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5f 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. 5f 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. 5f 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. 5f 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. 5f 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. 5f 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. 5f 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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