Church Stretton Town Council Tuesday September 13th 2016
Agenda Item 9.1 : Report from the “At Risk Services” Working Group
The Group has continued to meet fortnightly, plus scheduled meetings with Chris Edwards (Shropshire Council Area Commissioner), Lee Chapman and Lisa Bedford.
Community Survey – there were 807 responses (a 30% response rate), which have been analysed by an independent consultant, whose report is available to this meeting.
A Resource Pack has been prepared by Shropshire Council in order to help interested parties to submit Expressions of Interest under the Localism Act’s ‘Community Right to Challenge’. If an EOI (Expression of Interest) satisfies the criteria outlined, this will trigger a wider procurement process, which will be open to other parties to apply. It is already clear that this process will not be completed before 2017 and any new provider will not therefore be taking over running the service much before the end of 2017.
Because of continuing confusion about the process to be followed, the Working Group has urged Shropshire Council to issue clarification. Lisa Bedford is drafting a time-line for this extended process, which, it is hoped, will also be available to this meeting. Shropshire Council is establishing a Technical Group to finalise the Resource Pack for the procurement process. The Working Group will be contributing its views to that Group on such matters as the social value and sustainability criteria, but the ultimate decision on the preferred provider for our local library service will rest with Shropshire Council.
In the interim, Shropshire Council may instigate a public consultation process on opening hours of the library. This consultation process has already taken place in respect of other libraries, but was deferred in respect of Church Stretton, owing to the Judicial Review.
Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool
Many of the questions arising from the Community Survey have related to the future capital and revenue cost estimates, provided by Teme Leisure. However, to date, the Working Group has only been able to obtain, via the MP, the budget figures for 2016/17. The most recent estimate of capital costs by Shropshire Council dates back to 2010. Some residents from surrounding Parishes have expressed an interest in making a financial contribution, but that would be on an individual basis, unless their Parish Councils reviewed their decision not to contribute.
However, the most challenging aspect relates to the ownership of the Swimming Pool, currently owned by Shropshire Council, with no immediate bidder to take it over. Ownership is key to being able to raise the substantial amount of capital in order to upgrade the pool. Shropshire Council is currently proposing to cut its management fee to Teme Leisure by 25% from April 2017, but this is being challenged by Teme Leisure.
The Working Group is planning to meet with both the Academy and St. Lawrence’s Primary School in order to explore options. The Group is also arranging to meet with the newly-formed “Stretton Pool Action” Group, whose aims are a) to raise money b) to encourage the Town Council to retain the Pool and c) to influence how it is run in future. The Working Group plans to meet with them prior to their first planned public meeting at the end of this month.
The Working Group has also responded to the public consultation on Shropshire Council’s draft Sport & Leisure Facilities Strategy, which closes on September 30th, with a view to implementation from September 2017. This Strategy proposes that all county funding of Leisure Centres and Swimming Pools should be targeted on the three “hub” towns of Shrewsbury, Oswestry and Ludlow and that, if smaller towns wish to retain any such services, they will have to fund them themselves. Accordingly, the Strategy proposes that all county funding of Church Stretton Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool should cease at the earliest opportunity.
If these proposals are implemented, it will make what is already a very inequitable rating system, as between larger and smaller towns, immeasurably worse. For that reason, the Group is seeking the views of other smaller towns, similarly affected, with a view to agreeing a common approach to Shropshire Council.
The full Consultation is included for your information at agenda item 9.1 c).
Because of the protracted process still to be completed in respect of both the Library and the Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool, it is already clear that Town Council will not know either outcome in advance of having to determine its precept for 2017/18 in January of next year.
Bob Welch 01/09/2016