5 May 2009

Future for Stratford Park leisure?

Last week I went to a Policy Panel one evening at Ebley Mill on Stratford Park - it was "to allow all Members the opportunity to assist the Cabinet in devising, formulating and implementing a policy on the Stratford Park Options Appraisal" - ie what is the future for Stratford Park?

Photos: Skateboarding near Stratford Park has improved significantly with the new park - middle pic is from a skateboarding friend in Australia who designed this park for his local town.

The Strategic Overview and Scrutiny Committee has already received two reports this year to consider the progress made on the Cultural Services Review (they should be on the Council website). There was also an information evening on 17 March 2009.

Anyhow the meeting last week looked at a number of issues like what criteria should we be considering for contracts for Startford Park? Astonishingly - or perhaps not - on the day the Council publishes their "Environmental Statement 2007-2008" in which they claim "Putting climate change at the heart of our policy making and operations" they release this discussion paper for the Options Appraisal for Stratford Park - it lists 10 criteria that make not even a mention of sustainability, energy efficiency or climate change?????!

I made the point and it was added as criteria point 11 and then we had much discussion about which were the most important points to consider - 'Sustainability' ranked in the top along with 'Service Levels' and 'Quality and Equality". The process was fairly meaningless as the criteria were so complex and not easy to simplify in the way asked - however it was about giving Officers and Cabinet member some thoughts on what was wanted. To some extent it achieved that.

There was also discussion about the range of options available for future service delivery and the possible advantages and disadvantages of each option. I strongly made the point that I thought it was wrong to be doing this appraisal in isolation from other leisure services like use of schools and other community facilities etc - and indeed the discussion about whether we should be involved in leisure services at all. Where is the vision or discussion about what we might want for the District?

Many points were made:

- what extent should SDC pay for leisure: some of the projections indicate going up from £300,000 plus to over a million?
- how does that compare with spending on fuel poverty/climate change etc? What are our priorities and responsibilities?
- some councillors asked whether we should be in the leisure business and if so what role?
- councillors also noted the huge benefits to community, health and more from such services: for me health/access/prescriptions are important aspects.
- costs of the well-run Dursley Pool (still managed by Council) and Stratford Park were compared - Dursley was more expensive in terms of subsidy but was maximising it's use more and didn't have facilities that would bring down the costs compared to Stratford Park. Comparing the two has only limited value. I did ask why we don't take Stratford Park back and have it managed by Dursley?

So should we see Stratford Park go to a company like the current one, or be taken back in house or should we cut the whole lot free - or should we be pushing for a more thorough appraisal about poss uses of the site? What about a conference centre? Other uses? I would welcome thoughts.

There was also information on Stratford Park grounds maintenance contract - and consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of having Grounds maintenance of Stratford Park as part of Leisure Management Contract or not - most councillors there seemed to agree it should be separate. This would allow for more local companies to bid and for them to focus on what they know best. I also made the point that some costs could be saved by turning to more sustainable flower beds - perennials and shrubs rather than annuals.

The next steps are soft market testing this month then some public engagement, Cabinet and Scrutiny in July, a September info evening and then Cabinet on 6th October to decide to procure Leisure Management Contract.

No comments: