In June 2015 Cabinet approved
changes to the operation of the long term Agreement between Surrey
County Council (SCC) and Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) to manage
SCC's Countryside Estate.
These changes have the objective of reducing SCC's financial contribution to nil by 2020/21 (a further saving of over £0.7m per annum), through the development and implementation of a robust business plan, asset management plan and strengthened governance processes.
Detailed discussions with SWT have taken place since June 2015 and this report describes the progress made and seeks Cabinet approval to the necessary next steps that will deliver the above objective. The SWT Council approved the changes on 8 February 2016.
[The decisions on this item may be called in by the Economic Prosperity and Environment and Highways Board]
1. That the Surrey Wildlife Trust decision and recommendation be noted and endorsed.
2. That the Strategic Director for Environment and Infrastructure, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning and the Director of Legal, Democratic and Cultural Services be required to work with Surrey Wildlife Trust to ensure the business plan is delivered.
Reasons for Decisions:
Approval of the recommendations will put in place a mechanism to make the management of the Countryside Estate more efficient whilst improving and maintaining the countryside, delivering improvements for visitors, reducing the Council's financial contribution to nil by December 2021 and agreeing the distribution of any surplus income thereafter.
[The decisions on this item can be called in by the Economic Prosperity, Environment and Highways ScrutinyBoard]
Both the Chairman, Chris Wilkinson and the Finance Director, Roger Wild from Surrey Wildlife Trust were in attendance for this item and were invited to speak.
Mr Wilkinson made the following points:
· This was an important paper, which provide the direction of travel for Surrey’s Countryside Estate
· It recognised the severe budgetary constraints that the County Council was under
· He supported the proposals and had worked hard with Council officers to get to this stage
· The five year rolling business plan had been produced by Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT), as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SWT and Surrey County Council (SCC)
· SWT was a conservation organisation
· The proposals set out in the report provided an opportunity to generate income to help the estate, SCC and wildlife.
Mr Wild made the following points:
· That SWT had been working closely with the Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning
· In relation to the strategic goals of SCC, these proposals ‘ticked all the boxes’
· Budget demands for other services meant that it was vital to make SWT self financing
· He stressed the importance of protecting the environment and thanked SWT officers for the work that they had achieved during the last two years
· Referred to the partnership meeting which had taken place the day before and provided confirmation that the trustees were supportive of this approach
· That paragraphs 6 and 7 in the report set out the governance arrangements and those that had endorsed this approach, following detailed consideration of other options
· The MoU formalised the commitment of SCC /SWT to work together and that the five year rolling business plan had taken considerable time to put together
· Drew attention to the report from Knight Frank, commissioned by SCC Property Services, in relation to the Property Asset Management Plan
· Confirmed that there would be closer joint working between SCC and SWT, which will be robust and accountable, using agreed key performance indicators
· Finally, he said that there would be an annual review of the business plan by the Economic Prosperity, Environment and Highways Board, plus an annual report to Cabinet.
Cabinet Members made the following points:
· That many residents would welcome the proposals
· Norbury Park and the work that SWT had undertaken there had offered many opportunities for residents’ leisure time, including those for young people
· The report set out the relationship between SCC and SWT
· That the county of Surrey had large areas of green space. It was important to increase the number of residents who could enjoy access to it, as detailed in paragraph 23 of the report – public health implications
· The SWT Finance Director was asked about the risk management and implications of the annual business cases. He responded by stating that future business plans would set out a number of different routes, including some trading opportunities and that there would be a number of different opportunities being considered to increase footfall. He also confirmed that SWT had recruited an income generation team. In relation to governance ... view the full minutes text for item 50
Purpose of the report: This report updates the Board on the review of the Agreement between Surrey County Council (SCC) and Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) to manage the County Council’s Countryside Estate. A decision report is going to the County Council’s Cabinet in February 2016. This will set out the changes to the way the Agreement in managed, the commitment by SWT to reach a zero contribution from SCC by 2021 and the monitoring process put in place to ensure the service is delivered to the agreed standards.
Declarations of interest:
Lisa Creaye-Griffin, Countryside Group Manager
Ian Boast, Assistant Director for Environment
Nigel Davenport, Chief Executive, Surrey Wildlife Trust
Roger Wild, Director of Finance, Surrey Wildlife Trust
Mark Pearson, Director of Countryside Management, Surrey Wildlife Trust
Mike Goodman, Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning.
Key points raised during the discussion:
The Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning commented that
Surrey Wildlife Trust were willing to engage and make amendments to
their contract with Surrey County Council. He also commented that
both parties had been on a long and difficult journey to reach an
agreement but believed that both parties agreed on the same
direction of travel.
Officers reported that a number of plans had been drawn up, with
the key to success being the main business plan, monitoring
progress via agreed key performance indicators, and applying the
correct investment opportunities. It was also reported that Surrey
Wildlife Trust were looking to create efficiencies from
their own resources.
3. The Chief Executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust commented that the Trust and Surrey County Council had been working well together and that the relationship between them had improved, and that there was an understanding of the importance of making the countryside estate self-financing.
It was reported that the risks to the Trust, should the plans fail,
were significant and that therefore it was in the Trust’s
interest to succeed.
It was reported that the Trustees would be discussing the Memorandum of Understanding, their formal commitment to the Council, at a meeting on 8 February 2016.
Members queried some of the figures around the woodland plan
citing; 1,150 hectares generating £116,500 net income. The
Director of Countryside Management explained that the Trust had
commissioned an assessment of all nineteen woodlands on the
countryside estate, and that they had been surveyed; however, at
the time of writing the business plan they focussed on the four
most productive woodlands, though assessments were still coming in
for woodlands across the rest of the estate. The assessments have
been completed, DWT are now working on the management plans
for each woodland.
Members commented that a 0.1% per annum return was not a good
prospect, however the Director of Countryside Management explained
that the figures were based on wood prices and that opportunities
would increase year on year, and that the low return on woodlands
would be investigated.
Members commented that there were many income generating ventures
that could be achieved in woodlands that did not require cutting
down the wood. Officers agreed that recreational and amenity based
activities were potentially viable in Surrey’s woodland
estate. The Director of Countryside Management explained that
discussions were taking place with contacts in the wood fuel
industry around income generating opportunities. Some members
raised concerns around levels of return.
8. The Chairman of the board agreed for the item to be taken into Part 2, by virtue of paragraph(s) 3, Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act ... view the full minutes text for item 10
Purpose of the Report: Scrutiny of Services and Performance Management/ Policy Development
This report updates the Board on the review of the Agreement between Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) to manage the County Council’s Countryside Estate. A decision will be going to the County Council’s Cabinet in November 2015, an outline draft of which is attached. This will set out the variations to the current Agreement and the monitoring process put in place to ensure the service is delivered to the agreed standards. The Board is asked to provide feedback on the proposed changes to the Agreement.
Key points raised during the discussion:
The Chairman withdrew this item from the agenda. The item may return to the next Board meeting; or alternatively, emergency special Board meeting may be called solely for the discussion of this document.