December newsletter

Below is the District Councils’ Network newsletter for December 2014. It includes an update on all DCN work over the last couple of months along with other useful updates and events coming up in the next few months.

December Newsletter

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Call for evidence for District Councils’ Network project with INLOGOV

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) has commissioned INLOGOV at the University of Birmingham to research the ways in which districts councils have adopted new ways of working with their partners. This will build on recent documents published including NLGN’s ‘As Tiers go by’ as well as the CCNs document ‘Our Plan for Government’.

As we are all aware the public sector in England is facing unprecedented financial pressure and is likely to continue to face increasing demand for services alongside reduced central government funding, whatever the outcome of the 2015 general election.  At the same time, following the referendum on independence for Scotland, there is the ongoing debate about devolution and an “English settlement” around the control of local expenditure on public services and local governance.

While much of that debate is focused on the core cities, district councils are both local enough to respond to the needs of citizens while operating at sufficient scale to be efficient.  They provide locally based building blocks which function around community needs and recognisable economic geographies.

With the likely continuation of significant public sector spending cuts, there will be an increasing and accelerated pressure upon both Local Government and other public sector agencies to deliver joined-up and transformed services in innovative ways.  These approaches include working with Local Economic Partnerships; collaborating across two tier areas on healthcare, housing and welfare reform; community safety responsibilities, and addressing public sector financial sustainability.

We want this research to be evidence based and identify examples where district councils have adopted new ways of working with their partners to strengthen their local leadership for their communities, deliver savings and better outcomes. To achieve this we need your help. This is your chance to showcase your district council and for us to demonstrate the vital role that district councils can and do play now and in the future of local government.

The first call for evidence from INLOGOV has now been issued. Please complete the online survey giving us details of what your district is doing to; share your learning with other areas and so that we can demonstrate to Government that districts are innovating and collaborating to achieve better outcomes and savings.

The deadline for responses is Friday 16 January 2015.


DCN ‘unpacking fracking’ event presentations

On Tuesday 25 November the DCN held an event on fracking. There were presentations from Edward Hough and Andrew Bloodworth from the British Geological Survey, Alex Doyle from Department of Energy and Climate Change and Nick Clack from Campaign to Protect Rural England. Copies of all the presentations are here:

BGS presentations

CPRE presentation

DECC presentation

If you missed our fracking event PAS have some events coming up over the next few months:

Manchester 3rd December

Horsham 16th January

Bath 26th January

To find out more and book your place visit the PAS website or e mail


DCN Police and Crime Commissioners event presentations

On Monday 24 November the DCN held its event ‘An effective future for districts and police and crime commissioners’. It included presentations from; 2 PCC’s – Matthew Ellis and Paddy Tipping; Jonny Bugg from the Home Office; Mark Norris from the LGA and a discussion panel made up of Councillor Lewis Rose and Councillor Michael Payne. Here are copies of presentations from the day.

Jonny Bugg, Head of National Policing Policy

DCN Autumn Assembly, 30 October, Event Presentations

The District Councils’ Network recently held its Autumn Assembly on 30 October 2014. Speakers include the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Minister for Cities, Science and Universities, who spoke about Growth Deals, districts and LEPs. We heard from Alex Pratt, Chair of the LEP Network, who spoke about the district role in LEPs, and from Tony Curtis, District Chief Executive Adviser to the Non-Metropolitan Commission, who updated those present on the work of the Commission and the findings of its Interim Report.

The minutes and presentations from the day can be found below.

DCN Assembly Minutes 30.10.14

Tony Curtis Non-Metropolitan Commission

INLOGOV Research Brief


Streamlining and Supporting the Local Plan Process

Following the District Councils’ Network publication Our Priorities for Improving the Planning System  a discussion paper has been produced. This builds on the ideas set out in the original publication and sets out the DCN’s thinking on two themes:

  • Facilitating joint strategic planning, and
  • Staged local plan examination

These themes are highlighted to help with the implementation of the ‘Duty to cooperate’. We wish to influence debate and work with Government to improve the Local Plan process to help deliver the growth that our communities need. You can download the paper here:

Streamlining and Supporting the Local Plan Process

DCN response to Local Government Finance Settlement Technical Consultation

The DCN have responded to the local government finance settlement 2015 – 16 technical consultation. This is not a detailed response on the specific questions posed in the consultation paper however there were a number of issues / principles that the DCN wanted to comment on.

You can view the full response here:

DCN Local Government Finance Settlement 2015_16 Technical Consultation



DCN response to DCLG Technical Planning Consultation

The DCN has submitted a response to the DCLG’s Technical Planning Consultation. They were seeking views on proposals to streamline the planning system focusing on 6 areas; neighbourhood planning; reduced planning regulations to support housing, high streets and growth; improving the use of planning conditions, planning application process improvements; environmental impact assessment thresholds and improving the nationally significant infrastructure regime.

You can read the response in full here:

DCN Consultation_response_form


Our Priorities for Improving the Planning System

In the last few years we have seen some significant reforms to the town and country planning system, including the 2011 Localism Act and the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). These reforms led to a change of approach including in plan making, to planning decisions as well as how councils work with partners and their communities. During early 2014, the DCN held events for members to feedback their first hand experience and how the system could be improved. This publication lays out the problems identified and the DCN’s priorities for how the planning system can be improved.

District Councils Network- Our Priorities for Improving the Planning System

DCN attends PHE Annual Conference – health publications refresh

In light of the DCN attending the Public Health England Annual Conference to showcase the work of district councils in public health, and talk with Heath and Wellbeing Board Chairs, public health consultants, and Directors of Public Health about the contribution district councils play, the DCN has refreshed its major publication District Action on Public Health. The publication has been split into its component parts, and the content revised to reflect that public health has been with local government now for two years, with the case studies have been updated accordingly. The guides have an external audience in mind, so we hope they will be as useful at the local level and well as within district councils.

In addition, we have produced a guide for Directors of Public Health in two-tier areas about the contribution district councils make, and the possible areas for collobaration. Feel free to use this with your own Director of Public Health.

Guide for Directors of Public Health of the contribution of district councils

District Action on Public Health – short guides:

DAPH Executive Summary

DAPH Wider Determinants – Economic Growth and Planning

DAPH Wider Determinants – Housing

DAPH – Wider Determinants – Benefits and Welfare Reform

DAPH Wider Determinants and Health Improvement – Community Safety and Licensing

DAPH Health Improvement – Physical Activity and Healthy Eating

DAPH Health Improvement – Smoking Cessation

DAPH Health Protection

DAPH Taking Public Health Forward


DCN Responds to the Care Act Guidance consultation

The District Councils’ Network has submitted a response to the government on its consultation regarding the Guidance for the Care Act. Our response sets out the role district councils play in health and wellbeing more widely, as well as specifically in regards to housing. We give examples of positive two-tier working and set out the areas we would like further clarification from government.

The response can be read in full here: Care Act Guidance Final Consultation Response

Localisation of Council Tax Support Survey- July 2014

The DCN have conducted a follow-up to the survey produced in partnership with the Society of District Council Treasurers (SDCT) in September 2013 on Local Council Tax Support Schemes (LCTS) at English District Councils. This survey examines changes made by Districts to their 2014/15 schemes, collection rates and parish grants.

The survey demonstrates a positive picture for District Councils; with collection rates appearing not be impacted by the introduction of local schemes. The majority of districts are not currently planning to make major technical changes going forward.

See below for a copy of the survey and a summary note on the results.

DCN Local Council Tax Support Schemes- Survey July 2014

DCN Local Council Tax Support Survey Summary

DCN Responds to DCLG Consultation on Combined Authorities and Economic Prosperity Boards

The DCN has responded to the DCLG consultation on combined authorities and economic prosperity boards. We have set out our support for all the government’s proposals except the proposal to legislate for scrutiny arrangements, which we deem excessive and lacking in evidence.

You can read the submission in full here:

DCN Response to DCLG Consultation on combined authorities and economic prosperity boards

The District Councils’ Network publishes its Manifesto

Press release

The District Councils’ Network today publishes its Manifesto. It sets out the key policies for which the district councils would like support from the political parties in their general election manifestos. The Manifesto sets out the essential work that district councils perform and proposes ways we can help an incoming government do more for less.

Cllr Neil Clarke, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network said: “District Councils, local, efficient and close to our localities, are Key Strategic partners for any Government and continue to be ready to deliver any future Government’s local agenda which supports and grows the communities we serve. The District Councils’ Network wants to take the opportunity to positively contribute to future Local Government policy and our Manifesto sets out our offer to whoever forms the next government.

The manifesto was built with cross party support and input and covers all the major areas of political interest – financial efficiency, jobs, housing, health and welfare reform. We believe there is a big job to be done in further enhancing the recovery within our communities and firmly believe that District Councils, are best placed to deliver in partnership with both our communities and local partners within the public, voluntary and private sector. ”

The five priorities outlined in the Manifesto are:

  1. Allow us to become financially independent by giving us access to additional sources of self-generated funding. This includes expanding the New Homes Bonus to include infrastructure projects, and removing the Housing Revenue Account Cap, so we have more resources to invest in our communities and critical infrastructure.
  2. Streamline the planning system so we can respond more quickly to appropriate and responsible development.
  3. Make District Councils the default provider of choice for delivering Universal Credit so we can integrate benefits with support such as debt advice provided by our partners to help address the barriers that prevent people getting back into work.
  4. Commit to issuing local government settlements across whole Parliament terms to give us budgetary certainty.
  5. Expand the criteria for the Troubled Families programme so that we can work with more families who have multiple problems. Develop a financial framework that takes full account of the role District Councils      play and our upfront contributions in the savings achieved.

The District Councils’ Network will use its Manifesto in the run-up to the general election to ensure that all political parties understand that working with District Councils provides the opportunity to deliver national services at a local level.

District Councils’ Network Manifesto

- ends -

Notes to Editors:

District councils are part of the two-tier structure of local government covering 67% of England and 38% of the population.

District councils deliver 86 of the 137 essential services local government delivers as a whole. They are closest to residents and best able to respond and customise services at a scale people recognise and relate to.

District Councils are financially efficient and provide excellent value for money for local taxpayers. In 2013/14 the average Band D council tax for District Councils was £170 a year – £3.27 a week.

The District Councils’ Network is a member led network of 200 district councils. We are a Special Interest Group of the Local Government Association (LGA), and provide a single voice for district councils within the LGA and to Central Government.

  • The District Councils’ Network was established in 2009 and works on behalf of all district councils nationwide.
  • All district councils are represented on the Network’s Assembly by council leaders nationwide.
  • An elected group of leaders represent the district councils nationwide on 22-strong Executive.
  • A corresponding group of Chief Executives represent councils on the Chief Executives Network.

Chairman of the District Councils’ Network / Executive: Cllr Neil Clarke MBE, Rushcliffe Borough Council.

Vice Chairs: Cllr Sharon Taylor MBE, Stevenage Borough Council, Cllr Ric Pallister, South Somerset District Council and Mayor Tony Egginton, Mansfield District Council.

Chairman of Chief Executive Network: David Buckle, Chief Executive of Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Council.


DCN responds to CLG Committee on the Private Rented Sector

The DCN has responded to the CLG Committee Inquiry into the Private Rented Sector. Whilst the private rented offer varies from district to district, the principles of providing good quality and well managed accommodation are the same across all areas. District councils consider private rented sector housing to be a key contributor to a balanced housing market, and can support economic growth.

Our response outlined the quality of housing; levels of rent; regulation of landlords, letting agents, and houses of multiple occupation; tenancy agreements and security of tenure; and how the private rented sector helps councils discharge their homelessness duties.

You can read the DCN’s response in full – CLG Committee private rented sector.

DCN responds to DCLG on making it easier to set up town and parish councils

DCLG has recently consulted on whether to use a Legislative Reform Order to implement proposals for making it easier to set up town and parish councils.

The DCN has written in response expressing our considerations of all the proposals the government has set out, as well as responding to the consultation question regarding the use of a Legislative Reform Order.

We have expressed our concern at the lowering of the threshold of residents to 7.5% and whether 12 months is sufficient time for local authorities to conduct a Governance Review. We feel that government Guidance would be sufficient to achieve what the government proposes. We welcome the government’s decision to provide a fund for local authorities to administer Governance Reviews.

You can read the DCN’s full response here: DCN Response to LRO Town and Parish Councils.

DCN Response to planning performance and planning contributions consultation

The DCN has responded to the government’s consultation on planning performance and planning contributions, making clear our belief that such proposals, if enacted, would significantly reduce the scope for local decision-making. We reject the approach towards ‘underperformance’ and instead consider that local planning authorities should be supported to improve services and outputs. We also consider that affordable housing thresholds would undermine the delivery of affordable housing and interfere with the ability of district councils to determine the solutions that work best for their area. We note the lack of evidence or impact assessment that accompanies the proposals.

Follow the link to read the full response: May14 DCN Response Planning Performance and Contributions.

DCN responds to Communities and Local Government Committee call for evidence on NPPF

The DCN has responded to the call for evidence by the Communities and Local Government Commitee on how the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) is working.

The DCN welcomes most aspects of the NPPF but our submission raises a series of challenges and problems in implementing it.

These centre on:

  • Planning strategically across Local Authority boundaries
  • Implementing the ‘Duty to Cooperate’
  • The ‘snakes and ladders’ feature of the plan-making system
  • Costs and the length of time in preparing Local Plans
  • The ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’
  • The lack of protection Councils have from ‘planning by appeal’
  • The tension between strategic planning and ‘localism’

Our response will compiled from a series of seminars the DCN ran with councillors and senior planning officers. You can read our response in full: Operation of the NPPF DCN Response to CLG Committee.