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.
One question had been received from a Member in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.
Question 1: Cllr Purves
“At the Extraordinary Meeting on 4 April, it was agreed that up to £1.83 million would be budgeted by SDC for costs associated with the failure of Sencio.
This funding to be borrowed from earmarked reserves which would need to be repaid. A solution to repay the reserves to be agreed before conclusion of the 2024/25 budget setting process.
That £1.83 million now is £2 million according to the letter of 18 April from the Health and Communities Manager, to fund a deep clean, maintenance, safety and running costs for the three sites for two years, plus £330 thousand identified by Evelyn Partners for pensions, so the figure now in the region of £2.3 million.
So, £1.83 million agreed at the Extraordinary Meeting by SDC would appear to be woefully insufficient.
Is c. £2.3 million going to be the final figure for SDC to find and how is this money going to be repaid to the Reserves?”
Response: Leader of the Council
“In the letter sent on 18 April, the amount was rounded up by officers and they apologise if this had caused any confusion. At a specially convened meeting of the Council on Tuesday 4 April 2023, Councillors agreed to start the process of appointing a new interim leisure provider to run the facilities for up to two years together with £1.83m borrowing from earmarked reserves.
The £330,000 for pensions mentioned in the Evelyn Partners creditors report relates to unpaid amounts at that time. That is not the final position of Sencio within the Kent Pension Fund. We were awaiting to hear from the Kent Pension Fund as to what the full position was when Sencio ceased trading and what the impact on SDC, if any may be.
As highlighted in the report appendix presented at the April meeting of the Council, the cost envelope of £1.83m reflects known costs. The appendix stipulated that the £1.83m did not include pension and loan liabilities, procurement, consultancy or legal costs. These figures were presently unknown, therefore any final figure would be based on current and up to date information being received.
As agreed by Council earlier this month: This funding would be borrowed from earmarked reserves in the short-term and would need to be repaid. A solution to repay the reserves would need to be agreed before the conclusion of the 2024/25 budget setting process.
Therefore it would be for Members to decide how the money is going to be paid to reserves. Once Everyone Active had been trading for several months, with open book accounting in operation, a more accurateposition would be known. However I am pleased to announce that since the beginning of this week the reception areas at both Sevenoaks and Edenbridge Leisure Centres opened for Memberships and that was going well. Lullingstone Golf Course had already opened and there were golfers already enjoying both courses.”
Supplementary question: Cllr Purves
In the same letter, it says unfortunately Sencio Memberships were not transferrable, and many will be losing money through no fault of their own, an unknown figure but should this council not reimburse those residents and include it in the budget, why should they lose out.
Response: Leader of the Council
Cllr Fleming replied stating that he was sure most Members’ would recall this being debated at the Extraordinary meeting and the proposer at that point, was unable to also give a number of memberships or an amount for the council to agree on. As it had been said, Sencio were a separate entity to the Council and a separate operator which as recently as January 2023 had told the Council, they had turned a corner and were out of the woods. As mentioned, the Council was also a creditor of Sencio and we were also looking to recover costs. On the Council’s website there was advice for those who had Memberships for how they could try and recover their money as well.
In accordance with the Constitution, no further discussion was allowed.