Venue: The Gallery Bar, Watton Sports Centre, Dereham Road, Watton
Contact: Committee Services 01362 656870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 12 February 2009.
The minutes of the meeting held on 12 February 2009 were confirmed as a correct record.
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Mrs. S.M. Matthews, Mrs. S. Miller and Mr. T. Leader.
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.
The Chairman advised that, at the request of a Member, he had agreed to take an additional issue under agenda item 11 (Establishment of Task and Finish Groups) (see minute 32/09 below).
Declaration of Interest
Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests pertinent to items on this agenda. The Members’ Code of Conduct requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a person or prejudicial interest.
No declarations were made.
Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting
To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.
The following Members were in attendance:
Also present was:
Representatives from the Wayland Partnership will be in attendance for this item, to highlight the work of the Partnership and to take questions from Members.
A copy of the Partnership Questionnaire is attached for information.
The Chairman introduced Jan Godfrey, the Chairman of the Trustees of the Wayland Partnership, and stated that it was good for the Commission to begin to look at its partnerships, to enable Members to gain a fuller understanding of the broader focus of the Council’s work outside and those with whom it worked or engaged with.
The Chairman went on to say that the review process was ultimately about learning. The Wayland Partnership had, at times, been controversial but was also extremely successful, both within Breckland and nationally. The Commission wanted to understand why that was, as it would enable Members to appreciate how and why things were done and what lessons could be learnt from those achievements.
Mrs. Godfrey was then invited to speak about her organisation and she began by outlining the background to the formation of the Partnership.
The Partnership was formed some nine years ago but predated the rural funding opportunities that became available out of the Government’s Rural White Paper in 2000. A steering group was formed in 1997 in response to the European Objective 2 funding programme. The research undertaken as a consequence led to the idea to form a Partnership and, following a major consultation exercise initiated by the Town Council in 1998, the Partnership was formed. Although the opportunity for Objective 2 funding was ultimately missed, other European funding through the Market Towns Initiative was achieved and the Partnership became a charitable company. Lottery money was secured to fund a development officer post. Out of the Market Towns Initiative (which enabled the town enhancement project) and with £300,000 funding, the Partnership had been able to do a lot of schemes in the villages of the area, as well as participating in rural development funding schemes. Over the nine years’, the Partnership had received funding of more than £9 million, a very significant sum for the size of the organisation and community served.
Although there was an element of luck involved, the Partnership’s success was felt to be due to the passion and level of commitment given by all those involved in its work, and to the support given by the 80 or so partners and volunteers involved with the Partnership, either directly or indirectly. The people and their passion is what made the Partnership work.
Mrs. Godfrey concluded by saying that the Partnership tried hard not to duplicate anything that was done by other authorities or bodies and redirected people to those proper authorities. The Partnership worked with others in the provision of learning and training (for example, working with the migrant community and providing business support in partnership with the Chamber of Trade) and in supporting tourism (through leaflets, exhibitions, events, etc.).
A member asked how the Partnership maintained its good relations with the villages and how the villages gained real value from it.
Mrs. Godfrey said much depended on the villages themselves and how actively they engaged with the Partnership. Some were very active, others not so until or unless ... view the full minutes text for item 27.
The following Executive Members have been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within their portfolios and to answer any questions:
The following documents are appended for reference/information purposes:
Governance & Performance Monitoring: Quarterly Report (Quarter
(b) Forward Plan (March 2009)
(a) Governance Portfolio
Lady Fisher said she was pleased to be invited to talk about the work of her Portfolio.
Lady Fisher outlined the service areas contained within the Governance Portfolio, which included Member Services, Legal Services, Standards and Finance.
Key issues for the Portfolio in the coming year included:
§ The change to the year-end accounting process, which would have the effect of bringing the PFI contract back into the books as a debt.
§ Ensuring capital and revenue funding for projects.
§ Recouping the monies from the Icelandic Banks investments.
Three panels were being established – one to monitor external contracts, one to manage Gershon savings and one to manage capital spending.
In answer to a question, Lady Fisher explained that investments were made in accordance with policies approved by the Council and based on expert advice given by companies such as Butlers. The issue with the Icelandic Bank investments was that these were long-term investments which had been placed a long time before the current situation arose. A meeting of the Local Government Association that week had confirmed joint action being taken to pursue the Icelandic Government, so that there was a more positive feeling that the Council would recoup its investment monies, but without the interest. A further question was asked about whether there were other investment advisers the Council could use. It was confirmed there were but that they were all very similar.
A Member referred to the dog warden service, which had recently been awarded to an outside contractor, and the fact that the contractor was awaiting legal advice from the Council on new legislation granting extra powers to issue warnings to people about dog fouling. He asked if the advice from Legal Services could be expedited to the contractor. Another Member asked if Legal Services would have sufficient resource to deal with prosecutions in this field.
Lady Fisher explained that this matter fell within the remit of Environmental Services and confirmed that resources were adequate so far as the legal process was concerned but she was not sure about the position regarding resources for monitoring.
The Strategic Director (Services) advised that officers were looking at new policies for the dog warden service and also regarding the delegation of powers.
The Chairman noted there were two over spends shown in the cumulative budget in the Business Plan (page 19 of the agenda) and asked if these were of particular concern. Lady Fisher answered no. The over spend against the Transformation Portfolio related to the strategic alliance project and the over spend against the Services Portfolio was thought to relate to commercial portfolio repair costs.
In answer to another question, Lady Fisher confirmed that the under spend on the external interest receivable was the necessary adjustment made to reflect the Iceland Bank situation.
Lady Fisher’s view was sought on the new requirement for members to produce proof of driving documentation, as some members were concerned about the need for these documents to be copied ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Standards Officer presented the report and outlined how the process for the recording of and dealing with complaints was operated.
It was explained that the report dealt only with complaints formally logged through the complaints system which were sent either direct to the Standards Officer, via letter or email, or where the complainant had contacted the Council via the generic email address or by telephone. It did not include complaints made direct to service areas.
There was no comparative performance with other authorities on complaints, other than that for complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman.
In answer to a question, the Standards Officer advised that she was only aware of three complaints that had been escalated up to the top level 3 and referred to the Ombudsman.
Members noted that the fact that some complaints might not be captured and formally logged in the system because they were received and dealt with directly at the service area, meant that the picture could be distorted and the situation could be not as good as it appeared. So far as letters of complaint slipping through the post room check were concerned, the Standards Officer undertook to liaise with the service representatives to see if there was any way of picking these up when the post was delivered to departments. However, this would not address the issue of complaints sent by email direct to an officer.
While some matters might well be resolved to the customer’s satisfaction over the telephone, if all complaints were not logged, the Council could be missing a pattern of incidents. The Standards Officer explained that the complaints policy provided that if the same complaint occurred twice, it had to be formally logged as such.
It was also recognised that everyone within the Council needed to adhere to the procedures for recording complaints.
The Strategic Director felt that while some comparison work with other Councils could be done, there was a danger that the comparison might not be like for like, since figures and measurements could vary from authority to authority. However, the Council did undertake public satisfaction surveys and the results from those did give an indication of performance levels.
It was also acknowledged that the Council did get positive feedback on the way it dealt with complaints and the Council also had a compliments page on the website and did receive a lot of compliments as well.
A member suggested that it should be incumbent on senior managers to use their discretion to decide what complaints should be logged and passed to the Standards Officer and that there should be a protocol to that effect, and to explain the mechanisms in place to escalate a complaint through the three levels. In this way, it was felt the Council would have a much more complete picture of the numbers and types of issues being raised by the public.
So far as the complaints relating to ARP were concerned, a member felt there were some issues regarding the ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
Report of the Strategic Director (Services).
The Strategic Director (Services) presented the report on behalf of the PFI Monitoring and Strategic Sport Officer.
The report provided an update and overview of the PFI Leisure contract and the performance of the Dereham Leisure Centre and Breckland Leisure Centre and Waterworld at Thetford.
Overall, it had been a successful year, as evidenced by the information given in the report.
The contractor, Parkwood Leisure, had successfully achieved Quest accreditation on both sites. Additionally, the Dereham Leisure Centre had been awarded ISO14001 Environmental Management External Audit standard and the Thetford site was due to take part in the same audit in 2009.
Members were pleased to note the report.
Scrutiny Call-Ins (Standing Item) (Agenda Item 10)
To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.
There were no items to report.
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
While it was noted that Task and Finish Groups were not generally established as open meetings, the Chairman of the LDF Task & Finish Group had asked that, in view of the important nature of the Local Development Framework, meetings of this Group should be open to the public.
Although the agenda for the first meeting of the Group had been issued on a non-public basis, it was confirmed the documents could be republished on the internet website if so decided. It was noted that the items on the agenda were procedural items only at this stage.
The Chairman of the Task & Finish Group also explained that the membership of the Group aimed to ensure each of the five market towns was represented, together with members from the rural areas.
The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer explained that the report presented the results of the discussions by the Task and Finish Group Chairmen.
One of the first objectives was to carry out a rural issues survey to help inform the whole process of reviews.
It was suggested the first three identified Groups (LDF, Off Street Parking Provision and Affordable Housing) could commence in the near future, with the remaining three Groups (Sewage & Flooding, Health and Rural Issues Agenda) being subject to the results of the rural issues survey. A member recommended that the Water Association be called as a witness in due course for the review on sewage and flooding.
A late issue received by the Council was a consultation paper from the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) on future arrangements for regional government in the East of England. It was proposed that a small Task and Finish Group, meeting once, could adequately look at this matter and formulate a response by the deadline of 8th May 2009.
Mr. Joel asked whether a single meeting could be arranged on the topic of consultation with Parish Councils in regard to Tree Preservation Orders, so that the process could be looked at in connection with a concern about the policy raised by New Buckenham Parish Council. The Scrutiny Officer undertook to liaise with the Development Services Manager with a view to arranging a meeting accordingly (suggested membership for the meeting was Mr. Joel, as Ward Member, two other non-Executive Members, the Chairman of the Parish Council and relevant Planning Officer).
RESOLVED that agreement be given to:
the initially identified task and finish groups and their outline
scoping as set out in Appendix 1 to the report;
the open recruitment from the ranks of non-executive members to
fill the places on the identified groups;
the winding up of the existing Payphones Task and Finish
interim reports from Task & Finish Groups being provided to the
Commission on any reviews extending past six months;
meetings of the LDF Task & Finish
Group be classified as meetings open to the public and subject to
the usual provisions for access to information.
(6) the following members be appointed to consider ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
(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.
It was agreed to bring forward the ARP Partnership Scrutiny Review from 23 July to 30 April 2009 and that information on the issues of the complaints reported under Minute 29/09 above be included in this review. A member also drew attention to a recent press article on latest performance ratings from the Audit Commission on benefits applications, which he felt would be relevant to the review. The Council’s Members on the ARP Joint Committee were to be requested to attend for this item.
RESOLVED that, subject to the ARP Partnership Review being brought forward to the meeting on 30 April 2009, the Work Programme for the period March to October 2009 be agreed.
The next meeting will be held on Thursday, 30 April 2009 at 2.15pm at Level 8, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford (please note change of date and venue).
The arrangements for the next meeting on 30 April 2009 to be held at Breckland House, Thetford were noted.