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Apologies and named substitutes
Apologies for absence were received on behalf of Councillors Joanne Beecham and Mark Shurmer and it was confirmed that Councillors Nyear Nazir and Yvonne Smith were attending as their substitutes respectively.
Declarations of interest and of Party Whip
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and / or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests, and any Party Whip.
There were no declarations of interest nor of any party whip.
the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on Thursday 24th October 2019 be held as a true and correct record and signed by the Chair.
To invite members of the public who have registered in advance of the meeting to speak to the Committee.
The Committee welcomed six public speakers to the meeting, who were invited to speak to the Committee in turn. In some cases a written record of the individual’s speech was also provided for Council records. The speeches as delivered during the meeting, which lasted for a maximum of three minutes each and might therefore, not reflect the full length of the points residents had recorded in advance of the meeting, are recreated below.
a) Mr Ray Groves – RYCE
“It has often been said that the best decisions are made when you have the clearest and best-informed information possible. Unfortunately, tonight you have got the worst. This report is devoid of any suggestion as to the inevitable costs to Redditch Borough Council that will far exceed these so called savings. There are no risk analyses; what happens if the Batchley Support Group closes? What impact will that have on the area? Will the schools provide meals during the summer break or will the Council have to step in and provide staff and facilities or will you let hungry children wander the streets looking for food? Likewise, if the Boxing Academy closes what happens to the individuals who currently use the facilities?
On the 16th October in the houses of Parliament Rachel Maclean said, as reported by Hansard: “I was delighted to see the focus on youth services because as I have said, anti-social behaviour often happens because there is nowhere for young people to go. We need to focus on those services in our local communities so that there is somewhere constructive for people to go. We have some fantastic services in Redditch. We have a wonderful Boxing Academy that takes young people off the streets and teaches them fun, useful and constructive skills. That is a great initiative but we need more like it across town.”
With over 100 individuals left to wander the streets how many more police will be needed to patrol the area? I could go on and talk about The Space, the shops run by Oasis Church. What happens if these units close? The retail sector is in trouble as has been highlighted by Bon Marche, Maplins and Mothercare; it is very doubtful if they can be let on a strictly commercial basis, meaning even more derelict units will invade our shopping areas.
Why is there nothing in this report about the money that the voluntary groups save the Council? Why isn’t the £28k set against this saving? Surely the Council could have looked at the Social Return on Investments – SROI is an internationally accepted way of showing how much worth the voluntary sector provides, that ultimately saves public money.”
b) Ms Liz Williams – Fighting for Survival Group
“For those of you that don’t know me I’m Liz Williams, and I am speaking on behalf of the Fighting for Survival Group. Firstly can I just say thank you to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for listening.
We welcome the decision of the ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
The Head of Community Services presented a position statement in respect of the Council’s Concessionary Rents Policy. Members were advised that the item had been withdrawn from the Executive Committee’s agenda for the meeting of the Committee that took place on 29th October 2019. Officers were proposing to meet with representatives of the VCS. This meeting had not yet been arranged but would provide an opportunity for discussions to take place. A report in respect of the Council’s Concessionary Rents Policy would subsequently be considered at a meeting of the Executive Committee due to take place on 14th January 2020.
The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Management, Councillor David Thain, who was the Portfolio Holder with lead responsibility for the Concessionary Rents Policy, was also in attendance at the meeting for this item. He confirmed the points raised by Officers and advised all those present that the Executive Committee was listening and would continue to listen to information provided by VCS groups in respect of this matter.
Following the presentation of the position statement for the Council’s Concessionary Rents Policy a number of points were discussed by Members:
· The reasons why a report had not been submitted for the consideration of the Committee in respect of this matter. Officers explained, that as discussed at the previous meeting of the Committee, it was not possible to provide a report at this stage as the matter was not due to be considered by the Executive Committee until January 2020.
· The Council’s approach to communicating with affected representatives of the VCS prior to the publication of the report that had been withdrawn from the 29th October 2019 and the reasons why many VCS organisations had reported that they had not received any correspondence. Officers explained that they had understood that letters had been issued to groups and apologised for any cases where letters had not been received.
· The potential for representatives of VCS groups to raise concerns about any potential changes to the Council’s Concessionary Rents Policy by speaking at that meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
· The value of compassion in making decisions that would impact on VCS groups and the people they served.
· The people who had spoken at the meeting in respect of the Council’s Concessionary Rents Policy. Members thanked those who had spoken at the meeting for doing so.
At the end of the debate about this item Members proposed a recommendation. To ensure that the recommendation was considered at the appropriate time Members agreed that this recommendation should be presented for the consideration of the Executive Committee alongside the Concessionary Rents Policy report in January 2020.
the Executive Committee abolish the idea of removing concessionary rent relief for Voluntary and Community Sector groups and instead looks at alternative methods of funding the shortfall in the Council’s budget.
(At the end of this item there was a brief adjournment, which lasted from 7.15 pm to 7.23 pm).
The Head of the North Worcestershire Economic Development Service presented a report in respect of the regeneration of Redditch town centre. During the presentation of this item the following matters were highlighted for Members’ consideration:
· The report captured the outcomes of a master planning exercise and the key points of a business case for a public sector community hub. The reports produced by the consultants Dragongate and BDP had been provided in appendices to the report for Members’ consideration.
· BDP had focused on a number of site options that might be appropriate and financially viable.
· The documents provided indicative reviews and high level appraisals in order to enable an understanding of the nature and scale of the opportunities available for the regeneration of the town centre.
· The viability of establishing a community hub as a one-stop-shop had been assessed and there had been three key objectives to this review; to deliver a better, user focused public service, provide business efficiencies and to make better use of public land.
· The Council had held conversations with a number of partners in the public sector, including the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Worcestershire County Council and representatives of the NHS trust.
· The initial feedback that had been received from partners about the potential to work together to introduce a public sector hub had been very encouraging.
· The government had announced that Redditch would be eligible to bid for up to £25 million in funding from the Towns Fund.
· The prospectus for the Towns Fund had been published after the report before Members. This prospectus clarified that the Council would need to prepare an Investment Plan to access funding from the Towns Fund.
· The Council would undertake consultation with the public, in accordance with the requirements of the Towns Fund, in order to establish what residents felt the funding should be allocated to.
Following the presentation of the report Members discussed a number of areas in detail:
· The work that had been undertaken in respect of this matter since the One Public Estate report was considered by Members in March 2018 and the reasons why time was needed to progress with the project. The committee was informed that the process was progressing well and at a speed in line with standard practice.
· The options appraisal that had been undertaken by the consultants and why those particular options had been considered. Officers explained that both officers and the consultants were required to consider all viable options in line with professional standards.
· The State of the Area debates that had been undertaken and whether all wards had been consulted. Officers advised that there had been a two-day event held in May 2019 in the Town Hall, which had been attended by senior Officers and 70 members of the public. Officers had also attended a meeting of the Redditch Community Forum to consult about the plans.
· The extent to which small businesses had been consulted about the proposals for the regeneration of the town centre. Members were advised ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
The Head of Community Services presented a briefing note in respect of rent arrears for Council properties. This briefing note had been drafted for Members’ consideration following a request for further information on the subject that had been made at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in July 2019.
The Council gathered year-end figures for the consideration of the government. The figures indicated that the Council was in the average quartile compared to other local authorities with their own housing stock in terms of rent arrear levels. The rent collection rate was 99.5 per cent at the Council, which was also in line with the national average. At the Council the trend was downwards in terms of rent arrears and this was monitored by a measure on the authority’s dashboard.
Members noted that in the last 18 months significant progress had been made in reducing the time spent on processing void properties for new tenants which had had a positive impact on income. Officers were anticipating that these faster times for processing void properties would continue as standard practice for the Council.
During consideration of this item reference was made to the fact that tenants were required to pay rent over a 48 week period rather than for the full 52 weeks of the year and the potential to extend the timescales was briefly debated. However, Members were advised that research undertaken by the Council had discovered that the 48 week rent payment period was useful as it provided tenants with an opportunity to catch up with their rent payments.
Reference was also made to the decision that had been taken some years previously to require local authorities to reduce rent for Council tenants by 1 per cent per annum over a four year period. Officers confirmed that 2019/20 was the last year in which this requirement applied and the Council would therefore have the ability to increase rents in future years.
the report be noted.
The Head of Environmental Services and the Environmental Services Manager delivered a brief presentation in respect of waste management. During the delivery of this presentation the following points were highlighted for Members’ consideration:
· The presentation that had been included in the agenda for the meeting had been presented for the consideration of the Leaders and relevant Portfolios Holders for Herefordshire and Worcestershire Councils earlier in the year.
· Historically there had been good partnership working across Herefordshire and Worcestershire in respect of waste management.
· Waste prevention was at the heart of the approach to waste management adopted by the local authorities in both counties.
· Prevention was the main priority of the Council, followed by reuse. Disposal of waste at landfill was a last resort.
· The amount of waste disposed of per household in Redditch was slightly higher than the national average.
· The level of recycling per household was slightly lower in Redditch than the national average but levels of dry recycling were slightly higher.
· All of the district Councils in Worcestershire had a system of fortnightly waste collections and a chargeable garden waste service as of 2019.
· Kerbside recycling was delivered to Envirosort in Norton, Worcestershire where materials were mechanically sorted. Garden waste was delivered to Pershore in Worcestershire.
· The cost of waste collection services across Herefordshire and Worcestershire each year was £61 million.
· The government was in the process of consulting on a new national waste strategy.
· Earlier in the year the government had consulted on a waste responsibility scheme.
· As part of this process the government was considering requiring all responsible local authorities to collect the same items for recycling so that there would be a consistent approach across the country.
· The government had also consulted on the potential to introduce weekly food waste collections.
· A further consultation had been held in respect of the potential to introduce a plastic tax on packaging and to introduce a requirement for all packaging to be recyclable.
· The Council had responded to the majority of consultation processes, except for that in relation to packaging which was less relevant to the work of the local authority.
· The consultation outcomes had been published.
· In the published results it had been revealed that there was overwhelming support across the country for the introduction of a core collection service as this would help to provide clarity to the public in respect of the materials that should be recycled. This had also featured in the Environment Bill that had been progressing through legislative stages until the general election had been called.
· In total 80 per cent of people had thought that a free garden waste collection service would be helpful but only 20 per cent of Councils had welcomed the idea of a free garden waste collection service. The government had announced that this would be reviewed further.
· In respect of weekly food collections, 80 per cent of people had supported the idea, as had 68 per cent of Councils, though 46 per cent of local authorities ... view the full minutes text for item 50.
The minutes of the Executive Committee meeting held on 29th October 2019 and the next edition of the Executive Committee Work Programme will be published in an additional papers pack.
The Committee discussed the content of the latest edition of the Executive Committee’s Work Programme and identified the following items for pre-decision scrutiny:
· Fees and Charges 2020/21
· Housing / Housing Revenue Account Strategic Improvement Plan Progress Report
· Concessionary Rents Policy
· Members’ ICT Policy. The Committee noted that this item was also due to be considered by the Member Support Steering Group and outlined requirements in respect of elected Councillors’ ICT provision.
1) the minutes of the meeting of the Executive Committee held on 29th October 2019 be noted; and
2) the items identified from the Executive Committee’s Work Programme, as detailed in the preamble above, be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme.
Officers advised that the items that had been identified for pre-scrutiny earlier in the meeting would be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s work programme.
It was confirmed that an extra meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been booked to take place on Monday 16th December 2019. This would provide Members with an opportunity to pre-scrutinise reports that were due to be considered by the Executive Committee on Thursday 19th December 2019. There was also a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee due to take place on 5th December 2019. As there were a number of items scheduled for consideration on this date Members agreed that this meeting should take place.
the report be noted.
Task Group Reviews - Draft Scoping Documents
Officers confirmed that there were no draft scoping documents for consideration on this occasion.
a) Budget Scrutiny Working Group – Chair, Councillor Wheeler
b) Parking Enforcement Task Group – Chair, Councillor Mark Shurmer
c) Performance Scrutiny Working Group – Chair, Andrew Fry
d) Suicide Prevention Scrutiny Task Group – Chair, Councillor Debbie Chance
The following updates were provided in respect of the work of scrutiny Task Groups and Working Groups:
a) Budget Scrutiny Working Group – Chair, Councillor Jenny Wheeler
Councillor Wheeler explained that the group had held a number of meetings since the last meeting of the Committee. During these meetings the group had considered information about the Section 24 Notice. Members had concluded that at a challenging time financially for the Council the Budget Scrutiny Working Group had an important role to play in terms of providing assurance to the Executive Committee and scrutinising any plans that might have significant financial implications for the Council.
Redditch Borough Council had an Investment and Acquisition Strategy. Under the terms of this strategy it had been agreed that the Executive Committee should have delegated powers to approve any proposed investments and acquisitions, to ensure that decisions could be taken swiftly in a competitive commercial environment. So far two investments had been approved by the Executive Committee but neither of these had been subject to budget scrutiny. The PWLB had increased borrowing costs and the Council was in a challenging financial position. Councillor Wheeler suggested that in this context the Budget Scrutiny Working Group could add value by scrutinising proposed investments to ensure that the financial projections for each option were sound.
The group had also noted that, following the publication of the Section 24 Notice, difficult decisions would need to be made in order to balance the Council’s budget. To enable Members to make financially viable decisions the group was proposing that additional information needed to be provided in the financial implications of reports to Committee. Officers noted that it would be helpful for this additional information to be required where appropriate and this suggestion was endorsed.
b) Parking Enforcement Task Group – Chair, Councillor Mark Shurmer
Officers explained that it was unlikely that any further meetings of the group would take place until after the general election had occurred on 12th December 2019. The Chair had therefore requested that the deadline for completion of the review be moved back to 2020.
c) Performance Scrutiny Working Group – Chair, Councillor Andrew Fry
Councillor Fry advised that there had been no meeting of the group since the previous meeting of the Committee.
d) Suicide Prevention Task Group – Chair, Councillor Debbie Chance
Councillor Chance explained that there were two meetings of the group due to take place in November. It was unlikely that the group would hold any meetings in December. Therefore, the review was likely to be completed in early 2020.
1) business cases for new investment and acquisition opportunities for the Council should all be considered by the Budget Scrutiny Working Group before a decision is taken by the Executive Committee;
2) the financial implications detailed in reports to the Executive Committee should address the following points as a minimum where appropriate:
a) the financial costs of the proposed action;
b) the source of funding for the proposed action;
c) potential ... view the full minutes text for item 54.
a) West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Overview and Scrutiny Committee – Council representative, Councillor Chalk; and
b) Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) – Council representative, Councillor Chalk.
Members noted that Councillor Chalk had provided a written update in respect of the latest meeting of the WMCA Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
There had been no meetings of the Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) since the previous meeting.