Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 12th October, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: Vivienne Messenger Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

36.

Webcasting Introduction

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.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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.

37.

SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that Councillor S Heap had been appointed as a substitute for Councillor D Plummer.

38.

MINUTES pdf icon PDF 165 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 1 July 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the meeting of 1 July 2021 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

39.

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

40.

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

41.

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that no executive decisions had been called-in for consideration since the previous meeting.

42.

Corporate Plan Key Action Plan Year 4 2021/22 - Quarter 1 Corporate Performance Reporting pdf icon PDF 134 KB

To review the attached FY 21/22 quarter 1 Corporate performance report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

C Graham, Project Manager (Performance), introduced quarter 1 and reported on projects at red or amber status (exceptions), as the full report had previously been scrutinised by the Stronger Council Select Committee. The report also included an updated set of all the KPIs, regardless of status, because there had been some gaps in the data at the time the select committee had scrutinised it. Within Performance, more focus would be given to the start-up phase of projects, as well as budget control and resourcing.

 

The Committee scrutinised the following areas.

 

(1)       Appendix A – Status and Progress Report: Key Corporate Projects

 

(a)          Community Health and Wellbeing service area

 

Epping Forest District Community and Cultural Trust

Where did the discussions take place? Would scrutiny members see the action plan? It seemed that a key change in status of this decision was made about a service but not in a transparent way. How were directors appointed? C Graham replied the action plan was targeted for quarter 3. The Trust came under the Community and Regulatory Services Portfolio. Councillor A Patel, Portfolio Holder, believed this had been done in conjunction with the museum.

 

(b)          Customer Services service area

 

Provide insight for the future design of our service based on data and behavioural analysis and provide customer-centric services

There was a query on the recommendation that the project be removed from reporting until the project started. C Graham clarified that an update should be able to be provided when the project had been reviewed, as it was anticipated it would commence in quarter 1 of 2022/23.

 

To provide an additional one-stop portal, for all member information requirements

Could the number of reports made by members be made available? Councillor S Kane, Portfolio Holder (Customer and Partnerships Services), advised that this would only be possible when all councillors were using the recommended forms online. Questions members directed to officers themselves were being missed but if use of the forms was adopted by all members, proper analysis could be undertaken, and suitable resources put in place.

 

(c)          Economic Development service area

 

An externally provided platform for ‘Place’ that will re-imagine Epping Forest District as a great location to live, work and do business

A comment was noted on the project’s goal in relation to its title that EFDC was a great place, you did not have to imagine it! How were local shops being targeted and engaged, and why was the newsletter on hold? C Graham advised that the Economic Development team was currently developing a strategy but once it was ready by quarter 3 (target), it could be shared with members. However, she would contact J Houston, Partnerships and Economic Development Specialist, for an update.

 

(2)          Appendix B – Quarterly KPI Reporting

 

(a)          Customer Services service area

 

Overall Customer Satisfaction

As most people who contacted councillors were not satisfied, was the target too low, as 80% (actual target) did not seem very good, and should the target not be a 100%? C Graham advised that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.

43.

Climate Change and Sustainable Transport Update pdf icon PDF 157 KB

To consider the attached report on the progress of the Climate Change and Sustainable Travel agendas.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Climate Change Officer, F Edmonds, and Sustainable Transport Officer, S Lloyd-Jones, reported on their respective areas within the update report before the Committee.

 

(a)          Climate change update

 

A public consultation on the draft Climate Change Action Plan was to take place from October to November. This would comprise online elements and include video links, as well as a series of in person events organised for members, the Youth Council and the community to attend. A proposal to plant around 2,300 trees in Jessel Green (Loughton) to enhance the local environment was being funded by a £65,000 grant from the Forestry Commission’s Local Authorities Treescapes Fund. There would be a public consultation to help decide on the final planting design. The Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery scheme would be helping to raise the energy efficiency of lower income and low energy performance homes with a focus on energy performance certificate (EPC) ratings of E, F or G. Split into three phases, the first had been completed in August 2021 with nine properties upgraded. It was also reported that a carbon literacy toolkit had been trialled with some Service Managers that would be used to teach staff the basics of climate change science.

 

The Committee asked the following questions.

 

How was the Council engaging with councillors on the climate change action plan? F Edmonds advised that a Member Briefing on the climate change action plan was organised for 14 October 2021.

 

Who was included in the online public consultation on the draft Climate Change Action Plan? Also, householders were paving front gardens and not leaving any vegetation. F Edmonds advised that a community Q&A would take place on 26 October and had a very wide audience. Parish councils and community leaders had access to carbon literacy courses and the Essex Association of Local Councils was running some planet change courses. Paving front gardens was more a planning matter. Councillor A Patel continued that online video streams worked well, and it would be beneficial if the Youth Council was involved in this project. Also, the Procurement Strategy had been updated in 2021 to enhance climate change ideals.

 

The Committee was supportive of tree planting. However, it was difficult to visualise the amount of space that would be utilised, as the open aspect of Jessel Green was important as well as its use for activities and what would the likely tree survival rate be? There must also be community involvement for residents in the Loughton Fairmead and Broadway wards and the ward members. F Edmonds replied that to retain its openness, periphery type planting was favoured with residents being consulted on specific areas. Councillor H Whitbread, Housing Services Portfolio Holder and County Councillor, replied that it was a portfolio holder decision and discussions had been held with officers, who had submitted the bid to the Forestry Commission. At County, she was luckily on the Essex Climate Commission. Unfortunately, when a massive tree planting scheme had recently been embarked on in Chelmsford, 90%  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

44.

Covid-19 Update pdf icon PDF 267 KB

To consider the attached update report and make comments to the Portfolio Holder for Community and Regulatory Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Covid update report provided by A Small, Strategic Director and 151 Officer, highlighted that Covid cases were under control at the moment. Since the report had been written, figures had fallen to 220 cases per 100,000 in the District. The report set out the current position, the Council’s response actions and the actions it might take in response to a significant worsening of the local or national position. Staff were largely working from home and were being asked to find a balance between home and office working. The Government had recently stated it had a Plan A and Plan B for its Covid-19 response during the autumn and winter, but our way of working was still compliant.

 

What was the Covid impact on schools returning? A Small replied that the Council received figures daily but in the 11-18 age group the infection rate had risen slightly.

 

What actions were being taken in the local communities, like Grange Hill, where there was low uptake of the vaccination? Had the Council thought about using incentives? Councillor A Patel, Portfolio Holder (Community and Regulatory Services), replied that at the last full Council, members had been signposted to local vaccination centres. There were also mobile ‘pop-up’ stands from special buses that had been developed in the low uptake areas of Grange Hill, Loughton and Waltham Abbey. Marshals were actively promoting vaccinations to people on the District’s streets following government guidance. Councillor H Whitbread, Portfolio Holder (Housing Services), acknowledged that promoting to the 25-40 age group was difficult particularly to women as there were fertility challenges. Younger people were quite receptive to vaccination if they were going out clubbing etc.

 

Social distancing was well organised at the Civic Offices but at a recent Area Plans South meeting, members were sitting too close to each other. Councillor A Patel replied that it was business as usual for the economic recovery plan and social recovery planning was moving forwards. Members were advised that if they chose to socially distance more, they could move to another seat.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Committee reviewed the Covid-19 update.

45.

Local High Streets Task and Finish Panel pdf icon PDF 235 KB

To discuss how to proceed on this Task and Finish Panel (see attached report).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

N Dawe, Chief Operating Officer, briefly outlined that the pandemic had resulted in a renewed interest in town centres. Following a series of actions, reports had been requested and separately considered by Cabinet. Progress with town centre issues was now well advanced and the four options reported were discussed at the meeting.

 

There was general consensus that the Panel should meet once more to look at where it wanted to go. This might be to refocus on one of the four options detailed in the agenda report, or to have a time lapse to return in a few months. It was recognised that all local councillors (District and Parish) should be involved including local communities / businesses and the public. P Messenger, Town Centres Project Manager, would ensure members were contacted and would also co-ordinate with the existing commercial group and local councils.

 

The Committee asked about the following.

 

Was there an update on the quick wins identified in the town centre regeneration reports, which had been signed off? The Committee was advised that progress was due to be reported to the Stronger Place Select Committee in January 2022. An informal update could be given. Councillor S Kane, Portfolio Holder (Customer and Partnerships Services), remarked that as a result of the short-term Covid measures in Waltham Abbey, there was a lot more positive activity in Sun Street from the café culture and through use of the pavements.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Local High Streets Task and Finish Panel meet once more to look at where it wanted to go.

46.

Cabinet Business pdf icon PDF 209 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.

 

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 October 2021 is attached as an Appendix to this report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cabinet’s Key Decision List (KDL) updated to the 1 October 2021 was scrutinised by the Committee and the following points were raised.

 

(a)          Finance, Qualis Client and Economic Development

 

Updated Medium Term Financial Plan 2022/23 to 2026/27 – it was recommended that the webcast of the Cabinet meeting on 11 October 2021 be viewed as this detailed in full the medium term issues and difficulties.

 

(b)          Environmental and Technical Services Portfolio

 

Waste contract – N Dawe reported that work was ongoing around recommendations to either extend the contract with Biffa or go elsewhere. It was noted that the strategic options and exact timings were being discussed currently.

 

Review of current EFDC off street parking tariffs and recommend tariff for EFDC off-street car parks for implementation in 2022 – it was reported this would be reviewed by Stronger Place Select Committee at an extra meeting in November 2021.

 

(c)          Housing Services Portfolio

 

New Fees and Charges – Councillor H Whitbread, Housing Services Portfolio Holder, had not seen the report yet but would follow this up with D Fenton, Director (Housing and Property), and confirmed that this would be pre-scrutinised by the Stronger Communities Select Committee.

 

Draft tree policy – was there any progress on this being completed as the Committee had scrutinised it in June 2021? Councillor H Whitbread, Portfolio Holder, advised that she would follow this up as she had not seen the final policy.

 

(d)          Community and Regulatory Portfolio

 

Establish a new Markets Policy for the District – Councillor A Patel advised that the new Markets Policy would be pre-scrutinised.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Committee reviewed the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions of 1 October 2021;

47.

Stronger Place Select Committee - Terms of Reference (proposed) pdf icon PDF 303 KB

To consider the attached proposed Terms of Reference.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor A Lion, Select Committee Chairman, introduced the proposed terms. Feedback from the select committee’s members and the Joint Meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen to improve its Terms of Reference had resulted in this draft. Nothing had been left out, but it was more enhanced to reflect what had been asked for.

 

The Committee queried if this select committee should provide scrutiny for the corporate project (7) District Wide Leisure Services Development. This was because under the Cabinet’s Forward Plan of Key Decisions, the Corporate Aims and Key Objectives (2021/22) for Stronger Communities stated under (3b), “providing culture and leisure opportunities”. Transferring this key objective to Stronger Communities seemed to fit more with the corporate aims, which was agreed.

 

Councillor S Kane suggested that the other select committees review their Terms of Reference in line with the corporate aims to make sure there were no omissions when cross-referencing the corporate aims and objectives. It was also important to allow enough time for the pre-scrutiny of Cabinet decisions and policies on the larger projects, such as (3) North Weald airfield development and (5) economic growth, skills and employment.

 

Councillor A Lion agreed that members should be given enough time to look at Cabinet decisions and that if officers allowed more time to present items for pre-scrutiny, they could be factored into the work programme.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed to the Terms of Reference being proposed. Councillor M Sartin, Chairman, also recommended that the other select committees review their Terms of Reference so that they aligned more with the corporate aims, which would help particularly the newer members to understand how scrutiny worked.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)          That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed to the Stronger Place Select Committee Terms of Reference; and

 

(2)          That corporate project (7) District Wide Leisure Services Development be transferred to Stronger Communities remit as this fitted more with the Cabinet’s Corporate Aims and Objectives (2021/22). (NB: Please see Minute no 49 as later in the meeting scrutiny of corporate project (7), District Wide Leisure Services Development, was referred to the next joint meeting in January 2022).

48.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Work Programme pdf icon PDF 229 KB

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:

Councillor M Sartin commented that work programme items for the next meeting on 18 November included Corporate performance reporting for quarter 2 and progress on the enforcement project.

 

(a)          Current work programme

 

(i)            Amendments

 

Item (9) sale of the Pyrles Lane site to Qualis – the Cabinet decision had been put back to 8 November 2021 (from 21 June 2021).

 

(ii)          New items

 

Staff induction training

Cllr J H Whitehouse had previously met with officers of the People Team about training for new staff on what the Council did and how it was run etc. She thought that the training currently provided for new staff was inadequate and asked if this could be improved. The presentation that G Woodhall, Democratic and Electoral Services Team Manager, had given to new councillors was very good and perhaps this could be adapted but, in her opinion, members should be able to give some guidance on what they thought staff should be informed about, so could a report about what went into staff induction be presented to a scrutiny committee.

 

A Small replied that he would refer this request to the People Team and that a report would go to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 27 January 2022.

 

Unaffordable rents

Councillor J H Whitehouse said this question was in respect of communities because she had been made aware that houses were being bought under right to buy and then being let at affordable rents to people on the housing waiting list, but that some of these people had turned down this opportunity because they could not afford the rents. Could a report be presented for scrutinising that detailed the number of properties being built under the Council housebuilding programme and those being bought under right to buy receipts, how many were being let at social rents and how many at affordable rents? Who made these decisions and what were they based on? Councillor H Whitbread replied that it was easier to have social rents when the Council was building properties on a scale, which would make the Council eligible for social rents and it was being looked into as officers had been liaising with Homes England. This could be looked at by a future Council Housebuilding Cabinet Committee or Stronger Communities Select Committee and officers could provide a report. The Committee agreed that a report on this item should be scrutinised by the Stronger Communities Select Committee.

 

(b)          Reserve Programme – external scrutiny

 

A Hendry, Democratic Services Officer, advised that he was not aware of any external scrutiny being organised. Councillor M Sartin said that members could consider moving up from the reserve programme, Essex County Council (Children’s Services). The Chairman was also mindful that some of the external organisations that might be invited to Overview and Scrutiny Committee were likely to be too busy with ongoing Covid difficulties. Therefore, if the Committee did not have any suggestions perhaps it was better to wait.

 

Councillor D Wixley commented that he was researching  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.

49.

Select Committees - Work Programmes pdf icon PDF 128 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:

(a)          Stronger Communities Select Committee

 

In the absence of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman Councillor S Murray reported that at the last meeting on 21 September 2021, the select committee had received two presentations. The first was from the Community Safety Team on the EFDC Funded Police Officers 6 monthly update. This was followed by the Museum collections project and the Committee heard a detailed account of the thorough way the collections were being rationalised, the strict criteria officers were working to and that an external grant had helped to facilitate the work. A customer service update was provided by S Lewis, Service Manager (Customer Services). Members had also reviewed the outcome of the stage 1 initial consultation on the Housing Allocations Policy 2022-27, how the stage 2 consultation would work that was commencing in October until December 2021, and looked further ahead to March 2022, when formal adoption of the policies was scheduled.

 

Feedback from other members was that the four Housing policy items should have been nearer the beginning of the agenda as more time was needed to scrutinise them, and that shorter presentations would help in future.

 

(b)          Stronger Council Select Committee

 

Councillor P Bolton, Select Committee Chairman, noted the staff induction query raised by Councillor J H Whitehouse. Councillor Bolton continued that the select committee should also analyse and ensure its Terms of Reference were fit for purpose at the next meeting.

 

During the last meeting on 14 September 2021, the 2021 elections had been reviewed and it was noted that in some wards it could have worked better. Although the counts had gone well, the venue in a North Weald airfield hangar had been very cold. The Qualis quarterly monitoring report for quarter 3 outlined performance, which seemed to be going quite well. Qualis was working to ensure a timelier view of the budget and was gradually improving on its accounting position.

 

The Committee acknowledged that the counts had been held in a hangar because of Covid restrictions and everyone had been adhering to social distancing guidelines. There was universal agreement that staff had done a good job under difficult circumstances during the elections despite some ward polling station issues.

 

(c)        Stronger Place Select Committee

 

Councillor A Lion, Select Committee Chairman, reported that at the meeting on 23 September 2021 members had finalised the proposed Terms of Reference that had come before Overview and Scrutiny Committee tonight. Members had also considered the proposed designs and names for the re-branding of the ground floor hub at the Civic Offices, which had been outlined by the Customer Services Director, Rob Pavey, and would reflect the new community and collaborative purpose of the space.

 

An extra meeting was being held on 4 November 2021. The select committee had a fairly full agenda with Whipps Cross and Princess Alexandra Hospital representatives attending, waste management and the potential for the Essex Highways Cabinet member to attend in terms of its highways programme.

 

Councillor Lion said that regarding the Terms of Reference,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.

50.

Exclusion of Public and Press

Exclusion

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):

 

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 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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