Letchworth Committee Minutes

Date:
Wednesday, 7th September, 2016
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Mike Rice (Chairman), Councillor Paul Marment (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Clare Billing, Councillor John Booth, Councillor T.W. Hone, Councillor Lorna Kercher, Councillor David Levett, Councillor Ian Mantle and Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham.
In attendance:
Steve Crowley (Contracts and Project Manager), Claire Morgan (Communities Officer) and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services Officer).
Also Present:
At the start of the meeting 2 members of the public.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
30 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Julian Cunningham and Deepak Sangha.
31 MINUTES - 9 MARCH 2016
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 9 March 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
32 MINUTES - 19 MAY 2016
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 19 May 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
33 MINUTES
In response to a technical query, the Committee and Member Services Officer confirmed that the written record of this inquorate meeting should be titled Notes rather than Minutes.

RESOLVED: That the Notes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 8 June 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
34 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
There was no other business notified.
35 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
(1) The Chairman advised that, in accordance with Council Policy, the meeting would be audio recorded;

(2) The Chairman drew attention to the item on the agenda front pages regarding Declarations of Interest and reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
36 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION- IMAJICA THEATRE COMPANY
The Chairman advised Members that the Imajica Theatre Company had withdrawn their application for grant funding and therefore would not be making a presentation.

Councillor Hone advised he had allocated some funding from his County Council Locality Budget to enable Imajica to perform at a local school.
37 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - HOWARD GARDEN SOCIAL AND DAY CARE CENTRE
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Lorna Kercher declared a Declarable Interest as she was the Chair of the Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre Executive Committee She advised that she would leave the room for the duration of the presentation.

Mrs Janet Smith thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the grant funding application for Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre as follows:

Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre had been in operation since 1955. It provided a safe place for isolated individuals to socialise, thereby giving their carers a much needed break.

The Centre was a relaxed environment where clients were offered refreshments and a hot 2 course meal, which was often the only hot meal eaten.

Many activities were provided including bingo, seated keep fit, knitting and nattering, karaoke and table tennis.

Local groups were able to hire out the Centre.

Annual running costs were approximately £50,000, much of this was covered by grant funding received from Hertfordshire County Council, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and North Herts District Council, although fundraising was also needed.

In response to a question Mrs Smith advised that the electrics controlling the automatic front doors had been damaged in the flood and that, because the doors were old, they could not be repaired, but would have to be replaced.

Members asked about funding for this project and details of the insurance claim.

Mrs Smith advised that they had not approached any other organisation for support with this project and that, if funding could not be sourced, then repair of these doors would have to be postponed.

The insurance company had been asked to consider the damage to the door as part of the first claim, but have refused to do so and therefore they face another excess amount.

The Chairman thanked Mrs Smith for her presentation.

Councillor Kercher returned to the room.
38 GRANTS AND COMMUNITY UPDATE

The Communities Officer presented the report of the Head of Policy and Community Services entitled Community Update and Grant Applications and drew attention to the following:

JACKIES DROP IN
The new premises was almost complete and Jackies Drop In hoped to be moving in shortly.

As requested, a business plan had been received and this would be circulated to Members before any grant funding awarded by this Committee was released.

A Member informed the Committee that the new premises had not yet been connected to gas and electricity supplies and that, at present, no date had been confirmed as to when this would take place

CORTEX
In response to a question, the Communities Officer confirmed that Cortex was no longer meeting and that all of the grant funding allocated to them in previous years had been dispersed to the group.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the budgetary expenditure, balances and carry forwards from the Development and Visioning Budgets be noted;

(2) That the actions taken by the Community Development Officer to promote greater community capacity and well-being for Letchworth Garden City be endorsed;

(3) That in respect of the budget entitled “Jackie’s Drop In”, the conditions for release of funds be reaffirmed (Minute 97 refers) as:

(i) That Jackie’s Drop In be requested to submit a short and medium term business plan, including details of the management structure and a detailed list of items required together with costs for each item by 30 September 2016;

(ii) That the funds not be released until this Committee has had sight of and are satisfied with the documents detailed in (I) above;

(iii) That the Communities Officer be authorised to circulate the above documents by email to each Member;

(iv) That the Chairman be authorised to agree the release of funds, subject to satisfactory responses to items (i) to (iii);

(v) That, if the requested information is not submitted by the above date, these funds will be returned to the base budget.

REASON FOR DECISION: To keep Members of the Committee apprised of the latest developments in community activities in Letchworth Garden City.
39 GRANT APPLICATION - HOWARD GARDEN SOCIAL AND DAY CARE CENTRE
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Lorna Kercher declared a Declarable Interest as she was the Chair of the Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre Executive Committee She advised that she leave the room for the duration of the of the item.

The Communities Officer advised that the total project cost referred to in the application paperwork related to the annual running costs of the Centre. They were looking for funding of £2,500 towards the replacement flooring and £2,000 towards the automatic doors.

Replacement of the flooring would make the Centre more attractive to those wishing to hire it and therefore enable them to make more money to put towards the running costs.

In response to a question the Communities Officer advised that the Centre no longer employed staff, with all jobs now being undertaken by volunteers.

Members acknowledged the value of the Centre and that having to make two insurance claims in one year had a negative effect on their bank balances, due to the excess due each time.

A Member advised the Committee that the Ernest Gardner Trust had awarded some grant funding to cover an insurance excess, although it was unclear which insurance claim this related to. It was suggested that investigations be carried out as to which insurance excess was funded by this organisation.

It was agreed that grant funding should be awarded, but only if they had not received funding from another source to cover the second insurance excess and it was

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Communities Officer be requested to seek confirmation from Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre as to whether the grant funding received from the Ernest Gardner Trust had been awarded to cover the insurance excess on the first claim or the second claim for flood damage;

(2) That, subject to the information received in response to (1) above either
(i) If the above grant funding was to cover the insurance excess for the first claim for flood damage, grant funding of £4,500 be awarded to Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget towards the cost of a replacement automatic entrance door and insurance excess; or

(ii) If the above grant funding was to cover the insurance excess for the second claim for flood damage, grant funding of £2,000 be awarded to Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget towards the cost of a replacement automatic entrance door.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.

Councillor Kercher returned to the room.
40 GRANT APPLICATION - IMAJICA THEATRE COMPANY
The Communities Officer informed Members that the Imajica Theatre Company had withdrawn their grant application.

The request had been to support a large project, for which an application for funding had also bee made to the Arts Council for England. Unfortunately that application had been unsuccessful. The Communities Officer advised Imajica that the new Grants Policy only allowed orgaisations to only receive one grant award every two years and therefore they should consider carefully whether they wished to consider withdrawing the application in order to enable them to apply for larger project.

Imajica would still undertake some work in schools with the support of the County Councillors.
41 ORAL UPDATE - NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE MUSEUM AND COMMUNITY FACILITY AT HITCHIN TOWN HALL
The Contracts and Project Manager gave an oral update regarding the North Hertfordshire Museum and Community Facility at Hitchin Town Hall.

There had been a lot of reports made recently in both social media and newspapers regarding this project. The Council has kept the community updated and responded where necessary through use of the Council’s website and the use of social media.

The Council agreed to work with Hitchin Town Hall Limited. This organisation was going to provide funding via Adventure Capital Funding. Since inception there had been a number of key changes to the project as follows:

• Hitchin Town Hall Limited sought to include 15 Brand Street after the first Development Agreement was signed;
• Adventure Capital Funding terminated the funding agreement with Hitchin Town Hall Limited, due to multiple breaches of the funding agreement by them;
• Lightbrigade. The Museum fit out contractors, went into administration;
• The Land and Property Act Receivers recovered assets from Hitchin Town Hall Limited in regard to the debts owed by Hitchin Town Hall Limited’
• Following appointment of receivers, the tender for the sale of 14/15 Brand Street was halted as a deal was struck between Adventure Capital Funding and a newly formed company, HTH Finance Limited whereby the debts of Hitchin Town Hall Limited were sold to HTH Finance Limited. NHDC was not informed of this deal;
• The property 14/15 Brand Street, had therefore reverted to Hitchin Town Hall Limited;
• NHDC were then served notice to vacate from 14/15 Brand Street, which was duly complied with;

Some of the items required additional budgets, all of which had been approved by Council.

The Council had not proactively put out press releases, but had provided responses to errors and issues raised in the media.

One of the issues highlighted in the media was a press release indicating that a letter had been sent, by Mr Pike, to the Chief Executive on 22 August 2016 proposing that an initial meeting be arranged to discuss the broad outlines of a way forward. This letter was not in fact dated or delivered until 25 August 2016. The Council had responded to this letter, as well as other letters, but was still awaiting substantive responses to previous correspondence requesting details of what was being proposed by Hitchin Town Hall Limited and HTH Finance Limited.

Work was continuing with contractors to complete the Museum fit out and the aim was to get contractors back on site on the next few weeks.

The Town Hall was opened in June 2016 following refurbishment and usage was increasing, however the uncertainty surrounding 14/15 Brand Street and the effect this was having on use of the café was affecting the facility,

Activities already taking place in the Town Hall included fencing, Zumba, yoga and tea dances as well as numerous wedding parties, a comedy evening and conferences.

The Council would continue to press Hitchin Town Hall Limited for the information requested including, the intentions for the use of 14./15 Brand Street, the nature of the relationship between Hitchin Town Hall Limited and HTH Finance Limited, the identity of the consortium of businessmen who appear to have financed the purchase of the debts of Hitchin Town Hall Limited and the financial standing of Hitchin Town Hall Limited, as currently Hitchin Town Hall Limited owed the Council over £500,000.

Until these and other questions had been answered in a manner that could be assessed, a report could not be presented to Council for consideration of appropriate action.

Members noted that, if 14/15 Brand Street was not made available, access to the museum could be via the Town Hall and asked when this option may be in use.

The Contracts and Project Manager advised that the first priority was to complete the museum fit out, due to the situation regarding 14/15 Brand Street, it had been necessary to alter the specifications of work required. The initial estimate given was for 8 weeks and it was hoped that this would commence in the near future, although no date could be promised at this moment.

Members commented that it was important to recognise that the museum was a District facility and that Letchworth Garden City had been affected as it had been without a museum for a very long time. They were keen to see the District Museum opened as soon as possible.

The Contracts and Project Manager advised that consideration was being given to ways in which the temporary exhibitions, booked to appear in the museum, may be accommodated within the facility.

The Council was proactively publicising the Community Facility and were encouraging events which enabled people to come into the facility, including holding open days. A lot of enquiries were received following these types of events.

Members suggested using the Council’s website to advertise the events taking place in the Town Hall.

In response to a question the Contracts and Project Manger informed Members that the museum entrance, the main staircase on the museum side and the theatre experience area upstairs would be unavailable without the inclusion of 14/15 Brand Street.

The Chairman thanked the Contracts and Project Manager for his presentation.
42 WARD AND OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS - MEMBERS’ REPORTS
CHRISTMAS EVENTS IN LETCHWORTH TOWN CENTRE
Councillor David Levett informed Members that the proposed provision of an ice rink in the Town Centre during the festive period had proved too expensive, but alternative events would be provided.

PROPOSED CAR BOOT SALES IN ARENA CAR PARK
The Chairman informed Members that he had discussed the proposed car boot sales in the Arena car park with Officers and asked that this Committee receive an update.
Published on Thursday, 29th September, 2016
8.25 p.m