Members were advised that in 2009/10 there had been an over spend of £237k in relation to the provision of Leisure Services. However following eleven staffing and expenditure reviews in the ensuing two years, the staffing structures and the budget had stabilised and the budget was now in surplus to the budget set. Officers were now working on measures to increase income and cut the subsidy and the Corporate Management Team (CMT) were currently considering the future direction of sport and leisure.
The Panel was advised that the private sector tended to focus on the provision of a narrow range of profitable activities such as gyms, fitness sessions and commercial football and the provision of specialist clubs e.g. squash. It was highlighted that the Council also provided these activities, which subsidised athletics, public swimming sessions, swimming lessons, sports courts, health referral programmes, junior sports, and sporting and leisure activities for the disabled and elderly community.
The Councils 4 fitness gyms currently provided an income to the Council of £681k per annum. The revenue budget cost to operate the gyms was currently £285k excluding the costs associated with running the building such as electricity costs, business rates and maintenance.
The strategy of the Sports and Leisure Service was to increase participation in sport and active leisure, improve public health through partnership working with other Council services and the voluntary sector. It was noted that 70% of gym season ticket holders qualified for reduced price concessions.
Members were advised that the Sports and Leisure Service was currently offering memberships at the Council gyms at reduced prices comparable with the concessionary rate and as a consequence there had been a 37% increase in gym membership in January, which equated to £84,000 income for the month of January. Another aim of attracting more people to use the Councils leisure services was to encourage aspiration and excellence and reduce anti social behaviour.
A Voiceover survey carried out in 2011 had highlighted that 25% of local residents regularly used the Councils sport and leisure facilities and over 1.2m visits to these facilities was projected for the year 2012/13.
The Panel was advised that the Sport and Leisure Service offer currently consisted of venues such as the Rainbow, Neptune and Southland Leisure Centres, Clairville Stadium and the Municipal Golf Centre. In addition to the above, the Council also facilitated various other sport and leisure activities at the parks service, e.g. cycle track, skateboard park and sports pitches. It was highlighted that the Parks service shared managers and administrative staff with the Sport and Leisure service to help reduce costs.
The Parks Service currently managed Prissick Base which included the new 1km cycle circuit and skateboard plaza, along with Hemlington Recreation Centre, which included a gym and outdoor sports activities. The Parks Service also managed grassed sports pitches located at various sites throughout the town. There was also various leisure activities located at Albert Park which included bowling, boats and a roller skating rink. Sports Development Officers also delivered various outdoor activities as part of the Active Parks and Leisure offer.
A breakdown of the Councils current leisure provision by venue, activity and projected use was outlined at paragraph 8 of the report. Members were advised that the Council had introduced a Leisure Management IT and turnstile type system ,which enabled the number of service users to be captured more effectively.
It was highlighted that Mill Hill Playing Fields, Thorntree Park Pavilion and playing fields and Pallister Park Pavilion (now occupied by Southlands Judo Club) had recently been transferred to the voluntary sector. The Neptune currently managed the outdoor facilities including sports courts, pitches and bowling greens at Pallister Park.
Members were advised that the Council had commissioned a feasibility study from KKP, a specialist sports consultant to look at the possibility of building an iconic sports village at the Prissick base. An access road to the hospital was due to be constructed on the Prissick site.
KKP had reached an initial view that a sports village could be self financing with the inclusion of the following activities; a large commercial football offer with artificial pitches, an athletics track and indoor athletics facility, an outdoor velodrome and related cycling facility, (British Cycling has invited the Council to apply for a grant for 50% of the overall costs of the velodrome), a tennis facility, an indoor sports hall, a gym and fitness centre and bar and catering facilities. These new facilities would be in addition to the current offer, which included grass pitches for cricket and football, a closed loop cycling circuit and skateboard plaza. The Trust Model was recommended by KKP.
It was proposed that athletic facilities at Clairville Stadium would be relocated to the Sports Village and it is proposed that there would also be a significant tennis offer. Discussions were underway. KKP report that the projected costs of building the Sports Village were in the region of £19m and this was being examined although no decision has been reached by officers on the draft KKP report yet.
Officers were also considering expanding other gyms to generate income. It was envisaged that the proposed gym for the Sports Village would be more than twice the size as the gym at the Rainbow Centre.
The Revenue Budget for Sport and Leisure Services for 2012/13 was broken down as follows-
Expenditure £4.37m (including the employment of 107 fte staff)
Net Budget (subsidy on the service) £1.64m
It was noted that whilst the Net Budget revenue subsidy was £1.64m, the current years subsidy was projected to produce a £100k surplus to the budget. There was a £100k in savings projected, which would reduce the subsidy. If the Council proceeded to operate the Sport and Leisure Service as a Trust it would benefit from significant tax savings but would be exposed to some risks. Members queried whether the £1.64 million subsidy was sustainable. It was confirmed that the subsidy was sustainable and that Officers would be looking to reduce the subsidy to £1.45 million the following year.
In addition to the Revenue Budget subsidy, there were also property costs which were not managed by the Sport and Leisure Service which amounted to £1.02m which resulted in a total budgeted subsidy of £2.66m plus central recharge allocations.
The national average in terms of subsidy per head per visit was £2.15 per head compared to the subsidy per head in Middlesbrough which equated to £2.22 per head. It was highlighted however that there was over 120 Leisure Trusts in the UK benefitting from tax savings, which were not available to Middlesbrough Council.
Members raised concerns regarding the current lack of football pitches in relation to the high demand from local football teams. The Panel was advised that a Playing Pitch Strategy had been commissioned in 2008 and the strategy had indicated that there was a marginal shortfall in the number of football pitches required. A new Playing Pitch Strategy was due to be completed in July 2013 and it was anticipated that it would indicate whether there was still a shortfall in football pitches. Members suggested that once the Playing Pitch Strategy was completed, that the finalised document be submitted to the Panel for consideration.
Officers were looking at relocating a pitch to Hemlington and possibly a new pitch to the Beechwood and Easterside Club. There was also the potential to include a new football pitch on the Mill Hill site and part of the terms of the asset transfer agreement would be that the site was available for use to the public.
Members commented that the football pitches should be available to the public because of the large numbers of football teams in the town without any facilities to play matches. It was suggested that the situation with regard to the shortfall in football pitches could form part of the Panels recommendations. It was also suggested that it would be beneficial for Members to be provided with a list of which group was responsible for which facility in terms of football pitches.
The Panel was advised that Officers would be looking at the financial projections in respect of the benefits and risks of setting up a Trust very carefully before reaching a view with regard to Trust status. It was highlighted that Sport and Leisure Services had been restructured over the past 3 years in such a way that it mirrored a Trust model and as such the service could be transferred to a Trust with minimal disruption if the decision was reached to work towards a Trust.
The anticipated financial savings achieved by taking on Trust status had been estimated at a VAT saving of £300k. The Business Rates savings could drop from £240k pa to £120k pa or less depending on the national review - the amount is not known at present. There would also be extra savings if a Trust employed staff directly which would realise a 10% saving on staff costs (pension contributions) based on other Trusts. If Council employees transferred to a Trust, those members of staff currently employed by the authority would transfer across on TUPE terms with the protection this brings.
A local Trust would select their own Chief Executive and have its own Management Board and elected Councillors could also be part of the Board.
Further work needed to be carried out with regard to the mix of facilities and the order in which the facilities were introduced to the Sport Village. It was acknowledged that everything was at an early stage and no decisions had yet been made. It was noted that the concept of the Sports Village was linked to the Council being able to complete certain land sales.
Members were advised that Officers from the Council had visited a number of Sports Trusts and Sports Villages including Guildford and Knowsley. The Trust at Guildford had experienced some problems. Knowsley had a sports village, which was not a Trust and the Council were projecting a £100k pa subsidy when Officers visited in Autumn 2012.
Members queried with regard to the financial and revenue implications of the transfer of capital assets to the voluntary sector. The Panel was advised that in the case of Thorntree Park Pavilion, the building had been transferred and the group that had taken it over were also responsible for the maintenance of the building at a saving to the Council of approximately £12k pa. The transfer of the Pallister Park Pavilion which was due to be a lease for 25 years had resulted in savings of £140k for the Council.
A Panel Member reported that the Park Rangers local football team had taken over the Mill Hill facility and they intended to build a new Pavilion with grant money they had secured. The new operator had also agreed to take over grass cutting at the facility.
It was noted that one of the major aims of transferring Council assets was to keep the facility going for members of the public and in doing so attract more users.
The Panel was advised that the officers needed to look at how the current venues complemented the plans for the Sports Village to determine if any changes to the current set up needed to be made although no decisions had been made in respect of this issue. KKP projected that £440k would be generated from commercial football and the closure of Clairville Stadium would be cost neutral. Members were advised that Officers intended to do further work in respect of the projected capital and revenue costs produced by KKP.
Members were advised that the Council had received positive feedback on the plans for a Sport Village from the Football Association, British Cycling and Sport England.
The report highlighted that Officers intended to look at the facilities available in the towns schools to see if their sporting assets could be made more available to the community. It was noted that the Councils Sports Development Officers visited schools to provide coaching.
A Member commented on the fact that a fence had been erected on the playing fields situated near the Devils Bridge/Sandy Flatts area and expressed concern at the impact this would have on the use of the facility. It was suggested that a site visit be arranged to the area.
1. The Senior Scrutiny Support Officer arranges through the chair, a site visit to the playing fields located at Devils Bridge / Sandy Flatts for those Members that expressed an interest in attending the site visit (Cllrs Junier, Lowes and McPartland).
2. That once the Playing Pitch Strategy was completed, the consultant be invited to the Panel to discuss the finalised document.
3. That the Senior Scrutiny Support Officer draft the terms of reference for the Panels investigation into the Scrutiny of the Councils Leisure Provision in Middlesbrough.