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                               BLACKPOOL COUNCIL

            EXECUTIVE MEMBER REPORT TO THE COUNCIL

Report of the Cabinet Member for                      Culture and Communities

at the Council meeting held on                        23rd January 2008




This report provides the opportunity to report to the Council the latest developments on
various matters relating to the Culture and Communities portfolio.

Sport and Leisure

Sport, Nutrition & Physical Activity Strategy

A new Sport, Nutrition and Physical Activity Strategy has been developed for the Borough,
which sets a challenging and exciting agenda for the future development of programmes and
facilities. The Strategy represents a shared vision of a wide range and broad base of
stakeholders from across the Borough.

In addition and dovetailing into the Strategy is Blackpool’s Olympic ambitions, the vision of
which is as follows:

‘Blackpool has a long and proud sporting heritage, which we will draw on to contribute to the
finest Olympic Games and Paralympic Games the world has ever seen’.

The Culture and Communities Directorate and the Primary Care Trust are aiming to launch
the new Sport, Nutrition and Physical Activity Strategy and Olympic Plan at the end of
January 2008.

International Women’s Gymnastics

Blackpool is to host an international women’s gymnastic competition over the weekend of
15th/16th March 2008. Junior and Senior women’s artistic international teams representing
Great Britain and France will compete at Blackpool Sports Centre, Stanley Park for the first
time.

A key aim of Blackpool’s Olympic Plan is to attract major international sporting events and
festivals to Blackpool in the run up to London 2012 Olympic Games and this competition is
part of the British and French women’s gymnastic teams training preparations for the Beijing
2008 and London 2012 Olympics.

The international presents an excellent opportunity for our young gymnasts to meet the
national team and see an international event first hand. Currently there are 398 children on
the Blackpool Gymnastics Programme, which equates to 559 visits a week.

George Bancroft Park Climbing Towers – Community Climbing Club

Officers have supported the development of a new community climbing club to be based at
the Climbing Towers.
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The club is focussed on developing opportunities for young people and families to take part
in outdoor activities and currently runs sessions on a Sunday morning.

An interim group has been established and it is envisaged that the group will be fully set up
by April 2008 with a young persons representative included. Once established the club
hopes to utilise external funding to provide coaching opportunities for local people and
extend the range of activities on offer beyond climbing.

The club has already received support and encouragement from British Mountaineering
Council and British Canoe Union to help put in place policies and procedures.

The club will build on the current usage, which over the last quarter has seen 243 visits from
children and young people to climb. Sixty-five of these visits have been free of charge,
which links to a partnership initiative with Youth Services, encouraging children from
deprived areas to use the towers.

Parks and Green Environment

Service Re-Structure Completed

The Parks and Green Environment Service has carried out a fundamental re-structure and
established a new parks management and developmental team in 2007. This process was
completed in the third quarter of this financial year. The process has enabled the service to
realign the management and development scope, to reflect current requirements and clarify
all the management staffs’ roles and responsibilities. A key focus within the process has
been to modernise the Charge hand role, as the key link between the workforce and
Operations Managers, to focus on improved performance and motivation of staff. The
objective of the process has been to ensure the delivery of an efficient and effective, high
quality service to the people of Blackpool and visitors.

Tree Planting

This Autumn/ Winter period has seen a significant increase in tree planting operations being
carried out on Blackpool’s Parks and Open Spaces. Over 300 hundred trees and whips
(smaller sized trees) have been planted on green open spaces throughout Blackpool. A key
focus has been Stanley Park, where over 70 standard sized Oak’s have been planted within
plantations throughout the park and in particular Mawson Drive, to replace those lost through
the summer’s outbreak of ‘Dutch Elm’ disease. A programme of tree planting is being put
together over the next two years to compensate for the severe losses suffered in 2007 as a
result of gale damage, ‘Dutch Elm’ disease and natural losses. Local schools have been
involved in some of the planting works such as Woodlands School in Stanley Park, to
emphasis the importance of trees and the role that they will play in the future health of the
Planet.

Volunteering In Parks

The Stanley Park and Parks Development Manager has worked in partnership with a
number of key organisations within the third sector to encourage partnership working in
parks. Community engagement has been supported through Blackpool’s ‘Green Open
Spaces Network’, which was formed in 2003 by the service, in partnership with ‘Blackpool
SURF’. The ‘Green Open Spaces Forum’ provides valuable support to voluntary
organisations focused on improving their local green open space and has provided the
catalyst for the establishment of local groups through the concept of self help and capacity
building. It has been as a result of this initiative that volunteering on parks has risen sharply
in recent years.
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The establishment of the new jointly funded post between the Council and Blackpool’s
Volunteer Bureau of a ‘Stanley Park Development Manager’ has presented the service with
yet more opportunities to develop and increase community participation through volunteering
within Stanley Park. The ‘Volunteer Manager’ has been busy in establishing and facilitating
the work of volunteers from people who have been long-term unemployed and has so far
worked closely with the Council’s ‘Volunteer Ranger Service’ on projects with an ecological
focus, in the area immediately surrounding Stanley Park Lake, which is currently designated
a ‘County Heritage Site’. Further works are planned for the new year, which will introduce
the volunteers into other areas within the park and adjacent ‘Woodland Garden’, supporting
the parks ‘Green Flag’ application in 2008.

Arts and Heritage

In December, the Council made a very serious attempt to secure a significant Lowry painting
of the Pleasure Beach for the people of Blackpool. ‘The Fairground’ was painted in 1938
and has been in a private collection since the early fifties. Although virtually unknown, it is a
very fine painting of an unusual subject for Lowry. It would have been by far the most iconic
artwork on display at the Grundy Art Gallery, whose two side galleries can provide secure
hanging space to the required national indemnity standard. The Fairground would have
formed the centrepiece of an educational, heritage and promotional programme for Blackpool for
many years to come.

Sotheby’s valued the Lowry between £700,000 and £1 million; art experts had strongly advised the
Council that publicising our interest in the Lowry would inflate the purchase price. The Council
successfully secured external funding totalling more than £800,000, finally confirmed on 12th
December, the day before the auction. The external funders required a complete lack of pre-
auction publicity as one of their special conditions of the grant award, so we were only able to
announce our interest on the day of the auction. Although the painting sold for £1.25 million,
more than we were able to pay, the bid has done much to raise the profile of Blackpool and
its cultural ambitions. Officers are now investigating other ways in which a Lowry-based
exhibition may be achieved to build on the increased profile Blackpool achieved.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has provided £50,000 to help support the next
phase of research into the potential relocation of the National Theatre Museum to Blackpool
and the development of the National Museum for the Performing Arts in partnership with the
Victoria and Albert Museum. Consultants will be commissioned to undertake a more
detailed site appraisal, begin to formulate the ‘stories’ which the museum will tell and
produce sketch plans, undertake full site appraisals and set out the scope and content of the
collections. It is anticipated that this phase of work will be completed by the early summer.

The Grundy Art Gallery’s second annual ‘Open’ Exhibition was sponsored by Seniors The
Fish Experience and attracted 277 entries, an increase on last year’s entry. Visitor numbers
have also increased this year. The winners were Colin Frederick, Cheryl Hudders and Noel
Cluit who received cash prizes totalling £500.

‘Admission All Classes’ a history of entertainment 1850 to 1950’ is the programme of events
the Council is running in partnership with the National Fairground Archive at the University of
Sheffield. Three very successful themed weekends took place during 2007, and were
followed by Blackpool and the Northwest on Film earlier this month.

The next two events, both in the Tower Ballroom, top and tail Blackpool’s first Showzam
Festival, the highlight of February half term. On 9th February, the Whoopee Carnival Ball
provides an opportunity to enjoy a night of fantasy and romance at this magical masked ball
inspired by the ballroom ballets of the 1920s. On 23rd February, Duckie, the award winning
club specialising in a fusion of live art and light entertainment, comes to Blackpool for the
first time ever, presenting a packed evening of performance, fun, dancing and socialising.
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Adult Learning and Libraries

Adult and Community Learning enrolments were buoyant in the Autumn Term, partly due to
the fact that IT courses were shortened which made them more affordable. Some courses
were run at the New Blackpool Enterprise Centre, Lytham Road for the first time.

There were a number of exciting programmes run for families including a successful trip with
families from Kincraig school to Manchester to take part in a Storytelling day in Manchester
hosted by the BBC Reading and Writing (RAW) campaign. A joint programme was also
devised for parents on SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspect of Learning), which was very
well received by both the schools, and the parents who took part.

The Adult and Community Learning Service led on a joint application (in partnership with
Barnardos, Blackpool Play Resources, Clifton Surestart and our colleagues in the Arts
Service) to the Big Lottery and has been awarded £150,000 over three years to run
programmes of Arts and Media courses for families, especially fathers in the South area of
Blackpool.

December is traditionally a quiet time in the library service, with the peak autumn publishing
period ended and our local customers distracted by preparations for Christmas. However,
the library staff did their best to liven things up, adding more than 3000 new books to the
library stock over the last few weeks. In addition, 20 children took part in a Santa’s
workshop in the beautiful Santa’s Grotto at the Central Library and adult visitors were
challenged to identify 12 original facades above some of the older buildings in the town
centre which are often missed by visitors and residents alike.

It will not, however, be quiet in our libraries at any time this coming year because 2008 has
been declared to be the National Year of Reading. Ten years on from the last National Year
of Reading, the national campaign aims to create a powerful focus of opportunities and
activities so that children, families and adult learners can understand the benefits that
reading for pleasure and purpose can bring to change their lives. The library service is
working with our schools and other partners to celebrate different kinds of reading all
through the year with each month from April onwards having a special theme. For example,
April’s theme is ‘Read All About It’, to encourage people of all ages to read anything and
everything, anywhere and everywhere, using newspapers, online news or journalism as a
tie-in.

Fylde Coast Cultural Strategy

Blackpool Council is leading, with Fylde and Wyre Borough Councils, Lancashire County
Council and Culture Northwest, an exciting and innovative project to develop the first
Cultural Strategy for the Fylde Coast sub-region. It forms an important part of the ‘Identity of
Place’ work stream within the Multi Area Agreement looking closely at how environmental
and cultural assets can be harnessed to improve economic prospects across the Fylde
Coast.

Neighbourhood Management

The Mayor officially opened the Talbot and Brunswick Community Village on 7th December
2007. The Community Centre is now populated by a range of Council and partner services
and will be joined by the Police during 2008.

Senior Blackpool Council Officers and Police Officers joined peers and colleagues from
Preston and Blackburn to attend a two-day neighbourhood policing workshop organised by
Lancashire Constabulary. The event was designed to share best practice and develop a
Neighbourhood Management Action Plan for the coming year.
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Alex Rhind, Assistant Director of the Government’s Respect Task Force, spent a day in
Blackpool in December to carry out an annual review of Blackpool’s Respect work. In
January 2007, Blackpool was confirmed as one of 40 areas appointed to lead the Respect
Area programme by the strong track record in tackling anti-social behaviour and a
willingness and capacity to do more.

Blackpool’s achievements in the following areas of work that were signed up to at the outset
of the initiative have received strong praise and support.

      Family Intervention Projects to tackle “neighbours from hell”.
      More Parenting Classes for parents struggling with troublesome children.
      Face the People sessions where the police, local authorities and others can be
       accountable to their local public.
      Keep up the relentless action to tackle anti-social behaviour by using the full range of
       tools and powers available.
      Using the Respect Housing Standard to prevent and deal with any problems in social
       housing.

The work of the Respect Task Force will now be undertaken by the newly created Youth
Taskforce established at the Department for Children, Schools and Families to focus on
delivering positive outcomes for young people including steps to prevent them getting into
trouble and encouraging them to have respect for their community.

Commitments in the Respect Action Plan published in January 2006, including setting up a
national network of Family Intervention Projects to give support and challenge in order to
change the behaviour of the most anti-social families, alongside rolling out parenting advice
across the country, have been met and the Task Force will now use its base in the new
Department for Children, Schools and Families to broaden its efforts by ensuring there are
activities for all young people to fulfil their potential.

The Reassurance Plus approach continues to be developed in the priority neighbourhoods
of Central, South and Grange Park, with links being strengthened between the Children and
Young Peoples Service and Business Reassurance Plus. A number of successful projects
have been implemented and reductions in crime have been recorded in some key
categories, most notably auto crime, acquisitive crime and criminal damage. The
Reassurance Plus project continues to deliver the “Face the People” element of Blackpool
councils Respect status, delivering a number of public meetings and thematic groups to the
community. The key focus of the project continues to be community engagement and
involvement; working with residents to improve their neighbourhood through targeted multi
agency services.

The Reassurance Plus South team continue to deliver a Dreamscheme to address anti
social behaviour. Community volunteers who are supported by Barnardo’s to provide
diversionary activities for young people lead the project. At the recent launch of the project
in December, the total of young people participating in the project rose to thirty.

Environmental Protection

Weekend noise response service operates between 9pm and 3am on Friday and Saturday
nights and attended to 178 calls of noise complaints during the calendar year 2007. Of
these 71 were statutory nuisances witnessed by staff, which resulted in 54 Abatement
Notices being served under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and 17 breaches of
Notices progressed by the issuing of formal proceedings, including the seizing of noise
making equipment in each instance.
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Operation Aegis 2007 – The annual Christmas security exercise restricting the type of
vehicles allowed on to Seasiders Way and the central car park complex from 14th to 31st
December 2007 has once again been successful. The operation has been run each year
since 1989 when an illegal encampment of travellers descended on the site during the
Christmas period, incurring substantial policing costs and significant cleaning costs to the
Council once the site was vacated.

The exercise is continuously reviewed on an annual basis to reduce the impact on vehicle
users without prejudicing security to the site overall.

Community Safety and Drugs

Crime

Good progress continues in relation to meeting the PSA1 target of reducing British Crime
Survey Comparator Crime (BCSCC) by16% by March 2008 against the 2003/4 baseline. As
at 31 December 2007, the overall reduction towards this target was 15.5%.

The year to date crime figures show that British Crime Survey Comparator Crimes has
reduced by 14.8% when compared to 2006-07. Acquisitive Crime and Criminal Damage
have reduced by 31.7% and 16.2% respectively, but Violent Crime has increased by 7.4%.
It should be noted that analysis has identified that one of the main reason for this increase in
Violent Crime is due to the increase reporting of Domestic Abuse crime.

The Community Safety and Drugs Partnership has now completed the Community Safety
Strategic Assessment, and has consulted on the identified local draft priorities for the period
2008/2011. The Home Office requires all partnership to address three national priorities
Terrorism, Serious Sexual and Violent Crime and Prolific and Priorities Offenders.

The consultation process has been undertaken with a wide range of organisations from the
public, private and third sector, including community groups, where the findings of the
Strategic Assessment was presented and feedback obtained in relation to the draft priorities.
The confirmed priorities will be used to populate the 2008-2011 Community Safety Plan.
Drugs

The work in relation to increasing the number of problem drug users (pdus) in treatment
continues and by the end of November, 1407 problem drug users were in treatment in
Blackpool. Good performance also in relation to the number of planned discharges, which
were 47 Treatment Completed and 53 Treatment Completed and drug free.

Alcohol

Progress is ongoing to produce the 2008-2011 Blackpool Alcohol Strategy. Each partner
agency will have an action plan for delivery over the life of the Strategy that will appear in
summary in the Community Safety Plan.

Alleygates

The installation of alleygates across the Borough has continued with 127 having been
installed from April to December and a further 53 planned by the end of the financial year. A
voucher scheme has recently been introduced to offer residents one free key when they give
consent to temporarily attach the post to their property while the concrete sets. The tender
process for the gating contract has been advertised and is due to be completed in early
February 2008.
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Housing Enforcement and HMO Licensing

The first phase of the targeted housing (private rented sector) enforcement pilot; the
Claremont ‘Ten Streets Project’, is nearing completion and early indicators show successes
in encouraging private sector investment to achieve both minimum statutory and decent
homes standards compliance. This targeted programmed inspection initiative is believed to
be the first of its kind in the country and provides valuable performance measures for any
future MIPS (Monitoring and Intervention in the Private Sector) project. A total of 369
properties have been inspected to date, in the project area.

Over 90 Houses in Multiple Occupation licences have been issued and investigative and
licensing enforcement powers are being used to identify and tackle properties operating as
unauthorised Houses in Multiple Occupation’s. This work is being carried out jointly with a
range of Council service areas and other agencies as part of the wider agenda of cleaning
up neighbourhoods and improving standards for occupants and neighbours.

In December 2007, the Council successfully prosecuted an established local landlord and
agent for operating a sub-standard Houses in Multiple Occupation. The landlord received a
criminal conviction for contravention of Houses in Multiple Occupation Management
Regulations including; poor fire and electrical safety measures, structural defects and
inadequate waste management facilities. The landlord can now be refused a licence as not
being a fit and proper person under the Housing Act. Another prosecution of an established
landlord with a large portfolio of properties is currently waiting a court date.

Thank you Mr Mayor, I will be pleased to invite any questions or comments from Councillors
in relation to the Culture and Communities portfolio.

				
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