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 December 2020, is attached as an Appendix to this report.
Cabinet’s Key Decision List updated to the 1 February 2021 was scrutinised by the Committee and the following points were raised.
Councillor J Philip queried the last item (Town Centre Regeneration - Ongar, Loughton, Epping and Buckhurst Hill), which should be under the Finance and Economic Development Portfolio Holder.
(b) Finance and Economic Development Portfolio
Councillor S Murray remarked that Loughton High Road and The Broadway shopping centres should be dealt with separately as they would not need the same approach. Councillor J Philip replied that he was aware that these were two distinct areas and would have competing demands.
(c) Environmental and Technical Services Portfolio
Councillor S Murray asked if there would be scrutiny undertaken on charging for Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests before a decision was made. Would there also be an assurance for proper scrutiny on the transfer of services to Qualis of the Grounds Maintenance and Fleet Operations Services, and North Weald Airfield Operations before Cabinet made a decision on 20 April 2021? Councillor M Sartin replied that this would be an action for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee April 2021 meeting or the appropriate select committee. The Portfolio Holder, Councillor N Avey, replied that EIR requests came under Q Durrani, Environmental and Technical Services Director. There would need to be a proper look at the business case before the transfer on these service areas to Qualis in April and to provide adequate opportunity to scrutinise. The Commercial and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder replied that the business cases would be scrutinised and come before this Committee.
Councillor J H Whitehouse remarked that Qualis had made a presentation to the Local Councils’ Liaison Committee on 28 January 2021 and had asked about the scrutiny of the Housing repairs team. The reply was that Qualis as a whole was scrutinised a number of times a year and the opportunity to scrutinise services would be then, which she did not think was adequate. In her opinion the scrutiny process of Qualis needed to be looked at, and how these services could be scrutinised because just looking at Qualis would not be satisfactory. Councillor M Sartin replied that the reality was that everyone was feeling their way on how Qualis would be operating and interact with the Council. Councillor N Avey replied that governance was a key issue as between the subsidiaries and the holding company it was conjecture at the moment.
(1) That the Committee reviewed the Executive’s current programme of Key Decisions of 1 February 2021 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;
(2) That scrutiny of charging for the EIR requests be undertaken before the Cabinet decision; and
(3) That there be assurance for proper scrutiny of the transfer of services to Qualis of the Grounds Maintenance and Fleet Operations Services, and the North Weald Airfield by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee or appropriate select committee, before a decision was made by Cabinet in April 2021.