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Agenda item


To consider the Executive and Cabinet Member Decisions within the remit of the Committee, taken since the last meeting.


The Committee considered the Executive and Cabinet Member decisions, within its remit, taken since the last meeting of the Tourism, Economy and Communities Scrutiny Committee on 9 October 2019.


Members queried Executive Decision Ex27/2019 ‘Development of a Soft Play Centre and Café Facility at Blackpool Sports Centre’ and the decision to defer approval due to an increase in the lending rate of the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB). Councillor Maria Kirkland, Cabinet Member for Community Cohesion and Leisure, reported that the Council would be reviewing the business case for the development and monitoring the sport centre’s usage. The review would also involve consultation with groups who frequently used the sports centre to determine what impact the development could have upon them.


The Committee also queried how the raise in PWLB lending rates could have affected the development. Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources, responded that the Council was not reliant on PWLB funding for the development and that other sources of funding were available. Members noted however that if the development of the café and soft play centre had gone ahead then the rate change would have impacted upon it.


The Financial Performance Monitoring as at Month 4 2019/2020 was noted by Members and the progress on the 2020/2021 Budget queried. Mr Thompson replied that the next monitoring report would be considered by the Executive at its January 2020 meeting, and would provide an update on the Council’s financial position. He also explained that the provisional settlement for local government funding from central government had been as expected and that it was foreseen that a draft budget would be available for consultation before the end of January 2020.


Members discussed the Officer Non-Key Decision regarding the Purchase of the Houndshill Shopping Centre and the communication associated with it. The Committee expressed concern that the reason for the purchase had not been communicated well enough and the benefits were not clear to the public. Councillor Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader (Place and Tourism), responded that the timing of the announcement had been complicated by the pre-election period in the run up to the General Election in December 2019 and that the benefits could have been explained better. Mr Alan Cavill, Director of Communication and Regeneration, also stated that the purchase had been justified by the business case and would allow the Council greater control over the development of the town centre. He added that Council-ownership of the shopping centre meant that the town centre was now owned by partners who had a common vision for its future and would allow better links with the development of the central leisure quarter. Mr Cavill also reported that discussions for the extension of the shopping centre were ongoing and a potential operator of a proposed cinema had been identified.


The Committee further questioned if the £47m spent on the purchase of the shopping centre represented value for money and if the amount paid had represented its market value. Mr Cavill responded that the amount paid by the Council represented the rental value of the site, but noted that the value could vary dependent on the retail market. He added that it was predicted that the shopping centre would generate a 10% return for the Council and that an application to the Future High Street Fund had been made for additional funding to invest in the site.


The speed of the purchase was also questioned by Members. Mr Cavill replied that the purchase had followed the foreclosure of a loan taken out the shopping centre previous owners by their bank. The bank had subsequently sold the shopping centre to the Council. Purchase of the shopping centre had however been a long-term aim of the Council and discussions regarding a possible sale had been taking place since December 2017.


Members also discussed Cabinet Member Decision PH58/2019 ‘Public Transport Hub Traffic Enforcement Cameras’ and queried how the income from Penalty Charge Notices would be used and sought reassurance that adequate signage would be installed to warn members of the public of the changes. The Committee stressed that the enforcement should not be used as a form of income generation and that this could lead to a negative impact on visitors to Blackpool. Councillor Campbell responded that that the aim of the installation of enforcement cameras was not to generate income but to prevent the use of a zone reserved for buses by private vehicles. She also confirmed that clear and adequate signage would be installed and it was planned that the first cameras would be live from 31 March 2020. Mr Cavill added that the cameras would initially be installed in an area already reserved for buses and therefore there would be no change to existing car routes around Blackpool. He added that the cameras would be operated by the Council and any income would be reinvested in traffic enforcement. Members asked if any assessment of improper use by private vehicles of the zone had been undertaken. Mr Cavill confirmed that it had and that the data could be provided to the Committee.

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