Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services  Tel: 01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes (Agenda Item 1) pdf icon PDF 83 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2008.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2008 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Apologies (Agenda Item 2)

To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Bowes.


Non-Members Wishing to Address the Meeting (Agenda Item 5)

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


Mr R Goreham, Leader of the Labour Group and Ward Member for Dereham Central, attended for Agenda Item 6.


Councillor D Irving was also in attendance.


HM Revenue & Customs Change Programme (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Report of the Strategic Director (Services).


Keith Simpson MP was in attendance for this item, together with Lee Sutton (Branch Secretary, PCS Union) and Lina Curtis (PCS representative from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Dereham office).


The Economic Projects Officer presented the report and explained the background to HMRC’s Change Programme, on which the Council was being consulted.  HMRC was undertaking a radical review of its estates and operations throughout the country following the merger of HM Revenues and Customs and Excise.  The report outlined the proposals covering the offices in East Dereham, Great Yarmouth and Norwich.  The Council’s views were sought on the proposed withdrawal of ‘back office’ staff and closure of the Revenue buildings at 24 Church Street, Dereham, although a small ‘presence office’ in Dereham was proposed to be retained.


The consultation deadline for responses was 25 July 2008.  The Overview and Scrutiny Commission had referred the matter to this Panel with authority to formulate a response on its behalf to meet the deadline.


Following receipt of the consultation letter from HMRC, an initial meeting had taken place on 30 June 2008 between local representatives from HMRC and Breckland Council to discuss the implications of the proposed changes on local residents generally and from the view of HMRC staff currently based in Dereham, details of which were set out in the report.


Referring to the record of the 30 June meeting, the Chairman noted that Dereham HMRC officials had expressed concern about data used from the local database and asked for clarification on this point.


Lina Curtis explained that it appeared that central office of HMRC derived its statistics from their NOMIS website which could be inaccurate and skew figures because it covered a much wider area than Dereham.  She felt that the Council’s response should therefore fully reflect the potential local impact of any changes.


The Economic Projects Officer went on to explain that a second meeting had taken place on 15 July, with representatives from HMRC (central) (Paul Smyth from the Workforce Change Department and Les Smith, Regional Lead in the East for the programme) and Mr M. Kiddle-Morris, Mr R. Goreham, the Chief Executive and the Economic Projects Officer.  (HMRC had declined to attend an open meeting.)


The meeting had highlighted the difficulties there would be in challenging the proposals.  HMRC was in the midst of a review which was to last until 2011, when they estimated that they would require approximately 25% fewer staff and a third less accommodation to deliver their business.  They therefore needed to find more efficient ways of working and remove duplication.  Additionally, they were focused on getting value for money for tax payers.  They were reacting to a central government request to realise targets across the board and therefore had to find reductions and make recommendations to the Minister.


When challenged, HRMC (central) officers had been unable to make any predictions about whether there would be any compulsory redundancies in Dereham as the formal processes had not yet commenced.


It was pointed out  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.


Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) (Agenda Item 7)

Mr Mike Horn (Head of Legal Services) and Mr Graham Parfitt (Legal Executive) to give a presentation on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and how this has been applied by Breckland.


The Head of Legal Services introduced this item and, to set the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) into context, read out a letter from Sir Simon Milton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, which had been sent to all Council Leaders on 20 June 2008.


Key points from the letter included:


  • Recent damaging – and often inaccurate – publicity about councils mis-using surveillance powers under RIPA.  This had given rise to much public debate.


  • The RIPA powers are designed to be used in response to residents’ complaints but should only be used when “necessary and proportionate in order to prevent or detect a criminal offence”. 


  • The LGA were asking Council Leaders to ensure that their staff are only using these powers after careful and appropriate consideration and under formal authorisation.


  • The LGA are keen that such powers of authorisation should be reviewed annually by the appropriate scrutiny panel. 


  • It was felt that dog fouling or littering should not be considered as falling within the test of “necessary and proportionate” criteria.


  • The LGA and Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) are working with the Government and other key organisations to clarify some details of the legislation so that it can be used sensibly and appropriately rather than perceived to be abused.


The Head of Legal Services explained why and how the Council used the RIPA powers and that the Council had been independently audited on this. 


The Legal Executive circulated the following information to Members: 


·        A copy of letter from Sir Simon Milton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, addressed to all Council Leaders.


·        Breckland Council’s Guidance Notes ref the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000.    (November 2005 version.)


·        A Background Note to the RIPA.


·        A copy of the Office of Surveillance Commissioners’ (Lord Colville’s) Inspection Report for Breckland District Council – 4June 2008.   (Restricted document provided for Members of the Panel.)


A brief synopsis of the main areas covered by RIPA was given from which it was noted that RIPA provided the legislative framework within which covert surveillance operations must be conducted in order to ensure that investigatory powers were used in accordance with human rights.


It was explained that covert surveillance was carried out in a manner calculated to ensure that the person who was the subject of surveillance was unaware that it was, or may be, taking place. 


RIPA defined two different “types” of covert surveillance:


Ø      Directed surveillance

Ø      Intrusive surveillance


The Council had no powers to undertake intrusive surveillance and could use directed surveillance only for the purpose of preventing and detecting crime or of preventing disorder.  (If a directed surveillance operation did not fall within this remit, then the Council may be acting unlawfully under the Human Rights Act (HRA)).


The Legal Executive stressed that the Council had a very specific and proper procedure to be followed whenever a surveillance operation was planned.  In the event of any challenges, the Council needed to be able to prove that it had followed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.


Work Programme (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 60 KB

To consider the work programme.


The following items from the work programme were noted for report to the next meeting:


  • Empty Homes Policy.
  • Breckland Voice – Review of Distribution.


Date of Next Meeting (Agenda Item 9)

To note that the next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 3 September 2008, at 10.00 a.m. in the Bowls Room, Watton Sports Centre, Dereham Road, Watton.


It was noted that the next meeting of the Panel would be held on Wednesday, 3September at 10.00 a.m. in the Bowls Room, Watton Sports Centre, Dereham Road, Watton.