Agenda item

Question and Answer Session: Communities Portfolio Holder

To participate in a question and answer session about the work of the Communities Portfolio Holder, Councillor Lissie Sharp.


Members of the committee partook in a question and answer session with the Communities Portfolio Holder, Councillor Sharp:


·       The gym refurbishment at Penrith Leisure Centre:

The Portfolio Holder noted that the gym was the main source of income for the leisure centre and in most cases subsidised many of the other activities provided.


As part of the tendering arrangements for the leisure centre in 2012, the responsibility for day to day maintenance rested with the operator, currently GLL, whereas responsibility for the replacement of items when they reach the end of their life cycle rested with Eden District Council. Funding for the replacement of items was ring-fenced within the Council’s capital programme over the ten year period, to be drawn down as and when required for the replacement of items.


It was further noted that the gym equipment at the Penrith Leisure Centre had actually stretched the life cycle (4-5 years) of the equipment, which was last replaced in 2012. As part of its Covid response the gym had expanded into the Eden room to allow for greater spacing, this was to be retained to ensure a continued improved customer experience. It was anticipated that the refurbishment would be completed by the end of November due to broader supply chain issues experienced by other gyms in terms of securing new equipment.


Members asked the following questions of the Communities Portfolio Holder on the matter:


1.    Has there been any negative comments about the energy costs?


Response: The Interim Assistant Director of Communities, Peter Appleton, advised that there are ongoing issues with the utility crisis for all leisure operators. The biggest expense for GLL in terms of energy costs at the gym is the swimming pool and discussions are ongoing toward a resolution.


2.    The gym equipment contract was awarded to Life Leisure, how many quotations from companies were received in total?


Response: Three quotations were received.


3.    Has the numbers of gym members increased since Covid?


Response: We don’t have the exact figures at present. There was a decrease during Covid, with numbers presently increasing.


4.    Who owns the gym equipment and what happens to the old equipment?


Response: The equipment and building are owned by the Council. The remaining (old) equipment has limited value due to its limited and extended life cycle and likely has scrap value.


5.    Who is responsible for marketing and the beneficiary of such marketing?


Response: The Interim Director for Communities advised that GLL as the operator is responsible for marketing and the increase in membership benefits their income lines which in turn lowers the subsidy.


6.    Do the 1048 gym members include Appleby or is it just Penrith?


Response: The membership figure is only for Penrith.


The Member enquired further why the charges were different for   Appleby and Penrith. The Communities Portfolio Holders advised that a response would be provided.



·       Frenchfield 3G football pitch:

The Portfolio Holder advised that Council had confirmed on the 29th July 2021 that £100 000 be set aside to support the club through investments in infrastructure. Officers, in order to maximise the investment, brought together the club and Football Foundation which has a grant fund to part fund improvements to the stadium. The Football Foundation had brokered the possibility of contributing to the installation of a 3G pitch and improved infrastructure. This would facilitate the use of the pitch 7 days a week, rather than once or twice, as well senior and junior women and girls’ football. This would further serve to increase public accessibility, improve the site itself and the club’s financial viability.


The Portfolio Holder noted further that the provision of a 3G pitch at Newton Rigg was not pursued after a discussion between the football foundation, the club, football association and Newton Rigg’s owners. The Council has been asked by the Football Association and Football Foundation to procure the works as the freedom holder of the facility during the closed season in 2023, and that a framework was in place to facilitate this.


It was also noted that the Council’s consultant had secured £150 000 from the Premier League Fund.


Members asked the following questions of the Communities Portfolio Holder on the matter:


7.    Is the consultant working for the council?


Response: The Portfolio Holder advised that a written response would be provided as they did not have the information at hand.


8.    Originally was the spare ground going to be upgraded and now they’re doing the pitch?


Response: Yes, the pitch is going to be upgraded. The spare ground will likely be kept as spare ground for extra practice as part of the detailed planning design which will set out these details.


9.    Can they play league matches on a 3G pitch?


Response: Yes.


10.Isn’t a 3G pitch going to be out of date as soon as it’s put in, as we’re on 5G now?


Response: There are 3G and 4G pitches. 3G pitches are better suited for this type of football, whereas the 4G pitches are better suited to hockey and rugby.


The Interim Assistant Director for Communities advised that the governing bodies only allowed league matches on 3G pitches, further that 4G pitches were not suitable for competitive football.