To receive an update from the Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure on the implementation of the recommendations resulting from the latest Leisure and Culture Options Appraisal.
Report to follow.
63.1 The Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure advised Members that SLC consultancy had undertaken an options assessment back in 2021 into Gloucester’s Leisure and Culture Services. He noted that the report included recommendations which had been reviewed and approved by Cabinet, and confirmed that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee were being updated on the implementation of the 6 major SLC recommendations for Leisure provision and the remaining 7 for Cultural Services. The Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure noted that implementation of all of the recommendations was underway and noted that most were on track or completed. He paid tribute to the Culture team for their hard work.
63.2 In response to a query from Councillor Hilton in relation to some of the larger biannual and triannual events taking place in Gloucester and plans for the years where those events were not taking place, the Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure emphasised that there was a need to make the culture scene in Gloucester sustainable. He accepted that it was important for some events to be held annually however he noted that his team could not take a one size fits all approach. The Head of Culture further noted that the team were limited by budget and capacity and that funding from external sources was important. He advised Members that the team were working on submitting an Arts Council bid for more funding in due course.
63.3 Councillor Hilton asked whether the City Council had held discussions with Gloucestershire County Council over the future plans for the former Debenhams building. The Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure stated that although the City Council might aspire for it to be returned to its ownership, it was important that the building condition was fit for purpose.
63.4 In response to a follow-up question from Councillor Hilton regarding whether extensive restoration works were needed, the Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure confirmed that a survey would be needed to ensure that the building was sound.
63.5 Councillor Dee referred to Cultural Recommendation 2 highlighting that the council should challenge its current approach focused on cultural buildings and asked for further information about this approach. The Head of Culture explained that the SLC consultancy had analysed the council’s investment in listed buildings which have high running costs. He confirmed that the council needed to consider whether subsidies were being used in the right places and that a number of options were being considered, alongside advice from the culture sector. The Head of Culture further explained that the council had used capital investment to make improvements at the Gloucester Guildhall, and the team were hoping to make similar improvements to the Museum of Gloucester with capital investment.
63.6 Councillor Durdey thanked the Culture team for their hard work.
63.7 In response to a query from Councillor Pullen relating to the Culture budget around Aspire Leisure, the Head of Culture suggested that he raise his query during the Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 5th December.
63.8 Councillor Pullen referred to Leisure Recommendation 3 concerning the Sports and Activity Strategy and asked for further information as to which organisation had been contracted to help deliver this work. He also asked for assurances that this strategy would focus on the needs of Gloucester and that addressing health inequalities would be a key consideration. The Head of Culture confirmed that following a tender process, the council had commissioned Active Gloucestershire to help deliver the Sports and Activity Strategy. He noted that the organisation had sound local knowledge of both Gloucester city and the wider county and confirmed that Active Gloucestershire colleagues had been briefed to bring a strong health element to this strategy.
63.9 In response to a further question from Councillor Pullen, the Head of Culture explained that the QUEST methodology outlined in Leisure Recommendation 3 was the process of bench marking.
63.10 Councillor Pullen raised concerns about Gloucester Guildhall’s visibility and asked for the Cabinet Member’s comments as to whether the council might consider purchasing and developing the adjacent building. The Head of Culture noted that the City Council already owned the adjacent building, however the council was in the process of negotiating a commercial lease for the building. It was noted that the floor levels were an added complication which would make it very difficult to incorporate this building into the Guildhall. The Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure confirmed that additional signage was being commissioned to help make the Guildhall more visible.
63.11 Councillor Wilson reflected on his recent experience of attending an event at the Guildhall and commented that he was very impressed with the running of the event and infrastructure. He asked how the council was promoting the venue to artists. The Head of Culture responded that the council had a dedicated music programmer who could tap into promoters and tour operators across the UK. He noted that there were some constraints around the size of the venue, however the city had been able to accommodate larger acts in different venues, such as Llanthony Secunda Priory.
63.12 In response to a query from Councillor Sawyer regarding whether a formal assessment had been undertaken to assess whether the council could make use of the adjacent building to the Guildhall, the Head of Culture confirmed that an architectural feasibility study had been undertaken which had identified issues with the floor levels. He confirmed that there was a possibility that the idea could be revisited in the future, however work to bring the floor levels in line with the Guildhall was likely to be costly.
63.13 Councillor Hilton commented that he had attended a good event at Llanthony Secunda Priory, however he noted that limited bar facilities at the venue had resulted in large queues. The Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure noted that the event in question was one of the first of its kind to be held at Llanthony Secunda Priory and that the team were learning from each event.
63.14 Councillor Gravells asked that the Sports and Activity Strategy be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme. He also requested further details about the Arts Council funding. The Head of Culture confirmed that Gloucester had been identified as a high priority place for culture by Arts Council England and the City Council had recently received £2m in funding from the Arts Council. The Head of Culture further noted that the City Council was working closely with colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It was agreed that the Sports and Activity Strategy would be added to the Work Programme once it was allocated a date on the Cabinet Forward Plan.
63.15 In response to an additional question from Councillor Gravells as to whether the City Council would be working with Gloucestershire County Council to help tackle health inequalities, the Head of Culture confirmed that the City Council was working with the County Council and the authorities were taking a joined-up approach, particularly through working with Active Gloucestershire.
63.16 In response to a request from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to receive a further update on progress in implementing the recommendations from the Culture and Leisure Options Appraisal, the Head of Culture confirmed that he would be willing to provide a further update to the Committee in 12 months’ time.
RESOLVED – That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee NOTE the update.