This report will follow in an Additional Papers pack, once the report has been published for consideration of the Executive Committee.
The Vice-Chair welcomed to the meeting the Head of Planning, Regeneration and Leisure Services together with the Cultural Services and Parks Manager, the Development Services Manager and the Leisure and Culture Strategy Consultant who provided a detailed presentation on the Leisure and Culture Strategy. During the presentation Members’ attention was drawn to the following:
· At its meeting on 25th October 2022, the Executive Committee would be asked to endorse the Leisure and Culture Strategy 2022-2032 in its current format, as provided to the Overview and Scrutiny at Appendix A.
· The strategy comprised several different parts, including the main Leisure and Cultural Strategy and two other strategies which underpinned this document, including the Arts and Culture Strategy and the Parks and Open Spaces Strategy. Two further leisure strategies were due to be presented for the consideration of the Executive Committee in 2023 on the subjects of built facilities strategy and playing pitches strategy.
· As such the Leisure and Culture Strategy covered a wide range of topics including arts, heritage, physical activity and sport, events, parks, open space facilities, venues, sites and services.
· The Executive Committee was also asked to approve the implementation of a number of priority actions and recommendations across leisure and culture services, as described in Table 4 extract to the main report, to deliver the Leisure and Culture Strategy’s vision.
· Recommendations 27 to 39 for Built Sports Facilities were in development stage and would be reported for approval at a later date.
· In developing the Leisure and Culture Strategy, Officers and the consultants had identified a number of actions that could be taken within budget to enhance leisure and cultural service provision in the Borough. These actions were the subject of recommendations detailed in table 4 extract to the main report within the Leisure Strategy. Any actions that would require additional financial expenditure would need to be outlined in business cases and presented for Members’ consideration.
The Leisure and Culture Strategy Consultant summarised the status with regards to the different elements of provision. For country parks and open spaces, the priority remained investment into tree planting and children play areas so that more parks in the Borough could achieve the Green Flag Award.
It was noted that in general there was very little spare playing pitches capacity in the Borough. There was an overall undersupply of 11v11 football pitches, and a small undersupply of rugby union pitches. Meanwhile there was sufficient provision for hockey and a small surplus in cricket and bowls grounds. In addition, there was an undersupply of waterways and an undersupply of publicly available swimming facilities.
Overall, it was noted that in strategic terms the Council would need to move from being a direct supplier to an enabler of leisure and community services.
Following the presentation, Members made a number of observations and asked questions to which the following responses were provided:
· Some Members put on record their disappointment that papers for some items on the agenda were provided very late which did not allow sufficient time for Members to read the reports before the meeting.
· It was explained that recommendations 27 to 39 were not yet finalised and would be presented in 2023, but it was deemed important that Members were able to consider the overarching Leisure and Culture Strategy as soon as possible.
· It was clarified that the reason for the ambition that the voluntary sector should be doing more activities was to engage community groups and enable them to have greater say in organising local events as opposed to Council dictating terms from above.
· Officers indicated that voluntarily organisations would be signposted to funding opportunities, including the funding which had been received through Arts Council funding.
· Some Members were concerned that the intention behind undertaking a natural capital assessment of the value of the Borough’s parks and open spaces, as proposed in recommendation 4, was to sell parks and open spaces when their capital value rises. In response, Officers assured Members that the purpose of a natural value assessment was to make parks and open spaces better known at the local level and allow for implementation of solutions to bolster the value of parks and open spaces to users. Defining the value of parks and open spaces also enabled comparisons to be made on the relative strengths and shortcomings of the Borough’s open spaces as compared with other areas.
· Officers explained that recommendation 3 concerned managing land in a way that maximised biodiversity growth. This included such actions as leaving meadows to grow wild in some parts of the Borough (in land under Council control).
· Satisfaction was expressed by some Members that key performance indicators (KPIs) were being introduced for the Leisure and Culture Strategy and it was proposed that they be discussed at a meeting of Performance Scrutiny Working Group before they were finalised.
· Officers stated that currently it was envisaged that most of the funding for implementing the Leisure and Culture Strategy would come from external grant funds.
· On recommendation 10, it was explained that Section 106 under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended, allowed local authorities to seek contributions from developers towards the costs of purchasing community assets when new developments take place. The Council’s Leisure and Culture Strategy, because it defined targets for what community facilities were needed, improved the Council’s negotiation position with the developers with regards to obtaining Section 106 funds for things such as playground equipment and park benches.
· On recommendation 11, it was reported that and application for the Levelling Up Parks Fund had already been submitted to the Government, in line with the October 2022 deadline. It was explained that funding was allocated only for upgrading parks in the most deprived areas and Abbey ward had not met the criteria for this fund, whereas Winyates ward had.
· On recommendation 16 regarding developing a roadmap for the self-management of allotment sites, Members queried whether this meant the allotment committees would be given the opportunity to purchase allotment land from the Council. In response, it was noted that at this point a feasibility study was to be undertaken to consider the options for allotment management. There were also legal matters to consider around the scope within which allotment committees could operate so no decisions could be taken at this point.
· It was noted that, as the highways authority, Worcestershire County Council (WCC) was responsible for issuing traffic regulation orders, for example concerning the opening of new cycle routes in parks or open spaces.
· On recommendation 14, it was clarified that there might be cost implications to some active travel routes within parks and open spaces and if cost implications arise, these would need to be agreed by Members.
· Officers explained that the 8 Hills project was initiated by the National Trust to make Lickey Hills a regional park for the Worcestershire/West Midlands area. There was a contingency that the Council would need to contribute to the funding of this regional park through its Section 106 money, subject to the project coming to fruition.
· It was explained that the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (WLEP) had awarded the Council some funding in 2021 for the Heritage Corridor North Worcestershire. As Redditch had been classed as one of the top three areas in England in terms of untapped heritage sector potential, this was one of the strategic initiatives for the Council as stated in recommendation 41.
Following the debate, Councillor Baker-Price proposed that the Committee approve the recommendations as contained in the main report.
Councillor Khan then proposed the following amendment to the recommendation:
“Overview and Scrutiny to advise the Executive Committee on Social Prescribing as there is no mention in the strategy of the Council working with the NHS, CCG and Rubicon. Other Councils (e.g. Cannock Chase) have such arrangements where patients who have recently been discharged from hospital with e.g. Stroke/ Heart Conditions can greatly benefit from gentle exercise. I think this strategy has missed an opportunity and I ask executive to consider including such a strategy. The benefits are many to individuals and the costs are low to the NHS.”
The amended motion, as proposed by Councillor Khan, was debated and Officers advised that social prescribing was indirectly referenced through much of the Leisure and Culture Strategy. Some Members felt a separate social prescribing strategy would be extremely useful as an added reference for consideration before decisions were being made on the use of available facilities. In addition, those Members highlighted this issue deserved a standalone strategy as it had the potential to deliver a considerable health benefit to residents of Redditch.
After a detailed debate, the amended recommendation as proposed by Councillor Khan was put to the vote and was carried.
RECOMMENDED to the Executive:
that Overview and Scrutiny advise the Executive Committee on Social Prescribing as there is no mention in the strategy of the Council working with the NHS, CCG and Rubicon. Other Councils (e.g. Cannock Chase) have such arrangements where patients who have recently been discharged from hospital with e.g. Stroke/ Heart Conditions can greatly benefit from gentle exercise. I think this strategy has missed an opportunity and I ask executive to consider including such a strategy. The benefits are many to individuals and the costs are low to the NHS.