The Culture and Leisure Partnership Manager introduced the report for the Committee to review the responses to the public consultation on libraries and community centres and to review the proposed approach to supporting community centres in future, to secure a sustainable network of effective and efficient centres.
An eight week consultation was carried out between 4 August and 26 September 2014 to understand which libraries and community centres people used around Peterborough, when and how often they used them and what they used them for. In total 5,110 responses were received during the consultation period.
The Council also consulted with all parish councils and clerks, registered community and resident groups, voluntary sector partners such as the disability forum, Peterborough Citizens Advice Bureau and MP’s.
In addition the Council met with the management committees of community centres to gather information about what the centres were used for, how they were managed, which sections of the community used them and when they had activities available. In total 91% of the community centres participated in the fact finding exercise.
The Committee was asked to note and comment on the report.
Observations and questions were raised around the following areas:
· Members queried whether community centres were going to close. The Culture and Leisure Partnership Manager responded that the Council was looking to retain the majority of sustainable community centres.
· Members suggested that a forum was created where community centres shared best practice and that the Council offered businesses a plan for best practice.
· The Culture and Leisure Partnership Manager advised Members that comprehensive details for each building were required before any decisions on the community centres were made. The key principal was to discover if the building was fit for purpose, this work would not be complete until 2015. Most community centres had been visited to gain ideas on how the Council could support them. Closure of the buildings was not the Council’s main priority.
· Members commented that they felt uncomfortable with the words ‘fit for purpose’. Members were reassured that the Council was keen to ensure that consultations and evaluations were carried out properly and sensitively. This was reflected by the amount of time allocated to these consultations. It was very important to be completely transparent with the community groups.
· Members queried at what point was the Council going to engage with community centre representatives. Members were informed that the community centre representatives had already been sent the consultation results and presentations had been delivered to them, including the options.
· The Cabinet member for City Centre Management, Culture and Tourism advised the committee to pass on her details to anyone who had any queries with reference to community centres.
· Members queried whether the Central Library was going to be relocated. The Strategic Partnerships Manager responded that there were currently no plans to relocate the Central Library.
· Members queried how savings were going to be made. The Culture and Leisure Partnership Manager responded that this had not yet been decided. The Council were going to work with Vivacity to look at a number of different models.
· Members queried if there were any proposals to have further consultation. Members were informed that any models would have to go out to a second consultation.
· Members were concerned that there would be no time for the Committee to look at the final document, if it was going to be taken to Cabinet in January. Members were advised that it would only be the proposals which would be presented to Cabinet in January, therefore, this would leave time for the Committee to scrutinise the final document.
· Members queried whether the proposals would be part of the phase two budget proposals. Members were informed that the consultation would sit slightly outside of the budget proposals.
· Members referred to page 71 of the report and queried how small voluntary organisations could possibly manage to maintain the building costs. Members were advised that organisations were already managing to achieve this by sustaining the insurances and maintenance of the buildings..
· Members queried how many community centres out of 53 were running themselves. Members were advised that the Council only paid leases for 5 out of 33 community centres.
· Members queried how community centres ran themselves. Members were informed that the majority of community centres were ran as a business to generate money from holding events and renting halls and rooms for meetings. The Assistant director added that community centres could be further supported by moving some statutory services in to them to provide a rental income, or by using the Trust model which was referred to on page 20, 6.4, of the report.
· Members queried how many community centres had been transferred under the Community Asset Transfer Programme. Members were advised that there had been a Cabinet Member Decision Notice for the transfer of play centres but not community centres.
· Members requested reassurance that the process would be as simple as possible for voluntary organisations. The Cabinet Member for City Centre Management, Culture and Leisure responded that the Council could not put all the work on to the voluntary organisations, the Council needed to work in partnership with them.
The Committee agreed for the Strategic Client Manager to check the consultation timescale against January and March’s meetings.