Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 29th September, 2022 6.30 pm

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Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS

Contact: Mark O'Callaghan  Scrutiny and Engagement Officer


No. Item


Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive any apologies for absence.

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Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Britcher-Allen, Goodship, Johnson and Morton.


Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 65 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:


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


Declarations of a Party Whip pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive any declarations by members of instruction given by or on behalf of a political group as to how that member should speak or vote on any items on the agenda. For any advice on declarations of a party whip, please contact the Monitoring Officer before the meeting.

Additional documents:


There were no declarations that any member was subject to a party whip.


Notification of Persons Registered to Speak pdf icon PDF 31 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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Councillors Hall and Pound were in attendance as the responsible Cabinet Members on items OSC31/22 and OSC32/22, respectively. There were no members of the public or Visiting Members registered to speak.


Minutes of the meeting dated 27 July 2022 pdf icon PDF 202 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.

Additional documents:


Councillor Holden proposed an amendment and noted that verbatim comments were not usually recorded but this particular comment was significant to the ensuing debate.



1.    That minute OSC19/22 be amended to add a bullet point to the comments in the response to the Call-In from the Cabinet: “Not consulting was a terrible and regrettable oversight.”

2.    That, subject to the above amendment, the minutes of the meeting dated 27 July 2022 be approved as a correct record.


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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There were no items which had been called-in.


Review of the process of budget forecasting pdf icon PDF 184 KB

To receive a presentation from the Head of Finance and to consider any further actions.

Additional documents:


Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development and Jane Fineman, Head of Finance, Procurement and Parking gave a presentation explaining the council’s budgeting processes. Key areas covered included:

·         The first strand in the council’s annual finance management cycle was in budget setting:

o   Phase 1: Budget Projections and Strategy Report which used the current year’s budget as a base line and projected demand for services, inflation and other market factors.

o   Phase 2: Budget Update report which updates projections based on Q1 actual figures and takes account of legislative changes. It also includes a benchmarking report comparing the council’s unit costs by service against geographical and statistical neighbours.

o   Phase 3: Draft Budget report includes detailed service projections compiled from the various Heads of Service and seeks permission to consult on draft proposals.

o   Phase 4: Results of consultation reported and Final Budget report presented to Full Council.

·         Second strand: Budget management – rolling process between Heads of Service and the Accountants to monitor budgets with quarterly reports to Cabinet comparing budget to the actual and setting out any changes.

·         Third strand: Statement of Accounts – full year accounts prepared starting in February and March and running for approximately six-months in a process which includes public inspection and independent audit; resulting in final accounts and an Audit Findings Report signed off by the Audit and Governance Committee.

·         All reports available in public.

·         Constant rolling process.


Answers to questions to officers and Councillor Christopher Hall, Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance included:

·         The technical nature of the reports, particularly those relating to the Statement of Accounts, were heavily prescribed but officer’s covering reports could give greater flexibility in explaining the key factors.

·         Officers would ensure all-member briefings or briefings with the members of the Audit and Governance Committee as appropriate were held ahead of formal consideration of any such reports to explain the key processes and findings.

·         Meetings were regularly held with Group Leaders and such meetings could be arranged with other members on request.

·         A helpful diagram showing the annual budgeting process which was shared with members at their induction will be made available on the council’s website for the information of all.

·         Officers’ covering reports to the more technical documents provided a summary of the key parts.

·         Discussions were ongoing with members of the Audit and Governance Committee on proposed enhancements to the quarterly reports which would be reported back to that committee in the near future.

·         A £944k budget deficit had been identified as part of the normal budget setting cycle and a transfer from reserves had been agreed by Full Council in February 2022. At the end of quarter 1, had it not been for external factors such as increasing energy prices and high inflation, the deficit would have reduced. Income from parking and planning fees was up and there were savings from staff costs.

·         The Council was not choosing to operate with reduced staffing but struggling with staff attrition and difficulties recruiting.

·         Energy costs were  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC31/22


Update on Planning Enforcement pdf icon PDF 185 KB

To receive a presentation from the Head of Planning and to consider any further actions.

Additional documents:


Carlos Hone, Head of Planning gave a presentation on the Council’s Planning Enforcement service. Key areas covered included:

·         Planning enforcement was usually a matter of administrative law rather than criminal, therefore breaches were rarely crimes. Exceptions being unauthorised works to listed buildings or protected trees and non-compliance with enforcement notices.

·         Investigating alleged breaches was a statutory duty however enforcement action was discretionary.

·         Action must be based on identified planning harm, expediency, reasonableness, proportionality, in accordance with national guidance and in the public interest.

·         Council powers included various enforcements notices.

·         The Council could also apply for Injunctions through the Courts

·         The establishment of the Enforcement team was two full time and one 4-day week (one full time and the part time post were currently vacant). The team was supported by one full time Tree Officer.

·         Alleged breaches were initially triaged by the team and prioritised then assigned to a case officer.

·         The number of complaints was: 307 in 2018, 262 in 2019, 337 in 2020, 459 in 2021 and 236 so far in 2022 (estimated 330 for the year).

·         All complaints were investigated but the nature of the investigation was dependent on the potential harm and urgency of the case.

·         Types of complaint in the past 12 months were:

Type of complaints




Breach of Conditions


Change of use


High Hedges


Listed Buildings






Operational Development


Article 4 Notices




·         Of the 403 complaints, resolutions were:



Not considered to be a breach of planning

156 (39%)

Retrospective planning permission

48 (12%)

Required rectification and no further action

48 (12%)

Article 4 Notices

37 (9%)

Not expedient to enforce

19 (5%)

Enforcement Notice served

7 (2%)

Still under investigation

87 (22%)

·         Tunbridge Wells took a proactive approach, preferring to seek retrospective permission where possible. Comparative data of types of resolution by other nearby authorities was provided.

·         The Council did not record breaches in conservation areas separately.

·         13 Tree Preservation Orders had been issued in the past 12 months. No unauthorised works had been undertaken.


Answers to questions to officers and Councillor Pound, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, included:

·         A high number of complaints were not actually planning breaches and this took a considerable amount of time to work through. More could be done to reduce the number of erroneous complaints. Guidance was included on the complaint form but this would be looked at.

·         Every complaint was investigated and this included a site visit. The nature of the investigations could be reduced but it was felt that it was important to investigate each complaint properly.

·         Maximum penalty for removal of a protected tree was approximately £10k (corrected to £20k post meeting).

·         Ashford Council and Sevenoaks Council had a higher proportion of Enforcement Notices issued, this may be the result of a more formal approach.

·         Communication around enforcement action was important to reassure people that action was being taken. Complainants who provide contact details were kept informed on their  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC32/22


Update on the Contracts Task and Finish Group pdf icon PDF 143 KB

To receive an update on the work of the Contracts Task and Finish Group and to consider any further actions.

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Mark O’Callaghan, Scrutiny and Engagement Officer, and Councillor Ellis, Chair of the Task and Finish Group, introduced the report set out in the agenda which was to correct an administrative error in the previous report and provide an update on the ongoing work of the Task and Finish Group.


Discussion included:

·         Councillor Holden to be replaced by Councillor Ms Palmer.



1.    That the membership of the Task and Finish Group be: Councillors Ellis (Chair), Le Page, McMillan, Morton, Ms Palmer and Rogers; and

2.    That the Interim Report as set out at Appendix A to the report be noted.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 97 KB

To consider the Committee’s future work programme.

Additional documents:


The Work Programme was presented for information.


Comments included:

·         The outstanding action for a written update from the Head of Digital Services and Communications had been received since the publication of the schedule.

·         New topics could be raised outside the meeting.


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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There was no urgent business for consideration.


Date of the next meeting pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To note that the next scheduled meeting is Monday 21 November 2022.

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The next meeting was scheduled for Monday 21 November 2022.