MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TRANSPORT SELECT COMMITTEE HELD AT COUNTY HALL, NEWPORT, ISLE OF WIGHT ON WEDNESDAY, 30 JANUARY 2003 COMMENCING AT 9.30 AM
Mrs T M Butchers (Chairman), Mr J R Adams, Mr A C Bartlett, Mrs B D Clough, Mr M J Cunningham, Mr J Effemey, Mrs M J Lloyd (deputising for Mr J H Fleming), Mrs M J Miller, Mr V J Morey, Mrs E Oulton, Mr R C Richards (deputising for Mr C B W Chapman)
Mr C B W Chapman, Mr J H Fleming, Mr A F Tiltman
Portfolio Holders :
Mr E Fox, Mrs B Lawson
THAT the minutes of the meeting held on 19 December 2002 be confirmed.
63. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations made at this stage.
64. LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE SETTLEMENT, BUDGET FOR 2003/04 AND FORWARD PLAN FOR 2004 - 06
The Select Committee considered the report of the Strategic Director for Finance and Information and County Treasurer on the draft revenue budget for 2003-04. The background to the Council’s settlement was outlined and members noted the overall effect this would have on the Council’s finances. Of specific relevance to the Select Committee was the effect of the new Formula Spending Share (FSS) which replaced the Standing Spending Assessment. This had led to a reduction of 8.6% in the Highway Maintenance (FSS) for 2003-04 when compared with the adjusted SSA for 2002-03.
In considering the revenue implications in maintaining service levels the effect of the age equalisation legislation for concessionary fares was highlighted. Members were made aware that it was not possible to include an exact figure. It was thought that the £180,000 specified might be high but the budget proposal was that the additional costs be met from within the existing budget levels. Whilst a sum was included within the FSS for concessionary fares this was not ring fenced and it was for members to decide local priorities for service provision within the total resources available. The concessionary fares scheme was not currently monitored in terms of usage due to the costs of this and reimbursement was made in accordance with conditions specified in the contract entered into several years previously. The Council’s existing scheme was recognised nationally as being successful.
The Select Committee then queried the figures contained in the results of the public consultation exercise undertaken in November 2002 on service priorities. The Head of Policy and Communications advised that approximately 286 people had been involved and this was not seen as a statistically valid sample. The majority of these were also in the older age range. Members were concerned that the details presented were not of any value in the Council’s budget deliberations. There was an opportunity to make better use of Wight Insight or the Speak Up Panel for this exercise.
Members then debated the loss of £10,000 income arising from developments at Newport Harbour. They believed that the figure could be substantially reduced if savings could be achieved through a review of management arrangements and or increased charges for the harbour.
Members noted some elements of the budget, such as rights of way, came under the Economic Development, Planning, Tourism and Leisure Services Select Committee. It would be appropriate for the Select Committee to review its remit at its Awayday.
(a) THAT for future budget consultations a more representative group of residents be involved in the identification of budget and service priorities.
(b) THAT the loss of £10,000 income from Newport Harbour be offset by reviewing the management arrangements for the harbour.
(c) THAT the Executive be reminded of the importance of ensuring that expenditure on highways is at a level to enable the targets contained within the Council’s Local Transport Plan to be fully achieved.
(d) THAT the remit of the Select Committee be reviewed at the Awayday.
65. URGENT BUSINESS - REPORT TO EXECUTIVE RELATING TO PARKING POLICY
The Chairman raised an urgent business item relating to the report that was considered the previous day by the Executive on Parking Policy. She indicated her concern that whilst the report to the Executive referred to the discussions held by the Car Park Task Group the recommendations arising from the Select Committee’s meeting on 19 December 2002 had not been taken into account. This was particularly important on the issue of free afternoon’s parking in one car park in each of the main towns. The Task Group had recommended that this facility should be discontinued, subject to consultation with local business associations. The Select Committee, after hearing the views of representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and the Quality Transport Partnership, had decided to recommend that the free afternoon’s parking should continue but additional publicity and improved signage should be provided. The Select Committee’s views appeared not to have been taken into account by the Executive.
Members were advised that the report to the Executive had not been correctly amended by the Head of Engineering Services and officers of that section apologised for this oversight. The Portfolio Holder also indicated that if there were to be any changes to the existing arrangements these would have had to be advertised.
Members also were made aware of the need to consider the tariffs imposed on coaches for off street parking. This was a matter that should be investigated more fully by the Car Park Task Group.
(a) THAT the situation regarding the free afternoon’s car parking be noted.
(b) THAT the Car Park Task Group review the policy regarding charges imposed on off street parking for coaches.
66. VIREMENT PROCESS
At the meeting of the Select Committee on 27 November 2002 members requested a report on the procedures for approving virements within the capital programme. This had arisen due to concern expressed by members as to the additional expenditure involved in the works to the Ryde to Newport Strategic Corridor which had an effect on the Council’s ability to undertake other capital schemes.
The Strategic Director for Finance and Information and County Treasurer outlined the Council’s Financial Procedure Rules. These Rules contained the requirements and standards applied to financial transactions and budget management which were to be followed by officers. The Executive had also agreed, on 26 February 2002, to the Head of Engineering Services and the Portfolio Holder for Transport being given delegated powers to manage the 2001/02 and 2002/03 capital programme within the financial total available to enable the delivery of schemes.
The Financial Procedure Rules were currently being reviewed and this was one area that could be included within that process. The need to be able to respond quickly to adjustments required to highway schemes was appreciated by the Select Committee but it was felt that there was a need to be made aware of any significant virement at an early stage.
THAT in future reports on the monitoring of capital expenditure details of significant virements be highlighted.
67. CAPITAL BUDGET MONITORING REPORT AS AT END OF DECEMBER 2002
The Select Committee considered the report of the Strategic Director of Finance and Information and County Treasurer detailing expenditure on the highways capital programme as at 31 December 2002. Members were advised that the Council could substitute other services capital expenditure for highways capital expenditure provided that a reverse process occurred the following financial year. This enabled some flexibility in the Council’s ability to manage the overall capital programme. The Portfolio Holder indicate his wish to ensure that the Highways Capital Budget was as near to target as possible.
The highways capital settlement for 2003-04 was £5,495,000. This was a reduction of £1,287,000 over 2003-03 but this was attributable to an additional £950,000 received to cover emergency repairs to Undercliff Drive during 2002-03. It was also £399,000 greater than the sum originally indicated by the Government in December 2000. In addition a separate grant of £5.6m had been granted for the Ryde Interchange scheme. This was not a highway scheme and funding had been granted on the basis of it meeting other criteria related to the policies contained within the Local Transport Plan.
The Select Committee sought further information from officers of the Engineering Services Section on the Newport Traffic Management Scheme. A local member expressed concern about the consultation process for this. Mr P Tuck, representing the Quality Transport Partnership, also indicated that the full details of the scheme had not been discussed by the Partnership. It was noted that the Council had advised all appropriate organisations in accordance with statutory requirements. It was the intention of the Head of Engineering Services to see if any objections to the scheme could be overcome through negotiation.
With regard to bridges discussions were ongoing with Railtrack on the completion of feasibility studies into works required to Ryde St Johns and Ryde Esplanade. It was likely that a permanent weight restriction would have to be placed on the bridge at Park Road, Ryde.
The Chairman reminded the Select Committee that, at the 26 September 2002 meeting, reference had been made to the introduction of a prioritisation scheme for highway works for the 2003-04 programme. This matter had been raised by members on a number of occasions since that time and no progress appeared to have been made on the inclusion of this information supplied to the Select Committee.
THAT the relevant points score, proposed as part of the highway scheme prioritisation system, be included in all future reports on capital schemes.
68. SPEED LIMITS POLICY
The Head of Select Committee and Best Value Support reported that members had indicated that the Council’s policy for the implementation of speed limits should be reviewed. The existing policy had been agreed by the Roads and Transportation Committee on 12 March 1999. A number of changes brought about through legislation and guidance relating to road humps, traffic calming, home zones and quiet lanes impacted on the approach to determining appropriate speed limits.
It was noted that a new Road Safety Strategy would soon be finalised and this included a speed management strategy. It would be appropriate for the Select Committee to consider this document and to include other relevant stakeholders in any deabte.
THAT the draft Road Safety Strategy, including the speed management strategy, be considered at the March meeting of the Select Committee.
69. PARKING POLICY - MR J EFFEMEY
Members were advised that an item relating to the Council’s Parking Policy had been requested by Mr J Effemey under Article 9 of the Select Committee Procedure Rules.
Mr Effemey queried the viability of the utilisation of pay and display machines on Cowes Esplanade and in the Mornington Road, Cowes parking place. He circulated details of the income received from both these sites.
The Select Committee noted that the Car Park Task Group was to look at a number of related issues and this matter could included within any discussions.
THAT the matter raised by Mr Effemey be referred to the Car Park Task Group for consideration.
70. MEMBERS QUESTION TIME
Mr M Cunningham raised a question concerning to Cowes to Sandown cycle route and the need to ensure an effective link was provide through Newport. The Chairman indicated that this could be a matter for inclusion in the Select Committee’s workplan.
The Portfolio Holder for Transport also took the opportunity to inform members of the success of the Council in obtaining specific grant aid for the operation of bus services linking parts of South East Wight and also Havenstreet and Wootton.