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The Chairman will read the following announcement:
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.”
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.
There were no substitutions reported at the 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 Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor R Bassett declared a non-pecuniary interest in the transfer of Grounds Maintenance service to Qualis by virtue of being a Non-Executive Director, Qualis Group Board Member. The Councillor had determined that he would remain in the meeting but would not take part in the consideration of this item.
b) Pursuant to the Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor S Murray declared a non-pecuniary interest in the transfer of Grounds Maintenance service to Qualis as he was a member of Loughton Town Council, which had a large contract with that service.
c) Pursuant to the Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor D Wixley declared a non-pecuniary interest in the transfer of Grounds Maintenance service to Qualis as he was a member of Loughton Town Council, which had a large contract with that service.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 27 September 2022.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 27 September 2022 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
Matters Arising and Outstanding Actions
To consider any matters arising and outstanding actions from the minutes of the previous meeting(s) that are not covered elsewhere in this agenda.
It was noted that there were no matters raised or outstanding actions from the minutes of the previous meeting.
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.
To consider the proposed transfer to Qualis of the Grounds Maintenance service on 1st April 2023 in accordance with the broad terms and approach proposed within the report and subject to satisfactory conclusion of the statutory consultation exercises, including those staff proposed for TUPE transfer to Qualis.
The Committee scrutinised the transfer of Grounds Maintenance to Qualis ahead of the Cabinet’s decision on 7 November 2022. A Small introduced the report, which proposed to transfer the service in April 2023. Qualis had established a vision for itself as a property company promoting and undertaking property development, management and maintenance. The report provided a high-level summary of the current costs of delivering the existing in-house service, including an indicative Contract Payment in the event of the transfer of the Grounds Maintenance service. The business case for the transfer represented an efficient way to deliver this service. It enabled the Council to reduce its back-office costs and offset these against the Qualis Management charge. However, members needed to be assured that there was a tangible benefit to the Council before any transfer could take place.
The Committee had many varied questions covering the following concerns.
· What was the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)) process for the staff involved in this service transfer and what support would be available to them? A Small (Strategic Director and Section 151 Officer) advised the Council would provide reassurance. There would be a statutory consultation phase, group meetings would be arranged and there would be provision for individual conversations, as the Council would follow best practice with support from the People (Human Resources) Team.
· Since the establishment of the current set-up, was it proving costly? The Finance Portfolio Holder, Councillor J Philip, remarked that where two organisations have structures in place, it was more efficient to use one, so back-office staffing would be rationalised and not duplicating made it more efficient. Also, the Council might get more for the same prices.
· In terms of future proofing to reduce unnecessary costs should the Council transfer services quicker because with a shorter interim period there would be less time between the duplication and non-duplication of services? The Finance Portfolio replied that it was proper to look at service transfers in a measured way and not rush this. The Council did not want to transfer too much, too quickly.
· With the net revenue budget increasing to over £1.1 million if the management fee was included, would the Council be paying just the management fee to Qualis at the start of the contract? The Finance Portfolio Holder replied that on the adjusted revenue figures, the additional management fee for Grounds Maintenance would enable Qualis to make a proportionate reduction in its charge for Housing Repairs in the first year, which benefitted the Council. It was recognised there was a movement between the Housing Revenue Account and the General Fund, but this balanced out.
· What data would be looked at to quantify and show in five years’ time that it had been the right decision to transfer this service to Qualis, and how would we know? The Finance Portfolio Holder replied that scrutiny of the contract’s progress and financial performance would be monitored throughout the five-year contract, much the same as any other external contractor was.
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
The Committee noted its current work programme.
Councillor J H Whitehouse commented that at the recent scrutiny training, members were advised that they could look back at a past Task and Finish Panel or scrutiny committee and review the recommendations made by that committee. About five years ago a panel (or scrutiny committee) had reviewed the Older Peoples Services and one of the recommendations had been to hold a Senior Safety Day, which was implemented and had taken place today at the Civic Offices. The Councillor was of the opinion that it would be useful to review the Older Peoples Services recommendations made by that panel/committee and provide information on what services had been updated for older people. The Democratic Services Committee Officer was asked to look into this.
(b) Reserve work programme
There were no reserve work programme items.
That the Committee reviewed its current and reserve work programmes
(1) That the Democratic Services Committee Officer would contact the Interim Strategic Director (J Gould) and the Community, Culture and Wellbeing Service Manager (G Wallis) for their advice on how to progress this request, in consultation the Chairman.
(Post meeting update: Further research established this to be the Services for Older People and Disabled People Task and Finish Panel (2006 -07). For information, the final report of the Panel was agreed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 5 April 2007 and can be viewed on the Council’s website at this link:
https://rds.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=395&MId=4496&Ver=4 It was subsequently approved by the Cabinet on 11 June 2007 – see weblink below:
The Democratic Services Committee Officer had contacted the Interim Strategic Director (J Gould), and the Community, Culture and Wellbeing Service Manager (G Wallis) for their advice on how to progress this request, in consultation with the Chairman).