Agenda and draft minutes

Scrutiny and Overview Committee
Tuesday, 20 August 2019 5.20 p.m.

Venue: Swansley Room, Ground Floor

Contact: Victoria Wallace  03450 450 500 Email: democratic.services@scambs.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence from committee members. 

Minutes:

Councillors Ruth Betson, Gavin Clayton, Graham Cone, Dr. Douglas de Lacey and Brian Milnes sent Apologies for Absence.

 

Councillors Peter Topping, Bunty Waters and Deborah Roberts substituted for Councillors Betson, de Lacey and Cone respectively.

 

In Councillor Milnes’ absence, the Chairman sought and received the Committee’s agreement to Councillor Judith Rippeth being appointed Vice-Chairman for the meeting.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

3.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 156 KB

To authorise the Chairman to sign the Minutes of the meeting held on 16 July 2019 as a correct record.

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee authorised the Chairman to sign, as a correct record, the Minutes of the meeting held on 16 July 2019, subject to the following:

 

Minute 5 – Update on 3C ICT

 

In connection with the eighth and ninth bullet point (starting “in relation to the recent failure...” and “the newly consolidated server…”, Councillor Anna Bradnam reiterated that 3C ICT should assume responsibility from Facilities Management for the server room at South Cambridgeshire Hall, and that both the server room itself and the equipment within it should send telemetry that would prevent future failures in the chiller system.

 

In the eighth bullet point, the word “…currently…” should be added between the words “…for which 3C ICT was…” and “…responsible as…”. The words “The server room at South Cambridgeshire Hall, and the equipment within it, ought to be similarly monitored.” should be added to the ninth bullet point,

 

By affirmation, the Scrutiny and Overview Committee agreed that the eighth and ninth bullet point should be amended to state as follows:

 

 In relation to the recent failure of the chiller system in the South Cambridgeshire Hall server room, which had led to an outage of ICT systems across the council, the committee was informed that this was not something for which 3C ICT was currently responsible as the server room was managed by South Cambridgeshire Facilities Management. The Head of 3C ICT explained that this failure had occurred during a weekend.”

 

“The newly consolidated server room environments, such as the server room at Pathfinder House which 3C ICT managed, had monitoring equipment in place. The server room at South Cambridgeshire Hall, and the equipment within it, ought to be similarly monitored.”

 

4.

Public Questions

Minutes:

There were no public questions.

5.

2019-20 Performance Reporting Arrangements and Quarter 1 Operational Key Performance Indicator Results pdf icon PDF 332 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee received and noted a report providing it with details of proposed performance reporting arrangements for the 2019-20 financial year. The report also contained the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Quarter 1 position regarding its operational key performance indicators (KPI).

 

Householder planning applications

 

The Chairman exercised his discretion so that Councillor Peter Topping could establish the basis upon which, as summarised in a recent e-mail to Members, a process was being developed that would allow some planning applications to be validated and progressed by an outside company.

 

Councillor Dr. Tumi Hawkins, the Lead Cabinet Member for Planning, emphasised that the measure offered an opportunity to bring in additional resources to support the processing of minor household planning applications. The Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development highlighted the fact that the lack of resources within the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service (GCSPS) had been identified as a risk within South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Strategic Risk Register. He referred to the challenges faced in recruiting appropriately qualified planning officers, drawing attention to the high level of vacancies in the service and the difficulty in engaging agency staff which, in any event, was costly to the Council.  For those reasons, the alternative option had been pursued of entering into a contract to provide additional capacity to assist in the validation stage for household applications, for subsequent review by case officers employed by the Council.  The Joint Director commented that a similar option had been pursued in 2014 when external resources had been used to support a range of functions within South Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning section.  The Committee noted the following:

 

·         A national campaign was underway to recruit new staff

·         Current planning officers would shortly transfer to new roles with revised job descriptions

·         Investment in new ICT would promote efficiency

·         Some planning officers were currently processing applications up to 50% above the national average and, with many of these requiring difficult and complex decisions, there were implications for staff well-being

 

Although the GCSPS had been meeting its targets for determining applications (as indicated in the Quarter 1 performance report before the Committee), it had also been receiving complaints about elements of that performance and the communication with customers and residents. 

 

The Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development confirmed that the Council had undertaken a formal tendering process and that a contract with the successful service provider could be managed within existing budgets. The cost was competitive and cheaper than using agency staff. The contract would provide capacity for validation and assessment of simple applications. The Committee was assured that decision-making would remain in-house. The contract was for four months and the Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development outlined the type of monitoring that would take place. The decision to secure additional validation and application assessment capacity from a service provider fell within the remit of operational management under the Council’s officer scheme of delegation.  

 

While recognising that GCSPS had severe capacity issues, and that the arrangement was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Strategic Risk Register pdf icon PDF 440 KB

To receive the Draft Strategic Risk Register Q1– Updated for Scrutiny & Overview Committee Review.

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee received and noted the draft Strategic Risk Register for Quarter 1.

 

Given the Committee’s recent focus on ICT resilience and governance, Members were particularly keen to review the risk control measures relating to Risk Reference G (Infrastructure Failure). They received an update from the Lead Cabinet Member for Finance.  The Chairman noted that, at its previous meeting, the Committee had learned from the Head of 3C ICT that many of the recent ICT problems experienced at the Council had related to the telephone system that needed replacing.  The Committee noted that officers were working with 3C ICT to commission a project to progress the replacement of the Council’s telephone system. Members were updated on progress with the roll out of the Council Anywhere project. They noted that a wi-fi audit had been undertaken recently and would be acted upon.  In terms of governance of shared services (Risk Reference H), the Committee welcomed the proposal to consider establishing a shared Scrutiny Committee for shared services.

 

With reference to the risk relating to Housing delivery and maintaining a 5 year housing supply (Risk Reference C1), following questioning on whether annual monitoring of delivery against the housing trajectory was sufficient, the Committee noted a proposal to move to quarterly monitoring once new ICT systems were in place.

7.

Value for Money Strategy pdf icon PDF 208 KB

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee received and noted a report that would be asking Cabinet, at its meeting on 4 September 2019, to consider the adoption of a Value for Money Strategy by the Council

 

The Interim Finance Director said that the report was now final, and that the word ‘draft’ should therefore be disregarded.

 

The Committee reviewed the draft Value for Money Strategy set out at Appendix A.  Members acknowledged the value of the strategy in demonstrating how the Council would seek to make sure that the Council was achieving value for money.  This would be particularly important in the context of the increasing emphasis on efficiency savings, invest-to-save initiatives and income generation opportunities, and in determining key investment priorities. 

 

Noting the aim to reduce the cost of services without reducing the level of outcome or to increase the level of outcome for the same cost, as referred to in paragraph 4.6.1 of the strategy, Members felt it was important to be clear in advance about what monitoring mechanisms would be used to ensure that outcomes were not worse for customers and suggested that perhaps this should be clearer in the Strategy. There was also a concern that the Council should not assume that capacity was available in the community or voluntary sector to pick up services the Council was no longer able to deliver. With reference to paragraph 4.9.1 of the Strategy, Committee Members were mindful of the difficult judgments that would need to be made in balancing economic considerations with the need for environmental and social outcomes.  The Interim Finance Director advised the Committee that in any process of service change, a full review and risk analysis would need to be completed so that decisions could be made informed by an awareness of all relevant considerations. Additionally, as indicated in paragraph 4.5.1 of the Strategy, monitoring mechanisms would need to be in place to ensure that desired outcomes were realised. The Chairman summarised that the aim should be to ensure that that reductions in the cost of services did not result in deterioration in the level of service received by customers and the Interim Finance Director confirmed that the Value for Money Strategy should enable the Council to achieve that goal.

 

Committee members asked that a more considered analysis of the environmental implications of proposals be included in the relevant section of each committee report, noting that at present, very standardised responses tended to be included in this section.

8.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 243 KB

For the committee to consider its work programme, which is attached with the Council’s Notice of forthcoming Key and Non-Key Decisions. When considering items to add to its work programme, the committee is requested to use the attached Scrutiny Prioritisation Tool.

 

Under this agenda item, the committee will also set up and appoint members to any Scrutiny task and finish groups.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee received and noted its Work Programme for 2019-20 and a copy of the Notice of Key Decisions and Non-Key Decisions.

 

The Chairman indicated to Members that he would be discussing with the Democratic Services Team Leader the most effective way of dealing with the Scrutiny and Overview Committee workload for the meetings in September and October 2019.

9.

To Note the Dates of Future Meetings

To note that the next meeting will take place on Tuesday 10 September  2019 at 5.20pm.

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee noted that its next scheduled meeting would be on Tuesday 10 September 2019 starting at 5.20pm.

10.

Exclusion of Press and Public

The law allows Councils to consider a limited range of issues in private session without members of the Press and public being present. Typically, such issues relate to personal details, financial and business affairs, legal privilege and so on. In every case, the public interest in excluding the Press and Public from the meeting room must outweigh the public interest in having the information disclosed to them. The following statement will be proposed, seconded and voted upon. 

 

"I propose that the Press and public be excluded from the meeting during the consideration of the following item number 11 in accordance with Section 100(A) (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that, if present, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.”

 

Paragraph 3 relates to information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

 

If exempt (confidential) information has been provided as part of the agenda, the Press and public will not be able to view it. There will be an explanation on the website however as to why the information is exempt.

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee agreed by affirmation that the Press and Public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following item (Housing Revenue Account – Purchase of Affordable Homes and Review of Executive Scheme of Delegation) in accordance with the provisions of Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) (exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)).

11.

Housing Revenue Account purchase of affordable homes and review of Executive Scheme of Delegation

In accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972, the Chairman has agreed that this item should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency, because the Council needs to enter into a contract as soon as possible in order to mitigate against the serious risk of losing Right To Buy receipts back to the Treasury in December 2019.  The report is due to be submitted to Cabinet on 4 September 2019 and needs to be considered at this meeting as a matter of urgency in order to enable the Committee’s comments on the report to be presented to Cabinet.

Minutes:

In accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972, the Chairman had agreed that this item should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency, because the Council needed to enter into a contract as soon as possible in order to mitigate against the serious risk of losing Right To Buy receipts back to H.M. Treasury in December 2019. 

 

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee considered the report that had been drafted for submission to Cabinet on 4 September 2019. The Committee needed to review the report at the current meeting so that its comments could be conveyed to Cabinet.

 

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee sought further information and assurances at the meeting in relation to:

 

·         The quality of construction materials

·         The precise number of units involved

·         Buildings performance

·         Procurement

·         Benchmarking

·         Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

 

Having considered all the information presented, the Scrutiny and Overview Committee agreed to support  recommendations 4 (a) – (c) relating to the purchase of affordable homes as outlined in the restricted report of the Interim Chief Executive.

 

The Committee also supported the proposal to amend the limit for executive decisions by the Lead Cabinet Member, with decisions above that level being referred to Cabinet, as outlined in recommendation 4 (d) of the restricted report.