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Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
The Committee is asked to note any apologies for absence and substitutions received from Members.
Apologies for Absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Stephenson (with Councillor Miles as a substitute), Morrison and Turner (with no substitutes).
In the Absence of the Chairman, the Chair was occupied by the Vice-Chairman,
To confirm and sign as a correct record, the minutes of the last meeting of the Committee, held on 24 June 2019
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 24 June 2019 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Vice-Chairman.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors are invited to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Personal Interest, and the nature of it, in relation to any item on the agenda.
Councillors Allen and Scott each declared as a point of interest that they were members of the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee.
Councillor Barry later declared that, with regards to consideration of agenda item 6 - Report of the Deputy Chief Executive, A.1 – Financial Outturn 2018/19 and Allocation of the General Fund Variance for the Year, he has a personal interest in respect of the Brightingsea Lido as there was a reference to funding in the report.
Councillors Allen and Miles later declared that with regards to agenda item 6 Report of the Deputy Chief Executive, A.1 – Financial Outturn 2018/19 and Allocation of the General Fund Variance for the Year, they each had a personal interest in respect of Walton Bowls Club which rented property from the Council as there was reference to rental income in the report.
Questions on Notice pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 38
Subject to providing two working days' notice, a Member of the Committee may ask the Chairman of the Committee a question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the Tendring District and which falls within the terms of reference of the Committee.
There were none on this occasion.
To Present to the Committee the updated Recommendations Monitoring Report, further to minute 2 of the previous meeting of the Committee (24 June 2019).
The Committee recalled that at its previous meeting it was agreed for a new agenda item to be added to all future meetings of the Committee (later called the Recommendations Monitoring Report) whereby a report will be presented outlining the recommendations this Committee has sent to Cabinet/Council and the response of Cabinet/Council to the recommendations.
The Committee had before it the current Recommendations Monitoring Report which set out one item for which this Committee had made recommendations to the Cabinet. The recommendations were from the Committee of 18 March 2019, and concerned the cost to the Council of two empty properties of the Council (Honeycroft and Spendells) and the allocation of funding in respect of costs of homelessness service.
In the discussion of the detail in the report, the following questions were raised concerning the response of the Portfolio Holder at Cabinet on 14 June 2019 (Minute 8 of that meeting refers) to the recommendations from this Committee as referenced above:
(a) Another large building was mentioned for demolision together with the former Honeycroft sheltered housing scheme although the name of the other large building was not part of the response.
(b) A proposal from a partner agency for the use of the former Spendells sheltered housing scheme building was mentioned although the name of the partner agency was not part of the response.
Officers agreed to seek answers to the other large property and the partner agency referred to above and to circulate those to Members of the Committee for information.
There was a desire for the Committee to examine the issue of homelessness by including such an item in its work programme. On this basis, Councillor Miles would be invited to attend the Committee’s meeting.
The Committee noted the contents of the report.
It was then moved by Councillor Miles, seconded by Councillor Bray and RESOLVED to include in the Committee’s work programme for 2019/20 the issue of maintenance arrangements for the portfolio of Council buildings.
[Note: Subsequent to the meeting, it was identified that the issue of scrutiny of homelessness was a matter for the Community Leadership Overview and Scrutiny Committee (as provided for by Article 6.02(i) of the Council’s Constitution). As such homelessness was not added to the work programme of this Committee.]
To enable the Committee to scrutinise the Council’s financial outturn for the year 2018/19 and the allocation of the associated General Fund Variance for the year.
The Committee had before it the Report of the Deputy Chief Executive (A.1) which provided it with an overview of the Council’s financial outturn for the year 2018/19 and the allocation of the associated General Fund Variance for the year.
It was reported that on 31 May 2019 the Leader considered the Financial Outturn 2018/19 and made the following decision:-
That the Leader of the Council, on behalf of the Finance and Corporate Resources Portfolio Holder:
(a) Noted the financial outturn position for 2018/19 as set out in the report and appendices;
(b) Approves the financing of General Fund capital expenditure for 2018/19 as detailed in Appendix D;
(c) Approves the movement in uncommitted and earmarked General Fund reserves for 2018/19 set out in Appendix E;
(d) Approves the qualifying carry forwards totalling £18.716m (£9.762m Revenue and £8.954m Capital) as set out in Appendix K;
(e) Agrees that all other carry forwards totalling £0.790m requested by services be transferred to the relevant earmarked reserve pending consideration by Cabinet at its July 2019 Meeting
(f) Approves, subject to the above, that the overall General Fund Outturn Variance for the year of £0.843m be transferred to the Revenue Commitments reserve until Cabinet formally considers the allocation of this funding at its July 2019 meeting.
(g) Approves in respect of the HRA the movement on the HRA balances for 2018/19 including any commitments set out within Appendices H and I along with recharges to the HRA from the General Fund of £2.429m for the year and the financing of the HRA capital expenditure set out in Appendix I; and
(h) Approves that the Council’s Section 151 Officer, in consultation with the Finance and Corporate Resources Portfolio Holder, be authorised to adjust the outturn position for 2018/19 along with any corresponding adjustment to earmarked reserves as a direct result of any recommendations made by the Council’s External Auditor during the course of their audit activities relating to the Council’s 2018/19 accounts.
It was also reported that on 19 July 2019, Cabinet considered the Outturn 2018/19 and the Proposed Allocation of General Fund Variance for the Year and made the following decision:-
(a) Agrees that of the total of £0.790m requested by services, £0.475m can be retained by them via the associated carry forward requests as set out in Appendix A.
(b) Approves the allocation of the General Fund Variance for the year of £1.158m as set out in table 1 of the report, of which £0.150m be allocated to a climate emergency budget.
The two officer reports submitted to the Leader and Cabinet referred to above were attached as appendices for the Committee’s consideration.
During the discussion of this matter, there was reference to the following in the key departmental variances:
(a) There had been a lower than budgeted Income from Bring Bank Recycling income – what could be done to improve this and whether the Council’s private sector partner was aware that, it was said, Sweden was looking to import ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
To invite the Committee to consider the appropriate arrangements to be adopted for scrutiny of the North Essex Garden Communities Interim Business Plan 2018-19 and the future Business Plans. The content of the current and future Business Plans does and is likely to continue to impact on matters which are the responsibility of both this Committee and the Community Leadership Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The Committee had before it the report of the Head of Democratic Services and Elections (A.2) which invited the Committee to consider the appropriate arrangements to be adopted for Scrutiny of the North Essex Garden Communities Interim Business Plan 2018-19 and the future Business Plans. This Committee’s approved work programme envisaged scrutiny of the NEGC Business Plan at this meeting and this report sought to respect the wish to undertake this scrutiny, to establish a revised timeframe for this scrutiny and address the appropriate arrangements for that scrutiny.
It was reported that the Community Leadership Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 3 December 2018 resolved that the NEGC Business plan become a regular item on its agenda and that Committee’s work programme scheduled a review of the NEGC Business Plan for the 2 December 2019.
It was further reported that there is a legitimate rationale for both this Committee and the Community Leadership Overview and Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise the NEGC Business Plan however this may not be efficient nor effective and could unduly lead to a drain on capacity of Members of the two Committees and Officers in supporting those Committees if both operate separately on this matter. This report was therefore submitted to invite the Committee to consider whether there was value in establishing specific scrutiny arrangements for the NEGC Business Plan that span both Overview and Scrutiny Committees. The Corporate Director (Planning and Regeneration) has indicated that it would be entirely reasonable to accommodate a meeting within August/September on the basis that the arrangements have been settled upon.
The Committee was reminded that its members had been sent an email on 26 July 2019 advising that the NEGC Business Plan 2019-22 had not yet been received.
Councillor Griffiths stated;
“I note that the North East Essex Garden Communities business plan has not been received by the Council. However my view is that since the 30th January 2017 when the NEGC LTD was formally established, the business plan would be purely for noting, as it is not a council document, but business plan of a limited company, whose four directors have already outlined the direction of travel, for something that is to all in tense and purposes, an independent company of which we as a council, in effect have a quarter of the shares.
It is still my view, that the shareholder to the board, should be an appointed portfolio holder, who reports both to Cabinet and the Council, but in the event of any votes, declares an interest and withdraws from the meeting.
It is still my view, that the councils commitment to funding the delivery vehicle to deliver the garden city communities, should be within the framework of a policy document, which outlines both the councils expectations, and has targets and priorities contained with the policy framework, which allow those engaged within the scrutiny process, to be able to form a considered opinion regarding both affordability and value for money
It is also ... view the full minutes text for item 15.
To present to the Committee the Council’s procedures on Ground Maintenance (Including Weed Spraying).
The Committee had before the Report of the Head of Public Realm – A.3 – Ground Maintenance (Including Weed Spraying) in Tendring, which presented to the Committee the Council’s procedure on Ground Maintenance (Including Weed Spraying).
The Councils Head of Public Realm and the Open Space and Transport Manager attended the meeting to present the report to the Committee and answer any questions Members raised.
The advantages generally for the District, its residents and visitors of key gateway sites and routes being well maintained was a focus for discussion at the Committee. These sites included the vicinity of Railway Stations.
The Committee was advised that many areas of land adjacent to the highway were the responsibility of the Highways Agency, others were directly the responsibility of the Essex County Council and others were the responsibility of the Council under its agreement with the County Council. In broad terms, of the £100K received from Essex County Council and referenced in the report, £20k related to highway weed spraying, £40K for highway verge maintenance and £40 to highway tree maintenance.
The Committee also considered the role of a range of parish and Town Councils in the area who undertook measures to maintain open spaces.
The Committee commended the Officers for the report.
After some deliberation of the Committee it was moved by Councillor Miles, seconded by Griffiths and RESOLVED that the Committee RECOMMENDS TO CABINET that;
· £50,000 should be available for works to be carried out in the Tendring District’s area to improve the look of the area for visitors and improve the quality of life for residents.
· Discussions be held with Town and Parish Councils in the District about opportunities to best achieve the stated aims.
To bring to the attention of the Committee the publication of new statutory guidance on the operation of overview and scrutiny functions in local authorities and to invite it to consider the guidance. Any recommendations from the Committee will be submitted to Cabinet/Council for consideration as appropriate.
The Committee had before it the report of the Head of Democratic Services and Elections (A.4) New Statutory Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny in Local and Combined Authorities.
It was reported that on the 7 May 2019, the Government published new statutory guidance on overview and scrutiny in local and combined authorities. The guidance itself follows the report of the House of Commons’ Communities and Local Government Committee of 15 December 2017 into the ‘Effectiveness of Local Authority overview and scrutiny committees’. The Council’s Constitution already sets out its compliance with statutory requirements for overview and scrutiny committees, the appointment of Members of those Committees, the appointment of Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the same, the procedures for such matters as call-in, and work programming, access to information for Members of the committees and Member-Officer protocols etc. Officers will consider the statutory guidance in their work, through the Monitoring Officer, to ensure that the constitution is kept up-to-date.
The Committee were also made aware that training for officers who present or write reports for Committees and Cabinet is being proposed for the autumn and it is intended that this training will also reference the new statutory guidance.
It was RESOLVED that;
· the Committee receives the report and notes its content and Officers be requested to consider further training to be provided to Members to support the aims of the Statutory Guidance in achieving good scrutiny.
· Those who sit on the proposed Joint Scrutiny Panel for the NEGC (Minute above refers) should be provided with training on their role with an expectation that they participate in that training.
Pursuant to the provisions of Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 13, the Committee will review any new and/or amended published forthcoming decisions relevant to its terms of reference and decide whether it wishes to enquire into any such decision before it is taken.
Matters may only be raised on those forthcoming decisions at Committee meetings where the Member has notified the Committee Services Manager in writing (or by personal email) of the question they wish to ask, no later than Midday, two working days before the day of the meeting.
Pursuant to the provisions of Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 13, the Committee reviewed any new and/or amended published forthcoming decisions relevant to its terms of reference with a view to deciding whether it wished to enquire into any such decision before it was taken. The relevant forthcoming decisions were before the Committee.
In response to a question, Officers agreed to seek further information regarding the proposed decision identified as ‘Terms of removal of a Restrictive Covenant over land to the rear of Wayside, Rectory Road, Great Holland’ and to provide that information to Councillors Allen and Miles.
The Committee noted the submitted list of published forthcoming decisions.