Agenda and minutes
Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 5th April, 2018 2.00 pm
Venue: Committee Suite 1,2 & 3, Westfields, Middlewich Road, Sandbach CW11 1HZ. View directions
Contact: Mark Nedderman Senior Scrutiny Officer
Apologies for Absence
Councillor B Walmsley.
Brian Reed- Head of Democratic Services and Governance
Jan Willis- Interim Executive Director of Corporate Services
Alex Thompson- Head of Finance and Performance
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 1 February 2018.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on the 1 February 2018 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of Interest
To provide an opportunity for Members and Officers to declare any disclosable pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests in any item on the agenda.
Councillor S Gardiner declared a non-pecuniary interest in minute number 22 because he attended two of the work shops that fed into the final report.
Declaration of Party Whip
To provide an opportunity for Members to declare the existence of a party whip in relation to any item on the agenda.
There were no declarations of the existence of a party whip.
Public Speaking Time/Open Session
A total period of 15 minutes is allocated for members of the public to make a statement(s) on any matter that falls within the remit of the Committee.
Individual members of the public may speak for up to 5 minutes, but the Chairman will decide how the period of time allocated for public speaking will be apportioned, where there are a number of speakers.
Note: In order for officers to undertake any background research, it would be helpful if members of the public contacted the Scrutiny officer listed at the foot of the agenda, at least one working day before the meeting to provide brief details of the matter to be covered.
There were no members of the public present who wished to speak.
To consider a report on the document: ‘A Member-led Council: Developing Effective Member and Officer Relations’.
Brian Reed, Head of Democratic Services and Governance attended the meeting to present the item on the Member-Led Council. He advised the Committee that the report had been to the Member Technology and Development Panel, Constitution Committee, Group Leaders, and had been published to all employees through Team Voice.
Prior to the meeting, Councillor S Corcoran had advised Brian that he had not endorsed the document or any part of it and had several questions that related to the Member-Led report. The Committee agreed to hear these points and make comment as necessary.
· Principle 8 vii: specifically: Members must not ”shop-around” for advice, seeking to obtain advice which they may prefer from certain officers, or by seeking a secondary opinion once formal advice has been provided.
The Committee agreed with the sentiment of this principle and noted that Members who take decisions should take into account officer advice. However, it was noted that sometimes Members struggled to find who the correct contact should be especially where there had been significant changes to teams. Brian advised he would speak to the Member Panel to investigate the possibility of an organisation chart that included mobile phone numbers.
There was some general discussion about the expected time scales from officers after a Member has emailed a particular enquiry. Experience suggested that often officers did not reply to Members or acknowledge the original email. It was also noted that officers could delegate through to other officers and the Member was not kept in the loop. Brian agreed to feed this information back to the Member Panel that was being set up to deal with this.
· Principle 10 specifically: Whilst officers will treat all members in an even-handed, appropriate manner, members must appreciate that officer resource must be provided to assist the Administration to administer, not to assist the opposition to oppose.
Councillor Corcoran advised the phrase ‘not to assist the opposition to oppose’ was misleading particularly in the context of scrutiny where the remit was to hold the Executive to account. Brian advised a similar comment had been raised at the Constitution Committee.
The Committee had some discussion about the task for the Member Panel, in identifying many options and that nothing was a foregone conclusion. The Committee recognised this was an open and transparent process and therefore it was essential to look at as many options as possible.
The Committee discussed whether they could have sight of future reports complete with tracked changes to show the comments made by previous Committees to avoid duplication of discussion and comments.
The Committee asked for clarification on the last paragraph of Principle 10:
· Officers must also support those members of Council who do not have “special responsibilities”. They are nevertheless equal members of Council and have a right to be appropriately supported.
Brian advised this referred to Members with Office such as the Leader or Mayor but he would feed the comment back for expansion in the document.
Finally the Committee asked that any acronyms be ... view the full minutes text for item 23.
New Homes Bonus- Community Fund
To receive a presentation from Jan Willis, Interim Executive Director of Corporate Services in respect of the current position for the New Homes Bonus Community Fund and developments from the working group.
Jan Willis, Interim Executive Director of Corporate Services and Alex Thompson, Head of Finance and Performance attended the meeting to update the Committee in respect of the New Homes Bonus Community Fund.
Since this Committee last reviewed this item, Cabinet on the 6 February 2018, had approved the previous recommendations by this Committee to earmark £2m to create a specific “New Homes Bonus Community Fund” to be used over the next two financial years. Cabinet also noted that this Committee was willing to assist Cabinet by working on the details of a specific scheme to allocate funds. The Leader stressed the need to have the new model framework in relation to New Homes Bonus funding ready before the next Council meeting and had asked the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Communication to set up an urgent Working Group group in liaison with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee for this purpose.
The Working Group had met to discuss a model framework and established some ideas behind this. Jan and Alex presented this work to the Committee.
Funds would be allocated on the basis that:
· Parishes would be grouped according to area highways groups;
· There would be £50,000 allocation per area; and
· The balance of £2million would be based on housing completions between 2011-2017.
Jan and Alex presented some indicative figures to the Committee based on the hybrid system that allocated £50k flat rate per area, plus a percentage split from the seven area highways group based on number of new homes built. The funding would not be allocated to individual parishes, it was a flat rate plus a top-up with Ward Members making decisions.
Jan reiterated that grant money had to be spent by the end of the second year, no projects could extend beyond that period. There would be a clawback clause to grant awards and that money would return to the area it had been clawed back from.
The Committee asked for clarification about matched funding, and if it would be expected that large projects could expect to be funded from multiple sources. Jan advised that the expectation of the scheme was to add additionality and impact for the community through upgrading and enhancing services.
The Committee had some discussion about the timescales and whether the expectation that groups could complete projects in time especially with outdoor capital schemes that were weather reliant and were more likely to experience time slippage. Jan advised a key concern was that Town and Parish Councils could hold the grant funding in their reserves which was outside the spirit of the scheme.
Jan gave the example that if it was decided funding should be allocated to potholes, that funding could be transferred to the highways budget for that work.
Paul Bates, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Communications questioned if projects should be given a completion date of June 2021. The Committee agreed with the principle of the need to accommodate a long-stop date to write in flexibility ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
To review the current Work Programme.
The Committee considered the current Work Programme.
The Committee asked for clarification when the item for New Homes Bonus would return to this Committee. Jane Willis, Interim Executive Director of Corporate Services, advised that the a draft form could be circulated to this Committee before it went to Cabinet on 12 June 2018.
Jan advised the Committee that she could schedule a demonstration of Quick Sense at a forthcoming Committee meeting, the Committee agreed to this suggestion.
The Committee asked for the items on Private Enforcement and Fly-tipping to be scheduled for the Committee meeting on 7 June 2018, as a number of Members had dealt with these kind of issues in their wards and would like an update from officers.
The Chairman asked Members for any pieces of work that could feed into the Work Programme. Councillor James Nicholas suggested adding an item ton the process of consultation within the Council. The Committee agreed this suggestion to include public reception and perception.
(a) That the Work Programme be received and noted;
(b) That Jan Willis be invited to share the New Homes Bonus draft form with this Committee before Cabinet on 12 June 2018;
(c) That an item on Quick Sense Demonstration be added to the Work Programme; and
(d) That an item on Cheshire East consultations be added to the Work Programme.
To review the current Forward Plan.
The Committee considered the current Forward Plan.
RESOLVED: That the Forward Plan be received and noted.