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SOUTHEND-ON-SEA BOROUGH COUNCIL

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SOUTHEND-ON-SEA BOROUGH COUNCIL

    SOUTHEND-ON-SEA BOROUGH COUNCIL

    Meeting of Business Ratepayers Consultative Forum

    Date: Thursday, 1st February, 2007

    Place: Civic Suite, Civic Centre, Southend-on-Sea

Present: Councillor Foster (Chairman),

     Councillors Holdcroft, Mrs. Carr, Mrs. Holland, Lamb, Kelly, I. Robertson, D.

    Garston

In Attendance: R. Tinlin, R. Szadziewski and F. Abbott

     Representing Federation of Small Business Mr. K. Wickham

     Representing Leigh-on-Sea Town Council Cllrs B. Abbot and Mrs. Rowswell and

    Mr. G. Fulford

     Representing Residents Associations:

     - Mr. R. Stuck, Montague Court, Hamlet Court Road

     - Mr. E. Cornish & Mr. Perkins, West Leigh

     - Mrs. B. Smith & Mr. B. Payne, Westborough Residents

     Representing Southend Business & Tourism Partnership Mr. R. Fisher

Start/End Time: 20.30/22.05

**** Part I

1 Apologies and substitutions.

    Apologies for absence were received from Mr. L. Lesser (Business & Tourism

    Partnership) and from Mr. R. Woodley (BERA).

    Formal introductions were made by those present.

2 Declarations of interest.

    There were no declarations of interest made

    3 Minutes of the Meeting held on Thursday, 2nd February, 2006

    The minutes from the meeting held on 2nd February 2006 were noted.

    4 2007/08 Council Tax - Consideration of Budget Report and Questions

    The representatives from outside organisations had received a copy of the financial

    report considered at the Cabinet meeting held on 7th January 2007 and considered at

    the Scrutiny Committees. They additionally received a copy of the draft fees and

    charges for services in 2007/08 included in the budget proposals for 2007/08, and which

    will be considered by Cabinet on 6th February 2007.

    Representatives attending the meeting had submitted questions prior to the meeting. A

    copy of the responses to the questions is attached as an Annex.

    The following questions & comments were raised at the meeting:

Small Business Rate Relief Mr. Wickham asked for information on the percentage

    uptake. The Interim Borough Treasurer undertook to provide comparative figures for

    05/06 and 06/07 and forward them to Mr. Wickham.

Procurement The Chief Executive & Town Clerk clarified the positive steps being

    taken by the Council with regard to procurement across the organisation. The changes will give the opportunity to make our money go further and also give businesses

    opportunities as well.

Business Waste Mr. Wickham said that he still had concerns about the WEE

    Regulations, which came out today, and that they have not been fully thought through. He feared that there would be a repeat of the ‘refrigerator mountain’ and wondered what

    steps the Council was envisaging it would take. The Interim Borough Treasurer said that

    the refrigerator issue had been resolved in the end nationally, and we are not able to solve such issues alone.

Cory contract Mr. Payne asked questions about the Cory contract and in particular

    whether wheeled bins had been considered/discussed. He explained that other urban

    areas, such as Newham, West Ham seemed to be able to cope and cited Rochford as

    another example.

The Leader explained that the Council was mindful of this and was looking at all means

    of collecting waste effectively. We also need to be aware of the environmental

    issues/urban area. The Chief Executive clarified that the Council is considering a variety

    of options for waste collection. The waste collection contract will be a 5 year contract

    and it may be beneficial to leave contracting options open. The Council has financial

    challenges though and different forms of waste collection have implications & different

    financial issues involved.

    The Leader also explained other waste challenges in terms of landfill. He thanked Mr. Payne for raising these issues with the Council.

Mr. Stuck mentioned issues in Westcliff and in particular spillage onto roads. Both he

    and Mr. Payne praised the ‘road sweepers’ for their excellent work.

Effect of the Census in response to a question, the Chief Executive & Town Clerk

    confirmed that the Council had tried to influence the government and ONS about the

    2001 census figures. The Council and the PCT believes that the actual population is

    178,000 whereas ONS stated the figure was 160,000 and falling. This has affected the

    Council enormously about ?6 ?7m in grant every year.

The Leader mentioned that the Council had met the Registrar General but had not

    been able to persuade them to change the census figure. In effect the 2001 census said

    that Southend’s population was the same in 2001 as it had been in 1991! The mid year estimates also showed an upward trend. The critical thing now is to be ready for the next

    census in 2011. The Chief Executive & Town Clerk mentioned that there are currently

    more deaths than births registered in Southend and that the town relies on people moving in to keep the population healthy and dynamic.

Car parking Mr. Wickham referred to the issue of affordable parking in the town and

    suggested closer liaison with businesses/retailers. The Leader understood the point

    being made and that there needs to be bigger focus on medium term planning. The

    Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will allow for better financial planning, which in

    turn will enable the Council to be better prepared for the financial challenges it faces.

    He confirmed that in the past the Council had been reacting to financial pressures. The

CSR will allow better preparation.

The Interim Borough Treasurer explained that the results of the CSR will be known in

    late Autumn and after then the Council will know is financial resources over 3 years.

    However, future financial settlements are likely to be tight, with an emphasis on health

    and education. He agreed that the Council should talk to the business community earlier

    and talk longer term as well.

Mr. Fisher referred to other car parks other than the town centre car parks within the

    town the seafront, Leigh, the RBS development, Fossetts Farm etc which need to be taken into account of without restricting investment into the town centre itself.

The Chief Executive & Town Clerk confirmed that there are interlinked challenges and

    that the Council is investing in the infrastructure to support public transport.

Mr. Payne asked whether a Park & Ride scheme was being considered. The Leader

    mentioned the geographical nature of the town needed to be considered and there may

    be opportunities for ‘Park & Train’. There are suites of measures to be looked at but

    none are deliverable in the next financial year!

Referring to car park charges, Mr. Fisher mentioned that this needed to be more

    user-friendly to allow for example, machines being able to accept notes. He also queried

    the proposed fees and charges for car parking and queried whether it was worthwhile

    increasing a charge by only 5p. The Chief Executive & Town Clerk thanked Mr. Fisher

    for his comments and advised that the Cabinet is committed to trialing ‘pay on exit’ on

    one of the car parks.

Mr. Fulford mentioned that the governments parking standards for developments also

    makes the situation worse.

Phase 3 of A13 Cllr Abbot queried the success of Phases 1 and 2 as it is a great waste

    to use the A13 as a ‘car park’. He believed that for Phase 3, this issue needed to be

    sorted. He suggested that the A13 could become something like the London ‘Red

    Route’.

The Leader however stated that there is another side to the issue as the A13 has

    numerous number of shops and businesses along it. There is an issue of balance

    between upgrading the A13 and control operations. The issue of car traders though is

    one which has come to the fore again. The Chief Executive & Town Clerk advised that

    the Council is currently looking at ways to upgrade how this is dealt with. Councillor

    Kelly also mentioned that it is extremely difficult to put in a scheme which would

    differentiate between a shopper and a business/shop owner!

Mr. Cornish mentioned that he was surprised to hear that the Council is still waiting for

    funding for Phase 3. WS Atkins had undertaken a survey in 2003 and he had raised

    queries at the partnership meeting in March 2006. At that meeting, Mr. Cornish said that

    he was advised that ?1m had been ring fenced for this project (and ?.5m for the Travel

    Centre). He was also told that ‘work would start in October’.

The Chief Executive & Town Clerk advised that Mr. Cornish’s view of events was

    correct. The Council is awaiting confirmation from the government that ?1m has been

    allocated. The Leader said that this reflects the funding issues for transport nationally.

    The government is not in a position to provide funding Priory Crescent is a case in point. A further difficulty is that the government has also changed it approach to how to

    fund local transport plans.

Councillor Garston reiterated that the Council is doing all it can to get a favourable

decision on this. Cllr Garston is to attend a meeting next week with civil servants at the

    regional office to try to resolve the issue. Councillor Lamb stressed that the schemes is

    importance to the whole town.

Dwellings and jobs targets 2001 2021 Mr. Fulford had asked a question on the

    dwellings and jobs target for the region and for Southend. The Leader explained that

    EERA had been advised that the targets should be viewed as ‘minimum’. Locally, our

    housing completions are ahead of a rolling target and this has been achieved without

    any kind of intervention. Cllr Garston stressed that Southend needs the infrastructure to

    go with developments. The Leader confirmed that the town needs employment led

    growth. He also clarified that the Ranges development was not on the horizon and was

    a long term aspiration.

Youth facilities Mr. Cornish had asked a question about the youth facility in Leigh at the

    community centre and whether the Council would consider opening discussions with

    local schools to provide their premises/playing fields for out of hours use.

The Leader mentioned the government initiative for developing play facilities and

    enhancement in the town and the Council is mindful of the need to improve facilities for

    youth. Tapping into finance for this is the issue.

The Chief Executive & Town Clerk mentioned that schools within the borough are

    opening for longer e.g. Temple Sutton school which is an extended school and has a

    community library on site as well. However as some schools are Foundation schools it is not always easy to influence what they do. The real challenges are access to necessary finance; working out what young people actually want; finding adults to help

    run them.

    Councillor Mrs. Carr advised that the Leigh facility has been replicated across the town and mentioned the improvements to the Focus centre and Shoebury facility

    refurbishment, funded by the Connexions Service.

    Mr. Cornish suggested that the facilities could be publicised more.

Cllr Abbot mentioned that the Town Council, in partnership, was hopeful to provide a

    high quality skateboard park at Leigh Marshes. A bid for lottery funding has been

    submitted and the Council is awaiting confirmation of the award. He also mentioned that

    the Town Council has given an undertaking to clean and maintain the facility.

Mr. Wickham helpfully suggested that for a facility to work, the youth needed ‘ownership’

    of what is provided and need to engage youth in any decision made. Cllr Abbot

    confirmed that this had been taken on board in the plans for the facility.

Councillor Mrs. Holland also referred to a further application made to Cory Trust for a

    skateboard facility in Eastwood Park ward.

    5 Conclusions

    The Chairman closed the meeting and thanked all the representatives for attending the useful meeting.

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