Meeting documents

SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 1st February, 2023 6.15 pm

This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby (Planning, Transportation and Economic Development).


Report Author: Hattie Winter, Senior Economic Development Officer.


The report was introduced by Lisa Tuck, Service Manager for Economic Development, supported by Hattie Winter and Colleen Blake.


Corporate Scrutiny Committee was asked to note the formal adoption of the SWT Local Labour Agreement Policy into the Council’s Policy Framework.


Currently only Sedgemoor District Council has such as agreement in place as part of their Local Plan, and this will be picked up and adopted by the new Somerset Council. SWT wants to implement this agreement as a material planning consideration going forward, so that it too can become part of the former Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council Local Plans. When these become the new unitary local plans, this planning policy will transfer as part of the process. It is also hoped that this will provide a model for other councils to emulate.


Comments from the Committee included:-


·       Members were supportive of the aspirations outlined in the report and agreed that contributing to the local economy via up-skilling and employment were improving opportunities for inward investment.

·       The aim of the policy to try and ensure that at least 25% of the workforce is employed locally. This would be promoted via the Department of Work Pensions (DWP), Employment Hubs, Skill Up, Somerset Skills and Learning and via roadshows.

·       Current gaps in the labour market are a legacy of COVID-19 which has adversely affected the tourism and hospitality sector. The Economic Development team recognise this and are doing what they can to ensure that new recruits to those industries are employed from the local workforce. They are aiming for 25% local uptake. The team will be working with developers as part of the planning process in the very early stages. Therefore, it needs to be factored in as a material planning consideration.

·       It will only apply to large scale development, which is currently classified as 50+ dwellings.

·       Concern was expressed about the policy affecting the viability of sites coming forward and might deter developers from building. Alison Blom Cooper stated that as with all planning policies, there would be various concerns about viability but these would be addressed and assessed as sites came forward, and would be considered alongside other issues such as transport links, health and education policies.

·       It was queried whether there were currently enough planning staff to implement the policy once it was adopted? SWT currently had a full complement of planning officers, but it was a volatile employment market and was under considerable pressure from the private sector. It was an ever-changing picture. The implementation of the Local Labour Agreement would be monitored and facilitated by the Economic Development team, and there was more capacity to cover this type of work. Currently in Sedgemoor District Council, there is a full-time labour and skills employee who builds up a skills plan with employers to identify labour gaps and how these can be filled. It’s a model that can be transferred to other councils.

·       It was queried whether SWT had worked with the construction industry and the supply chain whilst drawing up the policy. The team had taken advice from the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board), DWP and other district councils such as Sedgemoor, who already had the policy in place. It was an ongoing process and would be monitored and developed as the scheme became embedded in the planning policy.

·       It was asked how the policy would be affected by the current phosphate situation. At the present time it is mainly the smaller sites which are being held (which amounts to approximately 3000 properties). As this policy relates to larger future sites, which will build in phosphate mitigation as part of the planning process, it is not envisioned that this will be a problem.

·       It was asked how Councillors will be made aware of the policy if it is not going to Full Council for consideration. The policy will be signed off as an Executive Decision, and then the Economic Development team will ensure that it is actively promoted to ensure members are aware of the policy. This can be achieved via Member Briefings, the website and newsletters. It is also important that the future Somerset Council, abides by the terms of the policy especially regarding any new council housing development.

·       The Committee was informed that even though the Local Labour Agreement was only now being adopted, previous developments at Seaward Way and North Taunton tried to recruit locally. They had this built into the work contracts to try and encourage the sub-contractors to employ apprentices and use local supply chains. This Local Labour Agreement policy would be formalising the process.

·       Officers were congratulated for their hard work in finally bringing the Local Labour Agreement through the democratic process. It was an important piece of work which would leave a legacy for SWT.

·       The definition of local for the purposes of the Agreement would conform to the boundaries of the relevant Local Planning Agreement. (So currently split between West Somerset and Taunton Deane).

·       Cllr Buller concluded by saying that most of the report was aspirational and she was not sure whether it was achievable. She asked if successful examples could be provided by other councils who already had a process in place. (It was agreed by Hattie Winter to come back with a written answer). Please see Tracker.


The Councils Corporate Scrutiny Committee did not make a specific recommendation in relation to this report.  The comments made were noted by the project team.  The comments will be considered during the implementation of the policy to ensure the objectives of the policy and aspirations of the Council are realised.

Supporting documents: