The Portfolio Holder had considered a report which sought approval for the use of discretionary Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) funding for a community project at the South Moorlands Leisure Centre, Allen Street, Cheadle. The report determined the scope of the eligible works and the commensurate level of funding to be approved.
The decision made was: -That approval was granted for the use of DFG funding to the community project at South Moorlands Leisure Centre on the terms set out in the report.
Following this decision, call-in requests had been received from Councillors: -
C. Atkins, L. Swindlehurst, K. Hoptroff, M. Gledhill, N. Yates and B. Cawley.
The call-in request confirmed the following principles of decision making
which they believed had not been adhered to:
· taking due regard of all relevant considerations and disregarding irrelevant considerations;
· respect for human rights and equalities;
· a presumption in favour of openness; and
· clarity of aims and desired outcomes.
Councillors detailed their concerns below: -
1) Although we fully support the use of Discretionary Disabled Facilities Grants to provide much needed Changing Places Facilities within Staffordshire Moorlands, the lack of consultation, clear aims and openness over the plans for the development of Cheadle town centre raise doubts over whether it is appropriate to allocate such funding to South Moorlands Leisure Centre as its future is now uncertain.
2) The cost of providing the Changing Places Facility at over £29,000 needs to be properly scrutinised before such payments are sanctioned to demonstrate that this is ‘excellent value for money’ as stated.
3) If equalities are to be properly respected, all relevant sites within Staffordshire Moorlands should be assessed for the provision of such vital Changing Places Facilities to ensure their maximum use and accessibility. This requires a strategic assessment taking on board all relevant considerations rather than just accepting a single bid.
The Labour Group highly valued Changing Places facilities as they were hugely beneficial for those with profound disabilities, however they didn’t want the funding to be spent on short term initiatives due to the redevelopment of Cheadle town centre.
Members gave accounts of substandard works funded by disabled facility grants and residents that had not been able to receive the funding despite their disabilities. Some members were critical of the level of service provided by Millbrook Healthcare and felt that disabled facility grants were not promoted adequately in the area. The point was raised that around only half the budget had been spent which was a concern for some members and that there were 3 other Changing Places facilities in the area.
The Portfolio Holder explained that individual cases of poor quality works and customer service was a separate issue to the call-in of the decision. He confirmed that all applications made under this scheme had been funded and all applications received would be considered.
The redevelopment of the leisure offering in Cheadle was a long-term project and therefore, this grant funding would provide improved disability access to the leisure centre now.
The provision would benefit the wider community and visitors to the area. It would also encourage the use of the Leisure Centre and other nearby attractions. Lex Leisure had applied for this funding, with a costed solution and would contribute towards the works. This was a viable scheme and was one of several applied for across the Moorlands. In terms of value for money, the quoted costs were below the market average for facilities of this nature. The applicant would invest a contribution of £3,400.00 towards the project, and so the contribution sought from the Council was £25,750.00.
The adapted changing rooms would be used by Paddles Swimming Club and the centre would actively promote the facilities to other clubs and individuals in the area. Other members agreed that the facilities were needed in Cheadle and that the area required investment.
The Portfolio Holder confirmed that he had given careful consideration to the report before he had made his decision.
The matter was then put to a named vote as follows:-
In favour of the Call-in:
Councillors: Hoptroff, Swindlehurst, Taylor and Yates (4)
Against the Call-in:
Councillors: Aberley, Bentley, Heath, Herdman, Hughes, Johnson, Jones, Martin, Riley, Roberts, Shaw and Ward (12)
In accordance with the procedure for consideration of Call-ins at Overview & Scrutiny Panel meetings, the Panel decided not to refer back the decision to the relevant Portfolio Holder for reconsideration, the Portfolio Holder be asked to note or take account of concerns as he sees fit without holding up the implementation of the decision.