RSN SPARSE Rural meeting - 28 January 2019

Notes of last SPARSE Rural Special Interest Group meeting on 28 January 2019 - held at the LGA, Smith Square 1&2, Ground Floor, 18 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HZ
- To download the agenda and papers associated for this meeting, click here
- To download these minutes  for this meeting, click here

 Attendance:
Organisation
Name

Graham Biggs MBE

RSN

David Inman

RSN

Cllr Cecilia Motley

RSN

Cllr Yvonne Peacock

Richmondshire District Council

Cllr Jeremy Savage

South Norfolk District Council

Cllr Cameron Clark

Sevenoaks District Council

Cllr Owen Bierley

West Lindsey District Council

Cllr Robert Heseltine

North Yorkshire County Council

Cllr Gerard Brewster

Mid Suffolk District Council

Cllr Peter Stevens

St Edmundsbury Borough Council

Cllr Gwilym Butler

Shropshire Council

Stephen Boddington

Norfolk County Council

Cllr Trevor Thorne

Northumberland County Council

Fatima de Abreu

Local Government Association

1.   Apologies for Absence
Cllr Cecilia Motley welcomed members to the meeting and outlined plans for the day.

Members noted the list of apologies sent. (See below for list of apologies).

2 .   Minutes of the last meeting of the SPARSE-Rural Sub-SIG held on the12th November 2018 and to discuss any matters arising

Members confirmed the minutes of the previous meeting.

There were no matters arising.

3.    To receive the minutes of the Executive Meeting held on the 14th January 2019 and to discuss any matters arising not on this agenda

Members noted the minutes of the recent meeting of the Executive.

There were no matters arising.

4.   2019/20 Provisional Settlement – RSN Response

Members noted the response included within the Agenda at Appendix C and that most of it was the same as the previous year’s which was only to be expected as it was the final year of the 4-year settlement period. One key change was an increase in the rural service delivery grant. The group noted that the amount is a relatively small amount of money and that from next year, it will be taken into the proposed foundation formula rather than a stand-alone amount.

The gap in spending power funded by Council Tax in rural areas is increasing year on year and there is a gap of 13%.

The Chair members that the RSN had written directly to the minister to spell out what they are looking for in the new formula

Members responded:

  • They were pleased that the threat of negative RSG has been removed;
  • There are concerns about what will happen in the next financial year and there will be a need to step up representation to ensure that Rural areas receive fair treatment under the new regime.
5.   Business Rate Retention Consultation – draft RSN response

Members noted the formula currently used for assessing the percentage of business rates retention by local authorities and said that the government needs to take into account the different circumstances and resources for individual businesses. It is therefore vital that due account is taken of the rate of relief according to the type of business concerned. Members agreed that a balance must be met and councils should realise the benefits to their areas of attracting visitors through added spending via tourism – even though it may not benefit the actual council directly.

Members agreed that the system does not actually differ substantially to the one used previously.

The group raised several concerns:

  • Effect of the downturn of local shops and decrease in revenue – members felt that the reliability on predicting growth to fund local government services is unrealistic in the current economy.  It is flawed to not think about future problems should these resources diminish;
  • Children’s Services – impacts of increased numbers of children coming into care is costing local authorities more.

Members agreed the response as prepared by Pixel.

6.   Needs and Resources Consultation – draft RSN response  

The Group considered the draft response to the Needs and Resources Consultation which was included as Appendix D within the Agenda.

Graham Biggs (Rural Services Network) then provided a presentation on the Fair Funding Review with an overview of the proposed changes included within the Consultation - Download here

Concerns raised were as follows:

  • The whole Fair Funding review may be irrelevant if there is a change to Government;
  • The removal of Deprivation from the Foundation formula was  controversial across the Sector;
  • There were large gaps in the information relating to adults and children’s social care;
  • Actual urban areas are actually starting to take note of rural issues and to react – however, it may be too late;
  • More deprived authorities will be hit using the formula;
  • The new method of funding using travel time data works significantly in favour of rural, however the overall outcome will be a package and include all components.  There is a danger that the combination of the Spending Review, fair funding review and business rates reform will lead to constraints on authorities and there are questions on whether these are viable and manageable.
  • Uncertainty about changes to legislation and the possibility of ministerial discretion in decision making on funding. However, the formula would still be the same;
  • The financial viability of authorities is very much in doubt and in danger in future years and it was agreed that government must be aware of this and must deliver in order to avoid failure.

Members noted the structure of overall funding using the Relative Needs Formula (RNF) and reduction from the current 15 service formulae on the basis on what is currently known. They looked at current arguments for deprivation and discussed the proposed change to using the Department for Transport Travel Time Data for mapping remoteness of rural areas. Mr Biggs provided the group with a breakdown of how this data is measured.

Mr Biggs went on to outline specific formulae for other services and provided details on how research for these are based. There are still major concerns about the quantum used for assessments. Members noted details of these services which include children and adult social care, highway maintenance, coastal protection and flooding, fire and rescue services amongst others. There is a lot of uncertainty and there are many services which are without separate formula. Members agreed concerns about how or whether these will be funded.

There were also worries about the imbalance of funding – particularly around costs allocation to children’s services - and the lack of consideration for other services used by more people.

Another concern was the use of population projections in assessing funding requirements. Local authorities would be unable to reassess their needs before the end of five years should the predictions be wrong. Members stated the importance of raising councils’ awareness of this.

The issue of including car parking income in resources is a balance as many rural tourist and coastal areas raise significant sums through these services. However, urban areas, especially London, raise huge amounts which would mean more funding being redistributed.

Mr Biggs summarised details of his presentation and acknowledged that the process is moving in the right direction for rural authorities but that it was important to find out how much money authorities will receive now and also by how much this funding will increase in the future. Without that information, it would be difficult to agree the Fair Funding Review.

He concluded his presentation by advising members to respond to both the RSN’s response to the Consultation, as well as in their own right as individual rural authorities

Members agreed that there is still a lot of uncertainty.

Cllr Motley thanked Mr Biggs for an informative presentation and reiterated the importance of responding to the Local Government Finance consultations.

The deadline is 21 February 2019.

7.   Members agreed the draft RSN response

The Slides are available on the RSN website and will be emailed to members immediately for information. Action: Nicola Busuttil 

8.   Budget Report

Mr Biggs provided an update on SPARSE’s current financial situation.

9.   Any other business

There was no other business and the meeting was closed.

Next Meeting:
The next meetings of the Rural Social Care & Health Group Rural Assembly will be held on 8 April 2019 at Local Government Association, 18 Smith Square, London.

Apologies:
Organisation
Name

Chris Stanton, Rural Economy Officer

Guildford Borough Council

Cllr Peter Hare-Scott

Mid Devon District Council

Revd Richard Kirlew

Sherborne Deanery Rural Chaplaincy

Cllr Philip Sanders

West Devon Borough Council

John Birtwistle, Head of Policy

UK Bus

Cllr Stephen Arnold

Ryedale District Council

Dave Heywood, Chief Executive

South Staffordshire Council

Cllr Rupert Reichhold

East Northamptonshire District Council

Cllr Peter Jackson

Northumberland Council

Cllr John Spence

Essex  County Council

Cllr Jane March

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew

West Somerset District Council

Cllr Jonathan Brook

South Lakeland District Council

Sian Moore, Corporate Director & S151 Officer

Richmondshire District Council

Dr Pav Ramewal, Chief Executive

Sevenoaks District Council

Cllr Phil King

Harborough District Council

Maggie Quinn, Partnership & Locality Manager

South Staffordshire Council

James Tennant, Business Account Manager

East Northamptonshire District Council

Cherie Root,  Head of Business Solutions

Braintree District Council

Cllr Louise Richardson

Leicestershire County Council

Katie Williams, Economy Skills & Culture Assistant

Cornwall Council

Cllr Brian Long

Borough of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk BC

Cllr Adam Paynter

Cornwall Council

Mark Carroll, Executive Director Place & Public Health

Essex County Council

Louise Driver, Economic Growth Team Leader

Leicestershire County Council

Cllr Nigel Dixon

North Norfolk  District Council

Cllr Barry Lewis

Derbyshire County Council

Cllr Graham Bull

Huntingdonshire District Council

Jo Churchill MP

Bury St Edmunds

Kate Kennally, Chief Executive

Cornwall Council

Gary Powell, Community Projects Officer

Teignbridge District Council

Dr Robert Murray, Economic Development Manager

East Devon District Council

Cllr Ian Thomas

East Devon District Council                 

Cllr Richard Sherras

Ribble Valley Borough Council

Cllr David Ireton

Craven District Council

Cllr Janet Clowes

Cheshire East Council

Cllr David Godfrey

Folkestone & Hythe District Council

Cllr Roger Phillips

Herefordshire Council

Cllr Rob Waltham

North Lincolnshire Council

Adele Taylor, Executive Director of Finance

Cherwell District Council

Cllr Ken Pollock

Worcestershire County Council

Cllr Stuart Lawson

Suffolk Coastal District Council

Cllr Jane Mortimer

Scarborough District Council

Cllr Wendy Bowkett

East Lindsey District Council

Cllr Peter Thornton

South Lakeland District Council

Andy Brown, Chief Operating Officer

Cornwall Council

Clive Howey, Director of Finance

Eden District Council

Ian Knowles, Director of Resources

West Lindsey District Council

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