19 and a claim for financial support received from our leisure provider, 1Life.
- The Council were successful in securing grant funding from Sport England to provide expert consultancy support and as a result Sport and Leisure Consultancy Ltd (SLC) were appointed on the 1st May 2020.
- The first phase of SLC’s work was to assess the claim received by 1Life and provide advice in this regard. This work has been concluded and a financial support package for the period March 2020 to June 2020 was agreed at a meeting of the Cabinet on the 7th July and a subsequent meeting of Council on the 16th July.
- Since December 2019 the Council has been engaging with Lincolnshire County Council and Deeping St James Parish Council to secure a long lease of the Linchfield Road site in Deeping St James. This site has previously been announced as the preferred site for a new leisure centre development. Final [Final?] amendments to the draft heads of terms were circulated in July and discussions are ongoing.
The next key milestones are as follows:
- Report to Cabinet on further impact of Covid-19 – 18 August 2020
- Report to Cabinet on proposed land deal – 8 September 2020
Work is ongoing to identify appropriate schemes of improvements across the leisure facilities. When there are some clear options available the previously proposed Member Working Group will meet to assess these, and a joint OSC will be convened to ensure that the improvement plans have the appropriate level of scrutiny. In addition to this, consultation will take place with Ward Members (supplementing the Initial meetings and site visits which took place with Ward Members in January and February of this year) so that an informed report can be presented to Cabinet later this year.