The report before Members detailed the call-in of a Cabinet decision relating Chafford Sports Complex. A requisition signed by Councillors Durant and Morgon had called-in the Cabinet decision. The grounds for the call-in were as follows:
I wish to call in the Chafford closure decision, because the gross disparity of funding in the leisure contract towards the south of the borough and the closure of Chafford will adversely impact on the users contrary to the statutory duty within the 2010 Equality Act. Also because the claimed “unaffordable subsidy” is a false claim as the money is available, which I have identified, see message below, which will be the basis for my call for the decision to be reversed.
“Unaffordable” £232,284 cost becomes £9,430 saving
The Conservative Cabinet decision to close Chafford Sports Complex and evict the many and varied people using the centre due to an allegedly “unaffordable £232,284 subsidy” despite spending £28.8m upfront on a new Romford Leisure Centre and £millions more on new centres and facilities in Hornchurch and Harold Hill. Except its not unaffordable, they just want to close Chafford and use Rainham’s £2m+ contribution to subsidies the ‘borough-wide’ leisure contract and boost figures at Sapphire.
According to the Chafford Sports Complex consultation document the average swim and gym attendance figures at Sapphire are less than Hornchurch and far less than Central Park.
Chafford Sports Complex
The March 13th Cabinet approved closing Chafford Sports Complex (item 6) due to the “unaffordable subsidy”! Even if we ignore the gross disparity of funding in the ‘borough-wide leisure contract’, the unaffordable figure is wrong and the money has been found!
The Cabinet report says £50,000 has been set aside if required for a feasibility study into building a new centre in the south of the borough, £38,714 will still need to be paid for an additional 2 months to closing date on May 31st and I understand about £4,000 (x2) will be paid to two primary schools to help them relocate to Sapphire. This means once the “unaffordable £232,284” is reduced by (£50,000+£38,714+£8,000) it becomes an “unaffordable £135,570 subsidy”
London Counter Fraud Hub
The conservative policy of making Havering part of a Greater London involves promoting mergers and joining pan-London bodies irrespective of the need to do so.
This was illustrated by the March 13th Cabinet (item 9) decision to join a “London Counter Fraud Hub” to deal with housing fraud. The report offered the option of waiting to gauge the success of the scheme first, but the Cabinet, ignoring lessons from the Tri-borough Policing, agreed to join and pay a £75,000 joining fee and annual subscriptions of £70,000. The scheme offered forecast savings, but Havering has already conducted an extensive audit of council properties and PSL, so has little immediate need for the new anti-fraud “Hub”. This matters because delaying joining frees up £145,000 for other things.
Namely if joining the “Hub” is delayed it means the £145,000 can be used to help keep Chafford open and means rather than an “unaffordable £135,570 subsidy” you get a welcome (£145,000 minus £135,570) £9,430saving.
PS. I have submitted a complaint that the closure decision is contrary to the statutory duty in the 2010 Equality Act.
Response from officers:
“the gross disparity of funding in the leisure contract towards the south of the borough and the closure of Chafford will adversely impact on the users contrary to the statutory duty within the 2010 Equality Act”
The requirement under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 is to have “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct prohibited under the Act and advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and persons who do not. This is the public sector equality duty. The protected characteristics are
age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civic partnership,
pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
“Due regard” is the regard that is appropriate in all the circumstances and was a matter for Cabinet to decide. As a matter of law, as long as Cabinet was properly aware of the effects of its decision to cease funding for the community use of Chafford Sports Complex with effect from 1 June 2019 and took them into account, it properly discharged its duty.
In respect of this decision, the effects were set out in an Equality and Health Impact Assessment which was attached to the Cabinet report at Appendix E.
Cabinet’s decision was also informed by a comprehensive public and stakeholder consultation process. The full consultation survey report was attached to the Cabinet report at Appendix B and a summary and analysis at Appendix C. Further, the consultation approach and responses were summarised and discussed conscientiously in the body of the report itself.
Cabinet therefore discharged the Council’s public sector equality duty with great care and demonstrably.
“the claimed “unaffordable subsidy” is a false claim as the money is available, which I have identified”
SLM have indicated that if they manage and operate Chafford Sports Complex beyond the 1 June 2019 further investment will be needed. In fact, Section 1.6 of the Cabinet report states that “SLM have provided the Council with indicative essential maintenance costs to keep Chafford Sports Complex open for a further one year and a further three years from June 2019. To keep the whole complex open for a further year, the investment required would be an estimated £456,000, and for a further three years an estimated £577,000. To just keep the swimming pool open for either one year or three years, the estimated cost is the same at £375,000”. This would be in addition to the £240,000 required in a management fee and utility costs paid by the Council under the Leisure Management contract.. All of this would need to be funded from Revenue, as the Council cannot invest capital funds in a site it does not own. Due to the change of ownership of the site and previous uncertainty around DfE permission for the Council to include Chafford Sports Complex in the leisure management contract, no revenue budget was created for the ongoing management of the centre. However, one off funding has been identified until the end of March 2019.
If funds were redirected as identified by the call in there would still be a significant shortfall as no funding has been identified for the essential maintenance of between £375,000 and £577,000.
If the £50,000 set aside to fund the feasibility study is spent on running the existing centre, there will be no funds available to develop the proposal for a new build.
As a point of clarity only £3-4,000 will be needed to fund relocation of primary schools swimming, rather than the £8,000 quoted in the call in.
If “the “Hub” is delayed it means the £145,000 can be used to help keep Chafford open”.
The decision of whether to delay the London Counter Fraud Hub should be considered in isolation on the basis of the details contained within the report.
During the debate a requistioner of the decision felt that the decision was invalid under the Equality Act 2010 as a full Equalities Impact Assessment was required to be completed. The Member asked what disabled swimming clubs used the sports complex, how many clubs there were and what alternative facilities had been offered.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Safety stated that it was not her role to memorise the names of specific clubs. She was aware of the disabled swimming clubs involved and that they had happily moved to better facilities. The decision had not been made lightly and the Cabinet Member had assessed the position of disabled swimming clubs affected with officers.
A requisitioner felt that there was unequal funding allocated in the leisure contract to Chafford compared to the £29m spent on the Romford Leisure Centre. The Cabinet report only gave indicative costs of keeping Chafford open and the Member felt that Chafford should be kept open at least until the Hornchurch Sports Centre opened in 18 months time.
Although funding was available to support local primary schools with the relocation of their swimming lessons the requisitioner felt that these schools may still lose swimming times due to the longer journeys to get to the alternative facilities. There would also be costs to closure of the facility and the figures in the Cabinet report were wrong. The Leader of the Council reiterated that the Administration was committed to residents in the sough of e borough.
The Cabinet Member added that the Council was committed to investing in the south of the borough but it was not viable to invest in the 30 year old Chafford building and viable alternatives had been put forward for the swimming clubs that used the facility.
Officers added that Cabinet had discharged the Council’s Public Sector Equality Duty and that the response to the consultation shown in the Cabinet report included a response from a swimming club. A Member added that, whilst the report did show the impact on disabled swimming clubs, residents continued to believe that Rainham was treated as a poor neighbour. The Cabinet member confirmed however that any new facility, if not built on a school site, would have a swimming pool and gym. Capital could not be put into the Chafford site as it was part of a school, meaning revenue was having to be spent on needed repairs.
Two local primary schools would incur costs of transferring swimming classes from Chafford to Sapphire. Officers confirmed that the Council had offered to pay these transport costs for the schools for the remainder of the school year. The schools would then be able to budget for transport costs for the following year. Only one of the affected had in fact taken up this offer thus far. Indicative travel times to get to alternative facilities were included in the Cabinet report although it was accepted these could vary.
Schools were given a choice of alternative leisure facilities and only four primary schools were being directed towards Sapphire. Several head teachers had indicated they preferred to use the Sapphire facilities.
A requisitioner added that the cost of the proposed closure of Chafford, once discounted, was in reality a subsidy. A delay to joining the London Counter Fraud Hub would allow Chafford to say open another year. At this point the Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Safety and all other Cabinet Members present left the Chamber.
The Board voted to dismiss the call-in by 9 votes to 7.
Councillors Wise, Smith, Perry, Patel, Mylod, Misir, Crowder, Holt and Best voted to dismiss the requisition.
Councillors Lawal, Summers, Williamson, Ford, Hawthorn, O’Sullivan and Mugglestone voted to uphold the requisition.
That the requisition of the Cabinet decision dated 13 March 2019 be dismissed.