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 Members in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.


Question 1: Cllr Jim Morgan


“The current IT spend is over £1m. In particular nearly £400k is spent with Capita for Revenues and Benefits. What annual review process is in place to ensure that SDC gets value for money out of all its IT services?”


Response: Leader of the Council


The Leader of the Council advised that the overall contract with Capita was £382k per year to provide a system that was used by both Sevenoaks and Dartford Councils of part of the Revenues and Benefits Partnership.  The cost was therefore split between the two authorities with the actual cost to Sevenoaks Council being £191k per year.  She was pleased that the system was mentioned as in particular it was responsible for supporting the collection of £145m, in Council Tax and Business Rates annually, of which £15m, was retained by the Council. It was also key to the council being able to deliver over £75m of much needed business support funding throughout the recent pandemic, in many cases more quickly than many other local authorities.


At an operational level the service budget for IT services was monitored on a monthly basis and all contracts were reviewed on a rolling basis to ensure best value was in place and efficiencies were achieved where possible through appropriate procurement routes.


Through our constant strive to ensure this best value, whether through procurement or IT enabled efficiency, we have been able to deliver over £4m, in cumulative savings through our 10 year budget approach in this area alone as well as driving future efficiencies enabled by the use of technology.


In response to Cllr Jim Morgan’s supplementary question surrounding procurement, the Leader advised that she would be happy to provide a written response to his supplementary questions, if he could clarify in writing his exact questions.


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


Question 2: Cllr. Gustard


“At a recent meeting with Sports representatives within Sevenoaks it was highlighted that the explosion in girls’ sports has placed huge pressure on resources.  There simply aren't enough cricket pitches, hockey pitches and football fields etc. to cater for the additional demand.  The problem is not funding but space.  Are there mechanisms in the local plan process to identify sites not just for development into housing but to provide sports facilities?”


Response: Portfolio Holder for Development & Conservation


The Portfolio Holder for Development & Conservation advised that although housing was understandably a large part of the emerging local plan, the plan also recognised the important role that high quality sporting facilities play in the health and wellbeing of our communities, and the Council were committed to enabling increased participation in sport. With this in mind and acknowledging that the existing strategies were somewhat out of date, in July 2023 specialist consultants Knight Kavanagh and Page (KKP) were commissioned to update our Playing Pitch Strategy and Built Facilities Strategy, covering outdoor and indoor sports respectively. They were currently carrying out audits of the existing facilities within the district and analysing needs and trends in participation and how they were likely to evolve over the emerging local plan period. This included demographic indicators such as gender and any increase in girls’ sport participation would be picked up in this way.


The strategies would use this information to identify areas of quantitative and qualitative deficits and make recommendations as to how these might be addressed by the council, including how the district’s existing facilities could be used more efficiently and providing robust evidence and data which could be used to support future funding bids for new facilities. While it was unlikely that the strategies and the local plan themselves would be able to identify specific sites (except potentially on strategic sites), the emerging local plan included a suite of policies requiring the provision of open space/recreation space and supporting the provision of new sports and leisure facilities. This would mean that we would be able to work with developers to provide the right type of space/facilities on any sites that did come forward. An example was the recently granted permission for the school rebuild at Orchards Academy in Swanley, which included a new sports hall, which the Council has helped fund and includes a condition requiring a community use agreement so that the facilities would be available to our communities.


Supplementary Question: Cllr Gustard


As part of the local plan, has it been considered to ask land owners if they have sites to provide the space for much needed facilities.


Response: Cllr Reay


The research being done to provide these facilities will be taken into full consideration of the local plan and the sporting facilities will be taken into consideration but wanted to reassure that the aim and ambition was to deliver sports facilities for all of its residents which were desperately needed.


Supporting documents:


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