Agenda and minutes

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

Items
No. Item

54.

Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 111 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 18 March 2008.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 18 March 2008 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

55.

Apologies (Agenda item 2)

To receive apologies for absence. 

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

56.

Urgent Business (Agenda item 3)

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.

Minutes:

The Chairman agreed to take an item relating to the EcoTech Centre, Swaffham as urgent business as a decision needed to be made as quickly as possible.  As this issue contained exempt information it was discussed following exclusion of press and public.

57.

Declaration of Interest (Agenda item 4)

Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests 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.

Minutes:

Mr P Duigan declared a personal interest in Agenda item 12 as he was a Member of Dereham Town Council.

58.

Non-Members Wishing to Address the Meeting (Agenda item 5)

To note the names of any non-members who wish to address the meeting.

Minutes:

Messrs P. Cowen, P. Duigan, R. Goreham and Mrs T Hewett.

59.

Final Annual Audit and Inspection Letter (Agenda item 7) pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Presented by Susan Jewkes (Audit Commission).

Minutes:

Susan Jewkes from the Audit Commission attended the meeting to present the Annual Audit and Inspection Letter 2006/07.  The report drew on the findings and conclusions from the audit of the council and from any inspections that had been undertaken in the last year.  The letter included the Commission’s review on how well the Council had progressed and the auditor’s assessment of how well the Council had managed its finances.

 

The main messages for the Council were as follows:

 

·        Breckland Council’s priority services had continued to improve. The Council was reducing homelessness, delivering more affordable houses and improving the amount of waste recycled. The percentage of performance indicators improving was high when compared with others and overall performance was good. The Council had a clear understanding of the needs of its communities, and was beginning to consider how to strengthen its community leadership for the local area. Work with partners had contributed to lower crime levels, and the development of health initiatives. 

 

·        Capacity had improved and stabilised. Performance management continued to be effective at improving targeted service improvements. The Council was continuing to work on its strategic plans for the future and was developing, in tandem, the Local Development Framework and the Sustainable Communities Strategy. The Council had made some progress in addressing equalities and diversity issues. It was delivering adequate value for money and had made good progress in delivering its efficiency plan.

 

·        An unqualified audit opinion on the 2006/07 statement of accounts and certified the completion of the audit had been issued.

 

·        It was concluded that, in all significant respects, the Council had made proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources for the year ending 31 March 2007, except for the failure to put in place arrangements to manage its significant business risks and arrangements for the management of its asset base.

 

·        The Council's overall corporate governance arrangements were satisfactory but further work was necessary to develop risk management arrangements.

 

·        The Council had been assessed as performing at level 2 in the 'use of resources' judgement which represented an adequate level of performance. 

 

·        Overall data quality arrangements were satisfactory but further work was necessary to fully embed these arrangements across the Council.

 

The action needed by the Council was as follows:

 

  • to continue to strengthen its strategic community leadership role;

 

  • to address the issues necessary to further improve the Council’s use of resources assessment; and

 

  • to monitor the progress on the implementation of agreed recommendations in the Auditors’ data quality report.

 

Breckland Officers were thanked for their assistance and co-operation throughout the audit inspection.

 

The Executive Member for the Cabinet Office stated that improvements had been made, particularly with regard to Risk Management and he thanked Mel Buttery, the Council’s Technical Accountancy Officer for her all her work on the matter.

 

With regard to environmental issues, the Executive Member for Environment pointed out that the Council still delivered top line services for little council tax.  The cost of waste collection in Breckland  ...  view the full minutes text for item 59.

60.

Comprehensive Equality Policy 2008 - 2010 (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Cabinet Office.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for the Cabinet Office presented the report which sought approval of the revised Comprehensive Equality Policy 2008-2010 and associated Action Plan.

 

Originally adopted in 2005, the Comprehensive Equality Policy and Action Plan was a requirement of the Equality Standard for Local Government which had been established in 2001 and revised in 2006 to improve outcomes in employment and service delivery.

 

The Democratic Services Manager pointed out that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission at its meeting held on 17 April 2008 had supported its adoption.

 

The options available to Members were:

 

1)           To approve the revised Policy and Action Plan to achieve Level 3 of the Equality Standard for Local Government by March 2010.

 

2)           To approve the revised Policy and Action Plan, subject to amendments.

 

3)           Not to approve the revised Policy and Action Plan.  This would put at risk the Council’s vision to deliver equal opportunity within its employment practices and service delivery.  Having a negative impact in meeting its priorities might mean that the Council would not be able to meet its aim of achieving Level 3 of the Standard by 2010 and might not be able to meet its statutory requirements under equalities legislation.

 

The reason for the report was to comply with the Equality Standard for Local Government.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the revised Comprehensive Equality Policy and Action Plan 2008-2010 be adopted.<1>

61.

Race Equality Scheme 2008 - 2010 (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Cabinet Office.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for the Cabinet Office explained that this report was very similar to the previous one (Minute No. 60/08 refers).

 

The Race Equality Scheme and its Action Plan was a statutory requirement of the Race Relations Act 2000.  This scheme had to be reviewed every three years.

 

The options available to Members were:

 

1)           To approve the revised Race Equality Scheme and Action Plan to meet the Council’s statutory obligations within the Race Relations Act 2001.

 

2)           To approve the revised Policy and Action Plan, subject to amendments.

 

3)           Not to approve the revised Policy and Action Plan (this would cause the Council to fail to meet the statutory obligation of the Race Relations Act 2001).

 

The reason for the recommendation was to comply with the statutory requirement of the Race Relations Act 2000 (amended) section 71 (1, 2 and 3) to ensure that the Council in its service provision and employment practices meets the:

 

i)              General Duty to give appropriate weight to eliminate unlawful discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and good race relations with Black and Minority Ethnic people and their communities when carrying out all its functions and implementing policies; and

 

ii)            Specific Duty to show that Breckland Council through its Race Equality Scheme has proper arrangements in place for effective implementation of its policy and action plan to meet the requirements of the Act, that it’s kept up to date and relevant to its business.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the revised Race Equality Scheme and Action Plan 2008-2010 be adopted and published.

62.

Environment Strategy for Breckland (Agenda item 10) pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Environment.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Environment explained that the Council had undertaken an extensive consultation process, engaging with key partners to review and develop the Strategy and formulate a Year One Action Plan.

 

The Environment Strategy would be a working document and would be updated regularly to take account of continuing public consultation and review.

 

The options available to Members were:

 

1)           To approve the Environmental Strategy and Year One Action Plan.

 

2)           To reject all or part of the Environmental Strategy and Year One Action Plan.

 

The reasons for the recommendations were as follows:

 

1)           The Strategy meets the Council’s priorities and demonstrates leadership on tackling climate change.

 

2)           An integrated environmental strategy, working together with the Council’s key partners would improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in Breckland district both now and in the future.

 

3)           The strategy supports the Council’s commitment to the Nottingham Declaration and acknowledges the increasing impact climate change would have on its community.

 

The Democratic Services Manager drew Members’ attention to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission’s recommendation which was to approve the Environmental Strategy 2008-2013 for Breckland Council and the delivery of the Year One Action Plan, subject to quarterly reviews and to continued monitoring of feedback through the Environment Strategy Working Group established by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the Environmental Strategy 2008-2013 for Breckland Council and the delivery of the Year One Action Plan be approved, subject to quarterly reviews and the continued monitoring of feedback through the Environment Strategy Working Group established by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission.

 

 

63.

Match Funding Application - Castle Park Play Area (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Community and Cultural Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Director for Services sought Cabinet approval for a Match Funding application made by Thetford Town Council for the sum of £15,000 towards the provision of a new play facility on Castle Park in Thetford. 

 

Castle Park was currently in the ownership of the District Council; however, it was proposed that it and other play areas in Thetford would be transferred to the Town Council.  The Strategic Director explained that the Council would only consider match funding this project if the Town Council confirmed that it would take ownership of Castle Park and the other play areas within the town.

 

The options available to Members were:

 

1)           To award £15,000 to the project.

 

2)           To award a lesser amount.

 

3)           Not to award a Match Funding Grant.

 

The reasons for the recommendation were as follows:

 

1)           It would enable the project to proceed with the outlined benefits for young people.

 

2)           It would enable the current asset to be revived to meet current expectations of play equipment.

 

3)           It would demonstrate outcomes in terms of local ownership of play facilities.

 

4)           It would facilitate the transfer of other play areas to the Town Council.

 

RESOLVED that the grant of £15,000 be approved, subject to written confirmation from Thetford Town Council that it will take ownership of the play area and the surrounding open space, and subject to:

 

1)           a maximum £15,000 or 13% whichever is the lower;

2)           other funding being confirmed; and

3)           funding to be allocated from the 2007/08 Match Funding Reserve.

64.

Transfer of Play Areas (Agenda item 12) pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Report of the Executive Member for Community and Cultural Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Director for Services presented the report which concerned the outcome of negotiations with the five Town Councils in Breckland with regard to the transfer of play areas.  The report requested authorisation to make a single capital payment in lieu of an annual sum paid over 30 years on the basis that the financial effect would be cost neutral.

 

The Opposition Leader was supportive of the recommendation but asked for assurance from the Cabinet that the current play equipment would be checked and brought up to reasonable standard before being transferred.  In response, the Strategic Director for Services confirmed that all play areas would be inspected by The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) and that there was a procedure in place.

 

The Opposition Leader asked how the funding had been determined.

 

The Chief Executive explained that the funding had been pre-determined for a period, over which time the sum of money would reduce and end up at zero.  Having a lump sum ‘up front’ gave the Town Councils a little more financial freedom.

 

The options available to Members were:

 

1)           To accept the request for a capital sum instead of revenue.

 

2)           To reject the request for capital.

 

The reason for the recommendation was that the capital offer had been calculated to be cost neutral to Breckland Council and was therefore considered to be the optimal means of moving this matter forward.

 

RESOLVED that

 

1)           a capital payment of £175,000 to Thetford Town Council and a payment of £121,700 to Dereham Town Council in lieu of the proposed 30 year payment originally envisaged be approved;

 

2)           a similar pro rata capital sum be made available to the other Town Councils, if requested, provided that the financial effect to Breckland is cost neutral; and

 

3)           the Council continues to provide maintenance in accordance with the Serco contract until 2015.

65.

Project Underspends for Carry-forward into 2008/09 (Agenda item 13) pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Cabinet Office.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Accountant presented the report which concerned the underspends on projects and the recommendation for this funding to be carried forward into 2008/09.

 

The specific projects had been highlighted in Appendix A of the report.

 

The Chief Accountant assured Members that there were valid reasons why projects had slipped over financial years and that they were being addressed.

 

The options available were:

 

1)           Not to carry forward the project underspends and remain within the final underspend to budget for 2007/08.

 

2)           To carry forward the underspends to enable spend in the relevant service areas in accordance with the probable budget set in autumn 2007.

 

The reasons for the recommendations were:

 

1)           There were valid reasons why projects slipped over financial years and by agreeing to the recommendation the expenditure plans could be continued as planned in the autumn 2007 budget setting process.

 

2)           Service Team Plans were dependent on resource being available in the relevant service areas.  By agreeing the recommendation the resources would be safeguarded to enable performance on the plan to be effective.  The Service Team Plans being set for 2008/09 would take into account any underspend in project delivery and targets would be restated where relevant; having the funds to support these changes was vital.

 

RESOLVED that the underspends for 2007/08, as listed in Appendix A of the report (subject to year end adjustments), be carried forward through the use of reserves thereby making the funds available to the relevant Service Managers to spend in 2008/09.

66.

Breckland Quality of Life and Young Persons Quality of Life Survey (Agenda item 14) pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Cabinet Office.

Minutes:

The purpose of this report was to secure the Cabinet’s support for a Breckland Quality of Life Survey and Young Persons Quality of Life Survey.  This would help the Council implement the Sustainable Community Strategy and develop a coherent and effective youth agenda.

 

The options available to Members were to approve or not to approve the Breckland Quality of Life Survey and the Young Persons Quality of Life Survey.

 

The reason for the recommendation was that the Council had a duty under the Local Government Act 2000 to prepare a Sustainable Community Strategy to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of its area and to contribute to sustainable development.  Accurate and specific data would be needed to aid this delivery.

 

RESOLVED that the proposal to carry out a Breckland Quality of Life and Young Persons Quality of Life Survey by the Breckland Partnership be supported.

67.

Review of Political Management Arrangements (Agenda item 15) pdf icon PDF 130 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Cabinet Office.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Deputy Chief Executive presented the report.

 

It was noted that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission had supported the proposals subject to the recommendation in paragraph 2.3 (a) of the report being amended to include provision for consultation with Ward Members on ward-specific matters and the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (on a suggested weekly-list basis or such other method as might be practicable) in the new report clearance process set out in Appendix 1 of the report.

 

The report responded to the recent Peer Review and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 by making proposals to streamline Executive decision making, develop the role of Overview and Scrutiny and empower Members to act as community champions.

 

The Peer Review Team had recommended that the Council should:

 

  • Speed up decision making whilst maintaining public accountability
  • Review the effectiveness of the overview and scrutiny function
  • Establish an Audit Committee

 

The Executive Member for the Cabinet Office explained that the Deputy Chief Executive would be reviewing committee remits and would be looking to change the Policy Development and Review Panels into working groups to make the process more flexible.

 

The existing decision making process had been highlighted on the right hand side of Appendix 1 of the report.  Following this review, and if approval was given, the process would involve the relevant Director and Portfolio Holder approving a report for inclusion on the Cabinet agenda without it being first referred to the Corporate Management Team, Scrutiny or the Executive Board.  Reports that would be considered to be potentially complex or sensitive by a Director would follow the current more formal process.

 

The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission highlighted paragraph 3.2.11 of the report, the proposals for the development of overview and scrutiny.  He felt that it was absolutely right that scrutiny engaged with outside bodies, focused on issues that matter to local people, and engaged more Executive Members in the scrutiny process.  The Opposition Leader agreed with most of the aforementioned points and supported any sensible measures that were suggested.  However, he raised concerns with regard to any change that had the effect that the vast majority of Members would be unaware of most decisions that were made.  The Deputy Chief Executive reminded the Opposition Leader that all decisions would still have to be published and could still be called in.

 

The options listed under Risk and Financial Implications were also highlighted particularly the option at 4.1.2 of the report: “unless we address the functionality of Scrutiny, the Council risked the possibility of gaining a poor CAA rating”.  The Opposition Leader said that he would be voting against this option as he felt that it would not affect the CAA rating.

 

Another matter that was discussed was the role of “Scrutiny Champion”.  The Leader advised that the Deputy Chief Executive would take the role of Officer Champion.  He would be charged with raising awareness of officers generally about the role of Overview and Scrutiny and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 67.

68.

Appointments to Outside Bodies 2008/09 (Agenda item 16) pdf icon PDF 67 KB

To recommend the Council’s annual appointments to outside bodies for the year 2008/09.

 

Current representation is as shown on the attached schedule (Appendix A).

 

As agreed by the Council in April 2007, following a review by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, due consideration should be given to appointing suitability qualified, experienced and knowledgeable Members; and representatives should be encouraged to report back to the Council on their activities by the most appropriate means.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cabinet was requested to recommend to Council the appointment of representatives on Outside Bodies for 2008/09.

 

The Leader proposed option 1 of the report.

 

The options available to Members were:

 

1)           To reappoint en bloc with new appointments where necessary.

 

2)           To make some new appointments.

 

3)           To make all new appointments.

 

The reason for the recommendation was to ensure that the most suitable representative was appointed to serve on the relevant Outside Body.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that representatives be re-appointed en-bloc, with new appointments made where necessary, to serve on the list of Outside Bodies for 2008/09.

69.

Reference from the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (Agenda item 17)

To consider references, if any, from the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 17 April 2008.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

These items had been discussed under Minute Nos. 60/08, 61/08, 62/08 and 67/08 above.

70.

Next Meeting (Agenda item 18)

To note that the next meeting of Cabinet will be held on Tuesday, 10 June 2008 at 9.30 am. 

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Cabinet would be held on Tuesday, 10 June 2008 at 9.30am.

71.

Exclusion of Press and Public (additional urgent item - see Minute No. 56/08 above)

Minutes:

RESOLVED that under Section 100(A) 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 likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 5 of Schedule 12A to the Act.

72.

EcoTech Centre Swaffham (Urgent Business) (Additional Item)

Minutes:

The Head of Legal Services provided Members with a brief explanation on why this matter had been brought to Cabinet, which related to compliance with the user clause in the terms of the lease.

 

Following his verbal report he added that the Council wished to try and resolve the matter within the next month by negotiation.  The advantage of this approach was that even if negotiations failed the fact that the Council had used its utmost endeavours to resolve this without taking legal action in good faith would be to the Council’s advantage.  Members agreed with this approach.

 

The options available were as follows:

 

1)           To terminate the lease.

2)           To arbitrate.

3)           To take no further action.

 

The reason for the recommendation was that it was not considered acceptable that the lessee should be in breach of the terms of lease.  Therefore, peaceable re-entry was considered to be appropriate.  However, prior to peaceably re-entering the property, it was considered appropriate that the Council should fully explore every potential avenue of negotiation.

 

RESOLVED

 

1)           to approve a negotiating period of two weeks for the satisfactory resolution of the reported non-compliance with the terms of the lease;

 

2)           if no acceptable progress towards satisfactory resolution within this period is made the lease be forfeited by peaceable re-entry;

 

3)           the interpretation of “acceptable progress” be delegated to the Leader in consultation with the Portfolio Holder.