Tandridge District Council – Press Release 30 Jan 17

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 30.1.17

Committee asked to approve a new operating model for the council and property investment fund

Next week’s Resources Committee on 7 February will be asked to agree in principle a new operating model for the district council, along with a new property investment fund. Both initiatives form part of the Council’s financial plan to ensure it becomes self-sufficient as government funding reduces.

The operating model will be introduced as part of the Council’s Customer First project. The report sets out a new structure for the council which is not service based and outlines a future ICT strategy which supports a single customer record. By restructuring the way staff work and automating as many processes as possible, it will be easier for those who can go online to access services themselves, while more time will be available to help more vulnerable customers.

Transformation on the scale envisaged cannot be achieved without significant investment. The estimated cost of the project is around £3.5-£4m over a two to three year period, but it is also estimated to return savings of up to £1.5m a year, every year. In addition some of the savings may be used to enhance current services or provide new ones.

The property investment fund is a new way of investing to generate funding to complement the savings which will be achieved through implementing the Customer First project.

Over the next three years the Council needs to find £1m of savings or new income each year to offset reduced government funding and increased costs. Careful financial planning has led to a balanced budget in 2017/2018, with a recommendation for a £5 increase in council tax (for Band D), which is below the government’s capping threshold.

In 2017/2018 and the following two financial years, the implementation of both these initiatives will help generate the £1m of savings and income needed to balance the budget.

Councillor Martin Fisher, Leader of the Council, said: “These are challenging times for local government and to meet that challenge we need to change the way we work and make the best use of technology to ensure we can continue to deliver the type of services our residents and businesses expect and value.”

“Our financial planning means we are in a really good position to meet the gap left by reduced funding, by becoming more efficient and also looking for new ways to generate income. The government has made it clear that local councils must become self-financing.”

Objectively Assessed Housing Need

I read with interest Simon Morrow’s (Lib Dem) letter in the County Border News where he asserts that Tandridge District Council’s proposed Objectively Assessed Need figure (OAN) of 9,400 over the next twenty years is a calculation process laid down by government, followed by the predictable response from Catherine Sayer (the OLRG party) that it is wrong, inflated and flawed. This is because her party asserts it is higher than the projected increase for Surrey and the South East and that is based on recent high rates of housebuilding, unique to Tandridge.

These same denials of reality are consistently made on social media by OLRG’s mystery supporters “maigret” and “mike mcguiness”. Despite repeatedly being asked, both within the Council chamber and outside, what alternative they offer, the OLRG party has refused to make any positive suggestions at all.

I recently conducted a survey of 70 districts, town and borough councils in the south east and set out in the table below is a summary for these 70 planning authorities by county.

County Population Households Average

Household

OAN

per annum

Growth

 

Surrey 1,152,000 475,000 2.4 5,700 1.2%
Berkshire 576,000 227,000 2.5 2,900 1.3%
Buckinghamshire 516,000 204,000 2.5 2,500 1.2%
East Sussex 535,000 239,000 2.2 1,900 0.8%
Essex 1,417,000 596,000 2.4 6,400 1.1%
Hertfordshire 1,141,000 477,000 2.4 6,100 1.3%
Kent 1,494,000 613,000 2.4 8,900 1.5%
Oxfordshire 666,000 259,000 2.6 5,000 1.9%
West Sussex 821,000 363,000 2.3 4,100 1.1%
           
Total 8,318,000 3,453,000 2.4 43,500 1.3%
           
Tandridge DC 85,000 36,000 2.4 470 1.3%

 

This demonstrates the Tandridge OAN growth of 1.3% is consistent with other planning authorities. It is the same as the average for 70 south east councils and the Tandridge OAN.

This is not surprising as the OAN number is, as Simon Morrow says, a calculation based on Office of National Statistics population growth forecasts for which a main driver is an increasing population and a projection that the average household will fall from about 2.4 to nearer to 2.2. The OAN in twenty years does not simply extrapolate the previous ten years’ housebuilding rates.

The inflated inward migration continually referred to by the OLRG party ignores an important trend. The younger population cannot afford to live in Tandridge where house prices are 14 times average earnings, compared with 8 for England, which may lead to a further ageing population profile as middle aged inward migrants replace outward migrating young people.

As a responsible planning authority committed to ensuring the district remains somewhere people want to live, work and visit, our plans need to help address this. This can only be done by providing places people want to live, while protecting our green spaces and enhancing our infrastructure.

The Local Plan is about getting control of tomorrow. So it’s time the OLRG party stopped attacking a prescribed process and actually came up with some practical, workable solutions which do not just focus on no development for the area, but which address the crisis we are facing of unaffordable homes for local people, combined with an aging population and high living costs.

 

I therefore agree with Simon Morrow’s original point and welcome his non-party political approach to this difficult issue.

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 20 Jan 17

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 20.1.17

Policy committees agree budgets and priorities

Tandridge District Council’s four policy committees met last week to agree budgets and priorities for 2017/2018 and beyond.

The Community Services Committee met on Monday to approve the budget, with no reduction in services and savings of 6%. Key achievements:

  • Saving £700,000 in contract costs since changing the recycling and waste contract in 2014 and increasing recycling rates from 32% to 62%.
  • Keeping public toilets open and maintaining street sweeping and grass cutting.
  • Budgeting to refurbish two more children’s play areas.
  • Starting a parking review across Tandridge, to find a better way to balance the competing needs of shoppers, local businesses and commuters.

Tuesday’s Housing Committee also agreed its budget and met a 9% savings target, with no reduction in services. Key achievements:

  • Providing and extending the Wellbeing Prescription through partnership working.
  • Building 8 new council houses, with 33 in the pipeline and making improvements to existing homes.
  • Across the district 122 affordable homes are currently under construction.
  • Joining the government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to home up to 10 Syrian refugee households over five years.

On Wednesday the Planning Policy Committee approved a budget which included an increase of 19%. This is the only committee to have had an approved increase, to reflect the volume of work being carried out to deliver a new Local Plan. Key achievements:

  • Investment in Planning Policy to deliver a robust and sound Local Plan, which will aim to support an environment where people want to live, work and visit.
  • Processing planning applications more efficiently – the Council is in the top 25% of councils for processing planning applications and fourth in Surrey.
  • Coming in the top 7% in England and second in Surrey for determining major planning applications.

Last night’s Resources Committee agreed an 11% reduction in its budget, without cutting services, while setting out an ambitious set of priorities for the Council over the next year. If endorsed by full Council on 23 February, by May 2018:

  • A Customer First strategy will start to change the way the Council delivers services to ensure customers have easy access to the right information at the right time, while providing help for the more vulnerable or those not able to help themselves.
  • Work will start to enhance town centres, with a Master Plan for Caterham and a regeneration scheme for Oxted.
  • The Council will work with other organisations to put in place measures to help reduce the impact of flooding in Caterham.
  • An investment strategy will be implemented to ensure the long term financial viability of the Council, without big council tax rises or drastic cuts to services.
  • The viability of a lottery scheme will be explored, which will support community groups, as well as provide additional income for the Council to help fund local groups.

Councillor Martin Fisher, Leader of the Council, said: “There is no doubt we are in challenging times, government funding is reducing and we are continuously exploring ways to generate an income to support the services we know our residents and businesses expect and value. This week our officers, working closely with councillors, have delivered plans which will make sure we remain able to support the community, particularly those who need extra help. Our auditors KPMG recently concluded the way we manage our finances ensures we take properly informed decisions and make best use of our resources to achieve planned and sustainable outcomes for the district and that we are in a good position to meet the tough financial challenges ahead.”

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 18 Jan 17

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 18.1.17

Council to support government funded Syrian refugee resettlement programme

Last night’s Housing Committee, agreed to support the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement programme (VPR). Tandridge District Council will offer to assist up to 10 Syrian refugee households over a five year period, subject to the availability of suitable properties and the capacity of the Family Support Team to provide the necessary support.

The government has pledged to resettle 20,000 refugees over five years from refugee camps bordering Syria and has invited all councils to participate. The programme is targeted to help the most vulnerable households in the camps identified by the Home Office, which handles their refugee applications and carries out the screening and vetting checks before they come to the UK.

The Council will need to provide a home for any family for at least the first 12 months from their date of arrival. The Council intends to use private sector housing, rather than council housing, to make sure these properties are still available for residents on the housing register, although some harder to let sheltered housing may be used.

In addition to providing a home, the Council would also need to provide support and assistance to a household to enable them to adapt to a new country and integrate into the local community. This would involve specialist casework support and assistance with access to education, health care and language skills.

Over time it is expected that households would become less dependent and more self-sufficient, particularly in terms of securing employment and be in a position to secure their own accommodation longer term.

Within Surrey, eight of the 11 districts have so far joined the VPR programme.  Participating councils receive funding from the Home Office to cover their associated costs.

Councillor David Weightman, Chairman of the Housing Committee, said: “As a council it is our duty to support Syrian refugees, but we need to ensure we have the resources to help these families settle successfully. We don’t want to impose a financial burden on our residents or disadvantage local families in housing need in the district.”

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 5 Jan 17

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 5.1.17

Council thanks residents for taking part in the Local Plan Sites Consultation

The Local Plan: Sites Consultation which gave residents an opportunity to comment on sites being assessed as part of the creation of a new Local Plan has now closed. The Council would like to thank all the residents that took part either by attending one of the eight drop in sessions held across the District or by submitting comments.

All the comments received are being processed and added to the consultation portal. The comments will be analysed and taken into account as the Council prepares the next version of the Local Plan. The analysed representations will be set out in a statement of consultation, which will be taken to a future Planning Policy Committee and available for the public to view.

The next step is the preparation of a draft Local Plan containing all the policies and proposals to shape the development of the District for the next 20 years. This draft Local Plan will be the subject of public consultation before it is submitted to an independent examiner.

To be kept up to date and make sure they can get involved residents can:

  • Register on the consultation portal http://consult.tandridge.gov.uk/portal to receive e-mail updates. Anyone who has already registered will automatically receive updates.
  • Send their e-mail address to localplan@tandridge.gov.uk if they don’t want to register on the portal, so it can be added to the updates list.
  • Send their postal address to Planning Policy, Council Offices, 8 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT or call 01883 722000 if they don’t have an e-mail address.

Councillor Peter Bond, Chairman of the Planning Policy Committee, said: “Thank you to everyone who took part in the Local Plan Sites Consultation which ran for eight weeks. All your comments are now being reviewed and will be taken into account for the preparation of the next stage of the Local Plan. The final Local Plan will set out where homes, jobs, community facilities, shops and infrastructures can be delivered and identify the areas that need to be protected. We want to ensure we create an environment where people want to live, work or visit.”