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Report of the Director of Neighbourhoods and Development attached.
The Panel considered a report of the Director of Neighbourhoods and Development which detailed the costs of therestoration of the Coach House building in Hurst Grange Park, Penwortham.
The Interim Chief Executive, the Director of Neighbourhoods and Development, the Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods, the Assistant Director of Projects and Development and the council’s Landscape Officer attended the meeting to answer members’ enquiries. Councillor Mick Titherington, Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure and Wellbeing, and Councillor Paul Foster, the Leader of the Council, were also in attendance.
The report was to be considered by the Scrutiny Budget and Performance Panel as a result of members’ concerns regarding an increase in expenditure on the project and at the request of the Leader. A grant of £513,100 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund had been awarded for the project and supplemented by £17,000 raised by the Friends of Hurst Grange Park and a proposed contribution of £253,000 from South Ribble Borough Council as part of an overall project cost of £783,625.
Members were keen to ascertain the level of involvement of the Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure and Wellbeing in the project and were informed in response that the Cabinet Member was aware of the project prior to his appointment as portfolio holder and that he had been taken part in a Full Council vote to approve the application for National Lottery funding.
It was acknowledged that the council had not yet accepted the funding offer by the National Lottery and that this would be a decision for Full Council. It was suggested that the council could accept a portion of the offered funding, but this was unlikely due to the significance of the achievements in being offered the funding.
Some concern was expressed that the project had not been included in the council’s Corporate Plan and the impact that this would have on monitoring the project. In response, members were advised that the project was incorporated into the wider objectives for parks and that contingencies had been included into the funding bid for monitoring. The Scrutiny process could also be used to monitor the project.
Discussion focused on the lack of transparency around the increase in costs of the project. It was acknowledged that the increased costs had been reported to Full Council in February 2019 and February 2020 and to Cabinet in June and October 2019 but that this was not readily identifiable within the reports.
The Panel also queried the level of stakeholder engagement in the project. Regular progress updates were provided to the supporting officer to relay to members of Penwortham Neighbourhood Forum and a meeting was held on 30 October 2019 to brief Forum members.
It was conceded that this meeting had clashed with a mandatory safeguarding training session for all members and that only one member attended the Forum meeting.
Minimal engagement had taken place with Penwortham Town Council and a need for better consultation was acknowledged.
Consequently, the Interim Chief Executive suggested that further consultation ... view the full minutes text for item 8.