To consider a report by the Director (TW) (reference 16/45) attached.
The Cabinet considered a report by the Director (TW) (Reference 16/45) in respect of the future provision of Tourist Information Centres (TIC) and Customer First (CF) services in Whitby and Filey, and Tourist Information at the Harbourside, Scarborough. In introducing the report, the Portfolio Holder for Harbours, Assets, Coast and Flood Protection, Councillor Cockerill commented on recent correspondence concerning proposals for TIC provision in Whitby. He was disappointed that much of this correspondence had been submitted at the eleventh hour, but pleased that the idea of a centre for the Sutcliffe Collection had been proposed – an attraction which the Council could not currently afford, but which merited further exploration, separate to the provision of TICs. However, even at this late time, Councillor Cockerill was grateful to Councillor Sandra Turner for having suggested to him an alternative site for the TIC. Her idea was to convert part of a redundant storage building which faced directly onto Dock End, into a TIC facility. He envisaged this option as a practical and beneficial alternative to relocating the TIC to the Harbour Office, which was worthy of investigation. In light of this new suggestion, Councillor Cockerill proposed various amendments to the recommendations in the report. The Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Tourism and Culture, Councillor Backhouse and other Cabinet Members echoed Councillor Cockerill’s comments about the alternative site for the Whitby TIC and supported his proposed amendments. Councillor Backhouse reminded the meeting that whilst each set of recommendations was tailored to each resort, the drivers behind the recommendations were the same: the increasing costs of delivering TICs which could not be sustained, significant shift in the way people accessed tourist information towards digital channels, the need to retain some face to face access to core Council services in Whitby and Filey reflecting patterns of demand and new methods to access services, the need to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the core tourism destination marketing service and events development, to mainstream the Council’s annual financial contribution to the Welcome to Yorkshire Partnership, and to maximise the value generated by the Council’s property assets. Councillor Cockerill also commented on the proposals for Filey. He was concerned that ticket sales for summer shows could suffer as a consequence of the current recommendations, and proposed an additional recommendation to explore the option of deploying part-time staff at busy times in the high season to provide tourist information. He further noted that the use of the term ‘disposal’ in recommendation 4 had raised alarm bells in the local community and sought clarification that the existing TIC in Filey would not be sold. The Director, Mrs Dixon explained that the term ‘disposal’ covered a range of options including a leasehold agreement. Councillor Backhouse noted Councillor Cockerill’s suggestion about the deployment of part-time staff, which both Members agreed would be explored under recommendation 7. The Chairman then invited other Members of the Council to address the Cabinet. Councillor Abbott noted that in the year 2000, some 640,000 people visited Whitby TIC, more than the combined total of the other TICs in the Borough. He disputed the decline in visitor numbers outlined in the report, contending that the counter at the TIC had been faulty for 18 months. He criticised the poor accessibility of the Jobcentre in Whitby, the unsuitability of the Harbour Office to accommodate the TIC, and proposed instead that the Council’s Customer First and TIC services be co-located in a central hub, the current TIC site. He referred to email correspondence from Whitby representatives which criticised the recommended term of the leasehold interest of less than 25 years in recommendation 1 which would preclude a community asset transfer of the existing TIC/Customer First site. Councillor Abbott proposed that the matter be referred to the new Overview and Scrutiny Board to undertake a review. The Chairman replied that, subject to the Council’s approval, the new Board would not be established until June, which would inevitably delay any review. Councillor Backhouse defended the visitor numbers for Whitby TIC detailed in the report, noting that during 2012/13 the counter at the TIC had been out of order during its refurbishment. The year 2012/13 was a poor year in terms of visitor numbers and spend across the Borough, and the figures for Whitby TIC were calculated based on the numbers at other sites, with appropriate adjustments. The Customers, Communities and Partnerships Manager explained that the Jobcentre in Whitby had disabled access and the idea was to bring together all of the Council’s Customer First services in a single location. Councillor Backhouse added that the Cabinet report had previously been deferred to enable further consultation on the proposals, including a constructive meeting with Whitby Town Council and other local representatives in January. All Members of the Council had been given the opportunity to give their views during this consultation. Councillor Jefferson then addressed the meeting. She noted the high volume of visitors at the Harbourside TIC in Scarborough, a facility which had been funded by external regeneration grant for that purpose, and expressed concern at its replacement by an unstaffed TIC point within the new Lifeboat facility. The Director, Mrs Dixon commented that she was not aware of any covenant on the Harbourside TIC which would affect its disposal. Councillor Backhouse added that the RNLI was keen to accommodate some Tourist Information provision in the iconic new building, an idea which had been welcomed by South Bay Traders. He reminded the meeting that the proposals in the report were about disseminating tourist information in an alternative, more cost-effective way, for example, through the Council’s outdoor leisure staff in recommendation 11.
RESOLVED that the Cabinet:
1. Approve the marketing of a leasehold interest in the existing TIC/Customer First site in Whitby for a term of less than 25 years, for either a) the exclusive use of the entire current site or b) for uses incorporating multiple occupants ancillary to the principal use of the site
2. Task officers to explore the potential to convert and incorporate a TIC facility within the existing redundant storage area facing directly onto Dock End and to delegate authority to the Leader in consultation with the Director (TW) to approve the final location of any future TIC facility. Approve that in the event that the entire current Whitby site is leased for exclusive use that the current Tourist Information Service be relocated to the Harbour Office, operating a 7 day service in summer and a 4 day service in winter, with services focused on core tourist information advice, with a very small retail function.
3. Upon completion of any disposal of the TIC site, approve the relocation of Whitby Customer Service functions to the JobCentre, to be delivered in conjunction with housing and benefits services that are already delivered from this site and undertake a further review of this combined service within the first year.
4. Approve the closure of the existing Tourist Information Centre, approve in principle the disposal of the property and the marketing of the existing site.
5. Approve the establishment of an unstaffed TIC point within the entrance to the Evron Centre Concert Hall in Filey. To incorporate 7 day direct phone access to the tourism bureau, access to on-line information and leaflets and information about local attractions and events.
6. To update the existing touch screen tourism information point to provide tourism product and destination information 24hours a day.
7. Explore the scope to utilise the Council’s outdoor leisure sites and staff to support the provision of tourism information during the summer months.
8. Approve the relocation of the Filey Customer Services functions to the Filey Library, with Customer Services staff available on two days a week and courtesy phone and public access computers available at all other times, to be reviewed during the first year.
9. Approve the closure of the Tourist Information Centre at Harbourside, approve in principle the disposal of the property and the marketing of the building.
10. Explore options for an unstaffed TIC point within the new Lifeboat facility on Foreshore Road to include courtesy phone, literature racks and digital information kiosk.
11. Explore the scope to train Outdoor Leisure staff to support the provision of tourist information during the summer.
12. Train existing Open Air Theatre Box Office staff to provide some tourist information services either from within the existing site or as part of any proposed redevelopment of the facility.
13. Approve that £45,000 of the savings generated through this review are refocused to provide core funding for the Tourism Destination Marketing and Events team to focus on the development of destination marketing using digital technologies and event development in order to support the delivery of the Borough’s Visitor Economy Strategy to increase visitor volume and value across the Borough. That £20,000 is refocused as a sustainable income stream for the Council’s contribution to the Welcome to Yorkshire Partnership.
To reduce the costs of delivering the current services and to consider new ways of delivering the TIC service, taking account of current trends in accessing tourism services/ information and the increased significance of on line channels.
To enable investment to ensure the continuation of the destination management service and the benefits obtained from the Council’s contribution to the Welcome to Yorkshire partnership.
To enable the provision of some face to face core Council services within Whitby and Filey, taking into account patterns of demand and new methods of accessing services.
To maximise the value generated by the Council’s property assets.
(In accordance with his declaration under Minute 1, Councillor Plant left the meeting during the debate and determination of the above item)