Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 29th January, 2024 6.30 pm

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

Contact: Caroline Britt  Senior Democratic Services Officer


No. Item


Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive any apologies for absence.

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Apologies were received from Councillor Morton.


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, please contact the Monitoring Officer before the meeting.

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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.


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


Minutes of the meeting dated 27 November 2023 pdf icon PDF 214 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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Members reviewed the minutes.  No amendments were proposed.


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting dated 27 November 2023 be approved as a correct record.


Items Called- In pdf icon PDF 68 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.


Presentation from the Leader of the Council pdf icon PDF 233 KB

To receive a presentation from Leader of the Council on the TWBC Strategic Plan and to consider any further actions.

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Councillor Ben Chapelard, Leader of the Council and Ian Hirst, Head of Digital and Communications presented the report set out in the agenda.


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:


-       The consultation would be run through the Council’s online consultation portal, Talking Point.

-       It would also be advertised through social media and the Council’s weekly newsletter.

-       The consultation would be principally run online, but residents could ask for a printed copy on request.

-       At present the Council did not have a lot of intelligence about hard to reach groups, however, the Council’s Research and Insight officer was in the process of putting together a Young People’s Forum which could be used to reach this demographic.

-       At the second consultation stage in the summer, the Council would look at how to reach those hard to reach groups based on the information collected from the first consultation round.

-       At the second consultation round information related to age, ethnicity etc. would be gathered which would then be compared with the Council’s census data.  The Council would then seek to put together a plan to address where any gaps existed.

-       It was important get into schools where responses were particularly low.

-       It would also be important to ensure elderly people and those with disabilities were included.

-       Parish Councils would also be important to ensure the rural areas were not missed.

-       This was a very important document as it was about residents and the service the Council provided. 

-       The document was put together by the Leader and Cabinet with Officers providing a critical overview.

-       The document would be ambitious.  It would include more projects than perhaps it was expected it could currently deliver.

-       The document would include a clear list of projects with a caveat that not all of them might be delivered.

-       The projects would be divided into three strands, those that could be delivered by ourselves, those that would need to be delivered in partnership with other organisations, e.g. Kent County Council, and finally those that would be delivered by other organisations, but with Council support.

-       The consultation would go live on Friday 2 February 2024.

-       Whilst safeguarding the Council’s finances remained paramount, it shouldn’t constrain the ambitions of the Council in the longer term.

-       There was some criticism about the content of the Plan, the wording suggested was ill-defined and focused more what you were trying to do.  A Strategic Plan should be much more specific.

-       Further concern was raised that the Plan didn’t identify the Council’s priorities, which was to deliver on its core priorities e.g. waste collection, recycling, housing and planning.  In addition, delivering on the operations it ran, e.g. The Amelia Scott, Ice Rink etc.

-       A key priority should be to make the Council’s large asset portfolio work, including Royal Victoria Place.

-       Delivering the Community Hubs should also be a priority, along with the Co-working plans for the  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC47/23


Governance Review pdf icon PDF 189 KB

To receive a presentation from Andy Sturtivant – Head of Governance and Democratic Services.

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Councillor Ben Chapelard, Leader of the Council and Andy Sturtivant, Head of Governance and Democratic Services the report set out in the agenda.


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:


-       Concern was raised about the mix of Members on the Planning Committee.  The bulk of the Council seats were in urban areas, which left the rural areas at a disadvantage.

-       The impact of planning decisions in the rural areas was more significant.

-       The perception from the public was that the Planning Committee was a rubber stamp for compliance.

-       The removal of the East, West split quota on Planning Committee would be a mistake.

-       It was appreciated that it had been difficult to fill seats on Planning Committee to accommodate the East, West split.  It was very important to ensure the East was equally represented at Planning Committee.

-       The quorum for Committee meetings was reduced as a percentage of the total number of seats.

-       Planning decisions were made according to Planning rules, it was suggested that no bad rural decisions had been made.

-       The practicality of ensuring a equal split was subject to the make up of the Council as a whole. 

-       It was suggested that perhaps the answer was to remove the need for political balance for the purposes of selecting Planning Committee Members.

-       The constitution currently required that Planning Committee be politically balanced.

-       To ensure Planning Committee had the correct split should be the responsibility of Group Leaders.

-       Experience on Planning Committees was very important so the use of substitutes wasn’t recommended by some Members.

-       An alternative view was that, particularly for Planning and Licensing, the items were presented as a complete package that could be dealt with in one session.  There was rarely an occasion where items were adjourned or held over which might present difficulties if substitutes were used.

-       It was further suggested that there hadn’t been an issue with attendance at Planning Committee. It was therefore unlikely that substitutes would be needed. 

-       It was noted that at times, other Committees had struggled to be quorate. 

-       It was recognised that with fewer Councillors, there would be a requirement from them to commit to attend meetings.

-       It was confirmed that substitutes would be required to commit to the same level of training as for permanent Members of a Committee.

-       It was noted that substitutes had been used in the past, and it hadn’t worked.

-       In terms of importance, it was felt that achieving an East/West balance was more important than political balance and the use of substitutes.

-       The following recommendation was suggested:

“That the Planning Committee should be populated with the primary aim of maintaining a rural/urban balance before political balance”.

-       The quorum for Cabinet would be changed to 3 with one being either the Leader of Deputy Leader.  Should neither be available the first item on the agenda (as would be the same for all  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC48/23


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 110 KB

To consider the Committee’s future work programme.

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The work programme was presented for information.


Comments included:


-       The final report of the Contracts Task and Finish Group was still outstanding.

-       Councillor Dawlings and Councillor Le Page agreed to meet to work on this to produce a final report. 

-       There was very little response from Members to sit  on the proposed Task and Finish Group on Council Accessibility, with only one response received from Councillor Curry.  Councillor Dawlings agreed to sit on the Group.

-       Councillor Curry and Councillor Dawlings would meet to discuss next steps.

-       The next meeting in March 2024 had two standing items, the Community Safety Partnership Plan 2024-25 and the Draft Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report 2023-24.  It was agreed not to add any additional items.


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.


Date of the next meeting pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To note that the next scheduled meeting is on 25 March 2024.

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The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 25 March 2024 at 6:30pm.