Agenda and draft minutes

Scrutiny and Overview Committee - Thursday, 12 March 2020 5.20 p.m.

Venue: Council Chamber - South Cambs Hall. View directions

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:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Nigel Cathcart and Steve Hunt. Councillor Henry Batchelor was present as a substitute for Councillor Hunt.

 

The Conservative Leader Councillor Heather Williams, who had hoped to attend the meeting, asked for her apologies to be noted.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

Regarding agenda item 9 (Property Acquisition – Sawston), Councillor Milnes informed the committee that he had expressed opinions during discussions regarding the Sawston site.

3.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 143 KB

To authorise the Chairman to sign the Minutes of the meeting held on 13 February 2020 as a correct record.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed as a correct record, subject to the following amendments:

·         Inclusion in the list of attendees of Councillors John Williams, Neil Gough, Tumi Hawkins and Bridget Smith.

·         Regarding the Crime and Safety Partnership, wording would be amended to reflect that it was not the purpose of the CSP to hold the Police to account.

4.

Public Questions pdf icon PDF 176 KB

A public question has been received from Mr Daniel Fulton:

Minutes:

Mr Daniel Fulton was invited to ask his question which had been submitted in advance of the meeting. Due to annual leave, Planning officers were unable to attend the meeting to provide a response. A written response was therefore provided, which the Chairman read out:

 

Through 2019, the Council a total of 61 applications/submissions subject to “call in” requests from Parish Councils and 3 application/submissions subject to Member call in requests were considered. The breakdown of these applications by type is as follows:  

 

 

Application type

Parish call in requests

Member call in requests

Total number of applications

Outline planning applications

3

1

59

Applications for full planning permission

48

2

584

Approval of reserved matters

6

0

47

Listed building consent

1

0

191

Discharge of condition

0

0

1051

Variation of condition

3

0

163

Totals

61

3

2095

 

As a result of the Parish/member call in requests, the following outcomes arose for each of the items:

 

Application Type

Application referred to Ctte

Application approved  under delegated powers

Application refused under delegated powers

No decision and matter deferred for further information/consideration.

Outline Planning Permission

0

1

2

1

Full Planning Permission

3

24

13

10

Approval of reserved Matters

2

2

1

1

Listed Building Consent

0

0

0

1

Variation of condition

1

2

0

0

 

 

Mr Fulton made the following supplementary statement:

 

“In September 2018, the leader of the council, the portfolio holder for planning, the entire cabinet, the chief officers, and the joint director for planning and economic development were made aware of serious legal defects in the manner in which the council was deciding planning decisions. The leader of the council asked the joint director for planning and economic development to undertake a review of the council’s scheme of delegation for planning decisions. This never happened.

 

Between November 2018 and May 2019, I contacted multiple officers and members of the council in regards to this issue and on multiple occasions wrote to the Council’s solicitors at 3C Shared Services. Still, no action was taken.

 

The Council persisted in issuing planning decisions under the unlawful delegation schemes, and on 10 January 2020, the Council was served with a pre-action letter indicating that the council’s unlawful delegation scheme would be challenged in the High Court.

 

The Council now finds itself in the position of being unable to operate effectively as the district’s local planning authority, and a large backlog of undetermined applications is currently awaiting consideration. 

 

Prior to this scandal, as of Q3 of calendar year 2019, the Council’s on-time performance statistic for major planning applications was 66.1%. For comparison, South Cambridgeshire District Council's performance on this measure is ranked number 337 out of 346 local planning authorities in England, or 9th from worst.

 

As I said, the current on-time performance statistic for major planning applications is 66.1%. This was before the Council had to effectively suspend the determination of major planning due to the lack of lawful delegation scheme. The threshold for the Secretary of State  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

ICT Update and ICT Shared Service Business Plan 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 152 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Deputy Leader (non-statutory) introduced the Shared Services Business Plans 2020/2021. He provided an explanation of the governance arrangements for the shared services.

 

The committee received an update on ICT from the Deputy Head of ICT. There was a detailed discussion during which the Deputy Head of ICT informed the committee of the following:

·         Disaster recovery tests would be carried out for new systems and a full network disaster recovery test would be carried out. Regular disaster recovery tests would be carried out on network infrastructure going forward.

·         Backups were used on a regular basis. The ICT service knew how long it took to recover each service, application or data from scratch. The current plan required each council to provide ICT with their priority applications for recovery. This was provided to ICT by each council’s Intelligent Client.

·         Regarding the service’s KPI-2 Service Availability, the target of 95% was queried. The Deputy Head of ICT informed the committee that this equated to several days of downtime per year, which was not considered to be acceptable as residents wanted to access council services 24/7. He explained that the service was running above target.

·         The relationship with the County Council was explained and the committee was informed that the ICT service used the County Council’s data centre room. Given the County Council’s move from Shire Hall, a new location for this was being discussed. The committee was informed that South Cambridgeshire District Council was responsible for its server unit and that there was no requirement for a generator here.

·         The committee was informed that the ICT service had an asset register, which had been audited.

·         The Deputy Head of ICT was confident that all single points of failure could be identified and that there was resilience in these areas.

·         Corporate risk management decisions would be escalated to the Shared Service Board and from there issues would be escalated to Cabinet if appropriate.

·         The telephony project was underway, which South Cambridgeshire District Council was leading. Designs had been proposed and requirements developed with key service areas. The plan was to go out to market in around June 2020.

·         The Deputy Head of ICT explained the processes and measures that were in place to protect against cyber security attacks.

·         Information was held in a central repository which all 3 councils could access.

·         The committee was informed that not all vacant posts in the service had been filled but recruitment was ongoing. These vacancies were difficult areas to which to recruit.

·         The Deputy Head of ICT explained how funding was split across the 3 authorities.

·         The committee was informed that customer satisfaction would be surveyed through a general staff survey, however the timescale for this was not yet known.

·         The Chamber equipment upgrade project would include the AV equipment, not the microphone equipment.

 

It was noted by the committee that documentation requested, such as IT Security Policy, Business Continuity Plan and others had still not been provided.

 

The committee noted that the albeit incomplete Council Anywhere  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Exclusion of the 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 Press and public may be excluded for agenda item 7 as it contains restricted information in relation to the Building Control Business Plan (all other Shared Services business plans are open). The Building Control Business Plan contains restricted information as defined in paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act (as amended). Paragraph 3 relates to ‘information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)’.

 

The Press and public may also be excluded for the consideration of agenda items 8 and 9 as these items also contain restricted information as defined in paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act. 

 

If the Press and public are to be excluded from the meeting, 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(s) 7 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(s) 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.”

 

The Press and public will be allowed back into the meeting room following the consideration of these items.

 

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 committee agreed that the Press and public be excluded from the meeting during the consideration of the 3C Building Control Business Plan and for the consideration of agenda items 8 and 9, 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). Paragraph 3 refers to information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

7.

Shared Services 2020/21 Business Plans pdf icon PDF 848 KB

The covering report for the Business Plans precedes the ICT Business Plan (agenda item 5) in the agenda pack.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Deputy Leader (non-statutory) introduced the Shared Services Business Plans which were discussed in turn by the committee.

 

Legal Shared Service Business Plan

 

The committee was informed by the Deputy Head of Legal Practice, that Cambridge City Council was the primary employer for the service and as such ran the recruitment process with support from HR. He informed the committee that there was difficulty in recruiting legal officers, which was likely due to competing with private sector salaries. The other benefits of working in Local Government, which were not financial, were promoted during recruitment. The use of paralegals and trainee solicitors was being looked at.

It was clarified that Tom Lewis was the Head of Legal Practice and Monitoring Officer for Cambridge City Council and Huntingdonshire District Council. Rory McKenna was the Deputy Head of Legal Practice and Monitoring Officer for South Cambridgeshire District Council.

 

The committee noted the Legal Shared Service Business Plan.

 

Shared Planning Service Business Plan

The Lead Cabinet Member for Planning presented this business plan which the committee discussed. The committee was informed by the Lead Cabinet Member of the following:

·         The career development opportunities offered by this large service were being recognised. Officers had the opportunity to work on exciting projects due to the large number of strategic sites in the district.

·         A significant number of new staff appointments had been made to the service after it had been featured in two articles in key Planning publications. 

·         The service’s customer service had improved.

·         Training on the new planning portal had been provided for parish councils, all of which had access to their own portal account.

·         The new software project was discussed, and the committee was informed that all data had been transferred to the new system.

·         The Chief Executive explained the financial arrangements for the shared planning service, which were complicated. Income from planning applications remained with the relevant council to which the application had been made. The costs for the Joint Local Plan would be split equally between the relevant councils.

·         The service was looking at bringing in extra resource when needed for conservation area appraisals.

 

The committee noted the business plan.

 

Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service (GCSWS) Business Plan

 

The Head of Environment and Waste and Lead Cabinet Member presented the business plan.

 

Committee members provided some positive feedback regarding the service.

 

Communications around recycling was discussed. Members thought the information on recycling provided on the website was useful, however the website was difficult to navigate. Members suggested that some further communication around items that could be recycled, was needed. The Head of Environment and Waste explained the action that had been taken regarding this.

 

The Head of Environment and Waste outlined to the committee the measures that were being taken to reduce the service’s carbon impact. He informed the committee that the service’s biggest carbon impact was from its waste vehicles. The detail of the timing of the new electric bin lorry would be announced in due course and moving the rest  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Property Acquisition - Cambridge Science Park

Minutes:

The Lead Cabinet Member for Finance presented the investment opportunity at Cambridge Science Park, which he considered to be a good investment. As agreed at agenda item 6, committee members discussed this in closed session. Despite the concerns raised by committee members, the committee supported this investment going forward to Cabinet for consideration.

 

 

 

9.

Property Acquisition - Sawston

Minutes:

The Lead Cabinet Member for Finance presented the investment opportunity at Sawston Business Park, which he informed the committee provided facilities that were needed and provided the opportunity to deliver sustainable development. Committee members discussed this in closed session and outlined their concerns.

 

 

10.

Transfer of Community Assets Policy pdf icon PDF 228 KB

Minutes:

The Lead Cabinet Member for Finance presented the policy for the potential transfer of community assets to relevant third party organisations.

 

Members commented that this was an excellent document and the committee indicated its support for the policy.

11.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 201 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny and Overview Committee NOTED its work programme.

12.

To Note the Dates of Future Meetings

Thursday 21st April 2020 at 5.20pm.

Minutes:

The next meeting would take place on Thursday 21st April 2020 at 5.20pm.