Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes (Agenda Item 1)

1a

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 18 November 2010 (Agenda Item 1a) pdf icon PDF 112 KB

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 18 November 2010 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

1b

To confirm the minutes of the Special meeting held on 6 December 2010 (Agenda Item 1b) pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 6 December 2010 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

2.

Apologies and Substitutes (Agenda Item 2)

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

Minutes:

None.

 

3.

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:

There was none.

 

4.

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:

No declarations were made.

 

5.

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:

Mr G Bambridge, Mr M Kiddle-Morris, Mrs K Millbank and Mr W Nunn were in attendance.

 

6.

Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 6)

Mr M Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Economic and Commercial, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within his portfolio and to answer any questions.

 

Minutes:

Mr M Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Economic and Commercial, updated Members on his Portfolio.

 

The Strategic priorities included identifying and maximising income and trading and promoting development and implementing initiatives to assist growth and improve skills.

 

There was a long list of on-going projects and details of a few of these were provided:

 

RevActive

This project had been the subject of a lot of scrutiny.  Approximately 200 companies had signed up to the network and the scheme had exceeded expectations since its launch.  It had been a finalist in the Regional Creating Futures Awards and was recognised nationally.

 

Moving Thetford Forward

This provided the vision for the regeneration of Thetford including the provision of economic growth and housing.  Key projects under the scheme were the Bus Interchange and the Thetford Academy, although it was likely that the latter would not go ahead due to its single-site aspirations.  The final draft of the Thetford Sustainable Urban Extension and Plan Perf Agmt had been circulated.  Town Centre enhancements were planned.

 

Snetterton Utilities

Efforts were still being made to get the necessary infrastructure, which was likely to cost in the region of £6.8million, for this key employment area.  A bid had been put in for regeneration growth funding.  An Olympic village site visit had been arranged as they were experiencing the same problems and might provide solutions.

 

Commercial Property

Units were 96% let at the current date which was a very good record.  Some of the larger properties had been sold and it was hoped to acquire more units with the revenue.

 

The Vice-Chairman said this was a key portfolio and that commercial property was always a winner for the Council.  96% occupancy was excellent and he congratulated the commercial property team.  He did not want to see the success bled dry by the lack of funding in other areas as there was a need to re-invest.  He hoped the Executive Member agreed.

 

He asked if many small and medium-sized businesses were coming through as the Government was relying on the private sector to compensate for the loss of jobs in the public sector.

 

Mr Kiddle-Morris confirmed that the Council’s small business units rarely stayed empty for long which was a sign that small and medium sized businesses were about.  He also commented that small businesses provided jobs in rural communities and this was something that he wished to support.  He wanted to see some employment opportunities on the outskirts of villages to sustain residential development.

 

He shared the Vice-Chairman’s views on re-investment and would try to get all capital receipts invested in more commercial property.

 

Mrs Irving asked if the 4% of un-let units were all in one area and was advised that they were spread across the district.

 

Mr Rogers noted that on a light industrial site near Watton the developers were refusing to allow sites smaller than one acre to be sold.  The Deputy Chief Executive agreed to look into this and provide Mr Rogers with a written response  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Scrutiny Call-ins (Agenda Item 7)

The following decision has been called-in for scrutiny.

7a

Active Land Management - Tranche 2 - Land at Swanton Morley (Agenda Item 7a) pdf icon PDF 67 KB

The Ward Representative for Swanton Morley has called in this decision on grounds that one of the key points utilised to allow Cabinet to come to this decision is the erroneous belief that there is a housing shortage in Swanton Morley.

 

The following documents are attached:

 

i)                    copy decision details as published and as called-in

ii)                  copy report of the Executive Member – Commercial and Economic

iii)                PowerPoint presentation

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At the Cabinet meeting on 30 November 2010, approval was given to offer land at Middleton Avenue, Swanton Morley, for sale for affordable housing.

 

The decision was called-in within the 5-day scrutiny period by Mrs K Millbank, the Ward Representative for Swanton Morley, on the grounds that ”one of the key points utilised to allow Cabinet to come to this decision is the erroneous belief that there is a housing shortage in Swanton Morley”.

 

The Scrutiny Manager advised Members of the format for this item.  The Land Management Officer would outline the report made to Cabinet.  The Ward Representative would explain why she had called in the decision.  Mr Atterwill (Chairman) and Mr George Northall (Parish Councillor) both of Swanton Morley Parish Council would then have the opportunity to speak.

 

The Land Management Officer explained that the Council had adopted an Active Land Management Programme, looking at all Council owned land.  Tranche one had been approved earlier last year and Tranche two had been presented to Cabinet on 30 November 2010.  At that meeting the alternative and future uses of the nine sites under consideration had been discussed.  One of those sites, Middleton Avenue in Swanton Morley, was outside the existing Settlement Boundary and could therefore only be considered as an ‘exception’ site for affordable housing.  Under current policy the site was designated as Open Space, therefore, if it was to be developed, other land would have to be made available for Open Space (or as a play area) or a contribution towards such a facility would be required from the developer.  Two other issues; the existence of an Anglian Water sewer crossing the site and the fact that the Parish Council wanted the site, had also been highlighted at the Cabinet meeting.

 

It had also been noted that an application to purchase the site for development had been submitted by Broadland Housing Association.  During informal discussion of that proposal a public consultation event had been held.  There had been a lot of local opposition and the Housing Association had subsequently withdrawn their interest.

 

All this information had been relayed to Cabinet on 30 November and after consideration they had made the decision to offer the land for sale for affordable housing.

 

Mrs Millbank said that she did not think that the full details had been considered.  A statement from Mr Atterwill had been circulated to all Commission Members and this set out those details.

 

Mrs Millbank had been impressed by the work of the Parish Council in Swanton Morley.  They had provided a play area, arranged village hall events and won the Norfolk Village of the Year in 2009.  The Parish Council wanted to keep the land for local residents.  Swanton Morley was a long village and they proposed to build another play area on that land, for children at that end of the village.  Alternatively, the land could be used as an extension to the cemetery.


The Broadland Housing Association proposal had been overwhelmed by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7a

8.

Post Decision Implementation (Agenda Item 8)

To receive a demonstration of the action tracking system.

Minutes:

This item was deferred until the next meeting.

 

9.

Choice Based Lettings (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Report of the Director of Planning, Health & Housing.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director - Environmental Health & Housing presented the report which had been issued as a supplement to the agenda.  Further papers were tabled at the meeting.

 

She gave some contextual detail to the report, explaining that the Council had been the first Local Authority to outsource the allocations function.  Previously this had been administered, free of charge, by Peddars Way Housing Association (PWHA) following the stock transfer.  The allocations system was currently points based and it was recognised that it was not transparent and led to numerous enquiries from applicants as to their position on the register.  No clear allocations policy was in existence at Breckland and therefore the Council could be seen to have had very limited influence over the allocation of housing in the district.

 

PWHA had served notice on the Council and the allocation function had been taken back in-house.  An EU Tender process had been carried out to find a suitable partner to administer the service and ARP(T) had been successful.  Delivery had commenced in July 2007.  The contract was in two distinct parts: administration of the housing register and development and introduction of a choice based lettings system (CBL).  (This moved allocations from a points based to a more transparent banding system).  The contract included stringent performance indicators – to drive significantly improvements in performance. 

 

It was recongnised that in places erformance had been inconsistent, but customers and partners had been complimentary about the service they had received.  Delays remain however, in introducing the CBL system and ARP(T) had been given until 20 January 2011 to go live.

 

At this point the Chairman explained that this item had been on the agenda for some time and had been deferred on more than one occasion.  The system should have gone live months ago.  The contract had been won through the due tender process and the company contracted to provide a service.  They had chosen to introduce a partner to assist, but the Council’s contract was with ARP(T).  Cabinet had taken the decision to introduce a timeframe and it was important that the Commission had the opportunity to scrutinise the contract before the deadline.

 

It was apparent that despite some performance problems, the administration of the Housing Register had been dealt with well.  However, the question was, why had the former Chief Executive kept faith with ARP(T) despite the problems with the CBL system.

 

The Assistant Director - Environmental Health & Housing explained that the main delay had arisen due to a hardware failure.  The product had been in development for a significant time, owing to the fact that the system purchased by ARP(T) was not an ‘off the shelf product’.  In places, Breckland Key Select was almost bespoke to Breckland’s needs was therefore a very positive product.  The system is highly interactive and is considered to be one of the best on the market.  Breckland Key Select gives unique levels of access to information for residents and landlords.  The system had now been built and was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Task and Finish Groups (Agenda Item 10)

To consider reports from Task & Finish Group Chairmen in respect of the following meetings:

10a

Parking - Swaffham Review (Agenda Item 10a)

To receive a verbal update.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman of the Task & Finish Group informed Members that the Group had met in early December and would meet again later in January.  There had been excellent press coverage but not a lot of public response.  However, she was not surprised by this as she did not think that there were any particular problems in Swaffham.

 

10b

Joint Audit and Scrutiny Panel - ICT Review (Agenda Item 10b)

To receive a verbal update.

Minutes:

The Chairman informed Members that at the latest Panel meeting they had looked at various methods to improve digital use by Members.  He had been disappointed to hear that they could not improve Broadband access by tapping into the schools’ system as that was one item that had been discussed.  A number of options had been looked at and the Panel had reached the decision to trial iPads across the Council.  It was felt important to include Members with large and diverse workloads in the trial.  A Member of Development Control and a ‘twin-hatter’ should be included.  It had been suggested that four iPads should be acquired and disseminated.  This had subsequently been changed to two.

 

The Elections and Scrutiny Manager then read out an e-mail he had received from the Head of ICT in which he advised that the Business Improvement Team had been requested to gather information for the Business Case and other councils also considering ipads (such as Leicester) would be consulted as part of that business case.

 

With regard to the provision of trial devices, the new Ipad 2 was due for release in February 2011.  It would be unwise to invest in outdated technology now, therefore to minimise the risk of hardware redundancy they were seeking a short term lease/rental agreement for ipad devices.   They were working with a company to determine the viability of ipad devices in a Local Government environment as regards ability to connect and download documentation, and the ability to annotate, comment, review and bookmark large documents for ease of use.  The Panel would be informed as and when information became available on rental or lease agreement options.

 

The Chairman thanked Members for all the comments they had submitted.  Accessibility had been the biggest problem.  Recommendations had been made about agendas, particularly with regard to PDF images and the difficulty of re-orientating them through 90 degrees. They had also stressed the need for big screens.

 

The Council was moving towards a paperless office, it was therefore important to organise the trial in advance of new Members arriving in May.  The iPads were light and portable and easy to use.  Purdah would begin on 25 March and he felt it was leaving it too late to start the trial in February.

 

Another Member noted that the next meeting of the Panel was on 1 February 2011 when a report on iPads was expected.  He said they needed to move the trial forward.  It could not be put off until later.

 

11.

Shared Services (Agenda Item 11)

To receive an update.

Minutes:

The Member Services Manager left the room whilst this item was discussed (as an Officer at risk under the new management structure).

 

The Shared Services Project Manager was in attendance to provide Members with a verbal update.

 

He explained the key milestones of the project which was currently ahead of its timetable with both the Shared Services Management Structure and the Final Memorandum of Agreement having already been approved by both Councils.

 

The project was well into its implementation stage and he was confident it would be completed by 31 March 2011.

 

He acknowledged that it was a difficult time for employees of both Councils.  A number of senior managers had been issued with ‘at risk’ letters and it was a stressful situation.

 

The 18 new Shared Management posts had been through a job evaluation process which had been completely fair, objective and robust.  All posts had been advertised from 4 January 2011.  Some officers might opt for voluntary redundancy, those proceeding with the recruitment process needed to submit their applications by 18 January 2011.  The two Director’s posts would be interviewed on 28 January and the Assistant Director and Service Managers posts in February. 

 

At the conclusion of the recruitment process those officers without posts would be redeployed if possible or made redundant.  Everything was being done to support those at risk.

 

A Member asked if all Members would be notified of the outcome of the interviews at the same time and this was confirmed.  There would be a broad announcement as soon as possible.

 

The Vice-Chairman was concerned that with the impending changes to senior managers it would be difficult to know who to contact on specific issues.  The Shared Services Project Manager agreed that business needed to continue and in the interests of continuity he would provide Members with a list of key contacts, outside the ‘at risk’ group.<1>

 

The Chairman thanked Mr Wilkin for his update.

 

12.

Councillor Call for Action (Agenda Item 12)

To consider any references.

Minutes:

Mr Joel advised that he had been going to raise the matter of recycling credits for village halls and schools, but he had received the information he required and so wished to withdraw his request.

 

13.

Work Programme (Agenda Item 13) pdf icon PDF 67 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.

Minutes:

The Elections and Scrutiny Manager advised that the Leader of the Council would be unable to attend the February meeting due to an appointment in London.  It was therefore suggested that the Executive Member for Corporate Development should be invited to attend in February and the Leader and Chief Executive be re-scheduled for the March 24 meeting if they were available.

 

It was noted that the Budget papers which had been on the work programme had been omitted as the Audit Committee now took responsibility for their scrutiny.

 

The Vice-Chairman asked if there had been an undertaking from Anglian Water to send a representative to the review of utilities meeting.  The Scrutiny Manager confirmed that there was and asked Members if they would agree a date for that special meeting.  and a firm date would assist in those discussions.

 

It was agreed that the utilities review special meeting would be held on 10 March 2011, following full Council.  Lunch for Commission members would be provided.  Discussions were on-going with National Grid and the National Power Network to send representatives, Anglian Water had already agreed to attend.

 

The Chairman asked the Scrutiny Manager and/or Officer to attend a meeting of the Norfolk County Strategic Partnership Joint Overview & Scrutiny Panel on 12 January 2011 when Anglian Water would be giving a presentation, to gather background information.

 

A Member suggested that Maureen Orr (at Norfolk County Council) should be contacted to provide a briefing regarding Health scrutiny.

 

14.

Next Meeting

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 10 February 2011.

Minutes:

It was confirmed that future meetings would commence at 2pm.

 

The arrangements for the next meeting on 10 February 2011 in Level 1 Meeting Room, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford  IP24 1BT.