The Committee considered the Communities Departmental Draft Business Plan 2020 – 2023 in relation to those services falling within its remit i.e. Housing Services and Leisure Services. It was noted that further work would be undertaken on the draft following comments and engagement with scrutiny, elected members and staff groups.
The following issues/questions were raised on the report:
· The Head of Leisure in response to a question on invest to save at the Council’s 5 leisure centres to reduce energy consumption, confirmed that energy costs for heating swimming pools was the biggest cost faced by the centres. To address those, each centre had been independently assessed by the carbon trust and discussions were on-going to see what additional improvement works could be undertaken to enhance previously introduced energy reduction measures. Those previous measures had included the installation of swimming pool covers at the 5 pools and also solar panels at Carmarthen Leisure Centre under the ‘invest to save’ scheme. However, with energy cost increases of £70k, further reduction measures were required to offset that increase.
The Head of Property reported that the Council was currently discussing technology investments with its energy consultants ‘Ameresco’ to achieve energy reductions at its properties, including swimming pools which could include solar panels and lighting improvements. It was anticipated those works would commence later in 2020.
· In response to a question on risk reference SS600018 relating to participant safety, especially around water areas, the Head of Leisure confirmed it covered the risks the Department had to take into consideration on the potential for people to drown and to maintain and review measures to minimise that risk. For example, whilst all of the council’s leisure centres had trained lifeguards on duty at all time, that provision was more difficult with marine and other water areas. For beaches managed by the authority at Pembrey/Cefn Sidan, the RNLI provided lifeguard cover during the summer months. The risk arising from water borne activities was recognised by the Department and was continually monitored.
· Reference was made to the cultural services element of the business plan relating to the Development of Y Stordy and the delivery of the museums transformation plan. An assurance was sought that no two museums would be closed simultaneously without alternatives being in place.
The Head of Leisure advised that in relation to Y Stordy, the building works had been completed and were currently in the 12 week drying out period to ensure conditions were appropriate to receive the stored archives. It was anticipated the building would open towards the end of spring 2020.
With regard to the museum transformation plan, every effort would be undertaken to ensure no facilities were closed simultaneously and it was important when facilities were closed the authority communicated that with the public directing them to suitable alternatives. However, it was equally important to avoid any delays to the works as that could result in increased costs and discussions would need to be undertaken with the council’s contractors on the timing of the works.
· Reference was made to the works undertaken and proposed for Pembrey Country Park making it one of the top three visitor attractions in Wales. The local ward members requested their appreciation to the Council for its investment in the park be recorded in the minutes.
· In response to a question on the works to be undertaken to the Burry Port Harbour Walls, it was reported that tender documents were due for return shortly with works expected to commence late spring 2020 with a 6 month completion timescale.
· With regard to a question on risk factor SS600019 on leisure (ongoing political and public support for service) the Head of Leisure advised that the service was largely non-statutory and accordingly was dependent upon political and public support. Should that support not continue, their future provision could be at risk. However, support was very strong at present
· Reference was made to the service priority for working with Town and Community Councils for leisure provision and to whether the Council made any financial contribution to those authorities.
The Head of Leisure advised that, wherever possible, the Council did draw down S106 money from planning developments for investment in local leisure facilities. Work was undertaken with those authorities to identify means of maximising their investments which linked in with the Asset Transfer Programme. There were also numerous examples of the council working in partnership with town and community councils and private sports clubs to develop leisure facilities.
· In response to a question on bringing private homes back into use, the Head of Homes and Safer Communities reported that the Valley Task Force had recently been extended to include parts of Carmarthenshire thereby enabling the Council to access additional resources to improve homes.
· With regard to the time taken to return void properties to the housing stock for re-letting, it was reported that averaged four weeks. In relation to the Council’s long term voids, whilst a fully funded programme had been introduced to return them to use, delays were being encountered in its implementation due to difficulties with contractor availability. However, of the 90 properties involved, 50 had been issued to contractors and were in the process of being refurbished and typically took up to 120 days to complete.
· With regard to a statement on the availability of temporary accommodation within the County, the Head of Homes and Safer Communities advised that a commissioning plan is being developed to provide smaller better dispersed accommodation and that would be submitted to a future meeting.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the Communities Departmental Draft Business Plan 2020 - 2023 be received.