Agenda item

Area Planning in Eden

[Electoral Divisions: All]


To consider a report from the Executive Director – Corporate, Customer and Community Services.


The Area Manager’s report brings together information from across the Community teams including Community Development and Services, Public Health and Waste Prevention. This report provides Local Committee with an update on the work of each area, identified activity against priorities, highlights current issues and provides an overview of the budget position.


A report was considered from the Executive Director – Corporate, Community and Customer Services regarding Area Planning in Eden. The report broughttogether information from across the community teams including community development and services as well as public health. The report provided Local Committeewith an update on the work of each area, identified activity against priorities, highlighted current issues and provided an overview of the budget position.


The Area Manager presented the report, drawing members’ attention to the COVID 19 response and recovery in Eden. He was pleased to report that the work of the team and partners in terms of supporting the community remained effective and strong. He welcomed that since the publication of the report, the rate of infection had dropped significantly and was below the regional and national average. Requests for help to the County Council support line had reduced in number so it seemed that local residents were managing well during the pandemic restrictions.


The Area Manager advised on the COVID 19 Winter Support Grant which would give food vouchers to households in receipt of free school meals. Utilities support would be available through the Citizens Advice Bureau. The team was in discussion with partners about how to spend an allocation of £21,0000 to support local need for food, utilities and essentials. The Chair and Area Manager had recently raised this issue with Eden District Council and it was keen to collaborate with the County Council on this.


Members were informed about how COVID 19 activity was transitioning into area planning work. Members’ attention was drawn to work being driven by Penrith Town Council to maximise the opportunities for the arts and cultural sector in Penrith. Members were asked to nominate a member to sit on the Penrith Town Council Cultural Strategy Focus Group which was the group undertaking this work. All Penrith local members would be updated on this work going forward. The work undertaken to date was outlined for members.


The Area Manager referred to wider action planning work being undertaken in Eden and made a request for £2,500 each for area planning groups in Alston Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and Penrith. This money would help with achieving any short term priorities.  He proposed that he, in liaison with the Local Member approved this funding.  He highlighted that once other areas were in a similar area planning position, the same levels of funding would be requested.


Members’ attention was drawn to the Local Committee’s working groups and committee issues. The Area Manager commented on the time pressures on members and officers and proposed that the number of public meetings be reduced from eight to six per year. He was comfortable that Executive business could be conducted at six meetings per year.


In terms of public health, members were advised about an officer who had been appointed on a temporary basis to replace the current Public Health Locality Manager.


After stating his support for 2 fewer meetings per year, a member referred to the unallocated resources in the 2020/21 Communities Revenue Budget as at 30 November 2020. He queried whether some of the budget could be allocated to bus services in Eden. He asked if any progress had been made on clarifying whether constitutionally the Local Committee could financially support bus provision. The Area Manager advised that this matter was still to be resolved. The member noted the length of time it was taking to obtain an answer and highlighted that it had taken a long time for him to receive a response as to whether he could use his Member Allowance to support voluntary bus services in his division. He asked that officers resolved this matter as soon as possible.


The same member referred to the preparation of food parcels. He noted that they had not been required and asked what had happened to them and asked for assurance that the food was not wasted and had been given to deserving people in Eden. The Area Manager stated that no food would be wasted and they were all ambient food parcels which had a long shelf life. These would be distributed to food banks in due course if not required.


The member referred to the number of area working groups in Eden, some of which were being established in localities without the knowledge of the Local Member. He wanted the Local Committee to have oversight of the area working groups. He considered that there was inconsistency between the area working groups. He explained that not all had to have their Terms of Reference agreed by the Local Committee. He referred to Eden Lakes Working Group in his division. He did not think that this Group was representing everyone across the area. He asked that resources be held back from area working groups who had not yet been fully established.  The Area Manager reassured the Local Committee that a lot of area working groups were doing excellent work and although there was not yet a comprehensive picture of all the established groups, officers were endeavouring to draw everything together in order to produce a local strategy. He talked about how priority was being given to service centres initially but reassured members that officers were working with many groups in the wider Eden area.


The same member welcomed that the number of smokers in Eden had reduced to a rate of 8.73% of the population. He asked that up to date figures be provided. This information would be circulated after the meeting.


A member referred to the Eden Children and Young People Partnership’s three Task and Finish Groups. She was keen to understand whether these Groups would include the implications for children with a disability. Additionally, she was not happy with the flow of information from the Eden Health and Wellbeing Forum. She wished to know what it talked about, what its actions were and what progress was being made. She asked for a written response on this matter.


The same member asked that details be widely circulated about winter welfare and school holidays’ support. This would allow community groups to be kept informed and so avoid duplication and allow them to be able to fill gaps in provision. The member referred to a resident who had issues with the Government’s heating payment and wondered how many people in Eden had the same problem.


Mrs Bell proposed that Dawn Hurton continued to represent the Local Committee on the Penrith Town Council Cultural Strategy Focus Group as she was an expert in her field and had performed well. The member supported a reduction in the number of public Local Committee meetings. The Area Manager referred to the request that had been made that people in Eden were made aware of the support that was available to them. He advised that work was taking place with community partners on delivering locally focussed information about the support available over the Christmas period. The Chair advised on the work of the Eden Community Resilience Group and highlighted that people in the community may need to have more information on what was available to them.


In supporting the previous member’s proposal that Dawn Hurton remained as the Local Committee’s representative Penrith Town Council Cultural Strategy Focus Group and the reduction in the number of public meetings, a member referred to the delay in response to bus service support which he attributed to officer sickness. He highlighted that there was now a report drafted on rural bus services which he welcomed as services in his division had reduced. He considered that current bus service provision was unacceptable.


The Chair highlighted his interest in bus service provision. He referred to the ambiguity of financing bus service provision in the county and noted that service provision was inadequate in some areas of the county.


A member detailed area planning work in Alston. In referencing the point made earlier that not all groups were involved in area planning, the member stated that there was not a one size fits all approach to area planning. She commented on the approach to area planning in the area, advising that it was not badged as being County Council led. Governance of the local group was rotated on a regular basis to allow shared ownership and the Terms of Reference reflected the shared governance structure. She considered that the devolution of power worked well in Alston and she was optimistic for the future of the group.


The Chair referred to the Eden Locality Children and Family Partnership which had recently been established. He referred to the proliferation of local groups as mentioned earlier in the meeting and highlighted the matters of duplication and overlap of work in the different groups. He considered it important to work efficiently and collaboratively in the localities. He expected that increase collaboration in future would ensure children and young people would be well served.


The Chair invited a seconder to Mrs Bell’s proposal that Dawn Hurton remained the Local Committee’s representative on the Penrith Town Council Cultural Strategy Focus Group. Ms Driver seconded the proposal. Thanks would be given to Dawn Hurton for the work she had undertaken to date and she would be advised that she had been nominated again due to her excellent work record.


Mr Hughes moved that the following additional words be added to Resolution 2: ‘and endeavour to see that it is responsibly spent within the allocated time frame, following full consultation with the Committee’. This was seconded by Mrs Bell. A member highlighted that the implication of having the amendment to the motion could be that the money would otherwise be spent irresponsibly. She considered that there was undue emphasis on the fact that the money was spent responsibly and highlighted that members and officers endeavoured to spend funding prior to the financial year end. She highlighted that the £74,007 left in the Communities Revenue Budget was not for one budget line therefore a number of decisions would have to be taken to allocate the money. A budget line included in this figure was the members’ Community Budget. She considered the amendment unnecessary and would not support it. 


Mrs Bell advised that seconding the motion was about the importance of the whole Local Committee discussing and deciding together where the money was at the year-end.  Mrs Bell asked Mr Hughes for an interpretation of the word ‘responsibly’ in the amendment in order to clarify whether it related to decisions on funding being made as a whole Local Committee. She added that there was no suggestion that officers had acted irresponsibly financially.


Mr Hughes gave a clarification on the motion. The Area Manager advised that all budgets would be spent responsibly and in complete consultation with local members and the wider Local Committee.


The Chair commented on the inference of adding the word ‘responsibly’ into Resolution 2 as it inferred that the money would be spent irresponsibly where the money was spent at the year-end and therefore would not support the amendment.


A roll call vote was taken on the amendment. The vote was cast as follows: 4 in favour of the amendment and 4 against the amendment. As this was equal votes for and against, the Chair had a casting vote and voted against the amendment. The amendment was lost.


The Chair moved the recommendations in the report and asked for any dissent to be raised. Mrs Bell asked the Chair that in light of his casting vote against the amendment, he gave personal assurance that he would make sure that the Committee met in a timely way to understand what balance was left at the end of the year and that all members of the Committee be involved in discussions about how remaining balances in the Communities Revenue Budget were spent. Mrs Bell referred to a historical proposal made at short notice at Local Committee regarding how the budget was spent and asked that this was not repeated.


The Chair gave his reassurances on the matters raised by Mrs Bell and stated that he worked on the assumption that money was always spent responsibly. Another member referred to budget lines in the Communities Revenue Budget, repeating that spending on some of the budget lines would not be a full Committee decision and therefore would be impractical. She added that the Local Committee had never acted irresponsibly with public money. Another member added that by voting against the amendment he was putting his faith in officers to act responsibly as a matter of course.


RESOLVED,   that


                          (1)          Members note the budget allocations for 2020-21 and the commitmentsand expenditure recorded to date;


                          (2)          Members note the provisional unallocated resources in the 2020?21Communities Revenue Budget of £74,007 as at 30 November 2020;


                          (3)          Members note the area planning update contained between 4.5 to 4.55 of the report;


                          (4)          Dawn Hurton remain the Local Committee’s nominated representative for the Penrith Town Council Cultural Strategy Focus Group described at point 4.24 of the report;


                          (5)          Members agree to earmark £2,500 each to support initial plan development for area planning groups in Alston, Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and Penrith described at point 4.30 of the report;


                          (6)          Members agree to reduce the number of Local Committee meetings from eight to six for the next 12 month diary period described at point 4.35 of the report;


                          (7)          a written response giving updated figures on the number of smokers in Eden be circulated after the meeting;


                          (8)          Mrs Bell be provided with a written response on Eden Health Forum in terms of what business is discussed, actions taken and the progress being made.


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