Agenda Item No. 8

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 3RD SEPTEMBER, 2018

 

REFERENCE FROM COMMUNITY LIAISON COMMITTEE: 3RD JULY, 2018

 

 

118     RESHAPING SERVICES: A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH TO THE PROVISION OF SINGLE USER OUTDOOR SPORTS FACILITIES (REF) –

 

Cabinet had, on 2nd July, 2018, agreed in principle as the basis for referral to Community Liaison Committee and Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee, that the Council work towards recovering the actual cost of maintaining sports grounds and pitches at sites where the facilities were used almost exclusively by one club or organisation rather than retaining a charging structure where individual fees were applied at each location.

 

The report referred to the fact that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was the major provider of outdoor sports facilities in the county.  The provision of sites and facilities, such as sport pitches, was central to achieving the Council’s well-being outcome of an Active and Healthy Vale.  Indeed, the Council’s Corporate Plan (2016-20), under objective 7, “Encouraging and promoting active and healthy lifestyles” had a number of actions that sought to encourage and increase levels of participation in sport and activity.  To this end, the Council had traditionally charged a fixed hire fee for its outdoor sports facilities.  However, the fees charged did not cover the costs associated with providing and maintaining the facilities.  The level of subsidy varied greatly from sport to sport and also within sports as the quality of pitches, bowling rinks, cricket squares and other facilities varied across the area due to a number of factors such as league requirements, soil type, drainage systems and frequency of use.

 

The majority of these sites and facilities were used by a variety of clubs and organisations, as well as being accessible to the wider community, at times when organised and competitive sport was being played.  Examples included the Buttrills Football pitches and Jenner Park in Barry.  In contrast, some facilities were used exclusively by one club or organisation.  The report was presented to provide clarity on the latter category of provision and aimed to set out a sustainable way forward in the provision of single club, single use facilities.

 

The proposals outlined in the report were consistent too, with the Council’s Income Generation and Commercial Opportunities Strategy which contained a strategic objective whereby the Council would aim towards achieving full cost recovery where it was appropriate to do so.

 

In contrast with outdoor sport, indoor sport operated by the Council via its Leisure Centres no longer required a significant revenue subsidy with the Leisure Centre Contract delivering a revenue surplus.  Pursuing a strategy which sought to put these types of provision on an equal footing was considered to be an efficient use of Council funds, whilst retaining and encouraging participation in sporting activity.

 

As set out above, the justification for significant revenue subsidy for outdoor sports provision needed to be challenged given the financial pressures on the Council's budget.  Whilst the important role sport plays, for all sectors of the community in terms of health and wellbeing, was not questioned, the cost of provision needed to be examined to ensure value for money was being achieved.

 

There were a number of private sports clubs in the Vale of Glamorgan which provided outdoor sports provision and had active junior / youth sections but did not benefit from any direct subsidy from the Council.  There were, however, a number of clubs / organisations which had almost exclusive use of some Council owned facilities.  The manner in which the Council managed such assets did not reflect the need to ensure that budgets were used effectively.  Notably, the fees that were charged fell well short of covering the costs of operating these facilities.

 

Attached at Appendix A to the report was a breakdown of Council owned outdoor single user sport sites which were in scope of these proposals.  Due to the manner in which these single user sites had developed and the specific nature of the sport in question (in relation to certain sites) there appeared very limited opportunity for these sites to develop into multi-use sites.

 

The level of subsidies afforded to single use facilities varied depending upon the location and type of sport. However, bowling greens were approximately £25,000 per annum.  For large, fine turfed sports fields the cost to maintain and manage these facilities was approximately £80,000 per annum.  The income from these facilities fell significantly short of the cost to operate.  This was estimated to result in a net cost to the Council of approximately £400,000 per annum.

 

In order to ensure that resources did not continue to be diverted away from facilities and pitches used across the community, it was recommended that a new approach be adopted for all single use sites.

 

The proposed approach was summarised as below.

 

The Council would amend the fees charged to clubs and organisations for single use facilities from their current level to the actual cost of operating and maintaining these (after any income), from 1st April, 2019.

 

However, the Council would initially make contact with the existing users of the facilities identified in Appendix A to the report.  Details of the current costs of maintaining and operating these sites would be shared in order that these organisations and clubs be encouraged, wherever possible, to explore the opportunity to take over the management of these facilities from 1st April, 2019.  This would be subject to an agreement that ensured it was maintained to a satisfactory condition.

 

In recognising that this would be a significant change to the pricing structure, the Council’s preference was to provide clubs / organisations with the opportunity to maintain the facility themselves.

 

The proposal to introduce this new arrangement from 1st April, 2019 was designed to allow clubs to plan for the changes and it was proposed that frequent contact would be maintained with any club or organisation throughout the coming months.

 

Although understanding the position for the Vale of Glamorgan, a number of Members advised that the suggested proposals to pitch fees could result in local clubs struggling as the cost would inevitably have to be borne by the families themselves.  However, in contrast, other Members advised that some of the football clubs also paid their players and where there were bar facilities they were actually earning incomes.  A comment was also made in relation to whether clubs would wish, if they were paying for the facility, to have them fenced off and this would not help local communities as this could then not be used by the general public.

 

The Head of Service advised that the particular details would need to be discussed with the clubs.  A Member stated that they supported the principle but also wished to support the use by others if the club was not using the facility at any given moment.  A Member also referred to the Well-being of Future Generations Act, advising that increasing costs may have an impact on discouraging people from using sports facilities.  Reference was made to the fact that if the fees and charges proposed were to be introduced by 1st April, 2019, it was important to note that a number of clubs had already set their charges for the current year and there would not be much time in the remaining months to consider income generation suggestions.

 

The Head of Service, in response, informed Committee that it was important for the Council to consider its own costs as a number of the facilities that were being funded by the Vale were significantly high in cost and the Authority needed to seek cost recovery for such services provided.  In recognising that some facilities were being subsidised to a significant extent, e.g. bowling greens, the need for the Vale of Glamorgan to reduce its costs and to seek alternative ways for the service to be provided was important.  It was recognised that as these services were having significant subsidies, other services were not.

 

In understanding the Vale’s position, a Member stated that his main concern was in relation to the potential enclosure of public open spaces although understanding that if clubs were paying for the facilities they would want absolute control of them.

 

AGREED – T H A T the comments of the meeting be referred to Cabinet for its consideration.