To receive a report from the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration presenting to Members steps to introduce cost recovery into the Growth, Economy and Delivery service and to look at issues relating to further commercialisation within the service.
The Group had before it a report * from the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration presenting to Members steps to introduce cost recovery into the Growth, Economy and Delivery Service and to look at issues relating to further commercialisation within the service.
The contents of the report were outlined with reference to the following:
· Two examples of recent successful bids for external funding. One being the ‘Connecting the Culm’ Catchment Based Approach Study (Interreg funded) in partnership with the Blackdown Hills AONB. The other being the Mid Devon Destination Management Website (Leader Funded) in partnership with the Tiverton Museum and the Tourist Information Service.
· The need to propose charges that were consistent with those given for pre-application advice in the Planning department for example.
· The need to re-coup costs only.
· This would be a step by step process and would be monitored to see if fees were affecting the number of organisations contacting the Council.
· Often the Economic Development Officer was present at a pre-application meeting with a Planning and Conservation Officer whose time was being paid for by an applicant but his wasn’t.
Discussion took place regarding:
· The cost / benefit of the proposed charges.
· Whether charging a fee would dissuade some businesses or individuals from contacting the Council for advice.
· Would some successful projects have come to fruition if a charging schedule had been in place? This was a difficult, hypothetical question to answer.
· Concern that some voluntary groups may not be able to afford to make contact with the Council.
· There were very few examples of economic development services operating on a partial cost-recovery basis across the South West, although many councils had moved straight to setting up arms-length commercial services companies which allow local authorities to make profit as opposed to only seeking cost recovery.
· The financial constraints upon the Council and the need to consider maximising income wherever possible.
· The need for more factual data in order to come to a more considered opinion.
It was AGREED that a more detailed report be brought back to the Group at their next meeting providing greater clarity about the possible effects of charging and whether discretion could be applied for certain businesses and non-businesses based upon their individual circumstances.
Note: (i) * Report previously circulated; copy attached to the signed minutes.
(ii) Cllr Mrs N Woollatt declared a personal interest as she is a mill owner.