The Lead Member Culture and Leisure, Councillor Rofique U. Ahmed, will attend to report on his portfolio.
(Time allocated – 45 minutes)
Ms Heather Bonfield, Interim Service Head Cultural Services gave a presentation outlining the elements comprising the portfolio of Councillor Rofique Ahmed, Lead Member Culture and Leisure, and detailing the key achievements and challenges/ priorities associated with it in the Municipal Year to date; this focused on the points set out below.
The Chair informed members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that a
paper containing the main points of the presentation had been Tabled, a copy of which would be interleaved with the minutes. Ms Bonfield also Tabled a Culture and Leisure 2009/10 “year book” which set out performance targets set at the request of the Lead Member and associated performance, a copy of which would be interleaved with the minutes.
· Clear strategic direction from the Lead Member, on taking service provision forward, had been essential given the range of activities in the portfolio area:
o Idea Store Strategy refreshed - with new Ideas Store Metro’s to provide more wide ranging services including unemployment and health support.
o Leisure Centre Strategy adopted in 2009 with consequent progress on future of Poplar Baths.
o Development of Public Arts, Local History and Archives Strategies for future consideration.
· Raising Service Standards, Quality and performance in an environment of financial constraint:
o Self assessment with Cultural Services Improvement Tool methodology and Peer review by LB Hackney undertaken to identify areas for improvement.
o Working with leisure contractor Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) to improve customer care and standards with action plan and robust performance monitoring in place. Consequent improvements at Mile End Leisure Centre.
o Award - Spa London at York Hall had just won spa of the year.
o Idea Store improved performance: Visitor numbers up from 1.6 million in 2005/06 to 2 million. Issues up from 877,000 in 2005/06 to approximately 1 million.
o Leisure centre improved usage - visits up to almost 2 million.
o Improved Survey Results reflecting customer satisfaction with value for money and the service provided. Idea Store at Whitechapel 91% and Canary Wharf 94% . Leisure Centre rating 45% of good/verygood/excellent above London average of 44%.
· Value for Money
Renegotiated redistribution of GLL leisure contract surpluses with ratio of 75% GLL 25% LBTH now revised to 25% GLL, 50% reinvested in service within Tower Hamlets by GLL and 25% for LBTH to direct to service development.
· Culture in the Community
o Baishakhi Mela – 2009 successfully delivered in house and large amount of sponsorship funding secured. Currently working in partnership with Community on 2010 event.
o Film Festival well attended
o Major Music Events Programme and Fireworks, focussed in Victoria Park, very popular. Robust noise management initiative for events had led to less complaints with more people attending.
o Cultural Olympiad held with a view to 2012 Olympic Games
o Community Festivals
o Profile of sport raised for 2012 Games with events eg at Mile End Park for: Paralympics and a talent day.
· Service Transformations
o Free Swimming: Government funded for 60+ and under 16 with the biggest increase in uptake for any London borough (13500 visits). Supplemented by LBTH initiatives “Free Swim Friday” and “Family Swim Saturday” (13000 visits). Successful outreach to young women through the Healthy Swim Programme and overall positive impact in supporting Tower Hamlets PCT targets to tackle local health issues heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
o Bancroft Local History Library and Archives progress: £225,000 LBTH funding allocated to DDA and health/ safety infrastructural works. Heritage Manager appointed to help secure funding and develop masterplan to include levering in external funding. Engagement of users in developing masterplan with new focus on engaging young people, outreach, digitisation and declutter. Clarity and partnership working on the housing of collections.
o Chrisp Street and Watney Market Idea Store changes encouraging family use- children’s area
o Client Advisory Boards comprising users with ward councillor chair and overarching Borough Advisory Board to drive forward service improvement at local centres of leisure provision.
• Development/Refresh/Implementation of a set of strategies: Idea Store Strategy, Leisure Strateg, Sports Strategy, Culture Strategy, Playing Pitch Strategy, Local History and Archives Strategy
• Baishakhi Mela – successful in house delivery 2010
• Community Festival Programme, Events in Parks, Live Site
• Cultural Olympiad, 2010 pre and in-Games arrangements and Olympic Legacy
• Mile End Leisure Centre Improvements - £1.5 million of expenditure
• Usage of LBTH share of Leisure Contract for service improvements: Poplar Baths, Mile End Park, Brady Centre and Kobi Nazrul.
• Implement Self-Service in all Ideas Stores and Libraries
Members of Overview and Scrutiny Committee then posed a series of detailed questions to which Ms Bonfield and Mr Steve Halsey, Corporate Director Communities, Localities and Culture, responded. The question and answer session was centred on the following points:
· Clarification/ assurance was sought and given, with reference to the implementation of the Idea Store Strategy in 2010/11, as to what could be envisaged in respect of:
o Closure or relocation of existing libraries; and in particular the location of the Idea Store at Crossharbour and the impact of this on Cubitt Town Library. Ms Bonfield responded that no library closures were envisaged (and the strategy focused on soft implementation: changing the way services were delivered to improve the offer eg longer opening hours, service additions such as unemployment and health support and shaping the Idea Store Metros to offer more than a library but less than a main IS but retaining the same core element. Watney Market was likely to be the priority for the first IS Metro given current under-provision in the area.
o Plans, including disposal, for Limehouse Library, currently empty and considered to be in a deteriorating condition. Mr Halsey responded that there were no plans to dispose, refurbish or bring back into use this building, and its future was a matter for the corporate Asset Management Board.
· Clarification/ assurance was sought and given, with reference to the implementation of the Public Art Strategy, as to future plans for the Henry Moore Sculpture. Ms Bonfield outlined the history of the sculpture, that it remained in Council ownership on free loan to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for public display, and there was no plan to change that.
· Clarification was sought and given regarding the planned improvements for the Brady Centre and whether funding was secured. Ms Bonfield referenced the Section 106 funding in place for the green roof and that this should lever in external funding for environmental sustainability.
· Noting the successful in-house delivery of the Baishakhi Mela in 2009, clarification was sought and given regarding the envisaged timeline for transfer of the organisation of the festival back to community control and process to advertise and select local residents wishing to become involved. Mr Halsey confirmed that a number of issues had delayed the transfer of the Mela to a community trust and the Council had determined, pending the establishment of a community trust in 2011, that it should deliver it in 2010. The Council had set aside some revenue funding for this in 2009 and unprecedented income had been generated. There would be a general invitation for potential board members for the new community trust.
· Clarification was sought and given regarding the future of the Brick Lane Arches scheme which had been managed by Cultural Services. Mr Halsey outlined the background to the withdrawl of the application for planning consent and plans for further consultation prior to resubmission of the application later in 2010. Also clarified that the Council was responsible for long term management of the arch and minoret.
· Clarification sought and given regarding complaints by paid up membership holders that they had had to queue for long periods due to the demand from those swimming for free. Ticketing system now working successfully. Councillor Rofique Ahmed, Lead Member Culture and Leisure, commented that he was happy to look into any complaints about the free swim experience.
· Concern was expressed, particularly with reference to the Whitechapel Sports Centre, that ward councillors were not aware of the establishment of the Client Advisory Boards. Accordingly it was requested that all councillors be notified in writing of the new initiative. Councillor Ahmed responded that the boards were a very recent development and any councillors wishing to participate would be able to do so. He undertook to find out and inform the Chair which Bethnal Green South Ward Councillor had chaired the first CAB relating to the Whitechapel Sports Centre.
· Clarification sought and given as to whether the Council’s Leisure Contract had been insufficiently client managed previously and only now service provision was being optimised through performance monitoring and management. Ms Bonfield responded that performance management had always been in place but a more robust framework had now been applied. Also the contract had only achieved a surplus in 2009/10 and related contractual aspects had consequently been renegotiated so Tower Hamlets saw more benefit from this.
· Clarification sought and given that the Council’s leisure contractor Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) paid its employees the London Living Wage.
· Clarification sought regarding whether excessive energy costs for GLL sites had been addressed. Ms Bonfield confirmed that these were absorbed within the contract and would not feed through into price rises for users.
The Chair thanked Ms Heather Bonfield and Councillor Rofique Ahmend for the detailed presentation, and subsequently Moved and it was:-
That the presentation be formally received and noted.