Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services  01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes (Agenda Item 1) pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2012.


Mr Joel asked why the Commission’s Minutes for 6 September had not been included on the 20 September Council agenda.  The omission had been caused by an administrative oversight and those Minutes would be included on the agenda of the Council meeting to be held on 25 October.

The Minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2012 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Apologies and Substitutes (Agenda Item 2)

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


Apologies had been received from Mr T Jermy and Mrs S Armes (who was unable to attend as his substitute).  Mr Kybird had also sent apologies and Councillor Bowes was present as his substitute.


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.




Declaration of Interests (Agenda Item 4)

Members are no longer required to declare personal of prejudicial interests but are to declare any new Disclosable Pecuniary Interests that are not currently included in the Register of Interests. Members are reminded that under the Code of Conduct they are not to participate and must leave the room, for the whole of an agenda item to which they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest. 


In the interests of transparency, Members may also wish to declare any other interests they have in relation to an agenda item, that support the Nolan principles detailed within the Code of Conduct.


In accordance with the Nolan principles Mr P Cowen declared a personal interest in Agenda Item 7 as an architect in practice in the district.


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.


Mr Bambridge and Mr Kiddle-Morris were in attendance.


Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 6)

Mark 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.


Mr Kiddle-Morris was present to update the Commission on the Assets and Strategic Development Portfolio.


His first observation was that the microphones in the Conference Suite were not working well and as that fell within his Portfolio’s area of responsibility he would look into the reasons why.<1>


He told Members that the main drivers for the Assets and Property team were to ensure that the commercial property portfolio was properly managed and performing well.  With regard to land management, the main driver was to improve the value of Council owned land and the first step was to assess each piece of land to see if planning permission could be obtained for development. 


The Strategic Planning side of the Portfolio was involved in supporting the adoption of the Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP) (which was subject to a judicial review in Birmingham in November) and the Attleborough and Snetterton Heath Area Action Plan (ASHAAP) as well as reviewing the Local Development Framework in line with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and developing the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to replace Section 106 agreements for securing off-site strategic infrastructure.


At the present time the property portfolio was 96% let which was remarkable in the current climate.  The two Business Centres in Dereham and Thetford which provided office space were more of a problem to fill and were presently 78 and 84% let respectively.  The combined income from the property portfolio was about £2.5million and that helped to keep Council Tax low.


The Cabinet had given permission to look at a Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV).  The aim was to attract a private sector developer to develop the Council’s assets, either by changing their use or by knocking some down and replacing them with something else.  It was not just Council owned assets that would be included in the LABV.  The Town Councils and Norfolk County Council were being invited to include their assets in the project which could lead to town centres being enhanced and regenerated.


The Land Management area was a very small resource with just one officer working hard to bring in revenue.  The long term aim was to build houses on Council owned land and planning permission had been secured on two sites which would provide 13 houses and investigations were currently underway on a rural exception site.  The Land Management Officer was also working on the transfer of play areas to Town Councils.


The review of the LDF Core Strategies was due in December 2012.  The current Policies were robust and were performing well at appeal, but there was still a problem with the Council’s five year housing land supply.  Evidence was being complied on housing number requirements.  A consultation document would be presented to the Commission and to Cabinet. 


With the requirement to produce a new Local Plan it would be perverse to progress the ASHAAP until housing requirements were clear.  It was therefore proposed to subsume the ASHAPP into the new Local Plan.


Viability  ...  view the full minutes text for item 95.


Review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)(Agenda Item 7)

To receive a verbal update from the Joint Deputy Planning Manager.


The Joint Deputy Planning Manager gave Members an update on what he described as the new landscape for plan making and decision taking.


Operationally, when determining planning applications, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was a material consideration, but the current system was still ‘plan-led’ and so until 27 March 2013 the Local Development Framework (LDF) Policies had full weight in the Plan process.  After that date those Policies would only be given ‘due’ weight.


He set out the parameters for changing from the LDF to the new Local Plan.


It could be a single document containing all the Policies, maps, etc., with dedicated chapters for Thetford and Attleborough.  Alternatively, the changes could be made piecemeal by a review, addressing areas such as:


  • The policy approach to dwellings for rural workers
  • Farm diversification – adopting a more positive approach
  • Allowing affordable housing to be cross-subsidised by market housing on sites outside the Settlement Boundary.


In view of the Council’s problems with its five year housing land supply, it had been decided to have a more comprehensive review of the whole document from top to bottom.  The Council now had greater flexibility over the quantums and locations of development and more control over housing numbers, the definition of sustainable villages and the number of gypsy pitches, etc.


The Plan would be prepared with positive engagement with local communities.  There was also a duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities and key stakeholders. 


Mr Gilbert was pleased that the Council could make a ‘Breckland’ Plan.  He hoped it would allow for the requirement for larger gardens for larger houses, and stop developers from cramming lots of houses with small gardens onto rural sites.


The previous National Government directive had dictated a requirement of 30 dwellings per hectare.  Under the new system the Council could set its own framework.


Mr Joel asked when villages would be consulted and whether Neighbourhood Plans should be incorporated in the Local Plan.


The Council had a duty to facilitate and support the preparation of Neighbourhood Plans.  Part of that process would be to suggest other ways to achieve what was wanted through the planning process or as part of the Local Plan process.  Neighbourhood Plans had resource issues including the cost of providing supporting evidence and carrying out consultation and referendums, so other ways of achieving aspirations would be explored.


The Local Plan process would be similar in length and nature to the Core Strategy and would take two to three years.  The process would be explained to groups in advance.


The Chairman asked who would be responsible for delivery – Capita or the Council – and were resources available?  He stressed that Members must be part of the process.


Mr Kiddle-Morris advised that a recommendation would be made to Cabinet to create a sub-group of Cabinet, open to all Members to attend, to be part of an open conversation before consultation commenced.  The resource issue with Capita was being reviewed.  It was in their Service Level  ...  view the full minutes text for item 96.


Overview & Scrutiny Annual Report (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 128 KB

To receive the draft Annual Report of the Commission.


As Agenda Items 8 and 9 might involve the discussion of confidential information, the Chairman took Agenda Item 10 next.


He asked Members if they were happy with the annual report which he had drafted.


He thanked everyone for their support at all levels, but singled out the members of the Housing Task & Finish Group for their really good work which he put forward as a piece of excellence.


With regard to Task & Finish Groups Mr Bambridge noted that one duty of the Business Continuity T&FG had been to consider the installation of a generator at Elizabeth House.  He asked what was happening about that.


The Chairman said that had been put on the Forward Work Programme and would be on the next agenda.


The report was noted.


Shaping Breckland (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 90 KB

To receive a report on the ‘Shaping Breckland’ workshops and consultations from the Business Development Manager.

Additional documents:


It was noted that if Members wished to discuss the details contained in Appendix A to the report, the meeting might need to move into private session.


The Business Development Manager gave a short PowerPoint presentation which outlined the substantial amount of work by officers and Members on the project.


He explained the background to the work.  It had been acknowledged that finding efficiencies would not be enough to meet the funding gap.  Cuts had to be made that might hit front line services in future and a strategic framework was needed to determine how to tackle that problem.  That framework needed to be Member led.

The process had begun with workshops to which all Members had been invited.  They had been asked to adopt the ‘blank sheet’ approach and determine what services they wanted to continue delivering, having identified the legal minimum of what the Council was required to deliver.


The legal minimum required of the Council had been difficult to define.  Having spoken with senior managers and taken into consideration the outcomes from the discussions with Members a funding gap of £3 million had been identified.  The decisions from those discussions informed the Could We Should We consultations which had then taken place in the five market towns.  The public had been given the opportunity indicate their preference for various savings and income options.  The first set of options had identified the services that the Council did not have to provide, and the income options proposed an increase in Council Tax or a charge for car parking.  The results had been published onto the Council’s website and would be presented to the Executive for consideration.


Despite all the work done there was still a funding gap and the Council would need to keep pressing to find future savings.  However, it was in a better position than many other local authorities and the fact that Members were fully engaged was a real success.


More work would be done and a complete review of ‘back office’ services, including Business Development, which was a discretionary service, would commence in November.  Those processes had not been included in the Could We Should We consultations as they had been confined to issues which directly affected the public and would require changes to Council policy.


The Chairman thanked the Business Development Manager and the Corporate Projects Manager for the work they had done.


Task and Finish Groups (Agenda Item 11)

Nothing to report.


Nothing to report.


Health & Scrutiny (Standing Item)(Agenda Item 12)

To receive an update on the Norfolk Health Scrutiny Committee.


Nothing to report.


Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)(Agenda Item 13)

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




Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item)(Agenda Item 14)

To consider any references.




Cable & Wireless Problems (Agenda Item 9)

Report of the Director of Commissioning.

Additional documents:


The Chairman had moved this item down the agenda as it required the discussion of exempt information.  As no members of the press or public remained in the room, no motion to remove them was made.


The Interim ICT & Customer Services Manager presented the report and explained that the disruption to services in July had been caused by the loss of internet connection.  A call had been raised and the correct protocol had been followed.  An off-site circuit issue had been diagnosed. 


Concerns had been raised with Cable & Wireless regarding the length of time that the service had been down.  They had agreed that the fault had not been resolved within the Service Level Agreement timescale and had apologised and provided compensation.  They had also identified a number of follow-up actions.  The recommendation to ‘do nothing’ was subject to the remaining actions being implemented.


Mr Bambridge was pleased at the way Officers had handled the incident and he thanked the ICT team.  He was concerned that there had been no system in place to advise Members of the problem.


In response to a question from Mr Gilbert the contract terms were discussed.


The Chairman asked what had actually caused the fault and whether it was likely to recur and was advised that Officers were continuing to seek more detailed information on that issue.


The Chairman was also concerned that the report did not fully reflect the number of people affected by the outage.  He suggested that in view of proposals to move to shared ICT services with Norfolk County Council, neither recommendation should be taken.  More time should be allowed for the team to develop their proposals and in April 2013, the Commission would review the ICT service provision.  


The Chairman thanked the ICT & Customer Services Manager for his report.


Work Programme (Agenda Item 15) pdf icon PDF 75 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.


A copy of the Key Decision and Exempt Information Decision Plans are attached for Members’ information.

Additional documents:


The Scrutiny and Projects Officer ran through the items for the next agenda and noted the items that had been suggested for future meetings. 


The review of ICT and NCC shared service provision would be included on the April 2013 agenda.


Mr C Carter had suggested that the Commission should review the quality and content of reports provided to Cabinet.


The Leader of the Council had been invited to the January meeting. 


The Chairman suggested that as Scrutiny had a wide remit it had the opportunity to look at how the Council was working as a whole, bringing all strands together, to ensure that it was getting best value.  It was a big subject and might need to be a single item agenda.


Next Meeting (Agenda Item 16)

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 29 November 2012 in the Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Dereham at 2.00pm.


The arrangements for the next meeting at 2pm on Thursday 29 November 2012 were noted.