Writing blank cheques

residents survey

Dear Neighbour

You will remember at the beginning of June that we made public the Final Draft Report by GL Hearn on Spelthorne’s Housing Needs, commissioned as part of the Review of the Local Plan. It had been considered at a meeting of the Local Plan Working Party which was closed to the public. (click here).

That report (and a number of other reports on previous documents which have already gone out for public consultation) will be considered by the Spelthorne Cabinet on Wednesday next week.

The Agenda for that meeting asks the Cabinet the following:

“2.2 The options for Cabinet to consider are:

(i) To AGREE publication and stakeholder involvement of the draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) report;

(ii) To NOT AGREE publication and stakeholder involvement of the draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) report.

2.3 It is proposed that Option (i) be agreed by Cabinet.”

But the SHMA report isn’t included with the Cabinet papers. How can the Cabinet make a decision on a report which they haven’t seen? Are the Cabinet in the habit of writing blank cheques written by the Officers? Perhaps they are.

But it’s not only laughable, it’s also in contravention of the law – to be precise, The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.

The SHMA report (which is a report commissioned jointly by Spelthorne and Runnymede) is also on the Agenda of the Runnymede Planning Committee at the same time on the same evening. Unusually for Runnymede – who usually make public these kind of documents at the earliest opportunity – the SHMA report isn’t included with their Committee papers either.

The Runnymede Planning Committee Agenda does say the following, however:

“Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA)

2.1 The Council and its HMA partner, Spelthorne Borough Council, are currently consulting on the final draft version of the SHMA. The four week consultation period began on 27 May and will conclude on 26 June. It is a focussed consultation with our Duty to Co-operate partners. As agreed at the most recent SHMA JMLG meeting, officers at the local authorities with which we are consulting have been advised that the document is for consideration by officers only at this stage and should not be released into the public domain. The document will be published on both Runnymede and Spelthorne’s websites following the conclusion of the consultation.”  (our emphasis).

So, Runnymede have withheld the report on the advice of officers from “other authorities”, which was agreed at the last meeting of the SHMA Joint Member Liaison Group (JMLG).

Who attends that JMLG? Representatives from Spelthorne and Runnymede.

We are not taking any further bets on which local authority advised Runnymede not to release the report to the public.

As it happens, and just like the last time, we have received a number of copies of this report, which can be viewed here (if you really are finding it difficult to get to asleep):

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – Cabinet Report

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 1-18 – Contents & Executive Summary

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 19-50 – Introduction, Defining the HMA

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 51-62 – Characteristics of the Housing Market

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 63-80 – Assessing Overall Housing Need

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 81-100 – Affordable Housing Need

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 101-116 – Market Signals

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 117-124 – Economic-Led Housing Requirements

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 125-136 – Requirements for Different Sizes of Homes

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 137-164 – Specific Groups in the Population

SHMA – GL Hearn Final Draft Report – pp 165-185 – Conclusions and Recommendations & Appendices

 

As if to ram the point home – and no doubt with totally unconscious irony –  also on the Agenda at next Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting are the results of the 2014 Spelthorne Residents Survey.

When asked whether residents were satisfied with Spelthorne as a place to live, 83% were satisfied – the worst result in Surrey. Only 73% were satisfied with the way the Council runs things. Only 45% thought the Council provides value for money, and less than a third thought they had any influence in Council decisions.

Click here for the full results.

Now that’s what’s called a democratic deficit. Perhaps the Council should connect the dots.

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