Venue: Anglia Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham
Contact: Committee Services 01362 656870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 21 November 2013.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 21 November 2013 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Apologies and Substitutes (Agenda item 2)
To receive apologies for absence and to note substitute Members in attendance.
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Carter. Councillors Bambridge and Bowes were present as substitutes. Councillor Bowes was in attendance as a member of the Constitution Working Group.
Declaration of Interests (Agenda item 4)
Members are reminded that under the Code of Conduct they are not to participate and must leave the room, for the whole of an agenda item to which they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest.
In the interests of transparency, Members may also wish to declare any other interests they have in relation to an agenda item, that support the Nolan principles detailed within the Code of Conduct.
For transparency, Councillor Irving declared that she was employed by Brandon Lewis MP in a constituency capacity.
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.
Councillors Jolly and Turner were in attendance. The Chairman welcomed Mr Roger Atterwill, the Chairman of Swanton Morley Parish Council to the meeting who was in attendance to ask a number of questions in relation to agenda item 6, as follows:
The responses to the above questions were deferred until after Councillor Jolly’s presentation.
Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda item 6)
Councillor Ellen Jolly, Executive Member for Finance & Democratic Services, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within her portfolio and to answer any questions.
Councillor Jolly only became a Portfolio Holder responsible for Member Services and Finance in September 2013; for this reason, the Officers in attendance would hopefully be able to respond to the questions that she could not answer herself.
Democratic Services included electoral and member services and was a small team of officers whose responsibilities included a number of statutory functions with no room for error and no flexibility on timings. Election deadlines and government consultation response deadlines were absolute. Rory Ringer was the Democratic Services Team Leader and his Team provided a range of services for Elected Members, public and officers to promote local democracy; including:
• committee administration
• effective overview and scrutiny
• member support
• electoral registration
• election services
The key areas of responsibilities were:
– Committee Administration
– Freedom of Information
– Democratic Engagement
– Electoral Registration
– Election Management
– Community Governance Reviews & Boundary Arrangements
Democratic Services was governed by a wide range of legislation to ensure that the Council was responding to democracy in a timely and lawful way. Work within Democratic Services included:
• Committee Administration
• Electoral Services -
– Parish elections
– District elections
– County elections
– Parliamentary & European Parliamentary elections
– Referendums & Parish Polls
– Maintenance of the Register of Electors
– Boundary Reviews
– Electoral advice to Town & Parish Councils
• Freedom of Information
• Democratic Engagement
Vicki Thomson was the Assistant Director of Democratic Services; she was also the Monitoring Officer and under the new Standards regime Vicki worked with an Independent person appointed by the Council to investigate complaints.
Electoral Services was responsible for all Elections - a huge task with no control over the flow of work.
All Freedom of Information requests received had to be logged by a dedicated Standards Officer.
Administration support to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission was provided by a dedicated Scrutiny Officer.
Electoral Services was currently preparing for the European Parliamentary Elections on 22 May 2014. Breckland formed part of the Eastern Region and 7 MEP's would be elected under a proportional representation system.
Individual Electoral Registration (IER) was key project that the Team was working on. Under the current systemofelectoral registration an annual household canvass form was sent to each address, which was completedby one individualon behalfof everyone livingat the property. In the coming months, this systemofregistrationwould be replaced and every individual living at the same address would have ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Report of the Assistant Director for Finance & Democratic Services.
In the absence of the Joint Performance Team Leader, the Assistant Director of Finance and Democratic Services and the Senior Performance Analyst were in attendance for this item.
The Performance Team had brought forward a report that pulled together all performance of the Council whilst trying to make the performance processes slicker, more meaningful and gathering information that could be used by Members. There had been significant changes in the process and this was still on-going. Training had been carried out for Officers that were responsible for the input of data and the quality of information was being increased to ensure that the right things were being measured.
The frequency of reporting projects and performance indicators (PIs) to Committee was an issue as on some occasions the information gathered was slightly out of date by the time it was presented to the meeting.
Councillor Gilbert said that he had read all of the report in particular the document that had since been replaced on which he had prepared questions. He had concerns about the replacement document as it did not contain as much information and he felt from a scrutiny point of view there would be opportunities missed. The Assistant Director of Finance and Democratic Services reminded the Committee of the plea from Members –not to give them too much information; it was the Portfolio Holders that required more detail which in turn could be disseminated to Members if they so wished. Councillor Gilbert was not happy with the response and asked if he could forward his questions relating to the original document. It was agreed that any questions would be forwarded by email to the Assistant Director for a response.
As one of the Portfolio Holders, Lynda Turner, the Executive Member for Community and Environmental Services pointed out that this was an evolving document and they, as Executive Members, would be challenging this all the way through until it ended up as a document that was fit for purpose.
The Vice-Chairman concurred with the views of Councillor Gilbert and asked a question in relation to staff sickness which he had raised before as a concern but had never received an adequate response. He assumed the figure quoted in the report was for the whole Council, if this was the case, he would prefer to see the sickness absence data for each service area. Members were informed that the sickness reporting was at a higher level; however, this could be seasonal and it would be better to wait until a year’s worth of data had been gathered. The Chairman referred to the wording used in the comments, stress, anxiety and depression, and felt that this was indicating a trend and echoed the Member’s concerns on this matter. He felt that any issues that the Council was not managing to control should be brought forward as a scrutiny matter for support.
Councillor Kybird referred to Moving Thetford Forward project contained in the report and raised concerns in relation to the commentary ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Report of the Assistant Director for Finance & Democratic Services.
The Executive Member for Finance and Democratic Services presented the report.
The Constitution Working Group (CWG) was established in April 2013 with the membership including herself, Councillors Bowes and Jermy working with a CWG at South Holland to consider the review of both Constitutions. This had been set against a background of change. In 2008/09 there were approx 350 employees at Breckland, now the number was nearer 250. Breckland also now had a shared Senior Management Team with South Holland and the recent Boundary Commission recommendations indicated that Breckland’s Elected Members would decrease from 54 to 49.
With this in mind the CWG had reviewed the Committee Structure. In order for changes to be made to the Committee Structure it would be necessary to align the delegations section of the Constitution as well. However, at this stage the CWG presented this outline for the consideration of Overview and Scrutiny Commission.
Councillor Bambridge mentioned the new Licensing arrangements and felt that the skills that had already been embedded in Members needed to remain; he highlighted an appeal that had been upheld by a decision made by the Licensing Sub-Committee. The Democratic Services Team Leader advised that there was a statutory requirement to keep matters relating to the Licensing Act 2003 and the Gambling Act 2005 separate from the remainder of the Licensing functions. However, the idea was to have the same membership on both committees and as was the case in a large number of authorities there was nothing to preclude the Regulatory and Licensing Committees meeting on the same day running sequentially. The set up of what would sit underneath Licensing such as the Appeals Panel, currently the Appeals Committee, was explained. Councillor Bambridge said that he would like to have further discussions with the Democratic Services Team Leader on this matter.
Councillor Gilbert drew the Committee’s attention to page 61 of the agenda that mentioned the Member Development Panel under section 1.20 of the report. He was very pleased that it had been given more providence and he felt that the Membership as a Panel was very strong and it encouraged more Members to take up training. The Executive Member for Community and Environmental Services concurred with the aforementioned comments and reminded the Committee that the Member Development Panel had been recognised as a committee as part of Charter Plus; and, she highlighted the fact that there were few councils in Norfolk who had this accolade.
The Vice-Chairman said that the amount of work involved in this review should not be underestimated and he had been pleased that so many people had been keen to be involved in the discussions. However, he would much rather have fewer meetings with more healthy democratic involvement rather than the current level of meetings where business was just churned through and not really needed.
Councillor Bambridge supported the comments made by Councillor Gilbert and the Executive Member for Community and Environmental Services. He said that he had served on the EELGA for many ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Health Scrutiny (Standing Item) (Agenda item 9)
To receive an update on the Norfolk Health Scrutiny Committee.
Members were provided with the proposed Forward Work Programme of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee which included:
27 February 2014
17 April 2014
29 May 2014
10 July 2014
Councillor Richmond thanked Councillor Kybird for the above information and said that he would pass this information onto the Basic Participation Group.
Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item) (Agenda item 10)
To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.
Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item) (Agenda item 11)
To consider any references.
(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.
A copy of the Key Decision Plan is attached for Members’ information.
The Chairman felt that as the next meeting contained quite a few agenda items it would be useful for Members questions to be tabled in advance of the meeting particularly in relation to planning.
Looking at the Work Programme, the Executive Member for Community and Environmental Services asked for the Safer Neighbourhood Teams to be labelled Operational Partnership Team.
The Vice-Chairman mentioned two recommendations from the Peer Review and the evaluation of Charter Plus status in relation to timings of meetings and he asked if this matter could be scrutinised as better meeting times could attract younger Members and members of the public.
The Chairman noted the suggestion.
Next Meeting (Agenda item 13)
To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 20 March 2014.
The arrangements for the next meeting on 20 March 2014 were noted.