Agenda and minutes

Stronger Council Select Committee - Thursday 3rd March 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: A Hendry (01992 564243)  Email:


No. Item


Webcasting Introduction

This meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to activate their microphones before speaking. The Chairman will read the following announcement:


“The Chairman 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).


If you are seated in the lower public seating area it is likely that the recording cameras will capture your image and this will result in the possibility that your image will become part of the broadcast.


This may infringe your human and data protection rights and if you wish to avoid this you should move to the upper public gallery.”

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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.




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 Councillor C Nweke would substitute for Councillor J Jogia for the duration of this meeting.




Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 227 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 18 January 2022.


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That the notes of the meeting held 18 January 2022 were agreed as a correct record subject to noting the councillor not named in the paragraph on page 7 of the agenda was Councillor H Kane; and that various councillors had been promised copies of reports which had not been sent as yet by the officers; and that there were places where further information had been requested to be put into the minutes post meeting, but had not been included.




Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

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There were no declarations of interest made pursuant to the Member’s Code of Conduct.




Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 100 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.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked about the current position on the items 11 (new Election legislation) and 13 (Customer Services (overall satisfaction)). He was told that officers were still awaiting legislation for item 11 and that the customer services satisfaction item (13) would be investigated and an update brought back.




Learning and Development Programme 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 232 KB

To consider the attached report on the employee learning and development programme.


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P Maginnis (Service Director – Corporate Services) introduced the report on the Learning and Development programme. She noted that we had a new learning management system which had various virtual courses online for members of staff. These range from the short ‘Skill Pill’ sessions to the wider leadership programme to the apprenticeship programme. The Council was also expanding the role of the mental health first aiders to being dementia friends.


Councillor Janet Whitehouse asked if members could access the ‘customer shoes’ session and the staff resources library. Councillors did have access years ago, but not now. Could members have access to more of these resources? She was told that this was picked up in the next report.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked how were training needs identified now that officers mostly worked from home. He was told that this was picked up in various ways depending on managers and their requirements, such as the specialist needs for IT personnel and the various skills required. Managers would look at their corporate needs and identify needs via inductions for new starters etc. Some training was still carried out face to face, whatever fitted in with what was required.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse then asked what the current organisational training priorities were. He was told that some of this was listed in the report such as the development of the management spine, getting team management qualifications, developing new skills around agile working, to upskill our apprentices, understanding the impact of Covid on our staff with training on Mental health issues.


Councillor Sunger congratulated the teams on their mental health first aiders as it far exceeded the minimum quota as recommended by MHFA England for an organisation of our size.




That the Committee considered and noted the positive impact on employees of the Learning and Development Programmes 2021/22.




Employee Induction / Onboarding & use of the Litmos Learning Management System pdf icon PDF 232 KB

To consider the attached report on the Employee Onboarding Guide and the new digital Learning Management System called Litmos.

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P Maginnis (Service Director – Corporate Services) introduced the report on the Litmos Learning Management System. This would give new officers an insight into how the council worked and what the role of a councillor was; generally giving them an insight into the political world of our organisation. This has now been built into the Council’s onboarding process and was also now part of the new Litmos system and the onboarding of new starters. The Council can now also develop its own courses and host videos, policies and links. It is far more flexible and more up to date than the previous system. Its functionality will help develop employees.


The new system will also allow members access, enabling them to have access to courses such as members safety. Member services can be trained to administer this part of the system and enable access to the training.


Councillor H Kane asked when we would have an area for member learning available as we were soon to have elections and therefore new members; and could we take this out to the Town and Parish Councils. P Maginnis said that there would be some discussions about the ‘when’. At present Member Services were concentrating on members use of IT. She would find out if Town and Parish councils could be given access.


Councillor Bedford asked if we had a ‘ways of working’ policy and noted that the government had said that Local Authorities should be back to 40% staff working in buildings. How would that tie in with our strategy of hybrid working. He noted at the beginning of the week there were never a lot of officers around and was wondering how we were going to achieve the increase in the balance so that members of the public, when making enquiries, could get hold of officers. He was told that officers were drafting a policy on ‘ways of working’ and were having discussions on getting teams back into the building. As for public queries, officers should be contactable wherever they were sitting. Councillor Bedford cited a query he had from a member of the public, they had a query about Council Tax and was told they would get a response within 10 days but had no response 4 weeks later; after chasing it an officer gave apologies for the delay. It was not acceptable to have such long delays. Response time should be monitored as he was getting concerned by response times from officers.


Cllr Neville was interested in the fact that many new starters lived further afield, e.g., Liverpool, Bournemouth and Manchester. He would like to know the proportion of new starters living further afield and assumed that a lot of people who worked for Epping Forest lived nearby. They would also know the area but the ones who work from further afield would not. He also welcomed the increased access for member training.


A Small commented that the number of staff living away from the district was comparatively few. It  ...  view the full minutes text for item 50.


Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report - Q4 2020/21 and Quarterly Monitoring Report - Q1 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 293 KB

To note and comment on the fourth Quarter’s monitoring report for the Qualis trading year 2020/21 and the Quarter 1 position covering 1 October 2021 to 31 December 2021.


This report went to the 7 February 2022 Cabinet meeting and the 24 February Council meeting.


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A Small introduced the quarter 4 (2020/21) Qualis monitoring and the quarterly monitoring report for 2021/22. He noted that this had already been to the Cabinet and the Council. The Auditors were satisfied with their accounts and he noted that recently planning consent had been given for the Epping plots and they were now considered as assets.


Qualis had paid £3 million to the council so far in interest payments and this helped balance the Council’s budget.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked if the auditors had similar issues to our council’s accounts around the documentation, which may suggest that the council had not internalised the importance of those procedures.  On page 34 it talks about a separate report on operational performance procedures, and he wondered where that might be going to. And on page 53 it talks about the reduction in the voids specifications which had benefited the finances, but it was a reduction in quality not an increase in efficiency that had led to this. What did this mean in practice? He then asked if the overspend in the HRA had now been fully resolved. A Small replied that the auditors did say these were minor points and that Qualis was in the process of addressing these. As for the performance indicators as a separate report, he would try and get a copy to this committee. He was not sure about the reduction in quality that the councillor referred to. He thought that a discount had been negotiated in the works that they had done which comes in as a discount to the cost they paid into the Housing Revenue Account. Part of this was to make sure that the specifications were not over specified so that no unnecessary work was carried out; in particular work was not being done to properties that did not need it. As for who was responsible for the HRA repairs split payments, he would talk to him separately afterwards on this as he needed more detail. There would be a separate report on this going to the Audit and Governance Committee.




That the Committee noted the report.




Dates of Future Meetings

To note the next meeting date of this Committee will be held on:


14 April 2022.

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The Committee noted their future meeting date.