Venue: Conference Suite - Civic Offices. View directions
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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 this 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 the following substitutions that had been appointed:
· Councillor S Heap as substitute for Councillor D Plummer;
· Councillor C P Pond as substitute for Councillor R Baldwin; and
· Councillor J McIvor as substitute for Councillor K Williamson.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 15 April 2021.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 15 April 2021 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record, subject to the following amendments to Select Committees – Work Programmes (a) Stronger Communities Select Committee (Min no 100 (a)), paragraph 3, sentence 3, to amend ‘Sunder’ and ‘she’ to read:
Councillor D Sunger noted that Councillor J H Whitehouse would like a report on what was happening to the collections to be considered at the next 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.
There were no declarations of interest pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.
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.
The Committee noted that no public questions or requests to address the meeting had been received.
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.
Corporate Priorities 2021/22
(Leader of Council) To receive an overview of the Council’s Corporate Priorities for 2021/22.
The Leader, Councillor C Whitbread, presented an overview of the Council’s corporate priorities for 2021/22 at the Committee’s first meeting in the new municipal year and it was appropriate to physically be in the refurbished Civic Offices. Over the coming weeks members would be invited to tour the building. Good progress was being made with partners and this underpinned the transformation process. This fundamentally protected frontline services and the Council as a low Council Tax authority.
New era - improved technology had been rolled out to enable virtual meetings via Zoom to take place over the last year. The remainder of the Council’s estate had moved forward and would be producing returns for residents. Qualis was more than a development company as it provided council housing alongside other development projects and would bring greater savings and returns. There were five sites in Epping, with another sports centre. Qualis’ Four-Year Business Plan would set out its future developments and plans. If the Council was to provide frontline services, it had to maximise its assets.
Renewal was the theme of the Leader’s presentation. The way we worked would change so would other things change. Businesses would not be seeking to return to the City but would move local, leading to partnership arrangements for use of the Civic Offices and commercial interest in the top floor. There would be a further report to Cabinet on the regeneration of the high streets.
Renewal environment – more charging points were needed. More hybrid meetings held virtually would result in less road usage, which was better for the climate. The first priority was the Local Plan, as it was more important than ever to have planned development, not unplanned. The robust process for the Local Plan was started ten years ago. The main modifications that had been with the Inspector would be taken forward to consultation in July 2021. There was a need for homes to reduce homelessness.
Council housebuilding programme – the Council was proud to deliver this, and so too should members, and to give young people the best chance possible with developments of mixed tenures.
Income / assets – normal parking tariffs had started again in June, but the Council had been flexible and agile with car parking charges. North Weald Airfield was the Council’s biggest asset. The National Police Air Service and Air Ambulance were based there, and the airfield was a large asset commercially. The Council was also working on a masterplan for North Weald. Pre-scrutiny was important for the scrutiny committees. In particular, the town centre regeneration reports would be going to Overview and Scrutiny Committee very soon. It would be a busy year ahead for the Council and certainly busy for the scrutiny committees.
Councillor S Murray was supportive of the Leader, but it was important to scrutinise carefully and be healthily sceptical, as scrutiny was important, and it helped the Cabinet. The Councillor was not impressed the Member of Parliament had been shown round the Civic Offices before ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
To pre-scrutinise the attached report on the Council’s new policy, prior to Cabinet’s decision that is due on 21 June 2021.
The Council had a dual responsibility, to protect trees in the interests of public amenity, but also to try and ensure that no individual suffered undue loss, distress or damage resulting from Council owned and managed trees. The Council’s current approach was ad-hoc and some residents were experiencing issues, such as not being able to open windows or keep properties warm due to tree root damage. The proposed policy took a structured approach and would enable the Council to take a consistent approach to the challenges of tree root damage. It also defined the decision-making process. The report author, D Fenton (Director of Housing and Property), had been unable to attend this meeting. The Strategic Director, A Small, professed to having a limited knowledge but would try to answer questions.
Many technical questions were raised and a selection of these included those below.
· Appendices 1 and 2 although referred to in the report were not detailed as such in the report.
· How long would the key evidence take to collate – days, a month or longer?
· The process of evaluating the cost of replacing trees as trees could attract high premiums if trees were very old and sometimes this could involve large sums.
· What was ‘Contact trees’?
· There was support for a minimum of two replacement trees for every tree removed preferably within the locality, but what size trees would be used as replacements? The more mature the replacement tree the better the take up.
· If a tree did fail would the contractor that supplied the tree be asked to replace it, for example within the first year?
· Would not want to see the Council’s responsibility had ended if a tree died after six months.
· What, if any, was the Council’s role about trees on pavements? Loughton Roding ward had disastrous pavements caused by the roots of many trees that had been planted there by Chigwell Urban District Council.
· Were trees on grass verges the responsibility of Essex County Council?
· There were grammatical errors in the report and policy that needed correcting.
· The draft policy was based on damage of trees, but did the Council have a parallel policy of damage of our trees on people?
· Use of ‘likely to be viable’ was too litigious as it implied the causation was already proven but better to use ‘may be viable’.
· Suggestion to use, ‘failing mediation landowners could be compelled through court action…’
· If mature trees were being felled, could the person doing the tree works cut the tree into the biggest sizes possible as these were worth a fortune as timber.
· As an authority we had a lot of tree specialists but did the Council need to recruit more?
A Small commented that trees on highway verges were usually the responsibility of Essex County Council and there was some commonality between the two policies as the draft tree policy was based on County’s. The Council would deal with cases as quickly as possible but there could be delays with third ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
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 May 2021 is attached as an Appendix to this report.
Cabinet’s Key Decision List (KDL) updated to the 1 June 2021 was scrutinised by the Committee and the following points were raised.
(a) Leader Portfolio
Regarding the Qualis Four-Year Business Plan, Councillor S Murray, commented that a consistent approach on when items were going to scrutiny in the KDL would be helpful, so it did not have to be cross-referenced with the Overview and Scrutiny Committee work programme. Councillor S Murray also asked how progress was going with partnerships within the Civic Offices. Councillor C Whitbread advised this was going well, and more information would be reported shortly.
(b) Planning and Sustainability
It was noted that A Blom-Cooper no longer worked for the Council, so the officer’s name needed to be updated.
(c) Finance, Qualis Client and Economic Development Portfolio
The Town Centre Regeneration of Loughton, Epping and Buckhurst Hill, which was being pre-scrutinised at an extra meeting of this Committee on 8 June 2021, would be the first opportunity for members to review. Councillor S Murray continued that the report on the sale of Pyrles Lane site to Qualis also needed to be looked at carefully on 8 June as he did not like the tone of the report. The Portfolio Holder, Councillor J Philip, replied that these were independently commissioned reports on the town centre regeneration and the consultant/report author had consulted with local members, and apologised if he had not been consulted. Not all the options in the reports would be taken forward. Councillor J Philip had a different view of the reports to Councillor Murray. When planning permission lapsed for the Pyrles Lane site the Council did approach Qualis, as Qualis was there to help work with the Council and it must be for the benefit of our residents and of benefit to Qualis.
Councillor A Lion asked about regeneration for Chigwell and local businesses. Councillor J Philip replied it was being rolled out to four town centres so would be returning early to this committee to be scrutinised and would include large rural town centres and North Weald. It was about partnerships working with the Council. Also, anything that was put in place had to be sustainable and to get businesses involved was the right way forward.
(d) Environment and Technical Services Portfolio
The Overview and Scrutiny work programme had ‘tbc’ for the pre-scrutiny of the business case for the transfer of MOT, Fleet and Grounds Maintenance services to Qualis yet the KDL showed the Cabinet decision was due on 13 September 2021. Would an extra meeting of this Committee be arranged? The Portfolio Holder, Councillor N Avey, replied that he would advise the Executive that the Committee should be able to consider the business case before Cabinet took any decisions.
(e) Housing Services Portfolio
Councillor S Murray emphasised that there were three items that needed to be pre-scrutinised by a scrutiny committee – the Council’s Allocations Policy, Tenancy Policy and Housing Strategy. All had been allocated a decision date by Cabinet of 7 ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
(Democratic & Electoral Services Team 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.
For information: A summary of previous scrutiny of external organisations undertaken is also attached.
The Democratic and Electoral Services Manager, G Woodhall, commented that the number of standing items had reduced from five to three. There was no external scrutiny listed on the work programme, but this could be discussed at the forthcoming Overview and Scrutiny Agenda Planning Group as the work programme was a working document that could be revised throughout the year.
Councillor M Sartin reminded members of the extra Committee meeting on 8 June 2021 and that a large number of items would be going to 1 July meeting. There would be an opportunity to scrutinise external groups later in the year, which members should give serious consideration.
Councillor J H Whitehouse would welcome not having to scrutinise external agencies and rather scrutinise the Council’s internal services for the benefit of residents.
Councillor S Murray suggested that perhaps the Committee might need to respond only if there was a real concern and also that Essex County Council (Children’s Services) should not be the first item on the Reserve Programme. Epping Forest Sixth Form Consortium, the second Reserve Programme item, should have been scrutinised earlier as the Sixth Form Consortium had been in operation for six years, but it had never in reality operated as a consortium. Councillor M Sartin asked if members wished to remove the Epping Forest Sixth Form Consortium from the Reserve Programme, which was agreed.
It was noted that the Scrutiny of External Organisations on pages 69 – 72 of the agenda was for information and gave a summary of all the local authorities and organisations that had been scrutinised since 2014.
(a) That the Committee noted its current work programme; and
(b) That the Committee agreed to remove Epping Forest Sixth Form Consortium from the Reserve Programme.
To consider nominations for the appointment to membership of the select committees for the current municipal year and to make appointments to the position of chairman and vice-chairman of each select committee (report to follow).
Article 6 of the Council’s Constitution required that the Committee determined the number of select committees and reviewed them. In addition, the membership of the select committees was to be appointed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the first meeting each year, as such appointments were reserved to the Committee and not made by the Council.
Councillor S Murray remarked that he was pleased that two of the new select committee vice-chairmen were new members.
(1) That, in order to reflect pro rata requirements and the lowest number of members necessary to achieve cross-party representation in the rules of the Constitution, each of the select committee comprise 11 members for 2021/22;
(2) That appointments to the select committees for 2021/22 as set out in the appendix to these minutes, be adopted; and
(3) That appointments be made to the positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of each of the Select Committees for 2021/22, as set out in the appendix to these minutes.
(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.
Councillor J Lea asked if our housing associations where perhaps work was not being done, could be scrutinised? Councillor H Whitbread agreed that this was a good question, and there was the wider question to ask around housing associations. Councillor S Murray also agreed and that this should be undertaken by the Stronger Communities Select Committee.
Councillor M Sartin advised that it was for the select committees to look at their work programmes at the first meeting in the new municipal year.
Exclusion of Public and Press
(Team Manager - Democratic & Electoral Services) 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.
(Team Manager - Democratic & Electoral Services) 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.