The Scrutiny Support Officer presented a report to provide the Panel with an outline of the purpose of the meeting which was to consider in detail the application process for external organisations wishing to hold a public event in the Town.
The Councils Events Team provided a wide range of information for people organising any type of event that the public would be attending, regardless of whether it was free entry or whether a fee would be charged. This information was also available on the Councils website. In addition to providing information, advice and support to external and internal event organisers, the Events Team supported cultural events, festivals and celebrations, delivered key Middlesbrough events, managed events processes and provided specialist technical assurance, particularly around large scale outdoor events. The aim of the event process was to assist organisers to consider the key issues that needed to be addressed when planning and delivering an event.
The Cultural Services Manager and Public Protection Operations Manager were in attendance at the meeting to provide further information.
Generally, event organisers would initially approach the Events Team for an informal discussion and complete a standard form depending on the nature of the event. Once the details were known, the Team would decide whether any information needed to be passed on to Licensing or Highways for example, and whether there were any elements of the event that might pose a public safety risk. If necessary, the details would be forwarded to the Safety Advisory Group for a decision as to whether or not the event could go ahead. The Safety Advisory Group (SAG) had no power to prevent an event, and was an independent body which provided observations to the event organiser and ultimately to the officer delegated by the Authority to allow/prohibit events on council land (currently the Director of Public Health (DPH)). The DPH could have regard to the remarks of the SAG when deciding whether or not to allow an event to take place.
The SAG was an independent scrutiny group and would be involved if it was a large event or an event which could pose potential public harm. Independent SAGs had been set up following the tragic Dream Space Event in 2006 in Chester-Le-Street. An inflatable art installation had lifted off the ground killing two people and injuring thirty people. Following a lengthy Inquiry both the Council and the owner had been found to be at fault as the risk assessments that had been completed for the Event were not sufficient. The Judge in the Inquiry had determined that when events were planned, an Independent SAG would provide an extra degree of assurance to whoever signed the event off. Middlesbrough had put a protocol in place to provide such assurance.
Depending on how experienced an organiser was, the Council would provide additional technical support as necessary via the Events Team to ensure that all risk assessments were rigorous. Whilst the Events Team was keen to assist organisers, decisions had to be taken at an early stage as to whether the resources were available to enable an event to go ahead. An example was given of the Middlesbrough Pride Event. A Community Steering Group was set up to organise the event however several people dropped out of the organising group and the Council stepped in and provided additional support to ensure the event went ahead.
When planning events, the Council stipulated that all documentation should be provided to the Safety Advisory Group twelve weeks prior to the Event. However this did not always happen and the Safety Advisory Group occasionally had to state that they had not had chance to consider all the information. Members of the Group also had substantive posts and sometimes capacity was an issue. Capacity had only been an issue to date when documentation had been submitted late. The procedure had been written to ensure that sufficient time was provided for the process to work when adhered to. The decision as to whether a Council event or event on Council land would go ahead or not was currently taken by the DPH. Whilst the Group was always aware of the Authority's wish to accommodate events as much as possible, the overriding priority was making sure events were safe for the public.
The Councils current policy was that the SAG only considered applications for events taking place on Council land or Council events. However, subsequent national guidance had discouraged SAGs from having a limited remit and encouraged them to consider all events.
Members were keen to gather further information in relation the operation of the SAG and it was suggested that arrangements could be made for Panel Members to attend a future meeting.
It was highlighted that Cultural Services had a limited amount of capacity, with 1.5 full time equivalent staff, and was currently under review. It was suggested that given the potential risk that stage events exposed the Authority to, the review needed to ensure that the two Events Officers benefited from experienced management support within the new structure. Concern was raised that currently there was no clear idea corporately about what type of events the Council wanted to be involved in, whilst taking into account the capacity and resources available. It was suggested that the Council needed a corporate events strategy.
AGREED as follows that:
1. The information provided was received and noted.
2. The Scrutiny Support Officer would arrange for Members of the Panel to attend a future meeting of the Safety Advisory Group when appropriate.