To consider approving the receipt of a financial contribution from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Economy, Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder, presented the report informing Members that, following Cabinet’s consideration of the Ulverston Leisure Site at its meeting on the 9 February 2022, Cabinet had recommended to Council that it consider approving the receipt of a financial contribution of £2 million from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Approval would see the first phase of development progress which would enable the relocation of uses from the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) sports site to Priory Road. This would release land for future employment use. Further project development work on phases 2 and 3 would enable the Westmorland and Furness Council to determine an appropriate strategy for provision and reinvestment in leisure facilities.
The rationale for the scheme was summarised as:-
• Investment in Place – providing a good leisure and sports offering, promoting the benefits of Ulverston as a place to live, work and invest.
• Improving Health – providing facilities and programming which promote active lifestyles
• Employment Land Use – opportunity for the re purposing of land at the GSK site to support future employment use, enabled by the relocation of facilities at Priory Road.
• Sustainable Facilities – addressing reinvestment in aging facilities, reducing cost and environmental impact, extending community participation in the provision and operation of facilities.
• Responding to Current Circumstances – as part of proposals which mitigate the impacts of change at the GSK site
Recent study work had recommended a phased approach to the proposals. In summary:-
Phase 1 would include; the provision of three football pitches, changing facilities, remodelling of the indoor tennis centre, provision of the crown green bowling green, and the informal running route. This was estimated to cost in the region of £1.8m and would be enabled by the GSK financial contribution. A delivery period of circa 12-15 months would be required from commencement to all the facilities being available.
Phase 2 would include; the provision of the swimming pool, car parking re modelling, and further internal work to the tennis centre. This was estimated to cost in the region of £5.4m and would require the new facility’s business plan to provide revenue which supports prudential borrowing, together with potential for grant funding. A delivery period of circa 18 months would be required from commencement.
Phase 3 would include; refurbishment of the existing all weather hockey pitch and refurbishment of the outdoor tennis courts. This was estimated to cost in the region of £0.3m and would require the new business plan to provide revenue which supported prudential borrowing, together with potential for grant funding. A delivery period of circa 2 months would be required from commencement.
As part of the process of Local Government Reorganisation, Government was likely to make Directions on the expenditure of the existing Councils for the period between the Structural Changes Order coming into effect and prior to vesting day. The effect of these Directions would likely require the written consent of the Shadow Authority’s Cabinet prior to entering contracts which involved capital expenditure above £1m or revenue to a commitment above £100k where they extended beyond 2022/23.
Cabinet had approved the option to progress Phase 1 to implementation. This option enabled earlier delivery of benefits, including the future repurposing of the GSK land for employment use. It enabled and secured the application of financial contribution from GSK and reduced risk of the potential for closure of sporting facilities.
Cabinet had further approved the option to continue project development work on Phases 2 and 3. This option enabled further development work to ascertain greater cost certainty, funding and associated contractual change. This work would be required to fully inform future options for the Council’s facilities and leisure provision in Ulverston and helped mitigate the risks from the increased aging of facilities. It would enable options to be considered by the new Westmorland and Furness Council.
Councillor Ashcroft, in presenting the report, referred to Local Government Reorganisation and to the effects of the pandemic. He pointed out that there had been no promise on the project and that it had been an ambition. Costs had increased and the Council was looking to fund this capital amount through prudential borrowing based on the Leisure Provider’s business plan. Whilst everyone was disappointed, the Council was setting up the project as well as it could. Councillor Ashcroft reminded Members that when Ulverston Town Council had been asked for a fairly modest contribution, nothing had been forthcoming. He moved the recommendations contained within the report and was seconded by Councillor Pete Endsor.
Councillors Mark Wilson, Judy Filmore, David Webster and Shirley-Anne Wilson all expressed great concern. Councillor Mark Wilson pointed out that the Council had been dealing with this issue for ten years. He felt that what had happened with Covid-19 should make the Council more determined to push through the plans which had been promised. Ulverston had been promised £9 million which would be the biggest investment ever put forward by the Council. Councillor Mark Wilson pointed out that Ulverston Town Council had offered to discuss commitments and contributions and believed that what Councillor Ashcroft had said regarding no contribution from the Town Council was incorrect. Ulverston was keen to see Phase 2 carried out in the year commencing April 2022 and he asked Members to reconsider. Councillor Ashcroft believed that, to the best extent of his knowledge, what he had said regarding no contribution from Ulverston Town Council was correct. Councillor Filmore said that, as an Ulverston Councillor, she had been pleased that this project had reached the stage that it had. As a Green, she was disappointed - this had been a golden opportunity to ensure that the Council was meeting its green goals – there was hardly any mention of energy efficiency measures. She highlighted that other councils were doing more with their leisure sites to meet energy efficiency / net zero. Councillor Filmore sought reassurance that net zero goals were prominent in the new Authority’s goals. Councillor Ashcroft pointed out that it was not within the Council’s gift to make promises on behalf of the new Authority. However, he felt sure that these issues would be taken into consideration in Phase 2. Councillor Webster said that the original costings had been £2 million from GSK, £9 million from South Lakeland District Council, with a shortfall of £2.5 million. Ulverston Town Council had been asked to contribute £0.5 million pounds through CIL money and prudential borrowing. He explained that the Town Council had been unable to afford this and, at that time, had made an offer £20,000, to be reviewed each year. He stressed that, as well as Phase 1, Phase 2 – the new swimming pool – should be brought in by South Lakeland District Council. Councillor Jarvis, Deputy Leader and Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder, explained that it had been very clear when the proposals for the leisure centre came to Cabinet that the financing of the Council contribution, which was very significant, was based on prudential borrowing that could be justified by lower charges from the leisure provider due to income from the new pool. It was clear now that having gone through a major pandemic the financial situation of the Council’s leisure provider was very different to what it had been several years previously and that the outlook for leisure was different. It was necessary to carry out significant work on the leisure contract to ascertain whether it would deliver savings that will give the Council the space to consider prudential borrowing. Legal work and planning work needed to be carried out in a process where the Council was facing a Section 24 Direction. Councillor Jarvis said that it was not practicable that a pool would be built in 13 months from now. This was the reality, but what the Council could do was prepare the groundwork and provide plans to the new Council. The Council would do that work and would move as quickly as it could. Councillor Shirley-Anne Wilson said that her residents felt very let down and that it was difficult for her to defend the Council because people were angry and did not understand. She felt let down as a councillor who works hard for her residents. The Vice-Chairman expressed confusion at the different figures which had been mentioned and asked for the actual figure that Ulverston Town Council was contributing, also enquiring if they had made a precept rise. Neither Councillor Councillor Jarvis nor Councillor Ashcroft were able to confirm. Councillor Mark Wilson informed Members that Ulverston Town Council had agreed in January to discuss contributions and commitments from that meeting and had spoken to senior officers about their willingness to become contributors to the scheme. He explained that to date no one had come back to them to discuss the matter. Councillor Ben Berry referred to years of having heard from opposition parties about how Ulverston got a raw deal and how this had always been robustly defended. He felt that to see the rug pulled out at this late hour was sad to see and only reinforced how Ulverston was being treated. Councillor Peter Thornton referred to the history of the matter and pointed out that there was not a council in the land without a project going over budget at the moment due to Covid-19, Brexit, material prices, etc. He believed that the issue under consideration was a consequence of the referendum in 2016.
Following lengthy debate, it was
RESOLVED – That
(1) the receiving of a financial contribution of £2 million from GSK for replacement Leisure provision be approved; and
(2) it be noted that the amendments to the Capital Programme in light of the revised estimated costs of the scheme and a phased approach to delivery are addressed in the 2022/23 Budget Report.