01/26/2011 07:00 PM Big Society Panel - Minutes
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
Document Title: Minutes of the Big Society Panel – 26 January 2011
Author: Liz Hornby
Creation Date: Jan 11
BIG SOCIETY PANEL – 26.01.11
BIG SOCIETY PANEL
PRESENT: Councillors Burbage (Chairman), Mrs Bateson (Vice-Chairman), Grey, Holness and Maxwell
Non-Member: Councillor Hendry
Also present: Mick Duggan and Nicola Farnon from CLG
Officers: Andrew Brooker, Anne Dackombe, Andrew Elkington, Liz Hornby, Harjit Hunjan, Steve Johnson, Rhidian Jones, Anthony Kemp, Maria Lucas, David Oram, Keith Skerman, Mark Taylor and Ian Trenholm
26 JANUARY 2011
26/10 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
There were none.
27/10 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were none.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meetings of the Panel held on 14 December 2010 be approved.
29/10 RBWM BIG SOCIETY PROJECTS STATUS GRID UPDATE
1. Night Time Economy / Licensing. This item was discussed separately.
2. Devolution to Parishes. The Panel noted that Parishes had been written to and that an early ‘ready reckoner’ had been collated to gain feedback on what ideas would be practicable or feasible. Additional resource had been provided by representatives from the Communities in Local Government (CLG). Officers stated that a ‘menu’ of ideas was presently being collated to present to the Parishes to provide guidance on what items could be devolved to them.
Members noted that many parishes were keen to take on the added responsibility but that it should be recognised if they were capable of taking on extra responsibilities.
The issue of unparished Wards was raised and the possibility of Ward Councillors taking a lead was agreed. Money would be made available to them if local community schemes were recognised. Monies spent in unparished areas could be recovered through the special expenses levy applied to those areas. Members also noted that one parish had already put together an area plan and sent it out to local residents for feedback.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That Officers would continue to collate the menu of ideas and circulate once ready.
3. Adopt a Street. Members noted the latest update and in particular that a newsletter had been produced. Members also noted that the marketing plan was in the final stages of being collated and that four community groups had expressed a desire to be involved along with the Rotarians who were also keen to become involved. Five schools had already signed up, with a further three who had expressed an interest. It was noted that a GIS map was now available. The marketing of the Adopt a Street was through “Around the Royal Borough”, the Borough’s website and Ward Councillors with some degree of success. It was agreed that once the marketing plan had been finalised, it would be circulated to all relevant people. The Chairman expressed a wish that the planned Members training take place after the elections in May.
4. Participatory Budget. Members noted that a letter had been sent to Parishes and that a 50% response had been received to date. These answers were being collated and would be reported back to the Participatory Budget Sub-Committee. Members also noted that the Survey Monkey survey had not yet been prepared. The Panel also noted that talks were being held with NESTA to investigate electronic communication.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That Officers would circulate the marketing plan when complete.
5. Transparency. Members noted that Mydex, which was a company enabling data input to be shared so that individuals could take control of their own data, had completed a pilot exercise. The feasibility of rolling it out was being explored. Councillor Maxwell had attended a seminar organised by the Foreign Office in relation to this issue, details of which can be found at this weblink – http://uknordicbaltic.readandcomment.com/
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Survey Monkey survey be actioned.
In relation to crime data, the Prime Minister had agreed street level data by January 2011 and the Borough would be launching this scheme in the very near future. The Panel noted that this had been endorsed by Sara Thornton, Chief Constable, Thames Valley Police and that Tim De Meyer, Superintendant, Thames Valley Police, had been very positive and had assisted Officers with the scheme.
6. Hydro-Power. This item was discussed under a separate agenda item.
7. Incentives. The Chief Executive and the Head of Policy and Performance recently met with Nectar who expressed a keen interest in being involved. Over the next two weeks the Borough and Nectar would be putting together a business case. Nectar had commented that while this was the first local scheme they had been involved in, there was a potential to roll this out nationally.
Members discussed the issue of publishing financial information on the Royal Borough website as they wished all information to be placed on the site. It was confirmed that this would not entail significant amounts of extra work by Officers and it was noted that the exemptions previously stated would remain. The Panel noted that the School Meals contract was on the Borough’s website and that a further seventy three contracts since May 2010 had been signed although not all of them had the standard clause inserted. Those suppliers who did not have the standard clause were being approached so that the clause could be added, but to date there had been a poor response.
The Chief Executive stated that he had written to Sara Thornton in relation to recruiting Special Constables.
8. Ways into Volunteering. The Panel noted that an Action Plan had been developed which included ways to promote to people and building capacity of volunteering in the community sector. A way of looking at existing routes into volunteering compared to new routes would be explored which could include a new website. The Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the Royal Borough and Windsor & Maidenhead Voluntary Action (WMVA) was being reviewed with specific outcomes being put forward to the WMVA as the Grants Panel decided this would be a way of focussing the organisation.
Members noted that following a recent audit 21,000 volunteers had come forward which was an increase of 296% on the previous year. However, it was agreed that volunteers found it difficult to know where to go to offer their services and ways were being investigated of asking firms locally if they had space available to enable volunteers to go to and investigate volunteering further. It was noted that the 2012 Olympic Games had focussed many people into volunteering and liaison between the WMVA, the Strategic Director of Environment and the Visitor Manager was ongoing.
9. Guildhall Volunteering. The Panel noted that a further two volunteers had come forward since the paper was written, making a total of twenty six adults, all of whom were undergoing training and assessments which would be complete by the end of February. Six sixth formers from local schools had come forward as volunteers and meetings with Windsor Boys School and Eton College were scheduled. Promotion of Guildhall volunteering would once again take place at the next Big Society Open Space event and in the March edition of Around the Royal Borough and would include new photographs of the internally refurbished Guildhall. The Guildhall was due to re-open for business on 1 March 2011 and the Museum will have a ‘soft opening’ on 12 March.
10. Project CareBank. The Department of Health had confirmed funding and this was now being pushed through. Members noted however, that the timescales involved to develop this project were very tight.
Members agreed to invite as many Cabinet Ministers as thought appropriate to the next Big Society Open Event day, which would be held on Saturday 25 March 2011 and suggested that Nick Hurd receive an invitation.
The Panel suggested that as Windsor was a Garrison town, that the army may be receptive to being involved on a local level.
30/10 FEEDBACK FROM THE BIG SOCIETY OPEN SPACE EVENT – SATURDAY 4 DECEMBER 2010
The Panel received the report on Feedback from the Big Society Open Space Event, which took place on Saturday 4 December 2010, and noted that it was a very detailed report. Tribal had provided feedback taken from one hundred and thirty responses from the day out of an attendance of two hundred and fifty people. It was noted that the event had been favourably received. The feedback from the event was due to be uploaded to the Borough website and further comments would be invited. A video that was shot at the event would be uploaded to YouTube. The Panel noted that a second Open Space Event was due to take place in March 2011 in Windsor, and that a government Minister would be invited to attend.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Project Plans be pursued as stated in the reports.
31/10 WEIR POWER
The Panel noted the report on Weir Power, and in particular the information on three examples – Romney Lock - Windsor, Teddington Weir and Appleby - Cumbria. In a previous report, the Environment Agency (EA) had identified a possible three locks within the Royal Borough – Bell, Marlow and Boulters Locks, where Archimedes Screws could be installed. The Panel noted that at the Romney Lock, power would be taken directly to Windsor Castle. Officers were due to meet with the EA in two weeks’ time to take the matter further.
Mr Ewan Larcombe was invited to speak and made the following (verbatim) comments –
“I am not against hydropower but……..
In a debate on flooding and the Environment Agency on 12 January 2011, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP stated that ‘the top tiers at head office have begun to believe their own glowing publicity, and all too often come across as a bunch of cocksure know-it-alls.’ He went on to ridicule their literature and expose their flawed consultation process. Finally he stated that ‘the organisation is out of control, and does not care about people or anything’
The ‘total environment’ section of the Big Society projects document V1.2(3) refers to flooding and to ‘give greater flexibility and control to local residents over various environmental issues where this had previously been minimal or non-existent’. The objective then talks about ‘greater accountability’ and ‘meeting specific residents concerns.’
According to the EA (December 2007) - there are over 11,600 people at risk of flooding in RBWM, 8,000 in Runnymede and 8,000 in Spelthorne.
The £110m Jubilee River is sub-standard in design and construction, needed £5m in repairs, may never be able to carry its design capacity of 215 cumecs and resulted in a £2.75m out-of-court settlement. The people of Windsor, Eton and Maidenhead may have benefited from improved flood protection, but the situation downstream of Windsor is grim.
The Environment Agency is responsible for main rivers, but they have no duty to maintain those rivers for flood defence purposes. They use every possible excuse to avoid dredging, and have not implemented the conclusions of Clive Onion’s 2004 FRAG Report into the 2003 flood event. Ecology and biology get priority and the people at risk of flooding (who pay EA wages) are put last.
In my opinion main rivers are the primary means of flood defence and should be recognised as a critical infrastructure asset rather than a liability, with additional environmental, recreational and commercial benefits.
The Thames is no longer a natural river, being heavily engineered with locks, weirs, bridges etc. Over time flood arches have been blocked, the water level has risen and the within-banks conveyance capacity has reduced.
With an allowance for the possible effects of climate change the probability of flooding downstream of Windsor is increasing. The EA appears unable to learn from previous mistakes. The £300m Lower Thames Strategy proposal is more flawed than the Jubilee River and probably still ten years away. The NRA did their best to avoid a MWEFAS Public Inquiry twenty years ago and I see history now repeating itself.
Today – eight years on since the 2003 event - the people downstream of Windsor still live with the probability of both fluvial and reservoir flooding. I will just remind you of the burst pipe at the Queen Mother Reservoir in April 2006 when we were just a whisker from a world-class flood event, the truth being still hidden by the EA today.
Yet these same people have to pay more for insurance (if they can get it at all) - and the flood warning system still has shortcomings.
I will not even mention flood maps!
As the newly designated lead local flood authority subject to the Flood Risk Regulations 2009 and FWMA 2010 I urge you to get a grip, take control and fix these problems, bearing in mind that you will now have only one representative for Berkshire on the Thames FCDC.
So I now offer you a new policy
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That a second Big Society Open Space Event would be held in March 2011 in Windsor, and that a Government Minister would be invited to attend.
· Reducing the probability of flooding will take precedence over hydropower provision.
And a strategy
· Ensure that the other Councils and all members of the new Thames FCDC are aware of the flooding history, current position and proposals.
The Chairman thanked Mr Larcombe for his comments. However, the item being discussed was in relation to Weir power and not flooding, which was the main theme of Mr Larcombe’s comments. It was believed that the Jubilee River had not delivered all that the EA stated it would as there had been a Court Case for compensation some years ago. However the Chairman and members of the panel agreed that whilst criticism was not being levelled at the EA, it was hoped to make them more accountable, responsive and focussed on local residents’ needs.
Members commented that the Teddington scheme had been successful due to a residents committee being set up and selling the power back to the National Grid. It was the hope of the Panel that electricity could be fed directly into residents homes therefore savings those residents money on electricity bills, although should this not be possible, then power could be sold back to the Grid. It was stated that it could be difficult to identify those residents who could benefit from the scheme. It was also noted that the Crown Estates had signed a 40-year contract for supply of power to the Castle.
It was agreed that the whole scheme could be reviewed to investigate how energy could be obtained from the River Thames to help the local residents of the Royal Borough.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the whole scheme would be reviewed to investigate how energy could be obtained from the River Thames.
32/10 POLICE REFORM & RESPONSIBILITY BILL AND THE NIGHT TIME ECONOMY
The Panel received the report on Police Reform & Responsibility Bill and the Night Time Economy and noted that the Bill was presently moving through Parliament and that the report dealt with two issues – the first was in relation to the proposal of allowing authorities to introduce a late night levy in their area, which would be treated as a whole and not in part. This would mean that licensees in rural areas would pay the same levy as urban licensees and would therefore, correctly, expect the same level of cover across the board. Secondly, the Bill proposed that late night levy payments were to be made by licensed premises to the licensing authority but that those proceeds should be paid 70% to the Police and 30% to be retained by the licensing authority. The Panel noted that the Government Committee had sat six times so far to consider recommendations and representations from local authorities. The Panel noted that there was still an opportunity to make representation to the Committee to put forward the Borough’s views. The Chairman commented that he believed the Home Office should allow Local Authorities to set their own levy tariffs as they were far more familiar with local issues than central government. The Chairman also stated that by giving the responsibility to the Local Authority, it would ensure more flexibility when setting levy tariffs.
There were other parts of the Bill where the licensing authority would be able to set the hours that the levy applied, and that there could be exempted categories, such as hotels as they only served their own guests. The Panel commented that flexibility would be advisable and that licensing should be ‘by local people for local people’. It was agreed that the Trading Standards and Licensing Manager would draft a letter to the Committee from the Big Society Panel stating the above and state the Panel’s wish that the local licensing authority should be permitted to set their own late night levy.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Trading Standards and Licensing Manager drafted a letter from the Big Society Panel setting out their concerns as mentioned above and that this would be sent to the Home Office.
The meeting, which began at 7.00pm, concluded at 8.46pm
· Remind the EA that you are aware that they no longer have Crown Immunity from prosecution and that you will take legal action against them if there is continuing evidence of negligence on their part.
· Ask the Environment Agency to supply the maximum ‘within-banks’ conveyance capacity and corresponding AOD water levels and probability of exceedance for every Thames and Jubilee River reach between say Hurley and Twickenham weirs.
· And then get the action plan agreed and the problems fixed………….”