Agenda and minutes

Venue: The Gallery Bar, Watton Sports Centre, Dereham Road, Watton IP25 6EZ

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No. Item


Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 105 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 3 September 2009.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 3 September 2009 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Apologies (Agenda item 2)

To receive apologies for absence.




Declaration of Interest (Agenda item 4)

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.


The Chairman declared a personal interest as an architect in practice in the District in relation to planning matters in general.


Mr J. Rogers declared a personal interest in Agenda item 8 due to the fact that one of his charities that he supported was listed.


Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting (Agenda item 5)

To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.


None present.


Contract Monitoring - Planning & Building Control and Capita (Agenda item 6) pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:


The Deputy Chief Executive provided Members with an update on the implementation and performance of the new Planning and Building Control partnership with Capita Symonds.


Phil Daines, the Development Services Manager and Keith Eccles, the Building Control Manager, were in attendance to answer questions.


The contract had been signed and the partnership had been launched on 29 June 2009.  All Planning and Building Control staff had been transferred under TUPE terms and had been moved so that all three teams were located at ground floor level.  It had been a smooth transition in terms of service.


The contract was monitored monthly and managed by a governance structure attended by the Executive Member for Planning and Regeneration, the Deputy Chief Executive and senior representatives from Capita Symonds.


Members were informed of the key actions and milestones that had been achieved over the first quarter of the new contract.  A ‘Planning on Line’ was also being implemented and would be launched at the Cabinet meeting on 27th October 2009. Other local authorities had expressed an interest in how the contract was working which could potentially lead to future partnering arrangements.


The Deputy Chief Executive also updated Members on the Local Development Framework (LDF).  He confirmed that the Inspector’s report had now been received and that the document had been considered sound.


The Contract Monitoring Report dated 1st September 2009 had been attached for information.  The performance of the three critical service performance indicators at 1a) of the report had been exceeded.  Questions were asked about the type of applications that were measured and how many dangerous structures did the 100% target relate to.


The Building Control Manager reminded Members that non-fee earning applications were not measured; however, there were one or two minor exceptions, applications solely to provide improvements for disabled persons were exempt from fees.


It was agreed that further information was required to understand what the percentages meant in terms of volume, what was needed if the targets should decline and what should be put in place to rectify the situation.


A Member had some concerns with regard to response times.  The Development Services Manager said that he would look into the problem mentioned above.


The Executive Member for Planning and Regeneration stated that Members would notice many changes to the way that the performance was reported in future.


A Member felt that it would be of benefit to see actual response times as he had heard that they had slowed down.  The Building Control Manager was surprised at this comment because as far as he was aware all response times had been met.


Further concerns were raised about legislation changes, S106 Agreements, face to face calls, and what procedures were in place for the emails that could not be responded to by those Officers who worked outside the District   The Deputy Chief Executive reported that the Contract was being enhanced by way of setting up an appointment system and a Business Support Team would be created to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 96.


Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda item 7)

Mrs Ann Steward, Executive Member for Planning and Regeneration, will be in attendance to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within her portfolio and to answer any questions.


Ann Steward gave an update on key ongoing areas of work within the area of the Planning and Regeneration Portfolio.


·                    Planning On-Line - This facility had been added to the main website. For applications submitted on or after 1st October 2009, this new service provided the public with access to submitted planning documentation, including appeals, searches and key planning decisions. The new online service represented the first in a series of improvements to the way Planning Services would be delivered in Breckland.

The new search facilities, which were considered to be very straightforward, allowed the public to:-

·                     check the progress of current applications (Application Tracker)

·                     comment on undecided applications online

·                     view all related plans, documents and comments (Application Register)

·                     look at determined applications and any conditions or reasons for refusal attached to them (Conditions & Reasons Register)

·                     view information relating to appeals(Appeals Register)

The service would be launched at the Cabinet meeting on 27 October 2009 and would soon be made available in all of the Council’s Customer Services Centres. 

Capita was also looking to put land charges on-line in due course.

·                    The LDF – Core Strategy – The Core Strategy had been found sound. The Executive Member conveyed her thanks to all the Officers involved. 

      Members were informed that the LDF Panel was currently involved in the site-specifics and was meeting in each market town. A Member felt that the meeting in Watton had gone very well and congratulated the Officers responsible.

      It was suggested and agreed that all Members would be provided with paper copies of the appendices to the Core Strategy. 

·                    Thetford Growth Point – The governance of Thetford Growth Point had been restructured so there were many changes ahead.  The timeline for the bus station had been agreed.

A Member had concerns with infrastructure monies and asked what share Breckland would receive from the £3m funding pot.  He also feared that the EEDA would hand part of the Thetford Growth Point funding back to the Government. The Deputy Chief Executive felt that this was a difficult question to answer but advised that the Economic Development Team was looking at different funding streams and any information would be reported back to the Moving Thetford Forward Board.  Ann Steward advised that both she and Paul Claussen were on the EEDA Panel and would be made aware if this indeed happened.

  • REV Project – Norfolk County Council, Paul Claussen, the Executive Member for Economic, Health and Housing was working on this on-going Project.

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman felt it had been refreshing to have a Cabinet Member at the meeting with so much enthusiasm and looked forward to seeing the matters mentioned above coming to fruition.


Report for Consultation - Discretionary Rate Relief Guidelines (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 90 KB

Report of the Director for Governance & Corporate Development.  Appendix 4 to this report contains exempt information and is therefore enclosed separately for Members under agenda item 18 below.

Additional documents:


The Head of Finance presented the report which outlined the suggested changes to the guidelines used when determining the granting of discretionary rate relief to organisations.


The Partnership Performance & Support Services Manager was in attendance to answer questions.


The challenge that both Officers had been presented with was trying to keep within the rate relief budget whilst expanding the scheme.  The last review had been carried out ten years ago and there was a need to refresh the guidelines to ensure that they were brought in line with the Council’s priorities.  The Partnership Performance & Support Services Manager explained that the £75k for rate relief was a budget figure that was set aside annually.  The Council was now in danger of exceeding that budget and would need an increase if there was no review of the policy.  Referring to Hardship Relief, Members were informed that this type of relief was available to all businesses but there was a difference in how much Breckland Council could claim.


If the changes in the report were applied it would free up existing budget which could then be re-distributed to other organisations that met the necessary criteria.


The suggested changes to the policy had been listed from paragraph 3.2.3 to 3.2.7 of the report.


One of the suggested changes was to recommend that a capping level be applied to the overall discretionary rate relief granted to each account.  By applying such a cap would reduce the cost to the Council.


A Member asked whether the Council was making these deserving bodies contribute a little more if a cap was applied.  In response, the Head of Finance explained that those bodies such as sports clubs who could gain CASC status would not necessarily be put in a worse financial position.


The Vice-Chairman shared the Member’s concern about the capping rates.  He felt that this would be a disastrous move on the Council’s behalf if this was introduced.  He also had concerns with some of the businesses listed in the confidential part of the report and felt that some might well be taking advantage of the current system and should be investigated.


The Partnership Performance & Support Services Manager explained that all entitlements to top-ups would stop from 1st April 2010.  Forms would be sent out to all businesses to re-apply.  The accounts of those businesses would be looked at therefore a number of them might not receive any further assistance under the proposed guidelines.  Every case would be looked at individually and on its own merits.  The Chairman felt that it would be useful to know which of the organisations listed in the report were charities.   It was agreed that some of the organisations listed should be entitled to total relief.


A Member felt that Ward Members should be given access to any new applications submitted.


The Vice-Chairman believed that these capping rates would cripple the organisations that did not have two farthings to rub together but also believed that the criteria that the Council used  ...  view the full minutes text for item 98.


Investors in People (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Report of the Director for Organisational Development.

Additional documents:


The Deputy Chief Executive presented the report which outlined the progress to date on becoming an Investors in People (IiP) employer.


Examples of the improvements actions were highlighted and included:


·        the first annual reward and recognition scheme (2010 would be the second one);

·        super teams had been launched;

·        housewarming event (including a treasure hunt);

·        corporate inductions had been revamped;

·        personal development folders had been produced.


In terms of the annual reward and recognition scheme, it was explained that the staff had been responsible for the nominations.


The super teams had been re-introduced and had encouraged 80/100 staff to take part in rounder’s, netball, bowling and a quiz night.  Super teams would continue next year.


The house-warming event had been successful and had been well supported. This event had been very much interactive and had created a feel good factor amongst staff.


The Deputy Chief Executive was pleased to announce that the diagnostic test results had risen to 71%.


A Member asked whether Thetford staff had taken part in any of the above events.  He asked this question because of the layout at the Thetford offices being quite restrictive.  Members were informed that labelling throughout the offices was being considered and the large black cabinets which segregated staff were being looked at.


A Member suggested that an Open Day should be held in the new Members’ Room when completed.


The Vice-Chairman was delighted to hear that the morale of the staff had improved and asked whether it had made any difference to the sickness absence.   The Training and Development Manager reported that sickness absence figures had improved and it was hoped this improvement would be bolstered by a new stress management programme which was nearing completion and was due to be introduced later this year.


A Member was asked about the availability of the new Members’ Room.  The Deputy Chief Executive said that he would have to ask the question but explained that the room had been developed in full consultation with the Executive Board.  


Roll-out of BT Broadband (Agenda item 10)

Mr. Peter McCarthy-Ward, Regional Director for BT, will be in attendance to speak on this item and to answer Members’ questions.



Mr Peter McCarthy-Ward, the Regional Director for BT, was in attendance to answer Members’ questions.


The steer for this meeting was Broadband issues.


The Broadband world was moving rapidly.  There were two different types available – one had been around for 25 years and the second had been introduced 10/12 years ago.


Most Norfolk telephone exchanges were still connected to individual copper wires which were vulnerable to electrical interference at home.   Long telephone lines, bottlenecks between local exchanges and the national network, and the quality of internet service provider facilities also affected broadband speeds.


BT had started work to increase broadband speed up to a maximum of 24 megabits per second by 2012, whilst help was also being planned for those in rural broadband “not spots” with poor access or slow speeds.  The problem of “not spots” would be explored by investigating new wire technology and the introduction of l-plates to reduce interference.  Some “not spots” only had internet access speeds of 0.5Mbps, with towns and Norwich reaching up to 6-8Mbps.


There was still much work to be done on availability which BT was trying to address.


The Chairman said that one of the reasons that BT had been invited to the meeting related to the nature of the District.  Breckland itself was 50% rural and 50% urban and many of the rural areas did not have access to Broadband at all.   It was imperative that BT realised that Breckland, as a District, was growing in population, many businesses were being set up in remote areas and home-working was becoming more popular. It would be disastrous if Breckland was left behind as it would put off any new businesses and people moving to the area. He also pointed out that Councillors were becoming experts in recognising the “not spots” by the complaints that they continually received from their constituents. 


The Chairman also mentioned BT’s customer support which he felt was woefully inadequate.


A Member felt that BT had abandoned the village of Lyng, one of the “not spots” areas.  Mr McCarthy-Ward pointed out that Lyng was in the south-eastern quadrant of the Eynsford Ward which in itself had a big cluster of “not spots” due to the nature of the bizarre amount of telephone cables that snaked across the landscape; however, there was a note of possible optimism on the horizon, as a few miles away in Wymondham, BT was looking at different technologies to help such places as Lyng.  Mr McCarty-Ward explained, however, that these new technologies cost money and would be too expensive for BT to contemplate on its own.  BT could not promise to deliver Broadband to everyone in the UK at a uniform price but there was a funding stream that authorities and BT could apply for.  He explained that there were approximately 3% to 4% of people out of 414,000 properties in Norfolk that could not get Broadband and he urged Breckland Council to put a huge amount of pressure on Norfolk County Council  ...  view the full minutes text for item 100.


Strengthening Local Democracy - Consultation Response (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Report of the Director for Organisation Development.

Additional documents:


The report was noted.


Green Agenda Development Panel - Update (Agenda item 12) pdf icon PDF 45 KB

To receive an update on the work of this Group.


Mr R Kybird provided Members with an update of the matters that had been considered by the Green Agenda Development Panel (GADP) at its meeting on 29th September.


The main concern related to the wind turbine proposed for Elizabeth House.   Ralph Burton, the Assistant Commercial Property Manager was in attendance to answer any questions.


Mr Kybird, the Chairman of the GADP, felt it important that wind monitoring should be carried out before a turbine was considered.


The Chairman knew that Anthony Wright, the Property Services Manager, was about to embark on a scoping document.  He felt that this document should be presented to the next meeting of the GADP depending on timeframe.


The Assistant Property Manager said that he had discussed the wind turbine matter in great detail with Mr Kybird but felt that there was a need to speak to the GADP as well.  He pointed out that although a specification document had been submitted there was no reason why the Council should commit itself to spending £35k on consultancy fees until the surveys etc had been carried out.  He mentioned a suggestion that had been put forward to install an anemometer first before any money was spent.


The Chairman felt that this was a very good idea as it would enable further investigations to be carried out without too much cost.


The Commission agreed with the suggestion made by the Chairman that a wind anemometer be installed.


Other issues mentioned was future planning and recycling.


The report was otherwise noted.


Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item) (Agenda item 13)

To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.




Councillor Call for Action (Agenda item 14)

To consider references (if any).




Work Programme (Agenda item 15) pdf icon PDF 52 KB

(a)               A copy of the Commission’s work programme is attached.  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.


Due to time constraints the Member Development & Scrutiny Officer was asked to email any information with regard to the Work Programme to Members.


Next Meeting (Agenda item 16)

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 26 November 2007 at 2.15pm in the Anglia Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham.


The date of the next meeting was confirmed as Thursday, 26 November 2009 at 2.15m in the Anglia Room.


Exclusion of Press and Public (Agenda item 17)

To consider passing the following resolution:


“That under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it contains exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1 and 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act.”


RESOLVED that under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1 and 3 of Schedule 12A to the Act.


Consultation Report on Discretionary Rate Relief Guidelines - Appendix (Agenda item 18)

Appendix 4 to agenda item10 above.


See Minute no. 98/09 above.