Agenda and minutes

Venue: The Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 179 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 10 March 2022.


The minutes of the meeting held on 10 March 2022 were agreed as a correct record.


Apologies and Substitutes

To receive apologies for absence and to note substitute Members in attendance.


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Bushell, Jermy and Wickerson. Councillors Atterwill, Clarke and Hambidge were in attendance as substitutes.


Chairman's Announcements (if any)




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.




Declaration of Interests

The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011.  Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.





Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting

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




AI Project Update

To receive a presentation on progress of the Chatbot and the next phase of development.



Councillor Birt raised a point of order. When asked under which aspect of the council's constitution he wished to raise his point of order Councillor Birt cited Section 100b of the Local Government Act 1972. He stated that at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting on 9 September 2021 he had raised some queries around the introduction of Chatbot regarding the security of personal data and had concerns over the full AI implementation saying that it would need to access huge amounts of personal data and asked how it could be to be protected. He pointed out that in the minutes of that meeting it stated that ‘it was agreed that it would be beneficial for this item to come back to the Scrutiny Commission in February or March 2022 in order that the Commission could look at the security of data to ensure it was managed correctly and assist in anticipating any future problems or issues.’ He asserted that section 100b had been breached as no report had been provided on this matter at least 5 working days prior to the committee meeting commencing.


The Chairman rejected the point of order, giving the following reasons. The agenda was a matter for the Chairman to set at the Chairman's discretion. The Chairman had not required such a report be provided by the team as part of this agenda item and as such no requirement under the 5-day rule arose. He suggested that the presentation from the team under the item be heard by the Commission and if the Commission concluded that a report was required it could be requested by way of proposal. Where such a report formed part of a future agenda item it should be provided to the Commission in line with all relevant statutory requirements.


The Customer Experience Manager, Adele Newsome and the Digital Project Manager, Rosemary Hill, gave a presentation on the background of the project and what they hoped could be achieved in the future. The Customer Experience Manager explained that the vision within the Customer Access Strategy was to provide high quality and easy to use services designed with the customer in mind. That vision included access to digital channels providing convenience and choice and a digital customer service agent 24/7, developing on-line services so good that customers would choose to use that channel and therefore free up capacity for agents to support those with more complex needs. The Digital Project Manager explained the timeline so far from April 2021 to March 2022, and the Benefits for customers which included 24/7 access to the digital Customer Service Agent and live chat fallback available between 9am-5pm. Data analysis exceeded expectations with 80% of customers getting the right information and were happy with the support given.


The Digital Project Manager explained the way forward which would include adding personalisation of conversations and supporting the Annual Canvass Process which formed one of the busiest peaks after the Council Tax Billing period. The integration of Alexa was hoped to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35/22


Anglian Water pdf icon PDF 2 MB

The presentation will be provided by Grant Tuffs, the Regional Engagement Manager and Rose Shisler, Stakeholder Engagement Programme Lead for Anglian Water.


Anglian Water representatives, Regional Engagement Manager, Grant Tuffs and Stakeholder Engagement Programme Lead, Rose Shisler provided a detailed presentation to Members of the Commission.


It was explained that Anglian Water was the largest water and water recycling company in England by geographic area, serving almost seven million customers.  East Anglia was the driest region in the UK which was prone to the impacts of climate change including drought and flash floods and was one of the UK’s fastest-growing regions outside of South-eastern London.


The four key goals for 2020-2025, guided by the views and needs of stakeholders were:


·         To make life better for customers, every single day

·         To deliver 2020-2025 Final Determination

·         To deliver identified business priorities

·         To create a sustainable future for the region


Over the next five years Anglian Water would be investing over eight hundred million pounds as part of their Water Industry Natural Environment Programme.


It was committed to continue as environmental custodians and make river health a focus with the following points:


·         The statutory need to tackle storm overflows ensuring prioritisation through the price review process

·         A new, jointly owned national plan for rivers

·         An end to the automatic right to connect

·         A ban on wet wipes that did not meet fine to Flush standards

·         Collaborative action to restore rivers and natural habitats


Combined Storm Overflows (CSOs) were explained in more detail, how they worked and how monitors were being installed to ensure minimal impact on the environment.


Planned investments across Breckland included:


·         £9million – growth schemes in Swaffham, Thetford and Attleborough

·         £5million – Watton WRC compliance scheme

·         £5million – Water infrastructure National investment Programme (WRCs)

·         £1.5million – first time sewerage scheme at Rockland St Peter

·         £800,000 – dosing schemes to mitigate Lead

·         Event Duration Monitors being installed at 14 sites


It was explained that Anglian Water were pledging to Get River Positive by 2030 and were striving to do no harm to rivers and do everything possible to ensure they thrive with the five Get River Positive commitments:


·         Ensure storm overflows and sewage treatment works do not harm rivers

·         Create more opportunities for everyone to enjoy the regions’ rivers

·         Support others to improve and care for rivers

·         Enhance rivers and create new habitats so wildlife could thrive

·         Be open and transparent about their performance and plans


Nutrient Neutrality in relation to Anglian Water was explained to the Commission.  In March 2022, Natural England had written to authorities whose areas contained habitat sites that were in an unfavourable conservation status, where additional nutrient loads, such as from development, may have an adverse effect. The advice stated that planning applications and plans affecting such habitats should be carefully considered and mitigation provided to ensure that there were no adverse effects and to meet the requirements of the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2017 (as amended). Anglian Water had no direct influence over the requirements and would accept flows from new developments once the local planning authority and Natural England were satisfied that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36/22


Performance Overview Report- Quarter 4 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 209 KB

Report of Rob Walker- Executive Director & Monitoring Officer.

Additional documents:


The Innovation and Change Business Partner, Ryan Pack said there had been some strong performances over quarter 4 but stated that there had also been some challenges, particularly around the Customer Contact Calls. It was highlighted that Under Thriving Places, there were some annual indicators included in this report.


Councillor Atterwill felt that the Customer Contact Centre was cause for concern and stated that he had residents who had told him that they had difficulties in contacting the Council on the telephone, and although he felt that the advancements and improvements made on the technical side were good, there needed to be options to meet all types and ages and ensure all residents needs were being met. He also felt that the front page of the website should clearly show the telephone contact number and asked what was being done to ensure the telephone number was being made readily available. He also felt that the website was not easily used and needed refreshing and making more accessible.


Councillor Birt stated that this matter had been raised at the Town and Parish Forum recently about residents having difficulties in finding a contact number to call to speak to someone in person.


Councillors Turner and Brame agreed with the above comments stating that the website was difficult to use and did not suit everyone.  There was a diverse range of residents across the district and many reasons why advances in technology were not suitable and some residents preferred to speak to a person for guidance and get answers to questions.


The Deputy Chief Executive, Rob Walker agreed with the comments made on the visibility of the telephone contact on the website and explained that a historic decision had been taken to prioritise digital traffic where possible and the phone number was taken from a prominent position to try and direct enquires and promote digital where possible. However, given the recent feedback he would take the comments on board and investigate options to improve this. He said that the introduction of more digital channels was the way forward for those comfortable using the digital platforms and the view and desire of Breckland Council was that this would free up the time for staff to spend more time with the residents who preferred a conversation in person. Breckland Council was committed to offering options to suit all.


The Deputy Chief Executive advised that there had been recruitment issues in staffing the Contact Centre recently which had caused performance issues, however they were committed to filling the vacancies as soon as possible and staggering training to solve the issues.


Councillor Birt pointed out that it was previously agreed for the performance report to have a breakdown of businesses under each star rating, but this had not been shown and asked about the calculation on the average yield on commercial property, and crucially, what the capital value of the asset was. He felt that the Freedom of Information requests calculation was still insufficient in that it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37/22


Serco Task and Finish Group

To receive an update from the Chair of the Task & Finish Group, Councillor Lynda Turner, in respect of the meeting held on 28 April 2022.


Councillor Turner stated that the seven members of the Serco Task & Finish Group had met 3 times in February, March and April and four members had visited the Serco Depot in Watton on 12 May 2022 together with the Cabinet Member which had proved very useful.


The focus had been on three main areas:


·         To scrutinise the current performance of the Serco contract

·         To examine the impact of Covid and the National supply chain issues on the mobilisation of the contract

·         Examine Governance arrangements in place to manage and monitor the contract


Officers were now preparing a report, on behalf of the Task and Finish Group, which would form the basis of the final meeting on 14 July 2022 and would be presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission on 21 July 2022.


Councillor Turner thanked the officers and the Serco Management for their support and cooperation in this task.


Outside Body Feedback (Standing Item)

To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.



Councillor Wilkinson informed Members that the Breckland Youth Advisory Board and Breckland Council supported Cup-O-T programme of mental health support to young people and families to fill the gap of the waiting time between referral and specialists.  At the last quarter 24 families were referred over the five market towns and after discussion would now accept self-referrals and was also working on a scheme to look at an on-line plan for families who could not attend in person. He also reported that the QEH was now out of special measures which was a great achievement for all staff concerned after two years of disruption by Covid. More information could be found at:


Councillor Eagle, a Trustee on The Hammond Educational Charity updated Members sharing information that The Hammonds Educational Trust were now doing a bursary for up to £10,000 to support a student for the Platinum Jubilee and welcomed applicants across the whole of the Breckland area and would appreciate Members sharing the information across their areas. More information could be found at:


Councillor Kybird reported that Maureen Orr, a Democratic and Scrutiny Team Manager for the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, had now retired and the arrangement was now to be changed so that the officer who supported the main Scrutiny Panel at Norfolk would also be the officer presenting at the Health Scrutiny meetings.  There would be a separate research assistant appointed to gather data.


Councillor Atterwill informed Members that he had recently attended the AGM for the Norfolk Playing Fields Association, but unfortunately the AGM could not proceed due to lack of numbers. They had been struggling for a number of years, particularly since funding had been withdrawn from Norfolk County Council, and therefore there was no funding from County or District to assist. They would be forming a small working party to look at the constitution and the model going forward to see what work could be done to help communities with this valuable resource. Playing fields were a vital part of communities for Norfolk residents and it was important that this continued and any assistance from any Breckland Council Members would be appreciated.


Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item) (if any)

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




Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item) (if any)

To consider any references.


Councillor Nairn said he had received many complaints from residents regarding the new grass cutting scheme that Norfolk County Council had now adopted, and verges were approximately 18 inches deep in some areas. Some months ago, NCC had deepened all the grips to assist with road drainage, however, these had now been hidden by the length of the grass and residents were reporting damage to vehicles because of this. He also felt that the length of grass may be affecting the increase in roadkill.


Councillor Nairn asked for this to be considered as a Councillor Call for Action and suggested that NCC be invited to a meeting to explain the rationalisation in respect of their grass cutting policy.


The Chairman suggested that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission invite Councillor Wilby, the Cabinet Member for Highways at Norfolk County Council, along with the relevant officers, to attend a meeting to explain their change in policy. He suggested that Councillor Nairn and the Democratic Officer work together to formulate the request.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 312 KB

(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.

Additional documents:


Councillor Atterwill requested that the Commission invite the Breckland Council Communications Team, and relevant Cabinet Member, to a future meeting to explain their modus operandi, how they operate and what their parameters were which he thought would be extremely useful for Ward Members.


Councillor Birt asked about the review of the IT equipment and the invitation to UKPN as they were on the work programme, but no date as yet had been set. The Chairman suggested that related items such as the IT infrastructure, Website accessibility along with Chatbot data protection be put together and discussed at the September meeting and move Empty Homes to a later meeting.


Councillor Kybird suggested that Nutrient Neutrality, although currently in its initial stages, should be added to the work programme as a future item.


Councillor Atterwill pointed out that the Capita Contract was up for renewal and suggested that this should be added to the work programme to look at their performance against the contract, their future work programme, and the Local Plan.


Next Meeting

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 21 July 2022 at 10.00am in the Anglia Room, The Conference Centre, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE.



The arrangements for the next meeting on Thursday, 21 July 2022 at 10am in the Anglia Room were noted.