May report to Mid Samford parishes

May 2014 report to Mid Samford parishes from District Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

In this report

  • Food Safety and Health and Safety plans for the Babergh area
  • Changes to the eligibility criteria for community projects paid for by developer (s106) contributions
  • New developments and the Community Infrastructure Levy
  • Transformation agenda and headquarters review

Food Safety and Health and Safety plans for the Babergh area

The council has just adopted the service plans for 2014/15 for food safety and health and safety in Babergh District. The food safety service includes inspections of food premises, sampling of food and private water supplies; investigating and controlling outbreaks of food poisoning/infectious diseases and the issue of export certificates. Food safety training is also carried out for food handlers on a cost-neutral basis. In 2013/14 there were more than 257 food advice requests, many of which related to small business start ups.

Health and Safety advice is mainly given on a reactive basis. Babergh has regulatory responsibility for more than 1500 business premises in the District. The council responds to events such as accidents, complaints or business enquiries as well as locally identified priorities like catering gas safety, legionella and laser treatments.

Changes to the eligibility criteria for community projects paid for by developer (s106) contributions

A number of parishes have complained about the tight restrictions resulting from Babergh’s policy on what are called section 106 developer contributions for recreational facilities. The criteria have now been relaxed to include replacement of existing play equipment, routine repairs and maintenance of public open space facilities and indoor play facilities e.g. badminton courts. It will also now allow repairs, maintenance or adaptation of village halls or community centres, where this relates to recreational activities. Upgrading access to these recreational facilities, for example by improving or installing footpaths, will not be restricted just to access required under the Disability Discrimination Act. It can therefore be widened to access for the general public.

There is currently more than £500,000 of section 106 contributions waiting to be spent in the Babergh area. This money is held by the District council and we hope that the relaxation in the criteria will enable at least a proportion of this to be spent on recreation projects in the various towns and villages.

New developments and the Community Infrastructure Levy

The new Community Infrastructure Levy comes into force in April 2015. It will sit alongside the Section 106 system, rather than replacing it. An initial consultation document has been produced by Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils which sets out the proposed charging regime for developers.  The council must strike a balance between the desire to fund infrastructure from the levy and endangering the economic viability of any development. A number of developments will be exempt, including those by charitable bodies. The levy will provide additional funding for the local authority to carry out a wide range of projects that support growth and benefit the local community. Local Town and Parish councils will receive 15% of the amount received by the District Council, unless they have a Neighbourhood Plan, in which case they will receive 25%.

A list of spending priorities must be published by the council. It is a complex area and more details will be discussed at the scheduled Parish and Town council liaison meetings. The current consultation period is 6 weeks and this will be followed by a further 12 week consultation in late Summer. The schedule will then be put before an Inspector at an Examination in Public.

Transformation agenda and headquarters review

The two councils are looking to consolidate their use of office accommodation, partly to facilitate more effective working of the single management team and also to make further necessary savings. A consultant has been appointed to carry out research and an options review to determine the most suitable accommodation, and then to produce a business plan once the two councils have considered their report. The cost of the consultancy is in the region of £24K. Cost efficiencies are important but it is also about enabling work processes and service delivery. Our position as your councillors is that public access for Babergh residents is also a priority and we believe many options should be considered including alternative uses for existing premises, income generation from the site, collaboration both with other public sector organisations and also local businesses and start-ups. We hope to have further information during the summer months.

More details on the Babergh website

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