Venue: Phoenix Chambers, Phoenix House, Tiverton
Contact: David Parker Democratic Services Officer
Link: audio recording
Apologies and Substitute Members (00:04:40)
To receive any apologies for absence and notices of appointment of substitute Members (if any).
As Cllr G Westcott was attending via Teams, a Vice-Chairman was needed for this meeting. The Chairman proposed and it was agreed that Cllr S Robinson fulfil that role.
Apologies were received from Cllr F J Colthorpe who was substituted by Cllr C Harrower.
Declarations of Interest under the Code of Conduct (00:05:03)
To record any interests on agenda matters.
No interests were declared under this item. Members were reminded of the need to make declarations of interest where appropriate.
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.
Mr Paul Elstone asked questions relating to Agenda Item 7 – 3 Rivers – Lessons Learned.
His questions were all directed to the Chairman.
This administration promised openness, transparency and public engagement in decision making. Could it be explained in detail why 5 documents associated with the 3 Rivers Lessons Learned agenda item were being kept secret from the public?
The integrity of various audits and reports on 3 Rivers were being challenged by previous Council Leaders who had detailed knowledge.
Would the full circumstances of those integrity issues be fully investigated by this committee?
Information is becoming increasingly available regarding the Council lending to 3 Rivers which was strongly believed showed what could only be classed as repeat reckless lending being fully promoted by Council Officers and then agreed by this Council.
Would this Committee fully investigate and then seek independent legal advice on this position?
A former senior Councillor has called the 3 Rivers Lessons Learned Enquiry an officer orchestrated sham.
How, therefore, could the Mid Devon public have any confidence at all with the outcome?
It had become clear that 3 Rivers was in a desperate financial situation in October 2022, that events had become massively worse at the Cabinet Meeting of the 31st January 2023, that it took the then Council Leader despite being incapacitated to call a halt. The Fully Independent Cabinet then further intervened to prevent further 3 Rivers investment. Despite this the Scrutiny Committee failed to undertake their legally defined duties, also, the Audit Committee. Would this Committee fully investigate the full reasons as to why?
As the questions had not been provided in advance, Mr Elstone was told that written answers would be provided.
Mr Nick Quinn had sent in questions and asked for the Chairman to read them out:
His questions related to Agenda Item 7: 3 Rivers, Lessons Learned, Session 1
With this new Council’s aims of inclusion, openness and transparency in mind:
Q1: Please would you tell me who prepared the, uncredited, “Draft Terms of
Reference” document, shown on pages 23 and 24 of your papers?
A1: This was prepared by the Chief Executive with the approval of the Chair of Scrutiny Committee.
Q2: Please would you tell me who prepared the, similarly uncredited, “3 Rivers -
Corporate Risk Management” document, shown on pages 25 to 27 of your
A2: This was prepared by the Council’s Corporate Performance and Improvement Manager.
Q3: The second paragraph of the “Draft Terms of Reference” document,
stated that “Numerous internal and external reports had been commissioned
over the years, at considerable cost to the Council…. exploring both aspects
of governance and finance”. Had copies of each of these reports been
provided to every Member of Scrutiny Committee, for them to read and digest
as part of this review process?
A3: Yes, external legal and financial advice received from Anthony Collins Solicitors and ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
To consider whether to approve the minutes as a correct record of the meeting held on….
The minutes of the last meeting held on 2 October 2023 were approved as a correct record and SIGNED by the Chairman.
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 17 October 2023 had been called in.
Chairman's Announcements (00:23:51)
To receive any announcements that the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee may wish to make.
There were no Chairman’s announcements.
Following the decision of full council in September 2023 to move to ‘soft-close’ the council’s wholly-owned development company, a commitment was given that a ‘lessons learned’ process would be undertaken by the council’s scrutiny function to ensure that opportunities were taken to both learn from the past and to ensure better, more-informed decision-making in the future.
Consideration was given to;
· The Anthony Collins Solicitors reports had not been shared with all the members of the Scrutiny Committee but would be.
· The role of the Scrutiny Chairman.
· What was required of the Scrutiny Committee?
· Terms of Reference – The draft submitted to the Scrutiny Committee was a reflection of all the concerns that had been raised. It was meant as something to start the debate and to give it some structure.
· Whether a report from an Officer should have been provided.
· Setting up a Task and Finish Group with its own Terms of Reference.
· What work had been done outside of the Scrutiny Committee meeting?
· The Terms of Reference were a good starting point but any Working Group should be able to adapt them in order to accommodate a better understanding, perhaps adding an addendum page stating what the group wanted to reflect back to the committee.
Cllr N Woollatt proposed and Cllr R Roberts seconded that a Working Group be set up to look into 3 Rivers Development Ltd and report back to the Scrutiny Committee.
Consideration was given to:
This proposal was CARRIED
A Working Group consisting of Cllrs: Cuddy, Czapiewski, Roberts and Westcott was AGREED. The Lead Officer to the group would be the Policy Research Officer for the Scrutiny Committee. The group would appoint their own Chairman, decide upon frequency of meetings, who they would interview if anyone and reporting and time-scales. The group needed to have an agile approach.
A vote was taken on a proposal to accept the Terms of Reference that had been circulated before the meeting and this was CARRIED and Cllr N Woollatt abstained. The group would report back particularly with regard to the Terms of Reference and any addendum at the next meeting and hoped to produce a final report by the Scrutiny meeting on 18th December 2023.