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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.
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.
There were no declarations of interest made pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.
To note that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 3 November 2022 will be confirmed at the meeting on 31 January 2023.
It was noted that the minutes of the meeting held on 3 November 2022 would be confirmed at the meeting on 31 January 2023.
Reflecting on the 3 November meeting, the Chairman had noticed that members had some concerns about the transfer of services to Qualis. Councillor H Kane informed the Committee that after subsequently speaking with S Jevans (Qualis Group Managing Director) and A Small (Strategic Director and Section 151 Officer), S Jevans would attend a future meeting of this Committee and report on the quality of the service and look at real figures rather than percentages (continued at Min no 52).
The Chairman clarified that following Councillor J H Whitehouse’s question at the previous meeting for a review of the recommendations made by a past Task and Finish Panel on Services for Older People and Disabled People in 2007, relevant officers were looking into how this could be progressed. However, it was deemed more appropriate that an update report be made to a future meeting of the Stronger Communities Select Committee.
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.
A member of the public, Mr T Blanks, asked the following question on safeguarding at the meeting, “Have any reports been made in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 8.2 of the Shareholders Agreement with Qualis Group Ltd since it was signed in February 2020?” On behalf of the Chairman, the Chief Executive, G Blakemore, replied, “yes”.
However, in a follow-up question, Mr T Blanks inquired, “Does the report that you made include the matter that was mentioned in the Council’s statement made in May 2022 which said that information had come to our attention involving a senior member of staff, but we are sorry as we are not in a position to provide information at this stage; speculation would be unfair. It is essential to follow HR protocols and procedures while advice is taken on the appropriate steps forward. In the meantime, we are being careful not to prejudice any investigation. In the event we are able to provide further information, we will update you as and when we can”. A potentially affected party was defined as vulnerable adults, children and young people and the item on your statement in May would have included a potentially vulnerable person. “Can you tell me what the result of the investigation was?” G Blakemore replied that she was not in a position to discuss the investigation but on whether the report was included, the answer was yes.
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 attached FY 2022/23 quarter 2 Corporate Performance Report.
The Project Team Manager (Strategy, Delivery and Performance), C Graham, introduced quarter 2. The report detailed project status summaries, key milestones and RAG status for those projects identified as a ‘priority project’ within the portfolio aligned to the Council’s corporate objectives. All KPIs regardless of status were also included.
(a) Priority projects – Quarterly progress updates
The Committee raised the following queries.
CPP009 Housing & Asset Management System
Why had this moved from green in quarter 1 to red in quarter 2? J Gould (Interim Strategic Director) replied that there had been a number of resourcing complications, but a review of the project would be completed in a fortnight, and she was confident it would be back on track. It was noted that no information of this review had been included in the report.
CPP026 Waste Management Contract
Was the Council satisfied with the proposed changes in the contract and had any lessons been learnt from the existing contract? J Warwick (Service Director (Contracts)) replied that the Council would make improvements to get value for money, reassess how performance was managed, and focus on recycling and innovation. If the Council was successful in getting its own waste depot, it would be able to recycle furniture and have its own re-use workshop, as well as creating the potential for workforce skills development.
How would the pilot for a third bin fit in to the contract? The Interim Service Director (Contracts) advised that a recycling pilot was currently being rolled out in Theydon Bois, as the Council wanted bins to be used instead of plastic bags for recycling waste and was seeking residents to volunteer.
The Interim Service Director (Contracts) acknowledged that missed collections were a big challenge. There did not seem to be any consistent reason why some routes were continually affected while others had few disruptions. The Council had brought in another contractor to collect waste from routes badly affected by missed collections and had asked Biffa to address the problem.
CCP090 North Weald Master Planning/Enterprise Zone
What progress had been made as this was dependent on the Local Plan? The Planning Services Director (N Richardson) replied that the consultation had taken place. Planning Services had commented on the document and was waiting for the final amendment from the Council’s consultants. However, the masterplan could not be adopted before the endorsement of the Local Plan. The North Weald Masterplan was not affected by the ongoing consultations on the second stage of the main modifications. It was noted that the latest version had been reviewed by Qualis, who was acting on the Council’s behalf.
CPP135 Telephony Solution
The telephony project was under review particularly because of the financial crisis, so work was ongoing to improve customer contact with the public and members. Although the project was on hold, a few ways to deal with some issues had been found and a further update would be reported to members in January 2023. In reply to a query on the Omni channel platform ... view the full minutes text for item 51.
(Chairmen of the Select Committees) To report to the meeting on progress against achievement of the current work programme, as 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
Following the meeting on 15 November, Councillor J Lea reported on the Museum rationalisation project and detailed presentation. Lots of good work was being done on the collections by officers with the help of volunteers. The select committee reviewed the refreshed Epping Forest Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2022 – 2026 and the associated revised partnership delivery structure arrangements. The Annual Lettings report for 2021/22 was also noted. The Housing and Community Portfolio Holder, Councillor H Whitbread, acknowledged the very detailed rationalisation process being followed for items some of which might or might not be of any value but had a link to the Epping Forest District.
Qualis’ performance on housing repairs (continued from Min no 48)
Councillor S Murray asked which scrutiny committee work programme should scrutinise housing repairs? Councillor H Kane advised that she had spoken directly with the Qualis Group Managing Director, S Jevans, on the quality of the service and how quantitative scrutiny could be undertaken. The Housing and Community Services Portfolio Holder added that there was a need for the Interim Housing Services Director to report in-depth data on the quantitative KPIs, so the Stronger Communities Select Committee could scrutinise performance. This could also include feedback on tenants’ experiences. Councillor H Kane agreed it was more appropriate for this select committee to undertake in-depth scrutiny and decide whether to add it to the work programme. In addition, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would look at an overview of the service at the meeting on 31 January 2023, as public transparency was important. The Democratic and Electoral Services Manager, G Woodhall, was asked to invite S Jevans to this meeting.
Epping Forest District Museum
It was noted the Museum had been awarded Hidden Gem status in Visit England’s 2021-22 Visitor Attraction Accolades. Councillor S Murray remarked that a consultant had briefed the Cabinet on future ideas and models for the museum, but this information had not been shared. Could the select committee have access to the current thought processes? It would also be preferable to undertake early scrutiny before any decision was made by Cabinet on the museum’s future plans. Councillor H Kane advised she had attended this meeting. It had not been a decision-making meeting but rather to explore future ideas. It would be for the select committee to decide how to scrutinise this.
(b) Stronger Council Select Committee
The Chairman advised that as the next meeting had been rescheduled to 24 November, there was nothing to report.
Councillor J McIvor remarked this was an interesting subject, so a report could go to Stronger Council on the support that was available for members.
(c) Stronger Place Select Committee
Councillor R Balcombe reported the select committee’s workload had been reorganised as the September meeting could not go ahead. There had been lots of discussion on the litter strategy, which was a working document and members’ previous comments had been taken into consideration. The Committee raised concerns during the Leisure ... view the full minutes text for item 52.
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 work programme would be updated as the Qualis Group Managing Director would be attending the 31 January 2023 meeting. It was noted that Corporate Performance reporting for quarter 3 would also be reviewed.
(b) Reserve work programme
There were no reserve work programme items.
Induction of new staff
Councillor J H Whitehouse queried if this item could be added to the work programme, but Councillor H Kane stated that this service came under the remit of Stronger Council Select Committee’s Terms of Reference.
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 November 2022 is attached as an Appendix to this report.
Cabinet’s Key Decision List (KDL) of 1 November 2022 was scrutinised by the Committee and the following points were raised.
(a) Portfolio – Contracts and Commissioning
Charging for additional Waste Containers
Why should other residents have to suffer if someone, who did not want to pay to replace a damaged bin lid, put their waste in neighbouring bins? The Contracts Service Director advised that, where possible, the Council would look to fit a replacement bin lid. Residents were not charged for repairs, which helped to reduce the number of waste containers replaced. The contractor had to replace bins they damaged or broke.
Was charging for replacement bins a blanket policy or were some types of bin exempt? The Contracts Service Director replied charges were not levied for replacement bins for clinical and medical waste.
(b) Portfolio – Housing and Community
Resident Involvement Strategy
As the Stronger Communities Select Committee meeting on 17 January 2023 had been cancelled and the next meeting was due in March, it looked like this would go to the Cabinet on 13 March with little time for scrutiny? A Small replied that officers would ensure there would be sufficient time to scrutinise the strategy before the Cabinet’s decision. J Gould confirmed that as a broader consultation with resident groups would be undertaken, it would go to the Stronger Communities Select Committee meeting on 21 March and then to a later meeting of the Cabinet.
That the Committee reviewed the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions of 1 November 2022.