Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: This meeting will be streamed live via https://www.breckland.gov.uk/virtual-committee-meetings and will be activated at the start of the meeting

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

Point of Order

Councillor Birt raised a point of order over concern that there had not been reports included within the agenda.  He felt it impossible to prepare for the meeting and asked if the meeting was constitutional legal to go ahead.

 

The Monitoring Officer confirmed that the meeting was legally compliant and that the Commission had requested for a presentation on a variety of areas that covered the Council’s response to the COVID19 pandemic.

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Minutes pdf icon PDF 100 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 6 February 2020.

Minutes:

Corporate Plan Refresh 2020 (Minute No - 116/20)

 

Councillor Martin pointed out that the Commission had suggested that the strapline of the Corporate Plan should read: ‘Your place, your health, your opportunity, your council’ and whilst it had been agreed by Cabinet Members to make the change, it had not come to fruition when the Plan was published.  He felt disappointed and asked for clarity on what the role of the Commission should be when they had been asked for their views but those views had not been implemented.

 

The Chairman insisted that the points made by the Commission should be carried through and he would keep an eye on the matter and if needed would formalise any recommendations going forward.

 

The Leader reassured Members that post Covid19 pandemic, the Corporate Plan would be refreshed and he would welcome the Commissions views at the appropriate stage.  In regard to the relationship between the Executive and the Commission it was felt that communication channels should be tightened and the Leader would ensure that Cabinet Members attended O&SC meetings in future to listen to views shared and implement where appropriate.

 

The Minutes of the meeting held on the 6 February 2020 were confirmed as a correct record.

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Apologies and Substitutes

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

Minutes:

None.

130/20

Chairman's Announcements (if any)

Minutes:

None.

131/20

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:

None.

132/20

Declaration of Interests

The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011.  Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.

 

Minutes:

Councillors Colman, Eagle, Jermy, Martin, declared a pecuniary interest in respect of receiving a discretionary business grant from Breckland Council for their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting

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

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed the following non-Members in attendance; Councillors Ashby, Atterwill, Bambridge, M Chapman-Allen, S Chapman-Allen, Claussen, Clarke, Dale, Hewett, Moreton, Suggitt, Taylor and Webb.

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Breckland's Response to COVID19 pdf icon PDF 954 KB

To receive a presentation from the Executive Director of Place and Executive Director of Strategy & Governance.

Minutes:

The Executive Director of Place and Executive Director of Strategy and Governance provided an introductory presentation in relation to the Council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Executive Director of Strategy and Governance thanked Members and Officers for the way in which they had adapted to new ways of engaging with each other and residents, as well as partners, community groups and volunteers that had all supported each other during the pandemic.

 

The Executive Director of Place shared the impact of the pandemic in Breckland and throughout Norfolk.  During the emergency pandemic, the single priority of the Councils response was to protect life.  He was pleased that Officers were able to work remotely within a very quick timescale, and therefore limit the impact of the virus between colleagues, and with the support provided to communities and services minimised the impact that they felt too.  All key critical services remained in place albeit managed in a different way which had been a great achievement.

 

As the Council moved into the recovery phase, it would continue to ensure services provided by the Council would move towards normal service that Members would expect.  As a result of the pandemic behaviours had changed, and therefore the way in which services would be delivered and received by residents could change.

 

The Government had set two priorities for local authorities to deliver throughout the crisis which was through communities and businesses.  The first was to support the vulnerable and shielded to ensure that food and medical supplies were provided and the second was to support businesses through the distribution of grants.

 

A local management team had been in place which would continue during the recovery phase.  Whilst the shared management arrangement was still in place, two local management teams had been set up to support both Breckland and South Holland Councils to respond to the crisis.  There had been a close relationship between the Senior Management, Leader, Deputy Leader and Executive Members to ensure oversight on decisions that were required to be made, could be done so at pace. 

 

Members were informed that an opportunity had been taken to refurbish the Committee Suite at Elizabeth House, as outlined within the WorkSmart 20:20 programme; the building remained closed and therefore minimum impact would be caused.  He reassured Members that the appropriate safety measures were in place at both Council Offices (Elizabeth House and Breckland House) in preparation for when the buildings re-opened.

 

The Executive Director of Place concluded that during the recovery phase the Council would build back stronger by taking on the learning and development from the last four months to make improvements to the services that had been provided.

 

Councillor Clarke thanked everyone who had been involved and asked if there would be further detail on the financial impact the Council had encountered.  In response, the Executive Director of Place explained that the Finance team were currently analysing the Quarter 1 figures (April, May June) to understand the impact.  Whilst the Council had received £1.1m  ...  view the full minutes text for item 134/20

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Performance Report

To receive a presentation from the Executive Member for Governance, Councillor Sarah Suggitt.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Governance introduced the presentation that provided a summary of how the Council had performed during the COVID-19 crisis. 

 

The Executive Manager for People and Information gave a detailed presentation to Members on the performance of the Council during the COVID19 pandemic.  In summary, the Council had rapidly enabled remote working, continued to provide the key services whilst enabling a host of other services to the residents within the District.

 

Councillor Birt pointed out that he had previously been able to access the performance system, Pentana, but had noticed it was no longer showing any data.  He asked when this would be resumed.

 

The Executive Manager explained that Pentana had not been used as much due to the emergency situation, but he would raise the issue with his Team to resolve.

 

Councillor Jermy was conscious that that not all rough sleepers had been rehoused within the District.  He asked what ongoing support was available in respect of the dialogue with those rough sleepers.  In addition, he asked if there could be a way of quantifying support for the businesses as a large amount of support had been provided and he would like to know if this information could be linked to the performance data.

 

The Executive Director of Place confirmed there had been properties outside the District that had been used to house the rough sleepers, predominately in Norwich.  Following a risk assessment, face to face visits had been enabled to allow Officers to actively support those rough sleepers and bring them back to the District.

 

In respect of performance data, it was explained that the new dashboard would provide a large amount of statistics on a monthly basis including the number of furloughed staff, jobs lost, gained or retained and all information would be collated and shared with Members as soon as practicable.

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Commercial Assets Update

To receive a presentation from the Executive Member for Contracts & Assets, Councillor Paul Hewett.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Contracts and Assets introduced the presentation explaining it was a small team delivering a big service with £45m of Assets that allowed the Council Tax to remain low within the District.

 

The Strategic Property Manager continued with the presentation that provided a detailed picture of the performance of the commercial portfolio during the first financial quarter.  Whilst the pandemic would have an effect within the commercial market both locally and nationally the effect was yet to be seen. 

 

The Team continued to work proactively with tenants to provide contact and support during the crisis and the performance would be closely monitored.  Whilst the Commercial Property Team had seen less activity during the crisis, enquiries had been received and a letting had been made.  The Business Centres had remained open which was vital for keyworker tenants such as DWP, health service and social services who had welcomed the properties remaining open and being as safe as possible.

 

The Council had created a rent deferral scheme during the crisis for those tenants that were experiencing hardship which had helped to control the state of the portfolio as well as on a legal perspective with the tenants.  The initiative had been welcomed by businesses who had needed to use the service which had, in turn, helped stabilise their business.  Some lease terms had been restructured to protect the longevity of the leases of the properties. 

 

Through COVID-19 there had been new protection legislation for rent arrears and how it should be managed.  As at June 2020, the Council was at 0.2% of arrears for 90+days, the target would usually sit at 0.3%.  The figure was expected to rise over the coming months, however, the Team were continuing to work closely with all tenants to provide support where possible.

 

Nationally there were issues with the larger retail and hospitality chains who were seeking alternative support such as Company Voluntary Arrangements.  The process was extremely complex and action was required at pace with support from legal and external expertise.  There had been two tenants within the Breckland area that had required support.

 

The Strategic Property Manager concluded that the pandemic had caused an unsettling time and the impact would continue long after normality resumed.  This would lead to changes within the commercial property market place that could see a review of the Asset Property Strategy which could possibly affect future investments and the level of risk the Council could take in the future.

 

Councillor Birt asked for an ‘asset by asset’ assessment as he felt that this would be valuable to see the direction of the assets and get ahead of the curve.  He understood it was a dynamic situation but felt the information should be made available on a monthly basis rather than on a quarterly basis.  He also felt that   it would be useful to see a prediction of the yield on a worst and likely case scenario of how it could develop appreciating that it was likely to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 136/20

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HR Report

To receive a presentation from the Executive Director for Strategy & Governance.

Minutes:

The Executive Director for Strategy and Governance reminded Members that the Workforce Strategy was signed up to by Members in 2019.  The Strategy outlined the fact that Officers should feel supported and trusted in their work, have the appropriate technology to deliver the services of the Council, and the importance of recognising their wellbeing. 

 

As a result of the pandemic, work was underway to re-consider the workforce strategy.  The technology had supported Officers to work from home, and virtual meetings had become part of the day job.  Over 60 members of staff had been re-deployed to support the communities, businesses and confidence campaign within the high-streets during COVID-19 crisis.

 

The organisation had been less focussed on hours, and had become flexible to focus on outcomes.  The health and safety of the work home situations had been considered by the organisation and support had been provided where appropriate through the loan of equipment.   Wellbeing initiatives had been well attended and had moved to an online approach to provide such services to Officers.  The Executive Director outlined the support mechanisms that were available for both Officers and Members of the Council.

 

Councillor Atterwill asked for more details of the Men, Women and Mixed sheds.  It was noted that sessions had been set up for Officers and Members to talk about general life issues and that these were open for all.  Councillor Turner added that she had attended the Mixed Shed that supported carers within family or local groups.  Several Members and Officers also attended the Group and were able to share experiences and ideas.  Councillor Atterwill asked that the information be shared to all Members should they wish to participate.

 

Councillor Jermy asked about if there was a reason why Members used Zoom and Officers were now getting use of MS Teams and if there would be a migration to one platform.  In addition, he asked if there had been a reduction in mileage for those staff who had to use a vehicle in their role but still had the expense of a car and if support was being provided as this could be seen as a reduction in salary.

 

It was explained that as part of the Worksmart 20:20 Members had agreed to the Office 365 roll-out of which MS Teams was a product of that.  There were no plans to migrate to one platform at the moment but this would be reviewed as the Council continued to review what the best virtual platforms were for the Council to use.  It was noted that as part of the Worksmart 20:20 programme the terms and conditions of Officers would be considered to see what could be done differently and options will be considered.  

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Breckland Operational Recovery from COVID19

To receive a presentation from the Executive Manager People & Innovation, Jason Cole.

Minutes:

The Executive Manager for People and Information presented a detailed presentation to Members that outlined the recovery phase of the Council. 

 

Recovery was a complex, and long running process of re-building, restoring and rehabilitating the economy and community following the emergency.  The regeneration would allow redevelopment and opportunity to build back stronger.

 

The recovery document roadmap was shared with Members and considered a five-phased reintroduction of services to February 2021, it also aligned with the end of the interim recovery management. 

 

Councillor Jermy asked for the roadmap to be shared with all Members.

 

Councillor Martin reminded all Members that the roadmap and additional papers had been included as part of the Cabinet agenda on 1 June 2020.

 

Councillor Turner had put herself forward as a volunteer to make calls to the vulnerable residents, however, she had not received any information about this.  The Executive Director for Strategy and Governance said that as Members were aware, the requirement for calls had diminished considerably but would ask Officers to make contact accordingly. 

 

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Outside Body Feedback (Standing Item)

To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Wickerson asked Members t if they were aware of any residents that were unable to financially purchase laptops or access broadband for their children to continue with their education during the COVID-19 period.  The Hammonds Education Charity had ring-fenced a financial package to assist those in need and a  group of trustees would consider the application and respond as soon as possible to provide necessary help to those families.

 

Councillor Turner informed Members that the Breckland Older Peoples Forum had been due to officially disband in March 2020.  The Forum had been in operation for 7 years, however, as Breckland Council and other representatives had been dealing with issues that had been raised, there was no longer a need to have a separate group.  The Norfolk Strategic Partnership for Older People would continue and she was delighted that the newsletter that Breckland had introduced would continue.

 

Councillor Kybird updated Members on three Outside Bodies:

·        Norfolk Health Overview & Scrutiny Commission – would have a virtual meeting on the 30 July and he would continue to forward the newsletter to Members for information.

·        Norfolk Museums – the Time and Tide Museum and Gressenhall Museum were due to open shortly with Norwich Castle to follow.  There would be a virtual meeting of the Norfolk Museums Committee on the 7 August 2020. 

·        Norfolk Record Office –the remote search requests had been re-instated allowing staff to search for information, which was a fee paying service.

 

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Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)

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

Minutes:

None.

141/20

Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item)

To consider the “Attleborough Town Council Financial Governance and Transparency” as received by Councillors Oliver and Ashby.

Minutes:

Councillors Tyrer, Ellis and Grave from Attleborough Town Council were in attendance this item.    Councillors Taylor and Dale were present as both Town and District Councillors.

 

The Chairman introduced the item that he and Councillor Ashby had brought to the Commission.    There had been a series of issues that had been affecting the Town Council and its residents of late. 

 

Town Councils were covered by different set of rules compared to District and County Councils in that they were not covered by the Local Government Ombudsman which meant it was more restrictive in the ability to have complaints considered by an independent body.  Breckland Council had no formal powers over the Town Council, however, as a Scrutiny Commission, it had the ability to scrutinise any matter that pertained to the lives and wellbeing of the residents of Breckland. 

 

The Chairman explained the background of this matter which included how the residents of Attleborough were unhappy with a number of incidents that had occurred recently within the Town Council. In March 2020, a Parish Meeting had been held where 200 residents had attended and had unanimously passed a request for two parish polls; the first had asked for the resignation of all Town Councillors and the second had asked for the Town Council to carry out an investigation of the internal processes. 

 

Councillor Ashby added that it was extremely regrettable that Councillor Oliver and himself were required to take this course of action and was disappointed that there had not been a representative from the office of the Town Council present.  He was grateful to the representatives from the Town Council who were in attendance as was keen to ask a number of questions as a result of the current confusion within the local residents of Attleborough. He continued to receive a great deal of correspondence from residents who sought clarity from what was happening within the town.

 

Councillor Tyrer explained that there was currently an investigation committee within Attleborough that were looking at how the Town Council had come to the position they found themselves in.  He explained that he had been elected as Deputy Mayor last May, but during his tenure had not been consulted with by the Mayor or the Town Clerk on any issues within the Town Council.  He felt there had been a complete lack of communication with significant dysfunctionality of which there could be a reason but he had not been made aware.

 

Councillor Ellis added that he too had not always received correspondence until very late but would be expected to vote on matters when he had little time to digest the information.  He was also aware that the public were still not receiving any correspondence.

 

Councillor Grave stated that he had only been on the Town Council for one year. He felt there had been grumbling issues over the last year that had become significantly worse as time progressed.  He felt that communication within the Town Council was poor and no-one wanted to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 141/20

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Work Programme pdf icon PDF 537 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 Plan is attached for Members’ information.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Bushell asked for all Housing Associations to attend a future meeting of the Commission.  Particular issues had come to light during COVID-19 such as, the vetting of prospective tenants, better communication between the associations and tenants, changes on tenancy agreements should be in writing and support for tenants could be provided with a one-stop telephone number.  Response times for problems and repairs and keeping tenants informed should also be questioned. 

 

Councillor Birt reminded Members of the topic he mentioned earlier to discuss in more detail the recovery documents so the Commission could analyse and discuss the way forward. 

 

Councillor Jermy asked if there could be information on planning enforcement and how this had been dealt with especially during the COVID-19 period.  In addition, he asked for a report on the Councils approach to local procurement and how it could be further promoted.

 

As part of the Recovery report, Councillor Turner asked through the Executive Member for Customer Engagement, that communications be considered as she had experienced issues during the crisis and asked if the team had been adequately resourced.  Other councils appeared to have more engagement through its social media platforms and asked that systems and processes be considered.

 

Councillor Martin asked for an amendment to the Work Programme.    Having had discussions with the Director of Planning and Building Control he felt that the update on the understanding of the planning application validation and local list as well as the Neighbourhood Plan was no longer required.  However, he would like to receive an update on the 5-year land supply and where the Council would be at on the 1 November as well as a review of the Capita Contract.

 

Councillor Eagle said that with the possibility of further grants coming forward from the Government to support businesses he would like to see the Grant Funding questioned on a positive note on what the Council had got right and what it had got wrong.

 

It was agreed that the following items would be included on the Work Programme:

 

·        Councillor Call for Action – Attleborough Town Council Governance arrangements

·        To receive an update on the Commercial Portfolio to consider the granular information available, such as Asset by Asset assessment.

·        Breckland Council Recovery plan (this may be delayed if the Council was not in a recovery phase)

·        Housing associations to attend to discuss issues raised,

·        Communications

·        Local procurement

·        Planning Enforcement

·        Capita Contract review

·        Update on the 5-year land supply

 

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Next Meeting

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 10 September 2020 at 10.00am.

 

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting scheduled to be held on 10 September 2020 at 10.00am were noted.