Agenda item

To consider any questions by Members under paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution, notice of which have been duly given.


Two questions had been received from two Members in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.


Question 1: Cllr Purves


Sencio is having financial problems due to a combination of factors ranging

from the age of their buildings and plant, effect of COVID, competition from

private gyms and rising utility costs.


I am assuming we are all agreed on the value of public swimming pools in

Sevenoaks and Edenbridge. Should Sencio fail and government grants not be

forthcoming, what are the Council’s plans to make sure we retain public

swimming pools in Sevenoaks and Edenbridge?”


Response: Leader of the Council


“Leisure centres can indeed be costly to operate. However, at present, Sencio has not formally raised that it is experiencing financial problems to the Council. 


The Council was currently unable to review Sencio’s current financial position due to the trust deferring its submission of audited accounts. No profit and loss or cash flow reports have been presented to either officers or Sencio Board members since September 2022. However, Council members requested this information at its most recent Scrutiny meeting when Sencio was in attendance. The information will be presented by Trust’s Chief Executive Officer, Jane Parish, at the next Scrutiny Committee (being held in March).


Early in the new year, Sencio spoke with the press highlighting concerns with future utility cost projections. However, we are of the understanding that this has since been contained in the Trust’s 2023 budget, in part due to utility costs beginning to stabilise and reduce and the addition of a new energy support package being announced by Government, which will benefit the Trust.


Sencio’s Chief Executive Officer and Chair have given no indication to this Council that the Trust was currently failing. However, if this became the case, the Council would, of course, review all options to safeguard its leisure facilities in the district.


Our new leisure operator, Everyone Active, at White Oak Leisure Centre, has confirmed that in line with the national picture, they have seen their utility costs stabilise over recent months, which has been further helped by bulk-buying energy from suppliers in advance in order to minimise any cost pressures.


Supplementary question: Cllr Purves

Should Sencio go into liquidation and the Council had to bear the costs, is the money budgeted for should it occur?


Response: Leader of the Council


The Leader advised that currently Sencio had not approached the Council to say they were in financial difficulties and it would be unwise of us to say they were without evidence to say so. That was the position and we would keep all options open should they come to us.


In accordance with the Constitution, no further discussion was allowed.


Question 2: Cllr Dr. Canet


“Heavy rains have resulted in the drainage system in Northern Ward

becoming overloaded. This has resulted in the culverts discharging

untreated sewage into the Mill pond at the top of Mill Lane and local roads

and gardens. This unpleasant and potentially harmful to human and wildlife

situation has been happening for many years.


Can SDC do anything with the facilities providers to prevent this happening?

Potentially this waterway joins up with the cherished chalk stream of the

Darenth River. This matter is urgent as there are proposals to build more

than 1100 new homes in the immediate area at the Gasworks, Pinehurst

Nursing Home and the Greatness Quarry.


Can local residents be reassured that SDC is dealing with this importance matter.


Response: Leader of the Council


“A full report on Mill Pond was presented to the Cleaner and Greener Advisory Committee on 6 December 2022.


The council has continued to work with Thames Water following their contamination that occurred in 2021 and some progress has been made with Thames Water carrying out works to the culvert cages.  Discussions with Thames Water and partners, including KCC will continue to look at other sustainable options for the Pond in the future that will include full community engagement.


A general tidy up of the site took place last week which included litter picking, strimming and lightly cutting back the surrounding vegetation.


It won’t have passed the Member that the Budget and Council Tax Setting 2023/24 agreed earlier this evening included a capital item for works on the site, and as approved a specialist contractor will be appointed to commence the work.”

Supplementary question: Cllr Dr. Canet


Will the council use its power under Environmental Health legislation to make the strongest representation to Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT)  and to the water companies to halt the release of the untreated water. Will the council also, using planning powers gained under the Sevenoaks Neighbourhood Town Plan, that development will only be permitted when it is clear that drainage and sewage systems will not be overwhelmed.


Response: Leader of the Council


The Leader responded setting out that this was clearly an issue for utility companies, a statutory consultee within a planning consultation. It was therefore up to the utility company not SDC to decide whether the local water and sewage network can cope with development.


He went on to say that as stated in his previous answer the Council continued to work with Thames water who was a statutory Utility company which falls under OFWAT and the Environment Agency.  Thames Water had been made aware of the issues but the Council had no direct powers over a utility company and that was down to the statutory bodies.


In accordance with the Constitution, no further discussion was allowed.


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