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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.
The Committee noted that Councillor R Brookes had been appointed as substitute for Councillor R Baldwin.
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 item 9 (Qualis – Overview), as he was a Non-Executive Director of the Qualis Group Board. The Councillor stated that he would remain in the meeting but would only listen to the debate.
(b) Pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor S Murray declared a non-pecuniary interest during the discussion of item 12 (Overview and Scrutiny Committee – work programme) because he referred to Roding Valley High School where he was a teacher.
To confirm the minutes of the meetings of the Committee held on 3 and 17 of November 2022.
It was noted that the minutes of 3 November meeting previously circulated were amended slightly at Minute no 43 (Transfer of Service to Qualis) to replace, ‘on 1 April 2023’ with ‘in April 2023’. This was because it contradicted the agenda report on quarter 3 Corporate Performance Reporting under project CPP054, where the transfer of Grounds Maintenance had been updated to ‘about 17 April 2023’.
That the minutes of the meetings held on 3 and 17 November 2023 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 meetings.
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.
The Group Managing Director is being invited to give an overview of Qualis mainly on the Housing Repairs service followed by a question and answer session.
The Chairman introduced Qualis Group Managing Director, S Jevans, and the Managing Director of Qualis Management, B Johnson, who gave a presentation. This encompassed an oversight of the property management and housing repairs service Qualis provided on behalf of the Council. It also covered Qualis’ values, complaints and lessons learnt, performance in 2020 / 21 and how the Council monitored Qualis and its key objectives.
Before the Chairman took members questions, the webcast was stopped for around ten minutes regarding a private letter a councillor wanted to refer to at the meeting. On earlier advice received from the Monitoring Officer, the Chairman and Chief Executive would not allow the councillor to refer to the letter, even in a generalised way, as its contents were being investigated.
· More expensive repairs over £600 needed approval from the Housing Asset Team as it was about managing the budget for the Council.
· In reply to whether the Council was saving money with Qualis, the Agreement was set up on historic pricing. Qualis was doing slightly less than the previous contractor but it was a challenging market as materials and staff costs were increasing. The Strategic Director and 151 Officer, A Small, added that Qualis’ performance had been looked at and the productivity ratio had increased. Unless you go out to competition, you do not know the costs. Finance Portfolio Holder, Councillor J Philip, continued that officers were going through a procurement exercise for best value. Although this cost money, it was important to do benchmarking on costs and that the prices Qualis was charging were fair.
· Qualis was insourcing and employing people directly and delivering a better price usually, so doing more in-house repairs was better value for money.
· If a service failure complaint was received by the Council but it was Qualis’ responsibility, it would be transferred to the Qualis Contact Centre unless both of us were involved in which case the Council would take the lead.
· Assurance was given Qualis did prioritise its service around Council tenants’ vulnerabilities and did not just focus on productivity, as customer satisfaction was important, in reply to a concern our criteria threshold with vulnerable people seemed too high.
· Feedback from staff who had transferred to Qualis liked the cultural difference of working for a commercial company, its values, the measures in place, the positive culture and focus on delivering and improving performance. An engagement survey would also be undertaken.
· There was a request for the presentation to be circulated as part of the minutes, which was agreed.
· Of the 75 staff at Qualis, 25 were from the Council.
· Voluntary Action provided help on small jobs around tenants’ homes. Councillor H Whitbread advised there was a small service charge but there was quite a ... view the full minutes text for item 62.
To review the attached FY 2022/23 quarter 3 Corporate Performance Report.
(a) Priority projects – Quarterly progress updates
The Committee raised the following queries.
CPP009 Housing & Asset Management System
The HRA Interim Service Director, P Wharfe, advised members that as the project was in the red for quarter 3, an external review of progress took place in December 2022. The project’s delivery would be rebased in January 2023 with a revised timeline.
CPP026 Waste Management Contract
The Interim Acting Service Director (Contracts), J Warwick, informed the Committee the current contract with Biffa was until 4 November 2024. The Finance Portfolio Holder, who had attended the Waste Management Partnership Board meeting earlier today, continued that it looked hopeful waste collections would improve if Biffa delivered what it was promising to improve matters, as the backlog had been cleared. The Waste Management Team was working with a difficult situation and wanted a reliable service as did residents, so the Council needed to ensure waste collection services improved. It was acknowledged the Customer Contact Team had employed more staff to answer residents’ phone calls.
When a councillor was concerned a Biffa refuse vehicle’s wing mirror had brushed the top of her head while walking along a pavement in Waltham Abbey recently, J Warwick assured the councillor he would raise this issue with Biffa as pedestrian care was paramount. He was also not aware if side mirrors had to be a certain height.
CPP054 Transfer Services into Qualis
Although a councillor was unhappy quarter 3 status was at green because in his opinion Grounds Maintenance should not have been transferred, the Finance Portfolio Holder was pleased as the project was on schedule and would deliver what was expected.
CPP090 North Weald Master Planning/Enterprise Zone
In reply to a query, the Project Management Office Manager, C Graham, advised the project sponsor would be updated. The Finance Portfolio Holder added that he was having regular project meetings with D Goodey, Service Manager (Commercial).
(b) Quarterly KPI reporting
Customer Services: Overall Customer Satisfaction
R Pavey, Service Director (Customer), replied there were a number of ways customer satisfaction was monitored and included how customers were treated but that they might not get the answer they wanted.
Customer Services: First Point Resolution
R Pavey advised the Committee the target would be reviewed in the following year and moved up.
Community Health and Wellbeing: No of homelessness approaches
When the 22% increase on the same period last year was queried for quarter 3, J Gould, Strategic Director, confirmed a response would be provided for the minutes by the Homelessness Team Manager, D Blake.
Community Health and Wellbeing: Engagement in community, physical or cultural activity
Play in the Park was acknowledged as being a very popular children’s activity, but as EFDC had increased its prices significantly for next year, Loughton Town Council had halved its bookings. J Gould acknowledged these changes to the programme, but the Council would be monitoring these activities over the next 12 months.
Contracts: No of people on Learn to Swim Programme (Swimming lessons)
As a councillor had ... view the full minutes text for item 63.
(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
The January meeting had been cancelled but two meetings were scheduled for March. Councillor J Lea remarked that a lot of items had been completed but she wanted the select committee to scrutinise a housing association.
(b) Stronger Council Select Committee
Councillor J McIvor reported that on 24 January the select committee had received an interesting presentation on the onboarding/induction process and was updated on the developments of the Wellbeing Hub, which set a high standard for other local authorities. Members also pre-scrutinised the Cabinet’s draft budget proposals for 2023/24.
(c) Stronger Place Select Committee
The select committee had reviewed an update on parking, the Off Street Civic Parking Enforcement Policy, and the Air Quality Action Plan. Councillor R Balcombe added that progress of the Local Plan and sustainable transport were due on 7 March. Members also wished to know when the Climate Change Action Plan would be scrutinised. They also wanted to add scrutiny of Planning to their work programme and A Small offered to liaise with the Chairman on this.
Following a query on internal communications to councillors before the local media, Councillor C Whitbread commented that press releases, agendas, minutes and emails were regularly sent out. He further clarified that on a recent Biffa matter there was a slight delay before communications were announced, as progress and agreement between the waste contractor and the Council had to be agreed first.
That the select committee Chairmen reported on progress against the achievement of their respective current work programme.
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 Overview and Scrutiny Committee reviewed progress against its work programme and noted that pre-scrutiny of the business case for the transfer of MOT and Fleet was on hold and no longer on the Cabinet’s Key Decision List, so this item would be removed from the current work programme. Also, the Epping Forest District Museum’s operating model would be scheduled for the next municipal year.
(b) Reserve Programme
There were no reserve work programme items.
Councillor S Murray commented that quite rightly external scrutiny of the Epping Forest Sixth Form Consortium had not been undertaken, as the sixth forms in the consortium of schools had always operated independently. However, he announced that Roding Valley High School had an outstanding sixth form following a recent OFSTED report.
That the Committee reviewed its current and reserve work programmes.
(4) That the business case for the transfer of MOT and Fleet be removed from the work programme.
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 3 January 2023 is attached as an Appendix to this report.
Cabinet’s Key Decision List (KDL) of 3 January 2023 was scrutinised by the Committee and the following points were raised.
(a) Portfolio – Leader
Local Government Council Size and Boundary Review – Councillor C Whitbread advised the final proposals from the Boundary Commission for England were expected by early March.
(b) Internal Resource
Pay strategy – to clarify a query if this future decision would involve moving away from national agreements, Councillor S Kane replied, no. The Council was required to publish a mandatory statement on our pay strategy on the website.
That the Committee reviewed the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions of 3 January 2023.