To discuss the potential reconvening of the Task and Finish Panel. The Terms of Reference is attached for information.
The Chief Operating Officer, N Dawe, said that the Local High Streets Task and Finish Panel had been established a year ago but was suspended after the first meeting on 24 February 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. Making high streets safer, in addition to the economic recovery and social wellbeing focus was being reported back to Cabinet and there would be other reports coming forward. The Policy Advisory Group under the Commercial and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder, Councillor A Patel, oversaw Covid-19 work on the high streets, the degree and nature of the economic recovery and some other items.
In view of the progress being made with the post Covid-19 town centre projects, the Committee was being asked if it should reconvene the Task and Finish Panel as per its existing terms of reference; or should it recommence its activities but alter its terms of reference and mode of operation; or should the Panel cease and members involvement and oversite of the High Street projects needed to be addressed differently.
Councillor D Wixley asked if the membership of the Panel could be clarified after the meeting.
(Post meeting update: The membership of the Local High Streets Task and Finish Panel comprised Councillors J Share-Bernia (Chairman), B Jennings, J Jennings, H Kane, H Kauffman, P Keska, D Plummer, S Rackham, C Roberts, D Stocker and J H Whitehouse).
The following councillors supported the recommencing of the Panel:
Councillor J H Whitehouse said she was a Panel member and she agreed with N Dawe that things had changed since they last met. It was up to the Panel to see what had changed and the terms of reference could also be changed. As the Policy Advisory Group (PAG) did not publish any minutes, members were not always aware of the work it was doing, and it had a wider remit than the Panel. The Councillor recommended that a further meeting should take place and could report back to Overview and Scrutiny on how the Panel thought it should move forward.
Councillors S Murray and D Plummer thought that the Panel should recommence and re-look at its terms of reference to see if any changes were necessary.
Councillor A Patel said that the PAG was looking at the revival of high streets and its work had superseded that of the Task and Finish Panel’s. He was keen to avoid officers having to duplicate work and reporting, and that the PAG was better placed to take this work forward.
Councillor M Sartin disagreed as the PAG looked at broader issues and was not open to scrutiny and therefore, she could see the value of the Task and Finish Panel having one more meeting.
Councillor C Whitbread, the Leader, emphasised that officers were under pressure to write reports and he did not want duplication of officer time. He asked the scrutiny members to bear with the Executive and postpone the reconvening of the Task and Finish Panel at the moment. The Council needed to get through the Covid-19 recovery and then the Task and Finish Panel could come back and look at high street viability etc.
Councillors Sartin and Murray agreed with the Leader’s comments and understood the situation and that officer time was under more pressure during this coronavirus crisis.
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked when would the Panel be reconvened? Councillor M Sartin agreed that this item would be revisited at the next meeting on 2 February 2021.
(1) That the reconvening of the Local High Streets Task and Finish Panel would be revisited at the next Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 2 February 2021.