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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 04/04/2006
Local Government Reorganisation - Latest Position



APPENDIX S.1
Waverley Borough Council

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REORGANISATION Special Interest Group
27TH MARCH 2006
EXECUTIVE – 4TH APRIL 2006

Title:
LOCAL GOVERNMENT REORGANISATION - LATEST POSITION
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

This report sets out a response to the decision of the last meeting of the Executive to report to be able to recommend the Council to adopt a policy position at its meeting on 25th April 2006 about the relationship of all or part of Waverley Borough to the proposed Blackwater Valley or Aldershot City Region.

Environmental implications:

There are no direct environmental implications arising, but protecting Waverley's environment is a key policy for Waverley and will become a key issue in any proposals for structural change to Local Government.

Social / community implications:

Again, no immediate implications, but making a positive input to try to ensure that Local Government structures represent the interests of Waverley's communities will be a key challenge for Waverley. There are major partnership implications for Waverley’s joint working with Towns and Parishes and Surrey County Council and for working with other public and voluntary sector partners.

E-Government implications:

Any future restructuring will be based on organisations that have become far more e-enabled and this will form an important part of the Government's decision making on this.

Resource and legal implications:

There are significant immediate resource implications for staffing in preparing for any response and subsequently reacting to the Government White Paper and later legislation. It may be that the Council needs to prepare for the possibility of commissioning consultants, either singly or jointly, and, again, this will have budgetary implications for which there is no provision at present in 2005/06 or 2006/07 budgets.

Introduction

1. Members will recall that the Executive, at its meeting on 7th March, took the decision to ask the Special Interest Group to review the proposals on the inclusion of any part of the Borough in the proposed Blackwater Valley City region and to recommend the next meeting of the Executive on this to enable a recommendation to be made to the Council.

2. The Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 21st March commended both the SIG and the Executive for its work to date and wished to emphasise the Executive's decision to review proposals relating to the Blackwater Valley city region. The Committee also wished to make the following observations:-

that members would like the Executive to give equal weighting to the option of an enhanced status quo and pursue this option in whichever way possible that there was some concern about the proposed grouping with Guildford and Woking Borough Councils. Members did not want too much emphasis placed on the proposed grouping at this stage and suggested that it should be reconsidered.

State of the English Cities Report

3. Members may have read in the press or seen in the media news items on a report commissioned by the ODPM on the "State of the English Cities". This research project, which has been running since the Government produced its Urban White Paper in 2000 entitled "Our Towns and Cities: The Future" has now reported in detail on the competitiveness and success of city regions in England. An extract from The Times is attached as Annexe 1, from which it can be seen that the Aldershot or "Aldershot/Blackwater Valley" City Region is one of the most economically successful in England. It does, however, appear from the ODPM report that Waverley is not included in what is described as a "primary urban area" titled Aldershot or Aldershot/Blackwater Valley, but will still quite possibly be included in other broader areas related to this, such as the travel to work area or the hinterland for this City Region.

4. The report sets out the competitive success of England City Regions over the last six years in the European context. As Members can see, with the exception of London, Bristol and Leeds, the performance of major cities in Britain has been disappointing. However, as explained above, Aldershot City Region has actually been one of the top improvers in England and is part of a group described as the small cities (125,000-275,000 population) in the south east, which the Government's report acknowledges are the most successful economically in England.

The significance of the State of English Cities Report

5. The report has significance for Waverley whether or not it is included within the area and the history of Waverley's linkages with the Blackwater Valley is set out in Annexe 2.

6. There could be significant advantages in Government policy to City Regions, particularly the successful ones in the south east. The Government is holding out promises of decentralising decision making to help encourage economic success, measures to encourage entrepreneurial local leadership and of possibilities of infrastructure improvements and a new Public Service Agreement (PSA) round.
Development Pressures

7. The report draws attention to the risk of the very successful small towns in the south east becoming victims of their success if infrastructure does not keep pace with development. It points out that economic growth could be slowed in the future if infrastructure investment is not made. It refers, in particular, to the role of what are described as "integrated multi-modal transport systems" and, as Annexe 2 explains, Local Authorities in the area of the Blackwater Valley have been trying to work together to improve infrastructure, particularly for transport.

Government Action

8. The Government is acknowledging that it could have done more to join up its actions to help city regions prosper, but says that initiatives in areas such as encouraging Councils to develop joint community strategies and work through Local Strategic Partnerships, are increasing the potential for benefits from a better co-ordinated approach by the Government to encouraging these local economies.

Overall National Resource Implications

9. The report does point out the disappointing rate of growth of city regions in the north and west of the country and has said that there will have to be investment in these to reduce the regional gap which is widening. However, as explained above, it also refers to the need for investment in making the City Regions in the south east sustainable and continuing with their success. It suggests that these might be encouraged by means of new urban PSAs which could offer additional resources for projects which could encourage growth or sustain growth in these areas, such as Aldershot.

Implications for Structures

10. Annexe 2 sets out the history of joint working which has happened regardless of Local Government structures. The Government's thinking on structural change in the State of English Cities report is an interesting contrast to the current exercise being carried out in advance of the White Paper on restructuring Local Government, and the relevant sections of the report on "territorial choices" are attached as Annexe 3. Paragraph 7.15 is particularly relevant where it suggests that informal processes and networking are best at encouraging city regional working, rather than institutional change, which officers assume includes boundary changes.

Relationship of Waverley with Aldershot/Blackwater Valley

11. The Executive asked the SIG to consider the issues set out above and in Annexe 2 in detail and to make proposals to the Executive meeting on 4th April on how it might recommend the Council to adopt a policy position. The position of the SIG is set out below. The SIG also considered the strong view put forward by Farnham Town Council that it did not wish to be part of the Blackwater Valley City Region.

Comments from the SIG

12. There was a consensus amongst the SIG that, in any form of reorganisation, the Borough should not be split and Farnham particularly should not be separated and drawn into the Blackwater Valley or proposed Aldershot City region.

13. However, it was agreed that there was merit in maintaining current close links with other authorities and bodies such as the Blackwater Valley Member Steering Group, on an informal basis, to ensure that Waverley would not be disadvantaged or miss potential opportunities that may arise. In particular the impact of further growth in the Aldershot City Region on Farnham made it important that Waverley had a voice in any wider forum covering the whole Blackwater Valley area.

14. The SIG considered the comment of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee relating to alternative geographical groupings and Waverley's affinity with Mole Valley. Officers explained that the three Council grouping of Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead and Tandridge was progressing its proposals for cooperative and joint working. The Councils had commissioned consultants to explore the potential for improving services and reducing costs. The SIG suggested that the Leader should approach Mole Valley, to ask if Waverley could share the conclusions of the consultant's report and also to explore the possibility of an alternative geographical grouping of Councils.

Neighbourhood Structures

15. The SIG has considered the views expressed at the meeting of the Town and Parish Councils, both under the Local Strategic Partnership and the Waverley normal consultation meeting. It has reaffirmed its support for Town and Parish Councils to be the neighbourhood level envisaged in ministerial consultation documents. It has agreed that officers should respond to the consultation document set out at Annexe 4 by referring to the active Town and Parish Council system in Waverley as a democratic and representative "bottom up" structure. It also agreed to highlight the Council's work on devolving appropriate services to Town and Parish Councils.

Recommendation

The Executive is recommended to recommend to the Council that

1. a policy position be adopted on the emerging Blackwater Valley region, as set out in paragraph 13; and

2. the Leader be authorised to approach the Leader of Mole Valley District Council, as set out in paragraph 14 above.

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: Robin Pellow Telephone: 01483 523222
E-mail: rpellow@waverley.gov.uk

Name: Peter Hartley Telephone: 01483 523297
E-mail: phartley@waverley.gov.uk

comms/exec/2005-06/336