Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 18th January, 2021 6.30 pm

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Venue: Virtual Meeting - Online. View directions

Contact: Mark O'Callaghan  Scrutiny and Engagement Officer

Media

Items
No. Item

OSC68/20

Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive any apologies for absence.

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Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Bland and Neve.

OSC69/20

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 66 KB

To receive any declarations of interest by members in items on the agenda in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct. For any advice on declarations of interest, please contact the Monitoring Officer before the meeting.

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Minutes:

There were no disclosable pecuniary or significant other interests declared at the meeting.

OSC70/20

Notification of Persons Registered to Speak pdf icon PDF 30 KB

To note any Visiting Members or members of the public wishing to speak, of which due notice has been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 18 or 19, and which item(s) they wish to speak on.

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Minutes:

Mr Adrian Thorne was registered to speak at OSC73/20.

Councillor Bailey was in attendance as the Portfolio Holder presenting at OSC73/20.

OSC71/20

Minutes of the meeting dated 23 November 2020 pdf icon PDF 200 KB

To approve the minutes of a previous meeting as a correct record. The only issue relating to the minutes that can be discussed is their accuracy.

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Minutes:

Members reviewed the minutes. No amendments were proposed.

 

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting dated 23 November 2020 be approved as a correct record.

OSC72/20

Items Called-In pdf icon PDF 67 KB

To consider any items ‘Called-In’ under Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 13, details of which will have been circulated to Members under separate cover.

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Minutes:

There were no items which had been called-in.

OSC73/20

Portfolio Holder Update - Sustainability pdf icon PDF 107 KB

To consider and decide on the recommendations set out in the associated report.

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Minutes:

Councillor Bailey (Portfolio Holder for Sustainability) introduced the report set out in the agenda, comments included:

·         Covid-19 had an impact on environment issues. Waste volumes increased sharply owing to lockdown restrictions and high levels of staff absence at the contractor.

·         The pandemic also put strain on the Environmental Health staff team at the Council, with them being involved in track and trace system, ensuring businesses are covid-19 safe and investigating covid-19 related complaints.

·         Friends of the Earth state Tunbridge Wells is already one of the greenest areas in the country, but the Council was committed to doing more. The relatively new kerbside recycling scheme helped increased recycling rate up to 50 per cent, one of the highest rates in Kent.

·         Progress was being made towards the Council’s aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. A detailed audit had been conducted on our emissions rate and modelling work had been produced on various ways to reduce emissions. A report was due to be submitted to Cabinet in the March cycle and a draft report would be discussed at the next Climate Emergency Advisory Panel (CEAP) meeting.

·         Other works undertaken included second phase of public realm work completion.

·         Work was ongoing to improve air quality in the borough. Later this year the Council would introduce ‘no idling’ zones to dissuade motorists from leaving their engines running in areas of high congestion which would complement similar work the Council had already undertaken around schools.

·         The Council was always looking to improve communication with residents and utilised social media to do so. A new electronic newsletter has been launched, delivering customised updates based on postcodes with targeted information such as planning, waste services, consultations and content relevant to subscriber’s immediate local area.

·         A redesign of Local magazine should also be ready for Spring edition. Local magazine was important for residents without internet access. The magazine was still a very cost-effective way of delivering news at 9 pence per issue to produce and deliver. The net budget per year for this was £18k excluding officer time, which was estimated at a couple of weeks of work.

 

Mr Adrian Thorne had registered to speak, comments included:

·         The Council had agreed to establish a Citizen’s Assembly 18 months ago in response to the climate emergency. The declaration called on the Council to include young people ensuring they have a voice in shaping future by setting up a citizen’s assembly as a way of involving businesses and residents in the process.

·         Since then there had been no Citizen’s Assembly with CEAP meetings being conducted behind closed doors and difficulty obtaining minutes. Residents have been reliant on local news for updates which were often unreliable.

·         There had been eight months prior to covid-19 to take action.

·         CEAP had been run in a poor manner with the outcome being a poor result for residents.

·         Residents were promised a voice in shaping the future which had not been delivered. The Committee should seek an explanation.

 

Discussion included the following matters:

·         CEAP  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC73/20

OSC74/20

Budget 2021/2022 and Medium Term Financial Strategy Update pdf icon PDF 483 KB

To consider the proposals to Full Council set out in the associated report.

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Minutes:

Lee Colyer (Director of Finance, Policy and Development) introduced the report set out in the agenda, comments included:

·         The budget has been developed over a nine month period with three separate reports going to Cabinet via the Advisory Boards and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

·         The council tax threshold for this Council was likely to be increased by £5 per household for the coming year and the government had set out a provisional settlement with the final settlement to be confirmed by parliament in February.

·         The final allocation of £454k of New Homes Bonus would be received which would help to reduce the use of reserves in balancing the revenue budget. In the spring this scheme would be replaced by government with a new scheme to incentivise local authorities for ambitious schemes for meeting housing targets.

·         The Kent Business Rate pool would continue for another year. Latest financial impact from the pandemic on local government’s major income is shown in the graph in paragraph 2.26. The impact was not likely to improve soon due to further lockdowns and restrictions being likely but unemployment and collection rates are holding up better than feared and are being assisted by national packages (paragraph 2.28). 

·         By using all New Homes Bonus, £1.935million will be required from reserves to fund the provision of local services in the next financial year, which is an improvement on the draft budget estimate that £3 million would be required (paragraph 2.32).

·         The Council’s assets continued to require significant funding with gross project funding of £2.8million required next year, in addition to rolling forward the current programme, due to additional requirements. This would result in reduction of reserves.

·         Fortunately, the Council entered the pandemic in a sound financial position in a balanced revenue budget, low external debt and generating income from Business Rate growth.

·         The impact of the pandemic would be that costs would rise but income would have decreased. The Council aimed to bring the revenue budget balance back without reliance on reserves from April 2022.

·         The drain on reserves was further exacerbated by the unsustainable costs of existing property assets and a review would be carried out to identify those that had sufficient demand and purpose in which to continue to invest and those that should be sold.

·         Reserves must be replenished as soon as is possible in order to provide further community support in the event of possible future national crises.

·         A public survey had been undertaken to gain public response on budget strategy, responding to the emergency, council tax increases and asking residents how funding should be allocated. There were 575 respondents across the borough in which 91 per cent were in agreement to the temporary use of reserves and 74 per cent were in agreement of increasing council tax by £5.

·         Reductions to services from April 2022 were identified as acceptable in all areas in order to balance the budget except the areas of public safety and public convenience where the public wanted funding maintained.  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC74/20

OSC75/20

Poverty Task and Finish Group: Update pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive a verbal update.

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Minutes:

Councillor Pound (Chairman of the Task and Finish Group) provided a verbal update, comments included:

·         Since the previous Overview and Scrutiny meeting, two further Task and Finish Group meetings have been held with another scheduled for the day after this meeting and from then plan to be held fortnightly.

·         The group was planning to bring forward an initial report in April.

·         In the previous meeting, communications with residents on various initiatives and facilities in the borough were discussed. It has been concluded that it is impossible to address all seven elements of indices of deprivation identified but the group has resolved to settle on three principle areas which are those of employment, education skills and training and barriers to housing and services.

·         Work was ongoing and good progress is being made in association with various officers and agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Nourish.

·         It has been suggested that whilst it may not be possible for the Council to provide all services required to the communities affected in this regard, it can act as facilitator to identify gaps in service and instruct other agencies to act on it’s behalf and with collaboration.

 

RESOLVED – That the verbal report be noted.

OSC76/20

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 44 KB

To consider the Committee’s future work programme.

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Minutes:

Comments relating to the Work Programme included:

·         More targeted information would be helpful for future Portfolio Holder reports. The template would be amended and guidance provided to future presenters.

·         With the Fusion contract coming up in March, it may be convenient to swap the next Portfolio Holder report to Culture, Leisure and Economic Development. This would be investigated outside the meeting.

OSC77/20

Urgent Business pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To consider any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent, for the reasons to be stated, in accordance with Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

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Minutes:

There was no urgent business for consideration.

OSC78/20

Date of the next meeting pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To note that the next scheduled meeting is Monday 29 March 2021.

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Minutes:

The next meeting was scheduled for Monday 29 March 2021.