Venue: Phoenix Chambers, Phoenix House, Tiverton
Contact: Carole Oliphant Member Services Officer
APOLOGIES AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS (0.04.10)
To receive any apologies for absence and notices of appointment of substitute Members (if any).
There were no apologies or substitute Members
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST UNDER THE CODE OF CONDUCT (0.04.21)
Councillors are reminded of the requirement to declare any interest, including the type of interest, and reason for that interest, either at this stage of the meeting or as soon as they become aware of that interest.
Cllr A Wilce declared a personal interest for item 11 as he was the Member concerned
PUBLIC QUESTION TIME (0.05.10)
To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Note: A maximum of 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
The Chairman read the following questions from Mr N Quinn, a local resident, regarding agenda item 10:
Will Members take note that this report starts with only a single error but, as each paragraph tries to explain the changes between the two Tables, it ends with multiple differences – some going back to 2017.
Q1: Why were these errors not corrected promptly?
Are Members aware that the question at Full Council on 15th December 2021,
referred to in para 2.7, was specifically about the 2020/21 figures. The reply was specific as well “the difference is due to a revised interest payment for one parcel of land on one development” (See Minute 90). There was no mention, at that time, of any other land deals or VAT changes in other years.
Q 2: Can Members be assured the statements in paragraphs 2.5, 2.6 and 2.7
can be relied upon?
Members will note that the report conclusion states that the figures in these tables were not for specific approval – but, surely, that should not have made a difference to the accuracy of information given.
Q 3: Should Members be able to rely on the financial information, given in any
report, being correct – no matter what the purpose of the report?
Will Members note the 2021/22 interest/recharge total of £502.6k, shown in Table 2, was the ‘actual’ amount received up to the end of October 2021 - confirmed by the S151 Officer at the Cabinet meeting on 30th November 2021 (See Minute 111).
Will Members also note that at Cabinet on 1st February 2022, the reported 2021/22 interest/recharge total was only £414.0k. The S151 Officer confirmed this was the actual amount received “up to 31st December 2021” (See Minutes 130 and 152).
If £502.6k had been received at the end of October, but only £414.0k is here at the end of December –then £88,600 has gone missing!
Q 4: Where has this £88,600 gone?
In response the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) stated:
A1. The errors included in the table first provided to this Committee in November 2021 have been apologised for and fully explained and corrected at the next available meeting which was the Audit Committee about 10 days later. The Scrutiny Committee was also sent a correction paper and Cabinet also had the correct table. The errors on the table have absolutely no bearing on the Council’s accounts it was just data which was transposed. The errors were identified by a member of the finance team as the papers went through the rounds and it was flagged up at the earliest opportunity and a corrected table was presented.
A2. The other errors the questioner makes reference to are not errors they are adjustments to data after clarifying further information on recharges and interest applied to transactions between 3 Rivers and the Council that has been explained previously.
A3. With regard to question 2 and 3 the answer is yes.
A4. The November report states that the table below ... view the full minutes text for item 117.
Members to consider whether to approve the minutes as a correct record of the meeting held on 17th January 2022.
The Committee is reminded that only those members of the Committee present at the previous meeting should vote and, in doing so, should be influenced only by seeking to ensure that the minutes are an accurate record.
The minutes of the last meeting were approved as a correct record and SIGNED by the Chairman.
DECISIONS OF THE CABINET (0.16.48)
To consider any decisions made by the Cabinet at its last meeting that have been called-in.
The Committee NOTED that none of the decisions made by the Cabinet on 1st February 2022 had been called in.
CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS (0.16.59)
To receive any announcements that the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee may wish to make.
The Chairman had no announcements to make.
To receive the annual update of Regulation of Investigatory Powers previously presented to Community PDG.
The Committee had before it and NOTED, the *Annual Review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) Policy from the District Solicitor and Monitoring Officer.
Note: *Policy previously circulated and attached to the minutes
To receive the annual review of the Establishment.
The Committee had before it, and NOTED, the annual *review of the Establishment from the Corporate Manager for People, Governance and Waste.
The Officer explained that although it had been a challenging year that all services had been maintained. Sickness absence had remained low but had seen a slight increase over the winter months which was expected. Agency spend had increased due to gaps in personnel who were sick, isolating or current vacancies not yet being filled. Turnover remained a challenge.
In response to Members concerns about the increased turnover rate the Corporate Manager for People, Governance and Waste explained that the staff survey had indicated that people were less satisfied but that the Council was looking to learn from the survey.
The Chief Executive explained that the overarching turnover rates were comparable with other local authorities and that staff satisfaction was a concern with a sense of fairness apparent. The Council tried to treat people fairly and equally but some examples were staff being furloughed when others had to work through the pandemic.
In response to Members requesting to see a plan to tackle turnover, the Corporate Manager for People, Governance and Waste stated that the Staff Survey Action Plan would be brought to a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.
He explained that the Council used a competency framework to better use people’s skills and this lead to a progression pathway for staff.
Note: *Review previously circulated and attached to the minutes.
To receive an update on progress of the Menopause Working Group Recommendations
The Committee had before it, and NOTED, an *update on the Menopause Working Group recommendations from the Operations Manager for People, Governance and Waste.
Note: *Update previously circulated and attached to the minutes
To receive a report from the Deputy Chief Exec (S151)
The Committee had before it, and NOTED, a *report from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) providing clarification on data considered by the Scrutiny Committee in November 2021.
Note: *Report previously circulated and attached to the minutes
THE CONDUCT OF THE CABINET MEETING 1ST FEBRUARY 2022 (1.00.17)
The conduct of the meeting of Cabinet on 1st February.
(Item proposed by Cllrs G Barnell, S J Clist, E Lloyd and A Wilce)
1. The proposers consider that the agenda was far too long. It contained several complex papers of considerable importance to the Council's business together with several items that could and should have been placed on the agenda of another meeting of Cabinet. This gave very little time for discussion and questioning of important items of business especially by non-cabinet members.
2. The meeting was chaired in a way that was perceived to be extremely disrespectful towards non-cabinet members, bordering on hostile and autocratic. With one notable exception, non-cabinet members felt as though they were routinely and aggressively interrupted by the chair and prevented from making valid points or from entering into any discussion about key items.
3. The proposers believe that a question from a member of the public was not put to the meeting and no explanation was given as to why it was not put or answered.
4. An important question on the constitutionality of an agenda item was submitted from a non-Cabinet member, however this was not put or answered. This may have prevented legitimate discussion and a collective Cabinet decision on the constitutionality of that agenda item.
As a result of the way the meeting was chaired, it is considered that non-cabinet members were prevented from expressing legitimate concerns and points of view and were inhibited from asking questions. The proposers consider such an approach to be undemocratic and damaging to the reputation of the Council. The proposers are asking scrutiny committee to consider these issues and to ask cabinet to review these concerns.
A request had been received from Cllrs Barnell, Clist, Lloyd and Wilce with regard to their views on conduct during the Cabinet meeting on 1 February 2022. The Chair invited those members to address the committee. In responding to the four members’ comments, the Leader of the Council stated that it had been acknowledged that the Cabinet meeting had a very long agenda. He had taken the view that it would not have been appropriate to allow Members to stray off the agenda, asking at the commencement of Cabinet that only questions were asked. It was acknowledged that the rules permitted such and the heavy workload of the meeting had led to such an approach on that occasion. If he had offended anyone he apologised.
Consideration was given to:
· The views of present and former chairpersons within the Scrutiny Committee who stated that it was the Chairman’s role to control the meeting and that on occasions they had to be firm
· Full Council having adopted the Strong Leader and Cabinet model
· The view that the item was not the concern of the Scrutiny Committee, if needed the matter should have gone to the Standards Committee
· The Leader had not done anything contrary to the procedure rules in the Council’s Constitution and that had been confirmed by the Monitoring Officer
· The public perception about how Council meetings should be run
· Whether the agenda of the meeting should have been split between two meetings
· The view of one proposer that a joint Cabinet and Scrutiny Working Group should be formed to establish a protocol.
The Chairman stated that he had listened to the recording of the Cabinet meeting and that the Leader was faced with a heavy agenda. He suggested in future that the agenda could be split into two meetings to allow for debate. He acknowledged that the Leader had stated at the beginning of the meeting that it was a large agenda and non-Cabinet Members should restrict their statements to questions only.
It was therefore AGREED that:
1) For points 1 and 2, the proposers’ views had been noted and the Cabinet be asked to review the concerns raised
2) For points 3 and, 4, the proposers’ views had again been noted and would be picked up within the Standards Committee’s established Task & Finish Group review of the Council’s Procedure Rules.
(Proposed by the Chairman)
i) Cllr G Barnell requested that his vote against (2) be recorded
ii) Cllr Mrs F J Colthorpe requested that her abstention from voting on (1) be recorded
Members are asked to consider any items within the Forward Plan that they may wish to bring forward for discussion at the next meeting.
The Committee had before it, and NOTED, the *Forward Plan.
Note: *Plan previously circulated and attached to the minutes
SCRUTINY OFFICER UPDATE (1.59.50)
To receive an update from the Scrutiny Officer.
The Scrutiny Officer provided the following update:
· The final report of the scrutiny spotlight review of ‘women in local government’ was due to come to Committee in March.
· We were still following up a number of the replies on the bio-energy industry joint Devon review. Two Councils were still hoping to discuss at future Scrutiny meetings; one had said yes; two have said their work programmes were too busy; and one was hoping to have a further conversation in the coming weeks with Cllr Warren.
· Broadband work was progressing – we held a very well attended Member briefing with Airband. The next steps were to get dates in the diary of all Members to meet with Airband, and that work was taking place with regard to prioritising the list of members depending on rollout dates.
Members are asked to note the current Work Plan for the municipal year.
Members to have the opportunity to discuss additional items to be investigated by the Scrutiny Committee and added to the Work Plan.
The Committee had before it, and NOTED, the *Scrutiny Committee Work Plan.
It was agreed that:
· The Staff Survey Action Plan be brought to a future meeting
· Inclusive Participatory Budgeting proposal to be brought to a future meeting
Note: *Work Plan previously circulated and attached to the minutes