The Chairman provided an update to the Committee on the major developments that had taken place within the Committee’s remit since the last meeting held 17 November 2020.
It was reported that the response to COVID-19 had continued to affect services within the Council’s responsibility. At the time of the last committee meeting, the Council’s leisure centres in Newark, Ollerton and Blidworth were closed as was the centre in Southwell which the Council supported. Members were all too aware of the Prime Minister’s announcement on 4 January 2021 and as a result, those centres continued to remain closed and as to date, there was no timescale as to when they may be able to re-open. This depended upon infection rates and the rollout of the national vaccination programme. Andy Carolan, the managing director of Active4Today, provided an update on the agenda in relation to the impact this was having on the business, its finances to the end of the year and into 21/22.
Nick Wilson, the Council’s business manager of financial services, also provided the impact this and other Covid disruptions were having on the Council’s finances.
The Chairman commented that whilst it was encouraging to note the support that was available to mitigate the unavoidable losses that had been incurred by Active4Today, there was no doubt that challenges lay ahead in restoring a membership base that was 37% down on pre-Covid levels.
On a more positive note, the Council continued to make good progress with the new pool at the Dukeries Leisure Centre in Ollerton. The superstructure was now in place and was currently on programme for completion, June 2021. A date was being established and a safe system of work to enable members to take a tour of the facility as it took shape. Late February was the initial thought as the nights become lighter and the superstructure was enclosed. However, with the restrictions that were in place as well as the need not to disrupt the work of the contractor which was already challenging enough, the date had been put on hold. Officers would write to Members with the outcome over the next few weeks.
In relation to the Council’s cleansing and grounds maintenance services, the Chairman informed the committee that the Policy and Finance and the Homes and Communities Committees had both approved the proposals to bring the housing grounds maintenance service back in-house. The recruitment process had started in earnest for new operatives to deliver the work, with the change due to take effect in April this year. This would lead to a better, more consistent and more accountable service for streetscene, irrespective of whether communities were on HRA land or not. The Chairman commented that bringing the Garden Recycling service back in house from Rushcliffe and Mansfield had already given the Council greater control of their own destiny, as contained within the agenda. Over the course of the first year the service had been run by NSDC, an additional 1,400 new customers had been generated. This was important both as an income stream and in improving the recycling performance. Members were also advised that the Chatham Court and Lovers Lane areas in Newark were currently benefitting from the award of £550,000 through the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund.
The Chairman also informed the Committee that whilst responsibility for community safety sat with Homes and Communities, he wanted to make the Committee aware of environmental improvements that were being made as a result of interventions from colleagues in street scene, who had been sprucing up the streets and open spaces. This was a significant contribution to a range of interventions which were designed to make residents feel safer in a ward which statistically had low ratings when compared to the rest of Newark and Sherwood. Similarly, Members would also see a report on the agenda which was trying to improve public safety in one of the Council’s four green flag parks – Vicar Water. It was unfortunate that it had been submitted seeking to approve a public space protection order for the park, but hopefully that was another tool in preventing the worrying rise the Council had seen over recent times in fires being deliberately started at what was a much loved beauty spot.