Executive Portfolio Holder Report for Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) – Councillor Sarah Wakefield.
To provide a verbal update on LGR progress. This has been requested as a standing item on the agenda by the Chair, Cllr Sue Buller.
This item was brought forward on the agenda to enable the Portfolio Holder for Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) and the Community Governance Review (CGR), Cllr Sarah Wakefield to attend Ruishton Parish Council meeting.
LGR - Digital Changes
Marcus Prouse updated the Committee on the proposed digital changes which are due to take place from 5pm Thursday 19 January until 8am Monday 23 January. This important work is to move all the ICT systems over to the SCC platform in advance of vesting day. Some of the other districts have already transferred and it is hoped that the lessons learnt will enable a smooth transfer for SWT. Members should save all work on their device and log out by 4.45pm on 19 January. All systems will be shut down by 5pm and any unsaved work will be lost. There will be no access to IT during this period and into week commencing 23 January.
SWT iPads and SWT mobile phones do not need to be left on but there will be no access to any Microsoft 365 apps such as Outlook, OneDrive, Teams, Word, Excel, etc. during the cutover weekend. Mobile phones can be used to make and receive calls and text messages.
After the cutover weekend (from Monday 23 January), priority will be given to restoring customer facing servicesfirst and getting staff operational again. Support for Members is being planned for later in the week and details will be issued as soon as they are available.
LGR – Peer Review
The outcome of the Peer Review was that the assessing team could see the level of work and activity was progressing well in anticipation of vesting day, but that a more long term view needed to be taken. It was highlighted that whilst it was necessary for all operations and systems to be safe and legal on the 1 April, it would be the ongoing work towards transformation that would make the savings as outlined in the One Somerset business case. Overall, however the assessment was very positive and there was a recognition that the various work streams and teams were working well together.
LGR – Local Community Networks (LCN)
A report will be taken to the SCC Executive Committee on 18 January which will outline and make recommendations for the LCN geographies and boundaries. It is likely that these will be slow to implement and unlikely to be ready for Day1 of the new Council. Budgets and Governance need to be aligned and this may take some time. Parish Councils who wish to take on assets and or services from the principal council will need to precept for this themselves, and make provision in their budgets. Unlike the larger councils, parishes are not subject to capping on their precept, so can set it at a higher rate if they wish.
LGR – Planning Committees
The Planning process is being reviewed across the 4 district councils, and the new planning constitution is being drawn up. This is due to be taken to the Constitution and Governance Committee at SCC on the 30 January 2023. At the present time, due to the fact there are 5 local plans in existence, (as SWT has 2, inherited from former West Somerset and Taunton Deane DC) it is proposed to have 4 planning sub-committees determining applications within the geography of the respective Local Plans. The members determining the applications will be representative of their local area and will have knowledge of current planning legislation and issues.
LGR – Recruitment of Executive Directors
This is currently happening with the Tier2 appointments going through the interview process and selection. The outcome will shape the nature of services going forward.
Service workstream check-lists are being worked through to ensure that nothing is missed prior to vesting day.
All staff have now been transferred to the SAP Payroll IT system so that they are on one platform prior to vesting day.
CGR – Taunton Town Council
Work is ongoing. The legal challenge that was presented to SCC is being worked through at County level.
The following comments and questions were received:-
· Cllr Whetlor reminded the Committee that just because Parish Councils were not subject to having their precept capped, it did not mean that they should increase it substantially. The burden to pay would fall on the Council Tax payer who was already experiencing hardships due to the Cost-of-Living crisis. It would be more prudent to adjust the precept at a reasonable level and see what services were affordable.
· Cllr Cavill asked if there would be consistency in the planning process across the new Council? Whilst there are 5 local plans and various IT systems there cannot be consistency as the 4 local sub-committees will be working to different guidelines. The first priority will be to get all the areas onto 1 ICT system, and going forward to draw up a Local Plan for the whole of Somerset. In the meantime, the work-around is to ensure that the sub-committees are operational and can be ready to work from Day1.
Cllr Wakefield left the meeting at 6:50pm