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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 taken within its remit since the last meeting of the Tourism, Economy and Communities Scrutiny Committee on 16 June 2021.


Members discussed PH47/21 ‘National Bus Strategy’ and queried if the strategy would cover all service providers in Blackpool or if it would only focus on Blackpool Transport Services Limited (BTS) as the main provider. In response Councillor Neal Brookes, Cabinet Member for Enforcement, Public Safety, Highways and Transport, explained that the adoption of the strategy was a requirement from central government, in order to receive ongoing funding for bus services. He also confirmed that all bus service providers in Blackpool had been consulted as part of the preparation of the strategy, which was aimed at improving frequency, routes and the quality of bus travel. A further report detailing a local Bus Service Improvement Plan would also be submitted to the October 2021 meeting of the Executive.


The Committee expressed concern regarding the decision PH56/21 ‘Lease for Showtown Museum’. It was noted that the agreed lease would last thirty years and start at £250k a year with increases every five years. Members asked if the agreed rental amount could not have been better spent on building a Council owned property for the museum and queried what safeguards existed to prevent significant rental increases. Councillor Lynn Williams, Leader of the Council replied that the lease was important to ensure that the museum project was delivered in a timely manner and that costs would be controlled through the terms of the lease. Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources, added that the five-year increases would be linked to inflation and be within an agreed cap.


The cost benefit of the installation of new wind turbines at the Solaris Centre, as outlined in EX33/21 ‘Solaris Centre: Renewable Energy Project’, was discussed by members of the Committee, specifically the timescales envisioned for the Council to recoup the expenditure on the project. Councillor Jane Hugo, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, agreed to share the details of the project with the Committee following the meeting.


Members also noted EX38/21 ‘Community Renewal Fund’, highlighting the tight deadlines for submission, and asked what processes had been undertaken to ensure that the projects selected would be the most beneficial for Blackpool. Councillor Mark Smith, Cabinet Member for Business Enterprise and Job Creation outlined the application process that the Council had undertaken for projects for the fund. The bids submitted had been oversubscribed and had included a broad spectrum of schemes seeking funding. Therefore, the Council had selected a number of schemes for submission to the Fund, which had been chosen to ensure that they were balanced across various parts of Blackpool. The submission had been made on 18 June 2021 and the Council expected to hear which had been approved by the time of the Government’s autumn spending review announcement.


Regarding EX36/21 ‘Blackpool Street Lighting and Traffic Signals Private Finance Initiative’, Members queried if the new LED Luminaries could be used to ensure that public spaces were illuminated to assist in the prevention of crime and disorder. Councillor Hugo responded that the brightness of the new LEDs could be adjusted and consideration would be given to their placement to address disorder issues, but that this would be balanced with the need to reduce the environmental impact of street lighting, through reduced carbon emissions. It was also recognised that having clear dark times in residential spaces was of benefit to residents’ mental wellbeing.


The loss of trees was raised in connection with EX35/21 ‘Blackpool Tree Strategy 2021 to 2031’. Members highlighted that 3,000 trees had been lost and 600 whips had been recorded as missing, Councillor Hugo responded that an investigation had taken place and a response to the issue was being developed. She also clarified that at a previous meeting the cost of whips had incorrectly been stated as £45 each, when the actual cost was 45p. The Committee also queried the loss of trees that had died after planting in residential areas and asked if these would be replaced. Councillor Kath Benson, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, Aspirations and Community Assets, replied that they were unsure if this would be the case and agreed to confirm the Council’s position regarding the replacement of dead trees following the meeting.


Members also noted the disparity in cost for whips and the cost of trees planted in residential areas, 45p for a whip in comparison to £300 for a tree. Councillor Hugo agreed that this needed greater rationalisation and stated that the adoption of a Tree Strategy would assist in standardising tree costs.


Regarding EX42/21 ‘Replacement of the Core CCTV System’, Members queried how it would be ensured that once the wider CCTV network was replaced that cameras would be evenly distributed across Blackpool. Councillor Brookes explained that the wider network would be replaced following a review of the system, where the Police, emergency services, local communities and Councillors would be consulted. The final decision on the placement of cameras would also be subject to a risk assessment of proposed locations. He also confirmed that the Beach Patrol would be involved in the use of CCTV on the beach and promenade.


Members asked if the ongoing increase in material costs across the national economy would affect projects such as that agreed as part of EX43/21‘Investment in the Town Centre – Adelaide Street’. The Committee noted that increasing costs could mean that the cost of a project could become unaffordable for contractors. Councillor Williams explained that projects that had been agreed, had the costs confirmed in their contracts. If subsequently the costs rose for contractors, then conversations would take place with the Council to determine the projects’ viability.


The Committee also asked if any consideration had been given to the use of individuals with expertise in delivering projects in difficult economic circumstances, such as in the third world. Councillor Williams replied that this could be taken into consideration going forward.


In respect of PH69/21 ‘Design Codes’, the Committee queried why design codes had only been applied for Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone (BEZ) and not the town centre. Councillor Williams replied that the short timescales for applying for the national pilot scheme had meant that the scheme at the BEZ was the most appropriate location. As a pilot scheme it would also allow the Council to gain an understanding of how the new design codes could be implemented and the impact on planning policy. Following this it was expected that the scheme would be extended to other parts of Blackpool.


The Committee agreed:


1.         To receive further details of the Solaris Centre: Renewable Energy Project’ following the meeting.

2.         To receive confirmation of the Council’s position regarding the replacement of dead trees following the meeting

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