Agenda and minutes

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

Items
No. Item

21.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 6 March 2008.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 6 March 2008 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

22.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Mr. A.J. Byrne and Mr. J.R. Gretton.

23.

Urgent Business

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:

The Chairman announced one item of urgent business in the interests of public information as follows:

 

Watton Horse Fair

 

The Chairman gave a statement advising on the latest position regarding the Watton Horse Fair.

 

Due to the absence of the Principal Environmental Health Officer, it had not been possible to prepare a report for this meeting.   An apology for absence was also given by the Executive Member for Environment.

 

Public speakers in attendance were Mr. N. Phillips (adjoining land owner) and Mr. Kendal.

 

The Chairman stated that, as a consequence of the consideration of this matter by the Commission last year, it had been decided that it would be appropriate that a certificate of lawfulness of the site for the Fair should be applied for.  The owner of the Fair site had accordingly submitted an application for the certificate but had subsequently withdrawn it.   As a result, the Principal Environmental Health Officer had visited the site owner to explain that there would not be time for the application to be resubmitted before the date of the next Fair on 4 May 2008 and, therefore, officers would be attending the Fair to further monitor the site, following which the matter would be reported back to the Council, with recommendations as to prosecution if there was evidence of any breaches of the law.

 

So far as licensable activities were concerned, the organiser of the Fair had applied for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) under the Licensing Act 2003 in regard to the sale of alcohol; no representations to this had been received from the Police as responsible authority and therefore the sale of alcohol at the event would be covered by the TEN.

 

The Head of Legal Services advised that if the monitoring of the Fair showed a prima facie case for enforcement action, this would be pursued under the Council’s enforcement procedures, with any decisions on enforcement being authorised under the powers delegated to the relevant Executive Member, rather than being reported to Council.  He reminded members that, to date, no prima facie evidence for action had been found.

 

Mr. Phillips addressed the Commission stating his view that the Commission had received prima facie evidence to support enforcement of the activities of the Fair and that he understood that the withdrawal of the application for a certificate of lawfulness related to evidence from aerial photographs that showed the site covered an area well in excess of that contained in the application.

 

The Chairman concluded the item by summarising that the officers had fully complied with the Council’s instructions in the matter and that the Council continued to do what it could within its powers.  The next Fair event would be monitored as the Commission had requested.  In this, he felt the Commission was clearly demonstrating its role of public scrutiny. 

 

Mr. Phillips thanked the Chairman, both for the Commission’s continued careful public scrutiny of this matter and for allowing him to address the Commission.

24.

Declaration of Interest

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:

The following declarations of personal interest were made:

 

  • Mr. J.D. Rogers – By virtue of his membership of the Norfolk County Council Minerals and Waste Committee and as Ward Member for Carbrooke in relation to LDF matters as recorded in the minutes for Panel 1 under agenda item 12(a)).

  • Mr. R.G. Kybird – By virtue of his work interests as he had three customers affected by the proposals in relation to LDF matters in connection with the minutes for Panel 1 under agenda item 12(a).

  • Mr. S.G. Bambridge – By virtue of his work interests in relation to the A1067 link road referred to in the minutes of Panel 1 under agenda item 12(a).

25.

Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting

To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.

Minutes:

Mr. M. Kiddle-Morris was in attendance.

26.

Post Office Network Change Programme - Consultation (Agenda Item 6)

Further to minute 5/08 of the meeting held on 24 January 2008, to receive an update.

Minutes:

The Economic Projects Officer attended for this item and reported on the Council’s activities to date as follows:

 

  • An online member survey had been conducted with all ward members and parish councils.  The survey had consisted of nine questions.  Out of 159 surveys issued, 40 responses had been received by the deadline of 30 November 2007.  In addition to the survey, a number of letters had been received pleading for local rural post offices to remain open.

  • An online petition had been posted on the Council’s website which was publicised via the ward members’ and parish councils’ survey and two editions of Breckland Voice.  As at January, 700+ signatories to the petition had been received.  The petition had been reopened and placed on the front page of the website at the end of March.

  • Public relations activities had included articles in Breckland Voice, press releases, public information on the website.  A further article had been drafted for the May edition of Breckland Voice.

  • Following the establishment of the Commission’s Post Office Working Group, a number of meetings of the Group had taken place.  Officers and members had also attended a public meeting convened by Christopher Fraser MP on 7 April 2008 at Downham Market, which had been attended by representatives of Post Office Limited (POL).  Breckland’s position had been well presented by local representatives and there had been strong argument against a “one size fits all” solution for rural areas.

  • The Council had submitted a pre-consultation letter to POL on 5 March and their response had been received on 12 April and circulated to the members of the Working Group for comment.  A further letter had been sent to all members on 25 March to highlight the review and inviting those ward members with affected post offices to attend the Working Group meeting on 28 March.

  • POL had now agreed to attend the Commission’s next meeting on 29 May, to which it was proposed all members of the Council and affected postmasters and parish councils should be invited.

  • Officers were carrying out visits to all affected post offices.

  • Responses to the proposals had been varied.  Community support to retain the post office in Beeston, for example, was very strong but this was not the same in other cases.

  • The Local Strategic Partnership had been asked to support the campaign and Norfolk County Council was supporting the campaign.

  • Norfolk County Council, the Norfolk Rural Community Council and POL had all emphasised the need to ensure that any case against closure must be based on factual evidence of hardship that would result.  The Councils had offered to help where possible with any necessary information required to support such cases.

  • The public consultation period was six weeks from 26 March 2008 but this had now been extended to 2 June 2008.

  • To meet the consultation deadline, the Working Group proposed that a consultation response should be drafted for submission to full Council on 22 May 2008 for approval.

 

In answer to questions, it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.

27.

Environmental Strategy for Breckland (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Report of the Strategic Director – Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Director (Services) presented the report and draft Strategy which set out how the Council aimed to develop sustainable solutions to local, regional and global environmental issues.

 

Members discussed various issues concerning recycling (including food waste), composting, sustainable energy solutions, water conservation and over-packaging.  It was acknowledged that there were many complex issues involved and that actions to address solutions in one area could adversely affect solutions in another area.

 

Members welcomed what they felt was a good Strategy document and agreed the importance of continuing to engage with the public and in pursuing new initiatives.  On the latter point, it was noted that feedback from consultations with parishes to date was very positive and that there was an eagerness to engage on the issue and to seek local solutions.

 

Bearing in mind that this was very much an on-going “working document”, the Commission supported an amendment to the recommendation in the report by the addition of provision for a quarterly review of the Strategy and to the continued monitoring of feedback by the Environment Strategy Working Group established by the Commission.

 

RECOMMEND to the Cabinet that it approves the Environmental Strategy 2008-2013 for Breckland Council and the delivery of the Year One Action Plan, subject to quarterly reviews and to continued monitoring of feedback through the Environment Strategy Working Group established by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission.

28.

Comprehensive Equality Policy and Action Plan 2008-2010 (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Policy (Equalities) Officer presented the report and revised Comprehensive Equality Policy for 2008-2010 and associated Action Plan.

 

Originally adopted in 2005, the Policy and Action Plan was a statutory requirement under the Equality Standard for Local Government.  The revised Policy and Action Plan set out how the Council aimed to promote equal opportunities in its service delivery and employment practices to meet legislative requirements, develop good practice and achieve Level 3 of the Equality Standard for Local Government by March 2010, in line with the Council’s Business Plan.

 

RECOMMEND to the Cabinet that it adopts and publishes the revised Comprehensive Equality Policy and Action Plan 2008-2010.

29.

Race Equality Scheme 2008-2011 (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Policy (Equalities) Officer presented the report and Race Equality Scheme and associated Action Plan.

 

The Race Equality Scheme and its action plan was a requirement of the Race Relations Act 2000 (Amended) Section 71 (1, 2 and 3) to ensure that the Council, in its service provision and employment practices, meets the:

 

(i)         General Duty to give appropriate weight to eliminate unlawful discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and good race relations with Black and Minority Ethnic people and their communities when carrying out all its functions and implementing policies.

 

(ii)               Specific Duty to show that Breckland District Council through its Race Equality Scheme, has proper arrangements in place for effective implementation of its policy and action plan to meet the requirements of the Act, that it’s kept up-to-date and relevant to its business.

 

These schemes were due for review every three years.

 

The Scheme had been developed in consultation with the Norwich and Norfolk Race Equality Council and the use of the Equality Standard would continue to establish and develop the corporate mechanisms to mainstream race equality.  The actions that related to this Scheme were as contained in the Comprehensive Equality Policy and Action Plan and would be developed further as the Action Plan progressed.

 

            RECOMMEND to the Cabinet that it adopts and publishes the revised Race Equality Scheme and Action Plan 2008-2010.

30.

Gender Equality Scheme and Action Plan - Progress Report (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Policy (Equalities) Officer presented the report which outlined progress of the Gender Equality Scheme and Action Plan 2007 – 2010.

 

            RESOLVED that the progress report be noted and its publication on the Council’s website be endorsed.

31.

Review of Political Management Arrangements (Agenda Item 11) pdf icon PDF 130 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Deputy Chief Executive presented the report which was in response to the recent Peer Review and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and put forward proposals to streamline Executive decision making, develop the role of Overview and Scrutiny and empower Members to act as community champions.

 

Some concerns were raised that the shortening of the report clearance process (the “To Be” process) to allow the relevant Director and Portfolio Holder to determine what matters should be considered as non-complex or non-sensitive would seriously diminish the pre-scrutiny process and result in a loss of democratic decision-making.  While it was understood that the existing process was somewhat ponderous, it was nonetheless felt that this protected the democratic decision-making and scrutiny process.

 

In response to these concerns, the point was made that Members still retained their right to call-in decisions for scrutiny and that, if experience should show that officers and Executive Members were misreading the sensitivity of matters, then that provision would, no doubt, be brought to an end very quickly.

 

It was noted that the process shown in Appendix 1 omitted any reference to consultation with Ward Members.  In this connection, Members stressed the point that their roles as Ward Members meant that they had good knowledge of the issues of interest to the residents in their wards and who they represented and that they were called to account at parish meetings.

 

A proposed amendment was therefore put forward by the Deputy Chief Executive that the clearance process should provide for consultation with Ward Members on ward specific matters and the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (on, say, a weekly-list basis or such other method as may be practicable) and this was supported.

 

Members welcomed the proposed increase in the level and range of resources to be provided to support the more sophisticated and intensive workload that was envisaged.

 

In answer to a concern that the Scrutiny Champion should be a Member rather than an officer, it was explained that this proposal was in direct response to concerns raised previously about the need to increase dedicated senior management support for the role of scrutiny within the Council.

 

A proposition that the recommendation in paragraph 2.3 of the report be deleted for more detailed review was seconded but, on being put to the vote, was lost.

 

            RECOMMEND to the Cabinet that the changes to the Political Management Arrangements at Breckland Council as set out in the report be approved, subject to the recommendation in paragraph 2.3(a) being amended to include provision for consultation with Ward Members on ward-specific matters and the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (on a suggested weekly-list basis or such other method as may be practicable) in the new report clearance process set out in Appendix 1 to the report.

 

Note:  Mr. R.F. Goreham and Mr. K.S. Gilbert recorded their votes against the recommendation.

 

32.

Policy Development and Review Panels (Agenda Item 12)

To consider reports from Panel Chairmen in respect of the following meetings:

3207a

Panel 1 - Unconfirmed minutes of the meeting held on 11 March 2008 pdf icon PDF 297 KB

Minutes:

In connection with minute 15/08: Consultation on Norfolk Minerals and Waste LDF, it was noted that the proposals for Hockham & Wretham and Harling had since been withdrawn.

 

            RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 1 held on 11 March 2008 be adopted.

3207b

Panel 3 - Unconfirmed minutes of the meeting held on 1 April 2008 pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Minutes:

(i)                 Leisure PFI Update (Minute 13/08)

In noting the increased figures for swimming use, a member asked whether information could be provided giving a breakdown of users by the towns they came from.   In addition, he asked if Watton could be included in any future transport schemes.

(ii)               Housing Performance and Improvement Plan – Monitoring Report: March 2008 (Minute 14/08)

 

The Commission concurred with the views of the Panel that there was an overarching scrutiny role in addition to that of the Audit Committee and that it would be appropriate for the Panel to look at existing policies in the light of the results of the value for money review of the housing service.

 

In this connection, a member highlighted examples in his Ward of instances of empty houses and delays in the process for redevelopment of the site, where an application for redevelopment of the site for nine units of affordable housing had been turned down by the Housing Corporation and a new application for 15 units had since been submitted.  He felt there was a need to look at how this process could be speeded up to meet the demand for affordable housing for local people.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)         a review of existing policies in the light of the results of the value for money review of the housing service be agreed for incorporation into the  future work programme for Panel 3;

(2)         the issue highlighted about the Housing Corporation process for redevelopment of sites for affordable housing be raised with the Strategic Housing Team and, if appropriate, included in the review at (1) above.

 

(iii)             Work Programme (Minute 15/08)

         RESOLVED that agreement be given to the inclusion in the Panel’s future work programme of a review into the implications from the results of the Open Spaces Audit in relation to sports areas provision and how the deficit of football pitches, particularly in Thetford and Dereham, could be addressed.

 

(iv)              Adoption

 

                     RESOLVED that the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 3 held on 1 April 2008 be adopted.

 

 

33.

Work Programme (Agenda Item 13) pdf icon PDF 8 KB

(a)               A copy of the Commission’s work programme is attached, together with a copy of the current issue of the Forward Plan of the Executive for members’ information.  The Commission is asked to agree any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme as appropriate.

At the Chairman’s request, the Commission is asked to consider incorporating the review of Partnerships into the Programme and a list of Partnerships will follow.

 

(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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At the Chairman’s request, a list of existing Partnerships was circulated for information and the Commission agreed to the inclusion of a review of Partnerships into the future work programme.

 

The following additional amendments were noted and agreed:

 

  • BT Public Telephone Boxes Rationalisation – Schedule for 10 July 2008
  • Grant Funded Budgets (Forward Plan item) – Information requested on what these covered and who they were paid to.
  • Street Lighting Levy – To review the parish/town street lighting scheme.

 

So far as the next meeting on 29th May was concerned, it was agreed this meeting should focus on the POL Consultation on Post Offices and the forward work programme in relation to the review of Partnerships.

34.

Next Meeting

To note the date of the next meeting to be held on 29 May 2008 at 2.15pm in the Anglia Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham.

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting on 29 May 2008 were noted.