Venue: The Norfolk Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham
Contact: Committee Services Tel: 01362 656870
To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 16th October 2008.
In the absence of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, and after being duly proposed and seconded, Mr G Bambridge took the Chair.
The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer drew attention to a factual inaccuracy at Minute No. 38/08: it was actually the Strategic Director (Services) who had pointed out that members of the Community Development Team would shortly be making a tour of the District to publicise the kind of support available to smaller communities.
Subject to this amendment, the Minutes were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
The Sustainable Communities Manager then updated Members on publicity, saying that the Sports and Community Development Officers had recently held day long surgeries in each of the five market towns. Visitor numbers had varied but there had been a steady trickle, many of whom had been particularly interested in meeting officers to discuss funding opportunities for their groups or organisations. The team felt that the exercise, and their engagement directly with the community, had been very worthwhile and productive. Officers were keen to continue with these surgeries - perhaps monthly across the key towns throughout the year, rather than a concentrated session annually. Members agreed that this was a good idea and suggested that any such dates should be well publicised inneighbouring villages, as well as in the towns themselves.
Apologies (Agenda Item 2)
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Mr Kiddle-Morris and Councillor Claire Bowes.
To receive the report of the Strategic Director – Cabinet.
The Senior Marketing & Communications Officer presented the six-monthly update, supported by the ICT Manager and the Web Officer.
She started by drawing Members’ attention to the new item which now appeared on the Council’s home page: a one-click link to the “Keep Norfolk Local” campaign website.
She then pointed out that the website had been subjected to independent scoring by two bodies: “Sitemorse”, which had concentrated on technical aspects; and the “Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm)”, which had focussed on web page content. Each aimed to look at issues of best practice; to highlight weaknesses; and to give suggestions for improvements. Examples included drawing attention to broken links and the need to provide specialist provision for those with visual impediments etc. Many recommendations had already been, or were in the process of being, taken forward by the Council’s website team.
The Web Officer drew attention to the Sitemorse score which was given in March 2008 and which ranked the Council’s website as 135 out of 460. This was felt to be good, but the six month trial of this software had ended in April so the team were currently evaluating Sitemorse against other companies (some of whom offered a free service) in order to achieve best value future software support on a permanent basis.
The Senior Marketing and Communications Officer then presented key aspects of the Council’s current web pages to Members, starting with the website statistics page which was up-to-date as at the end of October 2008. Among other things, this page illustrated the website’s effectiveness i.e. a measurement of how visitors felt they were being served by the site. The score had been above 99% each month and the Council’s website had received over 32,000 visitors up to the end of October. Members were also shown the list of top ranked pages – with the Home Page, Job Vacancies and Environmental Planning heading the list.
Returning to the report, attention was drawn to key improvements made over the last six months, as listed at para 4.2 on page 6 of the Agenda. Specific mention was made of the fact that the Lagan system had been made easier; an enhanced training programme for web editors was currently under way, as well as a register to ensure continuity of responsibility for each team whenever web editors moved on. Additionally, new items had been added to the A-Z list; further information about recycling was now listed; and wording on the homepage had been changed to make it clearer that a translation service was available.
In response to a query, the Web Officer explained that the Council did not receive payment for any links from our site which connected visitors directly to other sites (for example services provided by other Councils or organisations). However such links were considered a vital part of the signposting process for users and Socitm had stressed the key role which they played in terms of ‘best practice’ for Local Authority websites. ... view the full minutes text for item 44.
To receive an update and clarification of handling procedures from the Strategic Director – Services.
The Sustainable Communities Manager presented this report.
He said that of the £10,000 set aside to support gifted and talented people in Breckland during the current Financial Year, each applicant could apply for a grant of up to £500 to help meet the extra expenses incurred by higher achievers as they progressed upwards in their field. Such a sum could be a real lifeline for some young people, helping them to meet their aspirations and potential.
Most of the nine successful applicants thus far were under 15 years old and there had also been an award to an adult disabled carriage driver who competed at international level. He pointed out that the imbalance of eight sports awards to only one arts award had been largely due to the fact that there had been a significant period during this year when the Council had been without an Arts Officer. However this imbalance should be redressed over the coming months as the new Arts Officer (Sam Dawson) was now in post.
The Sustainable Communities Manager confirmed that there was £5,500 left in the pot and there were at least three applications currently being processed. More applications were to be expected over the coming months, not least as a result of forthcoming promotions and publicity in Breckland Voice, as well as through the Pride in Breckland scheme, which aimed to celebrate local achievements.
He felt that this scheme had been a real success and one which the Council could be proud of. A further £10,000 had been put aside for this project under the Match Funding scheme for the next Financial Year.
A Member queried the status of a particular application and stressed the importance of Members, particularly Ward Members, being kept informed of the progress of any such applications.
The Sustainable Communities Manager said that he had checked the records and it appeared that whilst paperwork had been sent out to the young golfer in question, thus far no application had been received. However, he undertook to ensure that another set of application papers were issued. He stressed that all Gifted and Talented awards were made entirely on the basis of the necessary criteria being met: at no point did an applicant’s background affect any decision.
The Chairman, whilst accepting the need to take care about publicity whenever children were concerned, agreed that it would be useful for Members to know as a point of interest how the awards were distributed between towns and villages. He also agreed that Members, especially Ward Members, should be kept in touch with the progress of applications, subject to the agreement of their parents/guardians where appropriate.
There was concern at the disparity of awards between sports and arts, and the fact that the criteria for the former were so much easier to determine.
The Sustainable Communities Manager said that the new Arts Officer had re-examined the arts criteria and it was consequently expected that more awards would be made in this area over the ... view the full minutes text for item 45.
Work Programme and Date of Next Meeting (Agenda Items 8 and 9)
To consider the work programme.
The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer combined these two agenda items as he confirmed that this was the last meeting of the Policy Development and Review Panel 2.
He reminded Members that there would be a Scrutiny workshop on Tuesday 2 December, in Watton, during which future arrangements and the shape of Overview and Scrutiny within the Council, would be discussed. It was likely that Task and Finish Groups would take up some of the work currently covered by the three Panels.