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Paper 8 - 2 June 2000

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

2 June 2000

THE ASSOCIATION'S ANNUAL REPORT 2000 AND REVIEW OF ACTION PLAN TO 2001

Report by the Policy Manager

RECOMMENDATIONS

(1) That the Annual Report be published in the form of a Newsletter giving information about HIOW and its work; and

(2) That the review of the Action Plan be noted and priorities for the forthcoming year approved.

SUMMARY

The Annual Report reviews progress with the Action Plan 1999/2001. This review concludes with the following priorities for the coming year for Members' consideration:

pressing forward HIOW's views on planning and housing in the South East

sharing experience with the impact of the Local Government Act

best value:-

working together on public consultation and community planning

working with the Regional Assembly and SEEDA

improving the "value added" of HIOW Member level meetings.

INTRODUCTION

1. HIOW's Constitution requires that a report on the work and costs of HIOW be considered at each Annual Meeting. This report provides an assessment of the work of HIOW in its third year. It recommends that the Annual Report be published in the form of a Newsletter, because it forms a useful means of communication with partners especially in parish and town councils and the voluntary sector.

ACHIEVEMENTS

2. Over the past year, the Association has:

provided the voice for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in regional and national debates on housing and planning, best value, lifelong learning, and other topics of the day during a year of extensive Government and regional consultation

acted as a forum for District Council representatives on outside bodies (such as the Committee for Rural Hampshire) to report-back

provided a political (Member level) framework for extensive partnership working between the local authorities in such areas as best value, customer service, and meetings of professional staff groups

provided a vehicle for "joining-up" Government

forged a new relationship with the Environment Agency for local authorities and town/parish councils, and approved a joint Action Plan to work together for the environment

reduced member authorities' subscriptions by 8%.

COSTS

3. HIOW has carefully monitored its costs, and a separate report gives an 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 1999/2000 when the accounts are closed.

OVERVIEW

4. The Association met six times at Member level during the year. Behind the scenes some 25 officer groups (listed in the Newsletter) developed joint working across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The Annual Report outlines the work of the Association in the same format as the Action Plan approved last year i.e. starting with a European overview, then looking at UK Government legislation, considering a regional perspective and finally looking at policy development within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The work of the Association is always intended to 'add value' to the work of member local authorities. Sometimes this is planned work, and sometimes major local issues arise which are best dealt with jointly.

EUROPEAN AFFAIRS

5. In January 2000, HIOW considered a report from its lead officers on Europe which

showed the long history of achieving European funding for Hampshire and Isle of Wight projects;

assessed the role of the Regional Assembly and SEEDA in European funding;

analysed the new European funding mechanisms; and

showed how Member authorities are working together, with the Joint European Committee for the South East, to improve our access to European institutions and funds.

6. HIOW has taken up the cause of the Isle of Wight in seeking proper recognition for its island status. This problem has now been recognised by the European Ombudsman who has recommended that the European Commission re-consider the matter.

7. Members decided to push for a better listing of twinning arrangements in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, particularly to see if twinning can be better co-ordinated within a South East framework. The results of this work are expected to be available in September 2000.

THE GOVERNMENT'S LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME

8. Since its inception at the start of this Government in 1997, HIOW has sought to ensure that the voice of this sub-region is heard in Westminster and Whitehall. HIOW has co-ordinated member authorities' responses to draft legislation. In the last year, HIOW has made representations concerning:

Best Value Draft Guidance

Regional Planning Guidance for the South East

Best Value Audit and Inspection Fees

Post 16 Review: Learning and Skills Councils

Local Government Regional Forum

Reform of the House of Lords

Review of LGA Member Structures

Urban Renaissance/Out of Town Shopping

(These representations are public documents and shown on our web-site).

9. It was with considerable concern that Members noted, and objected to, the excessive cost of audit and inspection under the Best Value regime: the equivalent of two permanent full-time staff for each District Council.

10. HIOW also supported joint representations by the Hampshire Economic Partnership on the review of Post-16 Learning and the Small Business Service proposals.

11. The main recent issue of concern has been the Local Government Bill which led to the following resolution being put forward by HIOW to the Local Government Association at its June General Assembly:-

"This Assembly is concerned that the Bill as currently drafted is over-prescriptive in relation to the new models for political management and provides too little local discretion for local authorities:

to decide on the precise form of local democratic arrangement to be adopted in each authority; and

to ensure important roles for all elected members.

It does, however, welcome the power to promote community well-being and looks forward to dialogue with the Government".

This issue will continue to feature as a major concern of HIOW.

THE SOUTH EAST REGION

12. The new institutions - the Regional Assembly and SEEDA - are now established and HIOW has taken part in developing the Regional Economic Strategy, and commenting on the corporate plans for these organisations. HIOW has also retained close links with the Government Office for the South East (note: it is hoped that the new HIOW Manager at GOSE, Colin Byrne, will be able to attend this meeting).

13. In March 2000 HIOW received a presentation on development by the Regional Assembly of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the South East. HIOW authorities have achieved national recognition via Beacon Status for waste management via Project Integra. Regional networks are now needed to develop the markets for recycled products, and the Regional Assembly could be instrumental in helping to develop the next stage of Integra.

14. HIOW chief executives took part in a Cabinet Office study of the role of central government at regional and local level. (Meic Sullivan-Gould was seconded by Basingstoke and Deane to participate in the study.) The resulting report to the Prime Minister reflected some of our concerns:

the need for wider powers for GOSE to co-ordinate central government action in the Region

more accountability for GOSE to the Regional Assembly for delivery of cross-cutting outcomes

more central government co-ordination of Departmental initiatives

more linkage between Government initiatives at local and regional level.

The Government's response to the report is expected soon.

REGIONAL PLANNING

15. The most controversial issue has been housing. The report of the Panel set up by the Secretary of State to look at SERPLAN's proposals for planning guidance in the South East (the Crow Report) recommended far more housing in the South East than the local authorities through SERPLAN had been prepared to countenance. It also argued that congestion and labour shortages in the South East should not be allowed to constrain additional physical growth. HIOW had co-ordinated the comments of the local authorities during the consultation process leading up to SERPLAN's proposals, basing its work on the advice of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Planning Officers Group (HIPOG). HIPOG and HIOW took a balanced approach, looking at the needs of the Region for employment, affordable housing, infrastructure, sustainable development and protection of the environment. In this context HIOW argued for the Government to consider the needs of other regions of England, and their ability to take more growth.

MAJOR POLICY AREAS FOR HAMPSHIRE AND THE ISLE OF WIGHT

16. Integrated Transport

(1) HIOW developed a statement of its transportation infrastructure priorities in commenting to SERPLAN on draft proposals for regional planning in the South East. Since then four local transport plans have been developed for the area and the next task is to review the priorities for the sub-region in the light of Regional Planning Guidance to be finalised later this year.

(2) Hampshire County Council set up a major consultation and review exercise on its public transport policies. This will be given further consideration by HIOW in September 2000.

17. Health

HIOW has considered the Public Health White Paper and welcomed the clear role for local authorities in preparing public health strategies.

Also, local authorities' close involvement in the Health Improvement Programmes has been noted and is being developed.

18. Community Safety

HIOW has established a forum for co-ordination of community safety work in response to the Crime and Disorder Act. The Association has considered and noted the local community safety strategies drawn up by the relevant authorities including local authorities, Police and Probation. The Police presence at HIOW meetings is new and welcome. However it is with some regret that we note that the Police Authority (like the Fire and Rescue Authority and Southampton City Council) has not yet joined HIOW as a full participant at Member level.

19. Asylum Seekers

HIOW approved the establishment of a south central consortium to handle the dispersal of asylum seekers from the London and Dover areas. Dispersal has not yet resulted in the consortium area (which includes Bournemouth and Poole as well as Hampshire and Isle of Wight) taking the full target of around 1000 asylum seekers assigned by the Government.

20. Environment

HIOW noted the accord signed at national level between the Local Government Association and the Environment Agency, and quickly moved to develop this into a local partnership with full involvement of the Associations of Parish and Town Councils. The Environment Agency provided a full briefing on the results of the joint study of the potential impact of climate change in the South East. Also present at the briefing was David Payne, seconded from the Environment Agency to the Regional Assembly, to lead work on the sustainable development strategy for the South East. HIOW has now approved a local action plan for joint work with the Environment Agency. Proposals for an Air Quality Strategy for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have also been approved to tackle the increasing problems of air pollution, particularly related to traffic.

21. Other Issues considered jointly by the Association

Defence Review

Lifelong Learning

Early years and Childcare Development Plan

Hampshire Structure Plan (Review)

Quality of Life Indicators

Telecom Transmission masts

Flood Defence

Computer address systems (potential loss of community identity)

Local Government Improvement Programme

Review of LGA member structures

22. Reports-back

Reports-back were received from the following:-

Local Government Association Executives

Committee for Rural Hampshire

Hampshire Economic Partnership

Local Government Regional Forum

Hampshire Playing Fields Association

SERPLAN Standing Conference on South East Regional Planning

Regional Environmental Protection Advisory Committee for the South East

.MEETINGS OF THE ASSOCIATION

23. HIOW is led by meetings between Members and Officers of the different authorities. However we are increasingly relying on e-working to conserve resources and avoid unnecessary travel. The Chief Executives' Group has considered the potential for more informal style meetings of the Association at Member level, using workshops and break-out groups to facilitate interaction, learning and policy development. A workshop has been arranged for 21 July 2000 to consider the implications of the Local Government Bill, and further consideration will be given to new and less formal ways of working.

REVIEW OF ACTION PLAN 1999/2001

24. The Chief Executives' Group has reviewed the two-year Action Plan approved last June (Annex 1). The Action Plan is still our basic forward planning document and will be rewritten for 2001 to 2003. Some of the wording is now slightly out of date (eg the ILG Steering Group has been rebadged as the Partnership Group, and Local Agenda 21 has now integrated with Community Planning).

25. The following priorities are suggested for the forthcoming year to June 2001:

pressing forward HIOW's views on planning and housing in the South East

sharing experience with the impact of the Local Government Act

best value:-

working together on public consultation and community planning

working with the Regional Assembly and SEEDA

improving the "value added" of Member level meetings

26. The topics programmed for work over the next four meetings of the Association are shown below:-

Integrated personal support for young people

Local Government Finance Green Paper

Improving governance for older people

Integrated Transport

Funding for flood defence

Rural Policy White Paper

Urban Policy White Paper

NICK GOULDER
Policy Manager

Date: 16 May 2000
Annex: 1
Contact: Nick Goulder - 023 8068 8431, E-mail hiowlang@hants.gov.uk

Copy of Aneex (Action Plan) available on request

ABBREVIATIONS

GOSE Government Office for the South East
HIOW Association of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Authorities
ILG Improving Local Governance
LGA Local Government Association
Regional Assembly South East England Regional Assembly
SEEDA South East England Regional Development Agency
SERPLAN London and South East Regional Planning Conference

Last update: 06/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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