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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 Democratic and Electoral Services Team Manager reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.
To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.
The Committee noted that Councillor S Rackham had been appointed as the substitute for Councillor I Hadley.
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 Qualis 1-Year Business Plan 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 Qualis 1-Year Business Plan in relation to the transfer of Grounds Maintenance 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 Qualis 1-Year Business Plan in relation to the transfer of Grounds Maintenance 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 26 July 2022.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 26 July 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.
(a) No other matters were raised at the meeting.
(b) The Chairman confirmed that outstanding actions were clearly indicated in the minutes of the last meeting and was pleased to report all actions had been completed.
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 review the proposed new Corporate Plan 2023 – 2028 attached.
The Committee pre-scrutinised the Council’s Corporate Plan 2023 – 2027 introduced by the Continuous Improvement Specialist (N Gambrill). This key strategic planning document detailed a new set of corporate aims including a new set of key results – developed to support the aims and key objectives. These Corporate aims would be reviewed annually through objectives and key result measures, to deliver and work towards the achievement of each objective that year. The report included digital links to improve reader use. It was noted that the Leader was drafting the foreword.
Members made several suggestions during their review, which included:
· To clarify that Epping Forest was referring to Epping Forest District (not the forest).
· To reference the two historical Iron Age hillforts in Epping Forest – Ambresbury Banks and Loughton Camp.
· To include information about the leisure centres and the new one being built in Epping under the Council’s focus on health.
· To incorporate what the Council was doing about climate change, recycling and protecting green spaces.
· To take account of what the Council was doing for the environment about energy efficiency in council housing.
· To recognise the relationship building opportunity the Council had with local councils.
The Chairman commented that the Committee would need to undertake monitoring of the Corporate Plan’s performance.
(1) That the Cabinet would note the suggestions detailed above arising from the Committee’s scrutiny function; and
(2) That pursuant to (1) above, the Corporate Plan 2023 – 2027 be recommended to Cabinet for approval, noting final adoption would be by Council.
Report to follow.
The Strategic Director and Section 151 Officer (A Small) introduced the Qualis 1-Year Business Plan. Currently, in the rapidly changing economic climate, considerable economic pressures were not limited to the Council’s finances and residents, but also to the Council’s partners, e.g., in the construction industry. Although Qualis should produce a 4-Year business plan under the Shareholder Agreement, in this time of great uncertainty, the decision had been taken that a 4-Year Business Plan would be too challenging and be out of date sooner than forecast. The appendix to the report detailed the financial conditions and how Qualis would address them. Qualis had assessed its opportunities. It had reviewed the Council’s commercial assets / portfolio with some success and therefore, the transfer of assets seemed the right time, as Qualis had more opportunities to maximise return. The Conder Building had been demolished. Development of the Epping Sports Centre site had started. The Council was confident good governance was robust at Qualis. The Qualis Group Managing Director (S Jevans) continued that Qualis was building strong skills. There were challenges but the report set out the savings made, and had identified the key risks, strategic priorities and was optimistic on growth.
Members raised many questions which were answered by the Finance Portfolio Holder (Councillor J Philip).
What level was the decision taken to not produce a 4-Year Business Plan? The agreement was reached in discussions between the Finance Portfolio Holder, Qualis Group Managing Director, and the Strategic Director / 151 Officer. Qualis presented a thorough 4-Year Business Plan to Overview and Scrutiny Committee last year. However, Russia had invaded Ukraine in February when this was worked out and with many economic uncertainties arising, the 1-Year Business Plan achieved a different option.
As there were allegedly several residents’ concerns with Qualis’ performance on housing maintenance, how could this be scrutinised? The correct approach was with Housing Maintenance. The Housing and Community Portfolio Holder (Councillor H Whitbread) advised that Qualis was an improvement, as there was a direct line of conversation and problems were resolved quicker. In reply to a further question on scrutiny, the Finance Portfolio Holder continued that replacing the software system had allowed better scheduling of people with more jobs being completed in a day by staff.
Would there be an opportunity to scrutinise the business case on the transfer of Grounds Maintenance to Qualis and would staff terms and conditions be assured? The business case would be scrutinised ahead of any Cabinet decision, which was why it was in the 1-Year Business Plan but the date for this had not been agreed yet. If there was not good reason for a transfer of service, then it would not go ahead. Any major change to terms and conditions of staff would be done properly.
Replying to a query on the inter-company recharge of £844,000 for each Qualis company, the Finance Portfolio advised that on company charges the group overhead was split evenly between them.
The transfer of Asset Management to Qualis that ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
(Chairmen of the Select Committees) To report to the meeting on progress against the achievement of the current work programme, as is required under Article 6 (Overview and Scrutiny) of the Constitution, and for any recommendations for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
For information: the current work programme for each select committee is attached as an appendix to this agenda.
(a) Stronger Communities Select Committee
Councillor J Lucas (Acting Chairman) provided a short report for the Select Committee, which the Chairman read out on her behalf. Several reports had been reviewed. These covered the work of the Council-funded police in the District, a Customer Service strategy update and estate improvements undertaken at Harveyfields in Waltham Abbey. There were plans for similar estate improvements in future. Also, the new support model for sheltered housing was widely supported. The way this service was provided would be more demand-led with individual assessments and plans for the support required being tailored to each individual’s needs.
(b) Stronger Council Select Committee
Councillor J McIvor reported that members of the Select Committee were being kept well informed by the Finance Portfolio Holder and officers in this demanding economic situation. The quarter 1 Budget Monitoring Report 2022/23, Financial Planning Framework 2022/23 to 2027/28 and Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report had all been reviewed. Members had been especially interested in Council overspending and where the challenges were in the service areas.
(c) Stronger Place Select Committee
Councillor R Balcombe advised that the Select Committee’s September meeting had been cancelled, as it would have taken place during the mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II. Members had agreed to reschedule the work programme to ensure outstanding business would be realigned to be completed within this municipal year.
Councillor S Murray enquired when waste collection would be scrutinised? Councillor H Kane replied that a waste management update was scheduled on the Stronger Place Select Committee work programme for the meeting on 8 November 2022.
That the select committee Chairman reported on business undertaken at their last meetings.
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 that the quarter 2 Corporate Performance reporting would be reviewed at the meeting on 17 November 2022. It was confirmed that scrutiny of any business case for the transfer of a service to Qualis would be undertaken by this Committee.
(b) Reserve work programme
There were no reserve work programme items.
That the Committee reviewed its current and reserve work programmes.
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 September 2022 is attached as an Appendix to this report.
Cabinet’s Key Decision List (KDL) of 1 September 2022 was scrutinised by the Committee and the following points were raised.
(a) Portfolio - Leader
Local Government Council Size and Boundary Review – the Leader advised this was ongoing but a response from the Commission’s draft proposals was expected around 4 October 2022.
(b) Portfolio – Housing and Community
Provision for Ukrainian refugees in the District – the Portfolio Holder reported that the Government scheme encouraged refugees to be placed in residents’ homes, initially for six months. The Council was working closely with Voluntary Action Epping Forest to identify support in the community with host families. An event was hosted at the Civic Offices in early September, to bring together Ukrainian refugees with support that was available in the District. With the war continuing and where refugees could no longer be housed in the community, the Council did have a number of families in temporary accommodation, but officers were in the process of finding permanent accommodation as they would normally do. In response to a question from Councillor R Baldwin on the increased allowance, which was welcomed, who was that money paid to, the hosts or refugees? The Portfolio Holder replied she would confirm this and write to the Councillor. Sadly, most of the homeless cases Council officers were dealing with in this situation were as a result of relationship breakdowns.
That the Committee reviewed the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions of 1 September 2022.