LETTER SENT BY EMAIL
Littlehampton Town Clerk to Arun District Council
Mr. Nigel Lynn
Chief Executive, Arun District Council
Arun Civic Centre, Maltravers Road
Littlehampton, West Sussex
13th March 2013
ARUN DISTRICT COUNCIL DRAFT LEISURE STRATEGY
Thursday evening, the Town Council heard that at a meeting attended by
your Council Leader, Cabinet Member for Leisure and you with the Chief
Executive of Inspire leisure, it was agreed that, amongst other things,
cinema and theatre were removed (from April 2013) from the list of core
activities that Inspire are contracted to provide.
Council believes that this is an amazing and very concerning revelation
for a number of reasons and has asked me to write to you accordingly.
Our concerns are:
At the public meeting at Littlehampton Town Council on 2nd October last
year and at many subsequent meetings including the recent ADC/lTC
Liaison meeting, considerable emphasis has been put upon the lack of
willingness, by Inspire leisure, to buy a digital projector. It was
frequently claimed that this was not a matter for the District Council
and, furthermore, that Inspire had the funds to buy such equipment. It
was just that they chose not to do so. This appears, however, to not be
the case. It would have been very surprising if Inspire had decided to
purchase a digital projector, given that to address Arun's funding
cutbacks it had been relieved of its duty to provide such a service
back in July 2012.
It is very difficult to see why the leisure Strategy was required. It
would appear that key decisions have been taken well in advance of its
findings. Surely it would have been relevant for the public and other
consultees to have been made aware that this decision had been taken.
This would perhaps have taken the discussions in a different direction.
It appears that we have been fed a red herring to distract us from the
other elements of the review. Many members of the public have spent a
huge amount of time campaigning to save the Windmill, cinema and
theatre in the Town, hoping to sway the decision makers. This is how
democracy should work. We have to ask why they were not informed that
they were too late?
On the question of the decision back in July, why was this not made
public and why did it not go through the normal decision making
procedures at the District Council? We and others would have been able
to pick this up and comment and lobby accordingly. Even if it is
claimed that this was not a full and final decision, the impact of it
was that, well in advance of the new financial year, decisions were
being made that impacted significantly on services, particularly in the
case of Inspire when they were agreeing their budget. Have the District
Council considered whether the handling of this decision would satisfy
the Ombudsman or legal challenge? This also raises several other
questions. When would this decision have been reported to Councilor
through the appropriate mechanisms? Is it a decision that is now open
to call-in as it has only just been publicised? Are there any other
major decisions that have been taken that affect the general well-being
of the Town, but have not been made public?
Whilst there are many other issues that this raises, not least the
validity of the Leisure Strategy exercise, we would still ask, as an
example of our disquiet, why the cinema was allowed to cease
functioning in mid- February when even the hidden decision says that it
would cease from April 2013. This exemplifies the apparent disregard of
the public, the emerging Leisure Strategy and due process that has been
at the forefront of shutting down highly valued local services in an
unacceptable and underhand way.
We would be very
interested in your response to these points and hope that they will be
considered at your Council meeting on Wednesday.
cc Littlehampton Town Councillors
Cllr. Mrs Brown
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