Report on County Council Matters to North Nibley Parish Council

5th March 2018

County Council budget meeting 14th February

At this meeting the recommendations of the Cabinet meeting of 31st January were tabled as the proposed budget.

As previously mentioned, in the Government’s financial settlement the County Council was accepted as a 100% business rates retention pilot. Another change was the flexibility to increase council tax by up to 3% (previously 2%) before triggering a referendum.

The Cabinet recommendation was that the Council takes up half the extra increase that is now being permitted, adding 0.5% to council tax on top of the 1.99% previously proposed. Most of the extra money raised through this and other changes would enable and additional £5.01M funding for Children & Families following the highly critical Ofsted inspection. To this must be added the 2% permitted by Government specifically to fund Adult Social Care, giving a total council tax increase of 4.49%.

Several amendments were proposed to the budget by the Liberal Democrat group and also by the Labour & Green alliance (some further details below). These were in part accepted but did not alter the final revenue budget for 2018/19 of £412.90M which gives a Band D precept of £1,232.21, an increase of £52.95 over the current year.

I had ascertained at a previous briefing meeting on the budget that the Traffic Regulation Order funding (£100k this year) is to be retained in some form.

The money allocated to councillors to recommend for use in their individual divisions stood at £75k in 2014/15. This included money for highways and money to spend on encouraging physical activities. This amount has progressively decreased and in the current financial year was £35k per councillor. The Cabinet’s proposal for the coming year consisted of £10k for Highways Local (currently £30k) and £10k for a new Growing our Communities fund. The current year’s £5k Children’s Activity Fund has ended. There is also the lengthsmen scheme which is to remain for one more year and is equivalent to £10k per councillor, but councillors have much less input into its use.

A Liberal Democrat amendment to increase the Highways Local funding back to this year’s £30k led to the political administration agreeing to increase it to £20k.

My group had also asked for a ring-fenced sum of £1.5M over the next three years specifically for footways and cycleways within the road maintenance capital budget. The administration did not agree to the ring-fencing but said that they would report back on spending in this area, which they expected to exceed the £1.5M.

For Public Rights of Way we had asked for an extra officer in order to tackle the large backlog of requests for definitive map modification orders. The administration agreed to look at this and there will be a report back to the next meeting of the Environment & Communities Scrutiny Committee (7th March).

My group had asked for £60k to take advantage of a 75% government grant to install on-street charging points for electric vehicles. The administration came back with an offer of a total of £470k for this and for electric vehicles in the county’s fleet.

Bids for a £300k project on domestic abuse focusing on young people who have either witnessed or been victims, and £200k for the expanding of the self-harm hotline for vulnerable people were not agreed but the administration, through scrutiny, will carry out an in-depth review and report back in September. A bid to reinstate a £32k cut in mental health support was not supported.

It also came to light through a proposed Labour amendment that the £50k per year to each district council to support youth work, set up following the withdrawal by the County Council from most youth work, was for three years only and had come to an end and the administration refused to continue it, saying that if councillors wished to support youth work they could do so through the new Growing our Communities fund. Taking the value of the previous grant as the average of about £5k per council division, together with the other changes this amounts to a reduction per county division from £40k this year to £30k in the coming year.

Highways Contracts

Last month I attended a briefing meeting with the bidders for the seven-year highways term maintenance contract held at the Cannop highway depot. This is worth around £20M per year.

You may have seen that Tarmac have won the two-year resurfacing contract which is worth around £30M over the two years.

Public Rights of Way

I understand that the PROW staff who were previously transferred to Amey will return to County Council employment in June.

I have mentioned previously a cut-off date of 2026 for claiming rights of way based on historic evidence rather than evidence of use. If councillors know of any routes which could be claimed for inclusion in the definitive map it would be helpful to put in applications soon. The last time I mentioned it several were put forward either by the Town Council or by me. The County Council is aware of around 70 possible applications from Stroud alone and another 30 being claimed in the Cirencester area by the British Horse Society.

John Cordwell