Meeting documents

  • Meeting of Buckinghamshire Historic Environment Forum, Wednesday 22nd September 2010 2.30 pm (Item 6.)



Sandy Kidd, introduced the item and said it was important to discuss how the Comprehensive Spending Review may affect the Forum. The Officer said that to discuss the remaining agenda items the Forum needs to consider the type of reports it may like to receive and remain aware of the possible budget constraints. He also said that the Terms of Reference for the Forum was to monitor the provision being made to the meet the historic environment needs of the County. It was highlighted that the County Council would be meeting shortly to look at where money could be saved and that the Forum may consider how it could feed into the process.


During the discussion Members made the following comments:


·         There has and will continue to be a considerable strain on budgets. The Planning, Environment and Development portfolio may have to make cuts equivalent to nearly 50% of the portfolio spend. It was commented that the Historic and Environmental services are not seen as providing an essential service.

·         A Member enquired about the cost of the Forum and if this came out of Mr Kidd’s budget. The Clerk agreed to confirm this.

Action: Clerk

It was also highlighted that there was a cost to the District Councils in relation to Officer time.

  • Members were asked if the future of the Forum should be considered as there was a cost for all Members to attend.
  • It was highlighted that the Forum provided the opportunity for communication, partnership and joint working. It was commented that these areas could be expanded which might put a different remit on the Forum.
  • It was highlighted that the Forum links to a large portion of the voluntary sector as most of the organisations rely on the voluntary sector. It was suggested that the Forum could be a link to the third party sector which forms part of the ‘Big Society’ concept.
  • All Members of the Forum have an interest and reliance on similar topics and policies such as PPS5. It is good to have a body to discuss these issues. The Forum is important.
  • The benefits of the Forum need to be clear.
  • The main contribution to the Forum is Officer time and expenses. Many Councils are questioning whether travel is necessary. If pressed Members of the Forum need to be able to demonstrate the benefits of the Forum.
  • The reports are a benefit of the Forum and provide a method of scrutiny for Councillors.
  • The Forum provides a useful Forum and enables Members to pick up on various issues.
  • It was highlighted that the Bucks Archaeological Society representative and Diocese of Oxford represented the Historic County and that if they were not attending the Bucks Historic Environment Forum it would be a Forum albeit in a different name.
  • The Forum were asked if it would be helpful if there were to make a statement highlighting that they believed it essential that the core work of the Forum be protected,  suggest that the third sector have a greater role and highlight that should there be any losses to the budget highlight where those losses may affect the third sector.
  • The future seems to be about encouraging the volunteer and ‘free’ help on such matters. It would need a body such as this to a catalyst. The cost to the District Councils is minimal from a Member (Councillor) as opposed to Officer representation.
  • Perhaps it should be considered the bare minimum officer time which would be needed by the Forum. It would seem low cost.
  • The Historic Buckinghamshire acts as a reminder that although there are individual Districts in the main they form one area. The Forum provides a useful way of working, it is an established Forum which acts as a body of influence. Perhaps the Forum could be more of a working group.
  • The Forum needs to be more business like. There are invisible benefits such as providing the opportunity to talk to other Members but the benefits need to be more measurable.
  • There are Council representatives on the Forum but the professional input at the Forum is useful. There is concern that the budget cuts are going to be so great that the professional input may be lost with the Local Authorities, which would be very difficult to be built back up even if the funds were to return. Also morale amongst remaining staff would be low. The professional input it vital.
  • There are studies being carried out regarding the loss of posts across conservation in the Country.
  • Some Local Authorities are looking at statutory requirements when considering budget cuts will this be an approach by the County Council? The Historic Environment is an added benefit to the quality of life in Buckinghamshire.
  • With regards to Officers the core services provided may be small compared to other budgets but the contribution is enormous. The Officers also provide extensive expertise in their respective fields.
  • If services pulled back it would be difficult to interface.
  • Museums are a discretionary service but are a vital function for the Historic Environment. They are important in maintaining the long term record.
  • The Forum should act as a connection and point of co-ordination to the third party sector.
  • The Forum meets under the heading of the County Council but it is a District Council committee. When looking at the services of Conservation and Historic Environment Officers the same message should be sent to other Councils who are likely to be facing the same difficulties.
  • Whilst many projects rely on volunteers there are certain jobs which can only be done by professionals. If someone was to carry out these jobs on goodwill it could be more destructive than if it was left untouched.
  • AVDC is looking to use volunteers more such as students from Oxford Brookes but they require a professional contact and leadership.
  • The Medium to Long Term Plan process (MTP) in Buckinghamshire which looks at budget planning is commencing at the beginning of October 2010. It was agreed that Sandy Kidd and the Clerk would combine their notes so that Mr Kidd could draft a summary. The summary would then be circulated to Members by email for comments. Members were asked to provide any relevant statistical information they may have such as numbers of volunteers.

Action: Sandy Kidd/Clerk

  • The Chief Executive for Bletchley Park suggested that the organisations should show an element of self help. He said that Local Authorities were looking at groups to absorb less public money and suggested that if the Forum considered how it could do something to self help it may be well received. He suggested the organisations consider if there were any possibilities for them to generate income.
  • It was commented that over previous years there had been a process of cuts with a focus on making activities pay and that there may be little scope left to generate further income without doing harm.
  • It was highlighted that London Boroughs had been pushing hard to introduce a charge for Building Consent Applications, but this would require legislative change.