The covering report from the Communities and Leisure Officer enclosed at Appendix A, the 2020-21 Annual Report on Princes Park from Dartford Football Club (DFC).
The Leader of the Council confirmed his earlier declaration [Min. No. 15 refers], that he would respond to any questions in his role as a Director of Dartford Football Club (DFC) not a Councillor, and that Officers would respond to any questions regarding Council areas of responsibility for Princes Park.
The Vice-Chairman commended the DFC 2020-21 Annual Report on Princes Park [Appendix A in the papers] to the Committee for approval. He said that the DFC report was a comprehensive record of all the activities being managed by the Club in the Park on behalf of the Council under the terms of the SLA (Service Level Agreement). He noted in particular the improvements made to the golf facilities in Princes Park [Appendix A second and third paras refer], but proposed that future reports should include comparative data for the previous year, and a forecast of aims and objectives for the ensuing year, to help build a more comprehensive picture of progress.
The Leader of the Council, speaking in his capacity as a Director of Dartford Football Club, thanked the Vice-Chairman for his positive comments and noted his proposals regarding future annual reports from DFC regarding the activities and amenities managed in the Park on behalf of the Council under the terms of the SLA. He advised that the golf facility in particular had improved significantly under the management of Mr Paul Page a golf professional. The course now benefitted from improved drainage and was an excellent facility for both club level players and beginners of which he was one. Lessons were also available from Mr Page under the community outreach programme.
In response to a variety of other questions from individual Members, the Leader of the Council gave the following responses on behalf of DFC:
· London City Lionesses and Charlton Under 23’s had enjoyed good seasons at Princes Park in the period under review and it was possible that those arrangements would continue;
· Dartford Ladies team continued to flourish and the Club had made a commitment to support the Ladies team on an equal basis with the Men’s team;
· DFC had a special relationship with the Leigh Academy given their very close proximity and the inter-linked nature of the Academy and Park sites, which negated any travel costs for Academy pupils
· All Dartford schools were eligible to benefit from DFC training in Princes Park, but he was aware that travel costs for some schools remained a problem and could be prohibitive;
· Primary schools were catered for on a Saturday morning, on all playing surfaces, prior to match days in the afternoon;
· SCL provided a full-time education and football development programme for 16-18 year olds for 50 students, in addition to the Club’s pre-Academy (7-16 years old’s) and Academy programmes;
· A visit to Princes Park for the Committee and any other Members to see the various facilities DFC provided would be welcomed.
In concluding his response to Members’ questions, in his role as a DFC Director, the Leader of the Council stressed the benefits of the several successful social outreach programmes and diversity of teams delivered thanks to the Council’s support, which significantly aided social cohesion in the Borough, and opened up the game to a variety of different groups. He said that written reports could only go some way to measure the huge social capital reaped from sport and that grassroots football remained an extremely effective way to instil values, provide a focus for activity and a sense of wellbeing, particularly to young people.
The Director of Growth & Communities advised Members that communities needed sports facilities, theatres and cultural facilities and that SLAs (Service Level Agreements) were an excellent vehicle to achieve the Council’s aims to provide those amenities for residents. SLAs varied and were individual to each service provision, but all SLAs needed outcomes, and year on year data in future annual reports would help achieve that aim.
Officers confirmed that the Council payment of £90,000 to DFC to deliver all sporting services in Princes Park under the terms of the current SLA annually, remained unchanged for the current financial cycle to 31 March 2022, but remained under review on an annual basis.
The Vice-Chairman next addressed the excellent role Princes Park had played during the Pandemic as a regional base for the St. John’s Ambulance Service, a COVID-19 vaccination centre and in the distribution of food and other aid products during the various periods of lock-down. He proposed that the Chairman of Scrutiny write to the NHS to highlight the vital role that the facilities at Princes Park had played in helping to combat the effects of the Pandemic for Dartford residents, and to encourage the NHS to continue to use Princes Park facilities in the future e.g. for the COVID-19 booster jab.
The Leader of the Council acknowledged the vital role the DFC and the Princes Park facilities had played during the Pandemic, particularly for young people who, in his view, were more likely to accept help in a football club setting, than in a hospital or other NHS environment.
Members supported the proposal that the Chairman write to the NHS praising the role played by Princes Park during the Pandemic and for its future use to help combat the effects of COVID-19 in the Dartford community.
At the conclusion of discussion, the Leader of the Council resumed his role as a Cabinet Member for the remainder of the proceedings.
1. That Members note the contents of the Dartford Football Club 2020-21 Annual Report for Princes Park [Appendix A to the papers];
2. That future annual reports on Princes Park from Dartford Football Club include comparative data for the previous year’s operation, and aims and targets for the ensuing year;
3. That the Chairman of the Committee write to the NHS at an appropriate level, to praise the significant role facilities at Princes Park played in combating COVID-19 and its effects in the community during the Pandemic, and to recommend continued use of those facilities by the NHS to combat COVID-19 going forward;
4. That the Committee and all Members undertake a site visit to Princes Park at a date to be agreed with the Club by Officers.