The report presented the Council’s finances over the 4 year period 2020/21 – 2023/24 and set out the context for the preparation of the 2020/21 budget which would be presented for approval by the Council in February 2020. All known factors had been taken into account but caution was expressed over a number of national issues:-
1. Fair Funding review – this had been going on for a number of years and was still pending;
2. Business Rates Retention reform – the Council already benefitted through its pooling arrangements with other authorities, but there were still major uncertainties;
3. New Homes Bonus – changes were still possible.
Significant local matters to take into account were:-
1. Substantial works to be undergone at Brough Park Leisure Centre, Leek as referred to in the question to the Portfolio Holder earlier in the meeting;
2. More general changes to take place in leisure provision within the Moorlands;
3. Climate Change – an Action Plan was to be developed;
4. Fees & Charges – proposals to be developed;
5. Reserves & Balances – review.
All the above matters were detailed in the Medium Term Financial Plan, which was appended to the report.
Members queried matters as follows (responses in brackets):-
· When was the refurbishment of the Smithfield Bus Station toilets to take place? Maintenance and cleaning of toilets was generally not done well enough. Could we use local people to ensure our assets are better protected? (The order for the refurbishment works was authorised the day before this meeting, so work was to start imminently. A trial was taking place with Biddulph Town Council to manage the toilets and Town Hall at Biddulph. Discussions were also ongoing with a parish council on similar lines. The arrangement with Derbyshire County Council was nearing an end. A report was due in the near future.)
· Provision of “Changing Places” within public toilets should be encouraged as this was a ‘draw’ for disabled visitors. (There was to be such a facility at Rudyard Lake, meeting the required specification.)
· Leisure improvements – how would we monitor this? How much would SMDC be putting in? The proposals appeared to be merely ‘titivation’. (The current Parkwood contract was for 5 years on a reduced fee to give time for full consideration. The report identified works as follows:-
Cheadle – replace the entire Leisure Centre
Leek – replace the Swimming Pool and refurbish the dry side
Biddulph – general investment was needed
The likely sum required for the works was £19m. Partnerships were being sought in the Health/Education/Private Sector/National Grant Funding fields. The existing Cheadle site could be used or an alternative location. Would we continue with a contract or would the centres be run by local Trusts?(Sports agencies looked upon Trusts far more favourably in terms of grant allocation). The HPBC contract was ending at the same time, so economies of scale could apply. It was clear at this early stage that external support (investment) was essential. Parkwood had to operate at a profit and were branding their Leisure Centres in a local way to increase the appeal.)
· The Victoria Business Park was now almost full (1 unit left). Where would other new businesses go? Should SMDC take ownership of the last unit in order to refer businesses to the ‘Mill Quarter’? (This information would be fed back to the SMDC Regeneration section.)
DECIDED – That the Medium Term Financial Plan as appended to the report be ENDORSED with the recommendation that it should proceed to Cabinet for APPROVAL.