Silent laser display could replace fireworks event in bid to save cash
By Will Durant - Local Democracy Reporter
25th Jan 2023 | Local News
A Hertfordshire council may swap its Bonfire Night fireworks for a "silent" laser display in a bid to save money.
The move is an option which Stevenage councillors are considering in an effort to slim down the borough's leisure budget. The move could save the authority £18,000.
Any savings agreed would help Stevenage Borough Council achieve a savings target worth £3.3million by April 2026.
Other measures could include scrapping grants to parent and toddler groups, ending grants to Sport Stevenage and deleting a leisure and health officer job opportunity at the council.
The next budget takes effect from April 1, 2023, the date when Everyone Active will take over the borough's leisure centre contract from Stevenage Leisure Limited.
Council leader Richard Henry (Lab, St Nicholas) said the new contract will bring more sports opportunities into communities – outside of leisure centres – boosting the overall culture and leisure offer in the town.
A council report notes ending the firework display would need capital investment into equipment for lightshows or lasers, which comes out of a different funding pot.
It is unlikely to come into force in 2023, and councillors will be asked to agree £18,000 in one-off funding for this year's event to give the event planning team "certainty".
Instead, a full review will take place before the 2024/25 budget-setting process.
"Liaison has taken place with the fire service concerning the cessation of the firework display," the report reads.
"Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service maintains a managed display can help reduce the number of injuries resulting from private firework functions."
Ending the parent and toddler group funding would save the council £2,000 each year.
"This fund has not been accessed since before Covid," the report reads.
"It has not been promoted since and the client group would tend to fit more with children's services and family centres at Hertfordshire County Council."
Ending the Sports Stevenage grant could impact funding for the organisation's website.
Deleting the leisure and health officer job role "would mean the council will not be able to offer sports development and it would also limit the council's ability to run activities such as cycling and walking festivals along with supporting club development".
The report adds: "The new leisure contract does include an outreach service and this post could be deleted noting that the new provision will commence from April 2023."
Stevenage Leisure Limited, also known as SLL, lost the Stevenage Borough Council leisure management contract after 24 years running the service.
Instead, Everyone Active will manage venues such as Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre and the Stevenage Swimming Centre for a period of 10 years.
The Fairlands Valley Sailing Centre and café will be managed directly by the council.
Cllr Henry told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "We are really excited.
"The new provider will speak to councillors in the very near future about our aspirations and theirs, and the services they have to deliver and improve upon.
"It's a sport and leisure contract designed for the people of Stevenage, and one of the key things is to have a residents' card to encourage them back into leisure centres.
"There will be more services not just in leisure centres but out in the community, so they will begin doing outreach work and investing in community equipment as well."
Duncan Jefford, regional director at Everyone Active, said: "We want the community to view the leisure and arts centres as community hubs and will work hard to engage and educate people from all backgrounds in not only physical activity but also arts development activity.
"The new contract includes significant investments, including a new leisure centre development planned for 2027, amplifying the drive to prioritise the health and wellbeing of the local community. I am delighted that we have been chosen to support the council's exciting visions."
Everyone Active already manages a selection of leisure centres in Hertfordshire, including in neighbouring East Herts.
Richard Allen, chief executive officer at SLL, said he is "hugely proud of the impact they have made to the health of the Stevenage community".
He said: "SLL is working with Everyone Active to ensure a seamless transfer of the operations, and can guarantee it is business as usual for our customers at all of the facilities."