Agenda and minutes

Venue: Anglia Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham

Contact: Committee Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

64.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 90 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 10 July 2008.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 10th July 2008 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

65.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Mr. B. Rose and Mr. A.C. Stasiak.

66.

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 announced that he had agreed to accept the following item as urgent business, in order to meet the timescale for consideration of the matter at the following week’s Cabinet meeting on 9th September 2008:

6608a

Reference from Policy Development and Review Panel 2 - Private Empty Homes Policy

Minutes:

The Chairman of Policy Development and Review Panel 2 reported that his Panel had given consideration to the proposed revised Private Empty Homes Policy which was to be considered by the Cabinet at its meeting on 9th September 2008.  A report of the Panel’s consideration of the matter, together with a copy of the report to Cabinet was tabled at the meeting.

 

It was explained that the policy had been revised to take account of changes introduced by the Housing Act 2004, which came into force towards the end of 2006 and which give additional discretionary powers to local authorities in dealing with empty properties.  The opportunity had also been taken to align the policy with the Council’s Housing Strategy and with other strategic policies.  The powers of the Housing Act 2004, including those for dealing with Empty Dwellings Management Orders, as set out in the Policy, had previously been adopted by the Cabinet.

 

The main change in the powers available to local authorities under the new legislation was the introduction of the Empty Dwellings Management Order provisions, which gave councils greater enforcement powers to take control of (but not ownership of) of empty properties in certain circumstances, initially for up to 12 months, to bring them back into use. 

 

In many cases of empty dwellings, liaison with and offering assistance to owners was often sufficient to enable a property to be refurbished or the site redeveloped and brought back into use.  Occasionally, further enforcement was required, if the property was causing concerns due to anti social behaviour use, deterioration or if it became a dangerous structure.  Sometimes, an owner could be traced, in which case action could be taken by an authority in their absence.  The ultimate use of an Empty Dwelling Management Order could only be made by application to a Residential Property Tribunal.

 

The Panel had concluded that while it was supportive of the benefits in encouraging empty dwellings to be brought back into use and noting that the new discretionary powers for the use of Empty Dwellings Management Orders were ‘a last resort’ option when all other options had been exhausted, there were concerns about the use of such a measure.  For that reason, the Panel recommended that in extreme cases, where an owner could not be traced and it was proposed that their property was required to be demolished and/or redeveloped, such action should be subject to the approval of the full Council.   Members also wished to ensure that the Ward Member should be notified of any cases affecting their Ward.

 

The point was put that, under this policy, the Council would effectively be doing the work that an owner should be responsible for.

 

The Panel’s views were considered and supported by the Scrutiny Commission and accordingly, the Commission

 

RESOLVED to recommend to the Cabinet that the replacement Empty Dwellings Policy be adopted subject to the following amendments:

 

(1)               To require that the Ward Member is informed of any instances where an Empty  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6608a

67.

Declaration of Interest (Agenda Item 4)

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 person or prejudicial interest.

Minutes:

The following declarations were made:

 

  • Mr. S.G. Bambridge – Personal interest in relation to LDF matters by virtue of his profession.
  • Mr. J.P. Cowen – Personal and prejudicial interest by virtue of his profession as an Architect in practice in relation to LDF matters.
  • Mr. K.S. Gilbert – Personal interest as a Member of Watton Town Council in relation to agenda item 8 (Breckland Community Car Schemes)
  • Mr. A.P. Joel – Personal interest as a Member of Old Buckenham Parish Council in relation to agenda item 8 (Breckland Community Car Schemes) and in relation to LDF matters relating to his Ward.
  • Mr. J.D. Rogers – Personal and prejudicial interest as Ward Member and landowner in relation to LDF matters relating to Carbrooke.

68.

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.

Minutes:

The following public speakers were in attendance to speak to agenda item 6 (Watton Horse Fair):

 

  • Mr. N. Phillips
  • Mr. D. Kendal
  • Mr. T. Roberts
  • Mr. J. Milton of Norfolk Wildlife Trust

69.

Watton Horse Fair - Licensing of Land used for the Stationing of Caravans, Thetford Road, Watton (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Minutes:

Public speakers present for this item were Mr N. Phillips, Mr. D. Kendal, Mr. J. Milton and Mr. T. Roberts.

 

The Head of Legal Services presented the report and summarised the two main issues involved as follows:

 

  1. The issue of the Watton Horse Fair; and
  2. The issue of the stationing of caravans on a field which occurred at the time of and on land adjoining the site of the Horse Fair.

 

While there was some overlap, these were two separate issues.

 

So far as the Horse Fair was concerned, it had been consistently stated that the Fair as presently comprised did not require planning permission; there were no contraventions of law and no licence was required.  Therefore, there was no question of any enforcement action by the Council as there was no contravention of any law.

 

With regard to the issue of the stationing of caravans, the report clearly stated there had been a contravention of law that was a criminal offence in that a field had been used without a Caravan Sites Licence.  There was evidence of this offence and the Council could conduct a prosecution.

 

However, the report concluded that it was not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution and, even if the Council were to prosecute, it would have no impact on whether the Fair continued or not.

 

A member questioned the definition of what constituted the public interest and why it was not in the public interest to prosecute in this case.  He also referred to the Council’s corporate enforcement strategy, which he felt was relevant to the matter.

 

The definition of public interest was stated as matters in relation to crime and disorder, vandalism, pollution and other such matters; in addition, the proper regulation of the site as a caravan site, i.e. the provision of sanitary accommodation and water supply, and other health and safety issues.

 

The reasons a prosecution was not considered to be in the public interest were as stated in the report at paragraph 3.4.2, 3.4.3 and 3.4.4.

 

Mr. Roberts, as the organiser of the Fair, was asked to confirm that the next Fair had been cancelled and if he intended to run the Fair again in the future.

 

Mr. Roberts confirmed that the Fair scheduled for the following weekend had been cancelled.  He added that the event was more properly a horse sale and that he was looking for a new venue, though not necessarily within the Breckland area.

 

The public speakers were then given the opportunity to speak on the item.

 

Mr. Phillips spoke against the recommendation not to prosecute, as he felt this would set a precedent and indicate to others that Breckland would not take action against similar offences.

 

Mr. Milton spoke on behalf of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and argued for the Council to abide by its enforcement policies and to consider taking action in this case.

 

Mr. Roberts considered that a prosecution would not resolve the issues.  Caravans would still arrive and park elsewhere  ...  view the full minutes text for item 69.

70.

Local Area Agreement - Progress and Challenges (Briefing Paper) (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 87 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sustainable Communities Manager presented the report which briefed Members on progress of the Norfolk Local Area Agreement (LAA).

 

Since the report had been written, the LAA had been accepted by the Government and the Government Office for the Eastern Region.  There were a range of actions and an action plan.  The process of development of the LAA had been exemplary and Breckland had been fully involved in the process.  There was no new funding but new national Performance Indicators would form the basis of Comprehensive Area Assessment and future funding.  The question of resources was to be reviewed and a meeting was due to take place the following day of LAA representatives, including from Breckland.

 

A Member questioned the fact that the Deputy Chief Executive, as Scrutiny Champion for the Council, was not present and it was explained that he was on other Council business.  Other Members also expressed their disappointment at his absence.

 

The Chairman proposed that this was a fundamentally important piece of work which should form the basis of a comprehensive review by a Task and Finish Group, which should look at its relationship not only with the Council’s Business Plan but also that of the Partner authorities and agencies with Breckland’s.

 

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)         a Task and Finish Group of three to four Members be established to undertake a review of the Norfolk Local Area Agreement;

(2)         Mrs. D. Irving be appointed as Chairman of the Task and Finish Group and nominations be sought from the Council membership to fill the remaining two or three places; and

(3)         the Task and Finish Group be asked to report its findings back to the Commission at its meeting on 13 November 2008.

71.

Breckland Community Car Schemes - Discussion Paper (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Report of the Strategic Director (Services).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report on the Breckland Community Car Schemes and proposals for the future delivery of this service.

 

The Commission was fully supportive of the Breckland Community Car Schemes, which were seen as a vital lifeline to people living in the rural areas.  Although there were some concerns that the governance arrangements should not be too burdensome on scheme operators and volunteer drivers, Members accepted the need for more formal arrangements for the Council to meet its duty of care and support to all parties. 

 

The question of mileage rates was also discussed and while it was noted the Council could increase the rates above the Inland Revenue Rate, Members felt this should only be done in consultation and with the agreement of the Parish Council and Co-ordinators, because of the implications increased rates could have on drivers’ income tax liabilities.  However, it was felt that the Inland Revenue should review its rates to a more realistic level.

 

The Commission, however, considered that there was a need for substantially more funding than the £10,000 proposed in the report if the Council was to achieve the aims to expand the scheme (noting that there were new applications to join the scheme, such as at Bawdeswell) and to support existing schemes in the future.  One suggestion was that a more realistic figure was £100,000.   It was felt the Council should also meet the costs of CRB and medical checks.

 

While being mindful of the need not to introduce unfair competition between the community car scheme service and private hire vehicles and taxis, there was support for some limited diversification of the service to support local key services, such as post offices.

 

The Commission agreed to incorporate a quarterly review of the Schemes as part of the work of the Task and Finish Group covering the Sustainable Communities Strategy review. 

 

      RESOLVED to recommend to Cabinet that:

 

(1)               it notes that seldom has any Council initiative been so unanimously supported;

 

(2)               robust governance arrangements and legal agreements between Breckland Council and all scheme operators and volunteer drivers be put in place as a requirement to qualify for funding support, along the lines set out in paragraph 3.8.1 of the report;

 

(3)               it recommends to the Council that substantial funding be invested to support new and existing Community Car Schemes, to include meeting the costs of required CRB and medical checks.

 

FURTHER RESOLVED that a quarterly review of the Breckland Community Car Schemes is incorporated into the work of the Task and Finish Group on the Environment Strategy review.<2>

72.

Review of Sub-National Economic Development & Regeneration (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Report of the Strategic Director (Services).

Minutes:

The Head of Economic Development presented the report, which provided Members with a summary of the reforms recommended within the Government’s current Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration (known as the Sub-National Review (SNR)).  The report highlighted the key changes that would impact on the Council and its service areas and also provided an understanding of the changes that were anticipated, including the timetable for implementation.

 

The SNR set out a number of structural reforms to:

 

  • Strengthen the local authority role in economic development, including a new statutory economic assessment duty.

  • Support effective collaboration by local authorities across functioning economic areas, for example by establishing multi-area agreements.

  • Streamline the regional tier and introduce single regional regeneration strategies with the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) designated as the regional planning bodies.

  • Give regions a greater say in the distribution of funding in each region through a second, extended regional funding exercise.

  • Sharpen the focus of central government on sub-national devolution – with clear objectives and responsibilities and improved accountability arrangements.

 

Summary details of the SNR and the Council’s response to the consultation which had taken place in March were given respectively in Appendices A and B to the report.

 

The report outlined the high level key changes that the reforms suggested as follows:

 

  • RDAs would be responsible for regional planning alongside regional sustainable economic growth within a new single regional strategy.
  • The RDAs would lead the development of new integrated regional strategies building on the foundations from the existing Regional Economic Strategies and Regional Spatial Strategies.
  • RDAs would become more strategic bodies and devolve decision making for economic development to the most appropriate level, although they would continue to deliver and manage services that were best implemented regionally.
  • As the RDA role increased, they would delegate more funding to those best placed to deliver economic improvements.
  • Regional forums of local authority leaders were suggested which would sign off the new draft regional strategy and hold the RDA to account.
  • Regional Assemblies would not continue in their current form.
  • Upper tier and unitary authorities would have a statutory duty to produce an economic assessment of their area to underpin the new single regional strategy, multi-area agreements, local development frameworks and sustainable community strategies.  Lead local authorities would have a statutory responsibility to collaborate and consult with second tier authorities on the production of the economic assessment.
  • Introduction of multi-area agreements to enable local authorities to improve economic prosperity by working across administrative boundaries.  The Government believed the focus for new sub-regional arrangements should be economic development.

 

While the full implementation date was not until 2012, some work in readiness would be done during the interim.

 

The report outlined the following considerations for the Council:

 

  • In terms of readying itself for the reforms, the Council already had a high performing, award winning Economic Development service that had made some significant achievements over the past five years, including the Cultural and Community, Economic and Regeneration packages of projects and more recently the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 72.

73.

Street Naming & Numbering - Draft Policies & Procedures (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Report of the Strategic Director (Business Transformation).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Director (Services) introduced this report which sought Members’ views on the proposed policies and procedures for the street naming and numbering function.

 

The Spatial Information Manager explained that new regulations and the lack of an existing policy had prompted the need to produce a new policy and procedures.

 

There was now a national emphasis by the Government and the National Land and Property Gazetteer to link that function with the Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG) and a review of policies and procedures had been undertaken to ensure compliance with the latest guidance emerging from central government in relation to the position of the LLPG and street naming and numbering functions, as well as the responsibilities that the Council had under its Mapping Services Agreement with Ordnance Survey.

 

The new procedures proposed that Parish and Town Councils submit a preferred list of street names for developers to work to and gave more delegation to the officers.

 

Legal advice was awaited on a proposed appeals process under the scheme.

 

Issues raised by Members were:

 

(1)   Concerns that the requirement to submit a preferred list of street names in advance of developments would preclude historical connections being taken into account.  It was considered important that the ability to be able to allocate street names with an historical connection should be adhered to.

 

(2)   The importance for developers to liaise with the local Parish/Town Council to agree names.

 

(3)   Problems experienced by Royal Mail from unknown streets were acknowledged.

 

(4)   The benefit of including the post code on street nameplates.

 

(5)   All shops should be required to show their street number on their premises.

 

(6)   The reinstitution of the consultation of the local Royal Mail office on proposed street names and house names to take advantage of their local knowledge, for example to highlight any instances of potential problems arising from too close a similarity of street names or duplication of house names.

 

(7)   A member also raised the need to ensure all roads were allocated to the correct parish, citing the example of problems caused from a large development in Carbrooke being registered as Watton.

 

It was confirmed that while the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG) regulated new names and house numbers, the Council could allocate historical names.  Royal Mail would be notified of new names through the national database system, although it was proposed to retain the local consultation process as a courtesy.

 

Discussions were also ongoing with Royal Mail to resolve problems arising from their delivery processes which separated out the house name from the house number.

 

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the report be noted; and

(2)         the draft policies and procedures for street naming and numbering be revised to incorporate Members’ recommendations numbered (1) to (7) above.

 

Note:  Mr. K.S. Gilbert declared a personal interest in this item as an employee of Royal Mail.

74.

CCTV Review (Agenda Item 11)

Verbal report of the Working Group.

Minutes:

The Chairman of the CCTV Review Working Group reported on progress of the review.

 

A new CCTV system was being introduced and the Council was working with all key agencies and local groups, using focus groups, to develop the new system.

 

A number of systems and solutions were being assessed.

 

The Strategic Director (Services) advised the Commission of the current position reached in the procurement process.  The Council was presently at a competitive dialogue stage in the process, with three outline proposals having been submitted and being evaluated.  The results of the evaluation would be presented to a meeting of the Working Group on 16 September 2008.

 

The contract was expected to go to formal tender at the end of the month, with four weeks being allocated for submission of bids and thereafter, results due at the end of November.

 

         RESOLVED that the position be noted and a progress report be submitted to the next meeting of the Commission on 2nd October 2008.

75.

Policy Development and Review Panels (Agenda Item 12)

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

7508a

Policy Development & Review Panel 1 - 15 July 2008 pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Minutes:

         RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 1 held on 15 July 2008 be adopted.

7508b

Policy Development & Review Panel 1 - 20 August 2008

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman of the Panel expressed concerns regarding the LDF process where it appeared that many sites being put forward for inclusion in the Sites Specifics process were being declared unreasonable.

 

Other Members considered that where a Parish Council wished to submit a site for inclusion in the settlement boundary it should be considered.  It was felt that there were inaccuracies in the existing maps being used, leading to wrongful advice about the appropriateness or otherwise for inclusion of a site.  As this was the consultation process, it was felt that the views of the Parish on particular sites should not be discounted.  Under the present procedures, it appeared that application sites were being ruled out at the beginning.  It was felt that this would disadvantage the rural parishes.

 

         RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 1 held on 20 August 2008 be adopted.

 

 

7508c

Policy Development & Review Panel 2 - 24 July 2008 pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Minutes:

(i)      Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) (Minute 27/08)

 

RESOLVED that an annual report on RIPA activity be incorporated in the Commission’s work programme.

 

(ii)     Adoption

 

RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 2 held on 24 July 2008 be adopted.

7508d

Policy Development & Review Panel 3 - 29 July 2008 pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Minutes:

(i)      Housing Performance and Improvement Plan – Monitoring Report July 2008 (Minute 25/08)

 

         Minute 25/08 of the Panel’s meeting highlighted Members’ concerns around the issue of fuel poverty in the light of the current level of increases in fuel costs and their view that the Council needed a policy to address the poverty problems that would occur in the forthcoming months.

 

The Panel had noted that completion of a review of fuel poverty, amongst other work, had been delayed as a consequence of the Department of Communities and Local Government’s response to the Council’s proposed scheme for a district-wide licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation to require instead that it be concentrated on the towns only.  A report on the review of fuel poverty was due to come before the Panel in due course and would cover matters such as energy efficiency and budgeting, etc.

 

It was also noted that a Financial Inclusion Policy had already been included on the Risk Register.  This policy was aimed at educating residents on how they used their money, such as prioritising debts, etc.  Articles of this nature would also be placed in future editions of Breckland Voice.

 

It had been acknowledged by the Panel that there was an important role for the Council to play in advising all people, not just the elderly, about planning for the winter ahead.

 

The Commission noted the Panel’s views in this matter and supported its proposals.  Accordingly, it was

 

RESOLVED to recommend to Cabinet that:

 

(1)         a policy be put in place to address the fuel poverty problems that will occur in the forthcoming months; and

 

(2)                     the Council be seen to support local people by actively raising awareness of fuel poverty in the District by placing articles on the matter in future editions of Breckland Voice.

 

(ii)     Adoption

 

RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 3 held on 29 July 2008 be adopted.

76.

Work Programme (Agenda Item 13) pdf icon PDF 8 KB

(a)               A copy of the Commission’s work programme is attached, together with a copy of the current issue of the Forward Plan of the Executive for members’ information.  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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman outlined a proposed change in emphasis of the scrutiny process to focus on the following areas:

 

  1. The management and monitoring of Council business.
  2. Cabinet scrutiny.
  3. Local communities – the five market towns and their rural hinterlands and the rural parishes
  4. Partnership working

 

More use would be made, in future, of small Task and Finish Groups (comprising three or four members of the Council) which would have the flexibility to meet more frequently and would report back to the Commission with their findings and recommendations.

 

The following topics for future review were put forward:

 

  • Section 106 Agreements.  In putting this item forward for review, a member cited an instance in his Ward where a footpath was proposed as part of Section 106 Agreement on a development which was felt to be wholly unsafe for children and which parents were refusing to let their children use.  The Parish had not been consulted in the matter.  The Chairman noted that the issue of the use of commuted sums from Section 106 Agreements was included on the Council’s Forward Plan and he suggested the review should be broadened to include this.

  • The resourcing of Primary Care Trusts to meet future proposals for Local Service Centres.  In putting this item forward, a member cited the Attleborough area as an example where there was a serious mismatch in the resources of the PCT as a provider to meet increased demands for local healthcare services.  The Chairman agreed that this was a good example of where the Commission should be involved, with local Members highlighting issues of concern.

 

Items in the work programme for the next meeting were noted as follows:

 

  • Environmental & Security Services Contract – Quarterly Monitoring Update
  • Environment Strategy Review – Report of the Working Group
  • Business Transformation
  • Political Management Arrangements Review
  • CCTV Review – Progress Report

 

It was proposed that the scheduled item on Market Towns and Villages be put back.

 

The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer reported on the following additional items:

 

  1. The BT Payphones consultation on kiosks required a response to be submitted by the beginning of October.

  2. Department for Communities and Local Government White Paper Consultation on Accountability, responses on which were required by 30th October 2008.

  3. Scrutiny training was being offered by Broadland District Council at Sprowston Manor.  Three sessions were being offered as follows:

 

  • 18 September 2008  – Interviewing, listening and questioning skills
  • 20 October 2008 – Effective scrutiny of finance
  • 2 December 2008 – Effective scrutiny of external bodies

 

  1. In regard to postal delivery and collection services, the Postmaster at Dereham had been consulted and he had confirmed there were no plans for their removal at present.

 

Finally, it was noted from the Forward Plan that there was to be a report on the review of the Council’s Constitution which would be considered by the Commission at its next meeting.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the work programme be amended as noted above;

(2)         the Member Development and Scrutiny Officer be asked to send a reminder to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 76.

77.

Next Meeting

To note the date of the next meeting to be held on Thursday, 2 October 2008 at 2.15 p.m. in the Anglia Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham.

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting on 2nd October 2008 were noted.