Full County Council

Committee Questions

Thu Jul 17 2008

Related Documents:
agenda for these questions
minutes for these questions

1. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR TURNER

Re: Access to documents

Please will the Leader publicly inform me as to why as a duly elected Councillor, I am refused sight or copies of the notes of a Working Group of the Health Adult Services Overview/Scrutiny Committee of which I am a member? These notes have been circulated to members of that Working Group and are NOT marked Confidential.

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR GREENSLADE

Councillor Greenslade will give an oral reply.

2. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR COX

Re: Youth Service Funding

Could the Executive Member for Children and Young People s Services say how total funding levels for the Youth Service compare now to the budget provision in the period 2001/2005?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR SMITH

The average Youth Service budget for 2001/05 was 3,175m. The figure for 2008/09 is

4,984m, an increase of 57%.

It should be noted that 2008/09 includes an additional 500k which has been set aside for tackling anti-social behaviour.

It should also be noted that the figures are direct costs for youth provision and do not include any apportionments for overheads/capital allocations which are reported within the section 52 statements and the RA returns.

I am grateful to my colleagues for supporting such a significant increase in Youth Service funding across the county.

3. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR SPENCE

Re: Youth Premises in Exeter

Can Councillor John Smith provide details about the search for a site for youth premises in the North East of Exeter, that he reported to the last Executive. Neither Councillor Foggin or myself have been informed about his search, although we have both been campaigning for better youth provision for the areas we represent for a number of years? What location is being considered and why have local members not been involved in the development of this project? At what stage is the search and when will the local councillors and the Exeter Committee be informed about what youth provision is being planned in Exeter?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR SMITH

There is currently an unprecedented opportunity to develop and increase youth work premises, because of the capital available.

The North East of Exeter is one of the priorities because members have previously and consistently highlighted a need.

No proposals of any sort can be discussed until we know what sites may be available. NPS (SW) has been commissioned to do this initial scoping for us: it is an outline brief only. When we have sufficient information and are further than an aspirational stage, we will of course update local members and involve them closely both in internal discussions and the consultations with communities (including young people) that are required.

4. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR FOGGIN

Re: Unitary Devon

What was the cost of the 70 meetings in connection with the County Council's proposal for a unitary Devon? What was the attendance and what other expenditure has there been? What budget has been set aside for the 12 weeks of consultation and what is being planned in this regard?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR GREENSLADE

It is important to remember that Devon County Council did not seek unitary status. We believed that there was real opportunity to further improve the quality of public services for the people of Devon, drive up efficiency and reduce costs through even greater collaboration with our colleagues in Devon's District, Town and Parish Councils. Unfortunately that good work was halted when Exeter City Council submitted its seriously flawed bid to create a costly unitary council based on the city's existing boundaries. As we now know, that bid was rejected by the Secretary of State because of the considerable financial risks and a particular concern that the City Council's proposal could not pay for itself within the Government's five year target period and therefore would simply increase the burden on Council tax-payers.

It is the failed Exeter City Council bid which has triggered the current Boundary Committee review of local government in Devon and while Devon County Council did not seek unitary status, we certainly welcome this independent review and believe the Boundary Committee is the right body to carry out a thorough, robust and professional analysis. We also think that it is right that our partners in the Town and Parish Councils, the business community, the voluntary sector, major public services such as the Police and Devon PCT, as well as MPs, District Council colleagues, schools and the public should have a genuine opportunity to have their say about the future of local democracy in Devon and the way council services are delivered. The results of the Boundary Committee review are likely to have a profound effect on the future of public services in our great County for a generation so it is important that everyone has a chance to get involved in this important undertaking.

That is why, uniquely, Devon County Council held over 70 consultation meetings in communities and with partner organisations right across Devon. We are grateful to the 1,491 people who attended those meetings in person or via webcasts. Their views have played an important role in helping to develop the County Council's concept for a unitary council for Devon. I am pleased that their contribution is now recognised in the Boundary Committee's proposal for a single unitary council for Devon, excluding Plymouth and Torbay which the Committee say "would have the capacity to be able to plan and act strategically in tackling the social and economic challenges facing Devon, through having the necessary critical mass and resources."

The cost of this unprecedented exercise in community engagement is 16,049 which has been met from existing budgets and has paid for hire of rooms, hire of audio-visual equipment, volunteer expenses, overtime and hospitality. It is interesting to note, for comparison, that Exeter City Council has set aside a further 150,000 to campaign for a Greater Exeter unitary which is not a formal proposal by the Boundary Committee and one of which the Committee itself says "at this stage we are not persuaded that there is sufficient likelihood that it would better meet outcomes set out in the five criteria than our draft proposal."

I congratulate my colleagues on Exeter City Council who frequently oppose such sums being

spent on this issue.

This Greater Exeter unitary would swallow up 21 parishes including the town of Exmouth which is the second largest urban area in Devon after Exeter. It is all the more interesting because Exeter City Council in the past has shown little or no interest in these parishes and no desire to be included with them in a unitary system. Neither do I recall Exeter City Council setting out to consult these Parishes in the way DCC carried out extensive consultation over the concept we put to the Boundary Committee.

5. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR S HUGHES

Re: Cycleways and Disused Railways Funding Bid

It has been DCC policy for some considerable time to convert disused railways to cycleways.

The Environment, Economy and Culture Overview Scrutiny Committee has received detailed reports on the conversion of disused railway lines to cycleways on several occasions and has recognised the substantial benefits which would result from this. The DCC Executive endorsed this approach. Most recently on 10th September 2007, the EEC OSC considered a report which stated: Over the past 10 15 years the County Council has led, with partners, an extremely successful policy of conversion of former railway lines into cycleways / walkways. The Sidmouth / Ottery line had been identified as a route with particular potential for conversion. The same report said regarding this line: a series of initial meetings led by Sustrans, with Devon County Council and East Devon District Council commenced four years ago but did not progress due to funding difficulties.

A bid for funding for the creation of a cycleway on the disused railway line from Feniton to Sidmouth via Ottery St. Mary and Tipton St. John, accompanied by extensive supporting documentation, was considered at a meeting of the Investing in Devon (sale of Exeter Airport) group on 16th April 2008. The minutes of that meeting record: Sidmouth to Ottery St. Mary Cycleway: It was agreed that this proposal was premature and funding could not be supported.

In view of the considerable amount of work carried out on this project over several years, and the acknowledgement of the suitability of conversion, would the Council Leader explain why the funding bid was considered premature?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR GREENSLADE

The Investing in Devon Group meeting of April 16th which considered the "Sidmouth to Ottery St Mary Cycleway" also considered a bid for funding of 5 million as a contribution towards a Devon-wide Cycling Programme. The Investing in Devon group agreed to support funding of up to 5 million providing that a report was prepared for Executive that set out what cycling routes would be advanced and what "extra" would come from use of additional Investing in Devon Funding.

The County Council already has a significant priority programme of cycling schemes which will take some years to complete. It was not considered appropriate to consider one scheme in isolation which would jump the priority schemes and divert resources. The Investing in Devon group did not feel it appropriate or good "value for money" to vote funding for one individual cycling scheme without an understanding how an overall Devon-wide Cycling Programme will be developed. Hence it was considered that this funding request was "premature".

6. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR GILES

Re: Cycleways and Disused Railways Funding Bid

Recognising benefits such as increased health, improved road safety, a reduction in greenhouse gases, increased amenity and substantial economic benefit, Devon County Council has actively promoted the conversion of disused railways to cycleways. Devon County Council and East Devon District Council recognised the suitability of the former Sidmouth/Tipton/Ottery/Feniton railway line for conversion to a cycleway and jointly funded two feasibility studies on this project in conjunction with Sustrans.

In January and February 2008, the Devon County Council Cycling Officer and Head of Highways Management carried out work in conjunction with the County Councillors for Sidmouth and Ottery, including site visits, in connection with what was described as the Otter Valley Cycleway Project (conversion of the old railway to a cycleway). This culminated in a bid for Exeter Airport sale monies. The bid, accompanied by an eight page Project Appraisal, was considered at a meeting of the Investing in Devon group on 16th April 2008. The minutes of the meeting record: Sidmouth to Ottery St. Mary Cycleway: It was agreed that this proposal was premature and funding could not be supported.

In view of the considerable amount of work carried out on this project over several years, and the acknowledgement of the suitability of conversion, would the Council Leader explain why the funding bid was considered premature? And, if it is felt to be premature, when would it be the right time to re-submit / reconsider the scheme?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR GREENSLADE

Please see earlier reply to question 5.

The time to reconsider the scheme will be after the Devon wide cycle programme has approval and the capacity issues to deliver it have been identified, which will enable a future manageable programme to be developed providing clarity about the extra benefits that might accrue."

Date Published: Fri Jul 18 2008