Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Wednesday 21 November 2012
10:30 a.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

P Purvis (In the Chair), J Hobson, Junier, Loughborough
Councillors Brunton and Thompson.
P Clarke, S Harker and J Duffield.
Apologies for absence:
Councillors Brady, Lowes, McIntyre, McPartland and J Sharrocks
Declarations of interest:

No Declarations of Interest were made at this point of the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

In the absence of the Chair and Vice Chair, Councillor P Purvis was proposed and seconded to chair the meeting.


The minutes of the meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel held on 31 October 2012 were taken as read and approved as a correct record.


The Panel was informed that the report on the Coroner's Service had been approved by the Overview and Scrutiny Board, subject to one amendment.  An additional recommendation had been added by the Board that the Ministry of Justice gave consideration to increasing the democratic accountability of the Coroner to the Local Authority.  The report would be submitted to the Executive on 4 December 2012.


The Scrutiny Support Officer presented a report to outline the purpose of the meeting which was to inform Members of the current position regarding the consideration of a Trust for leisure services in Middlesbrough.


The Executive Member for Public Health and Sport informed the Panel that the current budget position in Middlesbrough had led to consideration of a Trust for leisure services. The Health and Development Manager had been asked to research different Trust models.  The Executive Member was due to meet with the Mayor to consider the next steps.


The Health and Development Manager gave a PowerPoint presentation that focussed on three areas, including what sport and leisure services Middlesbrough had, budget issues, what the appropriate operating model could be, and where savings could be made and standards improved.


A survey completed in 2011 showed that 25% of Middlesbrough residents regularly used Council owned leisure centres and they welcomed over one million customers per year. Customers tended to be low-income users and 70% of gym users received concession prices. Private sector provision usually offered higher priced annual memberships. 


Details of the current Council provision were outlined and it was highlighted that Acklam Pool and the Ormesby Centre had closed and Mill Hill, Pallister Pavilion and Thorntree Pavilion sports sites had been asset transferred to local sports clubs.


According to National Indicator 8, about 20% of the population in Middlesbrough exercised three times a week for at least 30 minutes. This had increased from 17%.  The average across the country was 25%.


The Revenue Budget for the current year for the Sport and Leisure Service was £4.37 million expenditure and £2.73 million income, giving a net subsidy of £1.64 million. In addition building running costs, were met centrally and actual cost for 2011/2012 was £1.02 million. The current year’s subsidy was projected to produce a £70,000 surplus after corporate savings. In Middlesbrough the subsidy equated to £2.60 for every visit and the national average subsidy was £2.15.  This was due to fees in southern England and more affluent areas generally being higher and also Trusts having lower operating costs due to being able to retain the VAT.


There had been twelve staffing and expenditure reviews in the last three years and a robust management structure had been established with staffing costs reduced by over £1 million.


Development work was ongoing to cut the subsidy further and this included:

Increasing income through diversification, staff engagement and marketing.
Externalising services to cut costs, maximise tax savings, and achieve a more entrepreneurial approach; for example, a Trust model.
Increasing participation in sport and leisure.
Encouraging ambition and aspirational behaviour.
Linking to the Vision to make the town a better place, branding as a healthy town.


It was highlighted however, that further efficiencies were more difficult and that closures and eventual cessation of services were alternatives.


It was explained that a Trust was a non-profit making organisation (NPDO). A charitable Trust would be independent from the Council and the annual subsidy would be paid as a management fee. Buildings could be leased to the Trust for a fixed term. There were currently 120 leisure Trusts operating in the UK, 57% of which covered single local authority areas. It usually took about eighteen months to set up a Trust and there were significant tax benefits to be gained.


The Council could continue with the local authority run service or consider forming a Trust or consider other options. There were different types of Trust including a single authority Middlesbrough based Trust with a local management board, or a partnership with another Trust or the private sector. A Trust could be single purpose, for example for sport and leisure, or multi purpose, for example for leisure, cultural services, community centres and libraries.


Forming a Trust would require formal optional appraisal and the procurement of expertise on finance and legal issues. The scope and remit of a Trust would need to be defined with a strategy to manage risk in place.  Business rate savings could be made although it was anticipated that this would be reduced by a forthcoming Central Government review.  Savings could also potentially be made through a reduction in Central Support costs.


Details of the Sport England model for the acceptable facilities in a town such as Middlesbrough were detailed. Most facilities were adequate although another swimming pool and some additional cricket pitches would meet deficiencies.


A consultant had been engaged by the Council from KKP to undertake some exploratory work on the proposed Prissick Sports Village. Initial findings were that the Village should include a skate park, road cycling, BMX track, velodrome, multi-use indoor facilities including tennis, track and athletic events, a 100 station gym, outdoor pitches, a commercial centre incorporating a cafe and a pharmacy, and potentially a swimming pool. The Village would need to be financially viable in revenue terms and based on a Trust model. An additional 350,000 visits would be needed to raise £1 million revenue assuming some closures. The Village must be iconic and attractive and satisfy Sport England requirements in order to attract funding. Capital funding would be required to build the Village.


The next step for the Council was to decide whether or not the Trust model was the best way forward. It was estimated that buying-in expertise to manage the risks would cost around £80,000 and the whole process would take about 18 months.


AGREED that:


1. the information provided be received and noted.
2. arrangements would be made for a legal representative to attend the next meeting to discuss the possible risks of entering into a Trust as well the financial benefits.


 The Scrutiny Support Officer presented the draft final report on the Neighbourhood Watch. Panel Members gave consideration to the conclusions and recommendations.


Following the Panel's engagement regarding Police resource in Middlesbrough, the Panel looked at the issue of Neighbourhood Watch and how it contributed to tackling crime. In undertaking this scrutiny the Panel found that, in general, Neighbourhood Watch could make a substantial contribution to tackling local crime and also addressing the fear of crime. The Panel did find that the take up of membership in Middlesbrough was concerningly low and that there were substantial problems with Executive.


The recent appointment of the Problem Solving Co-ordinator was clearly a positive move in the right direction and already the membership was starting to increase. However, the Panel had identified a number of recommendations which it considered would contribution to improving the awareness and service that Neighbourhood Watch provided.


AGREED that:


1. the following recommendations be included in the Final Report: 

  • That the Police, Problem Solving Co-ordinator and Council meet to resolve the problems and tensions with the Executive which had caused the recent fragmentation.  That a structured and operational Executive be established with clear guidelines and that all local representatives were aware of the structure, meeting dates and processes.
  • While appreciating the problems associated with budget constraints but to demonstrate the commitment to Neighbourhood Watch, consideration be given to establishing the position of Problem Solving Co-ordinator as a full-time position in line with the neighbouring Authority. 
  • In recognition of the Police concern, that the Police, Problem Solving Co-ordinator and Council draft a strategy which focused on the improvement of marketing to contact the 130,000 residents of Middlesbrough for greater participation in Neighbourhood Watch. 
  • In respect of the "Campus Watch" initiative, that positive engagement be undertaken with the student population in, or indeed around the University of Teesside, to encourage involvement with Campus Watch.
  • Communication was considered a major factor for a good Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and therefore regular meetings, driven by the Executive should be established.  Meetings should be programmed,  notification sent to all local representatives and the Police and Problem Solving Co-ordinator should attend to update on detail.
  • A structured approach should be undertaken to spending the £16K funds secured for Neighbourhood Watch in Middlesbrough and that the expenditure and the assistance it provided to residents was marketed and conveyed to the residential areas of Middlesbrough.
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