Agenda item

South Holland Centre

To obtain approval to proceed with the implementation of the proposed structure to accompany revised operations (report of the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities enclosed).

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities which sought approval to proceed with the implementation of the proposed structure to accompany revised operations.

 

The report was presented by the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities who made the following points:

 

  • Fundamental changes had occurred in the Arts sector over the course of the pandemic and there was not much information and data available as yet regarding how the sector would recover;
  • Prior to the pandemic running costs were already significantly higher than the income generated by the Centre and this had cost taxpayers over £1 million over the last 4 years which could not continue;
  • The Council now had an opportunity to refine the offer of the South Holland Centre whilst still supporting local theatre groups and activities important to residents;
  • The phased approach for re-opening the Centre was based on public feedback and a user survey where 80% of customers wanted the immediate return of cinema while 40% of responders preferred to not be seated near others;
  • Recent data received via Facebook showed that residents wanted a return for live performances, and this would happen in October.
  • While closed, the Centre had been made Covid secure and had undergone some refurbishments;
  • It was pleasing to see the enthusiasm of the public for the return of live events and performances but this needed to be more sustainable and cost effective;
  • Customers would be able to book online or via telephone;
  • The new staffing structure would be flexible, could be expanded when the needs of the programme of the Centre required it, and would be a better use of staffing resources.
  • Following the pandemic, newly released films were available to the Council earlier than previously allowed and this presented an opportunity for visitors to see the latest releases earlier.
  • The Centre would programme more films/productions on a Sunday to support town centre footfall and ensure that the centre is open flexibly for the public.

 

The following points were raised by members:

 

  • Concern that the staff restructure was taking place too early and that there had been a lack of consultation on the new proposal for the South Holland Centre with both them and the public.

 

  • That further scrutiny and input from external experts was needed before a decision could be made on the staff restructure.
    • The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities responded that a task group could be set up in a few months’ time to look at how the structure was working and that the proposed structure presented to Council was an opportunity to secure the future of the Centre. He also confirmed that a Friends of the South Holland Centre group was being set up so that the Council could work closely with local groups and receive feedback.

 

  • That members of the public who had previously volunteered at the Centre had not been contacted in preparation for the re-opening of the Centre on the 22 July 2021.
    • The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities confirmed that volunteers had been contacted and would be back in the Centre the following week.

 

  • Concern that in a press release in November 2020, staff had been told that they were in ‘safe hands’ but that it did not look like that was the case anymore.
    • The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities responded that the staff had been praised in his earlier words to Members, but the Council could not continue to spend £1m over 4 years on the Centre without a restructure taking place. He also confirmed that there was a number of vacancies across the organisation that staff were able to apply for.

 

  • Asking how fears of local theatre groups could be calmed.
    • The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities responded that live performances would return later in the year and that this was a major part of the South Holland Centre’s offer to the people of South Holland.

 

  • Concerns that members had been presented with only one option for the future of the Centre and asked what hours the Centre would be open following the revised programme launch.
    • The Communities Manager responded that there was uncertainty over hours until recovery of the sector could be seen. She also confirmed that staffing levels would increase/decrease depending on what events were scheduled, and that the flexibility of the structure set out in the report would allow for this.

 

·      That a Scrutiny task group may not be appropriate and that better use could be made of the Centre. Members advised that a steering group should be set up to look at the situation pre-covid and that there would be a need to use local and professional knowledge to assist with the work of the potential steering group.

o  The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities reiterated that a Friends of South Holland group would be set up and other experts could be included to show a new path for the Centre.

 

·      Questioning how much consideration had been given to the proposals within the report and that the Council should liaise with other local authorities on the running of a successful theatre.

 

·      Reiterating that the future of the South Holland Centre would be in danger if the recommendations set out in the report were not accepted. They also advised that help and advice could be received within the new partnership with Boston Borough and East Lindsey District Councils.

 

·      That live performances were part of the plan, but they would have to be phased in and Arts Council funding was given to help with this. They commented that public consultation made it clear that many Centre users did not want to come back without social distancing in place.

 

·      That the grants that had been received were used to safeguard the building for arts and culture and the report presented to Council had ambitions to expand the programme with a flexible approach. It was hard to ignore the human impact, but hard decisions needed to be made.

 

·      That it was the wrong time for a restructuring of the Centre to take place, and that it should be undertaken at the end of the process, with Centre staff being redeployed to other departments of the Council in the meantime.

 

·      That the new South-East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership would enable the Council to gather information and advice from partners, and help improve the South Holland Centre offering. Members asked whether other authorities had been consulted as part of the preparation of the report.

o   The Assistant Director – Communities and Operations responded that a culture and leisure expert had been sought for advice around plans for re-opening and reassured Members that the Council was in constant contact with neighbouring authorities and groups around South Holland; this included national groups.

o   The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities also added that the Council had been required to bid for the grant funding that it had received for the Centre and that this had not been given out automatically by the government.

 

  • Asked whether the main doors to the Centre were still locked and if the building was open full time for the public to be able to book tickets for performances.

o    The Communities Manager responded that booking was available 24/7 online and that the team were currently testing customer feedback on booking. They confirmed that the Box Office would be open prior to and during a performance and tickets could also be bought on the door. Customer feedback would be evaluated at every stage of re-opening and customers would also be surveyed throughout the year.

 

The appendix relating to this item was attached to the agenda as an exempt item. However, no discussion was required on the exempt appendix and the item was therefore considered in open session.

 

DECISION:

 

1)    That the update contained within the report in respect of the reopening plans for the South Holland Centre be noted;

 

2)    That the proposed changes to the staffing structure in respect of the South Holland Centre be approved, and that the Executive Director (Strategy & Resource) in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Facilities be authorised to implement the proposed staffing structure and to take any incidental or subsidiary action that may be necessary to enable such implementation.

Supporting documents: