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					                                 NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY COUNCIL

      ECONOMIC PROSPERITY AND STRATEGIC SERVICES OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY
                                 COMMITTEE

     At a meeting of the Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services Overview and
     Scrutiny Committee held at County Hall, Morpeth on Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 10.00
     a.m.

                                              PRESENT

                                          Councillor G. Castle
                                        (Chairman, in the Chair)

                                             EX-OFFICIO

                                        Councillor P.A. Jackson,
                                 (Chairman, Scrutiny Management Board)

                                         Councillor A.H. Pegg
                                      (Secretary to the Executive)

                                            COUNCILLORS

                    Brown, M.                          Romer, A.C.
                    Davey, S.                          Swithenbank, I.C.F.
                    Douglas, M.                        Watson, J.G.
                    Riddle, J.R.                       Woodard, D

                                        EXECUTIVE MEMBER

                    Armstrong, A.

                                         OFFICERS PRESENT

                    Ashman, R.                         Head of Financial Management
                    Batey, B.                          Director of Street Scene, Place Group
                    Bawn, A.                           Team Manager, Traffic Design, Place
                                                       Group
                    Fraser, D.                         Policy and Strategy Manager, Place
                                                       Group
                    Jackson, D.                        Regeneration Policy Officer, Place Group
                    Laidler, M.                        Housing Services Manager - Private
                                                       Sector
                    Laux, D.                           Head of Highways and Transport
                    Nicholson, S.                      Scrutiny Officer, Democratic Services
                    Dean A.                            Head of Regeneration, Place Group
                    Strettle, R.                       Regeneration Policy Manager, Place
                                                       Group
                    Young, J.                          Team Leader, Scrutiny and People,
                                                       Democratic Services

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                                              ALSO PRESENT

                    Dodd, R. Councillor                        Northumberland County Council


     103. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

           Apologies for absence were received from Councillors R.M. Nixon, and J. E. Smith.


     104. MINUTES

           RESOLVED that:

           (a)       the minutes of the meeting of the Economic Prosperity and Strategic
                     Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held on Tuesday, 2 February
                     2010, as circulated, be confirmed as a true record and signed by the
                     Chairman.

           (b)       the minutes of the meeting of the Economic Prosperity and Strategic
                     Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on Thursday, 4 February
                     2010, as circulated, be confirmed as a true record and signed by the
                     Chairman.


     105. DISCLOSURE OF MEMBERS INTERESTS

           Councillors P.A. Jackson and J.R. Riddle, declared a personal interest in agenda
           item 8, Highways and Transport Winter Services Working Group as they were
           providers of a service.


     106. Section 21 of the Local Government Act 2000 enables Scrutiny Committees to
          require members of the Executive to attend to answer questions on issues
          previously considered by the Executive. Set out below are the reports that fell into
          this category:


              Agenda
              Item
              6(a)   Development of Northumberland Parking                           Councillor A.
                     Strategy – Progress Report                                      Armstrong

             Members noted that, whilst there is no legal requirement under Section 21 of the
             Local Government Act 2000 for Executive Members to be invited to attend the
             meeting for the following items the Chairman had formally requested their
             attendance:

             Agenda Items 6(d) and 7 – Councillor J.E. Smith

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             Agenda Items 6(b) and 6(c) – Councillor A. Armstrong


     107. FORWARD PLAN

           (Summary sheets filed with the signed minutes as Appendix A).

           Members were advised of the Forward Plan of Executive key decisions for the period
           March to June 2010

           RESOLVED that the Forward Plan of Executive key decisions for the period March to
           June 2010 be noted.


     108. REPORTS OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PLACE

           (a)       Development of Northumberland Parking Strategy – Progress Report

           (Report filed with the signed minutes of the meeting as Appendix B).

           The Scrutiny Management Board, at its meeting on 8 February 2010, referred this
           report, which outlined and summarised the progress being made in the development
           of a county-wide Northumberland Parking Strategy and the recommendations that
           had been developed so far, to this Committee for consideration.

           The Executive had considered the report on 8 February 2010 and an extract from the
           draft minutes of that meeting stated that the Executive resolved that:

           “the progress to date be noted, and the initial recommendations and areas for review
           given in appendix 2 of the report be endorsed.”

           The Chairman, in welcoming representatives of the Chamber of Trade, to the
           meeting, stressed that the issue was very much a work in progress.

           Mr. B. Batey, Director of Street Scene, Place Group presented the report. It was
           noted that a number of recommendations were needed to move forward and that
           work was ongoing in relation to the collection of data and information on the 131 car
           parks owned by the Council. Some consultation had been carried out and a number
           of petitions had been received, one of which had been received the day before the
           meeting of the Executive which related to a request for free parking in the South East
           of the County.

           Members were advised that work was being done on a model which looked at
           settlements, type, user provision etc. It was acknowledged that further detailed
           consultation with interested parties regarding individual settlements would be
           necessary and that consideration would need to be given to the impact of the
           introduction of civil parking enforcement.

           Mr. Batey went on to respond to queries raised by members which included the
           following:


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                   Members were advised that the analysis of the financial data, as detailed on
                    page four of the report related to gross figures;
                   In response to clarification being sought as to whether the economic impact
                    and regeneration of settlements was being taken into account, members were
                    advised that in the development of a model the vitality of settlements and the
                    potential impact was being looked at. It was accepted that there would be a
                    need for further work with car park providers in some settlements;
                   A view was expressed that, given that there was a variety of car parking
                    policies in place in relation to Morpeth and the surrounding areas, the
                    proposed review of each settlement was laudable. However, it was stressed
                    that there was a need to ensure that set criteria was in place in order to identify
                    what was expected out of a car parking policy. It was generally agreed that
                    there was no one specific aim and that a policy needed to provide income for
                    the Council to manage car parking space and congestion as effectively as
                    possible. It was also noted that it should take account of the impact on
                    economic development and that there was a need to have full cognisance of
                    the impact on settlements and the effect of climate change on Northumberland
                    as a whole;
                   A view was expressed that Sunday charging across the County would have a
                    negative effect on the encouragement of Sunday trading and attracting visitors
                    to the area;
                   It was acknowledged that the Castle Morpeth Resident’s scheme was of
                    benefit to residents, the Council and traders and it was felt that it would be a
                    retrograde step to move away from that position and that the scheme should
                    be extended across the County;
                   It was suggested that there was a need to build on evidence gathered over a
                    number of years in relation to the Morpeth Resident’s scheme and a view was
                    expressed that any proposal to introduce charging for Sunday parking was a
                    drive to yield income as opposed to managing car parking problems;
                   Reference was made to a scheme run by Newcastle City Council where
                    parking charges were reduced on a Sunday;
                   A view was expressed that there was a need to remove “user” confusion.

           At this point the Chairman invited representatives of the Chambers of Trade to
           address the Committee.

           Mr. G. Proudlock, a member of the newly formed Alnwick Chamber of Trade and also
           Morpeth Chamber of Trade informed members that he was a resident of Morpeth and
           that he had been involved in Car Parking issues for the past 30 years. He stated that
           it was a very complex issue and that it was important that the view of traders was
           made known. In referring to fair and equitable provision across the County he
           expressed the view that it was very unlikely that social inclusion in the North of the
           County was at the same level as in the South East.

           He stated that Alnwick Chamber of Trade had asked him to support item RO3 –
           contained within appendix 2 to the report – Car Park Review, which identified the
           proposal to have a review of the Morpeth Residents free permit which would include
           further consultation into the feasibility of a new ‘Shoppers’ permit for the main towns
           with car parking charges.


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           He stressed that, in Alnwick, there was a need for support as there were signs of
           deterioration with shops closing. It was felt the implementation of the scheme
           identified in RO3, across the County, would go some way to supporting Chambers of
           Trade.


           In response to a query raised as to what the Chamber of Trade’s view regarding
           proposed charges for Sunday parking were. Mr. Proudlock stated the he thought the
           feeling would be that free parking should be in place but that he had not been asked
           to address members on that issue.

           Officers went on to respond to further queries and concerns raised as follows:

                   A view was expressed that there was a need to recognise that some areas did
                    not have parking facilities and that there was a need to take that into account
                    in developing the policy;
                   The proposed consultation with Parish Councils was welcomed but it was
                    acknowledged that some Parish Councils had responsibility for car parking
                    facilities for which there was no charge. It was stressed that there was a need
                    for equalisation across the County wherever possible;
                   Members were advised that the Morpeth model would not necessarily be the
                    one used and it was noted that enforcement was crucial;
                   A view was expressed that there was a need to balance the cost of erecting
                    ticket machines, the marking out of car parking bays and enforcement against
                    anticipated revenue;
                   In response to a query as to when responsibility for the enforcement of on-
                    street pay and display parking bays and resident-on-street parking places
                    would transfer to the Council, members were advised that it was likely to be
                    April 2011. The timescale had slipped as the preparation of orders had taken
                    longer than anticipated. A request was to be considered by the Executive on 8
                    March for approval for the implementation of permanent composite traffic
                    regulation orders for Ashington and for the introduction of new procedures for
                    making permanent TROs;
                   It was noted that Northumbria Police were currently “running down” the Traffic
                    Warden Service;
                   A view was expressed that it would be difficult to get the agreement of
                    everyone in relation to car parking charges and it was suggested that whilst
                    RO9 indicted a potential increase in revenue it sounded like a form of taxation;

           At this point Mr. C. Robinson, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade informed
           members that having read the report and accepted the eleven interim
           recommendations, the first four being housekeeping issues, no decision had been
           taken in relation to recommendations 11-16. He stated that there couldn’t be any
           more confusing a situation than for the authority to charge for car parking in one area
           and not in others.

           Increases were taking effect immediately in one area whilst there was no charge in
           car parking four or five miles away.

           He expressed a view that the situation was unfair and it was felt that both Councillors
           and Officers alike thought that the Sought East of the County was poorer than the
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           North and West. He stressed that there were areas of deprivation in the North and
           West and that, in addition, they did not have access to public transport which was
           unfair.

           He went on to urge rejection of Sunday, and Bank Holliday car park charging. He felt
           charges would put at risk the Council’s credibility and that a decision should be taken
           when the full picture across the County was known.

           The Chairman stated that there was a need for clarity in the context of the Policy
           particularly in relation to anticipated revenue, car park management and the impact
           on tourism. He felt it was important to make the right differentiation between
           settlements. He also felt that more clarity was needed in relation to the cost of setting
           up and managing car parks.

           It was acknowledged that, in relation to Morpeth, a change in tariff had been agreed
           in last year’s budget. The increase had, however, been deferred in light of the
           September 2008 flooding. It was stressed that no other increase was to be imposed
           this year and that the proposal to charge for Sunday parking could be revisited as
           part of the consultation exercise.

           It was generally accepted that there was a need to reconsider the proposal, and that
           there was a need to look at the cost/benefit of extending the Morpeth scheme across
           the County.

           In response to a query as to whether, in relation to PR04 and the proposal to
           increase the cost of the weekly tourist permit, the views of the Tourist Board and
           National Park Authority had been sought, members were advised that the Head of
           Culture, Leisure & Tourism had had an input.

           RESOLVED that:

           (a)       the report be noted;

           (b)       the general views of the Committee be considered as part of the consultation
                     process; and

           (c)       the cost/benefit of extending the Morpeth Resident free permit across the
                     County be investigated.

           (b)       Policy on the Deployment of Speed Indicator Devices

           Mr. A. Bawn, Team Manager, Traffic Design presented a report which reviewed the
           position in relation to the policy for the deployment of speed indicator devices
           throughout Northumberland.

           It was noted that the use of all traffic signs in the public highway were controlled by
           the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions. Northumberland County
           Council had since 2002 introduced Vehicle Activated signs (VAS) which highlighted
           to approaching drivers the speed limit of the road. Members were informed that a
           programme of rotating the devices was in place. The Committee were advised that a


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           full-scale evaluation carried out in 2003 showed mean speeds reduced by an average
           of between three and nine miles per hour following the introduction of VAS.

           It was also noted that Speeding Indicator Devices (SIDs), that display the actual
           speed of approaching vehicles, were not covered in the Traffic Sign regulations and
           should not be placed in the public highway. It was noted that a number of Authorities
           were operating this type of device albeit illegally.

           RESOLVED that the report be noted and the national regulations in the use of speed
           indicator devices be accepted.

           (c)       The Local Transport Plan (LTP) 2011-2026

           (Report filed with the signed minutes of the meeting as Appendix D).

           The Committee considered a report which gave some background to
           Northumberland’s third Local Transport Plan (LTP3) and set out proposals for the
           development of the plan.

           Mr. D. Laux, Head of Highways and Transport, presented the report which informed
           members that work had started on developing the Council’s third LTP which was due
           to be published in April 2011 when the current LTP2 expired.

           It was proposed to produce the draft LTP3 in two parts. One part setting out the
           strategy and covering the fifteen year period 2011 to 2026 with a review of the
           strategy being carried out every five years. The second part would provide the
           implementation plan, which would be produced every three years, in line with local
           government funding settlements and Local Area Agreement (LAA) timescales.

           Members acknowledged that the draft LTP3 needed to be ready for consultation in
           July 2010 and that work was being done with members to determine how they
           wanted to be involved.

           In response to a view being expressed that the Economic Strategy should be driving
           the LTP, members were advised that there was an awareness that the LTP cut
           across a number of strategies and that monthly officer meetings were held with a
           view to the harmonisation of relevant strategies.

           RESOLVED that the content of the report be noted.

           (d)       Northumberland Economic Strategy – Consultation Draft

           (Report filed with the signed minutes as Appendix E).

           Mr. A. Dean, Head of Regeneration, Place Group presented the report following
           which members received a detailed presentation from Mr. R. Strettle, Regeneration
           Policy Manager, Place Group (copy filed with the signed minutes of the meeting). It
           was noted that Northumberland County Council was leading the development of a
           new partnership-based Economic Strategy for Northumberland and that the Strategy
           would be a key document for both the Council and Northumberland Strategic
           Partnership (NSP). It was also noted that an appropriate approach to action planning

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           was being considered which would include how partnership and Council planning
           could be effectively aligned.

           Following the presentation the officers present responded to queries raised and
           comments made which included:

                      Members acknowledged the need for an Action Plan to be developed;
                      In noting that the Strategy was well ahead of those being developed in other
                       Councils members congratulated officers on achievements to date;
                      It was recognised that the Northumberland Economic Strategy would feed
                       into a Regional Strategy;
                      Members recognised that employability was a big issue in Northumberland
                       and across the region as a whole. A view was expressed that some people
                       had got “out of the habit” of seeking work and that it was a specific issue that
                       should be addressed;
                      It was suggested that there was a need for a skills audit in the County in
                       order that issues could be more locally influenced and that it was an area of
                       work that should appear high on an action plan;
                      Some concern was expressed in relation to the status given to access and
                       transport which appeared as the last priority under chapter 8 of the
                       document. A view was expressed that it was not just about road access, and
                       that there were issues in relation to rail access, which it was felt was
                       important to Northumberland’s economy and also digital speed which was
                       below par and was slipping further behind in comparison with other areas;
                      The importance of dualling the A1 was also highlighted as a priority for
                       Northumberland and the need for it to be a link to Europe;
                      A view was expressed that there was a need to emphasise the need for the
                       Economic Strategy to drive the LTP;
                      It was pointed out that the A69 had been missed from the list of roads in the
                       network;
                      Some concern was expressed that there was a section on access to
                       Scotland and it was stressed that it was two way and recognition should be
                       given to access to England from Scotland;
                      Members welcomed the strengthened low carbon element but it was felt that
                       there was a need to recognise other non low-carbon elements; and that the
                       Strategy was about growth and expansion not just emissions;
                      In response to a view being expressed that there was a need for work to be
                       done in changing the mindset re the lack of aspiration of young people,
                       members were advised that there was a huge correlation between lack of
                       aspiration and enterprise and that a lot of work was ongoing through schools
                       in Northumberland; and
                      Recognition of the needs in some rural areas which it was felt should be
                       acknowledged as areas of deprivation with the resultant knock on effect of
                       young people moving away and schools closing.

             RESOLVED that:

             (a)       the report and presentation be noted;

             (b)       the comments of the Committee be noted; and

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             (c)     a further report on the impact of investment to increase employability be
                     considered by the Committee in due course.


     109.    REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PLACE AND THE DIRECTOR OF
             RESOURCES

             Council Mortgages

             (Report filed with the signed minutes of the meeting as Appendix F).

             The Scrutiny Management Board, at its meeting on 8 February 2010 referred this
             report which, advised members of the proposals to introduce Council Mortgages
             and sought approval to amend the Private Sector Housing Renewal Financial
             Assistance Policy to include the provision of Council Mortgages, for pre-decision
             Scrutiny.

             Mr. M. Laidler, Housing Services Manager – Private Sector presented the report
             following which he responded to queries raised and comments made which
             included:

                   In response to clarification being sought as to how the Council would carry out
                    credit assessments, members were advised that a service had been offered by
                    the Director of Resources;
                   Some concern was expressed in relation to who the scheme was designed to
                    help given that a mortgage of £150k would require a household income of
                    £50k;
                   Concern was also expressed that it appeared that the Council would be taking
                    more risk than the general mortgage market place was willing to accept;
                   Clarification was sought as to whether the scheme provided for the
                    disadvantaged and those on low incomes. In response members were
                    advised that the scheme should be seen in the context of the wider strategic
                    housing service and that it would be relatively small in impact and was part of
                    an overall package. It was reported that a definite need across the County
                    had been identified;
                   A view was expressed that the scheme, whilst small would provide an absolute
                    benefit for families. It was suggested it was not new for Councils to provide
                    mortgages and that the scheme would remove pressure from those families
                    seeking social housing;
                   A view was expressed that there was a risk but that the risk was small;
                   It was acknowledged that the Economic Downturn Working Group had looked
                    at the credit situation when the position was at its worst and, at that time, it had
                    been decided that there were organisations with the necessary expertise
                    related to mortgage lending and that it would be dangerous for the Council to
                    compete;
                   Further concern was raised that the Director of Resources may not have the
                    experience, expertise or capacity to properly assess the financial standing of
                    applicants and that there was a need to form partnerships with appropriate
                    building societies thereby utilising their expertise in managing mortgage
                    lending; and
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                   Concern was expressed in relation to the impact a significant rise in interest
                    rates would have on the mortgagee and ultimately the Council.

               In general the Committee felt that the proposals were not targeted at those in
               most need, particularly individuals and families on low incomes and that more
               work needed to be done in assessing the risks that offering mortgages would
               have on the Council.

               There was general support for the Council to provide more rental accommodation
               to those on low incomes.

               RESOLVED that, although it was noted that the proposals would be presented to
               full Council for approval, it was recommended that the Executive should seek
               further examination of the proposals in line with the observations of the Committee
               before endorsing the policy.


     110. HIGHWAYS AND TRANSPORT WINTER SERVICES WORKING GROUP

           Members considered the establishment of a working group to review the Winter
           Services Strategy. It was noted that representatives of the Family and Children’s
           Services OSC would form part of the Working Group membership.

           RESOLVED that the Scoping report be noted and the Working Group comprise the
           following members:

           Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC

           Councillors M. Brown, G. Castle, J.G. Watson, D. Woodard

           Family and Children’s Services OSC

           Councillors R.R. Dodd and A.H. Murray

           Ex-Officio

           Councillor A.H. Pegg

           Lead Officer

           D. Laux, Head of Highways and Transport


     111. REPORT OF THE SCRUTINY OFFICER

           Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
           Work Programme

           (Copy of Work Programme filed with the signed minutes of the meeting as Appendix
           L).


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           The Scrutiny Officer advised members of the position relating to the Committee Work
           Programme.

           RESOLVED that the Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC Work
           Programme be noted.




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     112. INFORMATION REPORTS

           Members were reminded that, information reports would no longer be reproduced.
           Reports would be published on the Councils website and if any members had any
           questions they wanted to put to the relevant Executive Member he/she should
           contact Democratic Services in order that appropriate arrangements could be made.

           Information Bulletin

           This report which detailed the latest policy briefings which may have been of interest
           to members was reported for information.

           RESOLVED that the information be noted.



                                                           CHAIRMAN

                                                           DATE




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