Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

57.

Minutes (Agenda Item 1) pdf icon PDF 91 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 14 July 2011.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 14 July 2011 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

58.

Apologies and Substitutes (Agenda Item 2)

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

Minutes:

None.

59.

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:

None.

60.

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:

Mr P Cowen declared a personal interest in Agenda Item 7 (Review of the LDF) by virtue of being an architect in practice in Breckland.

61.

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 Bambridge, Mr Childerhouse, Mrs Jolly, Mr Kiddle-Morris, Mr W Richmond and Mrs L Turner were in attendance.

62.

Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 6)

Mr M Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development, 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 Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development gave the Commission an update on his Portfolio which had recently changed title and now also included Strategic Planning and Parkwood PFI.

 

Assets

The Council owned over 200 properties, most of which were commercial.  As at 22 August 2011 97% of the premises were let providing annual revenue of about £2.3million.  However, it was acknowledged that there were likely to be vacancies in the future due to the economic situation and cuts in grants.  Therefore expectations were being downgraded with regard to targets for lettings and some properties were being sold.

 

The property portfolio was constantly reviewed and the property department did a very good job.  They concentrated on investing in properties which offered a 7-10% return.  Money received from the sale of properties would be re-invested.

 

The Council also owned over 6,000 parcels of land.  Some of these were being investigated under the Active Land Management scheme for possible capital/revenue return, but most were former Highway Surveyors land, which would be looked at in the future.

 

Economic Development

The Rev Active Project, which advised small to medium sized enterprises on how to lower their operating and utility costs, was working well and the savings they were helping to find were safeguarding jobs.  The project would be receiving a Green Apple Award in November and had also been shortlisted for an EDIE award.

 

The team were continuing to encourage power provision for the Snetterton Heath area.  A planning application for a straw burner was in the pipeline which might provide electricity for thousands of jobs.  The team were also involved in the Attleborough and Snetterton Heath Area Action Plan (ASHAAP) and in the Moving Thetford Forward project. 

 

Strategic Planning

The latest stage in the Local Development Framework had been the submission of the Site Specifics proposals.  Breckland was one of only 22 local authorities to have made such a submission.  The Inspector’s report was awaited.

 

The Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP) had also been approved for submission and was currently out for consultation until 11 October.  It would be examined in November 2011 with any hearings taking place in early 2012.  The Inspector’s report was expected in April and it was hoped that the plan could be implemented in June 2012.

 

Further consultation would take place on the ASHAAP during the winter.  Additional transport work was needed.

 

Development of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) was at stage one.  Only one other authority had already implemented a CIL and they were experiencing problems.  There were various issues to be addressed.

 

Currently the Council only had 1.9 years Housing Land Availability.  When the Site Specifics proposals were approved there would still be slightly less than the required five years of availability.  However, when the TAAP was published the amount would increase to 12 years’ worth.

 

The effects of the National Planning Policy Framework on the LDF needed to be assessed.  The draft document was only 58 pages long.  It would replace over 25  ...  view the full minutes text for item 62.

63.

Review of Local Development Framework (Agenda Item 7)

Annual review of the LDF with specific attention to the implications of the Localism Bill and any advice and evidence on the Stone Curlew habitat debate.

Minutes:

The Chairman advised Members that following the discussion of the Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP) at Cabinet he had decided not to consider the representation from Shadwell Estates until after the consultation was complete.  However, he had hoped to receive a written report on the comments made during that discussion, to inform his response to the letter received.  He believed that the concerns had been addressed during the discussions, particularly with regard to Stone Curlews.

 

He also noted that the draft National Planning Policy Framework was a broad brush document which could cause problems in the future and might affect the Site Specifics proposals.  More detail was needed about that and the Localism Bill.

 

It was therefore agreed that the review would be deferred to the next meeting when more information should be available.

64.

Open Public Services White Paper Consultation (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Minutes:

The new Business Development Manager was introduced to Members.

 

He advised that the White Paper was not really a consultation document but actually more a general policy statement summarising the Government’s proposals.  He thought it would be useful for the Council to respond in a general way as it would give an opportunity to point out that Breckland was at the forefront and already implementing many of the proposals.  He sought Members’ advice on the nature of the response.

 

The Vice-Chairman thought there was nothing wrong with the principles and philosophy in the proposals but was concerned about how to make them happen.  Town and Parish Councils would need training and support if they were to take on additional responsibilities for which they had no expertise or competence.  He thought it would be difficult to translate the proposals into actions and deeds.

 

The Chairman was also concerned about the Localism aspect and devolved decision making and wondered how it could be made to work.  He asked Members how they wished to respond to the White Paper.

 

Some Members favoured an individual response by the Council but the Chairman suggested that as partnerships and joined up services was at the heart of the document it might be better to respond jointly with South Holland.

 

The Business Development Manager had attended a meeting of South Holland’s Scrutiny Committee and they favoured a joint response.

 

A question was raised about whether the Council would be disclosing its assets to the Government and Mr Kiddle-Morris said there was no problem with disclosing what the Council owned and where it was, but no information on individual rentals would be provided.

 

The Chairman suggested that there should be a two tier response to the White Paper, one from the Council and one to underscore that Breckland was already delivering efficiencies and sharing services.

 

RECOMMEND TO COUNCIL that Breckland Council responds to the Open Public Services White Paper Consultation and that the response includes the points set out in the report and the concerns raised in the debate about supporting devolved decision making.

65.

Disaster Recovery Planning (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 88 KB

To receive an update from the Emergency Planning Officer.

Minutes:

The Emergency Planning Officer was in attendance.  She explained that she worked in partnership with Norfolk County Council and John Ellis, the NCC Resilience Officer was also in attendance.

 

Following a Business Continuity exercise in 2010 a strategy for the way forward had been agreed.  In accordance with the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 the Council (as a Category 1 responder) was required to have adequate measures in place to maintain essential services and subsequently recover from the effects of any significant disruption to normal working.  That process was known as Business Continuity Management.

 

Contingencies needed to be in place to deal with disruptions such as the loss of premises, loss of key infrastructure, loss of key staff or supplier failure.

 

It had been suggested that a back-up generator was needed for Elizabeth House, but the Emergency Planning Officer considered that the resilience of the Council as a whole needed to be addressed – not just back up power for the Council offices.

 

She had raised the issue of the Bunker as a possible useful resource to be considered within the business continuity plan.  It needed upgrading to make it fit for purpose.  If there was IT and telephony resilience it would be possible to continue service delivery from alternative work areas, such as the bunker.  The Emergency Planning funds currently covered the the rates, telephony, broadband and service costs of the bunker.

 

With the advent of shared management with South Holland the Business Continuity framework needed to cover both authorities.  The Corporate Management Team had strategic responsibility and Business Plans were to be completed as soon as possible to identify priority services and strategies to ensure their continuity.

 

As part of the evaluation the Business Improvement & Projects Sub-Committee had proposed that the matter be passed to the Commission for more detailed discussion and to provide assurance on the effectiveness of plans and procedures.

 

The Chairman then asked the Strategic Property Manager to present his report.

 

The Strategic Property Manager explained that his report was made from a property perspective only.  As part of the Business Continuity plans they had been asked to provide a quote for a feasibility study to bring the bunker up to the required standards.  They had received a quote of £4,500 to carry out that study.  The bunker contained a lot of specialist equipment including a ventilation system.  There were fuel cells and no natural light.  The access, which was down a flight of steps, was not DDA compliant.

 

The bunker had never been let previously and was currently used to store the Council’s Deeds.  From a property perspective there was not considered to be any significant commercial letting value.  There was other, better space available locally.

 

The option to undertake the feasibility study still existed but was not seen as a viable option.  The Strategic Property Manager recommended that the bunker be used for corporate storage, releasing other space for letting.

 

The Executive Member for Localism, Community and Environmental Services said that the bunker came  ...  view the full minutes text for item 65.

66.

Task and Finish Groups (Agenda Item 10)

Minutes:

Nothing to report.

67.

Scrutiny Call-ins (Agenda Item 11)

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

Minutes:

None.

68.

Councillor Call for Action (Agenda Item 12)

To consider any references.

Minutes:

None.

69.

Work Programme (Agenda Item 13) pdf icon PDF 91 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:

Mr Bambridge noted that Members had been involved in the original negotiation of the Serco contract and he was surprised that they had not been invited to participate in the re-negotiations.

 

Mr Kybird said that Lady Fisher and he had attended NCC Health Scrutiny Committee.  He thought that the District needed to analyse its needs to inform County and suggested that the Health Item should be postponed until that could be done. 

 

As various items from the current agenda would be coming back to the next meeting the Chairman suggested that Drainage & Flooding should also be put back to November, to replace the Stone Curlew item.

70.

Next Meeting (Agenda Item 14)

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 6 October 2011.

Minutes:

It was agreed that there had not been sufficient room in the Norfolk Room and that future meetings should be moved into the Anglia Room.

 

The arrangements for the next meeting on 6 October 2011 were noted.