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The Chairman will read the following announcement:
“I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties).
Therefore, by entering the Conference Suite and using the seating area, you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes.”
The Chairman reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.
To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.
The Committee noted that no substitute Members had been appointed for this meeting.
To confirm the minutes of the meetings of the Committee held on 3 June and 8 June 2021.
(1) That the minutes of the meeting held on 3 June 2021 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record; and
(2) That the minutes of the meeting held on 8 June 2021 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record, subject to the following amendments:
· page 20, last paragraph, end of first sentence – deleted, ‘and for residents’, to read: Councillor D Wixley, the Ward Councillor, clarified that the Council’s Pyrles Lane Nursery had previously been located here and the site had first been disclosed 10 years ago but he had not been kept informed on developments as the Ward Councillor’;
· page 20, last paragraph, deleted second sentence that read, ‘A press release would be helpful to avoid any misunderstandings.’; and
· page 21, line 6, insert ‘a planning’ to read, ‘He stated that any comments he made were not final, and he reserved final judgement for such a planning meeting.’
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To declare interests in any item on the agenda.
In considering whether to declare a pecuniary or a non-pecuniary interest under the Council’s Code of Conduct, Members are requested to pay particular attention to paragraph (11) of the Code in addition to the more familiar requirements.
This requires the declaration of a non-pecuniary interest in any matter before Overview & Scrutiny which relates to a decision of or action by another Committee or Sub-Committee of the Council, a Joint Committee or Joint Sub-Committee in which the Council is involved and of which the Councillor is also a Member.
Paragraph (11) of the Code of Conduct does not refer to Cabinet decisions or attendance at an Overview & Scrutiny meeting purely for the purpose of answering questions or providing information on such a matter.
(a) Pursuant to the Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor R Bassett declared a pecuniary interest in item 8, Qualis Four-Year Business Plan – 2021/22 to 2024/25, by virtue of being a non-Executive Director on the Qualis Board and that he had had an input in this business plan. The Councillor had determined that he would leave the meeting for this item.
Public Questions & Requests to Address the Overview and Scrutiny Committee
(Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) To receive questions submitted by members of the public and any requests to address the Committee, in accordance with Article 6 (Overview and Scrutiny) of the Council’s Constitution.
(a) Public Questions
Members of the public may ask questions of the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee at ordinary meetings of the Committee, in accordance with the procedure set out in the Constitution.
(b) Requests to address the Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Any member of the public or a representative of another organisation may address the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on any agenda item (except those dealt with in private session as exempt or confidential business), due to be considered at the meeting.
(a) Public Questions
The Chairman announced that two questions had been received from an Epping resident, who had been unable to attend this meeting. The questions were as detailed below:
Question 1: Qualis Finance Report – As the reported ‘Expenditure’ was higher and ‘income’ (generally) significantly less than expected, did you envisage any problems with meeting deadline dates covering the costs associated with ‘interest’ loan repayments?
Qualis had paid interest and principal on loans to date and envisaged no issue with continuing to make these payments. Income from Qualis Management and Qualis Group was as expected. Qualis Living income was lower than forecast, and expenditure was also lower which improved the position. Qualis Commercial was not expecting any income this year, as per the financial plan.
Six months ago Qualis News released a statement advising that a new Community Interest Company was agreed and would form a Partnership with specialists Primera Corporation? The only acknowledgment of this new company set-up [the Epping resident] could see in this latest report shows that £3,000 was spent on ’set-up’ costs?, £6,000 paid to Primera?, and £10,000 on ‘Other’?
Question 2: Could you kindly give a couple examples of what the £10,000 ‘Other’ had been spent on and a summarised progress report on the partnership with Primera?
Answer (in part):
The fee agreed with regeneration specialists Primera for supporting the set-up of the Community Interest Company (CIC), full stakeholder consultation, identifying focus areas and the initial projects, was £13,000. There had been no additional expenditure associated with the CIC to date apart from relatively small costs associated with registering the company. The CIC was fully supported by the Group and did not currently have any employees. Costs associated with support would be recharged to the CIC, which was the most efficient approach during the set-up phase. The CIC would require seed money to get started in October 2021, and we were currently exploring funding options for the initial projects. Please see the Qualis Four-Year Business Plan (2021-2025) for additional information.
The Chairman remarked that Qualis had not had time before the meeting to answer question 2 fully, but this would be recorded in the minutes of this meeting. Replies would also be sent separately to the Epping resident.
Post meeting update: To conclude the answer to question 2 around the Community Interest Company (CIC), the details set out in the Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report (quarter 1) to Cabinet on 20 April 2021 were a list of potential calls against the contingency budget of the Qualis Group.
The figures set out were:
£3,000 for the initial scoping and set up of the CIC. This expenditure has been committed to.
£6,000 for specialist consultancy support from Primera.
£10,000 for the start-up of initial projects till income and funding can be raised. To date no projects have been identified or committed to.
The Qualis Four-Year Business Plan summarised the progress Qualis had achieved with the CIC thus far. Qualis also intended to issue a ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
Executive Decisions - Call-In
(Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) To consider any matter referred to the Committee for decision in relation to a call-in, in accordance with Article 6 (Overview and Scrutiny) of the Council’s Constitution.
The Committee noted that no executive decisions had been called-in for consideration since the previous meeting.
To pre-scrutinise the attached Qualis Four-Year Business Plan, prior to a decision by Cabinet that is due on 12 July 2021.
Strategic Director A Small introduced the detailed business plan, which had yet to go before Cabinet for a decision on 12 July. It was a requirement of the Shareholder agreement that each year Qualis produced and presented to the Council a one year and a four-year business plan for the Council to consider and sign-off. Since the newly appointed Qualis Board had needed time to consider the medium, and longer term, strategy only a single year business plan had been presented to Cabinet in December 2020. The business plan detailed future service transfers and a template for such business case transfers.
Councillor J Philip, Portfolio Holder (Finance, Qualis Client and Economic Development), outlined that Qualis had been set-up by the Council to be successful and to do the business it wanted Qualis to do, although it was a separate development company. He encouraged members to be positive about Qualis and look at what Qualis was expecting to undertake, but he fully expected the one year and four-year business plans to be updated, as there might be changes along the way.
S Jevans (Qualis Group Managing Director) introduced other Qualis Board Members – Paul Hewitt (Group Operations Director), Ben Johnson (Qualis Management Managing Director) and S Rutter (Qualis Commercial Managing Director). Qualis was the Council’s property management and development company and it generated returns that supported the Council’s key services and regeneration activities. Its core activities focussed on development, investment, property asset management and facilities management. The four-year plan set out detailed plans for each of the four subsidiary companies. The business plan aimed to deliver the Epping development sites, Cottis Lane, Bakers Lane, St John’s Road, Conder Building and Hemnall Street (270 residential homes), and Roundhills (28 residential homes). Any investment and regeneration opportunities within the District would be explored. Qualis would continue to build on its commercial investment portfolio and had already achieved a £30 million investment portfolio across three assets. Qualis would look at the benefits of transferring additional services that made sense to do so in relation to property. It would be working with the community on the development of Qualis Community.
N Dawe (Qualis Group Finance Director) stated that Qualis Management would generate a 6% targeted return within the next four years. Qualis Commercial was forecast to return significant development income in the year after next. Qualis Living, in terms of investment assets, was forecast to grow a healthy profit over the next four years and a further small loan would be required to help more developments to take place worth £35 million.
The Committee pre-scrutinised the Qualis Four-Year Business Plan 2021/22 to 2024/25, as detailed below.
· The residential homes to be built at the Epping Town Centre developments and Roundhills seemed a small number of homes for the next four years. Regarding key priorities in relation to the property asset management function, how much was it envisaged this would save the Council? Councillor J Philip replied that this was why the Council’s asset management team ... view the full minutes text for item 30.
To consider the attached final draft of the Overview and Scrutiny 2020/21 Annual Report.
The Chairman advised members that the cover would be amended to show the corporate logo background. The Committee agreed to submit the 2020/21 Annual Report to Council for approval.
(1) That the final draft of the Overview and Scrutiny 2020/21 Annual Report of the work undertaken during the past municipal year be agreed, subject to the cover being amended; and
(2) That this Annual Report be submitted to Full Council on 29 July 2021,
That the Committee review the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions to enable the identification of appropriate matters for the overview and scrutiny work programme and the overview of specific decisions proposed to be taken over the period of the plan.
Article 6 (Overview and Scrutiny) of the Constitution requires that the Committee review the Executive’s programme of Key Decisions (the Cabinet Forward Plan) at each meeting, to enable the identification of appropriate matters for the overview and scrutiny work programme and to provide an opportunity for the overview of specific decisions proposed to be taken over the period of the plan.
The Constitution (Article 14 (Decision Making)) defines a Key Decision as an executive decision which:
(a) involves expenditure or savings of £250,000 or above which are currently within budget and policy;
(b) involves expenditure or savings of £100,000 or above which are NOT currently within budget and policy;
(c) is likely to be significant in terms of its effect on communities living or working in an area comprising two or more wards;
(d) raises new issues of policy;
(e) increases financial commitments (i.e. revenue and/or capital) in future years over and above existing budgetary approval;
(f) comprises and includes the publication of draft or final schemes which may require, either directly or in relation to objections to, the approval of a Government Minister; or
(g) involves the promotion of local legislation.
Wherever possible, Portfolio Holders will attend the Committee to present forthcoming key decisions, to answer questions on the forward plan and to indicate where appropriate work could be carried out by overview and scrutiny on behalf of the Cabinet.
The Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions of 1 July 2021, as an Appendix to this report, will be published as a very late Supplementary Agenda on 1 July.
Councillor A Lion queried the Corporate Aims and Objectives header and that it should be updated to read, 2021/22.
(a) Leader Portfolio
Councillor S Murray asked for an update on the Civic Offices accommodation and for progress with community partnerships. Councillor C Whitbread replied that visits to the newly refurbished Civic Offices were being organised for members in addition to an official opening. There had been some positive commercial interest for accommodation use and there were other partnerships he was personally involved with, but a report would follow shortly.
(b) Planning and Sustainability
Councillor A Lion queried where electric charging issues would be covered. Would this be in relation to the Implementation of the Local Plan item or was there going to be an item on sustainable transport because only the HGGT Transport strategy was the other item under this Portfolio Holder? Councillor J Philip replied that these were the key decisions, but the Council did have work ongoing on sustainable transport under the Local Plan, as there were policies that covered this and electric charging vehicle points, as well as the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town sustainable transport policy. Further information on this would be coming out very soon in the public consultation of the Local Plan’s main modifications.
(c) Housing Services
Councillor S Murray acknowledged that he had received a detailed email update from J Gould (Community and Wellbeing Service Director) outlining timelines for the scrutiny of housing issues he had raised at the last committee meeting. This was particularly in relation to the tenancy strategy, housing strategy, homelessness and rough sleeping strategy, allocations policy and sheltered housing, and thanked the officer for this useful information.
(d) Community and Regulatory Services
Councillor M Sartin asked for more information, on the Fit and Proper Person Test under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. Councillor A Patel replied that the Council had to ensure fit and proper persons managed caravan sites as they needed to go through a particular procedure to meet certain criteria under the Act. The report would review the Fit and Proper Person Determination Policy and the safeguards the Council needed to put in place.
(1) That the Committee reviewed the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions of 1 July 2021; and
(2) That the Corporate Aims & Key Objectives header would be updated to 2021/22.
Progress towards the achievement of the work programme for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee is reviewed at each meeting.
(a) Current Work Programme
The current work programme for the Committee is attached as an appendix to this agenda.
(b) Reserve Programme
A reserve list of scrutiny topics is developed as required, to ensure that the work flow of overview and scrutiny is continuous. When necessary, the Committee will allocate items from the list appropriately, once resources become available in the work programme, following the completion of any ongoing scrutiny activity.
Members can put forward suggestions for inclusion in the work programme or reserve list through the adopted PICK process. Existing review items will be dealt with first, after which time will be allocated to the items contained in the reserve work plan.
(a) Current Work Programme
There were three standing items shown on the work programme. The Qualis Four-Year Business plan (item (10)) and Overview and Scrutiny 2020/21 Annual Report (item 11)) had been completed at this meeting. A report on possibly reconvening of the Local High Streets Task and Finish Panel and scrutiny of the Corporate Plan Year 4 (2021/22) quarter 1 performance would be going to the next meeting on 30 September 2021.
Councillor S Murray remarked that it seemed more appropriate for the Elections Planning Progress Report (item (19)) to be scrutinised by Stronger Council Select Committee. The Chairman asked the Democratic and Electoral Services Team Manager, G Woodhall, to check which committee this should go to.
Councillor S Rackham supported the reconvening the Local High Streets Task and Finish Panel (item 13)), as it was beneficial before it was suspended because of the Covid pandemic and would be beneficial afterwards.
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked if periodic reports on the town centre regeneration project and how it was progressing would go to the Task and Finish Panel? Councillor M Sartin replied that it would be better if reports were made to this Committee or a select Committee. Councillor J Philip replied that he would be reporting progress to Cabinet. However, he would liaise with Councillor M Sartin, as chairman of Overview and Scrutiny, which was the most appropriate committee to scrutinise town centre regeneration work when there was sufficient work to be scrutinised.
(b) Reserve Programme
G Woodhall asked members to contact him if they wished to suggest the external scrutiny of any organisations.
Councillor S Murray suggested scrutinising the way Thames Water was operating, although it only partially covered the District, because of the way work (or lack of work) had been undertaken, which was also supported by Councillor D Wixley. Councillor M Sartin remarked that the Committee had previously invited Thames Water.
(1) That the Committee noted the current work programme;
(2) That the Democratic and Electoral Services Team Manager would advise which committee usually scrutinised the progress report on planning for the Elections;
(3) That Councillor J Philip would liaise with Councillor M Sartin on which committee would scrutinise town centre regeneration; and
(4) That external scrutiny of Thames Water be considered.
(Chairman of the Select Committee) Article 6 (Overview and Scrutiny) of the Constitution requires that the chairmen of the select committees report to the meeting in regard to progress with the achievement of the current work programme for each select committee and on any recommendations for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The current work programme for each select committee is attached as an appendix to this agenda.
(a) Stronger Communities Select Committee
Councillor S Murray reported that the first meeting had been held on 15 June 2021 and the new Chairman, Councillor J Lea, had done an outstanding job.
(b) Stronger Council Select Committee
Councillor P Bolton reported that the reviewing of local elections was already on the select committee’s work programme. Therefore, Overview and Scrutiny Committee did not need to duplicate this scrutiny. Also, pre-scrutiny was beginning to work and he encouraged more of this.
Councillor S Murray thought that the local elections review should go to the July meeting as it seemed a bit late to review these elections by September 2021. Councillor M Sartin said that there was an officer Elections Planning Group, which held meetings throughout the year. A Small added that the report would try to be brought forward, but he did not know if this would be possible.
(c) Stronger Place Select Committee
Councillor A Lion reported that this was last year’s work programme and the work had been competed but he was not aware of any new work programme items that had previously been agreed. At the first meeting in the municipal year on 22 June 2021, members received a verbal report on the main modifications of the Local Plan. The Committee had also spent time reviewing what it wanted to scrutinise in the forthcoming year. He had requested some of the directorates’ business plans and was looking at the Corporate Plan 2018-2023, including the Cabinet work programme and other documents. Mr Dawe had also made some suggestions, so it might take some time to get a work programme together but this was actively being worked on.
Councillor J H Whitehouse added that the green action plan used to regularly come to the previous Neighbourhoods Select Committee so it should be subject to scrutiny by one of the select committees.
Councillor M Sartin replied that this was one of the issues to discuss at the Joint Meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen, which was being held on 22 June 2021.
(1) That the Committee noted the work programmes of the three select
Exclusion of Public and Press
Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) To consider whether, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press should be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on grounds that they will involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the following paragraph(s) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) or are confidential under Section 100(A)(2):
The Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006, which came into effect on 1 March 2006, requires the Council to consider whether maintaining the exemption listed above outweighs the potential public interest in disclosing the information. Any member who considers that this test should be applied to any currently exempted matter on this agenda should contact the proper officer at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
(Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager) Article 17 - Access to Information, Procedure Rules of the Constitution define background papers as being documents relating to the subject matter of the report which in the Proper Officer's opinion:
(a) disclose any facts or matters on which the report or an important part of the report is based; and
(b) have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report and does not include published works or those which disclose exempt or confidential information and in respect of executive reports, the advice of any political advisor.
The Council will make available for public inspection for four years after the date of the meeting one copy of each of the documents on the list of background papers.
The Committee noted that there was no business which necessitated the exclusion of the public and press from the meeting.