Medium Term Service & Resource Planning - 2012/13 -2015/16
- Meeting of Planning, Transport and Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel, Tuesday, 6th December, 2011 2.00 pm (Item 48.)
The draft Service Delivery Medium Term Service & Resource Plan (MTSRP) is presented for consideration by the Panel.
Henry Brown, Chairman of the Federation of Bath Residents' Associations (FoBRA) addressed the Panel. He raised a number of points from within the report which are summarised below. A full copy of his submission can be found on the Panel’s Minute Book.
Pages 1 & 35 - Will the Council be consulting with residents on its new Corporate Plan in 2012?
Page 3 - Consultations with the public to be proportionate – does this mean less consultation?
Page 3 - Partnership working / encouragement of volunteers - Please involve us. In particular, residents ready to act as eyes & ears on enforcement.
Page 11 - Community management of assets – please discuss with FoBRA.
Page 12 - Why can’t Public Protection look for new charging opportunities, eg in the licensing regime, for tables & chairs on the pavement, and for A-boards?
Page 12 - Park & Ride shortfall. Need to promote a culture of using P&R. Three changes would encourage usage:
• Higher charges for parking in Bath city centre.
• Operate P&R on Sunday and evenings.
• Create Eastern P&R.
Page 19 - Redesigned residents parking - Could zones be simplified and rationalised (eg residents-only bays in central area)? Please consult residents.
Page 20 - Reduced footway maintenance - Broken pavements already hazardous in Bath. FoBRA totally opposed to any cut.
Page 22 - Why cut back maintenance in Heritage Services as they are one of Council’s top earners? Income from Heritage Services should be ploughed back into the World Heritage Site. Does the Council have any principles to govern the use of this income?
Page 34 – Under the Localism Bill, we hope the Council is making provision to support Neighbourhood Forums and Neighbourhood Planning. Essential that implementation is not left to the whim of property developers.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery responded to the points raised as follows.
He felt sure a consultation on the Corporate Plan would take place.
He replied that proportionate consultation would simply mean consulting with the right people at the right time.
On the issue of partnership working he said it was the intention to build a community capacity and that talks will take place with partners and similar organisations.
As part of the Localism Bill there will be legislation referred to as ‘Community right to buy’ and this may lead to public management of some of our assets.
He stated that he felt the Licensing Dept were doing as much they possibly could over the management of tables & chairs on the pavement, and A-boards.
He replied on the issue of Park & Ride by saying that the patronage patterns had changed and that usage had risen slightly. He added that further capacity was required, but any thoughts on an increase to parking charges should be treated with caution. Use of the service is always under review and a real demand would need to be shown for it to be opened on a Sunday. Alternative sites are currently being considered for the East of Bath Park & Ride.
He stated that a review of Residents Parking had been carried and that the findings of that would be released early next year.
On the matter of Heritage Services he responded by saying that it was a very professionally run area of the Council which had a strong re-investment policy. He wished to add that the service had recently recorded a record number of visitors.
Peter Duppa-Miller made an ad-hoc statement to the Panel. He wished to address them as the Clerk to Combe Hay Parish Council, Secretary of B&NES Local Councils Group and Vice Chair, B&NES Local Strategic Partnership.
On the issue of mobile libraries he stated that 32 of the 51 parishes were visited by the service for around 20 minutes every two weeks. He recalled that around three years some discussions took place as to whether a book cupboard could be managed by volunteers at a local venue and proposed this idea as a way forward for the future.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that the current proposal was made due to the fact that one of the vehicles is coming to the end of its natural life. He wished to add that within the Plan the library service as a whole would receive an increase in budget. He said that an investigation would take place to identify what type of service will serve the community the best.
The Libraries Operations Manager added that this was an opportunity to deliver the service in a better way. The eight static libraries would be open for longer and a consultation on the future of the mobile library service would begin within a couple of months.
The Chairman asked Peter Duppa-Miller if he felt his proposal would work in rural areas.
He replied that he fully believed it would.
The Libraries Operations Manager added that because of resource implications they were hoping to extend the home library service through the help of volunteers. She stated she was keen to try the Combe Hay proposal and that if it was to go ahead other activities would be encouraged to take place at the site such as reading groups for children and writing classes.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery returned to taking the Panel through the report. He explained that this was the third year in a row that the Council was attempting to maximise efficiencies and that the directorate was attempting to match staff levels to business volume.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney questioned if the reduction in fees to Bath Tourism Plus would have any effect on the Council’s involvement in the Business Improvement District (BID) and if the reduction of some areas of the Heritage and Tourism budgets were required.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that he did not think the reduction would have any impact on the BID as any budget reduction would be proportionate.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney asked if future funding to the Holbourne and Radstock museums could be identified so as to have regard to the total visitor offer available to the area.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that he would have to respond at a later date on that matter.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney wished to share his concern over the delay with which some Public Rights of Way cases are processed as he was recently made aware of one case that had finally been dealt with after a wait of 13 years.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that he would investigate why that particular case had taken so long to reach a conclusion.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney asked for options to be explored regarding the mobile library service before any cuts were made.
The Libraries Operations Manager replied that she recognised that some communities will need a different type of service in the future.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney asked if the reduction in highway drainage and maintenance would have a greater impact to the Council in later years.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that a risk based approach would be taken so there should be no long term impact.
Councillor Neil Butters commented that at a recent event he had heard how successful Wiltshire Council had been in keeping their libraries open through the help of volunteers and that the hours of use at static sites had increased. He added that consultation would be key in determining what type of service would be provided in the future.
Councillor Caroline Roberts asked if the Council had considered charging per vehicle for the Park & Ride rather than per person.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that the tariffs are reviewed regularly and were structured on the basis of frequency of use.
Councillor David Martin asked about the staffing impacts of the proposed plan and asked was it necessary to lose the equivalent of 13.8 FTE.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that he felt that given the overall budget position this loss of staff was about the right level. He added that last year the directorate had to make significantly more reductions and that it had become smarter about its commissioning of services.
Councillor Douglas Nicol asked for information on the future of Victoria Bridge as he could not see it within the plan.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that existing capital resources were being used to fund a temporary solution and negotiations were taking place with English Heritage on the future requirements for the bridge.
Councillor Douglas Nicol asked if the Council could approach Crest Nicholson for a further contribution to the Section 106 agreement.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that this would be very unlikely, but he would discuss it with the Development & Major Projects Director. He added that funding may be available through the National Lottery or other sources.
Councillor Geoff Ward commented that he felt that nothing should be done that would adversely affect the Heritage / Tourism offer of the city and called for more to be done in the Olympic year to attract visitors. He also wished to express his concern over the withdrawal of the mobile library service.
The Strategic Director for Service Delivery replied that one of the vehicles had come to the end of its natural life and so he was investigating how a change in service can be provided.
The Chairman commented that she was concerned about the lack of a Corporate Plan prior to the budget being decided and asked if the reduction to the ‘Parks & Green Spaces – Ground Maintenance’ budget was necessary.
The Divisional Director for Environmental Services replied that the reduction was simply because the service was not required to be carried out as regularly as it currently is.
In summary the Panel asked for the following comments to be passed to the relevant Cabinet Members.
Mobile Libraries – Whilst establishing during the discussion that the Mobile Library Service in its current form would be discontinued it became apparent that options were being considered as to how to provide a service to rural areas in the future. The Panel felt it would be very worthwhile to express this somehow within the plan.
Highways (Footway Maintenance / Drainage & Gully Cleansing) – The Panel expressed their concern over this proposal as they were worried about the potential impact and cost implications this may have in future years.
Heritage Services / Museums / Tourism – The majority of the Panel felt that these services should have minimal reductions made to their budget as they are at the heart of what brings visitors to the area. Some members also called for more to be done within the Olympic year to attract visitors.