West Berkshire Council

Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual meeting

Contact: Gordon Oliver / James Townsend 

Items
No. Item

27.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 425 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 6 October 2020.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 6 October 2020 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman, subject to the following amendments:

·         Councillor Law asked for the action for the Digital Transformation Task Group under the topic ‘barriers to shared services’ to be included in the list of actions.

28.

Actions from previous Minutes pdf icon PDF 208 KB

To receive an update on actions following the previous Commission meeting.

Minutes:

There were 7 actions followed up from previous Commission meetings:

·         18 - This had been re-scheduled for the April OSMC meeting.

·         25 - Councillor Marino noted the ICT / Digital Task Group would meet every 6 months

·         26 - Complete

·         27 - Councillor Law asked for a further update to the April OSMC meeting

·         28 - Ongoing

·         29 - Complete

·         30 - Complete

29.

Declarations of Interest

To remind Members of the need to record the existence and nature of any personal, disclosable pecuniary or other registrable interests in items on the agenda, in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct.

Minutes:

Councillors Tony Vickers and Erik Pattenden declared an interest in Agenda Item 6, but reported that, as their interest was a personal or an other interest, but not a disclosable pecuniary interest, they determined to remain to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.

Councillor Lee Dillon declared an interest in Agenda Item 8, and reported that, as his interest was a disclosable pecuniary interest or an other registrable interest, he would be leaving the meeting during the course of consideration of the matter.

30.

Petitions

To consider any petitions requiring an Officer response.

Minutes:

There were no petitions received at the meeting.

31.

Items Called-in following the Executive on 17 December 2020 pdf icon PDF 199 KB

To consider any items called-in by the requisite number of Members following the previous Executive meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Councillors Tony Vickers and Erik Pattenden declared a personal interest in Agenda Item 6 by virtue of the fact that they were Members of Newbury Town Council. As their interest was personal and not prejudicial or a disclosable pecuniary interest, they determined to remain to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.)

In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, five Elected Members (Councillors Lee Dillon, Alan Macro, Jeff Brooks, Tony Vickers and Erik Pattenden) called in the Executive Decision (EX3978) on the London Road Development Options.

Councillor Ross Mackinnon introduced a report that outlined the details of the objectives of development on the London Road Industrial Estate and requested funding to help achieve the objectives through successful development of the site. He noted that the project remained a priority as part of the Council Strategy, and that the report sought to provide a way forward to enable development on the site, in a phased approach, following consideration of the Development Brief, and the consultation on this, as well as the Council’s objectives for the site as a whole. He noted that the Executive resolved to approve as follows:

a)    a phased approach option to the development of the site within an overall vision for the development as a whole.

b)    the objectives of the development as per paragraph 5.14.

c)    commissioning a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) to help better align development proposals with Planning Policy, to set out estate wide design criteria and infrastructure requirements and for the cost of this work to be found out of annual funding requested in this report.

d)    a one-off budget of £45,000 to provide funding for feasibility services in the 2020-21 financial year including, as appropriate, negotiations with estate stakeholders with commercial interests.

e)    the renaming of the London Road Industrial Estate working in consultation with the public.

He also noted that the Executive recommended, for inclusion in the budget papers, a revenue budget of £100,000 per annum over the next three years to provide for specialist consultancy support during the project development where the Council does not have internal resources to provide the specific project resources.

Councillor Dillon noted that the call-in mechanism had been used sparingly in recent years. In this case, it was being used to ensure that the Executive were considering the unique set of circumstances surrounding London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) and to secure confidence that adequate resources were being provided to help manage the project. He noted that the opposition were in favour of the re-development of LRIE and that they wanted to proceed without undue delay. He stated that there were four areas where clarification was required about how the project would be delivered. He thanked Councillors Hilary Cole and Ross Mackinnon for providing written responses in advance of the meeting.

Councillor Jeff Brooks noted that paragraph 5.11 of the report was factually incorrect, since the Liberal Democrats had been removed from the Project Board. In paragraph 5.13, he noted that there would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Receive Responses of the Council, Executive or Other Committees to Reports of the Commission

The Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission referred the Task Group Report on the London Road Industrial Estate (EX3976) to the Executive. The Executive’s response was provided to the Executive meeting on 15 October 2020. The Executive resolved that the action plan produced in response to the recommendations raised by the Task Group be noted. Copies of the report and minutes of this meeting can be obtained from Strategy and Governance or via the Council’s website.

Minutes:

Resolved that the report be noted.

33.

Draft Housing Strategy pdf icon PDF 258 KB

Purpose: To consider the Draft Housing Strategy, which is due to go to Executive for approval on 25 March 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(Councillor Dillon declared a personal and prejudicial interest in Agenda item 8 by virtue of the fact that he was an employee of Sovereign Housing. As his interest was personal and prejudicial he left the meeting and took no part in the debate or voting on the matter.)

The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 8) concerning the Draft Housing Strategy.

Councillor Hilary Cole noted that the Housing Strategy covered the period to 2036. She acknowledged concerns regarding the impact of Covid, but suggested it was not wise to delay, since the impacts were unknown and unquantifiable, and the strategy would be regularly reviewed. She noted that it linked to other key strategies, such as the Environment Strategy and the Minerals and Waste Plan. In relation to the consultation, she noted that 477 people had ignored the instruction to read the survey before completing the survey, which resulted in responses being abandoned. As a result only 271 responses were viable for data analysis purposes. She stressed the importance of adopting the strategy.

Janet Weekes made the following points in relation to the strategy:

·         It would replace the current housing strategy adopted in 2010.

·         It was a Corporate priority.

·         A peer review had been undertaken in 2019.

·         It enabled the Council to set out its future strategic plans.

·         Although not a statutory requirement, it would meet a range of statutory duties.

·         It was a high level strategic document linked to other strategies and operational policies.

·         The Housing Strategy would run up to 2036.

·         The consultation ran for 6 weeks, with 271 valid responses received and a consultation report had been produced.

·         Extensive communications had been carried, including use of social media.

·         Key themes from the consultation included: affordability / more affordable housing and environmental / climate considerations.

·         The Strategy was scheduled to be adopted at Executive in March 2021.

She highlighted a number of key challenges:

·         How best to influence the housing market

·         It would require more than just building new homes

·         Mitigating the effects of welfare reform

·         Understanding and addressing the housing need of residents

·         Responding to ever-changing needs, including the effects of Covid-19

·         Delivery of the housing strategy via a delivery plan

She concluded by highlighting the two priorities in the strategy:

·         Priority 1 – Enable every resident to have access to a home that meets their needs

·         Priority 2 – Reduce homelessness

Councillor Tony Vickers noted that 83% of housing was privately owned. He commented that owner-occupied housing was falling and private rented accommodation was growing. He stated that this could lead to insecurity of tenure and there was a need for stability. He was pleased to see measures to incentivise landlords to make arrangements for homeless individuals to retain their security, but asked for further information and confirmation that sufficient resources were in place to address this.

Janet Weekes explained that pressure bids had been submitted to ensure sufficient resources would be in place to implement the strategy.

Councillor Steve Masters noted good progress made in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.

34.

Revenue Financial Performance Report - Quarter 2 of 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 785 KB

Purpose: To inform the Commission of the latest revenue financial performance of the Council.

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 9) concerning the Revenue Financial Performance Report - Quarter 2 of 2020/21.

Joseph Holmes outlined the in-year financial performance of the Council’s revenue budgets and asked members to note the forecast underspend of £1.5 million, which was linked to Adult Social Care, the impact of Covid-19 and the Government funding that had been received.

Councillor Brooks noted the forecast for year-end was an underspend of £1.5 million, but suggested that the final amount would be more than this. He noted that there had been a history of under-spend increasing in Quarter 4 and that he would not be surprised to see the figure increase to £3 million, and he suggested that the Council needed to improve its forecasting.

The Chairman noted the significant funds allocated by Central Government in response to the pandemic. Also, he highlighted the net position in Appendix A of the report and queried if the £1.5 million underspend was against the revised budget, and if the figure was actually £2.5 million when considered against the original budget. Joseph Holmes confirmed this was correct. Councillor Lee Dillon suggested that this should be highlighted in future reports. Councillor Gareth Hurley suggested that information should be provided to show in which quarter the budget had changed. The Chairman suggested that future reports include a commentary to explain adjustments in the last period.

RESOLVED that the report be noted.

35.

Capital Financial Performance Report - Quarter 2 of 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 836 KB

Purpose: To inform the Commission of the latest capital financial performance of the Council.

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 10) concerning Capital Financial Performance Report - Quarter 2 of 2020/21.

Councillor Ross Mackinnon outlined that the financial performance report provided to Members on a quarterly basis reported on the under or over spends against the Council’s approved capital budget. He highlighted a £6 million increase in reprofiled projects from Quarter 1. He identified the effects of the Covid pandemic as the main reason for projects being delayed, but gave assurance that they were not being cancelled.

Councillor Vickers asked about paragraph 5.4b, which indicated that Newbury Station car park was not proceeding as originally planned. He asked if this was different to the Market Street project. Joseph Holmes confirmed that the Council had the opportunity to purchase floors in the new multi-storey car park, but the landowner had subsequently decided to take the option, so it was no longer available to the Council.

The Chairman asked about the project on the south side of Newbury Station. Nick Carter indicated that it was still going ahead. Councillor Mackinnon noted that it had slipped to August 2021 as a result of a GWR delay.

Councillor Gareth Hurley declared a prejudicial or a disclosable pecuniary interest by virtue of the fact that he worked for GWR and indicated that he would take no part in any further debate on this project.

RESOLVED that the report be noted.

36.

Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission Work Programme pdf icon PDF 289 KB

Purpose: To receive new items and agree and prioritise the work programme of the Commission for the remainder of 2020/21 and for 2021/22.

Minutes:

The Commission considered its work programme.

The Chairman proposed that he, the Vice Chairman and Gordon Oliver should meet to discuss the programme in more detail and report back to the meeting on 9 February.

RESOLVED that the work programme be noted.