NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY COUNCIL
ECONOMIC PROSPERITY AND STRATEGIC SERVICES OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY
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
Councillor G. Castle
(Chairman, in the Chair)
Councillor P.A. Jackson,
(Chairman, Scrutiny Management Board)
Councillor A.H. Pegg
(Secretary to the Executive)
Brown, M. Romer, A.C.
Davey, S. Swithenbank, I.C.F.
Douglas, M. Watson, J.G.
Riddle, J.R. Woodard, D
Ashman, R. Head of Financial Management
Batey, B. Director of Street Scene, Place Group
Bawn, A. Team Manager, Traffic Design, Place
Fraser, D. Policy and Strategy Manager, Place
Jackson, D. Regeneration Policy Officer, Place Group
Laidler, M. Housing Services Manager - Private
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
Young, J. Team Leader, Scrutiny and People,
Dodd, R. Councillor Northumberland County Council
103. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors R.M. Nixon, and J. E. Smith.
(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
(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
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
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
Agenda Items 6(d) and 7 – Councillor J.E. Smith
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 2
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
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 3
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.
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 4
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
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
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
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
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 5
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
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
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.
(a) the report be noted;
(b) the general views of the Committee be considered as part of the consultation
(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
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
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 6
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
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 7
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
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.
(a) the report and presentation be noted;
(b) the comments of the Committee be noted; and
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 8
(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
(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
Mr. M. Laidler, Housing Services Manager – Private Sector presented the report
following which he responded to queries raised and comments made which
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
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
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
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 9
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
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
Councillor A.H. Pegg
D. Laux, Head of Highways and Transport
111. REPORT OF THE SCRUTINY OFFICER
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
(Copy of Work Programme filed with the signed minutes of the meeting as Appendix
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 10
The Scrutiny Officer advised members of the position relating to the Committee Work
RESOLVED that the Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC Work
Programme be noted.
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 11
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.
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.
Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services OSC, 2 March 2010 12