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Paper 2 - 28 November 1997 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE & ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

Minutes of the Association meeting held at the New Forest District Council on Friday 26 September 1997 at 10.00 am.

Present:

Basingstoke and Deane

Councillor Mrs P Baker
Councillor J Evans
Ms K Sporle (Chief Executive)

East Hampshire

Cllr D Clark
Miss J Hunter (Chief Executive)

Eastleigh

Councillor K House (Chair)
Councillor Mrs M Kyrle OBE
Mr C Tapp (Chief Executive)
Miss D Thompson (Committee Officer)

Fareham

Councillor Mrs D Burton-Jenkins
Councillor R Price
Mr A Davies (Chief Executive)

Gosport

Councillor A Hayward
Mr M C Crocker (Chief Executive)

Hampshire

Councillor A Collett
Councillors A Rice
Councillor W Wheeler
Mr P Robertson (Chief Executive)

Hart

Councillor D W Cleaton
Mr G R Jelbart (Chief Executive)

Havant

Cllr R Bellinger
Cllr K Moss
Mr R Smith (Chief Executive)

New Forest

Councillor J Coles
Mr I Mackintosh (Managing Director)

Portsmouth

Councillor J Patey
Mr B P Partridge (Corporate Projects Manager)

Rushmoor

Councillor G J Woolger
Councillor J Whittingham
Mr A Colver (Head of Member Services)

Test Valley

Councillor J Morgan

Winchester

Councillor D Atwell
Councillor A Mitchell
Councillor R Sabine
Ms J Adams (Corporate Support Officer)

Isle of Wight Council

Cllr R A S Cowley

Hampshire Association of Parish and Town Councils

S Hudson
Cllr Mrs J Pittfield

Isle of Wight Association of Parish and Town Councils

Mrs B Lawson

Also in attendance Mr N Goulder, Policy Officer, Ms L Robinson (GOSE), Mr J Alexander (GOSE) and Mr G Tubb (SERF).

28.97 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Apologies for absence were received from Mr F Hetherington (Isle of Wight Council), Councillor B Palmer (Test Valley), Councillor Mrs M K Haselden (Test Valley), Mr A Jones (Test Valley), Councillor D Miles (Gosport), Councillor A Ludlow (East Hampshire) and Mr A Lloyd (Rushmoor).

The Chair welcomed Hampshire County Council's recently appointed representatives to the meeting.

29.97 MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON JULY 18 1997

The minutes of the meeting were accepted as a correct record, with the exception of two spelling errors. On page 1, Councillor Hayward was incorrectly spelt 'Haywood' and on page 6 of the minutes Councillor Verschoren had incorrectly been spelt Vershoren.

30.97 PRESENTATION BY LUCY ROBINSON FROM THE GOVERNMENT OFFICE OF THE SOUTH EAST ON THE GOVERNMENT'S LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME

Lucy Robinson, Director of the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Area Team of GOSE gave members of the Association a presentation on the Government's legislative proposals, concentrating on the future role and direction of local government on issues where GOSE was active. The discussion concentrated on the regional agenda, the proposed Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the issues surrounding regional economic development and planning. She started off with John Prescott's five priorities:-

(i) Integration - the Government had now amalgamated the two departments, and the new Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions was now operational. The addition of the regions was a new phenomenon and highlighted the priority that the government had attached to the Regional agenda. There were also issues surrounding the integration of policy, particularly with regard to transportation and the environment;

(ii) Decentralisation

(iii) Regeneration - changes were planned in the way in which budgets were managed;

(iv) Partnership - the Government was keen to build on partnership at the local level and take it forward;

(v) Sustainability - the new Government was also keen to protect the environment and attain sustainable development.

With regard to decentralisation, the proposals for Scotland, Wales and London were known. RDAs were equally important for the English regions. Following the success of Scottish Enterprise, the Government felt that the English regions could benefit in a similar way. The consultation exercise that followed the launch of the policy had received a good response. GOSE received 200 written responses and 450 people had attended seminars at the end of July 1997. The summary of responses from the South East was currently in the hands of Ministers. From the responses received, the clear message was that people wanted an RDA and did not want the South East to be left behind. Positive benefits could be derived from an RDA, there were issues in the South East that had not been tackled properly and could be taken forward by such a mechanism. Whilst the South East was strong in economic terms, it could be doing better in relation to other European regions. An RDA could build on strengths. Other issues that were top of the list for action included skills and transportation, quality of the environment. Regeneration was another important issue in some parts of the region including Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Lucy Robinson said an RDA should not be just another tier of bureaucracy, it needed to be powerful, more flexible and less hide-bound by central government restraints. It should work through existing local bodies and partnerships. Accountability was an important issue to which ministers needed to give further consideration. It was reported that there was likely to be a white paper in November 1997. The anticipated parliamentary enactment date was July 1998, with boards expected to be in place by April 1999, and shadow boards before that.

Land Use Planning

Lucy Robinson then moved on to land use planning. She reported that the planning guidance for the South East was in need of revision. SERPLAN had been working on this for quite some time now. GOSE was hoping to be able to provide some advice for Summer 1998 and would then be consulting on this - the process was lengthy. It was currently being considered whether this could be shortened so that authorities could have revised regional planning guidance by April 1999. GOSE was working with SERPLAN to try and achieve this. It would obviously be very useful to have revised planning guidance before setting up RDAs. There was a need to speed the process up without undermining full consultation. This obviously pointed to more parallel working to save time. The key issues for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were:

* Household Growth
* Transport

With respect to household growth, it was clear there would be an increase which was largely indigenous to the region. It was necessary to address how this could be accommodated and what the way forward should be. Should households be squeezed in as in the past through increment or should the whole matter be considered more regionally in the context of sustainable development? A more radical approach was called for. This whole issue related well to the transportation debate. The Government was already in the process of consultation on its integrated transport policy. The two issues needed to be looked at together. A White Paper on transportation was planned for Spring 1998 which fitted in well with GOSE's timetable for talks with SERPLAN.

A question and answer session followed which provided members with the opportunity to engage in a wide ranging discussion on the future for local authorities.

Cllr K House asked for Lucy Robinson's thoughts on whether or not she felt that planning appeals might in future be determined at regional or local level. She replied that until Regional Elected Assemblies were in place, the whole planning function could not be handed back. However, in more minor cases, it was expected that there might be a reduction in the number of call ins.

Cllr Cleaton (Hart), asked a question on a specific case about enforcement. Lucy Robinson commented that local issues should be dealt with by the local democratic process.

Ms K Sporle (Basingstoke and Deane) said it would be helpful if GOSE could clearly state what the change in practice was on call-ins. Lucy Robinson replied that it was too soon to say how this would evolve. The point, however, was taken.

Cllr Sabine (Winchester) raised the question of GOSE's visibility and public profile. Lucy Robinson responded that the key issue was that GOSE's partners knew of its existence, it was less important that individuals were aware. She added that GOSE had just published its Annual Report which set out its role and was available to anyone interested.

Cllr Cowley (IOW) asked how it would be possible to persuade people that we have a cohesive force called 'The South East' as it was not a unified area? Lucy Robinson's view was that the Government Office had not so far sought to speak for the region. It had represented the functions in the region but not the region itself. An RDA would begin to change this, and would speak for the region. In the interim, organisations such as SERF played a very legitimate role and represented the way forward.

The Chair responded that in practice, there would be no Regional Assemblies until Scotland, Wales and London had proved themselves to be effective and so had RDAs. In the meantime we needed to ensure that SERF and other bodies could be effective and translate into an effective Regional Assembly.

Mr R Smith (Havant) was interested to know what the Association and other organisations could do to guide the changes. Lucy Robinson said the Association had an important role to play. It was important to remember, however, that RDAs would be private sector led - this was a clear Government statement. On the issue of local accountability, organisations such as the RDA, GOSE and local authorities had a key role to play in assisting dialogue to ensure ownership across the region. On a point of warning, she said that the RDA must not get swamped by bureaucracy.

The Chair commented that at a national level meeting on RDAs which he attended on 25 September 1997, it was made clear by the Minister (Richard Caborn) that although RDAs develop regional economic strategy, they would have to consult with the Shadow Assemblies. The Minister had made it clear that if the shadow assembly did not agree the strategy, then the RDA would not have been fulfilling its job in getting key partners actively on board. In this respect, Shadow Chambers would have a degree of 'informal' clout.

Councillor Coles (New Forest) asked Lucy Robinson whether or not GOSE had any influence on the Home Office, who had just issued two consultation papers on crime prevention and community safety which they expected to be answered within a very tight time frame which left no time for proper consideration. Lucy Robinson said the Home Office was new to consultation with local authorities and she would take this point back to them.

Cllr Wheeler (Hampshire County Council), talked about the previous Government's trend for taking powers away from local government. He asked whether or not GOSE's intention to work in partnership with local government was genuine. Lucy Robinson responded, that it was, the steer from Ministers was that local government had a very important role to play. There would, however, inevitably be conflict at times. In the main, partnership remained the watchword. These partnerships would also involve other organisations.

Cllr Mitchell (Winchester) asked Lucy Robinson to comment on the relationship between local government and the National Health Service. Lucy Robinson said that she was not really in a position to comment on this as GOSE did not have any direct dealings with the NHS. She would, however, be meeting the NHS Regional Managers shortly. She said that she would take his points back to the office and give them some further consideration.

Cllr Atwell (Winchester) asked what the role of organisations such as the Commission for Rural Development would be with the setting up of RDAs. Lucy responded that this was an issue for Ministers to consider.

Mr M Crocker (Gosport) inquired about the relationship between GOSE and the Ministry of Defence and referred to local government's inability to influence the MOD. Lucy Robinson responded that there was little direct GOSE contact with the MOD centrally. New Ministers were, however, looking at this closely, especially with reference to the disposal of sites. Jeff Alexander (GOSE) commented that Ministers were getting to grips with these issues and guidelines would hopefully be in place shortly.

Cllr Cleaton (Hart) enquired about the future role of elected members now that proposals for RDAs were in place. He was told that RDAs were a new initiative and Ministers were still wrestling with the relationship between them and local government. Ministers were actively trying to develop a way forward.

The Chair closed the question and answer session, commenting that there were a lot of difficult decisions to be made but it was essential to try and make the proposals work. The key to the relationship between GOSE and local government was partnership. He went on to thank Lucy Robinson and Jeff Alexander for their contribution and commented that the Association hoped to see GOSE representatives fairly regularly in the future.

RESOLVED:

That Lucy Robinson be thanked for her presentation.

31.97 ACTION PLAN

Consideration was given to a report of the Policy Officer which presented a proposed Action Plan for the Association. The Plan had been prepared by the Association's Chief Executives' Group and was now before members for debate. Members were requested to circulate it into their individual authority's Committee system for consideration to ensure collective ownership of the Plan.

The Chair took members through the paper. On 4.1, Action within a European Region, Cllr Cowley (IOW) suggested that the Arc Manche Group should be included. Cllr Cleaton (Hart), made reference to the emphasis on the coastal region. With regard to 4.2, Cllr Moss (Havant) referred to the lessons which could be learnt from the successful twinning partnerships that had been established. Cllr Cowley (IOW) stressed the importance of the Brussels Office. N Goulder responded that these points could be picked up.

On the UK, the Chair highlighted Welfare to Work and other areas of government policy where local government and the Association could make a contribution. He particularly made reference to Local Governance and Best Practice and the forthcoming conference being staged at Eastleigh Borough Council on 5 and 6 November 1997.

On 6.1, G Tubb (SERF), informed members that SERF had not yet agreed a detailed working agenda. SERF would however be working closely with the Association's Policy Officer. Lucy Robinson (GOSE) commented that SERF and other organisations would need to hold the RDA to account.

On 7.0, Improving Local Governance, Cllr Coles (New Forest) commented that the initiative had lost its momentum. This, however, was a separate agenda item and could be considered further then. Cllr Moss (Havant), said that this was the most important subject in the Action Plan.

On 8.0, Developing Policy and Partnerships, Cllr Baker (Basingstoke and Deane), particularly welcomed the proposal for a paper on Local Agenda 21.

Cllr Mitchell (Winchester) referred to 8.7, Health, he felt that the last sentence was too restrictive and should include the NHS, Social Services, Housing and Planning. It was suggested that the Chief Executives' Group consider this further.

Cllr Clark (East Hampshire) commented that it was important to involve members in the Action Plan to ensure ownership. The Chair responded that items would continue to come back to this Group for consideration.

Mr M Crocker (Gosport), maintained that for the plan to be successful, it was necessary to establish target dates and priorities.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Action Plan, with the minor modifications discussed, be adopted as a framework for taking forward the objectives of the Association;

(2) That the Action Plan be communicated to partner organisations, professional groups and the staff side for consultation;

(3) That the results of these consultations be reported back to the Association and the Action Plan be reviewed; and

(4) That a report be brought back to the next meeting setting out a work programme with target dates and priorities.

32.97 IMPROVING LOCAL GOVERNANCE IN HAMPSHIRE

Cllr Coles (New Forest) began the discussion by reiterating his previous comments that the Improving Local Governance initiative had lost its momentum. He asked whether or not Hampshire County Council colleagues could provide some clarity on this. Mr P Robertson (HCC) replied that the County had continued its support for the policy forums and was likely to respond positively to the report's recommendation. An Autumn relaunch was suggested.

Cllr Price (Fareham) asked the County Council where they had got to in the Structure Plan Review. Mr P Robertson (HCC) commented that it was receiving its first formal consideration at the County's Planning and Transportation Committee on 16 October 1997. Other members made various comments relating to the Structure Plan Review process and the relationship between the County Council and the Districts in terms of feedback of information. It was reported that the District Planning Chairs' meeting would now take place on 10 October 1997. The Chair commented that members needed to bear in mind that the County had been undergoing a period of transition both in terms of the Local Government Review and the change in administration. He went on to suggest that it would be beneficial for members to consider the Structure Plan at the next meeting of the Association.

RESOLVED:

That the County Council be requested to reconvene the Improving Local Governance Steering Group to continue the work already under way to improve partnership working.

33.97 ASSOCIATIONS OF PARISH AND TOWN COUNCILS

Consideration was given to a report of the Honorary Secretary reviewing the membership status of the Hampshire Association of Parish and Town Councils (HAPTC) and the Isle of Wight Association of Parish and Town Councils (IOWAPTC).

Responding to the paper before members, S Hudson (HAPTC) said that her Executive Committee would be appreciative of one vote, otherwise they felt that their status was effectively diminished. Mrs B Lawson (IOWAPTC), reiterated this view. Whilst members of the Association were generally in agreement that one vote per association would give them greater credibility and reflect the important role they played in local democracy, some members were concerned about the implications of creating different classes of membership.

Members agreed that the Association should investigate the possibility of giving other organisations observer status.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Associations of Parish and Town Councils be invited to join the Association of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Local Authorities as full members on the basis that -

(a) they pay a subscription to cover administration expenses of 1.00 per Parish/Town Council in membership;

(b) they have one vote per association in recognition of the special status of local parish and town councils in local government; and

(2) That the Constitution be amended accordingly.

34.97 REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY OF THE SOUTH EAST

Consideration was given to a paper of the Policy Officer which detailed SERF's response and the Government Office Summary of Responses to the Government's Consultation on the Regional Development Agency for the South East.

RESOLVED:

That the panel appointed to consider the joint response to the Government consultation on Regional Development Agencies continues to meet as necessary to consider the proposals for a South East Regional Development Agency as they develop.

35.97 CIRCULAR 13/96 - PLANNING AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Consideration was given to a paper of the Policy Officer which commented on the proposed amendments to circular 13/96.

In response to the paper, Cllr D Clarke (East Hampshire) was insistent that discretion on thresholds should lie with the local authority, he felt that the threshold of 15 was not appropriate. Other members made similar points. Members were particularly concerned about PPG3 and its reference to 'substantial' housing development - what exactly constituted substantial? It was beneficial for local authorities to advise GOSE of their views on this matter. Lucy Robinson (GOSE) commented that she knew this was a difficult issue for local authorities, particularly in this part of the South East and that GOSE was looking at this matter very closely.

As a response had already been sent by the Association, the Chair suggested that the Association should make an early bid for the revision of PPG3 and its effectiveness at delivery.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the response to the Consultation on Draft Amendments to circular 13/96 be noted; and

(2) That member authorities continue to monitor the provision of affordable housing.

36.97 DATE AND VENUE OF NEXT MEETING

RESOLVED:

It was noted that the meeting would be held on Friday 28 November 1997 at the Rushmoor Borough Council.

The meeting concluded at 12.15 pm.

Last update: 05/09/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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