(Agenda Item 6)
Councillor Timothy Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport was in attendance supported by his deputy Councillor Stephen Mann, Colm Lacey - Director of Development, Stephen Tate - Director of District Centres & Regeneration, Steve Iles - Director of Streets, Jane Doyle - Director of Universal People Services and Paula Murray - Creative Director Fairfield Halls.
A presentation focused on the key areas of his portfolio and highlighted the following: Libraries, Museum Heritage, Arts and Culture, Leisure Centres, Sport & Physical Activity, Parks & Open Spaces and Registrars and Bereavement.
Libraries - in terms of successes - 20% of residents actively used the service, an engagement exercise would be undertaken to help shape future delivery, the Upper Norwood Library Trust would now be co- funded and CIPFA had stated that the service had achieved excellent value for money. Priorities for the next 12 months would be to try new models of delivery, support wider community use & partnerships, explore achieving efficiencies, income generation and enhancing the book stock. In order to deliver these ambitions libraries would have to be taken to the heart of the Community, local needs would have to be tailored and the widest range of digital and online services would be necessary in order to offer and achieve best value for money.
Museum & Heritage - audiences had grown by 6% year on year and significant website visits had increased. Many HLF projects had been delivered and supported and the Museum of Croydon research room had been refitted. The museum of Croydon collections had also been launched. The priorities for the next 12 months were to secure accreditation for the archives service in 2017 and for the museum of Croydon to develop collections and services past' and present' in key areas such as Fairfield/Croydon's theatrical heritage and the Great War. Long term ambitions include Museum accreditation by 2018/19, the Museum of Croydon to be valued as a key cultural asset (locally and regionally) by 2020 and to deliver an engaging and popular exhibitions and events programme at the Clocktower and in the local community.
Arts & Culture - National Trust Edge City sell out tours had raised the profile for Croydon, a Youth Arts Festival had been established along with a Box Park Festival, a cultural partnership fund had been launched and there had been a Theatres Trust Peer Review. Priorities for the next 12 months were the Fairfield Halls procurement completion, the development of programmes for key venues and to support sectoral growth to bring in additional funding. Key ambitions were to grow further a lively cultural offer which would engage communities and support regeneration and to find a sustainable model for Fairfield Halls.
Leisure Centres - the Sports Community Development Programme had been a success resulting in a 20% increase in participation, there had been steady growth in swimming school, over 60's participation had increased with women, minority ethnic and disabled, a new rugby style fitness class had been launched for 16-24 year old females in partnership with the RFU and there had been more take up of free swimming for under 16's. Priorities for the next 12 months were an integrated leisure services model, a high quality consistent approach and to further develop the ambitious Leisure Agenda and offer. The overall intention was to deliver a robust leisure offer which would engage communities, increase health & wellbeing and achieve best value.
Sport & Physical Activity - successes had included the Walking for Health Team being shortlisted for a Team London Award, becoming para games champions at the London Youth Games, completion of an indoor facilities strategy and freesport and funding secured resulting in 300+ participants at Croydon Athletics Arena. Priorities for the next year were - Implementation of Live Well' (an integrated lifestyle service), development of an outdoor Facility strategy and completion of a Borough wide physical activity needs assessment. In order to deliver on these ambitions, health & wellbeing would need to be increased in deprived areas, there would also need to be a strategic approach to resources and funding and more opportunities for volunteering created.
Parks & Open Spaces - there had been a substantial increase in volunteer hours, success in shortlisting for various awards along with securing several green flag awards, support for friends of Grange Park and South Norwood to raise 100K and up to 1000 responses were received from Croydon Talk Parks. Priorities for the next 12 months were to disseminate the findings of a completed Talks Parks, a master plan for six key parks, delivery of a Borough wide outdoor gym investment programme and to work with Quadron to deliver a high performing service. Ultimate ambitions were to continue to develop the ambitious for parks agenda, increase health & wellbeing and ensure community stewardship.
Registrars & Bereavement - a 25% increase in income had been delivered in the last 12 months, there was now open access to the Town Hall in relation to wedding ceremonies, the bereavement service achieved a London award and cashless transactions were standing at 85%. Priorities were to generate a further 250K, secure additional burial land, deploy new IT systems and to look at a possible Council funeral service. In delivering these ambitions this would increase and improve the digital offer, establish the longer term delivery model and ensure that more vulnerable customers could be reached to access services by utilising registration data.
As well as his presentation Councillor Godfrey thanked officers for the recent significant upgrade in the Central Children's Library. He reported that they were hoping to achieve the purpose built arts gallery in the next 12 months and that £250,000 had been invested in libraries for the next two years. Support would continue to be given to London Mozart Players and the Warehouse Theatre. A new events policy would be submitted to Cabinet for approval to provide many opportunities and build communities. He stressed that It was vital for the replacement of New Addington and Purley Leisure Centres and for them to operate as co-locations. There would be an expansion of artificial grass pitches at Sports Centres in the Borough. Work on Park Hill and Ashburton park were well on track.
Councillor Sean Fitzsimons asked members for questions - Councillor Carole Bonner asked about data with regard to libraries and how it was collected. Jane Doyle said this had been obtained from contractors. Intelligence gathered had resulted in service improvements meeting local needs. Councillor Bonner asked about timescales for outdoor gymnasiums. Stephen Tate said that he had been talking to Ward Councillors about assisting with funding for this and that the next few months would give a better idea about locations.
Councillor Sean Fitzsimons asked about how much was spent each year on the book fund in comparison with other Boroughs and where it was hoped to get it to. In response Councillor Godfrey said that £275,000 would be spent on the book fund - but that he wanted it to be closer to £500,000. IT in libraries needed significant investment and improvement along with furniture. The largest proportion of young people in London were in Croydon so this area needed addressing as a matter of urgency. Councillor Godfrey in response to the Chair said that libraries in Croydon were not fit for purpose and that in the next 10-20 years libraries would need replacing.
Councillor Kathy Bee asked about where the greatest concentration of volunteers were. Jane Doyle in response said that there had been a significant increase with older volunteers of 60 upwards. Councillor Godfrey encouraged more communities to get involved in the running of their libraries along the lines of Upper Norwood library to assist with cost savings and for them to be able to still remain open. Libraries needed to become more outward reaching and be available at more varied times beyond 6pm to the community.
Councillor Sean Fitzsimons asked about the contractors Quadrant and Idverde' in terms of marks out of 10 and was told 3/10 for grass cutting and general contract 6/10. Steve Iles reported that he had written to them under the terms of the contract reminding them of their obligations. The Chair expressed concern about the lack of a more robust monitoring system around this contract and the inability of IT systems to work and talk to each other. Steve Iles confirmed that he had secured funding to assist with this and improve the IT relationship.
Councillor Godfrey suggested Scrutiny looking at IT systems as a future item around paperwork being computerised. Councillor Fitzsimons expressed concern about outdated parks' bylaws. Stephen Tate confirmed that all bylaws needed looking at as a matter of urgency and that they were doing so. In response to a question from Councillor Kathy Bee, Councillor Godfrey confirmed that cycling was a priority area under his portfolio area along with access to more green space areas including cemeteries. Councillor Joy Prince asked about how parks were contributing to the health agenda and was told that this was very much the case by Councillor Godfrey and how important it was for the health and wellbeing of the community. Councillor Bonner asked about allotments and whether there was a waiting list to gauge popularity. There should be more sites made available to take account of demand she said. Stephen Tate confirmed that there were 17 sites managed by the Council. In response to a question from Councillor Jan Buttinger, Councillor Goddard confirmed that he was taking steps to address obesity in young children maintaining a healthy lifestyle through an excellent physical activity team. Stephen Tate referred to a number of events taking place with young people and schools intended to develop a healthy lifestyle. Councillor Stephen Mann confirmed a number of activities such as cricket and cycling were being aimed at the less mobile members of the community which the Council is supporting. Councillor Fitzsimons asked about the decline in people playing cricket at many parks and open spaces. Councillor Mann confirmed that there was much good work going on at local clubs which had not been recognised. One of the biggest successes in cricket had been in the women's game but said that professional clubs could do more in this area.
Councillor Fitzsimons asked why bereavement services was part of his portfolio - in response Councillor Godfrey said it was a historical area which he had inherited.
Councillor Fitzsimons asked about a tourist information office being reinstalled and was told that this was a wider issue as to who would fund this. The Committee noted that the Ashburton park project was progressing well. Councillor Mann as Ward Councillor welcomed the progress made. Funding for this project was coming from the Council's capital budget.
Councillor Kathy Bee welcomed the increased culture programme. Councillor Godfrey stressed how important this was which included Boxpark', Fairfield Halls and quirky street art as part of a profile of cultural events.
Councillor Joy Prince asked for marks out of 10 for the current Leisure contractor Fusion. In addition she asked about bereavement services and the process involved. Councillor Godfrey said this was a complex area within a national service. Fusion received 5/10 where their contract is up for renewal next year but felt they were not ambitious enough but that they needed a contractor who connected more within the community. Councillor Fitzsimons asked about the involvement of scrutiny in the process of pre decision in terms of the letting of the leisure contract and others in general.
The Chair thanked the Cabinet Member and his officers for their detailed and extensive presentation.
The Committee RESOLVED to recommend to Cabinet that:
the Council's Bylaws relating to Parks and Open Spaces to be reviewed to ensure they remain relevant and enforceable
Council IT systems supporting services in parks and open spaces are improved to provide greater integration between the different performance management software systems and the council's resident reporting platforms
the Scrutiny & Overview Committee be invited to participate in pre-decision discussions on the re-commissioning of contracts relating to leisure services and grounds maintenance, specifically with regard to the outcomes to be delivered by new contracts.