The report of the Head of Stronger Communities brings to members’ attention details of an open consultation relating to Outdoor Bowls in Leeds, including planned objectives and approach options.
The report of the head of Stronger Communities brought to members’ attention details of an open consultation relating to Outdoor Bowls in Leeds, including planned objectives and approach options.
Members were advised a report had been presented to the Council’s Executive Board in October 2020, which highlighted a budget gap in 2021/22 of £118.8 million, of which £59.1 million is due to the ongoing financial impact of Covid-19. In response, a number of proposals had been put forward including one for a 50% reduction in the number of public outdoor bowling greens managed and maintained by the council. The submitted report provided more detailed information on current provision and seeks views on how a 50% reduction can be achieved and thus make savings annually of £83k as a contribution to the budget gap identified.
In attendance for this item were:
· Sean Flesher - Chief Officer Parks & Countryside
· Antony Stringwell - Recreational Development Manager
The Community Committee were informed of the following points:
· The Council were looking to reduce the number of bowling green by 50% from 62 bowling greens to 31. This would also include a reduction in staff;
· A consultation process was being undertaken and had started on Monday 16th November 2020, and was due to close on Monday 14th December 2020 at 5pm. Following this, detailed proposals will be prepared to inform a decision due to be taken before the end of February 2021;
· The council currently has 62 greens city wide with the provision for summer and winter bowling;
· Bowling greens had been reviewed previously in 2014. As part of this review there had been the introduction of the season ticket, this was used by less than 30% of the members;
· There was a number of costs linked to the maintenance of the bowling greens;
· The consultation would be assessing a number of options including community asset transfers and cluster clubs which could look at clubs coming together;
· There had been a number of positive comments since the launch of the consultation exercise with active dialogue with members of the clubs.
Members’ discussions included the following:
· In the Outer West area there are 7 bowling clubs with some having winter and summer greens. It was noted that there were 6 with only summer greens;
· It was noted that a number of council employees had taken the offer of the Early Leavers Initiative (ELI). 3 employees from Parks and Countryside had received approval for the ELI scheme to date;
· The report had highlighted a number of comparisons with other cities such as Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Sheffield. Members raised concerns that the comparisons were not realistic of a city the size of Leeds, and that the sport of Crown Green Bowls was a regional sport. Members were advised that numbers would be assessed;
· Cllr. Andrew Carter clarified that the number of staff due to take ELI were not being made redundant;
· A number of the bowling greens located in the Outer West area were spread out and that the closure of the some of the greens would mean that individual communities would lose a value resource;
· The loss of bowling greens would not only affect the bowlers but all those who attend to watch the matches. It was noted that these events are good for social interaction especially for the elderly;
· Bowling is a good exercise for all age groups from young children to older members of the community and is in an outdoor setting;
· Members were of the view that Adult Social Care should be consulted on the benefits for older people of playing bowls. The benefits were noted as good for exercise, mental wellbeing, and social interaction;
· Members raised concerns that the bowling greens were used by a number of elderly people who were not able to write letters or use the internet to join in the consultation;
· It was noted that the bowling greens in the New Wortley area were well used and provided not only exercise but a social aspect. The greens are used by clubs from different wards travelling to play against each other. New Wortley bowling clubs invite the nearby high school to attend events to encourage the younger generation to play bowls;
· It was noted that the maintenance of the greens was a specialist job;
· A drive to take up membership of bowling clubs and the encouragement of getting younger people involved in the game.
Members also raised concerns in relation to:
· The money being spent on the City of Culture compared to the £83K being saved by closing 50% of the bowling greens;
· Cost of shutting down the bowling clubs and what would become of the greens and the club houses;
· Costs in comparison to the upkeep of the greens and of the new use of the greens.
Cllr Andrew Carter proposed the following motion:
To inform the Chief Executive, Chief Officer Finance Services and the administration that the proposals on bowling greens are wholly unacceptable and that they should rethink them.
This motion was seconded, and on being put the vote the motion was carried.
It was noted that Cllr Carlill abstained.
RESOLVED – That:
a) Comments of the Outer West Community Committee be fed into the consultation process;
b) The Chief Executive, Chief Officer Financial Services and the administration be informed that the Outer West Community Committee find the proposals for bowling greens unacceptable and have suggested that the proposals be reconsidered.