Agenda and minutes
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To receive any declarations of interest not included in the register of interest from Members in respect of items of business included on the agenda for this meeting.
There were none.
a) Response to Sencio Community Leisure Insolvency Position – Sevenoaks District Council Leisure Sites
Councillor Fleming moved and Councillor Dickins seconded the report which sought agreement for a budget of up to £1.83 million for expenditure associated with supporting the oversight, maintenance and safety of Council owned leisure facilities, whilst negotiations with the Insolvency Practitioner were finalised, for an interim operator to oversee the leisure facilities. It also sought for the establishment of an internal investigation by Internal Audit.
Councillor Fleming spoke to the motion giving a recent history of the events. Sencio had been responsible for the operator contract of the leisure centres and golf course for 20 years and had been in regular talks with the Council since 2020 regarding its business planning and recovery, resulting from the pandemic. In 2020, Councillors had expressed concerns regarding Sencio’s business recovery plan. As a result, a review of their business and recovery plans was undertaken by leisure consultants, Max Associates and looked into how to take it onto a strong financial footing. Max Associates had expressed concerns that even pre-covid there was a budget shortfall, with liabilities in the region of £2m. The Council had not been told of this by Sencio before publication of the report. At the Cabinet meeting on 8 July 2021, it was agreed to look to appoint an alternative contractor should Sencio hand back the contract, and that no additional funding at the time would be given to Sencio due to the significant risk to tax payers. In October 2022, Sencio’s management team told the Council it had a trading surplus. Council’s representatives on the Board were asking for cash flow and statement of accounts as there were concerns over staff wages in December 2022.
In January 2023, Sencio’s Chief Executive had attended the Council’s Scrutiny Committee meeting and had confirmed that it had turned a corner. The Council’s Scrutiny Committee invited Sencio to attend its March meeting with their audited accounts. Before attending the meeting, Sencio had informed the Board of Trustees that they were appointing an Insolvency Practitioner as they were unable to meet their financial commitments for March 2023. Since then, the Council had been working closely with Sencio’s Insolvency Practitioner and the Chairman of the Board to achieve an early surrender of the lease, so that the centres could be re-opened as quickly as possible
In regards to Sencio’s staff, the Council was organising an information session providing support from the Council’s Benefits, HR and Housing Teams as well as the voluntary sector. The event was taking place on 6 April 2023 at the Council, alongside the regular housing and community hub, which would be taking place on 11 April.
He expressed his thanks to the Officers who had been working tirelessly over the past few weeks and to the Board representatives who had been putting pressure on Sencio’s Management Team and Board to look at the accounts and centre provisions.
Councillor Streatfeild moved an amendment to the motion which was ... view the full minutes text for item 51.