Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 15th October, 2020 7.30 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

Contact: Gary Woodhall Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

29.

Webcasting Introduction

(Corporate Communications Manager) This meeting is to be webcast and the Chairman will read the following announcement:

 

“I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet and will be capable of subsequent repeated viewing, with copies of the recording being made available for those that request it.

 

By being present at this meeting, it is likely that the recording cameras will capture your image and this will result in your image becoming part of the broadcast.

 

You should be aware that this may infringe your human and data protection rights and if you have any concerns then please speak to the Webcasting Officer.

 

Please could I also remind Members and Officers to activate their microphones before speaking.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded everyone present that this virtual meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.

30.

SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

(Democratic & Electoral Services Manager) To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that no substitute Members had been appointed for this meeting.

31.

MINUTES pdf icon PDF 186 KB

(Democratic & Electoral Services Manager) To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 16 July 2020 (attached).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

(1)      That the minutes of the meeting held on 16 July 2020 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record, subject to the following amendment:

 

(a)      adding Cllr J M Whitehouse to the list of attendees.

32.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

(Monitoring Officer) 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct.

33.

Public Questions & Requests to Address the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

(Democratic & Electoral Services 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that no public questions or requests to address the meeting had been received.

34.

Executive Decisions - Call-In

(Democratic & Electoral Services 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman updated the Committee on progress with the call-in received regarding releasing the restrictive covenants at Epping Forest College in Loughton.

 

There had been an informal meeting held regarding the call-in and the lead signatory had indicated that sufficient progress had been made and discussions were ongoing so there was not the need to debate the call-in at the current time and that it would be withdrawn in the not too distant future.

35.

Local Mental Health Services - Scrutiny of External Organisation pdf icon PDF 137 KB

(Democratic & Electoral Services Manager) To consider the attached report and undertake external scrutiny of Local Mental Health Services with Ms S Rea, the Associate Director of West Essex Mental Health Services from the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman introduced Ms S Rea, Associate Director of West Essex Mental Health Services, from the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) as the Committee had previously requested an opportunity to undertake external scrutiny of local mental health services.

 

Ms S Rea gave a presentation to the Committee to answer the specific questions raised by Members before the meeting and provide a wider overview of the services provided by the EPUT within the District:

-        Impact of Covid-19 on mental health;

-        How we responded;

-        Response during Covid:

o   Older people and those with dementia;

-        Projected surge;

-        Mental health & wellbeing of students aged 18 +;

-        Funding for local mental health services;

-        Working in collaboration;

-        EPUT Services in Epping Forest;

-        Services for older people and all age dementia; and

-        Adult community.

 

The Chairman thanked Ms S Rea for her presentation and requested questions from the Committee. In response to a number of questions from Cllr S Rackham, Ms S Rea stated that it was always considered that a second wave of Covid-19 infections would have mental health ramifications with a gradually developing peak. Consideration was already being given to further supporting those people already using the local services, as well as considering how to further support those people previously released from the local services. Extra funding for the Crisis Team had come from NHS England, but the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had to make a commitment to using that funding for long term care. The Trust was also examining how to develop the Crisis Team using funding from Essex County Council, for example the Crisis Café in Harlow. It was acknowledged that risk assessments were challenging in the current circumstances, but the Trust was actively checking in with people on their books – although some of these people were not keen on having outsiders come to their homes.

 

Cllr D Plummer acknowledged that mental health services were not funded as well as they should be, and enquired if there was any specific help that could be given to the mental health of young people as they become adults. Ms S Rea accepted that there was a gap in mental health provision for youngsters as they transitioned from children to adults, and there was a project whereby adult services became involved with an individual from the age of 17. A pilot scheme for young people aged 18 – 25 appeared to be working well and it was intended to continue with this scheme. The Trust supported any initiative which reinforced the view mental health was an issue that could affect anyone.

 

Cllr S Murray was heartened to hear that services were not withdrawn during the first Pandemic, and complimented the quality of the staff who supported a weekly mental health group in Loughton. The Councillor commented that schools were far more aware of mental health issues with children now, but felt that it was still difficult for children aged 11- 18 to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.

36.

Accommodation Strategy

(Strategic Director) To receive a verbal update on progress with the implementation of the Council’s Accommodation Strategy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Service Manager for Strategy, Delivery & Performance, L Wade, presented a verbal update on the Accommodation Strategy.

 

L Wade reported that the refurbishment works of the Civic Offices were progressing well, and discussions had progressed on the Travel Plan with the appointment of a Sustainable Transport Officer. It was highlighted that the Strategy for the space had been focused on introducing new ways of working and learnings from how individuals had been working from home, leading to a focus on collaboration. In terms of both partner and commercial space, there had been some positive interest. The Customer Journey for residents was also being developed, and a budget update was provided for the Committee which indicated that the Strategy was on target.

 

Cllr S Murray requested further information on the community groups that would be based in the refurbished Civic Offices, as the current impression was that there was more emphasis on securing commercial enterprises to share the building rather than community groups. Cllr S Murray also informed the Committee that Citizens Advice could not consider using any of the space inside the Civic Offices as the cost of the proposed lease was more for less space than what they were paying for and using at the moment.

 

L Wade responded that no agreements had been finalised with any local groups, and that discussions were on-going with Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF) and the Library service at the current time. Cllr S Murray opined that VAEF and the Library would not form the sort of Community Hub that had originally been proposed. The Leader of the Council, Cllr C Whitbread, reassured the Committee that the Council was in discussions with various bodies about sharing the space in the Civic Offices. The Leader would be happy to discuss the current situation with Citizens Advice further with Cllr S Murray, and added that the refurbishment would create a brilliant space within the Civic Offices for the Council and others to use.

 

            Resolved:

 

(1)        That the update on progress with the implementation of the Council’s Accommodation Strategy be noted.

37.

People Strategy

(Strategic Director) To receive a verbal update on progress with the implementation of the Council’s People Strategy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Service Director for Business Support, P Maginnis, presented a verbal update on progress with the implementation of the Council’s People Strategy.

 

P Maginnis referenced to the ‘Candidate Journey’ video from the last meeting, and informed the Committee that a full update on the Strategy had been provided at the recent meeting of the Stronger Council Select Committee. A lot of time and resource had been spent on developing measures to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff recently, as well as the development of Key Performance Indicators to measure the work from the People Strategy. The Council’s Apprentice Programme had been further developed and the Council now had more apprentices employed than was required under its public sector duty. The Council was also using the Apprentice Levy for training purposes.

 

Cllr S Murray commented that a number of the current Apprentices were ex-pupils of Roding Valley High School where the Councillor worked, and they were very complimentary of the scheme. Councillor H Whitbread welcomed Cllr S Murray’s comments, and highlighted that young people were affected more by the Covid-19 pandemic than other sectors of society. Councillor C Whitbread added that the Council produced excellent Apprentices, and that the majority of the people currently in furlough were aged 19 – 24. Essex County Council had also recently launched an entry into work scheme for young people.

 

Cllr R Jennings enquired, from a mental health and wellbeing perspective, whether considerable numbers of staff had issues dealing with the isolation of working from home? P Maginnis responded that a number of questions had been added to the staff survey on display screens relating to coping with working from home, which had identified a number of issues. To address these issues, further support and guidance had been provided for Team Managers, as well as online resources that staff could access. In addition, it was planned to have 10% of staff trained as mental health first aiders by the end of February 2021.

 

At the conclusion of this item, the Committee adjourned for a five-minute comfort break.

 

            Resolved:

 

(1)        That the verbal update on progress with the Council’s People Strategy be noted.

38.

Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report - Q1/Q2 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 209 KB

(Strategic Director) To consider the attached financial monitoring performance report for Qualis for the first two quarters of 2019/20.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At the request of the Chairman, the Committee agreed to take this item and the next item on the agenda together.

 

The Strategic Director, A Small, presented the two Quarterly Monitoring reports for Qualis covering the first three quarters of 2020/21, and stated that he would focus on the report for the third quarter. The emphasis during this period for Qualis had been in completing the loan funding transaction, progressing planning work for the Epping development sites and preparing for the transfer of the Housing Repairs service from the Council to Qualis. Qualis was meeting its obligations under the shareholders agreement, and all but one of the key performance indicators had been met. The Covid-19 pandemic had delayed many of the key actions for both the Council and Qualis, some of the originally planned targets had slipped, and the pandemic had affected values and capital markets, but good progress was now being made. The next quarter would be different as key asset acquisitions and further service transfers would take place, and future monitoring reports would reflect this.

 

Councillor M Sartin enquired whether local companies had been secured to fulfil the various roles outlined in the report? The Chief Operating Officer, N Dawe, stated that Qualis had required an audit company with the necessary skills and experience but the auditors engaged were a local regional company. Legal support was temporarily being provided by a non-local company, but it was the intention for Qualis to use local companies in preference wherever possible.

 

Cllr J H Whitehouse referred to the options for the re-provision of a Leisure Centre in Epping, and queried when would the decision be made regarding the provision of a Sports Hall in the new Leisure Centre? The Chief Executive, G Blakemore, stated that the next stage of public consultation for the Epping development sites, including the Leisure Centre, would begin in early November. The Leader of the Council, Cllr C Whitbread, added that the responses for this next stage of the public consultation would inform the resulting planning applications for the different sites. Cllr S Murray was concerned that the residents of Epping could be disappointed if the replacement Leisure Centre did not contain a Sports Hall, and the Board of Qualis needed to take note of this. Cllr D Wixley also commented that he hoped a Sports Hall would be included; N Dawe reiterated that a decision had yet to be taken.

 

Cllr J M Whitehouse enquired whether Qualis would continue to own the proposed new Leisure Centre in Epping or whether it would be leased to the Council? N Dawe reminded the Committee that the current Leisure Management contract with Places for Leisure gave them the right to design and build the new Leisure Centre, and this was the subject of ongoing discussions. No commercial decision had yet been taken over whether to purchase or lease the new Leisure Centre.

 

Cllr S Murray went on to enquire if Qualis would also consult with the recognised trades unions  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.

39.

Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report - Q3 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 254 KB

(Strategic Director) To consider the attached financial monitoring performance report for Qualis for the third quarter of 2019/20.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This item had been considered in conjunction with the previous item on the agenda.

40.

Covid-19 Update pdf icon PDF 327 KB

(Strategic Director) To consider the attached report on the effect to the Council’s services of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Director, A Small, presented an update report on the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

A Small reported that the Council had responded to the pandemic in a proactive and positive fashion and had also played an active part in the co-ordinated Greater Essex response. Most of the Council’s services were now operating normally but with some necessary restrictions to ensure the safety of staff and residents. With the easing of the national lockdown, the Council’s response had moved from ‘Response’ to ‘Restoration’ with a forward look to the ‘Recovery’ phase. However, there was the continued threat of a second spike in infections, and since the report was written the infection rate within the District had increased significantly from 49 to 90 infections.

 

A Small stated that Officers felt that the Council had acted quickly to help residents, businesses and staff during the first wave of the pandemic. The Council ensured that local democracy had continued through the implementation of virtual meetings, and the regular Portfolio Holder Advisory Group (PHAG) meetings had helped to shape the policy decisions taken by the Council. It was felt that the support infrastructure was now much more resilient and the Council was better placed to cope with further spikes of infections, but it would be interesting to understand the Member perception of the Council’s response to the pandemic.

 

The Vice-Chairman, Cllr R Jennings, felt that the Council had responded quickly for the benefit of residents, but wondered what services were suspended and the impact of this. A Small stated that Leisure provision and children’s play areas were initially suspended, but they had now reopened to the public albeit with restrictions. However, many core services such as waste collection had been able to continue as normal, and the Corporate Communications Team had issued a significant number of press releases to keep residents informed.

 

Cllr J H Whitehouse highlighted that the Careline alarms service had not been provided during the first wave of the pandemic, which was a vital service for elderly people living on their own, and the Councillor requested that every effort be made to not suspend this service again. A Small accepted that community alarms were important to the people who received them, and the Council would ensure that this service was prioritised during any second wave of infections. In the future, it was planned for Essex County Council to provide a county-wide service for Careline.

 

Cllr D Wixley enquired whether there were any notes taken of the PHAG meetings for Councillors to examine, and where were most of the infections in the District occurring? A Small replied that the notes of the PHAG meetings were informal but he could discuss any particular areas of concern with individual Councillors if they wished. Although the spread of infections had been seen across the whole District, they were concentrated in Loughton, Buckhurst Hill and Waltham Abbey. The current total of 90 infections was above average for the East of England, but below average for the whole of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.

41.

Corporate Plan Key Action Plan 2020/21 - Quarter 2 Progress pdf icon PDF 204 KB

(Service Manager – Strategy, Delivery & Performance) This report will be published on a supplementary agenda to ensure an up-to-date set of figures is included for Quarter 2.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

L Wade, the Service Manager for Strategy, Delivery & Performance, presented a report on progress with the Service Plan objectives for the second quarter of 2020/21.

 

L Wade reported that the Committee was being asked to determine the level of reporting that should be presented to the Council’s Scrutiny function, either: a summary of progress at the programme and project level; or a summary of progress at the programme level with exceptions reported at the project level. It was also reported that there were three projects within the programmes that were currently ‘red’ in terms of the progress made during the quarter. For the Telecare Offering project, there had been a delay in the cessation of the service following the withdrawal of the Essex County Council tender, there had also been a delay in the completion of the ICT restructure, and in the review of the main modifications document for the Local Plan resulting from the Planning Inspector’s limited capacity to undertake the review. The Committee was also requested to review the performance of the Key Performance Indicators for the first two quarters of 2020/21, and review the recommended Indicators for reporting in quarter 3.

 

Due to the lateness of the hour, Cllr D Sunger proposed that this report be deferred until the Committee’s next meeting, which was seconded by Cllr D Plummer, and L Wade confirmed that she was happy for this report to held over until the next meeting.

 

            Resolved:

 

(1)        That the report be deferred until the next meeting of the Committee on 19 November 2020.

42.

UK Innovation Corridor - Scrutiny of External Organisation pdf icon PDF 134 KB

(Democratic & Electoral Services Manager) To consider the attached report requesting the scope, focus and appropriate lines of questioning to be agreed for the proposed external scrutiny activity of the UK Innovation Corridor (formerly known as the London-Stansted-Cambridge Consortium).

 

Further information on the UK Innovation Corridor can be obtained by clicking on the following link:  https://innovationcorridor.uk

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman, Cllr M Sartin, requested that if Members had any questions or key lines of enquiry for the external scrutiny of the UK Innovation Corridor then they inform the Team Manager for Democratic & Electoral Services – G Woodhall. Cllr R Jennings requested that the contact details for the UK Innovation Corridor be placed in the Council Bulletin as well.

43.

Cabinet Business pdf icon PDF 205 KB

Recommendation:

 

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.

 

(Democratic & Electoral Services Manager) 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 is attached as an Appendix to this report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions.

 

Cllr J H Whitehouse raised a general point that new Council policies should be considered by Overview & Scrutiny first before they were agreed by the Cabinet, and cited the proposed Right-to-Buy Disposals policy as an example. The Housing & Community Services Portfolio Holder, Cllr H Whitbread, explained that the policy would simply use Right-to-Buy receipts to buy new properties as part of the Council Housebuilding Programme before the receipts expired and had to be returned to the Government.

 

            Resolved:

 

            (1)        That the Executive’s current Programme of Key Decisions be noted.

44.

Overview & Scrutiny Committee - Work Programme pdf icon PDF 163 KB

(Democratic & Electoral Services Manager) 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Team Manager for Democratic & Electoral Services, G Woodhall, presented the Overview & Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2020/21.

 

Following on from the earlier external Scrutiny of local adult Mental Health Services, Cllr M Sartin proposed that external scrutiny of local youth Mental Health services be undertaken – either later this municipal year or during the next municipal year.

 

          Resolved:

 

(1)      That the external scrutiny of local youth Mental Health services be added to the Work Programme; and

 

(2)      That, as revised above, the current Overview & Scrutiny Work Programme for 2020/21 be noted.

45.

Select Committees - Work Programme pdf icon PDF 199 KB

(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.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the current Work Programmes for the three Select Committees.

 

Stronger Communities Select Committee

 

The Chairman of the Stronger Communities Select Committee, Cllr D Sunger, informed the Committee that the District Police Commander was due to attend the Select Committee’s next meeting in January 2021.

 

Stronger Place Select Committee

 

The Chairman of the Stronger Place Select Committee, Cllr R Bassett, informed the Committee that the corporate governance policy for Select Committees had been reviewed, as well as the Council Housebuilding Programme; phase five would see another 256 properties added to the Council’s housing stock.

 

            Resolved:

 

            (1)        That the Work Programmes for the three Select Committees be noted.

46.

Any Other Business

(Democratic & Electoral Services Manager) Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 requires that the permission of the Chairman be obtained, after prior notice to the Chief Executive, before urgent business not specified in the agenda (including a supplementary agenda of which the statutory period of notice has been given) may be transacted.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that there was no other urgent business for consideration at the meeting.

47.

Exclusion of Public and Press

Exclusion

(Democratic & Electoral Services 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):

 

Agenda Item No

Subject

Exempt Information Paragraph Number

Nil

Nil

Nil

 

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.

 

Background Papers 

(Democratic & Electoral Services 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that there was no business which necessitated the exclusion of the public and press from the meeting.