HAMPSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
Date of Decision
27 April 2009
Rural Delivery Action Plan for Hampshire County Council
The Chief Executive and Director of Recreation and Heritage
1) Summary of Decision Area
1.1. This report proposes an action plan in support of work to develop a Rural Delivery Strategy for Hampshire County Council and in response to the stakeholder consultation exercise undertaken in autumn 2008.
2) Issues Covered in Report
2.1. The report summarises the context and activity undertaken to date along with the key objectives set by Cabinet for this work.
2.2. It also puts forward a suggested action plan which responds to the emerging evidence base and consultation responses in a way which seeks to `rural proof' the delivery of services in rural areas.
2.3. In support of this, the report also identifies the need and opportunity for the development of new partnership approaches and projects to target the key issues and themes emerging from this work. This includes the need to monitor and demonstrate effective outcomes and performance in these key areas.
It is recommended that Cabinet:
3.1. Approves the action plan included in the report as a means to rural proof the delivery of key services delivered in rural communities across all Departments. (Key recommendation.)
3.2. Supports the development of new partnership approaches and projects which seek to tackle the key issues faced by rural communities and highlighted in the consultation process. Consideration should be given to raising the potential partnership issues underpinning this work with the Hampshire Senate in an appropriate manner and timescale. (Key recommendation.)
3.3. Prioritises the use of new investment to support such initiatives and to seek maximum gearing of funding wherever possible.
3.4. Supports work undertaken on a corporate basis to demonstrate the rural context, both to relevant targets identified in the Local Area Agreement, and preparation for the CAA.
3.5. Fully endorses ongoing work to influence rural policy at a regional and national level including work with the Commission for Rural Communities, Defra, the LGA and South East Rural Board.
3.6. Each Departmental Action Plan be formally referred to the appropriate Executive Member for detailed consideration and implementation.
1) Contextual Information
1.1. With over 85% of Hampshire's land area described as rural, it is crucial for Hampshire County Council to consider how it can best support its rural communities. It delivers a number of significant statutory and discretionary services in rural areas, ranging from schools, adult social care, libraries and rights of way, to waste management and strategic transport planning. Hampshire County Council wishes to ensure that in delivering a wide range of services for rural communities, both directly and in partnership with others, the essential issues are tackled in the right way.
1.2. Hampshire's rural areas are experiencing significant levels of change, and the need to support rural communities is now greater than ever. The recession is having a significant impact right across Hampshire, and the County Council wishes to do what it can to minimise those adverse consequences. These issues need action to ensure that rural Hampshire continues to thrive economically, socially and environmentally: this is the vision adopted by Cabinet in July 2008..
1.3. It is also important to recognise the interdependence of our rural and urban areas across the whole county in supporting the quality of life and place that makes Hampshire such a special county in which to live, work and visit. This work and challenge has been at the forefront of efforts made to respond to the recent stakeholder consultation by developing an appropriate action plan.
1.4. This action plan also draws strongly from the 2005-2007 Rural Pathfinder for the South East region, which was led by Hampshire County Council. This programme was sponsored by Defra, and tested innovative ways of delivering services in rural areas.
2) Aims and Objectives
2.1. In July 2008 Cabinet agreed the following aims for its delivery of services to rural areas:
To demonstrate commitment in supporting rural communities by:
· adopting a clear vision underlying the County Council's work in rural communities.
· recognising the crucial role played by rural areas and communities in the social, economic and environmental vitality of the county.
To work effectively both within the County Council and with partner organisations by:
· securing more effective engagement with rural communities and partner organisations.
· providing improved accessibility to services in rural areas.
· strengthening the role for Hampshire County Council at regional and national level by building on the lessons of the Rural Pathfinder.
Developing a rural delivery strategy focused upon the needs of rural communities by:
· working with others, particularly borough, district and parish councils, in developing a new approach to rural spatial planning, recognising the importance of appropriate managed development to support employment, local housing and provision of services in rural areas.
· developing an effective evidence base to inform future action and service development - the rural profile of Hampshire.
· achieving more effective corporate collaboration and co-ordination when delivering and developing services within rural communities through "rural proofing" of our work.
Communicating more effectively with the rural communities:
· to identify and publicise sources of information and support, both within and outside the County Council, that could help build capacity within rural communities.
· to provide greater recognition and understanding of the contribution that Hampshire County Council makes to rural communities.
The overall vision underpinning the role of the County Council in supporting rural Hampshire is to work to achieve:
"Rural communities that are resilient and sustainable socially, economically and environmentally".
3) Consultation and Evidence Base
3.1. In the summer of 2008 the County Council identified all the key work it was undertaking in rural areas. This exercise also considered the strategic context and the key issues and priorities driving that work which was shared through a stakeholder consultation process during autumn 2008. That process was complemented by a series of seminars and facilitated workshops for external consultees to seek their views on priority areas of work. The findings of the workshops, together with the helpful and detailed responses to the consultation by nearly 60 organisations and individuals, have been used to prepare Hampshire County Council's Rural Delivery Strategy. The action plan at the heart of this has been heavily influenced by statistical data for Hampshire and the emerging Rural Profile. This forms an important and developing evidence base which can be viewed at www.hants.gov.uk/rural.
3.2. The consultation responses were summarised and presented to Cabinet in the March Cabinet report and have been used as a crucial part of the process of selecting options for action. In parallel with this exercise, and in support of the key themes identified in the consultation process, the County Council identified 11 changes to service delivery that could be implemented immediately with no new resources. Cabinet approved these `quick wins' in July 2008, and was updated on progress in March 2009. All quick wins are now underway or complete, and as such represent a first and significant step to achieving action on the ground.
3.3. Since the consultation process the country has entered what is forecast to be a deep recession. Commodity prices have plunged, reducing farmers' income and the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has forecast that rural areas will be hardest hit by the impact of the downturn. Hampshire County Council is actively working to reduce the impact of the economic downturn for its residents, and the action plan reflects this along with the inevitable anxiety and concerns felt by many in this sector. Also, the South Downs National Park will have an effect on parts of rural Hampshire.
4) Action Plan
4.1. The focus of this delivery strategy is on Hampshire County Council's role and responsibility for delivering services in rural communities. Much of the County Council's work is undertaken in partnership with other organisations, and partner organisations have been directly involved in the development of this work. This approach has been taken to secure the `rural proofing' of services and to focus upon those areas where the County Council has direct influence and impact within rural communities. Rural proofing is a mechanism used to ensure that rural needs and circumstances are taken into account in policy development and delivery.
4.2 The action plan and work surrounding it has involved many organisations and a crucial next step will be to develop improved partnership approaches that also focus upon the key issues identified through this process. A crucial part of the County Council's operation is to work closely with its many partners to improve the quality of service delivery and increase value for money.
4.3. Cabinet will be asked to agree the publication of the final action plan and supporting documentation once final revisions have been made.
4.4. Actions, by theme and time-scale are set out in summarised form in Appendix 1. Action Plans have been prepared on a themed basis to make them more relevant to delivery, rather than relying on the convention of current departmental arrangements. Theme leads' full Action Plans, which provide background context, have been circulated to members of the Cabinet separately, due to their size, and also placed in Members' Rooms. The themes are Adult Social Care; Children's Services, Community, Leisure and Culture; Environment; Food, Farming and Forestry; Rural Economy, Employment and Skills; and Rural Transport and Accessibility.
5) Partnership, Innovation and Performance
5.1. The key areas for action emerging from both the consultation and upon a more regional basis focus upon:
_ Supporting sustainable rural communities, including affordable housing, rural broadband, access to services, supporting volunteering, and community engagement.
_ Providing effective rural transport
_ Farming, food and access
_ Economic development
_ Climate change, including renewable energy, and making better use of the county's wood-fuel resource.
5.2. In terms achieving the best value for rural areas the County Council has now looked hard at rural proofing its current service delivery and this is reflected in the action plan. It also needs to develop new partnership initiatives and projects that tackle these issues. Work is currently underway to identify further specific options which will do this in an innovative and collaborative way and these will be assessed and prioritised in the new financial year. While this effort will need to be focussed, and cannot hope to tackle all the issues, it must deliver positive outcomes in line with what people in rural communities have told us.
5.3. The £200,000 of pump priming investment identified in the budget for the coming year will be used to support new initiatives within this context. A key focus for the use of that investment will be to deliver specific outcomes and to maximise the levering of partnership funding and involvement.
5.4. Discussion with District and Parish Council representatives has highlighted the need and willingness to work more collaboratively in tackling some of these issues. Clearly the harnessing of joint resources will be a key requirement to achieving success and this will be brought into sharper focus with both the emerging Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) framework and the achievement of Local Area Agreement (LAA) targets.
5.5. The action plan assists the County Council in meeting its Local Area Agreement targets under the following National Indicators. Those partially met are denoted with (P):
· NI 4 % of people who feel they can influence decisions locally
· NI 6 Participation in regular volunteering
· NI 72, 73, 74, 75, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 Achievement in education (P).
· NI 73 Achievement at level 4 or above in English and Maths at KS2.
· NI 79 Achievement of a level 2 qualification by age 19.
· NI 87 Secondary school persistent absence rate.
· NI 102 Achievement gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers.
· NI 117 16-18 year olds not in education, training or employment.
· NI 142 No. of vulnerable people supported to maintain independent living.
· NI 148 Care leavers in employment, education or training. (P)
· NI 163, 164, 165 on improving basis skills, and developing new skills.
· NI 188 Planning to adapt to climate change.
5.6. It also assists the County Council to meet targets set under the following local indicators:
· LI B1 Business start ups (P)
· LI B2 Businesses per 1000 population. (P)
· LI C1 Speed in villages
· LI C3 Local accessibility
· LI F1 Supporting older people to live independently
· LI H1 A sustainable Third Sector
5.7. From a corporate perspective it will be essential to monitor performance across the County Council and also to ensure that LAA target reporting covers rural parameters effectively. Equally, in terms of the Corporate Improvement Plan this will represent a developing area of work across the organisation in terms of preparing for the CAA regime. It may also be an area that the Hampshire Senate will wish to consider with regard to securing the most effective collective response to the issues raised.
5.8. Community engagement and the issue of sustainable rural communities features prominently in feedback to the County Council, and strong links with the voluntary sector will be a crucial component in tackling this agenda. The County Council will be working closely with partners in the voluntary sector to develop appropriate approaches that utilise both existing partnership arrangements and consider new approaches.
5.9. The County Council will continue to strengthen its role in influencing both the regional and national agenda concerning rural affairs in order to represent the interests of Hampshire's communities. This will include active involvement in the Regional Rural Board and Forum, and initial support for the creation and running of a Hampshire Rural Forum. This body will include wide external representation and commitment and will provide an important asset in terms of progressing effective partnership working and priorities.
5.1. The action plan presented seeks to `rural proof' County Council service delivery in rural communities and to respond directly to available evidence including consultation responses.
5.2. It also provides a major step forward in meeting the objectives set by Cabinet in 7 July 2008.
5.3. The report also identifies the need to utilise investment to develop new partnerships and projects which target priority issues in rural areas and that these partnerships will be crucial in supporting our performance within the LAA and CAA context.
Please see Executive Summary for recommendations.
CORPORATE OR LEGAL INFORMATION:
LINKS TO THE CORPORATE STRATEGY
Hampshire safer and more secure for all
Corporate Business plan link no (if appropriate)
Corporate Business plan link no (if appropriate)
Enhancing our quality of place
Corporate Business plan link no (if appropriate)
This proposal does not link to the Corporate Strategy but, nevertheless, requires a decision because:
OTHER SIGNIFICANT LINKS:
Links to Previous member decisions:
Rural Delivery Strategy for Hampshire County Council
Item 5.a1 - 5.a5
Rural Delivery Strategy for Hampshire County Council - Consultation and Development
Item 8(i) - 8(ii)
Direct Links to Specific Legislation or Government Directives
Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background documents
The following documents discuss facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and have been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report. (NB: the list excludes published works and any documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.)
Theme Leads' Action Plans
Mottisfont Court, Winchester
1. Equalities Impact Assessment:
a) Successful implementation will reduce inequalities by improving service delivery in rural areas and increase access to services. Please refer to full Equalities Impact Assessment.
2. Impact on Crime and Disorder:
a) None noted.
3. Climate Change:
a) How does what is being proposed impact on our carbon footprint / energy consumption?
More effective and efficient service delivery is expected to reduce the County Council's carbon footprint and energy consumption.
b) How does what is being proposed consider the need to adapt to climate change, and be resilient to its longer term impacts?
Adaptation to climate change is a key theme in this strategy.