Agenda and minutes

Venue: Norfolk Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham

No. Item




As this was the last meeting of the Commission before the local elections on 3rd May, the Chairman wished to record his thanks to all members of the Commission for their support and hard work over the years in helping to create a very harmonious and constructive group with whom he had enjoyed working.  He paid tribute to Mr Cowen for his support as Vice-Chairman of the Commission and special thanks were given to Mr Carrick and the Earl Cathcart who would not be standing for re-election.


The Chairman also recorded his thanks to all the officers for the support given to the work of the Commission; particular thanks were extended to Mark Broughton, Scrutiny Officer, Stephen McGrath, Principal Committee Officer and Elaine Wilkes, Senior Committee Officer.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 116 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 15th March 2007.


The minutes of the meeting held on 15th March 2007 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.




To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received from Messrs S.G. Bambridge, C. Holland and the Earl Cathcart.



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 were no items of urgent business.



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 personal or prejudicial interest.


The following personal interests were declared:


  • Mr P.J. Cowen – Items 8a) & b): in relation to planning matters as Architect in practice
  • Mr R.G. Kybird – Items 8a) & b): in relation to planning matters as Builder
  • Mr A.P. Joel – Minute 38/07 and any matters dealing with the environmental services contract as a business trader with Serco
  • Mr J.R. Gretton – Item 12, as Chairman of Norfolk Joint Museums Committee
  • Mr M. Broughton – Item 7, as Unison Representative



Non-Members wishing to address the meeting

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


None present.



Internal Audit Terms of Reference, Code of Ethics, Audit Strategy, Strategic and Annual Audit Plans (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 134 KB

Additional documents:


The report was presented by the Audit Manager, who explained that the purpose of the report was to demonstrate the steps taken to achieve full compliance with the relevant Accounts and Audit Regulations and CIPFA Code of Practice, as well as the clear linkage between the Terms of Reference and Internal Audit Strategy and the Strategic and Annual Audit Plans.


The Terms of Reference for Internal Audit had been substantially enhanced but recognised there was more work to be done.


The Code of Ethics was a new element of the Internal Audit and essentially, it established the minimum standards of performance and conduct of the service.


The Internal Audit Strategy explained the method and stages involved in the audit planning process, the information from which was used in the formation of the five-year Strategic Audit Plan and the Annual Audit Plan.


The existing audit contract was due to end in September 2007 and the work from the existing audit plan required to be completed by then had been identified.  The annual audit plan contained in Appendix 6 of the report would form the work plan for the first six months’ of the new contract from September 2007.


The following replies to members’ questions were noted:


  • An audit of Planning and Development Control Section 106 Payments would be carried out as a discrete piece of work at the request of the Section 151 Officers and was included in the Strategic Audit Plan.

  • In relation to the Annual Audit Plan, the Strategic Plan determined risk areas and was kept under ongoing review.  It did not diminish over time as there was a duty to look at a specific number of areas each year.

  • The Annual Audit Plan for 2007-08 was larger than normal due to the number of items of Strategic Alliance work coming on stream and requested for audit by the Section 151 Officer.

  • The Chief Accountant saw no need for additional gateway review work.  Adjustments to the Strategic and Annual Plans could be made as necessary to take account of any service changes requiring work to be brought forward or put back according to levels of identified risk.


         RESOLVED that the following documents be approved:

§         Internal Audit Terms of Reference,

§         Internal Audit Code of Ethics

§         Internal Audit Strategy 2007-08

§         Strategic Audit Plan 2007/08 – 2011/12

§         Annual Audit Plan 2007-08.




New Breckland Pay Scheme and Car Lease Scheme - Call-in of Cabinet Decisions (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 60 KB

By letter dated 19th March 2007, Councillors Michael Fanthorpe, Linda Goreham and Robin Goreham have submitted the following request for call-in of the decisions of the Cabinet meeting held on 13th March 2007 relating to:


  1. The decision to implement a comprehensive performance and reward scheme for Breckland staff
  2. The proposed changes to Car Lease Scheme arrangements for employees


The request states as follows:


“We, the under signed, request that the two decisions – taken at the above meeting – be “called in” to the next appropriate meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission prior to implementation or further action.


Our reasons are as follows:


  1. We understand that the decisions were taken before any formal consultation had been entered into with UNISON and/or staff representatives.
  2. We strongly disapprove of the process adopted in bringing both items to Cabinet.  They were entered as items of “urgent business” at Cabinet prior to being heard or debated at either the Joint Consultative Committee or the General Purposes Committee.
  3. We feel that decisions which affect the Breckland workforce, in such a fundamental way, should not be rushed through as “urgent business” and should not be short circuited through the Council system.”


The relevant decisions are given in the attached extract from the unconfirmed minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 13th March 2007.


The Vice-Chairman, Mr Cowen, took the Chair for this item to enable Mr Goreham to speak on it as a signatory to the call-in.


Mr Goreham explained that the call-in had been requested because of concerns over the fact that the items had been submitted as urgent business at the Cabinet meeting on 13th March, prior to being considered by General Purposes Committee on 28th March.  The matter was then considered at full Council the following day in the light of a verbal reference from the previous day’s General Purposes Committee.  The Commission was asked to consider the issue that where there was any policy decision which fundamentally impacted on the workforce, it should not be dealt with under urgent business procedures but rather should be on the basis of written reports to ensure members’ had time to give the matter due consideration and to ask questions.  He felt undue haste had been employed in the matter.


A member made the point that the matter had not been dealt with as urgent business at the General Purposes Committee but had been fully reported to that meeting and he felt that it was central to the Commission’s discussions to have a copy of that report circulated to members.  (The following copy documents were accordingly provided for members’ information – Updated pay scheme report to the General Purposes Committee held on 28 March 2007 and original exempt report on the new pay scheme as submitted to General Purposes Committee on 18 October 2006 with associated minute.)


The Organisational Development Manager was asked to remind members of the background to the proposals for the introduction of the new Breckland Reward and Remuneration Scheme.  The two drivers in the matter were: a) the Government’s 2005 Local Government Pay and Workforce Strategy whereby all local authorities were required to look at the strategic priorities covering organisational development, leadership, skills, recruitment and retention and pay and rewards; and b) this Council’s Strategic Alliance work and the need for a sustainable and motivational scheme to take account of existing and potential future partnership working.  The foundation of the scheme was not restricted to rewards only but was as much concerned with skills and competencies.


Development towards a new scheme had taken place over the last two years, involving a number of meetings and several versions of the scheme had evolved.  The latest proposal was version 3.  All versions, however, remained in line with the Government’s principles outlined above.  A Pay and Workforce Strategy had been incorporated into the Council’s own Organisational Strategy in early 2006. 


Research into the pay scheme had been carried out by an independent consultant.


Cabinet had agreed to consult on the scheme at the end of October 2006.


The HR Service Manager then explained that following this, an interim transitional consultation period had begun.  He had commenced work with the Council in February 2007 by which time there was a need to move into a more formal negotiating stage.  There was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.



Policy Development and Review Panels (Agenda Item 8)

To receive reports from Panel Chairmen in respect of the following meetings:


Panels 1 & 3 Joint Meeting - 5 March 2007 pdf icon PDF 157 KB


The Chairman of Panel 1 presented the minutes of the joint meeting.


The discussions had highlighted shortages in the provision of two- and three-bedroom houses and had provided an insight into the issues of affordability and the difficulties for people trying to break into the shared equity housing market.


However, it was felt there would be a dilemma for the Council over the next few years to ensure a sufficient supply of houses to sustain the rural villages.


With regard to minute 21/07(d) – Affordable Housing Thresholds Site Viability Study – Mr Kybird made the point that the minute made no reference to a proposal that small brownfield sites in towns should be excluded from the proposed blanket threshold as it would give no incentive margin to developers and such sites would not be developed. 


         RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the joint meeting of Policy Development and Review Panels 1 and 3 held on 6 March 2007 be adopted, subject to the reference back of the point made above in relation to minute 21/07(d).


Panel 1 - 13 March 2007


(i)      Local Development Framework – Health Infrastructure (Minute 26/07)


The Chairman of the Panel highlighted the need for PCT representation on the Moving Thetford Forward Group.  It was suggested that the Health Improvement Officer might suitably act as liaison for the PCT.


The Chairman also highlighted an idea for ‘roving GPs’ to address the gap in distance having to be travelled to surgeries in the rural areas.


(ii)     East of England Development Agency (EEDA) (Minute 27/07)


The Chairman of the Panel highlighted the following four areas that it was felt the Council should focus on:


§         The Council should appoint a member as the Design Champion for the Breckland area.

§         The Council should engage the services offered by Inspire East to assist with Moving Thetford Forward.

§         The growth of employment alongside the A11, particularly as far as Snetterton was concerned, was very important for Breckland.  Inspire East could provide necessary support in this.

§         Agents working on individual projects should be informed of what Inspire East could offer.


(iii)    Local Development Framework – Development Choices Consultation March 2007 (Minute 28/07)


The Chairman of the Panel urged everyone to respond to the consultation document. 


He commented that he was concerned that there was neither specific reference in the document to the Thetford Growth Point Status, nor to the REV Project/Thetford Growth Point Status as a combined issue.  He felt that policies were being driven by outside agencies rather than by Breckland’s needs, which he considered was selling the district short.


Another member reported that similar concerns had been raised with him and that he felt the document was lightweight and with no parameters given to explain the background to the various issues.


The Chairman of the Panel concluded by saying that he felt the consultation document to be very poor.  Good work was being done by the Panel but he felt this was not being reflected in the resulting documents being produced.


(iv)    Adoption


         RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 1 held on 13 March 2007 be adopted.



Panel 2 - 19 March 2007


(i)      Members’ Job Descriptions (Minute 14/07)


RECOMMEND to Cabinet to recommend to Full Council that the new job descriptions (as previously published in the agenda of the Panel 2 meeting held on 19 March 2007) be adopted, subject to the following amendments:


(1)   the various references within the document that Members should “promote the Council” be amended to “represent and acts as an ambassador for the Council and behave responsibly”;

(2)   with regard to the use of IT, this be amended to “use best endeavours to communicate with officers and others through IT (where possible)”;

(3)   in respect of Members’ constituency roles, amend fifth bullet-point in paragraph 1 to read “be involved in representation of cross-boundary agencies, as appointed by the Council, and referring back relevant issues (e.g. via the information bulletin and/or the Executive Board)”;

(4)   in Section C (As a Member of Full Council), amend paragraph 4 to read “take any decisions (if necessary) that represent a departure from the agreed policies and budget”;

(5)   some typographical and grammatical corrections.


(ii)     Adoption


                  RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 2 held on 19 March 2007 be adopted.



Panel 3 - 20 March 2007


(i)      Housing Allocations Policy (Minute 21/07)


RECOMMEND to Cabinet that the interim Breckland Housing Allocations Policy (as previously published in the agenda for the Panel 3 meeting held on 20 March 2007) be approved.


(ii)     Adoption


               RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development Panel 3 held on 20 March 2007 be adopted.



Work Programme (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Officer reported one adjustment to the work programme which was to put back the Dog Warden Service review to 24 May 2007.


A member suggested that, bearing in mind the volume and diversity of the issues that had been considered to date, it would be helpful for members to have a composite document of all the LDF items considered by Panel 1.  The Scrutiny Officer undertook to look at this with the relevant Committee Officer.



BVPI General Survey Report 2006-7 (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Report of the Operations Manager (People First)


The Marketing and Communications Manager presented the findings from the 2006-07 BVPI General Survey, which was a statutory requirement undertaken every three years.


Responses generally overall had improved on those from the last survey, although the Planning BVPI No. 111 showed a continuing downward trend.  While this did not give too much cause for concern at present because the survey still indicated a high level of overall satisfaction with the service, it was something that needed to be monitored.  A member suggested this might be an issue for one of the Panels to review with the planning officers to see where they thought the satisfaction levels had gone.


         RESOLVED that the report be noted.



Local Government White Paper Forward Plan (Agenda Item 11) pdf icon PDF 198 KB

Additional documents:


The Senior Policy Officer presented the report and it was noted that lead officers and projects would change over time.


Members commented on the need for more activity and interest at the parish council level.  In this connection, there was concern at the numbers of uncontested seats noted for the forthcoming local elections.  This was very relevant to the Government’s aim to devolve power to the local level.


         RECOMMEND to the Cabinet that the White Paper Forward Plan be approved.



Review of Council Appointments to Outside Bodies (Agenda Item 12) pdf icon PDF 51 KB

Report of the Member Task and Finish Group.

Additional documents:


The task and finish group’s findings were presented by Mr Carrick.


The conclusions from the review were:


  • A recognition of the continuing valuable role of District Council representatives on outside bodies and general support for retaining representatives on all but one of the bodies which presently had District Council representation.

  • The review had enabled a comprehensive data cleansing exercise to be undertaken and it was recognised that without regular review, the names, addresses and contact information pertaining to outside bodies was likely to deteriorate over time.

  • There was very limited feedback via the established media of the Members Information Bulletin and it was considered that alternative approaches could be employed to improve feedback within the Council as a whole.


A member felt it would be helpful on the issue of feedback if the Council’s website provided links to the minutes of the various joint committees of which Breckland was a member, e.g. the Area Museums Committee.


The Commission supported the findings of the task and finish group and accordingly


         RECOMMEND to Cabinet to recommend to full Council


(1)   to retain District Council representation on all existing outside bodies, with the exception of the Swaffham & District St Raphael Club,

(2)   to proactively consider requesting representation on other bodies that the Council is presently not represented on but which would help broaden and cement community ties.

(3)   to ensure that when annual selection of representatives to serve on outside bodies is undertaken that due consideration is given to appointing suitably qualified, experienced and knowledgeable members;

(4)   to encourage outside body representatives to feed back information on their activities to the rest of the Council by the most appropriate method(s) possible, whether this be via the Members Information Bulletin, scrutiny panels or other appropriate routes;

(5)   notwithstanding (4) above, that all outside body representatives produce a brief account of their activities (unless they are not the Chairman or lead member on the outside body in question) in an annual report to the last Full Council meeting in the municipal year, commencing in 2007/08.



Next Meeting (Agenda Item 13)

To note the date of the next meeting to be held on Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 2.15pm in the Anglia Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham.


The date of the next meeting was noted as 24th May 2007.