Minutes for Economic, Environmental and Sustainability Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, Oct 29 2009, 6.00PM official page
Venue: Committee Room 6, Civic Offices. View directions
Declarations of Interest
Members are reminded that at the start of the meeting they should declare any known interests in any matter to be considered, and also during the meeting if it becomes apparent that they have an interest in the matters being discussed.
The Chair reminded Members of the need to declare any known interests in any matters to be considered at the meeting. No declarations were made.
Public Question Time
See explanatory note below. Please phone the Committee Officer whose name and number appears at the top of this agenda if you need further guidance.
Shirley Burnham asked the following public question:
"I am grateful that, in Swindon, a member of the public who asks her Council questions is unlikely to be challenged to a duel - as in the recent case of the Member for Culture of Brighton and Hove and the library campaigner, Mr Hawtree. I therefore feel it is safe for me to voice residents' concern that they still have no knowledge of what exactly is envisaged for Old Town Library and the timetable. Would the Chair kindly request the Cabinet Lead Member to confirm whether or not the Friends of Old Town Library are to be involved in the creation of the library in the Arts Centre and whether (and how) she might plan to include them in each stage of the project?"
Mrs Diana Heywood added:
" We want to have people serving us in the library, not just machines. Machines put people of my age off and we may not go to it if there is no library assistant to consult and assist us".
The Chair thanked Ms. Burnham and Mrs Heywood for their question and comments and asked that they be forwarded onto the Cabinet Lead Member and the Head of Libraries for a written response and that the response be shared with all Members of this Committee.
Minutes PDF 12 KB
To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 22nd September 2009.
Resolved - That, subject to the amendments listed below, the minutes of the meeting held on 22nd September 2009, be confirmed and signed as a correct record:
* That the Deputy Leader of the Council had stated that there would be no further library closures whilst she was the Cabinet Lead Member for Libraries.
* That the Head of the Library Service had confirmed that the Library Service would come in on budget this year.
* That consideration would be given to the establishment of a task group to assist with the development of the strategy.
Councillor Philip Young, Cabinet Member for Culture, Regeneration and Economic Development and Officers will attend this meeting to update Members of this Committee on the current performance of the Arts Centre; information about the proposal to move Old Town Library into the Arts Centre; information about the consultant's review of the Arts Centre, including current and future marketing plans; and how the Arts Centre fits into the overall culture plans for Swindon.
A copy of the Consultant's brief for the feasibility study of Swindon Arts Centre is attached to the agenda.
Councillor Philip Young, Cabinet Member for Culture, Regeneration and Economic Development, Clarry Bean, Culture Programming Manager and Nicki Western, Culture Marketing Manager updated Members of this Committee on the current performance of the Arts Centre, including information about the proposal to move the Old Town Library into the Arts Centre, information about the consultant's review of the Arts Centre, including current and future marketing plans, and how the Arts Centre fits into the overall culture plans for Swindon.
Councillor Stan Pajak gave a brief overview of the work of the Arts Centre Task Group but explained that the task group had not met for a while and that he was not aware that a report had been produced.
Councillor Young outlined Cabinet's proposal to close the existing Old Town library facility and to put it into the Arts Centre, creating a cultural hub for Old Town. The architects brief for a feasibility study had previously been circulated to Members of the Committee and Councillor Young welcomed any feedback on this brief. A Capital bid had been submitted for the work as investment would be required and it was intended to start work in the new financial year, should the capital bid be successful. This would result in an improved service, larger floor area for various activities with new facilities including a caf . Members of the Committee felt that it was important that work started soon as there was a sense of expectation in Old Town and the existing facility was not fit for purpose.
With regards to the Arts Centre itself, the executive summary of the consultants review was currently being written and the recommendations included:-
- Creating new day-time usage.
- Implementing on-line booking facilities
- A refreshment of the programme
- Integration of a caf
Clarry Bean confirmed that staff work across the Cultural Service in Swindon and that the best estimate of running the Arts Centre was approximately £200K with no budget increase anticipated in 2010/11. Nicki Western confirmed that a major benefit would be the introduction of on-line booking and she hoped that this would be up and running within the first three months of 2010. Other initiatives included a re-vamped brochure, e-bulletins, using facebook and extending the opening hours of the box office.
In response to a query from the Chair, Clarry Bean confirmed that the Arts Centre was not a commercial concern and that it was important to provide a diverse programme of activities, especially where it was of benefit to the local communities. Members of the Committee felt that it was important to balance the range of activities between those that attracted large audiences and those that were of perceived benefit to the community, but with a smaller potential audience. Mr. Bean added that it was not possible to compete with other commercial venues, such as the cinemas, and that the Council had a duty to promote its cultural strategy and therefore has to provide services and events that other venues don't provide.
Concern regarding the proposed establishment of a caf was expressed by some Members of the Committee, especially its financial viability, bearing in mind the number of other cafes within the vicinity of the Arts Centre and Councillor Young was keen to learn from the experiences of other colleagues within the council who had worked in similar establishments.
(A copy of the proposed caf layout sketch which forms part of the Consultants' brief is attached to these minutes. This is a proposed layout from David Pratley Associates and has not been approved by any architects.)
Nicki Western confirmed that £6K was spent every year to advertise in the Swindon News and that this was the only advertising that was undertaken. The Chair expressed some concern about the low numbers of people who actually attend events at the Arts Centre and at the number of residents within his ward who were unaware of the existence of this venue. Councillor Young agreed that it may be possible to look at a more commercially focussed programme for the Arts Centre and that he would be keen to take this debate to a wider audience.
Resolved - That the Cabinet Member for Culture, Regeneration and Economic Development, the Culture Programming Manager and the Culture Marketing Manager be thanked for attending this meeting and for their responses to Members' questions.