Leader's Message - Autumn 2017Published Tuesday, 17 October 2017
This is my second message as leader and I am pleased to report that we have made progress over the last four months, but there is lot more to achieve.
As stated in my last message, there will be no more Government handouts to local government. We have lost 40 per cent of our income from the revenue support grant, so have set about driving the local economy and pressing for the Government to allow local government to retain business rates.
The council’s management structure has been reorganised to create a cohesive planning and economic development department and recruitment advertisements placed for a new director to lead it.
Exciting times for tourism
The council’s new economic development committee met for the first time on 27 September under the chairmanship of Rupert Swarbrick and one of its first tasks is to review the borough’s tourism policy in consultation with tourism providers.
The committee approved a new Heritage and Tourism Trail, which will feature Longridge Heritage Centre, the Ribchester Roman Museum, Stonyhurst College, Browsholme Hall, Clitheroe Castle and villages like Downham and Slaidburn.
The Clitheroe town centre development configuration has been approved by the council’s policy and finance committee. A steering group has been set up to finalise the details and it is hoped we will have a final design by Christmas, and a planning application brought forward by the spring.
In parallel with driving the local economy, the council’s policy and finance committee has set up a communications working group, which is overseeing a new web site to promote the work of the council, attract new jobs and rebrand the borough as an excellent location in which to live, work and play.
Lancashire Combined Authority
Our role in the wider region is important and I met Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry MP to explain our position on the Lancashire Combined Authority. He informed me that rural counties like Lancashire will not be required to have a mayor and he will be making announcements on the way forward for combined authorities soon.
In the meantime I have indicated to him and the leaders of the other 14 Lancashire authorities that as a council we will certainly take part in an Association of Lancashire Local Authorities to co-operate on infrastructure schemes and economic development with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
Recycling and refuse collection
Lancashire County Council has informed us that it will be ending the arrangement whereby it pay us for recycling credits, or cost-sharing, as it is known. This means we will have to find £430,000 in the budget for 2018-19 to maintain our excellent refuse collection service.
The options before us are changing the collection regime from weekly to three-weekly, charging for green waste, ending the collection of paper or card, or a combination of all three. These are difficult decisions, which will have to be made before Christmas and at present the council’s budget working group and recycling groups are grappling with these problems.
Housing and planning
The issue of housing is at the top of the Government’s agenda, as there is a need to build 266,000 houses a year. Only three out of Lancashire’s 14 authorities – Ribble Valley, Fylde and Chorley – have a five-year supply of housing.
The Government has now recognised a simple principle that homes need to be built where the demand exists. There is a North-South divide in housing, with the highest need in London and the South East.
In Ribble Valley, there are two main issues: the proposed formula to guide the future need of homes to be included in the five-year review of our Core Strategy and a new policy on planning and development cooperation between local authorities. We will have to respond to these proposals.
The formula proposes a reduction in Lancashire house-building from 5,202 to 3,234 units per year and a cut from 280 to 172 a year is proposed for Ribble Valley. This formula could reduce our requirement to build 1,000 homes by 2028.
The need to cooperate more fully with neighbouring councils will be very welcome in Longridge, where I have long argued for amendments to the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) requiring councils to plan together. Any reduction in our housing requirements will assist surrounding local authorities to increase their levels of house-building. We have agreed to meet the City of Preston and intend holding regular meetings with neighbouring authorities on planning issues.
Plans are afoot to turn Ribble Valley into a dementia-friendly borough. This exciting initiative is being led by Bridget Hilton, chairman of the council’s health and housing committee, and further details will be revealed in due course.
Ken Hind, leader
Ribble Valley Borough Council