Option Three: the creation of an area committee for Bexhill

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Option Three: the creation of an area committee for Bexhill

In addition to the arrangements in Option One, Rother District Council would create a Bexhill Area Committee. 

There would be an additional cost to the taxpayer.

A Bexhill Area Committee

  • Discusses local, Bexhill-only issues
  • Inside Rother District Council
  • 18 district councillors elected to the 9 Bexhill wards will sit on the committee
  • Being elected to a Bexhill ward for Rother District Council gives automatic membership of the Bexhill Area Committee
  • Starts 1 April 2019

An area committee for Bexhill would be made up of people elected to Rother District Council to represent a Bexhill ward. They would discuss local issues inside the geographical boundary of the 9 district wards of Bexhill-on-Sea.

In the interests of fairness across the district, the Council decided that, if an area committee for Bexhill-on-Sea is created, it would not have any decision-making ability.   Otherwise, the Council would have to create decision-making area committees for other parts of Rother.  More area committees would lead to more costs for all residents of Rother, not just Bexhill-on-Sea.  Before going any further we would have to ask the residents in the rest of Rother if they would like to have an area committee and be prepared to pay the cost.

An area committee for Bexhill-on-Sea without decision making ability would be a consultative committee.

The 18 elected Bexhill ward councillors would meet regularly to consider matters that relate to Bexhill-on-Sea only.  All the current arrangements in Option One would continue.

An Area Committee for Bexhill-on-Sea without decision making ability will still require adequate resources with appropriate staffing levels.  Therefore, an area committee will come at an additional cost.  Such a structure, within the Council, could not be accommodated within our existing staff resources.  A minimum of two additional officers would be required: a local area co-ordinator or manager and additional administrative support staff. Depending on the role and responsibilities of the officers, this could cost in the region of between £48,450 and £92,700 a year.

The Council faces current financial constraints and a predicted funding gap of £1.8m already identified to provide services to their current levels in future years.  The introduction of an area committee structure, in reality, may mean that some non-essential services may have to be reduced or stopped altogether in order to pay for these posts.

Here are some examples of area committees in other local authorities. 

These are examples that Rother District Council considered when creating the shortlist of options. 

Arun District Council, Population: 155,732, Geographic size 22,811 hectares, (85 square miles)

Currently there are three area committees but Arun District Council has made proposals to reduce to two.  (It is estimated that each current area committee must serve around 52,000 residents.)  They meet four times a year but there is a proposal to reduce to three times a year.   The area committees are managed by West Sussex County Council.

Arun District Council has delegated the following functions to the Joint Area Committees:

  • The promotion of the environmental, social & economic well-being of the rural area.
  • The overview of the Action Plan for the Downland, Eastern and Western part of the Community Strategy (for Arun).
  • To develop and advise on Arun District Council's policies on rural matters and to raise the prominence of the Arun District Council's activities in these three areas.
  • To be responsible for countryside and urban recreation matters.
  • To advise on matters relating to farming and other rural activities, including the impact of Arun District Council services on such activities.
  • To advise on the delivery of Arun District Council services by electronic means in conjunction with town and parish councils and parish meetings.
  • To develop and maintain partnerships within the three areas.
  • The implementation and management of new facilities in the form of play areas, public seats, concessions, kick-about areas, car parks, toilets, bus shelters, litter and recycling facilities, street nameplates, drains and sewers.
  • The disposal of facilities of the kind referred to in the Paragraph 9.4.8 in accordance with Arun District Council policies.
  • Recommend to Arun District Council the granting of financial assistance (in accordance with Arun District Council policy) with regard to Village Enhancement Grants.
  • Recommend to the Cabinet or Arun District Council the provision of new facilities in accordance with Arun District Council's business system.
  • The granting of the temporary use of Arun District Council facilities.

Cambridge City Council, Population: 123,900

Cambridge has four area committees and they each meet every 8 weeks.  (It is estimated each area committee must serve around 31,000 residents.)

Typical issues discussed include planning applications, grants for community development, leisure and environmental improvement projects, and police priorities.

Eastleigh Borough Council.  Population 125,199, Geographic size 80 square kilometres (7,985 hectares)

There are five area committees and they each meet six times a year.  (It is estimated that each area committee must serve around 25,000 residents.)

The functions of the area committees are

(i) To take Cabinet decisions within policy framework and budget on locally provided services and the local Community Investment Programme (including matters delegated to them by either the Council or the Cabinet).

(ii) To take local planning, licensing (subject to the provisions of and bye-law decisions within policy framework and to make recommendations to the Council on development management matters outside the terms of their delegated powers.

(iii) To determine complaints made by the owner/occupiers of domestic property adversely affected by evergreen hedges over two metres high (in the case of hedges owned by the Council)

(iv) To act for the Council where a local response is appropriate to a local community issue.

(v) To develop partnerships/links with other agencies to the benefit of the local area community, and in particular with Local Councils.

(vi) To contribute to the wider community planning process and to the Council's related corporate planning process.

(vii) To promote efficiencies at local level and to work with the Cabinet and Scrutiny Panel on the wider promotion and securing of related objectives.

(viii) To work closely with the Cabinet's lead member for the Local Area, to promote close integration between local level and Cabinet level action.

(ix) If appropriate, to report to the Council on the local impact of the decisions of the Cabinet.

(x) To authorise direct action under section 219 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Ipswich Borough Council, Population 135,600

There are five area committees and each one meets six times a year (or as required).  (It is estimated that each area committee serves approximately 27,000 residents.)

The responsibilities and functions of the area committees are:

The overarching aim of each committee is to identify area priorities and to take a strategic role in shaping the future of their areas by developing and implementing an action plan for its area.

Any committee business must be transacted in line with Area Action Plans. Ipswich Borough Council will allocate a budget for each Area Committee on a rolling 3 year basis in line with Ipswich Borough Council's Medium Term Financial Plan.

Funding is available to make positive improvements within each of the five area committee areas.  Area committees commission improvement works in local neighbourhoods to improve the life of residents and tackle local issues in the area.

Some examples of what Ipswich Borough Council's area committees have funded in the past:

  • Outdoor gym equipment and toddler play equipment.

  • Parking enforcement around schools to prevent illegal parking.

  • The construction of a wildlife area at Whitton Community Primary School.

  • Benches in Landseer Park.

  • Development of new community allotments.

(These area committees do not make Planning decisions.)

North Hertfordshire District Council, Population 131,000

There are five area committees and they each meet four times a year. (It is estimated each area committee serves approximately 26,000 residents.)

Policy - exercise of decisions by resolution

(a) To allocate discretionary budgets within the terms determined by North Hertfordshire District Council.

(b) To allocate devolved budgets and activities within the terms determined by North Hertfordshire District Council.

(c) To promote the introduction of local byelaws.

(d) To provide public seats and shelters.

(e) To maintain public War Memorials.

(f) To provide art in public places.

South Somerset District Council, Population 165,000, Geographic size 370 square miles or 958 km2

There are four area committees and they each meet 12 times a year. It is estimated that each area committee serves around 41,250 residents.

Area Committees take decisions in public on significant planning applications, invest in local projects, discuss issues of interest and priority to the local area, and enable residents to get involved in local decision-making.

These examples are reproduced in a table format in this pdf file:  pdf icon Examples of Area Committees [97kb]

 

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