Rural Unitary Group Meeting - 10th July 2014

RURAL UNITARY GROUP - A group within a group

 

In Attendance:

Cllr Roger Begy    Chairman (Rutland Council), Cllr Jeremy Rowe - Deputy Leader (Cornwall Council), Cecilia Motley    (Shropshire Council & RSN Chair), Cllr Roger Phillips (Herefordshire Council), Helen Briggs (Rutland and Group Lead Officer), Graham Biggs (RSN Chief Executive).


Apologies:

Steve Mason - Chief Executive (Northumberland Council), Nick Carter - Chief Executive (West Berkshire Council), Cllr Gordon Lundie - Leader (West Berkshire Council), Cllr George Dunning - Leader (Redcar & Cleveland Council), Cllr Alex Folkes (Cornwall Council), Cllr Les Ford (Cheshire West and Chester), Cllr Rachel Bailey (Cheshire East), Cllr Eveleigh Moore-Dutton (Cheshire West and Chester), Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Cllr Jonathan Owen (East Riding Council), Cllr Peter Bryant (North Somerset Council)

 

To download the accompanying slides for the meeting click here

 

MINUTES

The Minutes of the meeting held on 14th April, 2014 were taken as read

PROGRESS REPORT FROM THE OFFICER GROUPS ON THE AGREED PRIORITIES

Helen Briggs, the Group’s Lead Officer made a presentation as to progress on the agreed priorities on behalf of the Officer Leads for each topic. The presentation slides are attached to these Notes.

In respect of Adult Social Care, Health and Public Health, Helen suggested that these were areas where the Group could potentially have the greatest impact. She stressed that many of the challenges were unique to Unitary Authorities covering rural areas. She said that Information Sheets on the issues were to be produced.

It was agreed that a synopsis of the bids from member authorities  to the Better Care Fund to be shared with elected member representatives of the group would be helpful.

There was general discussion

In respect of Finance, Graham Biggs welcomed the fact that the Finance officers were seeking to gather evidence of the “rural premium” relating to service delivery as this would be used to submit to LGFutures, the consultants carrying out the study on behalf of DCLG & Defra.

There was general discussion

In respect of Broadband, Helen commented that authorities may well get to the point where properties were prohibitively expensive to service and it may be a case of waiting for alternative technology to emerge. She said that the “Intervention Measures” presented real difficulties and commented that the so called final 10% would be bigger than that and would take longer. Rutland had recently met Ed Davey and had been able to demonstrate the issues property by property on a map of Rutland

In the general discussion Cecilia Motley commented that Shropshire had been required to find £11.38m by the end of June to top up SEP and that was impossible.

Helen referred to the issue of not being allowed to use Phase 1 overestimate monies or money from Phase 2 coming in under budget.

In respect of mobile phone not-spots, Jeremy Rowe and Roger Phillips both referred to BT blaming the Councils for refusing planning applications for masts or refusing road closures as the reasons for issues not progressing which simply was not true.

It was agreed that the issues should be put before the APPG on Rural Services

In respect of Primary Schools, Helen said she had now given up on this as no-one seemed willing to get involved in a topic group.


MOVING FORWARD

Members were pleased with the progress made in a relatively short period of time and with the direction of travel. They were also supportive of the objective to expand the membership of the individual groups..

It was agreed that presentations on progress would be made by each of the Priority Group’s Lead Officers to each of the SPARSE-Rural Sub SIG meetings on rota.

At this point Helen Briggs left the meeting to attend an LGA Conference session involving the Chief Executive of BDUK. She took the opportunity to press the points of concern to the Group and BDUK are to visit Rutland in August to explore the issues further.

It was agreed to seek to press the issue that Better Care Funding was not rural/sparsity proofed but it was accepted that this needed harder evidence to put forward.

It was felt that the proposed RSN Rural Manifesto could be used to get more MPs to get actively involved in the Rural Fair Shares Campaign. Sending a summary of the “asks” from the Manifesto to the candidates from each of the main parties in respect of rural constituencies and asking them to “sign up to them” was felt to be a good idea.


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