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REPORT ON DEVOLUTION OF ARUN SERVICES TO TOWN AND PARISH COUNCILS
Agenda item no. 15 Arun District Council Maltravers Road Littlehampton West Sussex BN17 5LF Tel: 01903-737500 Fax: 01903-732765 DX: 57406 Littlehampton To: Clerks of Town and Parish Councils, Minicom: 01903-732765 Chairman of Town and Parish Councils e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and Parish Meetings 13 November 2002 Dear Clerk / Chairman DEVOLUTION OF SERVICES The District Council is wanting to consult with our partners in Town and Parish Councils and Parish Meetings on the matter of whether the devolution of Arun's services to yourselves is of interest to your Council. Attached to this letter is a report which went to our Cabinet in September this year, as well as the document "Principles of a Working Partnership", which was last updated in April 2001 in conjunction with ADALC. My purpose in writing to you therefore is to seek to initiate consultation and as you will see from the report, initially to see whether there is agreement on the principles on which any form of devolution of services or other types of joint arrangements / joint funding, should be established. I am also aware that currently we have a variety of such arrangements with Town and Parish Councils, and as you will see from the attached report, we are simultaneously proposing to review how well these arrangements are working. Your views will also be sought on this subject. Again, as the report suggests, Arun would wish to receive your views individually, and also have a discussion as to what should be the way forward at the next round of Area Partnership Panels / Joint Downland Area Committee in early 2003. I know that a number of Town and Parish Councils in Arun are already considering what they might wish to do in relation to the White Paper proposals concerning "Quality Town and Parish Councils", and this consultation is bearing this proposal very much in mind. Therefore, we are seeking your views at this early stage about what principles should govern alternative service delivery arrangements, and offering to meet with you if you wish to discuss this outside the Partnership Panels and Downland Area Committee meetings. I await your reaction. Yours sincerely Ian Sumnall Chief Executive REPORT ON DEVOLUTION OF ARUN SERVICES TO TOWN AND PARISH COUNCILS 1. BACKGROUND: In 1994 Arun signed "Principles of a Working Partnership" with the Arun District Association of Local Councils. This set out principles in relation to consultation and concerning partnerships between the two tiers in relation to the delivery of services. This document was updated in April 2001 and is attached to this report. These principles have been used in relation to joint service delivery concerning public conveniences, for instance. More recently Central Government, in its Rural White Paper in November 2000, launched the concept of "Quality Town and Parish Councils". Those parish and town councils who attain this "Quality" status could approach their district and / or county councils to seek the devolution of services to them where they could demonstrate Best Value. Understandably, the Council, over the past few months, has received approaches from a number of Town and Parish Councils as to what its attitude would be to such devolution. The purpose of this report is to suggest that the Cabinet agrees to enter into discussions with Town and Parish Councils collectively on this subject through the two Area Partnership Panels and the Joint Downland Area Committee. The report also suggests some principles concerning this matter which it might wish to adopt for the purposes of consultation. 2. PROPOSALS: The first proposal is that the Council should initiate discussion on this matter in the context of the White Paper proposals relating to "Quality Town and Parish Councils", before coming to a view as to whether to revise the current principles as set out in the 2001 Partnership document. This consultation would be best started through the two Area Partnership Panels and the Joint Downland Area Committee in early 2003. This could then be followed up with one-to-one meetings if there was a demand, but this would still be based on the principles of devolved or shared service delivery. At the conclusion of this process, the Council could then prepare its policies on this subject which it could adopt for any discussions commencing in the Council Year 2003/04. It would be important to include the County Council in such discussions as well as the Sussex Association of Local Councils (SALC). The second proposal is to set out, in a very tentative manner, guiding principles which the Council might wish to adopt strictly for the purpose of initiating the consultation process as explained earlier. It is suggested that the following principles could form the basis of the Council's approach to devolved and / or shared delivery of existing District Council services:- 1. Use the April 2001 "Principles of a Working Partnership". 2. Focus on what is best for the recipient of the service i.e. resident, customer, rather than on what is "best" for the organisation e.g. district or parish council. 3. In relation to 2. "best" could be defined as in the context of both the principles currently required to assess "Best Value" as well as the principle of "subsidiarity". 4. Avoid "double taxation". 5. Properly evaluate the devolved decision-making approach to some County and District services as undertaken through the Joint Downland Area Committee, as an alternative approach to the devolved delivery of services. 6. In certain instances consider the role of towns enhancing their role as "Market Towns" as set out in the Rural White Paper and performing functions for smaller communities which are within their hinterland. 7. Ensure that within this process the issue of better access to services by residents etc. is taken into account. 8. Follow the criteria as set out for "Quality Town and Parish Councils". The third proposal is that the Cabinet could suggest that part of this consultation process includes a review of the current arrangements in Arun where "District" services are provided in some form of partnership arrangement with Town and Parish Councils. This is a matter which one of the Scrutiny Committees might wish to look at, including looking at current examples in other authorities. 3. CABINET DECISION: On 23 September 2002 Arun's Cabinet decided - 1. Consultation be initiated on the matter of the devolution of District services to Town and Parish Councils; 2. For consultation purposes, the guiding principles 1 - 7 as set out in the report be set, together with an additional principal 8 relating to Quality Town and Parish Councils, which will form the basis of this consultation process; and 3. One of the Scrutiny Committees be requested to consider reviewing the current position of devolved / shared services between District and Town and Parish Councils. November 2002 ARUN DISTRICT COUNCIL and ARUN DISTRICT ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL COUNCILS PRINCIPLES OF A WORKING PARTNERSHIP 1. INTRODUCTION Arun District Council, together with Town and Parish Councils and Parish Meetings (local councils) within the Arun District are partners with others in the local government of their communities. Each council has its own set of duties and responsibilities, its own democratic mandate and a vision for the future of its community. In July 1999 the three tiers of local government in Arun signed a Statement of Intent, pledging their intention to “work together to produce and implement a community strategy - a plan of action, owned by the community, which will be a positive force for change over a period of years. That plan will include clearly measurable and achievable targets that will promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of the community of Arun”. Also in 1999, the three Area Partnership Panels, for the Downland, Eastern and Western areas, agreed a new constitution, establishing their role in developing and monitoring implementation of the Community Strategy. These principles seek to recognise and give effect to this partnership. 2. CONSULTATION PRINCIPLES (i) It is recognised that local councils have a key role in representing the views of their local communities and similarly that the District Council speaks for the Arun community. The role of all Councillors as democratic representatives is paramount; (ii) Flexible ways of working together can enhance decision-making, bringing practical benefits to the community the Council serves. Settling any differences of opinion in an amicable way without reference to press or public comment is to be preferred. The District Council has adopted some clear Principles of Consultation on which it bases all its work on involving members of the public in its decision-making processes. This states: “Town and Parish Councils are representative, elected bodies. As such, the District Council places considerable weight on their views. The most important consultative mechanism between the three tiers of local government in Arun is through the three Area Panels. This arrangement does not inhibit direct consultation with individual local councils as set out in the Principles of a Working Partnership, agreed between the District Council and Arun District Association of Local Councils. Where there is disagreement within a neighbourhood or village about a policy or plan, the District Council will recognise the view of the Town or Parish Council, the elected body, as representing the community.” (iii) District and local councils will make arrangements for regular consultations and discussions on matters affecting their areas and will foster good relations through officers and Councillors; (iv) The District Council will convene an annual joint meeting of the Area Partnership Panels. In addition Arun will meet, as required, with local councils to discuss issues concerning Council services; (v) The Council will endeavour to inform the local council of proposals which are likely to affect its area and, where possible, give sufficient time to consider the views of the local council before taking action. 3. STATUTORY CONSULTATION (i) District and local councils, where involved in statutory consultations, will always endeavour to comply with mandatory timescales and information requirements; (ii) Where practical, councils will endeavour to supply more than the mandatory minimum in terms of information and assistance so that the subsequent comment can be most useful; (iii) When the District Council obtains a view of a local council with which it subsequently disagrees, it will be normal practice to give an explanation why that decision had been taken; and (iv) When a matter which requires investigation occurs, e.g. breach of planning control, the local council may act on behalf of a resident to maintain confidentiality. 4. DISCRETIONARY CONSULTATIONS The District Council, in consultation with local councils through the Arun District Association of Local Councils, will adopt appropriate procedures for consultations on a range of functions and issues such as:- (i) Public Entertainment Licences. (ii) Proposals to reduce, rearrange or discontinue any service provided within the local council’s area including such items as refuse collection, off-street car parking schemes, closure of public amenities, etc. 5. CO-OPERATION (i) The District Council and the local councils will consider whether their responses could be enhanced by co-operation in cases such as:- ! provision of any consultation with a government department or statutory body; and ! lobbying major organisations. (ii) Where the District Council consults a local special interest group on any local issue affecting the community at large, it will also consult the local council on that issue. 6. DISTRICT AND LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS CONCERNING SERVICE DELIVERY (i) The development of Area Action Plans as part of the Community Strategy process focuses attention on the way in which effectiveness could be enhanced by working with others, or by financial or technical co-operation. With regard to service delivery the District Council and local councils are committed to the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. “The powers of government should be exercised at the lowest possible level”; (ii) The District Council will consider requests by local councils for the transfer of responsibilities for functions of a local and non-strategic nature. Such requests will be considered according to the procedure to be adopted for such arrangements; (iii) The District Council will consider the possibilities for management or agency agreements if transfer is inappropriate and local councils may consider if their aims can be met by topping up District expenditure, recognising the constraints of the new Council Tax Benefit Subsidy Limitation scheme, with the clear intention of avoiding the potential for double-rating. (iv) The District Council will aim to make available its expertise to local councils on an informal basis; (v) Local Councils will ensure that notification of all regular meetings and Annual Parish Meetings is sent to their District Councillor(s); and (vi) District Councillors will be encouraged to attend local council meetings and, when invited by the Chairman to do so, will give a report on items of current concern either to the District and/or local council. 7. PROTOCOL ON EVENTS (i) Where the District Council is organising an event within a town or parish council area, the Parish Council Chairman or Town Mayor will be invited as a matter of course and offered a role in the proceedings. District Ward Councillors will also be invited. The Town Mayor or Parish Council Chairman will be made to feel a part of the proceedings; his/her exact role would be determined in discussion with the organisers of the event in question but might be, for example, to offer a welcome to the town or parish or to give the Vote of Thanks. (ii) In return, Town and Parish Councils will ensure a District Council representation at events they are organising. In many cases this would be a representation by the District Ward Councillor(s) as well as Town and Parish Ward Councillors. However, when the event is marking a project to which the District Council had made a financial contribution, it would be appropriate that the relevant Cabinet Member is invited as well and offered a role in the proceedings. NB Effective co-operation between Mayors and their secretaries at the beginning of each municipal year with a view to developing a mutual understanding to avoid, as far as possible, areas of conflict. (iii) Where an event is organised by an outside body and the involvement of both the District Council and Town/Parish Council is requested, there should be adequate liaison with and between the two Councils over the most appropriate representation, in line with the general principles of this protocol. (iv) Where the event is being organised solely for the purpose of achieving publicity for a new venture or initiative e.g. a photo-call for local press, thought will be given to providing “centre stage” to the beneficiaries of the project - that is, members of the public who will benefit from the new initiative. (v) Where the event is of sufficient civic significance for the Chairman of the District Council to be involved (or the Vice-Chairman in his/her absence), the normal protocol set down in the Local Government Act 1972, is that he or she takes precedence over the County Council Chairman, Town Mayors, Parish Council Chairmen and all other guests. However, in line with the principles of the Community Strategy and Area Partnership Panels which stress equality between the three tiers of local government, arrangements will reflect this spirit of partnership at all times, whilst observing the Act. 8. MONITORING THESE PRINCIPLES (i) The Arun District Association of Local Councils commend this Code to its members in co-operation with the Arun District Council; and (ii) The Code will be reviewed by Arun District Council and ADALC annually to consider any amendment that may become necessary in the light of experience, in particular consultation arrangements.
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