Waverley Borough Council Home Page Waverley Borough Council Home Page


Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 16/01/2007
ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY



Summary & Purpose
This report seeks Members views on the role and medium-term Strategy for Waverley’s future involvement in economic and community development activities. It reviews the previous themes of the Economic Opportunities Strategy and proposes that the key themes be re-applied as they have stood the test of time and been positively endorsed through an independent analysis of a range of local and regional partners and business leaders.

The report also includes an overview of the Government’s proposals to reduce the post office network.


10 APPENDIX D

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

environment & leisure Overview and Scrutiny COMMITTEE
16th January 2006

____________________________________________________________________________
Title:
ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

[Wards Affected: ALL ]
____________________________________________________________________________
Summary and Purpose
This report seeks Members views on the role and medium-term Strategy for Waverley’s future involvement in economic and community development activities. It reviews the previous themes of the Economic Opportunities Strategy and proposes that the key themes be re-applied as they have stood the test of time and been positively endorsed through an independent analysis of a range of local and regional partners and business leaders.

The report also includes an overview of the Government’s proposals to reduce the post office network.
________________________________________________________________________
Environmental implications:
There are no specific environmental implications arising from this report although the work arising from the economic and community development strategy priorities should balance economic, social and environmental issues.

Social / community implications:
The report sets out achievements relating to social and community issues as a result of the previous economic strategy and specifically refers to partnership arrangements, and other key social and community issues including access to services for rural communities in particular. The Local Government White Paper underlined that improving the economic vibrancy of an area is a key challenge for local authorities and their partners and is at the heart of the place shaping agenda – building prosperous and cohesive communities where people want to live and work and where businesses want to invest.

E-Government implications:
There are no direct e-government implications as a result of this report but it refers to the need to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place to enable businesses to be competitive.

Resource and legal implications:
There are no direct resource implications arising from this report although it does discuss the level of resource applied to the economic and community development function within the council. Members’ views on the nature of service provision are sought before making any specific recommendations to change the existing resource levels which are set out in the report.
_________________________________________________________________________

1. Introduction

1.1 Waverley’s economic strategy was developed with cross-party support in 1997 in consultation with stakeholders. It was built on a strong evidence base, part of which was provided by the Henley Centre and their Planning for Local Change programme. In 2002, the Strategy was extended until 2005 following a Best Value Review and a workshop of critical friends who confirmed that the actions and themes were still relevant and had evolved appropriately since the first strategy had been agreed.

1.2 The evolution of the strategy included developing actions which included a greater area-based focus through the Market Town Healthchecks which had resulted in clear priorities following extensive consultation. It is widely accepted that economic and community regeneration are long term investments rather than quick wins and that the principles of partnership working and capacity building are prerequisites for successful activity.

1.3 In recent years, the resources applied to economic activities have significantly reduced. In addition to the reduction in direct support for economic activities, the staffing for the tourism function was taken as a budget saving when the service was merged with economic development and business support function. Waverley was fortunate to receive significant support from the Surrey County Council economic team (estimated at more than one full time post) as Waverley implemented a number of key activities that hit countywide targets. However the posts that previously delivered economic, tourism and rural community support were deleted during the County Council Business Delivery Review and there is a complete vacuum where there had previously been partnership working. This has compounded pressures on the service.

1.4 On a positive note, the successful Market Towns work with support from the parish and town councils and the former Countryside Agency has led to the appointment of two part-time staff (whose contribution has been nearer to full time) and an immense amount of volunteer time in delivering effective outcomes, which have been valued both locally, regionally and nationally. This work has also led to significant new investment in the Borough (which has greatly added to the level of contribution from Waverley) and gained a number of awards and a higher profile and reputation for Waverley.

1.5 The Strategy was grouped into different themes reflecting Actions for the Borough area as a whole; Actions for rural areas; Actions for the towns; Actions for the infrastructure; and Actions for the Council itself

2. Current Objectives from Economic and community development activities

2.1 The agreed objectives of Waverley’s actions in this area have been to:

ensure there is a clear business voice able to communicate effectively with policy makers at all levels;
improve communication between all parties interested in sustaining and developing the local economy;
contribute to an infrastructure that builds a prosperous and accessible local economy;
encourage and develop commercial activity in partnership with business and other agencies;
help address issues of social inclusion; and
help address other key corporate priorities such as rural issues, community safety and sustainable development.

2.2 These objectives have been addressed by progressing actions under five key headings. The areas of activity and the aims for progressing these activities are set out below.


2.2.1 Strategic
2.2.2 Project development
Aim: To develop projects which respond to identified needs.

2.2.3 Partnership with business
2.2.4 Business support and aftercare
Aim: To ensure that business in the Borough can continue to prosper and that existing businesses and employment opportunities can be sustained.

Activities under this aim have included publications (3rd edition of the Business Directory (also available on-line), Available premises register and the Local Food directory), work with Enterprise First who advise new and start up businesses in Waverley, and targeted skill development via Godalming college Business Training Service, Tourism South East and Waverley Training Services.

2.2.5 Sector support
Aim: To prioritise specific sectors which play an important part in the local economy or are facing particular problems.

3. Partner/Stakeholder review of Waverley’s Economic Strategy

3.1 As in previous years, the views of external partners on Waverley’s economic activities and outcomes was sought. As the lead officer for this work was on secondment at the time, the review involving over twenty partners and stakeholders was undertaken by Ancer Spa regeneration consultants. The full report, findings and recommendations of the consultants are attached at Annexe 1. It should be noted that this survey was undertaken before the county council stopped all its work in this area following their Business Development Review.

3.2 The perception from those consulted was that overall Waverley Borough Council has had considerable success with its economic strategy and the council is highly regarded by both partners and stakeholders. Waverley, with a small team, had focused on working in partnership with local communities and other organisations to optimise its impact and the feedback indicates that there have been many successes. The five themes of the strategy continue to address the key influences on the Waverley economy. However, there was great concern regarding the reduction in resources and the impact this will have on the implementation of the joint projects and initiatives in the area.

3.3 The consultants said that the potential for collaborative working with partners, stakeholders and voluntary organisations that have similar goals is substantial and is as yet only partly realised.

3.4 The consultants’ report is a very helpful reflection of the views of many partners with whom Waverley works and the reported comments made by individuals can be clearly attributed to their own area of activity. However when taken together they show that Waverley’s activities in the area of economic and community development are well regarded with achievements that are among the best in Surrey. However, the report underlines that these achievements are fragile with a low resource and staff base (Two part time co-ordinators in Cranleigh and Haslemere funded on an annual basis, a Part time administrator and staff time allocations from different sections in Waverley of just over one full time equivalent post for the economic and community support role).

3.5 In terms of other resources, the budget for economic development activities is 10,000 per annum whilst funding to support the Visitor economy is 3,500 per annum. A grant of 4,500 is paid to Enterprise First to support new and start up businesses and Waverley contributes 7500 to the costs of each of the Project Co-ordinators in Cranleigh and Haslemere from the Partnership Funding scheme.

3.6 The report identifies a number of opportunities to refocus Waverley’s work in the area of economic and community support. This could either be through reducing the scope of what is done to match the resources available, or identifying additional resources to provide the key links to drive programmes forward. At this stage it is thought more helpful to discuss the preferred form of service before determining the resource issues.

4. External Recognition

4.1 The fact that Waverley has continued to deliver effective outcomes has been demonstrated by the achievement of a number of external awards over the period of the last economic strategy and significant external investment. Both of these elements reflect the cross-party working and consensus that saw the strategy develop and show how economic and community development is an investment that bears fruit albeit that it is an investment that needs to be applied over time. The result is that Waverley has been seen to be “closer to people and places” throughout the Borough.

4.2 Some of the external recognition that has been achieved by Waverley and its partners includes:
Beacon Council Status 2003/2004 for Supporting the Rural Economy
Rural Excellence programme 2004/2005
Best Regional Business Project 2004 (Haslemere Christmas Market) awarded by SEEDA and Action for Market Towns
Best Regional Youth Project (Cranleigh Initiative Fly project) awarded by SEEDA and Action for Market Towns
Best Regional Partnership project 2005 (Haslemere Initiative Tourism Guidance notes and themed weekends) awarded by Action for market Towns
Best National Project 2006 (Haslemere and Villages Rewards scheme) awarded by Action for market Towns
Best Farmers’ market in the South East 2007 (Milford Farmers’ Market) awarded by FARMA (National Farmers and Retail Markets’ Association)

4.3 In addition, because Cranleigh and Haslemere had undertaken Market Town Healthchecks and had the evidence of community support to back up their proposed actions they have both drawn in external funding. SEEDA earmarked 440,000 to Surrey towns that had evidence based projects. So far Waverley communities have been awarded 160,000 from this programme.

4.4 The most significant has been the SEEDA market towns funding of 120,000 awarded to the Cranleigh Initiative for the Cranleigh enhancement project and business development activities. The enhancement project overall saw investment of more than 400,000 in Cranleigh.

4.5 A second project application submitted by the Haslemere Initiative to help regenerate Beacon Hill was also successful with 40,000 awarded by the SEEDA Market Towns programme. Along with funding from Surrey County Council, Section 106 funding and contributions from the private sector this project will see investment of over 180,000 in Beacon Hill.

4.6 Once the Godalming Healthcheck has completed its work and drawn up an action plan, there will also be the potential for investment in Godalming from the Market Towns programme (this could be in 2008).

4.7 Other project-based funding support has been achieved from Tourism South East and the South East Food Group and additional funding has been earmarked from the Surrey Economic Partnership.

5. Some Future Issues

5.1 The context for Waverley’s actions can be seen in the diagram below. Some issues emerge as a result of members’ priorities and local issues and others are shaped by regional or national pressures.



5.3 There are a number of new issues where Waverley’s community leadership will be required area in the next five years to maximise opportunities or address threats. These include:
sustaining rural services in the face of legislative changes and the high value of land;
reshaping the Hindhead area during the development and opening of the Hindhead Tunnel;
maximising the opportunities from the 2012 Olympics given Waverley’s proximity to London and the main airports; and
ensuring the right infrastructure is in place so that Waverley’s businesses can continue to take advantage of emerging technologies.

5.4 In addition, the emphasis by the Government on delivering services for communities through Local Area Agreements and the Local Strategic Partnership requires a different way of working to ensure that Waverley’s priorities identified in its own community strategy are adequately reflected in the countywide Local Area Agreement. The Local Government White Paper underlines the fact that “local authorities are in a unique position to take an overview of the economic needs of their area and manage or ensure delivery of services and infrastructure”.

5.5 According to the Local Government Association research, the most successful future local authority in economic development will integrate its different roles in its community strategy. These include leadership roles (analysis, strategy, partnership facilitation, consensus building), service roles (planning, housing, arts, culture, community development, environmental health etc) and stakeholder roles (employer, landowner, procurer, landlord, neighbour).

Retaining rural services

5.6 There will be continued pressure on rural services such as shops, post offices, and pubs particularly in the Waverley area where owners of properties will seek to realise the capital value of their land. With the high cost of land for housing, and the lower value of employment land, it is not surprising that landowners seek a change of use in the same way that the former owners of Wonersh Village stores and the Three Horseshoes at Thursley sought to do. Waverley has to balance individual interests against the wider interest of the community in ensuring that there can still be access to services and facilities at a local level. This is particularly important in an area such as Waverley which has a higher than average elderly population. The successful trading of both Wonersh Village Stores and the Three Horseshoes under new ownership underlines the fact that Waverley should take a bold approach in retaining such facilities.

Rural Post Offices

5.7 The Government published a consultation paper on the future of the Post Office Network in December 2006. Following the 12 week consultation, the Post Office is expected to develop its restructuring plans involving local consultations on an expected 2,500 post office closures, at a mix of urban and rural sites – within the new access criteria. The proposed new access criteria are:

In urban areas, 95% of the population to be within 1 mile;
In rural areas, 95% of the total rural population within 3 miles.

These new access criteria could mean that a number of Waverley’s rural post offices (where there is currently a presumption in favour of reopening them within 12 months of closure if an alternative location can be found) could be lost.


5.8 There are currently some 14,000 post offices nationally and these offices lose some 4m per week on top of the 150m Government subsidy used to support the 9400 small rural post offices. The 800 smallest rural post offices served just 16 people a week at a cost to the taxpayer of 17 per visit - even if this was just to buy a stamp. A total of 1,600 branches served fewer than 20 customers a day - losing 8 for every transaction.

5.9 With the Government moving more services on-line (eg. Car Tax) and paying pensions direct into bank accounts, the traditional post office services are having to adapt and evolve. The Government is proposing to spend 1.7bn to assist the post office modernise and restructure the network and is proposing to add 4000 free to use ATM machines across the network. In the most rural locations, there will be mobile post offices and services in village halls.

5.10 Inevitably, the closure package to help the post office restructure its network will be attractive to a number of sub-postmasters in the area, but it is difficult to be clear about the precise impact in Waverley until the Post Office Recommendations are made after the consultation period. Members are asked for any comments they wish to have included in Waverley’s response to the consultation paper.

6. Member workshop

6.1 In September 2006, a member workshop was held to help shape the emerging economic strategy. The freeform comments made by councillors who attended are attached as Annexe 1b. They were grouped into themes which can be incorporated into the proposed strategy themes and those present then ranked they main priorities. Issues of greatest concern relating to the economic strategy were:
Generating stronger support for independent retailers to safeguard the retail centres
Building capacity and visionary leadership among business and community leaders
Focussing on transport in rural areas to encourage employment
Supporting sustainable business priorities
Sustaining villages shops and post offices
Encouraging home working
Development of skills for small businesses
Affordable housing in ‘the right place’ (i.e. not garden development) for employees 7. Strategy Framework for Waverley 2007-2012

7.1 Since the previous strategy outcomes related to economic, social and environmental well being and since many of the areas of focus would normally be dealt with via a community development focus, it is proposed that the new strategy be titled Economic and Community Development Strategy. For the reasons set out in the report it is proposed that the broad themes which have been endorsed by partners and stakeholders be reapplied in the new strategy. Members are asked to consider whether there are any changes needed to reflect local issues or emerging challenges which they would like to recommend to the Executive.

8. Conclusion

8.1 The Ancer Spa Report has shown that the priorities agreed for the previous Economic Opportunities Strategy are still valid, and subject to some minor alterations, should be adopted for the next five years as the basis for Waverley’s work for economic and community development activities. The achievements delivered through the previous strategy have relied upon the significant support of a wide range of partners including the Town and Parish Councils, business support agencies and a wide range of volunteers drawn from businesses or other community organisations. This has meant that a with a relatively small amount of pump priming funding Waverley and its partners have been able to secure some valuable outcomes that Waverley on its own could not deliver.

Recommendation

It is recommended that:

1) Members identify whether the priorities set out in section 2 should form the core of Waverley’s economic and community development strategy for the next five years or whether there are any additional issues to recommend to the executive;
2) Members are invited to suggest comments to be included in the Council’s response to the Government’s consultation paper on the Post Office Network

________________________________________________________________________
Background Papers (CEX)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

________________________________________________________________________

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Iain Lynch Telephone: 01483 523203





Bureau/comms/o&s3/2006-07/173


Annexe 1



Background Paper to Inform Waverley’s Economic Strategy Review

Partner/Stakeholder review of Waverley’s Economic Strategy

Introduction:

1 At the beginning of 2006, in preparation for the Economic Strategy Review, Ancer Spa (Economic, regeneration and planning consultants who had previously worked for Waverley on the economic, environmental and social impacts of the closure of British Aerospace at Dunsfold) were commissioned to undertake interviews of partners and stakeholders including business support organisations and business leaders at local, county and regional levels.

2 The purpose was to seek the views of partners firstly on the appropriateness of Waverley’s economic opportunities strategy which had been in existence since 1997, and was previously been reviewed in 2001, and secondly on economic and community development for the future to help inform member discussions.

3 In all representatives of 22 partners, businesses or business support organisations were interviewed and their comments were framed in response to the following questions:
6. Finally, are there any ways in which the process of joint working between local organisations with a role in economic development should be modified or strengthened in order to further economic aims? 4 The full report of the consultants is attached as Annexe 1a. It sets out the context for Waverley’s work and also shows how Waverley’s activities support outcomes for both the Surrey and Regional priorities. The importance of this from a Waverley perspective is that external funding often follows these priorities. Appendix 1 of the report shows how far partners and stakeholders felt that Waverley had delivered its objectives. 5 The report’s findings were presented to the Economic and Community Development workshop for councillors in September 2006. Members welcomed the positive endorsement by partners of the impact and effectiveness of the actions developed within Waverley, and the outcomes achieved to date. The comments reinforced the fact that the economic and community priorities were still valid and appropriate and fitted well with both local and regional priorities and helped identify areas of activity which members who attended felt were important for the future.

6 At the same time, some concern was expressed over the references to Dunsfold Park given that major proposals had subsequently been published by the Rutland Group, which had also been considered by a special Development Control Forum meeting in September. Since the Rutland Group (as owner of one of the largest employment sites in the Borough) had been one of the consultees in the review, members wished to ensure that comments made by respondents should not be open to misinterpretation as being the views of the Council.

Conclusion

7 The comments made by partner organisations in the Ancer Spa report confirm that the broad themes and the objectives agreed for the current economic strategy are still valid and appropriate for the coming period. The findings and the considerations of the Member workshop are brought out in more detail in the main report to the Environment & Leisure Overview & Scrutiny Committee.