Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 27th November, 2023 6.30 pm

Download documents using the MOD.GOV app

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

Contact: Caroline Britt  Senior Democratic Services Officer

Media

Items
No. Item

OSC31/23

Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive any apologies for absence.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Fitzsimmons.  Councillor Morton left the meeting at 8:30pm.

OSC32/23

Declarations of Interest and Party Whip pdf icon PDF 69 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.

 

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:

Minutes:

There were no disclosable pecuniary or other significant interests declared at the meeting.  There were no declarations that any Member was subject to a party whip.

 

OSC33/23

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Pound had registered to speak on Agenda Item 6 – Presentation from South East Water.

 

OSC34/23

Minutes of the meeting dated 25 September 2023 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:

Minutes:

Members reviewed the minutes.  No amendments were proposed.

 

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting dated 25 September 2023 be approved as a correct record.

OSC35/23

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no items which had been called in. 

OSC36/23

Presentation by South East Water

To receive a presentation from South East Water.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

David Hinton and Jo Shippey from South East Water gave a presentation which was illustrated by means of a visual presentation.

 

Councillor Pound had registered to speak, comments included:

 

-       The Council had responded to South East water’s and Southern Water’s  consultations on their draft Water Resources Management Plans. 

-       Comments to Southern Water included a question over their assumption that there would be a deficit of water in the Kent region by 2030.  

-       TWBC would query whether this was already an issue, as it was evident that demand exceeded supply and resilience was limited.

-       It had been noted that South East Water’s consultation document had no specific schemes identified in the Tunbridge Wells Borough for the period 2025-2035.  The Council found the lack of schemes to be inappropriate.

-       Schemes had been identified for the period 2035 to 2075.  This was contrary to the section in the presentation that stated South East Water’s preferred plan between 2025 to 2040 included a number of actions.

-       The Committee should explore why the plan was ‘preferred’ rather than something that had been committed.

-       Residents were told that the issues that occurred in 2022 were because the booster pumps were inadequate for the task rather than over consumption by residents.

-       To prop up the Company’s mounting debt, South East Water paid out more in dividends in debt than for infrastructure.  When was that balance going to be reversed?

-       The use of Pembury Tesco’s as a location for residents to get water was wholly inappropriate.  What were the other options for more appropriate water stations.

 

Discussion and questions from Members included the following:

 

-       Looking at supply options, the Water Resource Management Plan (The Plan) would find where there was a deficit to solve but looking at population growth etc.  Then offer a number of options to solve the deficit.

-       The choice of which option was chosen would be the one that offered the biggest net benefits.

-       In the South East of England the predominately selected solution was reduction in demand.

-       Planned schemes all concentrated around the premise of reducing demand.  Covering, non-household, farms, leakage on the network, leakage in properties, behavioural change and tariffs that encouraged less usage.

-       When demand solutions had been exhausted, other options included desalination.

-       Although no new water was scheduled to come into the Tunbridge Wells area, there was quite a lot of investment on demand reduction.

-       If demand solutions failed to deliver the necessary results, The Plan could be adapted so that other solutions could come forward.

-       The quote related to the issue of dividends, that South East Water paid more in dividends than had been invested in infrastructure came from the Financial Times and was not financially correct.

-       Within the Group, a dividend of around £125m was used to pay off a loan in the Group.  The money never left South East Water, it was moved from one part of the Group to  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC36/23

OSC37/23

Presentation from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance

To receive a presentation from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance and to consider any further actions.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Chris Hall, Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance and Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development gave a presentation which was illustrated by means of a visual presentation.

 

Discussion and questions from Members included the following:

 

-       There were a number of questions related to 9-10 Calverley Terrace and in particular about the proposal for a Decimus Burton museum. 

-       Given the questions were about a specific asset rather than the budget as a whole, the questions would be disseminated to Members of the Committee with a response to those questions included in the minutes.

-       Because the Government was going to increase the planning fee rate, the Savings Plan included a forecast of £150k for Planning Charges.  This figure was based on the current number of planning applications received.

-       Since the Savings Plan was put together, the number of planning applications had decreased.  This meant the Council had not quite achieved the additional income expected.

-       However, the planning fee increase was now going to occur every year and would be indexed by Government.  This should avoid discrepancies between the forecast figure and the actual figure going forward.

-       The £1m fines received from PR2 was net.  The Council was currently seeking legal advice as to what environmental/highway improvement schemes would be allowed.  Once the Council was certain what schemes would be suitable, it would speak to Kent County Council.

-       The timing of the  £4.5m needed for improvements to the Royal Victoria Place car park could be managed, it would also take into account how the structural works could provide improvements to the customer experience.  

-       Car park maintenance/investment was an ongoing concern for all the Council’s car parks with a  similar amount having already been spent on the Crescent Road car park.

-       Undertaking the structural work, but also improving the customer experience with better lighting, improved safety and generally providing a better feel, provided the opportunity to grow the income to pay back the capital investment.

-       The uplift included in the budget for the renewal of large contracts (Waste, Leisure and Grounds Maintenance) was due to significant changes in the market.  There were now far fewer contractors available and none of them were willing to take on the same level of risk as was done previously. 

-       The Council would look again at the specification and establish whether any changes could be made.  It would consider whether an in-house provision (probably in partnership with other Councils) was a viable option.

-       When going through the procurement process for large contracts, it would be very important for the Council to consider the level of specification that both delivered the service required, but also offered the best value for money.

-       Options existed for ‘shared services’ provided they delivered the services required.

-       It was an important part of the procurement process to look at how the market was functioning and whether economies of scale existed to determine the best package for the Council  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC37/23

OSC38/23

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 140 KB

To consider the Committee’s future work programme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The work programme was presented for information.

 

Comments included:

 

-       The Audit and Governance Committee had asked Overview and Scrutiny to consider looking at the questions asked by the Council as part of their consultation process.

-       It was agreed this was something OSC could explore further.

-       It was agreed that this would be suitable subject for a Task and Finish Group.  Details in terms of nominations etc. would follow in due course.

-       The Contracts Task and Finish Group was in its final stages and would come to the next meeting in January 0224.

-       It was suggested and agreed to invite the Leader of the Council to the next meeting to give a presentation on the Strategic Plan.

OSC39/23

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

OSC40/23

Date of the next meeting pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To note that the next scheduled meeting is Monday 29 January 2024 at 6:30pm.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 29 January 2024 at 6:30pm.

OSC41/23

Addendum - Decimus Burton Museum Proposal - Responses to questions

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Questions/Answers: 9-10 Calverley Terrace (Decimus Burton Museum Proposal)

 

Question 1.

Some councillors have said that the project has been refused funding.  The NLHF (National Lottery Heritage Fund) replied saying that they needed additional information in order to evaluate the project, and for us to supply this additional information under a new EOI (Expression of Interest). We are currently developing this information.

 

Answer:

The National Lottery Heritage Fund response to the EOI asks some of the following questions:

How the museum will be run and sustained?

The business case currently assumes that the museums will break even without a public subsidy. If this was the case, it would be the first of its kind to do so in the South East. In Section 12.4 & 12.7 paid staff are mentioned – There are concerns about the proposed rates of pay for said professional staff, which fall well below not only professional standards laid out by the Museums Association and Arts Council England, but also fall below the Living Wage. The income from schools, the shop are also comparatively high compared with what the market suggests it can be especially in light of the experience around the Amelia and income generation which is on a much larger scale.  

The source and importance of the collection it would house?

Based on the Business Case submitted there does not seem to be a collection of original material which fundamentally undermines the argument for a  museum and in addition a bid to the NLHF. The building in and of itself, is not likely to be considered a museum. This would therefore seem to be more an attempt to refurbish the building with limited foresight on its long term future in terms of putting it on a financially viable footing.

What consultation has been done to demonstrate the need for the museum?

The business case is limited in terms of what consultation has taken place to identify the need. The largest funder of Museums, Arts Council England is also not mentioned in the business case.

 

Question 2:

The council also advised us that they have communicated with the NLHF, saying that the response they got was not favourable towards the project. We have asked on several occasions (as have other councillors) to be given a copy of the council’s correspondence with the NLHF in relation to the project, but have yet to receive it.

At the recent meeting of the Finance and Governance Cabinet Advisory Board on November 14th, one of the council’s surveyors said he had spoken with a friend of his at the NLHF, and they had told him that they were not favourable towards the project.

 

Answer

The TWBC Corporate Property Manager contacted the NLHF investment officer over the phone to discuss the proposals given the relationship to date over the Amelia project. Direct contact tends to ensure a more open and frank conversation. There was no written correspondence between the two parties.

 

Question 3:

As a result of the council’s lack of openness,  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC41/23