Agenda and minutes

Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee
Friday, 4th September, 2015 10.00 am

Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford. View directions

Contact: Helen Phillips 

Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item


Declarations of Interest

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Mr Paul Woodhead declared an interest in minute number 16, in his capacity as “OurstoEnjoy” campaign organiser on the 38 Degrees website.


Minutes of the Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee held on 24 July 2015 pdf icon PDF 175 KB

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RESOLVED - That the minutes of the Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee held on 24 July 2015 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Improving Attendance and Participation in our Schools and Settings pdf icon PDF 330 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member, Learning and Skills

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An officer attendance working group had been established in Spring 2015 to consider the range of issues around school attendance. Good attendance was critically important to successful attainment, achievement and progression into adult life. The working group had reviewed and analysed detail of participation and attendance in Staffordshire, producing a draft document “Improving Participation and Attendance at our schools and settings” which promoted a new approach to securing collective action to drive further improvement.


Staffordshire was one of the best performing authorities in participation rates for the early years Think2 programme. Think2 offered early education childcare places for disadvantaged two year olds and Staffordshire was currently the tenth highest authority, securing 74% take up as at January 2015. More recent locally held data indicated that Staffordshire had achieved 80% take up for two year olds by July 2015. Take up for three and four year olds in January 2015 was 99%, 1% higher than in 2014 and also higher than the national average.


Members received data on attendance at primary, secondary and special schools. Primary absence rates were broadly in line with national and statistical neighbour authority averages but had slightly better persistent absence rates than national indicators. Staffordshire’s secondary absence rates were also broadly in line with both national and statistical neighbour authority averages. Staffordshire Special Schools had performed better than national and had lower overall absence rates and lower persistent absence rates. Members also received details of attendance at Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), with Staffordshire’s attendance 11.7 percentage points higher than the national average.


Attendance of vulnerable groups was largely in line with the national average except for Gypsy Roma and Traveller pupils where it was worse than nationally, although the gap had narrowed over the last three academic years. Members were aware that previously there had been Staffordshire schools that specialised in taking children from the Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities. Work with this community had previously been co-ordinated through the West Midlands Consortium. This was no longer the case and Staffordshire now commissioned support to work with these families and encourage take up of school places.


Members received details of the varying performance across the eight districts in Staffordshire on overall absence rates. In 2013/14 there was a range of 0.8 percentage points between the best performing and worst performing districts.


In 2013/14 Staffordshire had a rate of 0.08% permanent exclusions, this having increased for two consecutive years. Staffordshire was now worse than national and statistical neighbour averages. Early local provisional data also suggested that the actual number of permanent exclusions was likely to increase again in 2014/15. The proportion of fixed term exclusions had been around 3% since 2010/11 with a slight increase to 3.14% in 2013/14. Staffordshire’s performance was below national and statistical averages since 2008, however the gap was narrowing. Members heard that there was an increasing trend in exclusions of looked after children, an issue which the working group would be considering.


Members asked whether the rise in exclusions was a national  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Countryside Estate Review pdf icon PDF 387 KB

Report of the Cabinet Member, Economy, Environment and Transport

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At the beginning of considering this item the Cabinet Member, Economy, Environment and Transport, read out a statement previously posted on 17 June 2015, which stated that Cannock Chase and Chasewater would not be sold. He felt there had been a misrepresentation around the consultation which had caused concern. However the countryside estate was costly to maintain and there was a need to ensure best value for the public money used. He thanked all those who had written raising their concerns and was encouraged that so many people cared so passionately for the estate. He also thanked those Select Committee Members who had visited the sites prior to consideration at this meeting.


At their meeting of 18 December 2014 the Select Committee had considered the strategy for reviewing the countryside estate and had agreed the proposed critical success factors. Members now received a presentation on the review.


The estate was over 2000ha of public access land comprising six country parks with visitors centres, 12 picnic areas and small sites and three “greenways” (disused railways used as multi-user routes). Management of the sites was undertaken by the Rangers Service and Works Unit. The work combined with maintenance of the public rights of way network to maximise efficiency. There was also a significant voluntary contribution in managing the estate.


Members received a breakdown of activity across the estate and the multifunctional nature of the sites, with an estimated 3,000,000 visits a year.


The drivers for change were:

·         Outcomes, with a need to ensure that the contribution the countryside estate makes to the outcomes is maximised and therefore is able to continue in a sustainable manner;

·         Changing demands/uses, with visitor numbers increasing and therefore putting additional pressures on the budget with increasing site maintenance costs;

·         Partnerships, with interest in pooling resources and finding economies of scale (with some smaller sites already managed by communities); and

·         Market changes, with the maintenance of the country parks and rights of way  within the scope of Infrastructure+ (Amey). Based on the outcomes of the review consideration would be given to where the Infrastructure+ Partnership could add value.


The following ten options were shared with members:

Option 1 – the council continues to manage the countryside estate supported by the existing voluntary contribution

Option 2 – the council continues to manage the countryside estate in-house, maintaining the status quo in terms of ownership but developing a strategy of realising more income from the individual sites

Option 3 – transfer the freehold of all of the sites to a single provider

Option 4 – transfer the management responsibility of all of the countryside estate to another public sector or charitable body. The management partner would be responsible for running and developing the estate via contract arrangements while the County Council would retain ownership. The County Council could reduce its financial input over a period of time by placing an expectation on the provider organisation to source its won funding

Option 5 – transfer the ownership and/or management  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 370 KB

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The Select Committee received a copy of their current work programme. Members agreed the following additions:

·         Progress of the Attendance Working Group, including examples of specific intervention to highlight how the principles and priorities worked in practice;

·         Post-16 changes (specifically the inclusion of English and maths for those not yet achieving level 2) and any impact these have had on take-up;

·         A further report on the Counrtyside Estate Review in October prior to Cabinet decision;


The Chairman also updated Members on the issue of Bradwell Lane. Following a petition to full Council this had come to the Select Committee on 25 June 2014. The issue was due to come back to the Select Committee once the Coroners report was available.


Since then there had been a court case in which the accident had been judged to be driver error, with a charge of death by dangerous driving being given. To help resolve any outstanding issue Ms Meadon may still have the Chairman met with her, Sandra Hambleton and David Greatbatch (Community Infrastructure Liaison Officer). A table top junction is being proposed, funded through Mrs Hambleton’s Division Highways Programme funding.


RESOLVED – That the amendments to the work programme be noted.