Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document
Meeting of the Council held on 16/10/2001
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
Waverley Borough Council’s Capital Strategy features all key aspects of Waverley’s capital expenditure and provides an overarching four-year plan of the investment priorities that are key to enable the Council to achieve its objectives. The Strategy provides a corporate introduction and scene setting before moving into specific service areas.
The Council’s Approach
Waverley Borough Council is at the forefront of the Government’s modernising agenda. The Council has been a pilot authority for Better Government for Older People. It is also a lead authority in the Town and Country Finance Issues Group (TACFIG), through which Community Plan proposals have been submitted to the Government in the context of the three-year review of local government finance. The Council’s Best Value Performance Plan received an unqualified audit report and should ensure that services continue to be provided in the most efficient and effective way as Best Value principles are put into practice.
The Approach to Corporate and Community Planning
The Council set out its priorities and overarching objectives in its four-year Corporate Strategy. A number of inter-related priority areas were identified for each of four key themes namely: Community, Environment, Resources and Democracy. Aims and objectives have been developed for each priority area. These in turn have formed the basis for setting a range of detailed service objectives linked to performance measures and targets and reported in the Best Value Performance Plan.
In the context of the Council’s service plans and the Best Value Performance Plan, the Council is coordinating the development of a Community Plan for Waverley that will act as an umbrella framework - pulling together all the Council’s other strategic plans, ensuring a joined-up community-focused forward looking approach across the Authority and developing cross-cutting frameworks with locally-based public, private and voluntary-sector service providers. Additionally, the Council was one of the first local authorities to consult its local communities both on areas of investment and the level of Council Tax and the Community Plan will enable that consultation process to be developed further.
Partnership and Matched Funding
The Council promotes partnership working in all the services it provides. As an incentive to other service providers in the Waverley area, the Council has earmarked a significant level of resources (currently £300,000 pa) for Matched-Funding schemes. These resources are made available to service providers on the basis that they must provide at least 50% of the funding from sources other than from Waverley Borough Council. This approach not only promotes cross-cutting initiatives and partnership working but it also makes the best use of available resources.
The Council's accounts are split into two key areas: General Fund (all non-landlord activities) and Housing Revenue Account (landlord activities). The main sources of finance for the General Fund element of the Capital Strategy are: partnership and Matched Funding referred to above and reserve fund contributions. The reserve fund is maintained through annual revenue contributions from service committees.
The main sources of funding for the Housing Revenue Account element of the Capital Strategy are: Right-to-Buy capital receipts from the sale of council houses and revenue contributions to capital including the Major Repairs Allowance.
The Council has a Financial Strategy that encompasses all the Council's income and expenditure over a four-year period and an element of that Financial Strategy is the Capital Strategy. The Council continually finds itself in the position that there are more key schemes that it would like to progress than available resources.
To manage this difficulty, capital schemes are prioritised by the Council's Executive Committee after receiving advice from the Council's Management Board and overview committees. The following criteria are used in the prioritisation process:
The extent to which a particular scheme achieves the Council’s key corporate objectives.
Investment that will improve service delivery, especially to achieve improvement plans following Best Value Reviews.
Investment required to maintain current service provision.
Investment that will lead to cost savings or income generation.
The level of community support for particular proposals.
The Council operates a scoring system to assist in prioritising applications made under the Matched-Funding scheme. The assessment criteria for Matched-Funding schemes are shown at Annexe 1 (to be attached to final submission). The key criteria are made clear to the applicants and fall within four main categories covering: the applicants organisational details; the needs element of the project, as demonstrated by consultation; partnership aspects, including leverage; and project implementation details.
The Council has adopted the Voluntary Code of Practice 'A Prudential Approach to Local Authority Commitments' that was published by the Local Authority Associations in 1989. This ensures that both capital finance and service specific revenue implications are fully identified in each Capital Strategy scheme proposal.
For each proposed capital scheme within the General Fund a justification statement, as shown at Annexe 2 (to be attached to final submission), is completed in order to assist appraisal of the proposal. This statement covers estimates of capital cost, service implications, how the scheme would deliver service and corporate objectives, and any constraints on implementation.
The Council monitors capital schemes through its Financial Management Information Systems that provide both detailed scheme expenditure analysis and high-level analysis for senior managers. Additionally, there are cross-departmental officer teams that monitor the progress on capital schemes on a monthly basis reporting their findings to the Management Board every other month (by exception if required). The Management Board considers the teams’ reports and makes recommendations to the Council's Executive Committee.
The Government has set local authorities a whole range of challenges in its modernising agenda including: the Best Value regime; and proposals in the Local Government Bill regarding targets for electronic service delivery. These challenges are encouraging local authorities to question and review individual services and the way they are delivered.
One of the key corporate initiatives included in the Council’s four-year Capital Strategy is Modern Ways of Working. This directly links into two priority resource-based areas identified in the Council’s Corporate Strategy namely: supporting and developing staff; and making the best use of Information Technology developments. The approach will facilitate the development of an e-government strategy.
The initiative is wide ranging in scope, providing increased accessibility to services and information. Additionally, services could be made available from different locations providing more effective links to other local services providers. Significant costs are involved in the procurement of telephony and IT systems to provide the platform to develop these services and the training and re-skilling of staff.
New communication channels for service and information provision to the public would be developed based around web technologies. A particular development would be around geographic information data that would provide the individual citizen with personalised local information that could, with the development of digital TV, assist the socially excluded and disabled.
Key partners in this approach would be other Surrey local authorities, other agencies and the voluntary sector. A key focus of the project is that it would promote the development of cross-cutting services and partnership working with the County Council and town and parish councils.
The Information Technology Strategy is reviewed regularly and is currently being updated to reflect the need to implement e-government. The updated strategy will take account of potential 'e-government targets' for local authorities relating to 25% availability of services electronically by the year 2002 and 100% availability by the year 2005. These developments have the potential to improve communication flows across different organisations aiding the development of cross-cutting initiatives. Because of the supportive nature of Information Technology, these developments are incorporated under the service areas detailed above.
The Council has just submitted its Implementing Electronic Government Statement to the DLTR in which it recognises that significant resources will have to be allocated over the next five years in order to deliver e-government. It also recognises that electronic service delivery offers new opportunities for partnership working and the potential for sharing resources and spreading the costs and the Council has and will continue to seek partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors with whom to work.
In 1999, Waverley produced an update to its Leisure Strategy that defines its role in leisure provision and sets out its broad priorities and objectives which contain three target areas: the disabled; people on low incomes; and youth facilities. The Council has a crucial enabling role in assisting communities to make provision of their own, and in providing key services that would not exist if the Council did not provide them.
Leisure provision is about people, and about communities. It is also very much about places, since without suitable facilities, many leisure activities are simply impossible. These places are not just sports centres and swimming pools. They are village halls, scout huts, artists' studios and children’s playgrounds. Waverley’s strategy for capital investment in leisure is built around the principle of providing a strong and sustainable infrastructure for leisure services within the area. This is based on ensuring that its own stock is fit for the purpose to which it is put, and providing assistance to other organisations to make their own provision. It is particularly important that the local authority provides assistance in this respect, since the challenge of raising significant capital sums to provide new or upgraded infrastructure is beyond many communities.
The four-year Capital Strategy is based on the maintenance and upgrading of existing facilities that provide the basis for creating opportunity. The top priority schemes that are included in the four-year Strategy are referred to below.
Farnham Maltings is the major arts and community facility in Farnham and serves a wide catchment across Waverley. It is in need of major investment to ensure that it can continue to provide the very wide range of community activities currently supported. It must also be made fully accessible for disabled people, which presently it is not.
Godalming is one of four main population centres in Waverley and there is a need to provide enhanced leisure facilities in Godalming to serve that local community. Additionally, in order to increase the range of indoor sports facilities available in the Farnham area the Council proposes to provide financial support for the construction of a new sports hall at the Weydon School, Farnham which will be available for both education and community uses. Continuing annual investment in our parks and recreation grounds, and in the maintenance of our three existing major leisure centres is necessary to ensure that they meet all necessary regulations, and to deal with the wear and tear that inevitably occurs to heavily used community facilities.
There is a substantial backlog of maintenance to Waverley’s own pavilions and other community buildings. These are not cosmetic improvements – they are works required to ensure that the buildings are wind- and water-tight for the foreseeable future, and presented in a manner that encourages participation amongst all sectors of the community. There is also a requirement for all Waverley’s community buildings to be made fully accessible for disabled people.
In terms of cross-cutting service provision, the Council has a significant impact on the extent of the resources allocated by a number of organisations to projects within the Waverley area. For example, South East Arts; Surrey County Council; Sport England; Countryside Agency; Heritage Lottery Fund; and English Nature.
Planning and Building Control
Planning and Building Control are two of the main regulatory functions that local authorities undertake and provide a key role in helping the Council achieve its strategic objectives for environmental care, sustainability and a safer and healthier quality of life. Its primary roles are to protect and conserve the environment, to prevent inappropriate development and to ensure that the development that is allowed is of the highest quality. High-quality developments help to secure the health, safety, welfare and convenience of persons in or around those developments. Planning policy is also a primary statutory function of the Authority and has a major role in helping the Council achieve key strategic objectives namely: sustainability; maintaining a prosperous local economy; and conserving and improving both urban and rural environments.
One scheme within the Capital Strategy supports the Government’s intention to create a national land and property gazetteer. The IDeA has entered into an agreement with a private sector consultancy, Intelligent Addressing, to provide a service to local authorities to help them set up their land and property gazetteers by matching addresses from the various data-sets that the authority already uses. Once each property has been identified, it will be each local authority’s responsibility to provide appropriate details to update a central database with any address changes. The purpose of a having such a gazetteer is to help towards achieving the government aims of ‘joined-up-government’ and ‘e-government’.
Additionally, there is a programme of environmental enhancement schemes and these schemes are often in partnership with other organisations. The schemes aim to enhance the villages and towns of the Borough. Other developments include software upgrades to the Planning and Building Control System; a new property terrier; Microfiche-to-CD ROM conversion; and Image Processing and Workflow Management developments. Additionally, the Council intends to develop the planning application service on the Internet, including allowing interested parties to view and comment on planning applications and to research information on planning constraints.
Property and Development Services
Waverley has an adopted strategy for the management and maintenance of all its corporate property. First approved in 1990, the strategy has been reviewed three times and was incorporated into the Council's Financial Strategy in 1999. The Council is developing its Corporate Property Strategy in line with the Government’s proposals on Asset Management Plans and will continue regularly to review its property holdings as part of the Best Value review process.
The strategy enables the Council to take a careful look at its use of property and reasons for holding it. This is a prudent use of resources in keeping with our main objectives as a local authority. The Council is currently looking at a regeneration scheme for the East Street area of Farnham. This urban regeneration, whilst managed in accordance with the tenets of Best Value, is a prime example of Waverley working in partnership. It is managed by a Special Interest Group which includes both County Council and Parish and Town Council representatives.
In terms of cross-cutting, the Council has contributed to the County Council's bid for funding the Local Transport Plan. Additionally, all the Council's requirements comply with sustainability issues and Local Agenda 21 objectives. Without substantial government funding of infrastructure improvements, it is likely that the success of any scheme for East Street will be severely diminished. The Council is a key strategic enabler in the Waverley area and is working in partnership with all interested parties on a Joint Transport Group that is looking to secure solutions to more localised traffic problems.
The Council’s Environmental Services encompass: Environmental Health (e.g. Food Safety Inspections, Health and Safety at work Inspections, Noise and Pollution Control, Enforcement of Private Sector Housing Standards); Refuse Collection and Recycling; Car Parking; Land Drainage; Public Conveniences; and deals with the problems of Contaminated Land. Service priorities are keeping Waverley clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable.
Waverley is keen to increase levels of waste recycling within the Borough and would like to achieve the Government’s targets for recycling, which have recently been raised. The Waste Management service is subject to Best Value review during 2001/2002 and the Council will examine fundamental options for improved service delivery intended to achieve significantly higher levels of waste recycling.
The principal aim of the car parking service is to manage the supply of and demand for car parking space to the benefit of town centre commercial and social vitality, whilst maximising the income generated in support of the Council’s spending programme. Following extensive consultation with service users, the Council has recently agreed a Car Parking Strategy that underpins the Council’s vision to provide well-managed cost-effective local government services. As well as contributing to an infrastructure that builds a prosperous and accessible local economy, the aims of the Car Parking Strategy will ensure that effective layout, lighting, and environment of the car parks will contribute to making communities safer, and reduce crime and the fear of crime. The Council’s Community Safety Strategy supports the Home Office Initiative to make public car parks more secure against crime and to address the fear of crime.
Land Drainage services concern the exercise of the Council’s permissive powers to improve, construct and maintain works for the protection from and prevention of flooding to property. Whist there is a rolling programme of improvement works, the key schemes include: Cranleigh Flood Relief Improvements; additional and improved trash screens on Ewhurst Road watercourse to reduce the risk of culvert blockages; and reactive works to rainfall-related risks and problems.
The provision of 20 public conveniences is one of the Council’s important and much used services. However, continued investment in a prioritised rolling programme of refurbishment is vital in order to maintain standards set by public expectation.
The Council is in the early stages of assessing the amount of land, and the number of sites in Waverley that will fall under the new regulatory regime set out in Part 2A of The Environmental Protection Act. Work will start this year to identify sites from historical records and record them on Waverley’s Geographical Information System. This information will be of equal importance to a number of departments and is of great cross-cutting value. This phase of the work will be completed in 2001/02 with the production of a prioritised strategy for the remediation of contaminated land in the Borough. It is likely that the site-specific investigations, and the adoption of acceptable remediation plans will continue for at least five years. Key partners include site owners, the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council. This is a high-priority area.
The Housing Services' requirement for capital resources attempts to find a balance between the Council’s roles as: Strategic Housing Authority for the whole of the Waverley area; landlord for some 5,500 dwellings (the Council has consulted its tenants on Large Scale Voluntary Transfer); housing enabler in the Waverley area and partner to Registered Social Landlords through providing Local Authority Social Housing Grant; and partner to private-sector landlords and homeowners though providing House Renovation Grants.
The housing element of the four-year Capital Strategy is based on the Council’s Housing Strategy Statement and Housing Investment Programme. These documents have been developed in consultation with tenants and a wide range of partners in the statutory and voluntary sector including the Government Office for the South East and the Housing Corporation. It takes into account the Council’s Corporate Strategy and service-related information
such as the Tenant Participation Compact; the Housing Needs Survey information that is regularly updated; the Local Authority Housing Stock Condition Survey information that again is regularly updated; and the Better Government for Older People Waverley Pilot Project. In terms of ensuring a joined-up approach to other service areas, the Capital Strategy also takes account of information such as the Draft Deposit Replacement Local Plan and the Capital Projects Procurement Procedure.
This Capital Strategy recognises the key role of capital investment in achieving delivery of Waverley’s corporate and service objectives. Together with the Asset Management Plan and Housing Strategy Statement, with which it has close links, it seeks to ensure that optimum benefit is obtained for the residents of the Borough from the limited capital resources available.