Agenda and draft minutes
Joint meeting of the Community &
Corporate Scrutiny & Review Committees
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Cllrs Peter Ede, Roger Yeates and Patrick Molyneux.
To confirm the minutes of the joint meeting held on 18 January 2011 the Corporate Scrutiny and Review Committee meeting held on 13 January 2011 and the Community Scrutiny and Review Committee meeting held on 22 February 2011.
The minutes of the joint meeting of the Community and Corporate Scrutiny and Review Committees held on 18 January 2011 were confirmed and signed as an accurate record, after amending to remove Cllr Winship’s name from the list of attendees.
The minutes of the meeting of the Corporate Scrutiny and Review Committee held on 13 January 2011 were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.
The minutes of the meeting of the Community Scrutiny and Review Committee held on 22 February 2011 were confirmed and signed as an accurate record after the following amendments:
Agenda page 23 add Cllr Smart asked what Gloucestershire First was doing to promote tourism in the Forest of Dean.
Agenda page 23 to change Cllr Gardiner’s comment to commented that Herefordshire was promoting the installation of broadband masts on churches. He was aware that there were many black spots in the district where broadband was not accessible and asked what progress had been made.
Agenda page 23 in Cllr Hale’s question to change Hereford area to Herefordshire.
Agenda page 24 in Cllr Morgan’s question to change county to forest.
The chairman to identify any items of urgent business.
The chairmen identified no items of urgent business, but informed members that item 7 would be considered before item 6.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest in any matter to be discussed at the meeting. Members and officers are requested to identify the nature of the interest and indicate whether it is personal or prejudicial.
Cllrs Grace Bensted and Frankie Evans declared a personal interest in item 5, as they knew people who worked at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB).
Cllr Bensted declared a personal interest in item 5, as she had worked for the CAB and also knew others who worked there.
To consider a petition received at the Full Council meeting held on 24 February 2011 regarding Citizens’ Advice Bureau funding, by taking evidence from the Cabinet Member for Community and the petitioner.
Cllr Hale, co-chairman, stated that the council had received the following petition, which contained 774 signatures on 24 February 2011:
Forest of Dean District Council is proposing a cut of up to 30 per cent to our funding. This will reduce the amount of front line services we can offer to client, meaning we will have no option other than to reduce the amount of hours we are open for advice and may need to restrict the number of people we can see. We are asking the Council not to cut us. Please sign below if you do not think the council should cut funding.
He said that it had been reported in the press that the council had not acknowledged the petition, but he showed the letter that Democratic Services sent on 9 March 2011.
He explained that this was the first time scrutiny had received a petition under the new petitions scheme.
The Solicitor gave a brief overview of the scheme as it appeared on the council website, explaining that in this case it had been thought best to invite the petitioner and relevant cabinet member to the meeting.
John Dow, chair of the Forest of Dean Citizens’ Advice Bureau (FODCAB) trustees, and Lynn Teague, Bureau Manager, detailed the background to the petition.
John Dow opened by expressing the hope that the meeting marked the beginning of the process to consider the cut and not the end. He had been disappointed with the response to the petition given at the Full Council meeting on 24 February.
The cut was effectively 15 per cent from £101,000 to £86,000 for 2011/12, which the FODCAB could not absorb through efficiency savings, although it would try as much as possible. The impact would be great on the level of the service in the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Responding to the assertion that the FODCAB had known for some time what to expect, he said that the council had set funding levels for three years based on the assumption that the county would share legal advice services. However that agreement had not come to fruition.
He pointed out that the council’s grant funded the general FODCAB advice services, which would take the impact of the cut.
Lynn Teague clarified that debt advice accounted for 35 per cent of the FODCAB’s work, not 70 per cent as stated at the Full Council meeting. The FODCAB had great respect for the council’s benefits team, which referred clients to it. She asked if the benefits team had been consulted and whether the FODCAB should stop giving benefits advice. She warned that if benefits advice was only given by the council, there could be a conflict of interest. The council could not represent clients at tribunals, as the CAB currently did. Benefits was a complex matter and huge changes were due in April 2011.
She refuted suggestions that the FODCAB received more council funding than other local CABs, stating that per capita funding was lower than all ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To consider report SD.68, which covers the second and third quarter performance reports.
Cllr Robinson presented report SD.68, recognising that the Quarter 2 report was being presented very late due to the timings of scrutiny meetings. He highlighted improvements listed on agenda pages 56 and 57. He also commented that the council had met the substantial challenge of setting a budget that achieved reductions while in the main continuing to deliver services to the community. This was a tribute to the management and staff at the council. He was pleased at the high level of customer satisfaction, the low sickness absence rate and the £80000 additional income from the disposal of recyclate achieved by the waste team.
Cllr Lawton announced that the council had received no technical questions from members following two requests.
Cllr Smart asked if both tourist information points were working (agenda page 46).
The Strategic Director replied that as far as he was aware both were operating normally. However touch screens were sensitive to strong sunlight, which was taken into account when siting them. The council was still discussing details of the remaining information points with the owners of potential sites. Cllr Robinson added t hat broadband speed continued to be a problem, but would be helped by the pilot project involving the district.
Cllr Winship asked if the report for each group could have the name of the relevant group manager and cabinet member at the beginning. She also asked why some group reports had more actions than others.
Cllr Robinson said that future reports would contain the names requested. The new style of reporting was more dynamic to give a clearer view of progress as it was happening.
Cllr Winship asked why progress bars for leisure services on page 61 and on-line access to housing benefit on page 65 remained unchanged from quarters two to three.
Cllr Robinson answered that before being put into place, plans to change the management of leisure service delivery needed legal and other issues to be resolved. The Group Manager for Finance, Land and Property added that after being criticised by inspectors for operating an outdated CIVICA system, the council had been offered an upgrade by CIVICA and its plans had changed. The upgrade was due to be operation in August 2011 when the progress bar would immediately move to 100 per cent.
RESOLVED – to note the second and third quarter performance reports as at report SD.68, having identified areas of concern.
To consider report LD.332 regarding Section 106 obligation contributions retained by this authority and the interest paid thereon.
The Assistant Solicitor presented report LD.332, referring to the conclusions and potential solutions outlined on agenda page 86, paragraph 6.
The Group Manager for Planning and Housing explained that paragraph 6.1.1 addressed issues that had arisen in the planning process. Sometimes parish councils were not engaged in the section 106 process because of their principal position. However they could take a position in negotiations without undermining their principal position.
The Group Manager for Finance, Land and Property said that the potential solution in paragraph 6.1.2 was about striking a balance, since the funds needed to be available on demand. Currently £20,000 would earn interest of £32.50 achieved internally.
Cllr Burford had raised the issue at Full Council. He believed that the solutions proposed in paragraphs 5.5 and 6.1.2 were sound and represented a sensible way forward. He was concerned at using internal interest rates rather than higher external rates. He added that the council had been holding the sum on behalf of Hartpury village hall for over five years.
The Group Manager for Finance, Land and Property repeated that section 106 monies needed to be accessed quickly, whereas the council could invest sums such as the £5 million held for an environmental warranty for a longer term.
Cllr Burford recognised that any organisation needed some capital to be available quickly and commented that his was a point of detail. He repeated that the proposal in paragraph 6.1.2 was good.
Cllr Burford proposed and Cllr Thomson seconded the following motion.
To recommend to Full Council that paragraph 6.1.2 in report LD.332 be used as a basis for future policy regarding section 106 monies held by the council.
Cllr Robinson commented that the report showed how small the amount of money was. He added that there was the additional cost of administration attached to the proposals. He repeated that £1.7 million had been saved in the main by introducing efficiencies and reducing the number of officers. He was not sure if the proposal would lead to using funds in the best interests of the community. He suggested that the monies be left in the general pot to be spent on the community.
Cllr Grace Bensted pointed to the great difference between three months, as in the proposal at 6.1.2, and five years, as in the Hartpury case. She suggested increasing the period in the proposal.
The Group Manager for Finance, Land and Property replied that the council did not know when the funds would be drawn down for each section 106 agreement. The Group Manager for Planning and Housing added that the council passed money to the parish councils when they were ready to implement agreed schemes. He confirmed for Cllr Lawton that the council wanted to pass on the monies as soon as possible.
Cllr Burford maintained that section 106 monies did not belong to the council but to the projects for which they were allocated. Hartpury would have loved to have taken the money immediately, but he knew the rules ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
To consider report LD.333, the final report from the Future of Scrutiny task group.
Cllr Winship presented report LD.333, reminding members that they had received regular progress updates. The group had considered information provided by councillors through questionnaires, workshops and a recent seminar, from other councils and from external consultees. After five meetings the group recommended a move to one overview and scrutiny committee. This also reflected the recent need for several joint meetings. The group thought it best for the new council to consider the recommendations in b). She thought there was a need to clarify the wording for the recommendation and suggested the following amended wording to the penultimate bullet point in recommendation b)
Cllr Smart said that she and Cllr Winship had attended a select committee meeting in Cardiff, which had been very useful. She agreed with the task group’s recommendations, believing it right to leave the recommendations in b0 to the new council. Speaking from her experience on the county’s Health, Community and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee she suggested not having too many task groups. Their work relied on officer support, which might not be as much as at present. Additionally there was a danger that task groups became talking shops.
Cllr Lawton commented that he had enjoyed excellent support from officers and members and reminded members that the work of scrutiny was to highlight the good and the bad.
Cllr Gardiner agreed that the detail should be left to the new council. One of the successes of scrutiny had been the work of task groups and bringing in experts from outside the council. There would be a need for good scrutiny in the future, particularly regarding the forest estate.
The Head of Paid Service said that in the future scrutiny would need to set priorities even more carefully and clearly to ensure the best support, since officer resource was reducing.
Cllr Morgan was concerned that any proposals should not disenfranchise members. Committees often worked in isolation. He was interested in community rather than corporate issues. The council needed to make all members feel part of the process.
Cllr Lawton agreed, pointing to the final bullet point in recommendation b) relating to the need for a seat available to every non-executive member on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee or one of the sub committees/working groups.
Cllr Smart thanked the chairmen for their hard work in managing the scrutiny function.
To recommend to Full Council in April 2011
a) That Article 8 and Appendix 15 of Part VI of the Constitution be revised to provide for one Strategic Overview and Scrutiny Committee with up to 15 members with the combined terms of reference of the current Corporate and Community Scrutiny and Review Committees.
b) That the Committee agree and recommend to the new Council for consideration at the first meeting of the new Strategic Overview and Scrutiny Committee in June 2011 the following: -
· That there should ... view the full minutes text for item 8.