CLP05OCT2000 bvr a21 interim report - Warwickshire County ...

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APPENDIX 1


BEST VALUE REVIEW


THE COUNCIL’S RESPONSE TO AGENDA 21


INTERIM REPORT



1.

INTRODUCTION


Agenda 21 was the title given to an international agreement reached at the
UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, requiring national
governm
ents to support sustainable development. The Government adopted
a national strategy on sustainable development in 1994, which was revised
and extended in 1997. The national strategy requires local authorities to
develop Local Agenda 21 Strategies that add
ress the issues of sustainable
development that are of particular relevance to their local communities.


An accepted definition of sustainable development is development that
improves the quality of life for us all in the present without compromising the
a
bility of future generations to meet their own needs. This involves:



social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;



effective protection for the environment;



prudent use of natural resources; and



maintaining economic growth and employment.

The Go
vernment strategy makes it clear that local authorities have an
important role to play in support of sustainable development both by directly
addressing issues like social housing provision and by providing community
leadership.


The Government has specif
ied that every local authority should adopt its own
Local Agenda 21 Strategy by 31
st

December 2000 and the main reason for
undertaking this Review was to facilitate the development of the Council’s
strategy. However, in response to the Local Government Act

2000, the
Council is now committed to an extensive and intensive programme of
consultation with individuals and interest groups with the intention of
producing a Community Plan by 31
st

March 2001. The aim of the Community
Plan
-

to promote the social, env
ironmental and economic well being of our
community


is almost identical to that of a comprehensive Agenda 21
Strategy. The Review must therefore provide the basis for developing an
Agenda 21 Strategy that meets criteria specified by the DETR without
cons
training the consultative process for the Community Plan.


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2.

THE REVIEW PROCESS


The Review was led by the Head of Audit Services, supported by officers from
each department. Two external Critical Friends were identified


an Agenda
21 Officer employed by C
oventry City Council and the Chair of Ruby Agenda
21 Round Table


to ensure that the Review was critiqued both from the
perspective of the independent expert and that of the concerned and informed
citizen. The Review has now addressed three of the 4Cs, Ch
allenge,
Compare and Consult.


Challenge


The Review established what the Council is required to do to meet its
mandatory obligations. It also used DETR guidance and evidence of good
practice to establish how best the Council might discharge those obligati
ons.


Compare


The Review involved site visits to 17 local authorities including all of the
district councils in Warwickshire and Internet and document searches
increased the number of comparitors to more than 30. The Council’s
arrangements and performance

was also compared to the DETR’s
specifications and to available good practice guidelines.


Consult


The Review has established the level of employee awareness and
understanding of Agenda 21. An exercise to consult the general public, based
on a questionna
ire in Rugby Borough News, has yet to be completed and
work is underway to consult the voluntary sector using a questionnaire and
focus groups. Consultation with Members is considered to be an important
element of the Review and one on which the views of t
he Panel are to be
sought.


3.

THE CURRENT POSITION


WHAT IS REQUIRED OF THE COUNCIL?


The DETR has grown increasingly prescriptive in defining the elements that
should be contained in a Local Agenda 21 Strategy. These are summarised in
box 1.


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The DETR has also identified the components of the process that it considers
necessary to deliver an Agenda 21 Strategy. These are set out in box 2


















Set against this prescriptiveness in terms of form and process, the guidance
as to

content presents less of a challenge to the Council. The White Paper “A
better quality of life”, which sets out the national strategy, acknowledges that:


“Part of what is needed to secure sustainable development


is obvious. It is a matter of extending e
xisting best practice


and making good glaring shortcomings. ……... Integrated

thinking is vital”



BOX 1: CORE ELEMENTS OF A LOCAL AGENDA 21 STRATEGY



A
Vision Statement

to:



Identify the main issues for the local community



Set explicit objectives



An
Action Plan

showing which organisations will take what action to

work towards
those objectives. Actions should be:



Concrete, explicit and challenging;



Realistic and practicable



Given priority rankings



Implementation Mechanisms
, covering



How things are made to happen



How performance and achievements will be assessed


BOX 2: SIX COMPONENTS OF A LOCAL AGENDA 21 PROCESS




managing the local authority’s own sustainability performance




integrating sustainability issues into mainstream policies and activities




raising awareness and education




consulting and involving the wi
der community and the general public




working in partnership with others




measuring, monitoring and reporting


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The approach of building on existing good practice is actively encouraged by
the Government Office for the West Midlands and the DETR’s own guidance
encour
ages local authorities to “rebadge” existing programmes as a way of
promoting new ways of thinking about service delivery.


In the national strategy the Government has made clear the priorities that
local authorities could be expected to address
-

if only

because of the strong
link to their statutory functions. These include:



making towns and cities better places to live and work;



the promotion of "green" transport solutions;



promoting energy efficiency; and



waste management and waste reduction.


THE COUNC
IL'S SUPPORT FOR AGENDA 21


The Council made an early response to Agenda 21 when, in 1995, it
facilitated a programme of public consultation that led to the creation of the
Rugby Agenda 21 Round Table (RA21RT). RA21RT adopted a constitution
that would hav
e allowed it to function as:



an community based forum within which concerns about sustainable
development could be addressed;



a means of promoting public awareness of and support for sustainable
development; and



a partner in the development of local and c
ommunity initiatives consistent
with principles of sustainable development.

Following its establishment the Council has provided RA21RT with limited
support in kind and, in March 2000, a grant of £250 for publicity. RA21RT has
never engaged wide community
support and its current active membership is
around 30
-

although changes in its executive have been followed by a
number of more positive initiatives. It makes a limited contribution to raising
public awareness as a contributor to the annual “Going Green”

event that the
Council promotes and it is currently developing an awareness campaign on
the theme of shopping and sustainability. Its main role is that of a “critical
friend” to the Council.


The Council has attempted to integrate Agenda 21 with mainstrea
m services.
Responsibility for strategic oversight lies with an officer working party chaired
by the Director of Housing and Environmental Health. Agenda 21 features in
the job descriptions of two, relatively junior, employees in the Engineering and
Works
and Environmental Health Divisions, but neither spend as much as
30% of their time on Agenda 21 activities divorced from their areas of
professional expertise. There is no specific budget to provide support for
Agenda 21 activities and it is estimated tha
t identifiable expenditure in support
of Agenda 21 amounts to no more than £12,500 per year.


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THE COUNCIL'S ACHIEVEMENTS


The Council has not developed an Agenda 21 Strategy but it has, in its
Statement of Purpose, Aims and Values, made a clear formal com
mitment to
the principles of sustainable development. It has also developed an
Environmental Policy that addresses the "green" aspects of sustainable
development. It has made provision to address sustainable development
within the Best Value Review Framewo
rk.


The Council has also demonstrated that outcomes supportive of sustainable
development can be delivered as a result of applying sensible management
principles to the delivery of mainstream services:




Energy efficiency investment in corporate buildings
over the last decade
has reduced electricity consumption by more than 20% and gas
consumption by more than 30%. Water conservation measures have
reduced water consumption by 40%.



Energy efficiency investment in the housing stock has resulted in a
National
Home Energy Rating of 7 [on a scale of 1
-
10] compared to the
national average of 4. Because the Council uses preservative treated
softwood rather than UPVC in the replacement doors and double glazing
units that it installs, the consumption of non
-
renewable

resources is further
reduced.



Procurement policies encourage our suppliers to use recycled raw
materials and to recycle waste. Timber is sourced from managed,
sustainable forests and recycled plastic benches have been used to in
place of wood in appropria
te locations.



As well as recycling more than 1700 tonnes of domestic waste each year,
good internal housekeeping involves the Council in recycling waste paper,
printer cartridges, light tubes and surplus IT equipment. Tree prunings are
converted into mulc
h, which reduces the need to use chemicals to control
weeds, and green waste is composted.



Investments in the housing stock on door entry systems, improved lighting'
upgraded doors and window locks and CCTV has reduced the impact of
crime on vulnerable sec
tions of the community.



Good practice in the area of customer service has resulted in major
improvements in the access to services enjoyed by the disabled. Both
physical access and access to information has been enhanced.



Partnership working is an integral

part new patterns of delivery mandated
by the Government in respect of, for example the Crime and Disorder Act.


Elements of the Council's performance have been subject to independent
appraisal by District Audit. A report on Environmental Stewardship, pro
duced
in 1997, contained no material criticism of outcomes in respect of energy and
water management, pointed to the need for progress on recycling and
highlighted the requirement for an Agenda 21 Strategy.


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4.

RESULTS OF THE CHALLENGE PROCESS


The Government

has set the Council a clear and specific target: an effective
Agenda 21 Strategy must be adopted by 31
st

December 2000. More recently
the Government has identified sustainable development as a mandatory and
integral part of Best Value
-

if a local auth
ority does not address sustainable
development it cannot claim to deliver Best Value. Even in the absence of that
imperative, there are good reasons why a strategy should be developed.
Although good management has delivered outcomes supportive of
sustainab
le development, the absence of a formal strategic framework makes
it impossible to evaluate in sustainability terms the positive and negative
contributions of key policies, such as Town Centre Revitalisation. Indeed, in
the absence of such a framework, suc
h questions are not being raised.


The Council's corporate response to Agenda 21 is consistent with its normal
practice of integrating cross
-
cutting issues with the management of
mainstream services. This approach has worked well in delivering Best Value
a
nd IiP accreditation without incurring significant additional cost. It has not
worked for Agenda 21: low levels of resource commitment have been
delivered an incomplete and partial response to the challenges of sustainable
development. In particular the Co
uncil cannot point to significant levels of
community engagement. Other local authorities, with explicit and clearly
communicated strategies have delivered significantly better outcomes, albeit
through higher levels of resource commitment.


5.

RESULTS OF THE
COMPARISON PROCESS


Because Agenda 21 requires local authorities to develop solutions that reflect
local issues and priorities, there is no league table within which the Council
can be ranked. The only Citizens Charter Performance Indicator that
addresses
an explicitly Agenda 21 issue measures recycling performance.
The Council recycled 4.6% of domestic waste arising
-

against a national
average of 9.1% and a target of 8%. This poor level of performance can be
attributed to low levels of investment and rece
nt decisions to provide the
resources required to deliver a pavement recycling service is evidence of
remedial action.


Site visits and other information searches provide strong evidence that both in
terms of money and management time, the Council invests
less than the
typical district council. In 14 of the 18 authorities visited, specific posts had
been established in support of Agenda 21 and 9 of the 18 had a significant
and identifiable budget for Agenda 21 activities. The nature of the information
provi
ded makes it impractical to attempt to consider average resourcing levels
but box 3 illustrates a "typical" level of resourcing.







BOX3: RESOURCING AGENDA 21 AT A "TYPICAL" SHIRE DISTRICT




Population




100,000




Dedicate staffing



1 LA21 Co
-
ordinator at SO1




Budget (excludin
g salary)


£5,000+


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Comparison of strategic choices, process and outcomes point to a number of
issues that might be considered by the Coun
cil as part of the development of
a comprehensive strategic response




The more effective Local Agenda 21 Strategies are characterised by
partnerships involving bodies representing the voluntary, private and
public sectors.



Effective and well supported Loca
l Agenda 21 Strategies can be
constructed around a narrow range of mainstream activities where these
can be shown to address local concerns.



There is evidence that success in delivering an Agenda 21 demands
consistent management attention and consistency
in funding
-

even where
the sums of money provided are small.



Community awareness of and support for Agenda 21 can be raised by
promoting and supporting small, high profile but low cost projects,
especially where voluntary groups are capable of and prepare
d to take a
leadership role.



The Internet provides a relatively inexpensive means of providing timely
information to the community, promoting engagement and creating a
forum in which concerns can be raised and issues discussed. It has the
potential to prov
ide quick
-

if not entirely reliable
-

feedback on
performance and priorities.


6.

RESULTS OF CONSULTATION


As part of the consultative process employees were asked a series of
questions to establish awareness and understanding of Agenda 21. The
exercise indi
cated that most employees, especially below the Head of Service
level are unaware of the significance of Agenda 21 or of the contribution that
their individual actions might make to sustainable development.


An exercise is underway to establish levels of p
ublic awareness and to
identify the issues that are of greatest concern. On the basis of an earlier and
more narrowly drawn survey, there is some evidence that awareness and
public interest is low. This conclusion would be consistent with the low and
decli
ning membership of RA21RT.


An exercise is also underway to determine the voluntary sector's awareness
of and understanding of Agenda 21 and sustainable development. In this case
the exercise is also looking to find out the extent to which the sector would

be
willing to work in partnership with the Council and the factors that would
promote such partnerships.


It is considered that Members' views are critically important both to the
evaluation of the Council's current performance and to the development of t
he
required strategy. It is hoped that the Community Leadership Panel will
provide guidance as to the appropriate approach to Member consultation.



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7.

INTERIM CONCLUSIONS


The Council has to balance a number of requirements. It must adopt, by 31
st

December, a
n Agenda 21 Strategy that meets the specification of the DETR
but this must be done without compromising or constraining the
comprehensive consultation exercise out of which will be developed the
Community Plan. If the strategy is to have any credibility i
t must provide the
realistic prospect of improvements to quality of life in the Borough but it would
be inappropriate to apply any significant resources to a strategy the will be
superseded within a few months.


Under the circumstances, a strong argument c
an be made for accepting
DETR guidance on rebadging and using the specific guidance on structure
and national priorities as a framework within which the existing contributions
of the Council and its existing partners can be integrated. The Council's
Purpo
se Aims and Values would address the need for a Vision Statement.
Many of the necessary underpinning processes are already in place and most
of the missing elements would need to be developed and could be readily
adapted to support the Community Plan.


The

following section of the report comprises a model of the strategy that
might be developed using the approach outlined above.


The Council has not developed its response to Agenda 21 to the point where
issues of competition and alternative means of service

delivery can be
meaningfully considered.


8.

THE ELEMENTS OF A LOCAL AGENDA 21 STRATEGY FOR RUGBY


The Vision Statement set out in Box 4 was derived by extracting those
elements of the Purpose, Aims and Values that are consistent with the
national strategy a
nd DETR guidelines. The Statement provides a framework
within which existing activities consistent with Agenda 21 and sustainable
development might be organised.


















BOX 4: THE VISION STATEMENT


The Council is committed to sustainable development. It will work with all
willing partners to:




promote social progress by reducing social exclusion




protect the built and natural environment




encourage th
e prudent use of resources




promote economic growth and local opportunities for employment



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The Government's national strategy identifies development objectives that i
t
would wish to see pursued. These could be used to develop an Action Plan
that joins up a range of the Council's relevant activities. Box 5 indicates what
an Action Plan developed in this way might look like.









































The I
mplementation Mechanisms underpinning the individual action points
would, of necessity, be more complex. For purposes of illustration, Box 6
shows how improved access to services might be delivered and how progress
might be measured against targets.


BOX 5: THE ACTION PLAN


Social Exclusion

will be addressed by improving access to services and by
reducing the harm to health caused by poverty and poor housing.



a
ccess to services

will be addressed by:



improving physical access for the disabled to Council facilities



identifying and filling the gaps in provisions for young people and
the elderly



the impact of poverty

will be mitigated by:



promoting take up of benefi
t



building on the One initiative



the impact of poor housing

will be addressed through



our work in improvement areas



the provision of grants and advice



health improvement

will be delivered through Local Health Initiatives


Environmental Protection

will be a
ddressed in terms of air quality, planting
high quality trees, shrubs and other native plants and protecting historic
buildings.



air quality

will be monitored to provide the information we need to plan
improvements.



tree planting
will be addressed through
the Greening the Borough
initiative. In addition the Council will work with schools, parish councils
and social groups to maintain annual planting programmes for 500 trees,
shrubs and native plants.



historic buildings
can only be protected by providing adv
ice and
guidance


Conservation of Resources

will involve ongoing investments in energy
efficiency and the adoption of a Best Value Procurement Strategy that
encourages recycling of inputs and outputs.



energy efficiency

improvement targets of 3% per year h
ave been
adopted



the Best Value Procurement Strategy
will be adopted by 31
st

December 2000.


Employment and Local Employment

will be addressed through the
Council's Economic Development Strategy and through the Council's
commitment to Town Centre Revitalis
ation


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If the model set out above were to provide an acceptable basis for the
Council's Local Agenda 21 Strategy, it would be relatively easy to address the
issue of the necessary underpinning processes.




In the short term, arrangements within the

Council's Best Value Review
Framework provide adequate scope to manage and improve sustainability
performance.



Integrating sustainable development into mainstream policies can be
deferred until the Community Plan is in place without incurring significant
penalties.



Arrangements for consultation and community engagement have been
developed as part of the process of developing the Community Plan.



There is little point in developing further the Council's existing partnerships
until the Community Plan is in pl
ace and we can specify what they are
expected to deliver



Similarly measuring and monitoring arrangements must reflect the
outcomes specified in the Community Plan.



Action should be taken on employee training both to develop levels of
awareness of Agenda 21

and sustainable development and to determine
whether there is a need to develop specialist expertise in the use of
environmental management systems.


9.

NEXT STEPS


If, on the basis of advice from the Panel, Cabinet approves the Interim Report,
the Review Te
am will complete the process of consulting members of the
public and the voluntary sector as to their priorities and willingness to
contribute. The information derived will be used in drafting the Strategy.


BOX 6: THE IMPLEMENTATION MECHANISM


IMPROVING DISABLED PEOPLE'S ACCESS TO SERVICES


DELIVERING IMPROVEMENT


Building Control is responsible for carrying out an annual audit of disabled access
to Council buildings. The standards against which acces
s is evaluated are set
nationally by DETR.


On the basis of the audit Building Control develops a programme of building
works. The volume of work that can be undertaken is constrained within annual
budget making it necessary to agree priorities consistent
with DETR guidance.


REPORTING AND MONITORING PERFORMANCE


The Best Value Performance Indicators measure Disabled Access to public
buildings. This means that the Council's performance is measured in a consistent
manner year on year. Reported performance is

subject to independent appraisal
by District Audit and is reported to the Audit Commission





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The Panel's advice will also determine the manne
r in which Members are
consulted on the form and content of the Strategy. Broadly speaking the
options are for:



Officers to consult with a representative sample of Members;



Officers to consult directly with the Panel in the course of the scrutiny
process;



Officers to consult with any Member who wishes to make representations.


Information gathered during the comparison process will be refined. For each
local authority where examples of good practice are identified, a succinct
briefing note will be provided.

These notes will help to inform the Panel's
consideration of the final report and the draft Local Agenda 21 Strategy. They
will also be available in support consultation process that will allow us to
develop the Community Plan.


The main focus of officers
' efforts will be to develop a draft Local Agenda 21
Strategy that reflects the guidance of the Panel and Cabinet. In particular they
would wish to address the relationship between the Council and RA21RT and
the proper role of the Round Table in supporting

the Strategy. Officers will
develop proposals as to appropriate levels of financial and other support
provided to RA21RT and in respect of the access to information and to the
policy development process. These are issues on which Member guidance
would be
valuable.