Full Cabinet – 3 February 2010

PRESENT:  Councillor Kirk in the chair.

Councillors Foster (vice chair), Carlile, Gosling, Grant, O’Sullivan, Regan and Swift.

Councillors Ali, Barkworth, J Briggs, Mrs Bromby, Collinson, England, Poole, Mrs Redfern, C Sherwood, Waltham, Whiteley and Wilson also attended the meeting.

Simon Driver, Caroline Barkley, Mike Briggs, Keith Ford, Phil Hotchin, Neil Laminman, David Lea, Chris Matthews, Paul Savage, Chris Skinner, Jeff Tattersall, Jason Whaler, Mike Wedgewood, Mike Wood, Peter Young and Mel Holmes also attended the meeting.

850  DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – There were no declarations of personal or personal and prejudicial interests.

851  MINUTES – Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of cabinet held on 16 December 2009, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair.

852  (30)  OUTSTANDING ACTION FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report which contained a schedule of outstanding issues on which cabinet had requested reports to future meetings.

Resolved – That the report be noted.

853  (31)  NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – ECONOMIC SITUATION – With reference to minute 795, the Chief Executive submitted a report updating cabinet on the current economic situation in North Lincolnshire.  The report contained information about the situation both nationally and in North Lincolnshire.

The report contained detailed information about the number of people unemployed in the UK, the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance nationally and in North Lincolnshire and about the number of unfilled vacancies in December 2009.  Reference was also made to recent job losses at Corus and that the Economic Development Team were continuing to work closely with partners to ensure that a seamless approach was taken to assist both businesses and individuals whose jobs were at risk.  The council was also continuing to work with Yorkshire Forward on the development of a two year programme to support local ambition and aspiration in response to the economic downturn.  Scoping activities were under way with a view to finalising the final funding application in February with programme activities starting in 2010/2011.

The council was continuing to support businesses in the current economic climate including supporting existing businesses and individuals through the North Lincolnshire Employability Programme.  The skills and workforce plan was underway and due for completion at the end of the financial year and consultants would be delivering this by running a workshop session at the Employment, Enterprise and Skills Sub Group of the Economic Development Board at the end of February.  The creation of an Employability Programme Team had been approved by the Corporate Services Cabinet Member and recruitment was imminent.

Consultation was also taking place currently with North Lincolnshire businesses via an on-line survey to determine the most effective way to communicate and determine specific areas of help needed locally.  The council had also been successful in securing funding from the Future Jobs Fund as part of the consortium bid with the other three local authorities in the sub region and a range of voluntary sector partners through the Federation of Local Development Agencies.

Other ongoing work and details were contained in the report.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet notes the report; (b) that cabinet agrees that the council continue to provide support for local businesses and individuals affected by the recession, and (c) that further reports be submitted to cabinet at each meeting.

854  (32)  SOUTH HUMBER GATEWAY (SHG) – PROGRESS REPORT AND CHALLENGES AHEAD – The Chief Executive submitted a report which referred to the South Humber Gateway (SHG) which represented the largest single development site for employment in the north of England.  Crucially, it is the last strategic employment site in the UK fronting a deep water estuary.  It boasts at the Port of Immingham the UK’s busiest port and it is the location for more than a quarter (27%) of UK refinery capacity.

As previously reported to cabinet the growth in part trade was impressive: over the period 1997 – 2006 UK port trade grew by 25m tonnes or 4.5%.  This compared with growth of nearly 11m tonnes (24%) on the SHG.  Ministers regarded the SHG of international significance and had reaffirmed that the right infrastructure had to be in place to maximise the long term future of the UK’s largest freight port.  The government had backed this by allocating an extra £30m to remove “bottle necks” and increase “capacity” at the port of Immingham – seen as one of the UK’s key ports.  This represented 10% of a national allocation of £300m set aside for key national road and airport schemes.

Cabinet approved on 11 March 2009 the creation of the SHG Board supported by a SHG Operations Unit.  The board is responsible for the strategic direction of the SHG, in order to realise its “economic, environmental and social potential.”

The report detailed the work so far undertaken by the board which included active support for the £100m plus A160 road improvement scheme to the port of Immingham and the SHG which is seen as a crucial part of the infrastructure referred to above.  An additional element of this is progress on the Killingholme Marshes Drainage Scheme.  This too is vital to the development of the SHG.  The recent re-evaluation of the A160 road improvement scheme might delay a start on this vital scheme and the SHG board was committed to the delivery of such schemes and will continue to lobby at every opportunity.  Without an early start on the improvements to the A160, the Highways Agency had confirmed that, with the port of Immingham forecast to grow rapidly over the next ten to fifteen years, the area will face severe congestion.  In November 2010 the Regional Transport Board informed the Department for Transport that the A160 was, with another Humber scheme, in Hull, the two biggest priorities for the whole of the Yorkshire and Humber Region.  This is an indication of how important the scheme is viewed regionally.

The report contained further detailed information in relation to this matter.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet approves an urgent approach by the council’s Chief Executive to the Chief Executive of Yorkshire Forward to commit the necessary resources to successfully deliver the SHG’s development programme; (b) that cabinet agrees to formally approach the Secretary of State for Transport and also seek an urgent meeting with the Regional Minister to ensure a government announcement on the preferred route for the A160 before the purdah rules come into force with a general election having to take place by no later than June 2010, and (c) that cabinet continues to receive regular progress reports on key developments and issues relating to the SHG.

855  (33)  THE EQUALITY BILL – A report was submitted by the Chief Executive which updated cabinet on the progress of the Equality Bill which is currently progressing through parliament.  It is anticipated that the Bill will receive Royal Assent in the current parliament with the majority of its provisions expected to come into force in the autumn of 2010.

The Bill seeks to harmonise and in some cases extend existing discrimination law to include the “protected characteristics” of age, disability, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex (gender) and sexual orientation.  The Bill will harmonise provisions defining indirect discrimination.  In addition, a unified public sector duty would be created by this legislation, timetabled for enforcement in 2011.  This duty will cover all characteristics including a strategic socio-economic duty which will require public bodies to have due regard to how decisions may help reduce discrimination based on socio – economic inequalities.

The report also described other key areas addressed by the Bill in paragraph 2.6 and set out the council’s approach and progress on diversity including developing a three year equality scheme and diversity action plan.  In addition it referred to the development of a North Lincolnshire Local Strategic Partnership Equalities Network and referred to the need to work towards the attainment of the investors in diversity standard.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet notes the progress on diversity, and (b) that further reports on the progress of the Bill be submitted to future meetings of cabinet.

856  (34)  VALUE FOR MONEY (VFM) STRATEGY – BETTER VALUE TOGETHER – The Service Director Finance submitted a report which referred to the development of a Value for Money Strategy: Better Value Together.  The report indicated that value for money was about getting the best possible outcomes for local people from the resources available to the council.  It recognised the relationship between economy (cost), efficiency (productivity), and effectiveness (impact).  VFM is achieved where there is the optimum combination of these elements – relatively low costs, high productivity and successful outcomes.

VFM performance is extremely important – local people, service users, businesses, council tax payers and elected members rightly expect value for money from their council.  Increasingly, external inspection bodies such as the Audit Commission expect the council to demonstrate good value and VFM is now a key element of the Comprehensive Area Assessment organisational assessment.  The development of VFM performance across the public sector is central to an increasing range of national and regional initiatives, details of which were contained in paragraph 2.3.

The council had a long history of providing and demonstrating value for money and had worked over the last few years to develop the council’s VFM capability and deliver improvements.  The concept of VFM was recognised and well understood by service managers and a wide array of initiatives had been implemented to raise awareness, ranging from training for managers to specific VFM reviews and the incorporation of VFM benchmarking and profiling in service plans.

A number of themes had been identified as the key to driving improvement and these were set out in paragraph 2.8.  Attached as an appendix to the report was the proposed VFM strategy entitled “Better Value Together 2010-2013.”  Cabinet was asked to endorse the strategy.

Resolved – That the VFM Strategy attached as an appendix to the report be approved and adopted.

857  (35)  ADOPTION OF CARBON MANAGEMENT PLAN – The Service Director Highways and Planning submitted a report which indicated that the council had become a formal signatory to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change during 2003.  This involved the council making a public pledge to take a lead in tackling the effects of climate change locally.  Climate change features in the council’s Local Area Agreement and is now a central part of the Comprehensive Area Assessment process under the new key line of enquiry “use of natural resources”.

The government’s new performance framework included indicators on climate change and carbon emissions which were detailed in paragraph 2.2 and the council’s climate change action plan had been adopted during 2006 and aimed to reduce the council’s impact upon climate change.

Energy consumption is known to be a major contributory factor to human induced climate change and one of the main efficiency savings achieved by Kirklees Council (£1.3m over three years) in its carbon management programme was to improve energy efficiency.  The Carbon Trust had been providing councils with technical and change management support and guidance through the Local Authority Carbon Management programme to help reduce carbon emissions and deliver financial savings.  The programme had been launched in 2003 and had to date supported 140 councils through the change.  The change management process followed five key steps and would guide the council through a systematic analysis of its carbon footprint.  Details were contained in paragraph 2.6.

The primary focus of the Carbon Management Programme was to reduce emissions under the control of the council such as buildings, vehicle fleets and street lighting.  The council had benefited from consultant support in the form of workshops and dedicated tailored support around the process.  The council was responsible for producing 30,000 tonnes of CO2 during 2008/2009, which was broken down into a number of sectors as detailed in paragraph 3.1 of the report.  Currently the council’s energy from all sectors (including schools) amounted to £5.2m and this is set to increase to £8.7m over the next five years if the current volatility in energy prices continues.

The Carbon Management Plan sets a target for reducing the council’s carbon footprint by 33% over the next five years and the effect of achieving this target is that the council’s energy costs reduce to £4.7m in the next five years.  This represents a 10% decrease on the 2008 baseline costs.  The difference between the business as usual scenario and the carbon reduction scenario is £4m in 2013/2014 and £11.5m for the full five years.  However, in order to realise the 33% target and the £11.5m saving it would be necessary to invest capital funding in a “recycle to save fund”.  The recycling fund works by investing funds into a range of energy/carbon saving projects and the projected energy savings are top sliced in the coming years and are re-invested in the fund.  This in turn is used to invest in further energy saving schemes.  In order to make the fund work effectively for the council, it would need to invest £500,000 and borrow £500,000 from the Salix Fund.  This fund provides interest free loans to public sector organisations for the capital cost of implementing energy saving measures and technologies.  Further details were contained within the report.

The council clearly needed to embrace the plan and begin to tackle the issues around carbon emissions.  Currently North Lincolnshire sits firmly at the bottom of the National Indicator 186 League (table per capita CO2 emissions) which is in part due to the area’s industrial heritage but over 25% of our region’s emissions come from the housing stock.  Failure to act on these CO2 emissions would lead to significant financial savings being lost and financial penalties being applied to the council under the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC).  The modelling work undertaken as part of the carbon management plan had identified a potential value at stake saving of over £11m by committing to actively reduce carbon emissions.  In addition to this, the CRC Scheme would cost the council £12 per tonne for every CO2 emission. Reducing emissions would therefore save the council more money.

The report contained further detailed information in relation to this matter including detailed resource implications.

Resolved – (a) That the Carbon Management Plan be adopted as council policy, and (b) that the potential savings identified within the plan be directed towards supporting the council’s overall budget position with the “Invest to save Costs” identified within the plan being considered in February at the council budget meeting.

858  (36)  PLAY, PLAYGROUNDS AND OPEN SPACES – ACTION PLAN – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report in connection with an action plan as a result of recommendations from the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel.

At its meeting on 8 July 2009, council had considered a report of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel in relation to a review of play, playgrounds and open spaces in North Lincolnshire.  The report had been approved by council and referred to cabinet for consideration of the recommendations with a view to the preparation of an action plan.  Play Alert, North Lincolnshire’s Play Strategy is currently being reviewed.  The review is due to be completed by 31 March 2010 and will be submitted to cabinet for approval.

All the recommendations made by the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel have been incorporated in the action plan as part of the revised play strategy.  These are detailed in paragraph 2.4.

It was recommended that cabinet acknowledge that the review of Play Alert will encompass all of the scrutiny panel’s recommendations and that the production of one action plan dealing with both will ensure transparency and help to minimise anti social behaviour in North Lincolnshire.

Discussions had been held with the chair of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel and the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood and Communities and both had agreed that this was an appropriate course of action.

Resolved – That cabinet supports option 2 and agrees that the Play Alert Action Plan should supersede the requirement to produce a separate action plan as a consequence of the recommendations of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel in relation to Play, Playground and Open Spaces in North Lincolnshire.

859  (37)  LOCAL ACTION TO MANAGE FLOOD RISK IN NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report in connection with a recent report of the Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny Panel into local action to manage flood risk in North Lincolnshire.  That report had been considered by council on 20 January 2010 and the detailed conclusions and recommendations referred to cabinet for consideration of the recommendations with a view to the preparation of an action plan.

The panel’s brief in considering this review was detailed in paragraph 2.3 and members commented on the work carried out by the scrutiny panel.

Resolved – (a) That the report and recommendations be approved, and (b) that appropriate Service Directors and officers, together with the appropriate cabinet members, prepare an action plan as soon as possible in response to the recommendations of the report for submission to a future meeting of both the Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny Panel and cabinet.

860  (38)  LOCAL DEMOCRACY, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND CONSTRUCTION ACT 2009 – With reference to minute 849, the Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report in connection with certain elements of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.  In particular, the report dealt with petitions, the duty to promote democracy, the proposal to designate a scrutiny officer and the establishment of a Local Government Boundary Commission.

The report indicated that the Act included requirements for every principal council in respect of petitions.  These provisions had yet to be brought into force and the government was now consulting on the implementation of these.  The main statutory requirements were detailed in paragraph 2.1. The government proposed to make statutory orders bringing these provisions into force and detailing some aspects of the legislation and to provide guidance on how local authorities should discharge their new responsibilities in respect of petitions.  A copy of the draft guidance and the consultation paper had been deposited in group/independent members offices and comments had to be submitted to the Department for Communities and Local Government by 24 February 2010.

The consultation paper incorporated a draft model petition scheme which authorities may adopt for their own use and set out twelve questions on which the government were seeking responses.  The questions and draft suggested responses were set out in appendix one to the report.  The consultation paper/draft model scheme made a number of points which were detailed in paragraph 2.4.

With regard to the duty to promote democracy as set out in appendix two to the report. the Minister of State, Rosie Winterton, in a written response to a parliamentary question, had indicated that this would be deferred for the time being.  However, local authorities would still have to consider some of the features of the duty as a result of the steps needed to satisfy National Indicator 4 (percentage of people who feel they can influence local decisions).  The duty to designate an officer as the authority’s scrutiny officer to promote and provide support to the council’s scrutiny functions was likely to be implemented by 1 April 2010 as was the establishment of the Local Government Boundary Commission as a body corporate taking over the functions of the Electoral Commission’s Boundary Committee as regards reviews of boundaries, wards, number of members, names of electoral areas etc.

Members commented on the contents of the report with particular reference to the council’s current, very successful, petition scheme which it was hoped could be adapted to meet the requirements of the new legislation.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet approves the response to the consultation as outlined in appendix one but that a request be made for a clearer definition of a “partner”; (b) that the contents of paragraphs 2.5 to 2.8 of the report be noted and that the council embrace the principles contained in appendix two to the report, and (c) that in view of the additional responsibilities outlined within the report in relation to the scrutiny process, the report be referred to the Independent Members Remuneration Panel for consideration.