The Committee will hear from the Cabinet Members for Communities and Public Health, Sports and Leisure, Culture and Regulatory Services, who will outline their priorities for the next 12 months.
Mr Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health
Mr Patrick Hogan, Cabinet Member for Culture
Mr Fred Wilson, Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services
Mr Clive Harriss, Cabinet Member for Sports and Leisure
Sarah Ashmead, Deputy Chief Executive
Richard Barker, Corporate Director Communities
Rebecca Carley, Community Safety Manager - Adults, Health & Housing Directorate
Emma Denley, Head of Local Support Hubs
Martin Dickman, Service Director Neighbourhood Services
Simon Garwood, Localism Manager
Sophie Payne, Service Director Culture, Sports and Leisure
Cabinet Member Priorities
The Cabinet Members outlined their priorities for the year as set out in the presentation attached to the agenda. During the meeting they made the following additional points :-
Cabinet Member for Sports and Leisure
The main priority was to get all sport facilities open but there are a number of issues to address to promote social distancing and the safety of customers and staff. Close contact sports such as rugby could not be played at present but other sports such as cricket are likely to return soon.
Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services
· Crematoria Service had built up resilience in case there was a second wave.
· Licensing – the high street, leisure services and hospitality were dependent on this service which needed to be fast and flexible to help open businesses so they could use open spaces or start up take away services. A piece of work was being undertaken on taxi licensing polices bringing disparate policies together for all areas. It was important this was undertaken sensitively with the impact on the industry from covid and helping them all back to business.
· Environmental health services – work needs to be carried out on harmonising policies in addition to air quality strategies and how environmental policies could best support these. Pest control charges would need to be harmonised as well.
Cabinet Member for Culture
The Cultural strategy was a top priority. In the Council budget one third of one percent of the operating expenditure had been allocated to this area and nothing in capital expenditure. The Strategy therefore had to leverage that very small resource by activity and influence and seeking help from external funding. When the Cultural Strategy was developed there were four objectives;
- A thriving economy and more high-quality jobs
- Equality of access to cultural activities and opportunities
- Improved health and wellbeing of the population
- Re-vitalised heritage and transformed places.
An embryonic partnership was set up by the Council which will help to deliver the strategy. In November two co-chairs were appointed to the partnership and the Rothschild Foundation also one of the partners, has provided funding for an outreach worker. The Partnership Board held a meeting on 18 May and the agenda looked at how the Cultural Strategy could be taken forward.
Three important areas of the Strategy are:-
· Identifying cultural assets and increasing the accessibility to those
· Embracing heritage and arts through communication and promotional events
· Valuing the beneficial and economic contribution of culture in our environment
The first of these areas is already underway with an exercise being undertaken by the cultural partnership which can foster accessibility and promotion. Culture is key to council business and touches many portfolios including communities, leisure, libraries, town centres, planning, environment.
The Community Boards will have a large role to play in bringing local cultural activity to the fore, supporting its infrastructure and offering funding. A toolkit is being developed for Community Boards. The existing heritage policy will also need reviewing. The beneficial cultural and social use of properties, visitor and tourism development will help improve physical and mental wellbeing, education, youth and adult services. The challenge this year is to ensure that the Strategy establishes a firm footing in the Council to move forward with the cultural partnership
Museums and Archive Accommodation – accessibility is a key factor in the use of public resources. Bucks County Museum and Wycombe Museum are looking at reopening their popular outdoor garden space whilst engaging people with online activities. Funding is currently being sought to cover virtual tours. Long term, the Council can start to review its inherited properties and the one public estate initiative to improve access for residents and enhance town centre revitalisation and potential for storing collections.
The Centre for Bucks Studies (archives) remains closed but is providing a digital service. Moves are underway to review accommodation, as well as recruitment for a new county archivist.
Theatres have been impacted by loss of income through Covid-19; Wycombe Swan and Waterside in Aylesbury are run by different commercial theatre groups. There are no plans to reopen currently but even with social distancing it would made events uneconomical. Theatres have been provided with some pandemic funding and also receive some subsidies as part of agreements. Theatre groups are part of a national debate with the government and the Council will be working with theatres in gaining support for external funding to ensure their survival through to more viable times.
Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health
· Setting up of the Strategic Partnership Group
· Town and Parish Charter – improving communications
· Creation of a voluntary and community strategy – doing something different with VCS partners to harness their enthusiasm that has been sown through the pandemic
· Localities is a brand new area for the Council and Teams need to redefine their roles to add value; it should not be legacy work.
· Community boards are a big initiative and investment for the Council and all the Chairman are very enthusiastic about their roles. Sub groups may be set up for local initiatives.
· Devolution– pilots would need to be undertaken with a good geographic spread.
· Prevention – further development work on street associations and partnership work on community safety work with the police. Other areas include work with the Health and Wellbeing Board and the stepping down of hubs
· Review of grants
· Recovery Plans relating to covid
A Councillor, Simon Cole, who was not a Member of this Committee attended the meeting to ask a question :-
Please could you include anti-discrimination as a key priority this year? A strategy to achieve this should in my own view include: 1) equality and diversity training for council members, 2) elucidation over what “institutional discrimination” is and how it can be managed, 3) identification of community groups who are granted protected status, and 4) how we might strive to protect “protected groups” and maintain their right to equality.
The Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health responded that:-
1. There would be training for Members. As Buckinghamshire had only become a new Council recently, Member Induction Training was being undertaken in phases so that members were not deluged with too much information in one go. Also with the pandemic the Council had to move quickly to offer this online. This was a very important part of the Induction Programme as councillors act as ambassadors for their communities. Further work would be undertaken on the new council approach to community cohesion integration and building on the work of the legacy councils and good practice.
2. The Councillor was raising an important issue, particularly in view of recent international events. There was a zero tolerance policy in the Council. The equalities policy was agreed as part of the Shadow Authority in March. The framework also includes the requirement to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment on service proposals. For example an EIA was undertaken for the decision on Community boards. When the consultation was carried out it was flagged up that the BAME groups weren’t really interacting with the localised offering of the Council and this would be one of the tasks of the Co-ordinators to reach out more effectively. He was expecting a report back on this issue. There was also mandatory training and equality training for all staff and equality screening as part of the procurement process, the Council were Members of the Employers network for equality and inclusion. However, this was no substitute for engaging with residents and acting as Community Leaders.
3. Community Boards would be identifying community groups and reaching out to them. Work was also undertaken by the Equalities Officer at the Council.
4. As above – Community Boards
A Member commented that travellers were also protected by the Equalities Act and expressed the view that the Council should help these groups as much as possible.
During discussion on the Cabinet Member priorities the following points were made:-
A Member referred to art, media and design and made reference to the huge asset of community radio which had been invaluable during the covid crisis. Many stations were struggling to survive because they were not receiving any advertising revenue. The Cabinet Member for Culture said the culture was key in Buckinghamshire and he particularly referred to Pinewood Studios and the National Film and TV school. Many small organisations which also played a part in grass roots culture were struggling. Some organisations have received grants and others have been furloughed such as theatres. The Member commented that community radio had not received any funding and suggested some financial assistance could be offered through business rate relief or help with rent.
Another Member referred to financial support for small organisations who had received help from their legacy councils which would continue for the first year. However, organisations needed longer term financial certainty. There would be a review of grants. Reference was made to the Budget Scrutiny undertaken by the shadow council where it was mentioned that grants might be paid through community boards. Whilst local knowledge was important there could be some organisations who may suffer from this process as their organisation covered the whole County or a large part of the County. Members were informed that the Cultural Strategy supported arts to seek external funding as only a small amount of money was available for local organisations. The Member commented that Queens Park Art Centre only received a grant of 5% of their annual spend but it helped balance the budget. The Cultural Partnership should be able to help organisations with any recovery plans that were needed.
The Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health reported that a decision had been made to allow Community Boards to allocate funding because of their local knowledge and if an organisation covered a wider area then Boards could join together to help provide funding. In terms of funding certainty he referred to a number of organisations including the Council who only received funding for a year and had to plan on that basis e.g. Better Care Fund where services had to be procured. With the £250k funding during the pandemic there had been a large number of donations which covered a number of areas in Buckinghamshire e.g Bucks Mind.
A question was asked about cycling bids. The Corporate Director for Communities reported that there was funding from the Department for Transport to help aid business and recovery by providing temporary cycling lanes to help people get to work safely and using social distancing. There was also funding for longer term projects for active travel across Buckinghamshire. Members had been asked to put forward possible schemes so that they could be prioritised. He would be happy to provide information for Members on this area.
A Member referred to all the good work being carried out by food banks but expressed concern that there was duplication and competition between local charities. For example, Wycombe food bank was well established and liaised with all 8 mosques in Wycombe and similar joint working was being undertaken in Aylesbury. However, as a result of Covid other local food banks were being organised and would take all the donated food from supermarkets so that there were no further donations for the larger food banks. It was important that these were carefully co-ordinated to ensure an equitable share of food supply. The Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health reported that this was something the Co-ordinators could address.
Cabinet Members were thanked for their reports.