The Council Plan set out the Council’s vision and priorities and formed part of a suite of corporate documents and linked closely with the Medium Term Financial Plan. These documents formed part of the Council’s Policy Framework and underpinned the Council’s approach to governance and community leadership. The current Council Plan was for the period 2014 to 2019, and had been updated on an annual basis since 2014.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader and Housing, People and Innovation Portfolio Holder, presented a new draft Plan which was intended to run from 2019 to 2024. In developing the Plan, the vision had been revised to add the words “working together” to reflect that the Council could not achieve its ambition alone, and that it worked with partners to deliver on its vision and ambitions.
The vision, as stated in the draft Council Plan, was, “Working together to make South Lakeland the best place to live, work and explore.” To achieve the vision, the Council’s areas of focus were:-
· creating an environment for people to thrive;
· delivering excellent value-for-money, services;
· playing a leading role and influencing others;
· empowering customers and communities; and
· forward thinking, innovative Council.
As with previous versions, the Council Plan retained the following values:-
· Empowering People - By listening to our customers and our employees their ideas and comments will help us make improvements to customer service and workforce development.
· Excellence - Seeking continuous improvement in what we do, ensuring that our actions address the needs of South Lakeland.
· Open and Transparent - Being courteous, efficient and transparent in our dealings with the public.
The Council Plan set out the challenges and opportunities that the district faced in the short, medium and long term. These were described in detail in Appendix 3 to the report. In brief, the challenges and opportunities were:-
· South Lakeland’s demography;
· financial resilience;
· affordable housing;
· rise in obesity levels and inactivity;
· access to better training and development; and
· education and skills.
In order to meet the challenges and maximise opportunities, the Council Plan set out the delivery of the vision by:-
· working across boundaries to deliver to communities that,
· creates the right balance across different age groups that,
· reduces inequalities so that no one is left behind that,
· creates a sustainable and inclusive economy.
In addition to the Council Plan, an Executive Summary, detailed at Appendix 4 to the report, had been developed. This document stated the high level priorities across the cross-cutting themes to deliver the overall strategic aims of the Council.
Developing a sustainable and inclusive economy was a key element of the new Council Plan. This reflected growing awareness of the importance of Climate Change and the Council’s role in tackling it. A draft policy, as detailed at Appendix 5 to the report, represented a public recognition of the importance of Climate Change, an awareness of the opportunities offered by both tackling and adapting to meet the challenge of climate change and a series of ways in which the Council could reflect the importance of climate change both in how it managed itself and how it worked with partners at local, regional and national level.
The Principal Performance and Intelligence Officer reiterated the importance of the emphasis of “working together” and explained how the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would continue to be involved in monitoring performance against the Council Plan.
Members discussed the draft Council Plan and draft Council Policy on Climate Change at length.
The Principal Performance and Intelligence Officer, in response to a query on the Equality Action Plan, explained that AWAZ Cumbria was an equal opportunities group which represented black and minority ethnic people and communities in Cumbria, with whom the Council had consulted. The statistics contained within the Plan were based at district level, however, he advised that it would be possible for officers to examine the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and to try to provide more localised details.
A comment was raised with regard to the need for the inclusion of information on what the Council would do to achieve its commitments, for example, on how it would ensure that new development was flood resilient, particularly in view of climate change. The Development Strategy and Housing Manager informed Members that there were new development management policies coming forward to Council in the near future which would strengthen the Council’s hand in this area - the Council Plan was a strategy so did not include the finer detail. Councillor Brook stressed that the idea behind the Plan was to keep it simple which was why it not include a lot of detail. He suggested, however, that it could be strengthened with the inclusion of links to where additional information on each subject was available, and undertook to look into this. The Council Plan had historically been a paper document but the organisation was looking towards digitisation and ease of linkage as part of the delivery of Council documents.
Councillor Vincent, Economy and Assets Portfolio Holder, responded to concerns relating to the decreasing numbers of young people living in South Lakeland. He explained that the Council Plan included measures that would, in time, allow the Council to carry out research in the area of attracting young people to the district. He drew attention to the fact that embedded within the Plan were means by which to promote the provision of jobs, homes, schools, health provision, etc., and that the finer details would be embodied within the relevant actions plans. Councillor Vincent also highlighted the fact that the Council was working closely with colleges and universities, for example Lancaster, whose courses applied to the Council Plan, such as business engineering, renewable energy and environmental science. It was raised that not all young people were graduates and that apprenticeships needed to be encouraged, but that this was not mentioned in the section on creating opportunities for young people. Councillor Vincent drew attention to the fact that the Council was working on this with Kendal College and a school provider in Barrow. He informed Members that the Council’s Business Support Programme included actions around encouraging apprenticeships and that local industries were being asked to advise the Council on what types of skills were required. Councillor Brook acknowledged the point made and undertook to include an additional bullet point regarding apprenticeships.
Reference was made to the Council’s aspiration of improving the wellbeing of residents and the need to address the crisis around those people living in isolation who required public transport, especially buses. It was felt that the Council could assist through encouraging and influencing community interest groups to form co-operatives to provide transport services. Councillor Brook acknowledged that this could be looked into. Councillor Philip Dixon, Health and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder, undertook to raise this suggestion at the next meeting of the Building Financial Resilience group.
In response to strong concerns raised with regard to inequalities experienced by those living in rural areas which, it was felt, required addressing, for example transport and provision of health services, and, in particular, the aging population within rural areas, Councillor Brook indicated that he would be willing to strengthen aspects within the Plan relating to these issues. He stressed, however, the need to recognise the limit of the Council’s actions where other organisations or tiers of local government were responsible.
In closing, Councillor Brook informed the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that, when the document reached its final stage, he would be able to draw attention to those comments taken on board.
RESOLVED – That, subject to consideration of the comments raised, Cabinet be recommended to endorse, for recommendation to Council, the following:-
(1) the draft Council Plan; and
(2) the draft Council Policy on Climate Change.