Agenda and minutes

Stronger Council Select Committee
Tuesday, 13th October, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

Contact: A Hendry Tel: 01992 564246  Email:


No. Item


Webcasting Introduction

This virtual meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to unmute before speaking.


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 participating in this virtual meeting, you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes. If members of the public do not wish to have their image captured they should ensure that their video setting throughout the virtual meeting is turned off and set to audio only.


Please also be aware that if technical difficulties interrupt the meeting that cannot be overcome, I may need to adjourn the meeting.”



Additional documents:


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

virtual meetings.




Subsitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)

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

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The Committee noted that there were no substitute members.




Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 2 MB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 14th July 2020.

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That the notes of the meeting held 14 July 2020 were agreed as a correct record subject to officers chasing up an answer to Councillor Neville’s question on what type of gas would be used in the air conditioning system Minute item 9). He also noted a typographical error in the preceding paragraph.


Post meeting update: In answer to Councillor Neville’s question on the air conditioning system, the following was obtained after the meeting:


Two of the Air Handling Units contain ‘coolants’. AHU 01 serving the main Civic Hall is provided with DX cooling utilising R410a refrigerant. AHU 02 serving the old Civic Suite (now office and break-out) is provided with cooling utilising chilled water, supplied from two replacement packaged chillers. The chillers themselves utilise R410a refrigerant. 


Throughout the building new VRF comfort cooling installations are being provided, utilising R410a refrigerant.   R410a refrigerant has a GWP (Global Warming Potential) of 2088 which is the better of the current refrigerants, and common to all current VRF systems.


Many AC manufacturers are developing towards utilising R32 refrigerant, which has a GWP of 675. Currently though, there is limited range availability and will likely not be fully adopted by the industry until the back end of 2021.





Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

Additional documents:


(a)          Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct, Councillor S Murray

declared a personal interest in item 8, Accommodation Project, by virtue of

being a trustee of Citizen’s Advice. The Councillor had determined that his interest

was non-pecuniary and he would remain in the meeting for the consideration of this item.


(b)          Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct, Councillor R Bassett

declared a personal interest in item 8, Accommodation Project (section 3), by virtue of being the Chairman of Community Transport. The Councillor had determined that his interest was non-pecuniary and he would remain in the meeting for the consideration of this item.




Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 99 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference and work programme for the select committee. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents. 


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The Select Committee noted their terms of reference and work programme.




Corporate Performance Management 2020-21 - Quarters 1 & 2 pdf icon PDF 192 KB

Report to follow.


The Corporate Performance report will be delivered as a supplementary to ensure a up to date set of figures is included for Q2.



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The Director for Strategy, Delivery and Performance, L Wade, introduced the report on corporate performance management. This was representative of the programmes of change and the amount of work being delivered across the Council. The initial overview report would have been delivered at the beginning of the financial year, however with officer’s focus on the Covid recovery response this had to be delayed.


The first part of the report related to the internal governance review and structure, aligning to the Stronger Select Committees. An internal officer governance structure had been established to focus on the delivery of the Corporate programmes aligned to the Stronger ambition objectives. Programmes would be led by a director enabling Corporate Performance management to be aligned with individual performance management.


The next part of the report was on corporate performance management, setting out the scope of the work and the scope of each of the programmes across the council. Officers had been working with the programme delivery leads to establish clear project briefs for each programme of work along with a roadmap and clear set of milestones to allow the measurement of delivery and progress. L Wade asked the committee if they would like to see the progress of all the programmes or just the exceptions.


Councillor Rackham said that she would like to see all progress not just the ones highlighted; it was important that the Committee scrutinised properly. Councillor Neville agreed with her. 


Councillor Bassett noted that there was a lot going on and with the changes with Covid and the impact that it would have. Was this timetable going to be drastically affected or were these dates reasonably firm. Members needed to look at everything, as they just did not know what was happening and that things were changing rapidly.


The Chairman agreed that it was important to have these reports for members to scrutinise.


L Wade drew the meeting’s attention to the three exceptions. The first was the Telecare project, which was now delayed due to Essex County Council withdrawing their initial tender process.


The next was the ICT restructure, this was delayed following the impact of Covid and the recruitment of an interim service manager. However, three team managers have now been appointed.


Thirdly, the impact on the Local Plan, due to the review of the Main Modification delayed document submission and as a result of the inspector’s capacity to review the report.


Councillor Neville asked about the Cyber Security review, would we be able to withstand an attack on our systems as Hackney Council had just undergone. The Director for Corporate Services replied that cyber security was kept under constant review; our systems were robust while letting our staff freedom to attend various virtual meetings and training sessions etc. She could not remember an incident where our systems had been breached.


Councillor Neville then asked about the Climate Change programme and how could members give their views on the climate change programme before it went to the Cabinet. He was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Accommodation Project pdf icon PDF 653 KB

To note the progress on the Council’s Accommodation Programme.

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The Director for Strategy, Delivery and Performance, L Wade, introduced the report on the ongoing Accommodation Project. The committee noted that the Accommodation Programme Board continued to meet monthly to oversee the delivery of the programme and covered the following workstreams:


  1. Refurbishment works
  2. Infrastructure and Technology
  3. Travel Plan
  4. Furniture, fixtures and fittings
  5. Change & Ways of Working
  6. Partners and Commercial opportunities
  7. Customer Service Workstream


The refurbishment works were going well and the AV design specification had been progressed; the appendix to the report included photos of the types of new technology that they hoped to incorporate into the new offices. Discussions had progressed on the Travel Plans with the newly appointed Sustainable Transport Officer where they were exploring sustainable options for travel to the office as part of the wider sustainable transport project and the use of DRT (Demand Responsive Transport).


Officers were currently reviewing the space requirements in light of the flexible working and use of the building. The requirements for furniture and fittings were at the final stage of design.  The result would be an open and modern environment retaining and showcasing the listed features of the Civic. The final review would happen in the coming few weeks.


The programme was not just about the offices but delivering a new way of working, the employees continued to embrace remote working. As for the space in the building the Council have had some positive interest in the use of the building and initial discussions were looking positive.


And finally, as from the Programme Board meeting in September, the contract sum was within the agreed 2020/21 budget approved at Full Council.


Councillor Neville asked if the proposed travel plan report going to the December Cabinet would be shared with councillors in advance of this. He was told that it would hopefully be shared by mid-November.


Councillor Rackham asked if the travel plan would be subject to change at short notice if employees decided they wanted to work from home. She was told that for the most part employees were looking to work more flexibly from home and officers were beginning to understand how they could best utilise the spaces they had.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse said it was a shame that the travel plan had slipped. Could officers say which problem this plan was the solution to. Was it so that officers could park elsewhere and then summon demand responsive transport to the offices or was it a service from home to the civic offices? L Wade said that at this stage is was as an alternative mode of transport, they were still trying to understand the coverage of this and part of the understanding of the scope of the replacement of the 87 bus. Based on this they would see what the needs of the employees were.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse then went on to query the commercialisation of the building space, would we market the conference suite as well. He was told this did not feature at present, but it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


People Strategy pdf icon PDF 161 KB

The report updates the Committee on the Council’s People’s Strategy.

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The Director for Corporate Services, P Maginnis, introduced the report update on Peoples Services. To begin with she picked up some questions that were asked at the last meeting of this Committee about vacancies and consultants.  As of 21 September 2020, an exercise had been carried out looking at vacancies, at roles that had been vacant for at least six months. They found that there were 26 vacancies, some of which were being covered by agency staff. As for Consultants/Agency Staff we had 23 of them at present, scattered throughout the organisation, mostly in qualified, professional rolls.


As for the people strategy update. The People Strategy and Plan set out clear actions and timescales over a two-year period to support the Council deliver its strategic objectives and was divided into 6 workstreams:


  • Attracting, on boarding and retaining the best talent
  • Developing our leadership
  • Embracing change to support EFDC evolution
  • Creating a culture of engagement and wellbeing
  • Developing our skills and behaviours to make EFDC a great place to work
  • Achieving organisational goals through a high performing and flexible workforce


At the core was transforming the People Team to become an enabler for the organisation.


The Strategy sets out the ambition for our workforce – the right people with the right skills, highly motivated high performing and business efficient.


The Covid Pandemic meant that they had brought projects forward in order to support staff and they were providing more resources for staff during the winter months. Some of this was researched by looking at how the Norwegians got themselves ready for their long winter and what their mindset was.


They have also launched an employee assisted programme to enable employees to access discounts online along with medical access. There was also a lot of training available for staff, including first aid and mental health training and e learning packages.


As for developing skills and behaviours there was a programme for management apprenticeships. We have appointed four housing apprentices and they will start their Chartered Institute of Housing qualifications. We were exceeding our public sector duty in terms of apprenticeships – we were expected to have 15 apprentices in our organisation but have actually got 23.


We have recently undertaken a realignment of services to ensure that the projects to assist our residents and businesses in terms of Covid recovery had been aligned correctly. They were also looking to automate and improve the current recruitment processes using the current IT systems and working with our partner organisations.


Councillor Rackham asked why, when we had 23 Consultants/agency staff in place, were we not filling the vacancies with permanent staff.  She was told that they were currently looking at the vacancies, looking to see if they were actually required, they would then know if there were any chance of making savings. Looking at the list they were not additional rolls, but they were filling vacant rolls across the organisation.


Councillor Brookes commented that Covid had taken a lot of officers’ time up during this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Revenue and Capital Outturn 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 435 KB

To receive an overview of the Council’s Revenue and Capital outturn.

Additional documents:


The interim Chief Finance Officer, Christopher Hartgrove, introduced the Revenue and Capital Outturn for 2019-20 report.  He noted that the figures were still subject to external audit and it was technically possible it might change.


It was a good news story for 2019-20. The Council had ended the year with an overall positive revenue variance on General Fund service budgets of £908,000, whereas the ring-fenced Housing Revenue Account recorded a negative revenue variance of £285,000, for which Covid had played a part.


The minimum contingency balance requirements adopted by the Council had been met at year-end on both the General Fund and the HRA.


Councillor Brookes commented that at another Committee meeting it had been said that kitchen and bathroom improvements had stopped; had they stopped because we needed to save money at present or was it because of Covid. A Small said that it was largely Covid related, but this had stopped in 20/21 but this report was for 19/20.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked if this was a phasing issue because of Covid, to be picked up later, or is it a permanent saving. Also, on the HRA right to buy receipts – have they been reinvested or given back to the government. Councillor J Philip said that this was a finance report was on the outturn for 2019/20, this should be taken up with the panel that looks into housing repairs. Councillor Whitehouse said that it was appropriate to ask if it was a phasing issue or a saving. Councillor Philip said that this report looked at what happened, not an outlook one.  C Hartgrove said that he believed that it was just a phasing issue. Also, he could confirm that return of RTB receipts was averted at the end of 2019/20 at year end; as for 20/21 the current issues were that there were some slight delays on this and was some risks if the council did not spend the receipts.


Councillor Bassett noted that at appendix A, general fund revenue outturn, business support, accommodation, we had allowed £19k with a variance of £1.026million with an actual of £1.045million what caused the variance? He was told that it was an accounting adjustment. The actual variance was only £4k.


Councillor Bassett then asked about the large structural schemes, was that all down to the damaging tree roots. He was told that it was chiefly that, but there were other issues as well.




(1)    The Committee noted the Revenue outturn for 2019/20 for the General Fund and Housing Revenue Account (HRA) as presented within the report, including Appendix A;


(2)    The Committee noted the General Fund Reserve position presented in Section 4;


(3)    The Committee noted the HRA Balance set out in Section 4, including the retention of £0.5 million originally approved for transfer to the Self-Financing Financing Reserve (prior to consideration for approval by Cabinet); and


(4)    The Committee noted the Capital Programme outturn for 2019/20 as presented within the report, including Appendix B.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.


Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring Report (General Fund) pdf icon PDF 254 KB

To consider the attached report. This report presents the first four month’s (till the end July 2020) of the General Fund Budget Monitoring report for Epping Forest District Council.

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The interim Chief Finance Officer, Christopher Hartgrove, introduced the quarter 1, budget monitoring report. The report presented the first four month’s (till the end July 2020) General Fund Budget Monitoring report for Epping Forest District Council and reported on the first four months of the pandemic and the financial impact of that.  The full position was summarised in appendix A of the report. This report will also be going to Cabinet at their 19 October meeting and was here for pre scrutiny. Because of underspends elsewhere, due to our restricted ability to deliver in some service areas, our projected overspend was currently at £1.9million.  Actual variance were picked out in section 3 of the report. The area coming under the most pressure was the Contracts and Technical Services functions. As for the support we were getting from the Government; at present we were projecting something in the region of £3.5m, we had actually received £1.6m in grants. It has also undertaken an income loss scheme and under the statutory fees and charges compensation scheme we have just put in a claim for £725k. this is the first of 3. By year end it should be £1.87million.


Councillor Philip noted that this report was just a snapshot of where we were after the first four (Covid) months; paragraph 1.7 was the key one, looking forward, as this was at an early stage of the year. How it would look at the end of the year, quite frankly we did not know yet.


C Hartgrove added that we had a reasonable balance level of just under £8m available to meet overspends.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse referenced sharing the pain with the Leisure contract losses, how was this calculated? A Small said that he would have to speak to the contract officer and put something in the minutes.


Councillor Bassett said that this was a most useful report, to see what Covid was doing to the council. We did not know what the long term effects would be, but he thanked the officers for putting us in this relatively strong position. A Small stressed just what an exceptional year this had been, and we did not know when it would end.  We did not know how the government would continue to support us, so it was difficult to develop a budget for next year.


Councillor Philip added that we had good reserves but did not want to fall into the trap of spending our reserves as we did not know what would happen next year.




The Committee noted the content of this report.




Dates of Future Meetings

To note the next meeting dates for this Committee:


19 January 2021; and

13 April 2021.

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The Committee noted their future meeting dates.