Venue: Phoenix Chambers, Phoenix House, Tiverton
Contact: Carole Oliphant Member Services Officer
APOLOGIES AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS (0.03.21)
To receive any apologies for absence and notices of appointment of substitute Members (if any).
Apologies were received from Cllrs S Pugh, E J Berry and R F Radford.
Apologies were also received from Cllrs F W Letch and A Wilce who were substituted by Cllrs J Buczkowski and B G J Warren.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST UNDER THE CODE OF CONDUCT (0.03.47)
To record any interests on agenda matters.
Members were reminded of the need to make declarations where appropriate
PUBLIC QUESTION TIME (0.03.57)
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.
Nick Quinn, a local resident asked:
My first questions concern Agenda Item 9: Complaints Update.
On page 10 of your papers, at paragraph 3.3, it is said that a new complaints system is being built and that input will be obtained from the Portfolio holder for Continuous Improvement and the Corporate Performance & Improvement Manager.
Q1. Is it intended to ask service users, or the public generally, what they would want to be included in a new complaints system?
Q2. Does the Council currently follow up on closed complaints, to find out whether the complainant was satisfied with the outcome, or the complaint process?
My final question concerns Agenda Item 10: Budget Update.
On page 27 of your papers, there are two tables: Capital Expenditure Summary and Capital Funding Summary.
In the Capital Funding Summary table, just above the General Fund Subtotals row, is a row called Borrowing 50 years - totalling £57.538M.
The table shows the 50 year borrowing amount for 2023/24 is £12.196M, which my children’s children will still be paying off in 2073.
I should like to know what they will be getting for this long term loan. So my question is...
Q3. What is the £12.196M, of General Fund 50 year borrowing in 2023/24, being spent on?
The Chairman confirmed that the questions would be addressed when the item was discussed.
To consider whether to approve the minutes as a correct record of the meeting held on 12th December 2022
The minutes of the last meeting were approved as a correct record and duly SIGNED by the Chairman.
DECISIONS OF THE CABINET (0.16.27)
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 3rd January 2022 had been called in.
CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS (0.16.44)
To receive any announcements that the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee may wish to make.
The Chairman announced that two Member Services Officers were moving to other departments within the Council and he wished them well for the future.
WHISTLEBLOWING 6 MONTH UPDATE (0.18.55)
To receive details that there have been no Whistleblowing instances in the previous 6 months
The Corporate Manager for People, Governance and Waste informed the meeting that there had been no whistleblowing instances during the previous 6 months
MOTION 583 - PROTECT RIVERS AND SEAS (0.18.59)
At Council on 26th October 2022 it was resolved to ask the Scrutiny committee, or other appropriate committee, to invite a senior representative of South West Water, the Environment Agency and Natural England, to attend a meeting to answer questions on the current levels of sewage discharge.
Representatives from South West Water Authority (SWWA) had been invited to attend and the following questions were put to them:
· The UK has the dirtiest rivers in Europe. Here in Mid Devon, in 2021, SWWA discharged sewage into local rivers and seas over 2,068 times, totalling over 20,853 hours of sewage discharge in just one year (monitoring was carried out on 53 of the 93 storm overflows). Last year, Ofwat opened an enforcement case with SWWA, after heightened concerns about its environmental performance which suggested it was not complying with its obligations. SWWA must have known this was the case before enforcement action was started, so why was SWWA not complying and therefore knowingly harming rivers and seas?
· What action has been taken so far as a result of this enforcement case? How much money are you investing and where will this go?
· The Environment Act has driven increased monitoring and reporting of storm overflows. Since this requirement, what has SWWA done to identify and reduce sewage spills and pollution? Can you give us the latest numbers on how many discharge events there have been?
· What other work is planned and in what timeframe?
· What are you doing to ensure your wastewater treatment works are operating as they should?
· What can you do to input to local authority planning processes, so that we can better assess whether existing treatment works have the capacity for new development? Do you have information available to be able to assess the impact of development on the number and duration of sewage discharges into local rivers? Will you be willing to share this information?
· How will SWWA and the Environment Agency be working together to monitor this work?
· How are you / how will you be keeping customers informed of your actions?
Mark Worsfold from South West Water Authority gave the following responses:
· Events were monitored via event duration monitors and the numbers of these had been increased to cover all storm over flows
· There was an open enforcement and criminal case and he could not respond to this question due to legal privilege
· Although unable to respond to the open enforcement case he confirmed £333m had been invested via Waterfit in 200 storm overflows
· Operational action had been taken to increase the number of monitors and increased maintenance activity. No of spills had been reduced by 75% for overflows in the bathing season
· The Waterfit program ran until 2025 and SWWA was preparing submissions to both the Environment Agency and OFWAT
· The Water Resources Management Plan looked at a series of actions and engagement with customers. The plan set out actions over 25 years and was currently open to public consultation
· There were continued reviews of treatment works including daily and weekly reports and an investment program
· SWWA were undertaking a number of tests for phosphates and nitrates. The Government set targets through the Environment ACT and required Water Authorities to reduce levels by up to 80%
· 45% of phosphate was from agricultural practices ... view the full minutes text for item 69.
To receive an update on reporting of Complaints, Comments and Compliments
The Committee had before it, and NOTED, a *report from the Corporate Manager for Business Transformation and Community Engagement providing an update on complaints.
The officer explained that the update followed on from the previous report presented to Scrutiny and that there has been a slight decline in some of the results. As a result of this she confirmed action being taken which included:
· Refresher training
· Replacement CRM system in the future
· Replacement complaints system in the future
· Housing Complaints would be reported to the Homes PDG
Consideration was given to:
· The ability for managers to spot check complaints would be investigated
In answer to public question asked the Corporate Manager for Business Transformation and Community Engagement stated:
· Policies and processes concerning complaints would not change but they would engage with a new CRM system
· Closed complaints were not currently followed up but this could be introduced with the new systems
Note: *report previously circulated and attached to the minutes
To consider the initial draft 2023/2024 Budget and options available in order for the Council to set a balanced budget and if appropriate make recommendations to Cabinet on 7 February 2023 and full Council on 22 February 2023
The Committee had before it, and NOTED, the Budget update *report, previously presented to the Cabinet on 3rd January 2023.
In response to public questions asked the Corporate Manager for Finance stated:
· As explained at Cabinet on 3/1/2023 the borrowing timeframe is usually aligned with the working life of an asset funded from that borrowing. Within those working draft papers the funding requirements for 3RDL had been included with the 50 year borrowing as the underlying assets financed were property. As highlighted, it was not appropriate to fund short term development investment through long term borrowing. Therefore, in this case, the term would be amended to align with the development timeframe and not the life of the asset.
The officer went on to explain that the budget gap was largely due to inflation of wages, fuel and energy costs and that progress was being made to close the gap through income generation rather than service cuts.
A new approach would be taken with Town and Parish Councils and there would be ongoing discussions with the S151 officer due to attend a number of Parish Council meetings in the future.
Consideration was given to:
· The budget was constantly reviewed and residents were consulted via residents surveys
· Annual settlements from Governments made it difficult to strategically plan budgets
· Provision had been made for impairment for 3RDL and had been agreed by the Council’s external auditors
· There were ongoing discussions about the costs of the Leisure Centres against the benefit to residents and there was a work in progress to reduce costs through green initiatives and an increase in fees and charges
· The impact of vacancy management on service delivery could be scrutinised by way of quarterly reports
It was therefore RESOLVED that:
· Officers provide a report on a system of vacancy control that was transparent and inclusive of Members and the Scrutiny Committee. To include the projected targets for vacancy control and how it might be implemented
(Proposed by Cllr Barnell and seconded by Cllr B G J Warren)
· Officers to provide a report on the future funding of the Leisure Centres including the possibility of an inclusive budgeting exercise involving the electorate on the future funding of the leisure centres
(Proposed by Cllr G Barnell and seconded by Cllr Mrs E J Lloyd)
Reason for the decisions: To provide a steer for Council on budget proposals
· *report previously circulated and attached to the minutes
· Cllr J Buczkowski made a personal declaration as Chairman of Cullompton Town Council
· Cllr Mrs S Griggs made a personal declaration as Mayor of Tiverton Town Council
· Cllr B G J Warren made a personal declaration as Chairman of Willand Parish Council
· Cllr Mrs E J Slade left the meeting at 4.43pm
To review the existing Work Plan and consider items for the committee’s future consideration, taking account of:
a) Any items within the Forward Plan for discussion at the next meeting;
b) Suggestions of other work for the committee in 2022/23.
In addition, to consider the below items as requested by a Member of the committee and to determine how the scrutiny committee wishes to take them forward:
1. 3RDL – Does the recent assessment of the business plan by Cabinet adequately scrutinise and consider the company’s competence and prospects?
2. Planning Policy and Procedures – What is current policy and are there alternative arrangements that could be considered?
3. The rights of members to place items for discussion relating to Council business on the agenda of the Scrutiny Committee - What are the boundaries of ‘relevant’ items and should any changes be recommended to Standards or Council?
The Committee had before it, and NOTED the *Forward Plan and the *Scrutiny Work Plan.
Members discussed the 3 additional items as requested by a member of the committee to determine how the Scrutiny Committee would like to deal with them:
1. It was RESOLVED to request that the Leader attend a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee to present the recent Cabinet review into 3RDL
(Proposed by Cllr G Barnell and seconded by Cllr B G J Warren)
2. It was RESOLVED that the item on Planning Policy and Procedures not be taken forward onto the Scrutiny Workplan after confirmation received from the Director of Place and the Development Management Manager that the Authority was able to determine planning applications for itself, it’s officers and members and arm’s length companies by virtue of the Town and Country Planning Act.
(Proposed by the Chairman)
· Cllrs G Barnell, Mrs E J Lloyd and B G J Warren requested that their abstention from voting be recorded
3. The District Solicitor and Monitoring Officer explained to Members the process for requesting items be placed onto an agenda of the Scrutiny Committee and gave a brief overview of the Scrutiny Prioritisation flow chart previously provided during training of Members. It was AGREED that Members would be provided with the training material again along with a Scrutiny Proposal form in order that a firm proposal for an agenda item could be presented back to Committee
Note: *Forward Plan and Work Plan previously circulated and attached to the minutes