By way of introduction the Scrutiny Officer submitted a report to provide information in respect of the scheduled attendance of Members of the Executive at the Overview and Scrutiny Board (OSB). It was intended for Executive Members to provide updates on their respective work in terms of their aims, aspirations, objectives, priorities and any emerging issues.
The Chair welcomed the Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport.
The Executive Member explained that his portfolio was relatively new; culture having previously been included in the Economic Regeneration portfolio and leisure and sport development within the Environment portfolio. The Mayor had introduced the Culture, Leisure and Sport portfolio to enhance its importance and contribution to the economic prosperity of Middlesbrough as well as being key to education, attainment and community engagement. Some discussions had taken place with the Mayor regarding a stated vision for culture in Middlesbrough and the Executive Member agreed that there would be wider consultation on this.
In terms of culture, the portfolio included cultural services and provision of two museums, the theatre, town hall and MIMA. The cultural events programme included the facilitation of Christmas events, the Cleveland Show and the MELA. Within the current financial constraints the focus was on maintaining the current events programme. However, the Council was also keen to promote other events in the town wherever possible.
The re-development of the Town Hall was an £8 million investment which would see the opening up and refurbishment of the old carriageway, law courts and the crypt. A new cafe or restaurant and improved bars would also be developed with the aim of encouraging more people to visit the Town Hall. It was also envisaged that new learning and education spaces would be provided for community use.
Another forthcoming opportunity to showcase Middlesbrough on an international scale was the Tour De Yorkshire Race and associated events which were taking place from 29 April to 1 May 2016. A programme of promotional events had been arranged and the Council was keen to involve the community as much as possible. As well as the Council offering a range of sponsorship packages for businesses, Tees Valley Community Foundation had provided £10,000 funding in the form of ten grants to local schools and community groups. The Council had also been working with other organisations including Land Art and Welcome to Yorkshire. A procession would be held in the Town Centre on Sunday 1 May 2016 with a carnival theme. In addition to the main race, an amateur race would take place in the town, and the idea was to create a legacy of the Tour and repeat the amateur race annually.
The Executive Member had recently organised a working group comprising Ward Councillors, the Heritage Champion, Councillor Brunton and Officers, to consider the future use of the old Town Hall which was situated in Middlehaven. At the first meeting the group had discussed the minimum cost required to maintain this heritage building in its entirety. Consideration had also been given to erecting a hoarding to promote the building and invite community views on potential uses for the building.
Reference was made to the regeneration of Baker and Bedford Streets and the Councils desire to animate the town and change present culture of the night time economy. Middlesbrough was a University City and the student environment should be promoted. Two recent events highlighted by the Executive Member were 'Dont be Afraid of the Dark' and 'Creative Bloom'. A new map of cultural venues had also been produced. Middlesbrough was bidding to become the next City of Culture and had a rich and diverse cultural programme to promote as well as being part of the wider Tees Valley area.
Concern was raised that many of the events outlined by the Executive Member took place in the centre of Middlesbrough and other venues such as Stewarts Park, Albert Park and the Dorman Museum should be more involved. The Executive Member noted these comments and also explained that the Council was aiming to develop the provision of tourist information on a similar model to 'Welcome to Yorkshire'.
A request was made to reinstate the former 'Music Live' event which had been successful in the past. The Executive Member explained that this type of event had been discontinued after a charge had to be levied due to the economic climate. The Executive Member commented that whilst he would be keen to promote such an event it would rely on having the finances available to invest in it.
Libraries were also included in the Executive Members portfolio as well as within the portfolio of the Executive Member for Communities and Public Health. It was noted that the recent Corporate Peer Review had praised the Council for saving its libraries and developing Community Hubs. The T-Junction Poetry Festival and a number of reading festivals were included in the cultural programme.
A review of museum provision was currently underway and the Executive Member commented that Middlesbrough had two very good museums in different locations but that both were in need of a refresh. The Executive Member had been visiting other museums throughout the country to look at what they offered. A Member referred to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum and the Arts Council Grant of £0.5 million that had been awarded in 2015 for its re-development. The Executive Member confirmed that when the funding was awarded the Council was only given four months to spend it on the Museum. The Council since had the time limit on the funding extended until 2017 and that plans were in place for its use.
It was suggested that, as part of the Museums' review, consideration should be given to using the Old Town Hall as a Museum itself. The Executive Member commented that he would be keen to see an Ironopolis heritage exhibition housed there.
Another suggestion put forward was the use of secondary schools and academies as venues for cultural events as well as sport. It was noted that a great deal of investment had been made into schools and they had some fantastic venues. The Executive Member agreed to look into this possibility.
With regard to Leisure and Sport, Middlesbrough had several sports venues including the Neptune, Rainbow and Golf Centres and Sports Village. The Sports Village was the newest facility and included a high quality gym, a running track which was suitable for international competitions, and the north easts only outdoor velodrome. Several sports teams including Middlesbrough Futsal Club and a Basketball Team had made the Sports Village their base and schools from all over the region were also using the facilities. It was hoped that the Sports Village would become a hub for both amateur and professional cycling.
From April 2016 the Council had agreed an Alternative Delivery Model (ADM) and signed up to a 15 year lease with Sports Leisure Management (SLM) to manage Middlesbroughs sport and leisure facilities. The ADM would guarantee future investment in the facilities as well as jobs and apprenticeships. Discussions were ongoing with SLM regarding future investments and provision.
SLM offered a very good programme of sports development and their tag line was 'Everyone Active'. A Member highlighted that the facilities needed to be accessible to everyone and that cost might sometimes make this prohibitive, especially for families. The Executive Member confirmed that prices would be kept as low as possible and some concessions were available.
The Executive Member also clarified that the Council would maintain ownership of the facilities and the branding would retain a local identity and include the tag line 'Everyone Active - Middlesbrough Council with SLM'.
The Chair thanked the Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport for attending the meeting.
ORDERED that the information provided was received and noted.