Questions Answered

By Jane Cruickshank / April 10, 2023
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LIVE Life Aberdeenshire has furbished the following answers to questions first put to them over a week ago and added to as further information emerged.

The first point of concern raised to The Bellman and where clarification was sought, was whether or not the changing village was part of the £1.4 million project at the leisure centre – or funded elsewhere leaving a smaller set or works paid for by the participatory budgeting funds

LLA communication

Stonehaven Participatory Budgeting exercise

Response to Jane Cruickshank, Editor, The Bellman from a Live Life Aberdeenshire spokesperson

Question: I’d be grateful if you could help clarify the funding source that is being used for the changing room refurbishment at the leisure centre. I had understood this to be the major component of the successful bid in last year’s PB exercise. However I’m now being told by a party who has attended meetings with LLA that the changing village cannot be funded by PB monies as it is repair and maintenance and not a new capital spend.

Answer: Throughout the Participatory Budgeting (PB) exercise – and during discussions with the Reference Group – we were very clear in indicating that the refurbishment of the changing rooms at Stonehaven Leisure Centre would require to be funded from alternative budget sources. We then identified £200,000 in funding from Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure 2 Fund for this particular aspect of the project to be progressed.

The winning option people voted for was Option Six which was to “extend and upgrade Stonehaven Leisure Centre”, namely:

  • Extension to give increase in size of fitness/dance studio
  • Extension to improve and increase gym
  • PAMIS changing (Promoting a More Inclusive Society)
  • Enhanced lighting in the pool area
  • Upgrade to changing facilities

Question: So what I now have to announce is the understanding that Stonehaven is about to enjoy 54 sqm of added recreation amenity and two or three windows for the princely sum of £1.05 million? (£350,000 is allocated to the PAMIS Changing Places toilet). Surely LLA could give a bit more insight into this situation.

Answer: Stonehaven Leisure Centre will see £1.4m of the participatory budgeting funds used to improve the venue and expand its capacity as follows:

  • Addition of a new dance/fitness studio area that will include a new sound system, lighting and a suite of spin bikes to expand the group exercise programme capability at SLC. This will realise additional capacity in the main sports hall that can be offered to sports clubs and groups or be utilised to further expand the SLC programme.
  • A new gym space fully kitted-out with the latest exercise equipment will also be created, improving the experience for existing service users, and attracting new participants.
  • Upgraded lighting in the pool area
  • A PAMIS changing space will enhance the provision within the Queen Elizabeth Park area for people with special needs and disabilities

Question: I am looking at how processes like this are scrutinised externally and see on the Scottish Government website that local authorities have a clear obligation to deliver best value. I also see a local authority will have an accountable officer: “The essence of the Accountable Officer’s role is a personal responsibility for the propriety and regularity of the finances under their stewardship and for the economic, efficient and effective use of all related resources’”. I’d be grateful if you would let me know the accountable officer’s comments on the delivery of best value in Stonehaven. Who is this person by the way?

Answer: Responsibility for the project lies with Live Life Aberdeenshire

Question: I received a letter yesterday from our Sports Hub vice chairperson who was unhappy with the process and very unhappy with the outcome and asking for the leisure centre project to be halted.

Clearly I’d like comment on this. I’d also be grateful for comment on what mechanism could be implemented to halt/ review the PB process. Previous requests still stand of course.

I am keen to be given clarity on the status of the second biggest project spend awarded to the tennis club.

I am also keen to find out which budget is paying for the solar panels included in the leisure centre upgrade. For your awareness, SDCC has sent a letter to Mr Savege requesting his input of information for their meeting next week.

I now need to address the news that the £250,000 allocation to Stonehaven Tennis Club for an indoor tennis arena has been withdrawn as they have not yet gained planning permission. Is this correct?

Answer: In response to your query around any halting of the PB process, with a number of commitments already in place to the benefit of the community, we continue to plan for delivery of the programme. In terms of your latter point, Live Life Aberdeenshire officers are currently in discussion with the tennis club and trustees to find a way forward to deliver undercover tennis provision within the Stonehaven Recreation Grounds (SRG) as voted for by the public. The option presented and voted on by the public was for a £1.2million 3-court permanent structure with part funding of £250,000 from PB and the remaining funding coming from the Lawn Tennis Association and Scottish Lawn Tennis Association. The Tennis Club has indicated a change to its original submission and now wishes to proceed with a project to deliver a 2-court, temporary structure, which would be removed for part of the year.

The solar panels installation will be from a separate Council Carbon Reduction fund of around £65k.

Question: What happens to the quarter of a million pounds – does it cascade to another project?

Answer: If the project does not proceed, then yes. Options were ranked in order of which receive the most votes. The option with the most votes will receive PB funding; the option with the next most votes will thereafter receive PB funding – this process will continue until either the PB has been spent or there is an insufficient PB to cover the cost of any remaining options.

Question: What about the £15,000 the tennis club have already incurred in costs?

Answer: It would not be for Aberdeenshire Council to comment on the financial aspects of a private club.

Question: Why were the bid projects not scrutinised by planning before being finalised?

Answer: Planning officers were consulted on all options with their opinion expressed to a reference group which ultimately agreed upon the options to be presented for the public vote.

Question: There are repeated calls for the whole process to be stopped and a fresh, transparent process undertaken – can this be done?

Answer:  Referring back to our earlier previous response, with a number of commitments already in place to the benefit of the community, we continue to plan for delivery of the programme.

Option 2 update:

By way of update, the successful Option 2 – Development of outside space at Stonehaven Recreation Grounds – is progressing. The Recreation Ground Trustees are progressing this project to convert outside space that will incorporate Challenge putting, Petanque/boules area and a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA). All activities to be developed within this project and presented for the vote were indicative. The SRG Trustees have indicated that a MUGA is better value than outdoor exercise equipment initially indicated, increases capacity in the area and keeps the project within the available budget. Live Life Aberdeenshire has agreed to this change in scope. Planning permission was required for this project and is now in place.