Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel

 

                                                              Item 7.1

 

Report of the Meeting of the Section 106 Monies Working Group to

 

(1) Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel, 19th May 2008 and

 

(2) Finance and Performance Policy and Scrutiny Panel, 22nd May 2008

 

The following meeting took place on Monday 28th May 2008, at 3.00 pm in the Steepholm Room :

 

Members of the Working Group:

 

Councillors Pasley (Chair), Iles, Garner, Moulin, McMurray

 

Apologies: Cllr Horler

 

In attendance: Ms M Watts and Mr R Dowding

 

The Chairman explained that he and Councillor Iles had been given a presentation of the new Section 106 database prior to the meeting.  The database, currently in Microsoft Access would be transferred to Sequel.  It was anticipated that the database will take a further six months to complete.  Both Councillors Pasley and Iles were pleased with the demonstration they had been given and felt confident the new database will be of considerable help to officers and Members when the system goes live.  Approximately 803 Section 106 boundaries were available on the database.

 

It had been agreed by the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel and the Finance and Performance Policy and Scrutiny Panel that the Section 106 Monies Working Group meet again to consider in detail the response of the Executive Members to the recommendations of the working group. The working group would then report back to the next meetings of both Panels in May 2008. Officers from the Development and Environment and the Finance and Resources Directorates were invited to this meeting to ensure that full information was available to Members.  It was felt that the report from the Executive was a little negative and slightly condescending in tone when in fact the Working Group’s initial report was more upbeat and positive in approach.  There was no set agenda therefore the Chairman proposed that the report detailing the response of the Executive Members be used for the meeting (a copy of that report is attached as Appendix 1).

 

 

 

Introduction:

 

Members of the Working Group (WG) were disappointed that they had not been made aware of the existence of “highly relevant background papers” in the form of national guidance on best practice.  Mr Dowding offered to provide Members with details of these publications.

 

Working Group recommendation 1 – Executive response:

 

1.                              It is agreed that proposals in recommendation 8 will fulfil the requirement as stated in recommendation 1.

2.                              The Working Group feel transparency and greater flexibility of 106 agreements should be an aim of North Somerset Council.

3.                              Future Section 106 agreements should include a system to include officer involvement so that agreements can be more efficiently expedited.

4.                              Appropriate stakeholders and other community groups should be included along with Parish and Town Councils during consultation periods.

5.                              It is agreed that it is not possible to commit officers to attend all meetings with Parish and Town Councils and the wider groups.  There is a need to discriminate between ‘the big hitters’ against the rest.

6.                              We are pleased that Area Committees are now advised of head of terms but the Working Group would like to monitor the reports for quality and consistency.

7.                              Quarterly Area Committee reports should commence with immediate effect.

 

Working Group recommendation 2 – Executive response:

 

1.                              We note the comment that presentations should be given when the tariff system begins but as the exact timing of the introduction of the tariff system is not yet known, we feel time is of the essence and presentations to Town and Parish Councils should continue with immediate effect (resources permitting).

 

2.                              It is suggested that Local Area Agreements should be utilised.

 

Working Group recommendation 3 – Executive response:

 

1.                              The Working Group feels that ‘producing a plain English version’ has been misunderstood and therefore recommend that an executive summary in plain English is essential for the lay-person to digest when viewing a Section 106 agreement.  It is felt the planning officer would be the most obvious person to write the summary in plain English.  The summary should be no more that a single A4 sheet.

 

Working Group recommendation 4 – Executive response:

1.                              Members of the Working Group are very pleased with the work being undertaken by officers and are looking forward to seeing the project going live in approximately 6 months time.  Officers and Members will be able to use the database to monitor the progress of current Section 106 agreements and look back at past agreements.

 

Working Group recommendation 5 – Executive response:

 

1.                              Noted

 

Working Group recommendation 6 – Executive response:

 

1.                              The Working Group considers the production of status management reports to be essential for a better understanding of Section 106 and for improved communications on the subject.

 

2.                              There has to be a minimum level of information available to Area Committees in order for the reports to have any value, if this can be achieved on “the basis of simple flag up of current schemes and progress”, fine but the Working Group would like to evaluate the first reports to ascertain value to users.

 

3.                              Quarterly reports should be produced.

 

4.                              Confirmation of a start date required as well please?

 

Working Group recommendation 7 – Executive response:

 

1.                              The Working Group did not or would not consider any database as a “panacea”, we do however consider an accurate database as bridging knowledge gaps that could save considerable time and resources in the future.

 

2.                              The Working Group have not suggested that the Council is able to change agreements but we are recommending investigating the opportunities to approach developers where an existing agreement may no longer be in the best interest of the local community for reasons of time lapses and/or change in local circumstances.  This could also be described as ascertaining whether individual agreements are fit for purpose.

 

Working Group recommendation 8 – Executive response:

 

1.                              This item is covered in recommendation 1.

 

WG recommendation 9 – Executive response:

 

1.                              The Working Group feels that this is an area that requires improvement in the current process.

2.                              Each new Section106 agreement should consider the ‘total package’ to potentially find solutions to staff shortages.

 

3.                              We recommend developing criteria by which we should review and monitor on-costs relating to resource levies.

 

Working Group recommendation 10 – Executive response:

 

1.                              Noted

 

Working Group recommendation 11 – Executive response:

 

1.                              Noted

 

Summary:

 

There is now estimated to be approximately £14.5 million in current Section 106 agreements across the District, this does not include interest accrued during this financial year which could amount to a further £200K.  The Working Group considers its work on the subject of S106 agreements to be ongoing and not restricted to this report.  It is our aim to keep an eye on the Section 106 process as our recommendations are put in to place. 

 

We are reliably informed that the new database will be going live in approximately 6 months time.  We wish however to set a target date for the implementation of this new database of September 2008.  We recommend that the working group monitor the introduction and implementation of this exciting new development within North Somerset Council and at six monthly intervals thereafter.

 

Recommendation

 

That the conclusions and recommendations of the Section 106 Monies Working Group be endorsed and forwarded to the Executive Member for Strategic Planning and Transport and the Executive Member for Finance, Property and Human Resources

 

28th April 2008

Cllr D Pasley