“Our countryside estate makes a significant contribution to the health and quality of life in the county and should be cherished.
As one of the jewels in Staffordshire’s crown, ownership of the estate will remain with the County Council, but our proposals to develop its management aim to ensure that this contribution can be sustained for future generations.
We are determined to get this right and in recent years we have spent a great deal of time discussing the options with local stakeholders and interested parties.
These next steps will be taken working with those interested partners for the benefit of all.”
Gill Heath and Cabinet Member for Communities
Reasons for the Decision – To consider proposals for a financially sustainable operating model for the countryside estate and public rights of way network.
Decision – (a) That, based on the outcomes of the options appraisal and discussion and comment from the Prosperous Select Committee on the 18 January 2019, an approach based on Management Proposal 2 be adopted. However due to the required time scales for MTFS delivery, it be delivered in two stages as follows:
Stage 1 – Re-organisation of the in-house operating model
This will address the short-term requirement to deliver MTFS commitments and will include:
i. Reorganisation of the operational model for Rural County
ii. Rationalisation of vehicles, plant and equipment
iii. Invest in volunteering to support operational management and develop community involvement and capacity
iv. Explore income generation opportunities that can be delivered in the short-term and that do not impact on future options for the sites; any income generated will be used to support the operating model, with any surplus income ring-fenced to invest back in the sites.
It is proposed that this first stage will be implemented during 2019/20.
Stage 2 – Develop measures for longer term sustainability
This will explore measures to develop a more sustainable approach to managing the estate in the longer term, including to achieve greater investment in the sites so that they can better achieve their potential for Staffordshire’s communities and visitors. Tasks will include:
i. Financial modelling to support decision-making and the development of business cases for any potential management transfers;
ii. A procurement process to explore the potential for transferring management to environmental bodies, likely to be through a competitive dialogue process;
iii. Should sufficient sites remain following the procurement process, exploration of establishment of a trust or not-for-profit body to manage the larger sites;
iv. Continued work on the in-house operating model to increase efficiency, including exploration of contracts to deliver key tasks and local partnership working to deliver economies of scale where appropriate.
It is proposed that work on the procurement should begin in 2019 twin-tracking with the reorganisation of the in-house operating model; the re-organisation would take priority due to the need to deliver MTFS commitments.
(b) That the outline time scale for implementing the stages detailed above (as set out in Appendix C to the report) be agreed. Key milestones include delivery of MTFS commitments through reorganisation of the operating model by March 2020 – this will be the immediate priority. The procurement process would run alongside this with the main competitive dialogue element following the reorganisation. Transfers, if appropriate, would be likely to run from 2021.
(c) That the final decisions to implement the proposals be delegated to the appropriate Cabinet Member following the detailed procurement process. However, it is also envisaged that a confidential report is submitted to Property Sub-Committee seeking authority to delegate the final agreed heads of terms for the leases / agreements to an appropriate officer to authorise.