Venue: Gallery Bar, Watton Sports Centre, Dereham Road, Watton
Contact: Committee Services 01362 656870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 17 December 2009.
The minutes of the meeting held on 17 December 2009 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was received from Mrs. S.M. Matthews.
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.
The Chairman announced one item of urgent business as follows:
Shared Services – Joint Scrutiny Group
The Scrutiny Officer explained that, as previously notified, discussions had been in progress to establish a joint scrutiny group to look at the proposed shared service arrangements with South Norfolk District Council.
The proposed joint scrutiny group would comprise five non-Executive Members from each Authority. Nominations had been sought from Breckland Members and the following Members had expressed their interest in being appointed to the joint group – Mrs. D. Irving, Mr. J.D. Rogers, Mr. J.P. Labouchere, Mr. S.G. Bambridge and Mr. J.P. Cowen.
Substitutes were also sought and Mr. R.G. Kybird offered his nomination.
The Chairman advised that meetings of the joint group would meet in rotation at Attleborough and Wymondham as most convenient locations for members.
RESOLVED that a joint scrutiny group on shared services be established comprising five members of each Authority, plus substitutes, and the following Members be appointed as the Breckland representatives on the group:
Mrs. D. Irving
Mr. J.D. Rogers
Mr. J.P. Labouchere
Mr. S.G. Bambridge
Mr. J.P. Cowen
Substitute: Mr. R.G. Kybird
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.
The following declarations were made in relation to agenda item 9 (Concessionary Fares Scheme Update):
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.
Report of the Director (Community Services).
Youth Councillors Stuart Green and Sean Ward will be in attendance and will give a short presentation.
The Community Development Officer presented the report and briefly outlined the background to the establishment of the Breckland Youth Council and its progress to date.
More details were given in a presentation by Youth Councillors Stuart Green and Sean Ward (Chairman of the Youth Council). A copy of the presentation handouts is attached to these minutes for Members’ information.
Following the presentation, the Chairman congratulated the Youth Councillors on their Council’s excellent handling of the £10,000 Participatory Budget Funding. The feedback on their work on that project had been most complimentary.
Members of the Commission agreed that it was a commendable achievement and hoped that it would serve to highlight the good work that was being achieved by the young people.
It was noted that Stuart Green was to stand as a candidate for the Mid-Norfolk seat of the Youth Parliament. Mr. Joel suggested a pre-election event could be of interest to schools and the Community Development Officer confirmed that a hustings event was being planned to take place in April preceding the elections. Invitations to participate could be extended to interested schools.
The Chairman asked how the rural areas of the District were represented on the Youth Council. Sean Ward explained that Youth Councillors were drawn from the schools in the five main towns of the District which served both the town and the rural areas. In this way, there was an assurance that the rural areas were represented.
Mrs. Irving, as Breckland Council’s Young People’s Champion, expressed her pride in and thanks for all the good work being done and the achievements being made by the Youth Council.
It was noted that the next elections of the Breckland Youth Council were scheduled to be held in February 2011.
The Chairman thanked Stuart and Sean for attending and for their interesting and informative presentation.
Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 7)
The Leader of the Council, Mr. William Nunn, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing corporate issues and policies and to answer any questions.
Members may wish to refer to the latest issue of the Council’s Forward Plan.
Mr. Nunn spoke to the Commission in his capacity as Leader of the Council. He outlined his role in relation to the Council’s Mission Statement as set out in its Business Plan and Community Strategy, which were the aims to which the Council worked towards, both as individual members and collectively.
There was a need to ensure the Council’s plans were both deliverable and delivered and they needed to be kept refreshed.
There was a commitment to deliver cost effective, quality services. It had been possible to maintain the Council’s low Council Tax rate and performance on National Indicators was typically achieving rates 10% higher than other authorities around the country. However, there was no room for complacency and performance was kept under close review.
Mr. Nunn stated his opposition to the proposed reorganisation of local government in Norfolk, which he believed would remove democratic accountability. However, he remained determined to drive down the cost of service provision and the shared services project with South Norfolk District Council was aimed towards achieving this.
Key projects and achievements deriving from the Council’s Business Plan and Community Strategy included:
All authorities were challenged to continue to make savings through service efficiencies and the shared service ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The Commission is invited to respond to the attached consultation document from the East of England Regional Assembly on proposals for the establishment of a Leaders’ Board for the East of England. The deadline for responses to be made is 26 February 2010.
The Deputy Chief Executive introduced this item and explained that the East of England Regional Assembly was consulting on proposals to establish a Leaders’ Board for the East of England. The deadline for submitting a response was 26 February 2010.
Mr. Nunn advised that this proposal was in response to the Government’s aim to streamline regional assemblies.
The proposed model would ensure accountability through representation by elected members. The Leaders’ Board would be drawn from the 52 local authorities in the region, plus the Chairman of the Broads Authority. From that Board, 16 members would be appointed to sit on the Regional Strategy Board.
It was felt that the proposed model would be acceptable to the Government.
A member drew attention to the need to ensure a balanced representation among the 16 appointed representatives to the Regional Strategy Board to overcome the current undue influence of the urban areas over rural areas (the “north-south divide”).
The point was acknowledged by Mr. Nunn, who confirmed that the need for representation by location had been recognised and was being addressed.
There was some discussion of the effectiveness of the regional assembly, which had been doubted in the past. It was to be hoped the new arrangement would be better.
Mr. Nunn said the value of regional representation could be seen through areas such as the achievement of securing significant European funding, enabling further investment to be drawn down into the region. Being represented gave the opportunity to influence decisions and ensure your voice was heard. A case in point was the dualling of the A11 trunk road. A regional grouping was needed to bring that forward. If all funding went directly to local councils, the regional influence on such strategically important issues would be lost.
The Chairman asked what was needed to ensure proper scrutiny of the new regional structure.
Mr. Nunn responded that one option might be to form a scrutiny body made up of the Chairmen of each authority’s scrutiny committees. Alternatively, it could be argued that the larger Leaders’ Board would naturally scrutinise the work of the 16 representatives on the Regional Strategy Board. Another option might be to use the model of the county health scrutiny for the purpose.
The Chairman suggested it would be useful to include a point on that in the response to the consultation.
Mr. Nunn confirmed that there had been some initial discussion on the point but not in any depth as to how scrutiny might be provided in practice.
RESOLVED that subject to the points raised above being appropriately included in the Council’s response to the consultation, the proposals for the setting up of a Leaders’ Board for the East of England be supported.<1>
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Development Services Manager presented the report which provided members with information on the current position regarding Section 106 Legal Agreements, also known as planning obligations.
The report explained how planning obligations were considered and monitored.
In answer to a question it was noted that the installation of footpath lighting for any scheme required the land to have been adopted in the first instance. In some cases, for example, this might involve the District Council having first to adopt adjoining open space before the County Council could adopt a footpath running beside or crossing it, before the lighting could be installed. This could be a more complicated process if more than one developer or landowner was involved.
A member made the point that developers could be faced with multiple costs for meeting obligations such as easements, affordable housing, remedying contaminated land, in addition to S106 Agreements, that could result in some sites becoming unviable for development, especially for small developers.
The case of a specific site at Thetford was raised by Mr. Kybird and it was asked whether the Open Space obligation on the site would be delivered. The Deputy Chief Executive replied that a meeting was taking place that day and he would let Mr. Kybird know the outcome. Mr. Kybird felt there were lessons to be learned from this case as to how S106 Agreements were applied.
A further question from a member asked how S106 receipts were allocated to the villages and how villages could apply for money to be spent on provision of, say, open space in their area.
It was explained that current policy was to group parishes and take advice from the parish or town council as to what was required.
So far as affordable housing receipts were concerned, advice was taken from the Housing Team in consultation with the Registered Social Landlords as to the release of funding for schemes.
A member referred to a case at Watton where a developer had gone out of business half-way through a project and asked what happened in such cases.
(At this point, Mr. J.D. Rogers declared a personal interest as a County Councillor involved in authorising the S106 in this case.)
The Development Services Manager explained that if the S106 contribution had already been made, there was no problem. If not, the successor in title would become responsible for the same obligations. In some circumstances where the trigger points for the contributions had been passed, legal advice would be taken on how to proceed. In the case at Watton, the District and County Councils had to take a view on how to proceed. However, members noted that there had been no loss of monies to the Council from such cases over the years.
A member added that not all monies related to S106 Agreements but to education provisions under Section 278 Agreements.
In concluding the item, the Chairman welcomed that there were mechanisms in place on how planning obligations monies were received, spent and ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
Report of the Head of Finance.
The Head of Finance presented the report, which updated members on the current position regarding the operation of the concessionary fares scheme.
Details of the current operating position was noted, together with the fact that administration of the scheme was being passed to higher tier authorities, which meant that Norfolk County Council would take over the administration of the Norfolk scheme from the Districts in April 2011. The impact of this on the Council’s revenue support grant was unknown at this stage.
Members acknowledged the value of the scheme in supporting rural transport needs and felt the money was well spent.
The position was noted.
Task and Finish Groups (Agenda Item 10)
To consider the report and recommendations of the Task and Finish Group.
The Chairman welcomed this very comprehensive report and felt the recommendations were very valuable.
It was clarified that recommendation vi) referred to the fact that Task Forces would comprise elected members and, as such, would be member-led.
A correction to recommendation ii) was made to replace the words “relevant town council” with the words “Task Force or District Council”.
It was explained that the Task Force model would be adapted as necessary to fit the need of the area it was to serve.
RECOMMEND TO THE CABINET that
the existing Task Force model be rolled out to the remaining three
market towns in the course of 2010;
it be at the discretion of the Task Force or District Council as to
whether to include representatives of parish councils in their
respective hinterlands on their Community Forum;
Breckland-led Community Fora primarily will go hand-in-hand with
the Task Force; however, if this is not possible, then a town
council-led community forum will be instigated instead;
Breckland Council looks to liaise actively with Norfolk
Constabulary to streamline the Groups and Fora utilised for
community engagement in order to clarify roles and avoid
duplication of effort and resources;
invite a wider range of public partner agencies to
Breckland’s Town and Parish Council Forum event, e.g. Police,
PCT, Fire Service, etc.
ensure that the Task Force seeks to be member-led;
add a representative from the relevant area partnership to the list
of partner agencies sitting on the Task Force; and
(8) existing arrangements relating to voting and budgets should be retained as part of the model.
To consider the findings and recommendations of the Task and Finish Group from its meeting held on 14 January 2010.
For further background information, Members may wish to refer to the original consultation report considered by the Commission at its meeting on 15 October, 2009 (item 8 of that agenda and minute no. 98/09 refer).
The Chairman of the Task and Finish Group presented the report and explained that no radical changes were proposed but the revisions were aimed at channelling resources towards small, locally-based businesses and away from the more nationally based organisations which had recourse to other funding.
This did not affect the provisions for mandatory rate relief.
Referring to the practice of offering only 50% rate relief to clubs with bars, a member stated that some small sports clubs could be disadvantaged as they made no profit from such facilities. In reply, the Chairman of the Task and Finish Group said that if such clubs obtained relevant amateur status, they would qualify for 80% mandatory relief.
It was also explained that guidelines were available for applicants and officers readily gave individual advice and assistance, including signposting applicants to other sources of funding where appropriate.
The Commission supported the recommendations and accordingly
RECOMMENDS TO THE CABINET to endorse that the following changes are incorporated into the guidelines for determining the granting of discretionary rate relief:
to give advice to appropriate organisations to seek Community
Amateur Sports Club or charitable status;
the rate relief cap be set at £2,000;
to reaffirm the current practice of offering only 50% rate relief
to clubs with bars;
to reaffirm that any national charity would receive the 80%
mandatory relief only;
the recommendation of the local Member should be sought on
‘exceptional cases’ be reviewed by the Executive
to reaffirm the importance of formal consultation with the local
Member in all cases;
to review discretionary rate relief cases annually and the
principles of the policy every three years; and
FURTHER RECOMMEND to Cabinet to respectfully suggest that Cabinet considers reinvesting any money saved from the proposed changes into economic regeneration.
Report of the Director (Organisational Development).
The Human Resources Manager presented the report, which outlined the Council’s progress towards accreditation to the Investors in People standard.
Issues raised at the various Member and Officer consultation meetings had been addressed and good progress had been made towards resolving them.
Staff Champions had been appointed and there was a clear focus on communications and training.
Members were encouraged by the rate of progress so far achieved but there were some reservations that some of the responses to the diagnostic survey showed areas still in need of improvement.
The point was acknowledged but the Human Resources Manager explained that this was a natural progression and the point of the process was to continue to make improvements. Advice had been taken from the IIP Manager who was supportive of the good progress made and was satisfied that the Council was in a positive position to achieve accreditation.
In noting that the report gave combined results of Members and Officers, it was asked if they had been assessed separately and if so, whether this might alter the combined results.
The Human Resources Manager agreed to check the information and reply on those points. However, there was a clearly defined response rate of 68% from staff. A project meeting with the IIP Manager was scheduled to be held on 17 February and the results of that meeting would be reported back to the Commission.
The Commission supported the recommendation in the report and accordingly
RECOMMEND TO THE CABINET to agree that Breckland Council is ready to be put forward for Investors in People accreditation in March 2010.
To receive the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Green Agenda Development Panel held on 30 November 2009.
The Chairman of the Panel presented the report and highlighted the fact that 70% of the Council’s carbon footprint related to the two sports centres. He felt it might be necessary to look at whether any assistance could be offered to reduce that figure. He noted that there had been no information given about control or tariff systems used.
The Chairman of the Panel also drew attention to the fact that a consultation on the East of England rail franchise mentioned the Brecks and Thetford but gave no indication that there was a policy to make improvements in this area. He felt this was something that the Commission might feel was worthy of review.
The Chairman of the Commission noted the point and advised that the Norfolk Rail Network Group, of which he was a member, was due to meet shortly.
The report was noted.
Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)
To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.
No items had been referred.
Community Call For Action (Standing Item)
To consider any references.
No items had been referred.
(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. Members may wish to refer to the latest issue of the Council’s Forward Plan.
(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.
No changes were made.
Members were asked to note arrangements for a Work Programme workshop to be held at 1.00pm on 11 March 2010 at the Gallery Bar, Watton Sports Centre, to consider the annual programme for 2010-11.
To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 18 March 2010 at 2.15pm at the Assembly Rooms, Swaffham.
The arrangements for the next meeting on 18 March 2010 were noted.