SOUTH WEST REGIONAL ASSEMBLY SOCIAL, ECONOMIC & ENVIRONMENTAL PARTNERS MEETING 10 October 2008 MINUTES
Present: Nicky Alberry Rosie Bayley Ian Ducat Gordon Edwards Colin Feltham Dorothy Fogg Roger Haworth Nigel Hutchings Cate Le Grice Mack Jackie Longworth John Matthews Andrew Moore Heather Pencavel Tim Pyper Mark Robins Colin Rose Ben Salisbury Helen Scadding Valerie Stevens Stephen Wright Learning Skills & Business Support Sector (Chair) Youth Sector Trade Union Sector Public Transport Users Sector (substituting for Chris Irwin) Voluntary & Community Sector Trade Union Sector Voluntary & Community Sector Business Sector Environment Sector Trade Union Sector Agriculture & Rural Business Sector Housing Sector Faith Communities Sector Business Sector Environment Sector Trade Union Sector Youth Sector Voluntary & Community Sector Business Sector Voluntary & Community Sector
Also in Attendance: Bryony Houlden (part), Caroline Longstreet- Regional Secretariat Sharon Adams – Observer for the Youth Parliament 1. 1.1 Welcome & Apologies for Absence Nicky Alberry welcomed everyone to the meeting explaining that she was in the chair in Chris Irwin’s absence and thanked Gordon Edwards for substituting for him. She reported that apologies had been received from Barry Griffiths, Chris Herries, Chris Irwin, Ian Munro and Candida Whitmill. Declarations of Interest There were none. Nicky reminded Members to complete and return their annual declarations if they had not already done so.
3. 3.1 3.2 Minutes of Previous Meeting & Matters Arising The minutes of the meeting held on 18 July 2008 were agreed as a correct record. On the agreed action that Chris Irwin would speak to Bryony Houlden about resourcing a ‘SEEP futures group’, he had done so but agreed with her this was not a priority in the face of ever-tightening Secretariat resource constraints. Jackie Longworth reported that it was still the intention to continue with this group using Members’ own resources. To differentiate themselves from the old Futures Group, they agreed to be known as the ‘Sustainable Development Group’. Terms of reference were being developed and it was envisaged that much of their work would be carried out electronically. SEEPs who had volunteered for the Group included Jackie, Mark Robins, Heather Pencavel and Nigel Hutchings. Other SEEPs were invited to join and should contact Jackie. Nicky thanked Jackie for taking this work forward. In relation to the other agreed action, Chris Irwin had had a positive meeting with Jon Bright at Government Office around future stakeholder engagement, the outcomes of which had been circulated. Stakeholder Restructuring Nicky prefaced this item with a message from Chris Irwin to the Youth Parliament understanding the reasons for them not being able to attend the Away Day and organising the icebreaker, recognising their value and input to the SEEP group. Nicky referred Members to Paper B which captured the outcomes of the Away Day. Members agreed that under the first bullet point of item 3, ‘differences within the region’ was what was meant. Also, that once the Local Authorities had agreed their new structures, they should be approached again and updated about the new stakeholder group. Chris had circulated an update to all SEEPs the day before informing Members on developments since the Away Day and reflecting on the latest news from English Regions Network about the timing of the Government’s response to the SNR consultation, now expected ‘imminently’. Nicky updated on a meeting between SEEP leaders and Bryony and Caroline on 3 October reaching agreement on how to move the development of stakeholder engagement forward. In relation to this, Roger Haworth explained current thinking around an electoral college concept whereby a larger (than the current SEEP group) conference of stakeholders would meet on a quarterly basis to consider regional issues. This conference would vote for a smaller (around 7 Members) executive tier of stakeholders who would be the interface with the RDA, Local Authorities and South West Councils etc. Other stakeholders would be coopted on the Executive as and when particular issues required expert input. A smaller group would be more manageable for partners to liaise with and
Bryony felt that this proposal was more likely to be favourably received by the RDA and others seeking stakeholder engagement. She also confirmed that SEEPs would continue in their current role during the lifetime of the Assembly and then transfer into the new structure. To accommodate this, a few changes needed to be made to the current SEEP Constitution which would be ratified hopefully in July 2009. The Secretariat were also currently working on a new draft Constitution for ‘South West Stakeholders’, the provisionally agreed name of the group. 4.5 Jackie reflected that it would be helpful to have a one page leaflet which explained where SEEPs were at so this could be shared with Nominating Bodies and other partners to ensure that a consistent message was being given out. It was agreed that it would be helpful to preface the leaflet with some kind of ‘vision statement’ – a brief 5 bullet point statement of what stakeholders offer to civil society, that everyone could sign up to. Mark Robins agreed to draft something along these lines. In the discussion that followed on the proposed new stakeholder structure, Members reflected that this provided an opportunity to engage a wider group of stakeholders in regional decision-making. It was agreed that reference to the ‘democratic element’ of the SEEPs should be avoided as it provoked disagreement with the Local Authorities; instead their regional remit should be emphasised. One point of concern was around the cancellation of the last Assembly Executive meeting which was said to leave a knowledge deficit about Assembly business and in particular how SEEPs are relating to Local Authority Members. Bryony explained that the Executive had been cancelled after discussion with Leaders partly because this Assembly meeting had been brought forward in order to agree the response to the proposed changes to the RSS but that Member Advisory Groups were working well and SEEPs have been fully engaged in these groups. She further explained that the focus had to be on priority business. Bryony further explained that at a recent and positive meeting of the new South West Councils Executive, the draft Constitution which she had drafted for them contained a section about engaging with stakeholders. It was agreed that: The Secretariat would draft a leaflet updating on the development of stakeholder structures and circulate this by email to all SEEP Members Mark Robins to draft a SEEP vision statement for the leaflet and pass on to the Secretariat A draft Constitution would be prepared by the Secretariat for discussion at the next SEEP meeting which would be organised for 5 December
5. 5.1 5.2 Assembly Agenda Jackie pointed out that dates for the next Assembly meeting should read 14 July and not 10 July as this was a Monday. Bryony reported that Anne Snelgrove MP for Swindon would be supporting Ben Bradshaw in his regional minister role although details on how this would work were not known. They had had a good meeting with him recently and he expressed interest in hearing the outcomes of today’s Assembly. She also confirmed that the SNR consultation response was due ‘shortly’ but time was pressing if the proposed changes required for primary legislation were going to get into the Queen’s Speech. If planning powers were not going to be passed to the Regional Development Agencies then the requirements could be managed by secondary legislation. Bryony also referred to the setting up of Regional Economic Councils which the Assembly would endeavour to have an input into. SEEP Members agreed that engagement with the council should not just lie with Local Authority Members and that they should be able to feed in their views too: Nicky would make this point in the chamber. The commitment to a single regional strategy was still there. What was known was that the Assembly faced a 10% budget cut for next year which would not be easy to accommodate as well as a drop in subscriptions from Local Authorities. Nicky reported on the recent meeting of the Regional Board which had discussed the staffing and financial position.
Regional Spatial Strategy Proposed Changes 5.4 Nicky explained that at the Leaders meeting the evening before, there had been a long discussion about the response to the Government’s proposed changes to the RSS. She circulated the agreed wording which was a compromise accommodating the different groups. They had all been in agreement that to do nothing was not an option and of the importance of coming to an agreed position - and this was it. Nicky impressed on Members the need to keep a regional perspective and not become too parochial. Local Authorities were being advised to write to the Secretary of State directly if they had issues with the proposed numbers of houses in their areas. The other key point to keep in mind was that this represents a long-term plan and SEEPs should not be side-tracked by the turbulence of the current economic situation. Nicky further explained that the starting point of the response was the agreed 23k annual increase of houses with any higher numbers requiring clearer phasing in. In the ensuing discussion the following points were made: this represents a weakening of the acceptance of the (higher) EIP assessment numbers which SEEPs had agreed to at their Away Day - this statement is rolling back from that;
the EIP proposed figures should be adhered to as the Secretary of State would be more likely to accept this. To say no to everything would be to risk being completely disregarded; what is important is the quality and sustainable nature of housing rather than the numbers of houses; the numbers are actually irrelevant because what will determine the numbers is the state of the economy and so the demand for them; the question was asked – what happens if the target is not met? The answer was that house-building targets are not usually reached; the important bit is to ensure the maximum number of affordable houses are built to a good standard; it was agreed that the number 10,000 should be added to 5.(iv) of the statement and that Andy Moore would propose this in the chamber; changes to numbers will inevitably be made again once planning powers have moved across; Gordon Edwards suggested at 5.(i) that the word ‘regional’ followed ‘adequate investment’. This was accepted; it was less about ‘regional distinctive’ policies and more about regionally appropriate policies. At this point amendments from the other group meeting were received relating to paragraph 2 and paragraph 4. In discussion SEEP Members did not support either of these suggestions because it meant diluting the housing numbers completely and opening up the whole RSS. It was also felt that the original resolution was an agreed compromise between the different groups and should be stuck to for that reason. In summary Nicky suggested that SEEPs individually voiced their opinions on the specific points. It was agreed that they could not support the Liberal Democrat and Conservative suggested amendments to downsize the numbers and that they supported the compromise resolution in its original format. A suggestion to abstain from voting was to be avoided if possible as this would cause problems with the Local Authority Members since it was important that the Assembly showed solidarity to the Government on such a key issue. There was no time left to reach a final agreement and it was left to SEEPs to vote on the various sections as they came up for discussion. Nicky was then called to a meeting of the group Leaders in an attempt to agree another joint position. 5.8
5.10 It was agreed that: SEEP Members would vote against the late proposed amendments to the original draft resolution if they still stood; they would vote on individual sections as they came up on the basis of what they had agreed in their discussion; They would input into the debate on points made in their discussion in particular around the need for affordable housing and good quality, sustainable housing.
Regional Funding Allocation Time ran out to properly debate this item. Cate Le Grice Mack did however make the point against using the funding allocation for individual parochial projects – the emphasis must be on regional benefit. Date of the Next Meeting 10.30 am 5 December 2008 at Wellsprings Leisure Centre, Taunton Any Other Business There was no time remaining for any other business.
7. 7.1 8. 8.1
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