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Paper 8 - 26 March 1999 Meeting

Association of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Authorities

Friday 26 March 1999

Report on South East England Regional Assembly activities from Councillor Keith House

Introduction

1 This report covers initial activities of SEERA since the last Association meeting. It is provided to ensure that members are briefed on key areas of SEERA activity.

SEEDA

2 Regular dialogue has now developed with SEEDA. I attended an initial meeting with members of the SEEDA board, David Saunders from GOSE, and Richard Caborn MP (the Minister for the Regions) at SEEDA on 11 February. The meeting gave, formally, the opportunity for first contact between the RDA, Assembly and Government Office and was followed by a smaller meeting with Allan Willett, David Saunders and Richard Caborn.

3 In an overview presentation to SEEDA, I outlined the Assembly's approach of building links with a range of regional organisations, seeking to add value and remove duplication between bodies, playing an active role in the formation of the Regional Economic Strategy (RES). This approach was endorsed and welcomed by SEEDA members and GOSE.

4 Arrangements for joint working were briefly discussed. The Assembly's direct invitation to SEEDA to attend Assembly Executive meetings was welcomed. Involvement in SEEDA working groups was also agreed.

5 Richard Caborn remarked positively on the arrangements being formed in the south-east, and specifically invited the Assembly to start to consider future representative arrangements, including the reformed Second Chamber. SEERA has subsequently established a working group on Structures of Governance.

6 SEEDA had its third Board meeting on 10 March, which I attended part of to give a further update on Assembly activities. SEEDA has requested an Assembly presence at future meetings.

7 SEEDA is concentrating its activities on the evolution of its RES, which is clearly a key area of Assembly interest.

Liaison with South-East MEPs/European Activities

8 The South East Regional Forum invested considerable effort in developing links with South East MEPs, and assisting in developing co-ordinated lobbying within the European Union. This will clearly be an important area of activity both for the Assembly and for SEEDA.

9 SERF ran a briefing session for Westminster MPs on structural fund issues on 4 March. A list of MPs with an interest in European issues has been developed and this area of work needs to be inherited by the Assembly.

10 SEEDA has decided to establish a presence in Brussels. It is envisaged that this will be jointly branded as a SEEDA/SEERA office to establish a clear "South East England" presence. Over time it is hoped to link work from other south-east local government Brussels offices into this team. SEEDA and SEERA are establishing a joint working group on European issues, led by Cllr Ken Bodfish (Brighton and Hove) who also leads the UK delegation on the Committee of the Regions.

Intra-Regional Working and Regional Structures

11 One of the Assembly's key tasks will be to reduce duplication and overlap between regional structures. Discussions have commenced with SERPLAN, based around the new draft PPG11, on taking forward the future of Regional Planning Guidance and how this links with regional economic and other strategies. It is envisaged that a democratic structure using the Assemblies of the South East, London and East of England, will take formal responsibility for RPG at Government Office/Assembly level, with a small joint committee linking the three strategies of London and its hinterland.

12 The English Regional Associations (ERAs) including representatives from a variety of regional planning conferences, LGA groups and regional fora have started work on building links between the existing and new regional groupings. This should assist in a developing joint understanding of the emerging structures and promote best practice.

13 The LGA has also brought together Chairs of Regional Chambers/Assemblies for the first time (although it is worth noting that Richard Caborn plans to do this formally when Chambers are designated later in the spring). This has given a useful opportunity to check on progress in other regions and the quality of relationships between the various Chambers, RDAs and Government Offices.

Secretariat Staffing and Accommodation

14 South-East Employers will be working with the Assembly towards the appointment of the Assembly's first Chief Executive, and on developing a staff structure. It is anticipated that national advertising for this post will run in the first week of April, with interviews in May.

15 The Assembly has agreed that it will be based in Guildford to encourage joint working with GOSE and SEEDA. Agreement has now been reached with GOSE for accommodation for the Assembly to be provided at GOSE's Guildford offices. This provision (at no cost to the Assembly) should also demonstrate GOSE commitment to the Assembly and joint working.

16 Work has progressed on the establishment of an Assembly database of contacts. This includes contacts for business, voluntary sector and campaigning groups in the south-east together with MPs, MEPs and, for local authorities, contacts at Group Leader level as well as Chief Executives. The Assembly's first newsletter is being mailed to contacts on this list (today!).

Keith House
26 March 1999

Last update: 10/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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