Venue: Anglia Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham NR19 1EE
Contact: Committee Services 01362 656870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 23 July 2009.
A correction was made to Minute 72/09 – Community Fora. The last paragraph on page 10 (line 9) incorrectly stated that the Thetford Society started the Moving Forward Board and was corrected to state that the Thetford Task Force was set up in response to a public meeting called by the Thetford Society.
The minutes of the meeting held on 23 July 2009, as amended above, were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Messrs. B. Rose and A.C. Stasiak.
To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
The Chairman announced one item of urgent business to be taken later in the meeting concerning a Government consultation paper received on the subject of “Strengthening Local Democracy” (see minute no. 86/09 below).
Declaration of Interest
Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests that they may have in any of the following items on the agenda. The Members’ Code of Conduct requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a person or prejudicial interest.
No declarations were made.
Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting
To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.
Programmed Executive Member Portfolio Update - People First (Agenda Item 6)
Following the recent Portfolio changes, the scheduled item is subject to confirmation.
The Chairman explained that following the recent changes to the Executive portfolio structures, it had not been possible in the time available to re-arrange the programme for the item on Executive Member Portfolio Update for this meeting. The regular updates would commence again at the next meeting.
The minutes of the meeting of the Affordable Housing Task and Finish Group held on 29 July 2009 were considered in conjunction with the draft Affordable Housing Policy.
The Principal Housing Officer (Strategy and Enabling) presented the report and explained that the issues and recommendations made by members and the Task and Finish Group during the process of consultation had been taken into account in the report and the draft Policy. The policy had been drafted to provide the tools to implement the planning policies within the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework.
Key areas of change addressed in the report included the issues identified by members relating to the green agenda, quality of design, provision for alternative providers of affordable housing other than Housing Associations and to continue the approach not to have subsidy secured through planning gain (i.e. not through additional public subsidy).
Other initiatives incorporated in the policy were as set out in paragraph 10 of the policy (agenda page 33).
The Task and Finish Group had raised some issues that were outside the remit of the Housing Team and which needed a steer from elected members. These were:
How to influence the low cost housing
market. While this was something very
difficult to manage, Members wished to see further discussion on
b) A key factor in meeting housing need for some people was their inability to obtain mortgages and members wished to explore the Council as mortgage provider (powers did exist for this).
The planning policies referred to in the Affordable Housing Policy were not for debate as these had now been submitted to and examined in public by the Inspectors.
The Affordable Housing Policy was designed as a tool to implement those planning policies.
Members were invited to debate any of the other areas before the draft Policy went on to the Cabinet and Council for adoption.
Mr. Joel explained that the Task and Finish Group discussions had included issues of meeting need through the development of flats, family trusts and other providers, low cost housing and buying a percentage of property. A key to low cost housing was the land value.
The Principal Housing Officer explained that the Council did not have control over land/market prices, which was one of the problems in providing low cost housing and it was an area difficult to monitor.
So far as the issue of the Council as mortgage provider was concerned, this was something outside the scope of the Strategic Housing Team and was more properly an issue for Members to consider having regard to the best use of the Council’s resources. However, the strategic framework was there to enable such a route to be taken if the Council so wished.
A member suggested that if the Council were to consider offering mortgages, it should be done in partnership with other mortgage providers as he felt the Council’s officers could not be expected to have the skills required in this field.
In answer ... view the full minutes text for item 84.
Report of the Director of Community Services.
The Director of Community Services presented the report and introduced Richard Wills, the Council’s new Pride Coordinator.
The Pride Coordinator informed Members of the latest progress of events and future programme of the Pride in Breckland project.
In addition to the items set out in the report, the following items were reported for Members’ information as good examples of community engagement in seeking to maintain pride in the area:
Other projects being planned or in progress included:
Following the report, attention was drawn to the need for the local town or parish council to be consulted on schemes under the Pride project. Specific reference was drawn to schemes at Dereham, where a member reported that the Town Council had not been involved in the plans for the welcome home event for the Light Dragoons but had managed to make alternative arrangements with the market stall holders to avoid a clash of date and the Town Council would, therefore, be happy to participate in the arrangements for the special event.
In addition, the three schemes in Dereham under the Pride Grants project were all located on land owned and managed by the Town Council. While the Town Council would doubtless be happy with such schemes, it was hoped they were consulted on the proposals before the grants were approved.
It was explained that the funding for the Pride schemes came under the umbrella of the Local Strategic Partnership on which all Town Councils were invited to sit. Decisions on grants were made by a Grants Board and all schemes had to be accompanied by supporting evidence. Action would be taken to ensure all town and parish councils and the local Ward Member(s) were consulted on future bids.
In noting some of the schemes undertaken to date, a member suggested suitable local groups and organisations could be approached for help, for example the Wensum Valley Trust for river clearing. So far as the Breckland in Bloom project was concerned, the member pointed out that the Council would need authority to use the ‘in Bloom’ branding from the national body.
Another member suggested that a ‘Pride in Breckland’ pack should be produced for new residents as a way of introducing them to the area.
The Chairman ... view the full minutes text for item 85.
Strengthening Local Democracy (Urgent Business - Agenda Item 3)
Since the last meeting of the Commission, a consultation paper had been received from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the subject of local democratic renewal and improving and widening the scope of the scrutiny function.
A response was required by the 2nd October 2009 and it was felt to be important that the Commission did submit a response.
Given the limited time available, it was proposed to appoint a Task and Finish Group to draft a response. It was felt that a single meeting of the Group would be sufficient for the purpose. To assist the meeting, the Member Development and Scrutiny Officer would prepare some draft answers to the questions for circulation to Members prior to the meeting.
The question of the power of local scrutiny committees to require attendance by other agencies was raised. It was noted that the 2007 Act identified a number of agencies that could be called in to scrutiny and that they had a duty to attend although they did not have to take any recommended action. This would be clarified.
a Task and Finish Group be appointed to draft a response to the
consultation paper, such response to be cleared through the
Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Commission prior being submitted
to the Secretary of State;
(2) the following members be nominated to the Task & Finish Group – Mr. S.G. Bambridge, Mr. K.S. Gilbert, Mr. J. Gretton and Mr. B. Rose.
Task & Finish Group Reports (Agenda Item 9)
The Chairman of the Group presented the report and explained that there had been a robust discussion of the issues concerned and site visits had taken place on 25th and 27th August.
In the light of the Group’s deliberations, the following was being recommended:
the scope of the Task and Finish Group to be widened to include
on-street parking, time-limits and a survey of parking
approval of funding of up to £3,500 to cover the cost of the
parking survey; and
the review programme be extended until
The Chairman advised that Attleborough Town Council had recently written to ask Breckland to look at the issue of charging as a solution to the pressures in the town from all-day/long-term parking by commuters in and out of the town.
In the light of this, the Chairman suggested a way forward was to conduct a pilot, wide-ranging survey in Attleborough, which could then be used as the basis for rolling-out the survey to the other towns in the District, bearing in mind that each would have its own, varying needs and usage. It was suggested the survey could be produced in-house and be carried out by casual employees (e.g. university or other students).
A point was made that market research was a necessary professional function to ensure the correct interpretation of information was achieved.
Issues of enforcement and need to ensure turnover of parking spaces to support retail centres were discussed, together with the need for the Council to decide what sort of service it wanted to provide in the way of car parking (including maintenance, repair, enforcement), i.e. whether it was to be profit-making or a service to the public. That decision would determine the way forward.
The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer explained that there was sufficient money available in the Commission’s budget but that any expenditure would needed to be made wisely and proportionately. When looking at using local research organisations, it was necessary to avoid the potential for any bias in the development and interpretation of the questionnaire. This review was necessarily an evidence-based one but need not be limited to the survey. The Citizens’ Panel, Council website, and Breckland Voice, as well as consulting through the Town and Parish Councils could also be used to give a balance of information.
It was suggested the proposed limited survey sample of 50 in each town would not be big enough to give a comprehensive finding. A larger survey would increase the costs if an external research body was used. The Chairman suggested that students undertaking degrees and/or Masters at the UEA could be utilised for the research but would need to be contacted beforehand through the University.
A member also felt it would be relevant to the survey to look at under-used private car parks.
(1) the Terms of Reference of the Task and Finish Group be widened to incorporate a review of on-street parking in the five market ... view the full minutes text for item 87a
Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)
To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.
There were none to report.
Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item)
To consider any references.
No references had been made.
Work Programme (Agenda Item 12)
(a) The Commission is asked to agree any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme as appropriate.
(b) Member Issues: In accordance with the Commission’s protocol for member leadership, which states that members of the Commission will take the lead in selecting topics for overview and scrutiny and in the questioning of witnesses, members are invited to put forward items for selection for future review.
An updated work programme was tabled at the meeting.
BT Payphones – Cashless Conversion
The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer reported on the latest position regarding the Commission’s review of public telephone kiosks. So far as the case at Stow Bedon was concerned, BT had indicated that it would replace this kiosk with a cashless facility earlier in the year but there had been no action to date.
Letters had been sent to the local Members of Parliament on the issue of cashless conversion of public telephone kiosks. A reply from Christopher Fraser M.P. had been received, enclosing a response from BT, details of which were noted. Mr. Fraser was seeking the Council’s comments on how it wished to take the matter further.
BT’s response and inaction at Stow Bedon was felt to be very unacceptable and it was
RESOLVED that the Chairman should respond direct to BT on the Commission’s behalf.
The following items were added:
Executive Member Updates
Mrs. A. Steward – Executive Member for Planning & Regeneration – had been invited to give the Executive Member update at the next meeting in October.
Mrs. T. Hewett – Executive Member for Communities & Benefits – had been invited to the November meeting but was unable to accept due to work commitments. An alternative Executive Member was being sought for this meeting.
To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 2.15pm at the Gallery Bar, Watton Sports Centre.
The date of the next meeting was confirmed as 15 October 2009.
There was some discrepancy over the venues for meetings as these were stated differently in the work programme and the venues for future meetings were therefore subject to confirmation.