Agenda item

Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 6)

Councillor Lynda Turner, Executive Member for Localism, Community and Environmental 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.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Turner, Executive Member for Localism, Community and Environmental Services presented an update on her Portfolio.  She was accompanied by her Executive Support Member, Councillor Robinson and Officers Steve James and Glen Chapman.

 

Environmental Services

The SERCO contract had been extended to 2021 and negotiations continued to maximise best value for the residents of Breckland.  The procurement process for a new Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) was in the final stages and the new contract would allow for more materials to be recycled.  The total saving for the financial year 2012/13 was £355,233 which included £229,613 in recycling income.

 

The current programme for grass cutting allowed for regular two to three weekly cutting with larger sites such as Castle Park in Thetford being cut every seven to ten days.  There was also an annual grass flail on selected sites such as Neatherd Moor, Dereham to manage biodiversity.  There had been recent publicity about conservation groups asking Councils to leave grass longer to allow for greater biodiversity, but that also led to an accumulation of litter and foul matter making grass cutting harder to manage.

 

In February work with other agencies including Flagship, had started on the Abbey Estate in Thetford to address the fly tipping problem there.  Since then the tonnage of fly tipped materials collected by SERCO was down by one third.  Offenders were being written to by Flagship reminding them of their tenancy terms and conditions.

 

Enforcement action was taken where necessary, taking into account the cost, time and likelihood of success of a prosecution.  The latest success was a fine of almost £5,000 for the dumping of waste on Forestry Commission land by a resident of Swaffham.  The Forestry Commission had written with their grateful thanks for the Councils support in prosecuting the offender.

 

Since the introduction of the Chargeable Bin Policy in 2012 income of £8494 for 2012/13 and £3038 for the current financial year, had been collected from developers and individual residents.

 

The Service review was almost complete and savings of £355,233 had been made in 2012/13 with projected savings of £394,000 forecast for 2013/14.

 

The Vice-Chairman said that there were lots of examples of grass being cut with rubbish in it which was very frustrating because the rubbish then got strewn about.  He also noted that an elderly resident in his ward was paying a neighbour to take his bin to the collection point, having been told by the Council that he would be charged for that service. 

 

The Executive Member advised the Vice-Chairman to ring the Council on behalf of his resident because incorrect information had been given and no charge should be made.

 

Councillor Bambridge asked for grass cutting to be timed to suit village festivals and was advised that successful negotiations with SERCO meant that would be done.

 

Councillor Joel asked where the MRF would be located and was told that the preferred bidder was local and the contract was due to start on 1 April 2014.

 

The Chairman was pleased to hear about the successful fines and asked where that money went.  It was confirmed that it came to the Council.

 

Councillor Canham noted that many Town and Parish Councils also undertook grass cutting and money could be saved by joining with them.  The Executive Member agreed to look into that for the future.

 

Communities

A copy of the new Community Services structure was tabled.  The Service restructure was complete and the team had been reduced to a Shared Manager and 7.5 Officers, three of whom were externally funded.  The review had taken into account the comments received from the Could We Should We consultation.  The service now acted more in an enabling role to the community with a greater expectation on groups to deliver their own activities.  However work would still continue in partnership with other agencies to deliver a full range of holiday, sporting and cultural opportunities to engage all ages and abilities.

 

The Executive Member was pleased to announce that Graham Parfitt would be moving from the Legal Team following their restructure and joining the Community Safety and Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) Team.  His expertise would ensure the team had immediate access to advice and action. 

 

The Operational Partnership Team (OPT) of Breckland and Police Officers working together was recognised as an example of good practice county wide.  ASB had reduced across the district by 26% to March 2012 and then by another 14% to date.

 

A full report on CCTV had been given to the previous meeting.  Work continued to identify inherited issues.  The new contract with KLWN would save £64,000 per year.

 

The Community Engagement team had run a range of activities in the last year.  The forthcoming summer programme included a cycle festival at Swaffham, running coaching by Olympic athlete Paul Evans leading up to the Annual Dereham 5k fun and the promotion of the Village Games at Watton.  The Park Runs in Thetford were attracting large numbers of people (500 the previous Saturday).  The Council also currently supported 21 Community Car Schemes.

 

The Commission had also received a Grants update at the last meeting so the Executive Member just advised that applications were being processed on the new on-line system.  It was proposed to hold a Pride in Breckland event in the spring of 2015.

 

The Big Switch and Save had seen 2,600 Breckland residents register and of those 71% had been offered a saving averaging £116.

 

Work was currently underway to gather information on the Council’s CO² emissions which would then be submitted to the Department of Energy & Climate Change.  The Asset Management Team were responsible for ensuring the building operated efficiently and previous work had been undertaken to amend behaviours by encouraging staff to switch off lights and computer monitors, etc.

 

The PFI Benchmarking process had commenced in April and the initial figure had been rejected by Breckland.  The Council was actively challenging aspects of the figure which it believed to be unreasonable or inaccurate.  If agreement had not been reached by 1 August 2013 the next phase would be to appoint a benchmark consultant.  Parkwood had also put forward a proposal to convert to a Non-Profit Distributing Organisation (NPDO).

 

The Youth Council had been suspended.  However, the Breckland Older People’s Forum continued to have regular events.  A new safeguarding Policy for the young and vulnerable was being written and the Executive Member was recommending to the Leader of the Council that a short presentation was given to Members at a full Council meeting to make them all aware of it.

 

The Emergency Planning Officer had been unable to attend due to a County exercise.  She had submitted a briefing which the Executive Member read.  A Business Continuity Project Group (BCPG) had been formed to provide a co-ordinated approach.  The Group consisted of Officers from Breckland and South Holland.  All Service areas had completed a Business Impact Analysis to identify the key activities of the authority, the impact of failing to perform those activities and the resources required to support the delivery of those activities.

 

The information was being collated and a report about critical activities would be presented to CMT by the end of June.  Following that, strategies would be developed to mitigate risk and to ensure that critical activities could continue in the event of a disruption.

 

Town and Parish Councils were being actively encouraged to develop Community Emergency Plans to enhance resilience at local level.  Those Plans should take local risks into consideration, such as flooding, fires, loss of utilities, etc.  Members were asked to add their encouragement as experience showed that those that had spent time planning and preparing for a disruption were better able to cope and recovered more quickly.  A resilience workshop had been held in March but only two District Councillors had attended.

 

The Communities service review had realised £80,000 savings and had projected savings for 2013/14 of £138.960.

 

In conclusion the Executive Member advised that her Portfolio had realised total savings of £435,233 for 2012/13 and projected savings of £532,960 for 2013/14 – almost a million pounds in just over two years.  She wished Stephanie Barnard and Teresa Cannon well for the future.  Both were leaving the Council in July and she thanked them and all the Officers in her Portfolio for their loyalty, support and breadth of knowledge.

 

Councillor Kybird commented that he had found it very difficult to progress the Business Continuity Task & Finish and thought that the report to CMT should have come to the Group first.

 

Councillor Bambridge was surprised that the BCPG was joint with South Holland.  He also asked how much a benchmarking consultant would cost.

 

The PFI Monitoring Officer advised that money had been put aside in the PFI reserve to cover that cost and a consultant would only be employed if no satisfactory figure could be reached.  It was important that the partnership agreed a figure ahead of consideration of the NPDO proposal.  The Benchmark Consultant would be a cost to the Council, but their job as an independent consultant would be to ensure that any additional costs incurred by the Council were reasonable.

 

The Chairman thought that the Council should be taking advice from the users of the leisure centres before choosing a benchmarking figure. 

 

The PFI Monitoring Officer explained that benchmarking took place every five years and income generated against the forecast was assessed.  This showed areas that the public did not use in the leisure centres.  Any loss was investigated to determine if it was due to the economy or to the management of the centres.  There was an opportunity in the contract to adjust levels of service and type of service if agreed by both parties.

 

The Chairman felt that the public should be consulted as part of the review of base cost and level of service.

 

Councillor Rogers was concerned that the Council might end up covering the costs if Parkwood did not put in sufficient effort and the PFI Monitoring Officer advised that part of the current process was to challenge Parkwood.   Rigorous monitoring took place and Parkwood could have deductions applied if they were not offering a good enough service.

 

Councillor Gilbert said he had not been in favour of PFI and he was concerned that the contract was not working for the benefit of residents.

 

Councillor Bambridge congratulated the Executive Member and the Council for continuing to offer community funding.  He said that even small grants could do a tremendous amount of good in communities.

 

The Vice-Chairman returned to the PFI issue and asked the Executive Member to look at the running of the Thetford Leisure Centre and to note the number of complaints made about its poor organisation. 

 

He was also sad about the demise of the Youth Council which had been a flagship achievement for Breckland.  He asked what future plans there were to take it forward.

 

With regard to the Leisure Centre the PFI Monitoring Officer agreed that Parkwood needed to be more club focussed.  They did a lot of good, but there were opportunities for them to maximise their performance.

 

The Executive Member responded to the Youth Council question by explaining that the first members had been older and dedicated, but had still needed a lot of Council support in terms of Officer time and money providing them with transport to meetings, etc.  The current Youth Councillors were a lot younger and although they had been enthusiastic, they were primarily interested in fundraising, which was not the sole purpose of the Youth Council.  Under the new structure the Council no longer had a dedicated Youth Officer, nor did it have the same resources.  She would be meeting with the Deputy Chief Executive to discuss future opportunities to support young people.

 

The Vice-Chairman was concerned that activities tended to be focussed on younger children leaving a gap for those aged 14 to 18, however Councillor Robinson said that the Breckland Youth Advisory Group which was funded by NCC provided a range of projects and summer activities targeted at areas with spikes in anti-social behaviour and aimed at supporting the 14 to 18 age groups.

 

The Vice-Chairman asked how many people had taken up the Switch and Save offer and the Executive Member said she would find out and provide him with the figures.  He was also concerned that Thetford CCTV cameras were still not working.  No up-to-date information was available but the Executive Member assured him that most of the cameras in his ward were working.  The new system was a reduction of the old, saving on resources and money.  Previously there had been a 24/7 monitored service.  Now the system was based on hot spots and only monitored for 12 hours a day, although 24 hour recording still took place and the police could and did review the tapes.  The remit for KLWN was to work with the Town Councils to see where cameras were most needed.  It was an on-going process.

 

Councillor Joel asked if the community grant application forms were on the website and was advised that they were ready and just awaiting a trial run before going live.

 

The Chairman returned to the PFI issue and suggested that an Action Plan was required if one had not already been produced.  He also suggested that the Council should contact the clubs and members of the leisure centres and formally talk to the Town and Parish Councils to gather feedback.

 

Councillor Bambridge then asked about the Dereham Memorial Hall which the Council had supported with considerable refurbishment contributions.  He had raised concerns with the Town Council about problems and complaints from his villagers but had not received adequate responses. 

 

The Executive Member was glad that he had raised the matter.  The Council had given almost a quarter of a million pounds towards the refurbishment of the Hall and its facilities and it should be in regular use.  She asked the Commission to look into the matter as a formal agenda item.

 

Councillor Richmond thanked the Executive Member and her team for the work they were doing with the police.  He had attended CAG meetings and said the diary system worked well.

 

The Chairman thanked the Executive Member and her team for their update.