Agenda and minutes
Venue: Second Floor Meeting Area Council Offices Market Street Newbury. View directions
Contact: Gordon Oliver
To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meetings of the Commission held on 31 August 2021 and 12 October 2021.
The Minutes of the Special meeting held on 31 August 2021 and the meeting held on 12 October 2021 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Purpose: To receive an update on actions following the previous Commission meeting.
It was noted that all actions had been completed. Further updates were provided on the live actions:
· Action 43 – provisional dates had been proposed for future meetings (24 May 2022, 06 September 2022, 29 November 2022 and 7 March 2023), which would be two weeks ahead of the relevant Executive meetings where the quarterly performance and financial reports would be discussed.
· Action 50 – Cllr Lee Dillon confirmed that he was still considering whether he wished to submit a question to Executive.
· Action 51 – Cllr Tony Vickers confirmed that he did not wish to propose this as an item for the Commission to review.
· Action 52 – a task group to look at various aspects of the Covid response had been included in the proposed work programme to be discussed later in the meeting.
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.
Councillor Adrian Abbs declared an interest in Agenda Item 6, but reported that, as his interest was a personal or an other registrable interest, but not a disclosable pecuniary interest, he determined to remain to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.
Councillors Tony Vickers, Erik Pattenden and Steve Masters declared an interest in Agenda Item 6, but reported that, as their interest was a personal or an other registrable interest, but not a disclosable pecuniary interest, they determined to remain to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.
Purpose: To consider any petitions requiring an Officer response.
There were no petitions to be received at the meeting.
Purpose: To consider any items called-in by the requisite number of Members following the previous Executive meeting.
(Councillor Adrian Abbs declared a personal interest in Agenda item 6 by virtue of the fact that he was a Ward Member for the Sports Hub site. As his interest was personal and not prejudicial he was permitted to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.)
(Councillors Tony Vickers, Erik Pattenden and Steve Masters declared a personal interest in Agenda item 6 by virtue of the fact that they were Members of Newbury Town Council, which had a public position on the London Road Industrial Area. As their interest was personal and not prejudicial they were permitted to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.)
The call-in request submitted on 22 December 2021 asked the Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission to review the Executive’s decision (EX4149) of 16 December 2021 concerning the award of contract to build Newbury Sports Hub.
It was confirmed that the call-in request had been submitted in accordance with Sections 5.3 and 6.4 of the Council’s Constitution.
Councillor Howard Woollaston presented the background to the Sports Hub and the rationale for the Executive’s decision to award the contract for its construction. Key points from the presentation were:
· The Playing Pitch Strategy (PPS) had been signed off by partners in December 2019 and adopted by Council in February 2020.
· There was a large shortfall in playing pitch provision across West Berkshire, particularly for football.
· 10 pitches were operating over capacity and 57 were of poor quality.
· The PPS identified a shortfall of seven full-sized artificial pitches.
· All Council owned sites had been considered and rejected.
· Private sector solutions had been investigated, with Newbury Sports Hub deemed to be the best option.
· The Hub would also serve as a partial replacement for the Faraday Road pitch if the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) was redeveloped.
· A public consultation attracted 349 responses – 53.1% of respondents supported a new Sports Hub at the Rugby Club.
· Development of a new Step 6 facility had 46.1% support vs 27.4% opposed and 64.1% supported different sports sharing a facility.
· The new facility would deliver significant improvements with: four team changing rooms, medical room, officials changing area, kitchen, board room, social area and separate toilets for spectators.
· The proposal would achieve an FA Step 4 grading, which would allow teams to progress through the football leagues.
· More car parking would be provided with charge points – 52 spaces with 30 extra spaces available on match days, and a further 200 spaces at Newbury College.
· Eight hours per week would be allocated to the Rugby Club, between September and April, with the remainder allocated for football.
· Agreement had been reached with the Rugby Club for a 40 year lease, including a joint use agreement.
· A range of improvements would be delivered, including additional flood lighting.
· Negotiations had been completed and the agreement would be signed off following planning determination.
· An annual assessment of playing pitch need was underway - the results would inform the need for additional facilities ... view the full minutes text for item 36.
Purpose: To provide the Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission with an update on progress made on the implementation of the Communications and Engagement Strategy, which was adopted in October 2020.
The Commission considered a report on the Operational Review of the Communications and Engagement Strategy (Agenda Item 7).
Before introducing the report, Councillor Lynne Doherty expressed her concern at the behaviour Members had shown in the previous item. She indicated that the work of the Commission was valuable to the Council and she welcomed scrutiny of the Executive’s decisions.
Councillor Doherty stated that the Strategy had been approved in October 2020 and that it had since been successfully implemented. In 2019, a Peer Review had recommended that the Council was “hiding its light under a bushel” and communications needed to be improved. Since then the Council had gone on to receive awards for its communications. She was proud of the team and noted that many residents had given unsolicited compliments on the Council’s communications.
Gabrielle Mancini introduced the report. She explained that effective communication and engagement was key to being open and transparent and involving the community in the work of the Council and the democratic process. The Communications Strategy and Delivery Plan to address points raised in the peer review, and set out a comprehensive range of actions. Additional investment had been made in the Communications Team, which had also been restructured. Significant progress had been made in a short period. This had coincided with the Covid pandemic, when effective communications had been of increased importance. Feedback and awards had demonstrated how much the Council had improved, with benefits for the Council and the communities it served. It was acknowledged that more needed to be done to reach those who were seldom heard, but there was confidence that the Council would continue to move forward.
Councillor Lee Dillon indicated that it would be good to understand the level of resource and spend required to deliver each of the outstanding actions. For example, improving the website would be a relatively large and costly exercise compared to other more minor actions. Similarly for partially complete items, it was difficult to understand the remaining commitment. Also, he felt that some actions were not specific enough (e.g. ‘greater social media’).
Councillor Claire Rowles congratulated officers on making so much progress in a short period. She indicated that there had been good engagement with the Residents’ Bulletin on Covid. She noted that the branding exercise had not been progressed and asked if this remained a long-term ambition. She also asked about plans to engage better with people with disabilities.
Councillor James Cole agreed that good progress had been made, but highlighted issues with the search engine on the Council’s website.
Councillor Tony Linden was pleased at the improvements made. He agreed about the limitations of the search engine and noted that it had been difficult to find the last election results. He stressed the importance of making articles easy to read, including for residents whose first language was not English, and engaging with people who were not digital natives.
Councillor Tony Vickers suggested that when the Council organised conferences and events, there was a ... view the full minutes text for item 37.
Purpose: To review the Council's fees and charges and to review in detail selected areas as determined appropriate by OSMC.
The Commission considered a report on Fees and Charges (Agenda Item 8).
The report provided an overview of fees and charges across the Council. It included the level of fee income in recent years, and the type of charges the Council made and for what services.
The Commission was invited to make proposals and recommendations regarding areas were a more detailed review could be undertaken. Corporate Board had made some initial suggestions.
It was suggested that OSMC may wish to set up a Task and Finish Group to look at this and make recommendations back to a future meeting.
The Chairman had expected the report to set out some potential options for further charges that could be introduced. He noted that this work could not be completed in time to inform the 2022/23 Budget, which would be considered at the February meeting of the Executive. However, proposals could be incorporated into a revised mid-year budget in September. Otherwise they could be introduced as part of the 2023/24 budget.
It was agreed that a Task and Finish Group would be the most appropriate mechanism for this work. The Chairman proposed that this be considered as part of the next agenda item.
Councillor Lee Dillon suggested that the Task Group should set some overarching guidelines, with charges for necessities kept to the minimum (e.g. Blue badges for disabled residents), but having charges for standard items rising with inflation.
The Chairman suggested that the Task Group should have a free hand to determine these, working with officers.
Councillor Rowles suggested that it would be helpful to present the information more visually.
Councillor James Cole noted the proposed increase in charges, which were lower than current inflation rates. Also, the increase for the Public Protection Partnership fees were more than those for Council services. Councillor Dillon explained that the report referred to the previous year’s charges.
The Chairman suggested that the Task Group could consider which measure of inflation would be appropriate to consider when setting in increases (i.e. RPI or CPI).
It was proposed that Councillor Jeff Brooks and James Cole be members of the Task and Finish Group.
The Chairman proposed that Councillor James Cole be appointed as Chairman. This was seconded by Councillor Claire Rowles. At the vote the motion was passed.
RESOLVED: that Councillor James Cole be appointed as Chairman of the Fees and Charges Task Group.
The Chairman asked if the Green Party wished to be represented. Councillor Steve Masters indicated that they did not currently have spare capacity.
Councillor Tony Vickers proposed that an invitation could be extended to all back-bench Members. The Chairman suggested that one or two additional members could be co-opted to the Task Group.
Purpose: To agree any changes to the membership of Task and Finish Groups.
The Chairman noted that there had been difficulties in arranging meetings of the Leisure Strategy Task and Finish Group. This had partly been due to senior officers having to prioritise the Covid response. He stressed that meetings should not be dependent on directors being present.
It was noted that Councillor Gareth Hurley also had experienced difficulties in attending meetings, so Councillor Tony Linden had been asked to replace Councillor Hurley on the Task and Finish Group.
The expectation was that the Group would meet at least twice and report back to OSMC in March. The Chairman confirmed that he had secured the agreement of the Leader that the Leisure Strategy would not go to Executive until the Task Group had made its report. The original request had been for the Task Group to help guide and develop the strategy.
Councillor Lee Dillon sought clarification regarding who would Chair the Task and Finish Group. The Chairman confirmed that it would be Councillor Linden.
To receive updates from the Chairmen of Task and Finish Groups appointed by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission.
The Commission received updates on the work of the current Task and Finish Groups (Agenda Item 10).
There was no further update from the Leisure Strategy Task Group.
Councillor Tom Marino confirmed that it had been agreed that the ICT and Digitisation Task Group should be wound up as the Strategy had been adopted and there did not appear to be any significant issues with the programme. Also, there was a need to free up resources to focus on other task groups.
To receive an update from the Chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Claire Rowles presented the update on the work of the Health Scrutiny Committee (Agenda Item 11).
The last Health Scrutiny Committee meeting was on 10 November. Items considered included:
· NHS Dentistry
· Access to GP surgeries
· Clinical Commissioning Group update
· Healthwatch West Berkshire update
· Adoption of prioritisation methodology
· Protocol between Health Scrutiny Committee and local health bodies
The 3 February meeting had to be cancelled due to lack of availability.
The Committee was developing its work programme using the prioritisation methodology and a meeting was being arranged with Sarah Clarke to discuss this further and agree dates of future meetings.
It was noted that Vicky Phoenix had been appointed to provide additional officer support.
Councillor Rowles had attended a meeting of the Hampshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to receive a briefing on plans for the new hospital at Basingstoke. She stressed the importance of attending meetings about facilities in neighbouring areas where West Berkshire residents would be affected.
To advise the Commission of items to be considered by West Berkshire Council from 2 February to 31 May 2022 and decide whether to review any of the proposed items prior to the meeting indicated in the Plan.
The Commission considered the West Berkshire Forward Plan (Agenda Item 12) for the period covering 2 February to 31 May 2022.
Councillor Lee Dillon asked for the Forward Plan to be sorted by chronological order. He also suggested that the Commission may wish to consider the Review of the Library Service, which was going to Executive in April.
The Chairman confirmed that it would not be possible to undertake pre-decision scrutiny on this item due to the tight timescales. It was suggested that a 6 month review could be considered.
Councillor Steve Masters asked if Thames Water had confirmed attendance. It was noted that this item had been pushed back to the September meeting.
Councillor Tony Vickers asked about the scope of the Thames Water item and suggested that foul water drainage, surface water drainage and supply were all relevant.
It was confirmed that it would cover Thames Water’s investment priorities for the next five years. This would include investment that affected West Berkshire residents, including elements just over the district boundary.
Councillor Claire Rowles asked why Health Scrutiny was shown alongside OSMC as the responsible body on forward plan items. It was confirmed that scrutiny matters were shown under a single category for the purposes of the Forward Plan.
Purpose: To receive new items and agree and prioritise the work programme of the Commission.
The Commission considered its work programme (Agenda Item 13).
The Chairman noted that the December meeting had been cancelled due to reports not being ready in time. He had been assured that there were good explanations for the delays. As a result, it had been necessary to make significant changes to the work programme.
Councillor Claire Rowles felt that the Equalities and Diversity Strategy was a key item. She noted that it had been pushed back and asked who the lead officer was. It was explained that Pam Voss had been appointed as Equality and Diversity Officer and would lead on the strategy. There had been challenges due to the Covid pandemic, but external support was being procured to assist with co-production of the strategy.
Prior to closing the meeting, the Chairman observed that it had been a difficult meeting and apologised to viewing members of the public for how the meeting had been conducted. He noted that there were some Constitutional issues that needed to be considered.