With the closing date for registrations looming (30 August 2019) book now to attend our National Rural Conference, (in association with the CCRI), in Cheltenham on 3rd & 4th September) here. The keynote speaker for the conference is the Rt Hon Lord Foster of Bath, Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy.
Northamptonshire, Cumbria, Warwickshire, Norfolk, Hereford and Worcester, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Wiltshire
Devon and Somerset, Dorset, Shropshire, West Sussex.
1. Notes of Last Meeting
These were accepted as a correct record
2. Membership of Group
The starting membership had been 10. A letter had gone out from the Acting Chair to authorities considered rural. Two authorities (Dorset and West Sussex) had expressed interest and would be sent papers in future taking the membership up to 12.
3. Reviewing Financial Documentation
The meeting was presented with the report which had been undertaken by SPARSE for the County Group at the time of Audit Commission examination of the Fire Service two years ago. Parallels were drawn with the position now that Sir Ken Knight had reported and some of the material might be useful in the response to his report.
Many Authorities took advantage of CIPFA analysis and Martyn Emberson would arrange for Dan Bates to have sight of this work.
4. To receive report from Neil Benn, Financial Consultant.
Neil was unable to present because of holiday commitments but had prepared a report to be considered. Further opportunities for discussion about the rural situation existed this year and the group were told about the work of the Rural Fair Share Group and the Ministers commitment to meet with them next year starting on the 5th of June. The possibility of the Group formally asking to see the Minister was discussed.
It was felt that with the Sparsity adjustment the balance of funding between urban and rural forces would have been about right and the strong case which had been made had been reflected correctly but the new regime of floors and ceilings had completely got in the way.
It was that regime which needed to be attacked.
5. Sir Ken Knight Report.
It was felt the Group should prepare an agreed joint submission to go forward.
There was a need for Dan Bates to be able to break down some of the Knight figures to understand where they came from and how they varied from the Audit Commission report.
The following points were made
• The wishes of the Council tax payer seemed to have been completely ignored by Sir Ken. He failed to recognise the community role of the Service
• It might be a worthwhile exercise to seek to identify the percentage financial input put in locally.
• The varying ways (Counties in particular) back office costs were allocated had been a problem before.
• It was felt the report was solely based on a demand driven viewpoint; sparse areas were area driven because of topography and there were fixed costs that simply could not be mitigated against.
• The report was heavily driven from an urban outlook it underplayed preventative work and community liaison.
• The formulas had been established from a base of previous funding and consequentially previous spending --- now might be a real chance to build from the base up.
• If urban services were to be required to live within their means the fact that rural service inevitably cost more had to be reflected
• If the service was to be reviewed the financial base as well should be reviewed and not impeded by a damping system that assisted ‘historic’ disaggregation.
• If rural underfunding could be established at this stage then the greater demand for change in the urban areas would be.
• The question of whether there should be some sort of ring fencing in Counties budgets needed to be considered.
• Damping needed to be transitional relief only and not a bank.
It was acknowledged that drafts would have to be prepared and worked on collectively by e mail over the summer to be able to hit the autumn deadline for responses.
The group would require a constitution. One would be prepared for the next meeting.
7. Officers of SIG.
The following were appointed as the Officers of the Group for the 2013/14 financial year.
Chairman-Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage (Northamptonshire)
Chief Officer- Nigel Williams ( Norfolk)
Deputy Chief Officer- Martyn Emberson ( Northamptonshire)
8. Next Meeting. Thursday 21st November 2013 hopefully at the LGA, London.
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