Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 22nd June, 2020 10.30 am

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Contact: Mark O'Callaghan  Scrutiny and Engagement Officer

Media

Items
No. Item

OSC76/19

Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 5 KB

To receive any apologies for absence.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Mrs Soyke. Councillors Bland, Chapelard and Thomson were not present.

OSC77/19

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 56 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

OSC78/19

Notification of Persons Registered to Speak pdf icon PDF 7 KB

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no members of the public or visiting members registered to speak.

OSC79/19

Items Called-In pdf icon PDF 58 KB

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no items which had been called in.

OSC80/19

Covid-19 Panel Update

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Pound recorded his thanks to Diane Brady, who was leaving the Council, for the exemplary work she had done.

 

Councillor Woodward provided a verbal update from the Covid-19 Panel held on Tuesday 9 June 2020 which included the following:

·         The Panel received an update on the key changes to the Council’s operating environment.

·         The Government had set up five recovery task forces  to look at the national and international longer term targets:

o   The future of Industry; how to accelerate business innovation and leverage private sector investments.

o   Green Recovery; how to capture economic growth opportunities to shift to net zero carbon.

o   Backing new businesses; how to make the UK the best place in the world to start and scale a business.

o   Increasing opportunity; how to level up economic performance, including skills and apprenticeship.

o   The UK is open for business; how to win and retain more high value investment in the UK.

·         Government had also announced they were considering changes how the shielded population would be supported in the future. The Council was currently the primary support (except for food and medicine) for 2,000 of the Borough’s residents. Consideration was being given to transferring responsibility for food to the Council.

·         Government announced (on 24 May 2020) a fund of £105k to help with reopening. However, further guidance was received that greatly restricted what the money could be used for. It also introduced an application and claims process. The Council had made representations to Government about this, but in the meantime would press on with its current plans.

·         The Council had produced a guide about reopening.

·         A parking promotion of £2 for 4 hours if payment was done by telephone has been introduced.

·         Royal Tunbridge Wells town centre had been marked out to help segregate people and to manage queues. Ambassadors were also on hand to provide help and guidance.

·         Government had announced (on 9 May 2020) an Emergency Active Travel Fund of £250m. Kent’s share of the fund was £8m. 20% (£1.6m) of the funds could be spent immediately, with the remaining 80% to be spent later to make those successful trial schemes permanent.

·         The successful schemes were expected to be announced by the end of June.

·         The Citizens Advice Bureau gave an update – there was a surprising fall in the number of people who sought advice on debt and relationship problems. However, it was expected these would spike once financial protections ended and lockdown eased.

·         The next meeting of the Panel was on Tuesday 23 June 2020.

 

Discussion included the following comments:

·         The frequency of meetings was due, in part, to resources. However, if the Panel needed to meet more frequently, there was flexibility to do this.

·         Working groups that considered particular issues were taking place in addition to the main meeting.

·         Decisions on the removal of the guard rail on Nevill Street would be included in any decisions expected at the end of the month. Any concerns should be raised with the relevant  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC80/19

OSC81/19

Revenue Management Report: Quarter 4 pdf icon PDF 216 KB

To consider the proposals to Cabinet set out in the associated report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jane Fineman, Head of Finance and Procurement, introduced the report set out in the agenda.

 

Discussion included the following comments:

·         There was a discrepancy with the stated generated return from the Local Authorities Property Fund – the report stated a return of 5.15%, however the Property Fund’s own website was showing a return of 4.42%. Not clear where the discrepancy came from but the figure of 5.15% had been received and was evidence based.

·         Investment in the Property Fund was kept under review. The Council was looking at its investments very carefully, especially short term investments. Some of the longer term investments were still benefiting from fixed rates.

·         A report was being put together on the future of the Assembly Hall which would be submitted to Management Board in the first instance.

·         The extension of Crescent Road Car Park was a stand alone project – separate from the Calverley Square project. The consequences of Calverley Square not progressing did have an impact on the potential increased usage at Crescent Road, which prompted a review. The review concluded that there was no longer sufficient demand and, as such, the extension to Crescent Road would not go ahead.

·         The savings on employee costs were still included in the budget as it was the intention to recruit to these posts.

·         Calverley Square costs which had been capitalised in previous years had now, following the closure of the project, been moved to the revenue budget. This would be met from the Pention Reserve.

·         Kent County Council offered the Council an opportunity to buy out the long term liability instead of paying an annual sum. The Council worked out that to pay a lump sum of £2m was better value than paying an annual sum of £215k and £2m was taken from the General Fund. It was then agreed that a Pension Reserve would be set up and £215k (from the Revenue Budget) would be deposited each year until £2m was recovered, at which time it would be transferred back into the General Fund (expected to be done in 2021). The use of a Pension Reserve was purely a mechanism to identify the money.

·         The amount of the proposed Section 106 monitoring fees were set by the Planning Department based on an estimate of the number of hours taken. There would be an opportunity to review the charges later in the year.

·         Work was progressing on the independent audit of the Calverley Square project and an update would be available at a later date.

·         The write-off of On-Street Parking Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) was particularly large this year as a ‘tidying up’ process had been undertaken to clear historic PCN’s. Many were written off because people couldn’t be found, they were no longer in the country or they had debt relief orders. The Council were now working with a clean slate so the figure going forward would be considerably lower.

·         Housing Benefit overpayments were often due to the Council not being notified that the client  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC81/19

OSC82/19

Capital Management Report: Quarter 4 pdf icon PDF 201 KB

To consider the proposals to Cabinet set out in the associated report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jane Fineman, Head of Finance and Procurement, introduced the report set out in the agenda.

 

Discussion included the following comments:

·         S106 money was allocated as necessary when projects came forward. For most there was no time limit for this. For the few where there was a time limit, the Council monitored the situation carefully to ensure that it was spent by the deadline.

·         A property on Hilbert Road, Packs in the Wood, may be suitable for the a family on the housing register, being a three-bedroom property. Council property disposals would be a matter for the Property team. The Council had a legal duty to obtain ‘best value’ for its assets.

·         Cessation on the Calverley Square project had prompted a review of the Crescent Road Car Park extension but this did not necessitate that one was dependent on the other.

·         The £3m allocated for affordable housing was proving difficult as there didn’t seem to be many schemes coming forward. However, the Housing team were working hard to find appropriate projects. One such scheme in Cranbrook had only recently been published.

·         There was no formal strategy for spending this money, but work was being undertaken to determine the best way of spending it. The Housing Advisory Panel had been consulted and a report would go to Leadership Board and on to Cabinet setting out a number of options.

·         £47k worth of s.106 funds were due to expire this year unless spent. Specific details would be confirmed after the meeting.

 

RESOLVED – That, subject to the receipt of details relating to the sum of £47k s.106 monies due to expire this year, the report be noted.

OSC83/19

Treasury and Prudential Indicator Management Report: Quarter 4 pdf icon PDF 198 KB

To consider the proposals to Cabinet set out in the associated report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jane Fineman, Head of Finance and Procurement, introduced the report set out in the agenda.

 

Discussion included the following comments:

·         Appendix B to the report gave details of those projects that have been deferred. Cash-flow would be amended accordingly.

·         The Treasury Strategy for 2019/20 allowed Cabinet to authorise up to £97m of external debt. If the anticipated level of borrowing was expected to be lower next year, the limit may be reduced by Full Council at the budget setting next year.

 

RESOLVED – That the report be noted.

OSC84/19

Household Recycling and Waste Collection Service pdf icon PDF 137 KB

To consider the proposals to Cabinet set out in the associated report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At the Chairman’s discretion, this item was brought forward on the agenda.

 

Gary Stevenson, Head of Housing, Health and Environment, introduced the report set out in the agenda.

 

Discussion included the following comments:

·         The contract procurement process had a scoring system that included quality and price of each bid. The process also looked at each contractors mobilisation plan.

·         The Council was aware of the reported issues with Urbasser in Hertfordshire, the specific circumstances were different and some mitigation had been put in place. For instance, Hertfordshire had implemented their service with effect from day one, Tunbridge Wells had a six-month roll in period.

·         Recorded calls to the Gateway included all street scene issues (fly tipping, abandoned cars, stray dogs etc.), not just bin collections. Numbers had continued to decline but was still higher than prior to the start of the new service. This was in part due to the new service being more complicated.

·         A number of issues at North Farm had affected the performance level of the new service. Firstly, that the tip was closed during the first part of the Covid-19 lockdown for some repair work to be undertaken following a fire last year. The Dunbrik transfer station at Sevenoaks had suffered a temporary closure due to a fire, the consequence of which meant the Sevenoaks vehicles had been diverted to North Farm.

·         The Council’s North Farm Depot had been used as a temporary site for recycling, but damage to the paper shed meant vehicles were again diverted to the tip.

·         Delays due to these issues were likely to continue until the middle of July.

·         There was a specification for street cleansing as part of the waste contract however these were not set out in the report as they had not changed and there were no particular problems reported.

 

RESOLVED – That the report be noted.

OSC85/19

Community Safety Partnership Plan 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 121 KB

To consider the proposals to Cabinet set out in the associated report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jane Clarke, Head of Policy and Governance introduced the report set out in the agenda on behalf of the report author.

 

Discussion included the following comments:

·         Instances of Hate Crime were on the increase and it was suggested this should something the Committee should be looking at.

·         To note, Page 22 of the Strategic Assessment & Partnership Plan 2020/21 stated an increase in the number of Public Order Reports from 399 to 919 and indicated this was an increase of +130% - this figure was incorrect and should read +230%.

·         To note, the closure of the Youth Hub during lockdown had presented a number of issues.

·         As the report author was unable to attend the meeting it was agreed that Members would send questions via the Chairman. The questions and answers would then be circulated.

 

RESOLVED – That the report be noted.

OSC86/19

Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Register pdf icon PDF 213 KB

To consider the proposals to Cabinet set out in the associated report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jane Clarke, Head of Policy and Governance introduced the report set out in the agenda on behalf of the report author.

 

Discussion included the following comments:

·         Further justification was requested regarding one of the eligibility criteria required to meet the local connection test – “(d) to be in, or about to take up, permanent employment in the borough.” It was suggested that this in isolation was not sufficient grounds to meet the requirements of the test.

 

RESOLVED –

 

1.    That the report be noted; and

 

2.    That officers be requested to consider strengthening criteria (d) of the local connection test.

OSC87/19

Urgent Business pdf icon PDF 6 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

OSC88/19

Date of the next meeting pdf icon PDF 5 KB

To note that the next scheduled meetings is Monday 27 July 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting was scheduled for Monday 27 July 2020.