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Apologies For Absence
To receive apologies for absence from the meeting.
Confirmation of the Minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday 7 December.
Chair reviewed the minutes with members page by page.
It was proposed by Councillor Langford, seconded by Councillor Pennington and
That the minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday 7 December 2023 be agreed as a correct record.
(Vote: For 8, Abstentions 2)
15 minute period for public contributions. The deadline for registering to speak is by 5pm on Monday 30 January 2023.
To review the action list with members.
The action list was reviewed by members.
Declaration Of Interests
Members with interests should refer to the agenda item and describe the nature of their interest when the item is considered.
Members were reminded that declarations of interest should be made as and when the specific agenda item to which they related was under discussion.
Agreement Of Agenda Items Part I and II
Urgent Matters Brought Forward With the Permission Of The Chair
Chair requested that future meetings of the External Overview and Scrutiny Committee be held at 6pm. Members were in agreement.
To receive an update from the Active Torridge Head of Leisure Operations, M Wright.
Chair introduced Matt Wright Head of Leisure Operations at Active Torridge.
The Head of Leisure Operations (HOLO) then provided members with a detailed presentation on the progress of Active Torridge and the three leisure facilities – Torridge, Torrington and Holsworthy.
A summary was provided detailing achievements since taking over the contract from the outgoing operator. The impact of recent refurbishment and repair works were highlighted, along with work to support the TUPE of staff over to Active Torridge.
Some background was provided regarding the challenges that were faced and improvements that had since been put in place. The increase in membership take up, as well as swimming lessons were highlighted as some of the key achievements in the last 12 months.
The HOLO then went on to provide a detailed account of future plans for Active Torridge, along side the recognised risks for the company – Energy costs, aging building infrastructure and managing the capacity at the 3 sites were all noted.
Members were asked for their questions
Following a question in relation to work with groups and clubs in the community the HOLO arranged to contact Active Walk.
Members asked if contingency was in place for the aging buildings and complex pool system. The HOLO confirmed this was in place and went on to explain that, while servicing and management of some fixtures and fittings was managed by Active Torridge, the TDC Property Team were responsible for ‘major plant’ works and Active Torridge met with the team regularly – both informally and formally – to ensure that all obligations are being met.
Following a request for more detail in relation to profitability and viability it was explained that this wasn’t something that could be shared in an open meeting due to commercial sensitivities, but the HOLO confirmed how this was tracked and reported to Board on a regular basis.
Members queried if the viability of the centres was monitored individually. It was confirmed that the accounts are monitored separately for the three sites and then reviewed as an overall picture for Active Torridge. It was further explained that, due to Active Torridge being within the affordable costs it was being monitored as an overall business and this would be consistent with the approach within the leisure sector.
The Head of Legal and Governance (& Monitoring Officer) added that Torridge District Council (TDC) set the service specification and budget for Active Torridge and within this it was asked that all three site remain open and what services to run on behalf of the Council.
Following a further question regarding viability and the cost and cross subsidy of the three sites the Head of Legal and Governance (& Monitoring Officer) responded. It was explained that Full Council had agreed the scope of the budget and the service specification for Active Torridge. The service specification detailed what Active Torridge were expected to provide TDC for the money – this was all being achieved within the budget and all those required services were ... view the full minutes text for item 182.
To receive an update on the Play Strategy from the Community Project Officer, A Avery.
Chair welcomed Adrian Avery (Community Project Officer) who introduced himself and explained the purpose of his report was to update members in relation to the Play Area Strategy.
The Community Project Officer referred members to the papers supplied at the meeting, which provided a comparison on ratings from May 2021 and February 2023.
An overview of the work that has been taking place was provided for members. It was noted that there had been significant improvements in the previous 12-18 months, but the target to reach all play areas rated as good was still to be achieved. Two further play areas have moved to a good rating since December.
The number of departments involved in progressing the improvements within TDC was noted, especially the work of the Estates Team.
The inspections process was explained for members and it was confirmed that the introduction of more independent inspections was being planned.
The work of the Grounds Maintenance team was also highlighted, along with the use of a new portal for reporting issues at play areas.
It was confirmed that there was still an ambition to reduce the stock, but the challenges of this were recognised.
The planned work at Victoria Park was mentioned along with plans to work towards Green Flag status.
Members were asked for their questions.
Following a question in relation to Green Flag status, it was confirmed that none of the parks in the area currently have this status. The Community Project Officer highlighted some of the potential sites that were being explored.
Members noted that, given initial concerns regarding the set budget, they were please to see improvements and that the budget is working well.
Clarity was sought regarding the funding regarding Short Close play area and Chestnut Drive. The Community Project Officer explained the funding allocation and how it was being proposed to use this. It was confirmed that the communities using the areas had also been consulted and they had engaged and supplied their ideas on how to use the sites.
Members noted the lack of movement on Victoria Park, the delays in hearing back on funding bids was highlighted and the Community Project Officer recognised this frustration and was awaiting the outcome of the Rural Prosperity Fund bid.
Following discussions regarding the rating of Westward Ho! Green site it was agreed that the Community Project Officer would meet with Councillor Hodson and Councillor Laws on site to discuss concerns.
Concerns were raised by members in relation to the inspections process being completed internally.
There was a query in relation to the budgets being used for maintenance rather than improvements. The Community Project Officer recognised that they were still dealing with the legacy of work that hadn’t been completed in the past. The aim of the strategy was to first deal with maintenance issues, before starting on improvements and bringing sites up to a better standard.
The skate park was also noted and a rating of excellent was explained as relating to the play element ... view the full minutes text for item 183.
To review the Forward Plan.
Members reviewed the Forward Plan and the following additions were agreed:
· North Devon Plus to be added to the Forward Plan for 2023-24 meeting cycle.