Agenda and minutes

Venue: Innovations Centre, Croxton Road, Thetford IP24 1JD

Contact: Committee Services  01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 101 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 29 April 2010.


The Scrutiny Officer advised Members that the recommendation at Minute No 37/10 (Parking Task & Finish Group) had been agreed in principle by Cabinet, subject to costings.


With reference to Minute No 36/10 (Executive Member Update) the Vice Chairman asked that in future the minutes should more clearly reflect the interactions between the Commission and the Executive Member in a question and answer format.


The minutes of the meeting held on 29 April 2010 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received from Mr S Chapman-Allen, Mr K Gilbert and Mr B Rose.


Urgent Business

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.


There was no urgent business, however, at this point a Member requested that in future, Substitute Members should be included on the Agenda front page and that it should be up to individual Members who were unable to attend to contact their substitute.


Members also agreed that a paragraph to this effect should be added to the protocol on the agenda.<1>


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.




Sickness Absence Task & Finish Group

To consider the report and recommendations of the Task and Finish Group.

Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Officer presented the findings of the Task and Finish Group which had met over four meetings.


The Group had concluded that there was not a great deal wrong with the existing system and that the Council’s sickness levels over the last ten years compared favourably with other similar authorities.


It had been noted that long-term sickness could significantly alter the appearance of the figures and that in most cases long-term sicknesses were not work-related.


Problems associated with the Return to Work interview system had been investigated and proposals to address this issue were made in the conclusions on page 27.


A Member asked what was being done about the problem of stress-related illnesses and was told that the Council used Occupation Health and Counselling to try to address this.  The HR department also had various processes and programmes in place to promote healthy living.


Mrs Irving who had been a member of the Group, said that she thought it had been very positive and had looked at a lot of preventative measures, including encouraging people to report their concerns before their health was affected.


The Vice-Chairman agreed that the Group had done a worthwhile job.


It was confirmed that the Group’s scrutiny had fulfilled the requirement to review the policy, which had originally been approved in 2008.  The Group’s report and four recommendations would be passed on to Cabinet.  It was agreed that paragraph 26 of the report should be deleted.<1>




(1)               the existing policy be updated with minor changes as shown at Appendix 1 to the report;


(2)               an electronic version of the return to work interview form should be provided, as this would save time and paper and would also allow for automatic generation of e-mail reminders and flagging of non-returns;


(3)               an accident information card be produced for use by officers working out of the office, and


(4)               a review of the Out of Hours service be carried out, to safeguard staff and to ensure that staff and the service providers were aware of the respective responsibilities.


Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 11 KB

Report of Councillor John Labouchere.


Mr Labouchere was not in attendance to present his report.


A Member pointed out that the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust did not cover Thetford.

The report was noted.


Breckland Council Petitions Scheme

Report by the Scrutiny Officer.

Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Officer presented the report.


He explained that the Local Government, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 placed a duty on Councils to devise a petition scheme.  The scheme had to be implemented by 14 June 2010 and a facility for members of the public to submit petitions electronically had to be in place by 15 December 2010.


Members were asked to approve a draft scheme which was based on a model scheme and Government guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).


There were four major issues for local determination which Members were asked to decide:


1)                 To set a specified minimum number of signatures for the petition scheme to apply.  The guidance suggested 20 as a minimum threshold.

2)                 To set a specified minimum number of signatures to trigger a debate at full Council.  The guidance suggested 1500 signatures.

3)                 To set a specified minimum number of signatures to require a senior officer of the Council to attend a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission.  The guidance suggested 750 signatures.

4)                 To determine which senior officers would be liable to be called to account in that way.  The guidance suggested the Chief Executive and Directors.


Members discussed the requirements and were concerned that if specific thresholds were set, people (particularly special interest groups) would work to those numbers.


The Vice-Chairman agreed and asked if specific numbers could be avoided.  He suggested that the wording should be amended to allow the Chairman of the Council to determine what constituted a significant number on an issue by issue basis.  He also suggested that a caveat be included to only consider issues that were of significance to the District.


He was also against the proposal to require a senior officer to give evidence if a specific threshold was reached.  He felt that this was another matter that should be at the discretion of the Chairman or Leader of the Council. 


Other Members agreed and it was suggested that the Overview and Scrutiny Chairman in consultation with other members of the Commission, should act as arbiters in deciding which petitions merited action and what that action should be.  This could be a standing item on the Commission’s agenda.


Members acknowledged that petitions were an opportunity for the public to get their concerns heard by the decision makers.  The Chairman said that the Terms and Conditions needed to clearly set out the criteria and Members suggested that a flow chart should be used to show the public how to meet the basic criteria.


Amendments to the order and wording of the criteria listed were suggested:


§                     Moving bullet point 5 (response by senior officer) above bullet point 4 (being heard by full council);

§                     Modifying the wording of that clause to say that ‘if deemed necessary by the relevant Committee of the Council an officer would be required to answer questions (eg if the petition related to a planning matter it should be at the discretion of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.


Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Verbal update on the meeting held on 18 May 2010.


The Chairman updated Members on the meeting of the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee held at Attleborough on 18 May 2010.  He said that the meeting had been well attended by officers and Members from both Councils. There had been a good debate and South Norfolk’s contributions had been very positive.  The Chairman thought that the Members had agreed to commend the Business Case to their respective Full Councils.


There had been concerns about governance arrangements which needed to be sorted out and the Chairmen of the respective Audit Committees had arranged to have a meeting to discuss those matters.


The Chairman said that he had therefore been very surprised to hear that South Norfolk were not intending to progress shared services with Breckland.  The projected savings of £8.5 million had been a conservative estimate and further savings could have been generated by critical mass producing discounts and contract efficiencies.  Although it had not been clear exactly how those savings would have been split, that did not matter as they would have been of benefit to both sets of residents.


As changes had been made to the Constitution at the last Full Council meeting relating to shared services, there would now need to be an Extraordinary meeting of Full Council on 8 June 2010 to change back the portfolio and management structure.


Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)

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




Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item)

To consider any references.




Scrutiny Work Programme and Refresh pdf icon PDF 25 KB

Discussion document.

Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Officer presented the report which was a discussion paper resulting from the half day workshop held in March, and asked Members to consider some changes of approach to enable more focussed and effective scrutiny.


It was felt that fewer items should be included on the work programme to allow those that were included to be discussed in greater detail.


Various subjects had been put forward for future consideration by Task and Finish Groups, including Contaminated Land, the road/transport system, anti-social behaviour and drainage/flooding issues. 


Under the revised Committee Structure, the number of Task and Finish Groups running concurrently had been limited to three.  Chairmen of the Groups had to be sitting members of the Commission but all other non-executive Members would be encouraged to participate. 


The LDF and the Joint Shared Services Task and Finish Groups (JOSC) did not count towards the three Groups allowed by the Committee restructure and in any case the latter had now ended.  The LDF Group was not meeting at present but was expected to resume in September.  The Joint ARP Group was only expected to require one more meeting before completion of its task.


The Parking Task and Finish Group had four more market towns to assess and would therefore be on-going for the foreseeable future. 


Members had received a presentation about Contaminated Land in March and had been asked for their input into the different options which the Council could use to carry out its inspections of contaminated land and reviewing the Contaminated Land Strategy.  The deadline for this work was fast approaching and members needed to decide whether to establish a dedicated task and finish group.  It was agreed that a Contaminated Land Task and Finish Group would be set up immediately to meet three times with a July 2010 finish.


The Commission had taken on responsibility for scrutiny of Crime and Disorder reduction and there would need to be at least one meeting of that Committee each year, to fulfil the Council’s minimum statutory requirement.  It was suggested that anti-social behaviour could be included on the agenda for that meeting rather than being dealt with by a task and finish group.  The Vice-Chairman also requested that witnesses from the police be requested to attend.


A Member noted that her local LAG was no longer functioning and was advised that this was another matter that could be discussed by the Crime and Reduction Committee.


As the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee was unlikely to meet again, due to the decision by South Norfolk to step back from shared services, there was capacity for another Task and Finish Group.


Members discussed other matters for inclusion on the work programme.  A Member noted that Partnership scrutiny was not mentioned.  He asked if a member from the PCT would be co-opted to the Commission.

The Chairman thought that the work programme needed to be clearly defined first.  With changes to Portfolio Holders he felt it was important to maintain Cabinet scrutiny.  He  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56.


Next Meeting

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 15 July 2010.


The arrangements for the next meeting on Thursday, 15 July 2010 were noted.