DCN Conference: How can we get the Planning System to work better?

This conference focused on helping Councils deal with cross boundary issues, including housing market areas and the ‘duty to cooperate’, whilst getting Local Plans approved more quickly and effectively. It brought together a range of speakers from the Planning Inspectorate, DCLG, Planning Advisory Service, planning education and practising professionals to explore the issues, hear case studies and look for how the system could be improved.

See below for a copy of the minutes and presentations from the conference.

DCN Conference London- How can we get the Planning System to work better

Anna Rose Presentation

Lucy Hargreaves Presentation

Alister Scott Presentation

Jerry Unsworth Presentation

Jackie Leask presentation



Event presentations from Taking Public Health Forward

The fourth and final seminar in our series looking at the contribution to public health focused on Strategic Approaches, Health Inequalities, and working with CCGs and Healthwatch. We also had breakout groups looking at commissioning and being commissioned; the role of technology in measuring the value of housing interventions; and three examples of districts making a positive local impact in their communities. We spent time ‘action planning’ for the future support that the DCN offers to member councils.

The event presentations are below.

Being Strategic and Proactive: District Council Approaches

South Lakeland Public Health Strategy – Lawrence Conway

Housing Offer to Health – Sharon Stacey and Quin Quinney

Healthier South Derbyshire – Mary Hague and Vicky Smyth

Tackling Health Inequalities Effectively: districts and counties working together

Tackling Health Inequalities Bolsover District Council – Mary Chambers

Planning, Housing and Health – a new role for housing surveys – James Cutting and Gill Cook

Public Health England – Health and Wellbeing Framework Update

Health and Wellbeing Framework Update – Catherine Davies

Working with CCGs and Healthwatch Effectively

District councils and Healthwatch – Geoff Brown

Working with CCGs and Healthwatch effectively – Dr Rob Gerlis and Dr Tom Nutt

The commissioned council and the commissioning council

West Sussex Wellbeing – Hazel Flack and Elaine Thomas

Locality Commissioning Partnership – Clodagh Peterson and Lizzy Riddle

District delivering healthy outcomes

Locality Approach to Mental Health – Lindsay Orton

Locality Action Partnerships – Robin Wiles

Well Families Clinics – Andrew Head

Using technology to measure housing interventions

Using technology to measure the value of housing – Roy McNally and Chris Pratt

The DCN’s seminar series has concluded, but the best practice sharing and learning continues on our Yammer network. We are currently trialling a new communications tool to promote interaction between district councils on public health. If your work impacts on public health or you are simply interested in discussing some of the emerging themes about health & wellbeing, you can register and join the DCN’s network on Yammer here:


Making Local (Strategic) Planning Work workshop

On the 31st January 2014 the DCN hosted a workshop on local planning.

This workshop was an opportunity for district officers to discuss the challenges they are facing in implementing the National Planning Policy Framework and areas for potential improvements in the planning system.

Please see below for a copy of the minutes and presentations delivered at the workshop.

DCN- Making Local (Strategic) Planning Work Minutes 31.1.14

Catriona Riddell- Catriona Riddell Associates: Strategic Planning

Jackie Leask- Planning Advisory Service: Strategic Planning and the Duty to Cooperate

John Williamson- Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Joint Strategic Planning Unit: Collaboration in the Cambridge Housing Market Area


Health Protection Seminar Event Presentations

On Monday 3 February the DCN held the third in its series of District Action on Public Health seminars. This time the focus was Health Protection. We heard from speakers from Brighton & Hove City Council about how they are balancing a healthier population with a thriving economy, especially from tourism; from the Chartered Institute of Public Health about their Mapping Health Toolkit; and from East Cambridgeshire DC about how they manage contaminated land and the risk to human health. We also had three case studies about health protection in action: noise abatement from Elmbridge DC, the ebug project from Forest of Dean DC, and the air quality partnership in Kent between the 12 districts and the county council.

The event presentations are available below.

Tom Scanlon, Brighton and Hove City Council, Balancing Health Protection with Vibrant Economies

Tony Lewis, CIEH, Mapping Health Toolkit

Paul Leadbeater, Elmbridge Borough Council, Online Noise Toolkit

Malti Varshney, Kent County Council, Air Quality Partnership

Dennis Fettis and Beth Pritchard, Forest of Dean District Council, Communicable Diseases – ebug project

Marcus Bell, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Contaminated Land



Advice Note on the Placement of Homeless Households Outside of London

The DCN has been working closely with London Councils to raise the concerns of district councils that London boroughs are placing homeless housholds outside of London to meet their statutory duties, and the implications this has for districts.

London Councils has issued an Advice Note to London boroughs which outlines best practice when this occurs.

The DCN has published this Advice Note below.

London Councils Advice Note on the Placement of Homeless Households Outside London

DCN response to DCLG consultation on the future funding of the Housing Ombudsman

The District Councils’ Network has responded to the government’s consultation on the future funding of the Housing Ombudsman.

In the response we express our concerns about the proposals for local authorities to meet the financial shortfalls in the transition fund and respond to the proposals on the charging regime and complaints process.

The submission in full can be read below.

Housing Ombudsman Consultation Response



Health Improvement Seminar Event Presentations

On Wednesday 18 December the DCN held the second of four seminars on District Action on Public Health. This seminar focused on Health Improvement. The presentations from the speakers are below.


Barbara Brady – The role of district councils in health improvement – a Nottinghamshire perspective

David Wakelin – Health and Wellbeing Partnership Delivery

John Byrne – Integrated Commissioning of Sport and Physical Activity in Leicestershire

Anthony Goodwin and Rob Barnes – Healthy Tamworth

Healthy Tamworth – accompaniment to Anthony Goodwin and Rob Barnes presentation

Richard Tisdall – Forward Planning for Health

Jonathan Hayes – Does business have a role to play in the health of its staff

Breakout group: Using regulatory processes to deliver health improvement

Anita Fletcher – Trading Standards, Environmental Health and Licensing

Claire Laurent – regulating fast food outlets

Simon Aalders – Reducing the Strength campaign

Breakout group: Working with partners to deliver health improvement

Averil Price – alcohol outreach and participatory budgeting

Julie Monk – Disabled Facilities Grants – an integrated service

Jo Frazer – Kent as Integration Pioneers

Breakout group: Institutional vs. individual behaviour change

Caroline Tapster – Changing Behaviours in Public Health

Simon Barfoot – East Herts Public Health Strategy and smoking cessation

Andy Wright – Delivering public health through LA leisure contracts



District Councils’ Network briefing on the National Infrastructure Plan

The Government published the National Infrastructure Plan 2013 this week.

Whilst major investment decisions are made by government or county councils, the National Infrastructure Plan 2013 contains specific projects in the localities of some districts, and has broader implications for districts in housing and planning statutory responsibilities.

This briefing sets out the government initiatives that will be of interest to district councils.

National Infrastructure Plan Briefing


Research reveals districts in top 10 performers for health

Local Futures and The MJ research on health determinants sees district councils making up the 10 top performing councils when it comes to economic, social and environmental determinants, as well as overall scores.

Overall Determinants of Health

District councils feature heavily in the top 10 local authorities for overall determinants of health. This includes economic, social and environmental factors that contribute to health. Districts in the top 10 are: Hart DC (1st), Rushcliffe BC (2nd), South Oxfordshire DC (3rd), Waverley BC (4th), South Northamptonshire DC (5th), West Oxfordshire DC (6th), Harborough DC (8th), East Hampshire DC (9th) and Chiltern DC (10th).

Economic Determinants

The five measures that make up the economic determinants score are: unemployment, the highest qualifications held by the adult resident population, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 achievement by children, the proportion of people employed in manual occupations, and gross weekly pay; equally weighted and indexed to the national average. For economic determinants, Hart DC once again takes 1st place, together with districts Winchester City Council (2nd),  Surrey Heath BC (3rd), Waverley BC (4th), Guildford BC (5th), Horsham DC (7th), Tandridge DC (8th), Epsom and Ewell BC (9th) and South Oxfordshire DC (10th).

Social Determinants

Levels of deprivation, child poverty, fuel poverty, crime and social cohesion make up the social determinant score. Nine of the ten best councils for social determinats are again district councils. Mid Sussex DC comes top, followed by Chiltern DC (2nd), Horsham DC (3rd), West Oxfordshire DC (4th), South Oxfordshire DC (5th), South Cambridgeshire DC (6th), South Northamptonshire DC (8th), Hart DC (9th) and Vale of White Horse DC (10th).

Environmental Determinants

Districts Harborough, North Kevesten, East Dorset, Maldon, South Norfolk, Rushcliffe, West Oxfordshire, Uttlesford, New Forest and Hart make up all of the top 10 councils for environmental determinants. This is measured by compiling scores on: household occupancy/overcrowding, the natural environment, social housing, levels of homelessness, and the living environment for residents.


The DCN publication “District Action on Public Health” outlines how district councils are critical to delivering public health in two-tier areas, as districts deliver planning, housing, environmental health, licensing and community safety, as well as economic development and benefits advice which contribute towards the wider determinants of public health.

Our four-part seminar series explores the contribution of districts to the public health agenda, and more details can be found here. These seminars are for district councils, county councils and CCG representatives in two-tier areas.

More information on The MJ and Local Futures research can be found here (subscription required).

The Impact of the Spare Room Subsidy changes in District Councils

In April 2013, as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the government removed the spare room subsidy from the social rented sector for households of working age tenants who were considered to have more bedrooms than they needed.

This is research into the expected impact of the removal of the spare room subsidy on District Councils in England using data taken from the Local Government Association publication ‘The Local Impacts of Welfare Reform.’ This research examines the impact on employed and unemployed households in Districts and shows different geographical impacts; this is due to average rents and the amount of dwellings in different regions.

See below for the report.

The Impact of the Spare Room Subsidy on District Councils in England

DCN and SDCT: Survey on the Localisation of Council Tax Support

The DCN and Society of District Council Treasurers (SDCT) have conducted a survey examining the Localisation of Council Tax Support (LCTS).

The survey demonstrated that the majority of councils have made cuts of up to 8.5% for working age claimants on council tax support. It also showed that there was a variability in the type of schemes chosen by district councils. The majority of councils envisage their LCTS scheme to continue unchanged into 2014/15, however some are contemplating more cuts to working age claimants benefits.

The survey and a brief summary note on the results are below.

DCN and SDCT LTCS Survey Report

Summary of DCN and SDCT LCTS Survey Results

DCN and CCN Letter of Response to New Homes Bonus Consultation

The DCN and County Councils Network (CCN) have submitted a joint letter of response to Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on the technical consultation on the New Homes Bonus and Local Growth Fund.

In the letter the DCN and CCN express strong opposition to the proposal that councils should pool £400m of New Homes Bonus in 2015/16 as part of the Local Growth Fund. It calls for the government to work closely with the DCN, CCN and Local Government Association (LGA) to develop alternative proposals to help the government achieve both housing and economic growth.

See below for the letter of response.

DCN and CCN Letter of Response to NHB Consultation

DCN Response to the New Homes Bonus Technical Consultation

The DCN submitted a response to the Department of Communitites and Local Government (DCLG) technical consultation on the New Homes Bonus (NHB) and Local Growth Fund on 20th September 2013.

In this response the DCN strongly opposes the government’s proposition that £400m currently allocated for NHB funding should form part of the £2bn funding to the Local Growth Fund. The DCN asks for the government to enter a dialogue so that a more acceptable source of funding can be identified to meet the government’s objectives whilst not undemining the acceleration of housing delivery.

Please see below for the DCN’s full response.

DCN Response to NHB Technical Consultation

Public Health- Wider Determinants Presentations 4/9/2013

On the 4th September 2013 the DCN held its first District Action on Public Health Seminar. This focused on the Wider Determinants of Public Health.

Below are the presentations from the seminar.

Importance of Wider Determinants- Carl Petrokofsky, Public Health England

Importance of Wider Determinants- Jim McManus, Hertfordshire CC

Using Public Health Data- Don Sinclair, Public Health England

Using Public Health Data- Juliet Whitworth, LGA

Planning and Public Health- Richard Blyth, Royal Town Planning Institute

Planning and Public Health- Julia Thrift, Town and Country Planning Association

Health and Housing- Domini Gunn, Chartered Institute of Housing

Health and Housing- Rob Barnes, Tamworth BC

Growth and better health outcomes- Alan Twells, Leicestershire

Troubled families- Jon Barber, Tendring DC

Tackling Community Safety- Tim Beyer Welwyn Hatfield BC

Preventing Violence in Hertfordshire- Nicolas Galazis, Hertfordshire CC

Mapping your impact on the wider determinants- Jon Wells, Blaby DC

Disabled Facilities Grants: A Research Report

The District Councils’ Network and the Society of District Council Treasurers (SDCT) commissioned a research report into Disabled Facilites Grants (DFGs) in England conducted by Astral Advisory in early 2013. This report was discussed at a DCN event examining DFGs in June 2013.

To view a copy of the report please click on the following link.  DFG Report Final pdf.

The following is the DCN response to the report. DCN Response to Disabled Facilities Grants Research.


District Chief Executives Networking Event

On Thursday 13th June 2013 the DCN hosted a networking event for District Council Chief Executives. This event was well attended and provided an opportunity for chief executives to meet and discuss the key issues facing district councils today and in the future.

There were presentations on finance, economic growth and welfare reform at this event; this was followed by round table discussions on these issues. Below are the presentations delivered at the conference:

Finance- Policy Discussion: Presented by David Cook, Kettering Borough Council

Economic Development and Growth- The role of District Councils and the DCN: Presented by Tony Curtis, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Sandra Dinneen, South Norfolk District Council

Welfare Reform- DCN role in the debate and shaping the future delivery: Presented by David Buckle, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils



New DCN Publication: Localising Growth, the District Contribution to Delivering City Deals

Today the DCN is publishing Localising Growth: The district contribution to delivering City Deals. This collection of articles explores the vital role of districts in developing and delivering the First & Second Wave City Deal proposals. Contributions from Greg Clark MP, the LGA, New Local Government Network, Andrew Bacon and a variety of district council members including Tamworth, Chesterfield, Norwich and East Staffordshire, prove that districts have been at the heart of the City Deals initiative.

The contributions to Localising Growth show the wide-ranging and vital contribution of district councils. Districts have the growth enabling services, capacity and expertise to work collaboratively with district, unitary or county partners, LEPs and local businesses to lead on the new economic growth agenda. This is one that sees localities, rather than Whitehall, as the generators and drivers of economic growth, supported by devolved resources and additional powers and flexibilities.

As we head towards important announcements on the implementation of the Heseltine recommendations, the Coalition needs to acknowledge the integral role of districts, and two-tier areas, in securing and sustaining economic recovery. Whilst Local Growth Deals in 2015 are welcomed, unleashing the true potential of county areas, and sustaining an economic recovery, requires the Government to take more immediate action. Over the coming months substantial resources across skills, transport, housing and infrastructure need to be devolved to local government and its partners to continue to deliver the economic growth this country badly needs.

Greg Clark, Financial Secretary to the Treasury & Cities Minister:

‘This publication is a timely reminder that district councils have a big part to play in this programme. Indeed, district councils have already helped to shape the first wave of City Deals — as shown by Tony Goodwin’s account of Tamworth Borough Council’s involvement in the Birmingham City Deal. I’m encouraged by the fact that district councils are engaging with this process and thinking through the implications. This collection of essays is proof of this thought and engagement and I congratulate the District Councils’ Network for bringing these important contributions together.’

Cllr Chris Knowles-Fitton, DCN Executive Lead for Economic Growth:

‘This latest DCN publication shows that on economic growth and City Deals, districts are leading on a new growth agenda in the UK.  In areas where City Deals stretch across two-tier areas, districts are demonstrating that they have a vital contribution to make across devolved powers and resources in skills, transport, housing and major infrastructure. District councils are a key enabler of growth and their increasingly role in initiatives such as City Deals, and future Local Growth Deals, will help sustain the recovery this county needs and help the sector meet its savings requirements over the coming years.’

Christine Fisher, DCEN Lead for LEPs:

‘The contributions to localising growth demonstrate that districts right across England are leading the agenda on local economic growth strategies, in the process redefining the relationship between localities and Whitehall on who should lead on growth. Districts are proving their ability to be part of, and lead, City Deals, using their expertise and growth enabling services to facilitate collaborative approaches to boosting economic activity across a number of key growth markets’.

Download your free copy

DCN Localising Growth

Disabled Facilities Grants- Are they fit for the future

On 3rd June the DCN hosted an event on Disabled Facilities Grants- Are they fit for the future.

This event brought together officers and members to discuss the role of district councils in delivering DFG’s and looked into research on this issue.

Below are presentations from the event:

Delivering DFGs- Future Challenges: Robert Cornwall, Carlisle City Council

Making the Most of Adapted Housing Stock: David Arkle, Amber Valley Borough Council

Working in partnership to deliver a successful Disabled Facilities Grant service: Christian Trevelyan, Somerset West Private Sector Housing Partnership

The Norfolk DFG Project Integrated Housing Adaptation Teams: Alison Spalding and Tony Cooke


DCN Submission on Community Budgets

Today, the DCN publishes its evidence to the Communities & Local Government Select Committee on Community Budgets. 

The DCN and its members have been strong supporters of the Government’s community budgets programme. Among’st participating district councils there has been and remains a strong commitment to the ambitions and principles of Community Budgets and a united recognition of the need for public services to be reformed to improve outcomes and reduce overall costs.

Our evidence demonstrates that districts have been full and active participants in the programme, particularly the Whole Essex Community Budget Pilot. The evidence clearly demonstrates that better outcomes and savings can only be secured through the integration of frontline district services across a range of areas including housing, community safety and benefits. The evidence provides a number of observations and recommendations to ensure districts continue to play a full and active role in the further roll-out across two-tier areas.

Whilst districts believe Community Budgets will lead to improved public services and better outcomes for local residents, there remains less clarity on whether districts (in the short-term) would be net contributors or net beneficiaries; particularly in relation to cashable savings. The DCN recognises that other parts of the public sector will be better enabled to secure their efficiencies and savings because of district involvement and that collective savings will be achieved; but this will be at the districts’ expense.

This is not a plea for more resource to be channelled to districts, but we call for recognition from Government of the specific contribution from districts in its future funding deliberations, especially for 2015/16. It is imperative that public sector partners work closely with Whitehall to develop a robust formula that can take these factors into consideration in relation to both the local distribution and reallocation of total and individual agency savings. The financial frameworks of community budgets need to convincing, robust and fair; correctly incentivise all public sector agencies to take part; and engender organisational commitment in the short, medium and long-term if they are to achieve their worthwhile aims.

Steve Atkinson, DCEN Chairman said

‘Our discussions with districts demonstrated that they have much to bring to the Community Budgets table and, if integration is to lead to improved outcomes and savings, districts must and will play a full and active part. In taking forward Community Budgets, it is important that financial frameworks correctly incentivise districts to take part. We ask that Whitehall and wider public sector partners acknowledge the vital role of local authorities in leading these programs to secure savings for a range of agencies, and not doubly penalise district councils through successive spending rounds and the unfair recycling and distribution of agency savings.’

Cllr Tony Jackson, DCN Executive Lead for New Ways of Working said,

‘Community Budgets will clearly play a central role in the future of public service delivery. The improvements in outcomes and savings they can generate make greater public service integration a priority for local authorities. The DCN submission provides valuable insights into the experiences of district councils and sensible recommendations on taking forward Community Budgets across two-tier areas.’

DCN CLG Submission – Community Budgets

DCN Press Release Community Budgets CLG Submission