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ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT AUTHORITIES
29 May 1998
THE ASSOCIATION'S ACTION PLAN AND REVIEW OF WORK SINCE JUNE 1997
Report by the Policy Officer
That this Annual Report be published in the form of a Newsletter giving information about the Association and its work.
The Association has proved of benefit to member authorities in its first year. It has:
provided a platform from which individual authorities can have a real say in regional affairs
assisted its members to prepare for, respond to, and influence the Government's agenda
helped to develop a consensus amongst elected members so that the best results for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can be achieved in fields as diverse as planning and the environment, health and welfare to work.
At a time when regional government is on the agenda, the Association has enabled local authorities to form a strong sub-regional identity in the central south, forging new cross-border links with Bournemouth/Poole, with the Thames Valley Region and with Surrey, Sussex and Kent.
1. The Association's Constitution requires that a report on the work and costs of the Association be considered at each Annual Meeting. This report provides an assessment of the work of the Association and invites members to agree priorities for the second year of the Association's Action Plan adopted in September 1997. It recommends that the annual report be published in the form of a newsletter.
2. The Association has carefully monitored its costs, and a separate report gives an up to date assessment of income and expenditure for the current and forthcoming financial years (the financial year being from June to May, to allow the Annual Meeting to decide the budget after the May elections). The Honorary Treasurer will provide a final report for the first year of the Association when the accounts are closed.
3. The Association's name does not lend itself to an easy acronym. If we are not to become the local branch of the Local Government Association (LGA), then another acronym is needed. HIOW has been used informally and is proposed as the acronym from now on.
THE ACTION PLAN
4. The Action Plan (Annex 1) was acknowledged to be somewhat ambitious at the time it was approved. The following paragraphs assess HIOW's achievements taking them in the order they are set out in the Action Plan i.e. starting with the South East as a region in Europe, and moving down through the national agenda to local policy initiatives.
THE EUROPEAN AGENDA
5. The LGA has produced a European Strategy, and member authorities (particularly the County Council and Unitary Authorities) have significant links with the European Union and with other European regions and authorities. In addition, the South East Regional Forum has a European Sub Group. HIOW has not attempted to "add value" by dealing with European affairs on behalf of member authorities.
THE SOUTH EAST AS A REGION IN EUROPE
6. On the other hand, HIOW, and its member authorities, have taken a leading role in developing the political institutions of the South East as a European Region. The Chair of HIOW is currently the Chair of the South East Regional Forum (SERF). HIOW Members, Chief Executives, and the Policy Officer are taking substantial roles on the SERF Executive Committee, and its support group. An excellent working relationship between the SERF Executive and the Minister for the Regions, Richard Caborn MP, has developed. Regional developments are regularly reported back to HIOW and will be summarised in the proposed HIOW Newsletter following the Annual Meeting.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF REGIONAL INSTITUTIONS
7. A key part of the Government's agenda, the development of regional institutions has probably been the most significant matter for HIOW in its first year. HIOW has given member authorities a platform from which to play a significant role in these institutions. Devolution in Scotland, Wales, London and (hopefully) Northern Ireland promises to change the face of UK political institutions. The Government is pressing ahead with Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and appointed Regional Chambers in the English Regions.
8. The Regional Chamber for the South East - with 70% of its membership drawn from the local authorities - could take on responsibilities not just in relation to the RDA, but also in relation to other major policy areas such as:
regional health issues.
Government Departments are currently being consulted about this by the Minister for the Regions.
THE SUB-REGIONS OF THE SOUTH EAST
9. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight form the core of a south central region. To the west, local authorities in Dorset and Wiltshire have formed associations similar to HIOW in order to work together in the South West region. HIOW has formed strong links with Bournemouth, Poole, and other Dorset Councils because they are partners in the south central region. Their Association and HIOW have mutual observer status.
10. To the north, the Thames Valley Authorities are co-operating closely through ACTVaR - the Association of Councils in the Thames Valley Region. The ACTVaR and HIOW Policy Officers have formed a sub-regional policy group with the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Associations, and with the SERF Secretariat and with the LGA represented.
CONFEDERATION OF SIX COUNTIES
11. To the east, the Surrey, Sussex and Kent authorities have similarly formed associations. HIOW has taken the lead in creating a new confederation of south-central and south-east authorities. As a result, LGA electoral colleges for south-central and south-east are now to be merged. LGA committees are starting to report back on a "six county" (Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Surrey, East and West Sussex and Kent) basis.
12. HIOW is working closely with SERPLAN, to develop a spatial strategy for the south-east. For the first time, Hampshire and Isle of Wight representatives on SERPLAN at member and officer level have met together to find areas of agreement. They are now working through the HIOW SERPLAN Co-ordination Group to look after the interests of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on SERPLAN. This will be a major area of work for HIOW in the coming year as the Regional Guidelines for 2001-2016 are finalised.
THE GOVERNMENT'S AGENDA
13. The Association has assisted authorities to respond to the Government's agenda. Joint initiatives have been developed in the areas of
Welfare to Work
Modernising Local Government.
12. The Association has principally helped by arranging for presentations and discussion at its regular meetings. The Chief Executives' Group has taken the follow-up action, for example, by setting up new joint arrangements for community safety. Increasingly, the Association is assisting member authorities by preparing formal joint responses to Government consultations. A joint response to the Democracy consultation was prepared in time both to help member authorities and to provide for a debate at the 27 March Association meeting.
13. Joint responses have been prepared for all the "Modernising Local Government" consultations. During the coming year the Association will focus on
in addition to the other areas of the Government programme.
IMPROVING LOCAL GOVERNANCE
14. The Association has been working on:
district/county agreements in the fields of highways, leisure, tourism, trading standards and environmental health; and
joint telecommunications strategy, and framework for information management (using the Internet). This will include a HIOW response to the Cabinet Office White Paper on "Better Government" expected this summer.
The Association is hoping to develop the partnership between member authorities further in the next year.
15. HIOW has set up a "Best Value" Network, led by Peter Giddings (Director of Resources at Test Valley Borough Council). This Network represents all the HIOW authorities plus Southampton, which is one of three Best Value pilots in Hampshire, with Gosport and Portsmouth. The Network aims to learn from the pilots (locally and nationally) and help member authorities develop Best Value. Also represented on the network are the District Auditor and Local Government Information Unit.
16. The Chief Executives' Group established an "Ethics" Sub-Group to consider the ethical protocols and framework following the Nolan report in 1997. The Group has produced for member authorities a series of framework papers:
(a) Protocol for Member/Officer Relations.
(b) Guidance on Fraud, Corruption and Probity.
(c) Code of Conduct for Councillors and Staff dealing with Planning.
These are detailed in the Association's draft response to the recent Government consultation paper.
PRIORITIES AND RESOURCES FOR THE COMING YEAR
17. Now that we have one year's experience of working together in HIOW, the Chief Executives' Group recommends developing a more focussed approach. The Action Plan was ambitious. Much is being achieved. But looking to the future it is suggested that the priorities for joint work should be:
1. Regional issues - helping HIOW authorities develop their response to the regional agenda and ensuring that HIOW's voice is heard in the South East Region.
2. Sustainable development and integrated transport - working together to get the best deal for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in the South East.
3. Improving democracy/modernising local government - responding to the consultations and improving local governance. Preparing for change, including such issues as community planning, once the White Paper is available later in 1998.
4. In particular, developing 'Best Value', Community Safety, Health and Social Exclusion as key issues for member authorities.
5. Other areas already broached (e.g. Welfare to Work) should be kept under review.
18. The staff-level working groups (already reported to HIOW) should be used to develop these priorities with the Policy Officer.
|Author:||Nick Goulder, Policy Manager|
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