Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 24th July, 2014 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL.

Contact: Matthew Boulter, Principal Democratic Services Officer  Email:


No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 62 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 20 March 2014.

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The Minutes of Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held on 20 March 2014, were approved as a correct record.


Items of Urgent Business pdf icon PDF 83 KB

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.



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The Chair advised the Committee that he had received one item of urgent business for the meeting, a Call-In to Cabinet Decision 01104302 ‘Shaping the Council 2015 and Beyond’, the documentation of which had been circulated to the Committee prior to the meeting and published online. The Chair stated that the call-in would be considered after Item 4 ‘Declarations of Interest.’


The Committee were also informed that one question from a member of the public had been received in relation to Item 6 ‘Budget Update and Savings Proposals’ and the Chair advised that the question would be taken directly before the agenda item to which it was related.


Declaration of Interests

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Councillor Gupta declared a non-pecuniary interest in respect of Agenda Item 6 ‘Budget Update and Savings Proposals’ as he was a voluntary trustee of Thurrock CVS, Thurrock Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Open Door, TRUST, Thurrock Asian Association, Thurrock Community Chest and Thurrock Faith Matters.


Councillor Hebb did not wish to declare a formal interest, but advised the Committee that he had been one of the three Executive Members to bring the Call-In to the Committee for consideration.


Call-In to Cabinet Decision 01104302 - Shaping the Council 2015 and Beyond

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Councillor Gledhill briefly introduced the reasons for the call-in and outlined the alternative course of action and recommendation he wished to propose. Key points to note were:


·         He felt that recommendation 1.3 in the original July 2014 Cabinet report was poorly worded and gave the impression of some form of predetermination.

·         He called for the results of the consultations to be referred to full Council for consideration and agreement / refusal.

·         It was felt that this was important to allow all Members to scrutinise and comment on the budget proposals.

·         That full Council should have the opportunity to scrutinise and recalled that in the 2013/14 budget the £2.4 million overspend was underwritten by reserves.

·         That Cabinet had agreed in July 2014 that over £400,000 of savings could be considered by Overview and Scrutiny and referred back to Cabinet for a decision, and this did not allow all Members to take part in the debate.


In response the Leader of the Council made the following comments:


·         That the Constitution stated that it was within the remit of Council to set the budget framework (the budget envelope) and that it was in the scope of Cabinet to make decisions as to how the budgets were allocated and used within the year.

·         That given the fact that Cabinet were able to make these decisions, the greater debate surrounded whether it was fair.

·         That Members were involved in the budget setting process and had the opportunity to comment as the results of the consultation were being scrutinised by Overview and Scrutiny before being referred to Cabinet.

·         That it was prudent for Overview and Scrutiny and Cabinet to be involved in the budget setting process as the Council could not afford to wait before taking action if the required budget savings were to be achieved before the next financial year.


The Principal Solicitor explained to the Committee that there were a number of clauses within the Council Constitution which set out the framework for decision making, specifically Chapter 3, Part 3. The Committee were advised of the distinction between Council and Cabinet functions, and that it was within Cabinet / the Leader’s authority to make in-year budget savings and efficiencies in so far as it was in line with the budget framework decisions made by Council.


Councillor Gledhill felt that this was not a constitutional matter, but was an issue of fairness. He emphasised that Members could see the number of savings proposed, however they could not evaluate the rationale for the savings proposals as this level of detail was not provided.


In response the Leader made the following key points:


·         That a contingency budget was set by full Council and all Members had the opportunity to comment.

·         That the Cabinet system had appropriate checks and balances in place. Although decisions were made by Cabinet, all Members had the opportunity to contribute to the savings proposals through Overview and Scrutiny Committees. 

·         That it was critical that savings could be made in good time in order  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


End of Year Progress and Performance Report and Annual Achievements 2013-14 pdf icon PDF 114 KB

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Officers introduced the report, which outlined that 80% of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) had either met or exceeded their target.


Members congratulated officers on the report and the achievements that had been made.


A Member was concerned why the ‘percentage general satisfaction of housing tenants/customers’ indicator was red within the report, to which the Director of Housing explained that this was the most general of all Housing performance indicators and that a number of factors influenced it, which included:


·         History – that it was difficult to shift perceptions immediately, and that if a tenant had a poor experience of a repair 2 years ago and they had not had a repair since they were more likely to recount the bad experience which was not reflective of the changes that had been made in the interim.

·         That the general area and neighbourhood satisfaction impacted upon the indicator, for example, if a tenant had road works outside their property this could affect the performance.

·         The visibility of Housing staff.


The Director of Housing explained that the following work had been undertaken by the service in order to improve this performance indicator:


·         The repair service was on an upward trajectory

·         That neighbourhood budgets were in place which helped to drive up perceptions of the local area.

·         The Housing team had been restructured in the past year and officers were working hard to shift negative perceptions. It was explained that housing managers tracked every enquiry made by tenants using the workflow process and that since the introduction of this process there had been a significant improvement and the indicator had already risen to 70%.


A brief discussion was had on the amber indicator ‘implementation of better and more efficient waste collection rounds and routes’, during which the Head of Environment stated that the service had been running efficiently until the recent strike action. He added that unofficial work to rule action was causing some delays to the service at the time of the meeting. It was anticipated that this would be resolved by the end of the week.

The Committee were advised that performance indicator for the ‘percentage of waste reused/recycled/composted’ and ‘municipal waste sent to landfill’ were red due to the following factors:


·         Manufacturing companies were producing less packaging material to reduce their costs and this resulted in less recycling material being disposed of by households.

·         Flats and other communal residential areas in Thurrock were a particular issue, and one area in which officers were working hard to encourage recycling.

·         That the council could send more waste to energy instead of landfill however to adhere to this green target would incur higher costs. It was felt that at this time with the authority facing significant budget cuts it did not make a sound business case to spend more money to turn waste into green energy.


A Member questioned why the KPI’s at the end of September 2013 had fallen from 66.67% to 52.94% at the year end and whether there was one  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Budget Update and Savings Proposals pdf icon PDF 96 KB

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At the request of the Chair, Mr Steve Hudson, Chair of the Trustee Board of Thurrock Citizens Advice Bureau presented his question to the Committee, which was as follows:


·         “Thurrock CAB, a local registered charity, has been working in partnership with Thurrock council for nearly 40 years and was originally set up by the council in the 1970’s.  If the funding withdrawal proposed by officers in this item goes ahead the bureau will close to the public, thereby increasing the pressure on statutory services and budgets as over 7000 residents use the service every year.  In addition to the increased cost of helping people with nowhere else to go, are the committee aware that just the value of our volunteers to the local community is put at £195,500 (based on ONS data) every year and that many of them go on to obtain paid work after the excellent training and increased confidence they receive, can the committee comment as to how this will be a saving?”


The Chair thanked Mr Hudson for his attendance at the Committee and provided the following response which had been provided by officers:


Whilst it is recognised that Thurrock CAB provides valuable free, confidential and impartial advice to the borough’s residents across a range of issues, given the current pressures on the Council’s budget it is no longer possible to support CAB in this way.


The Council has supported CAB for many years, however, CAB has faced financial challenges and in 2013 the Council provided emergency support to ensure the organisation was able to continue. The Council advised CAB at that time and since that it could not continue to provide security to the organisation and the Board would need to explore alternative delivery arrangements, for example considering ways of addressing running costs, a merger with neighbouring CABs or external funding, to create a more independent footing.


The Council fully recognises that all funding avenues are under increased competition within the voluntary sector, and that finding new avenues of funding is extremely challenging, but, CAB, like other third sector organisations, has access to other funding sources not open to the Council. Although it would be possible for CAB to apply for funding from the Voluntary Sector Grants administered by CVS post 2016/17, it is likely that this fund will be both reduced in amount by that time and under increased pressure from more applications within the sector. This approach would though be consistent with other voluntary sector organisations.


In addition the sector has taken steps to future proof organisations against the impact of unprecedented savings faced by councils. In 2013 Thurrock CVS commissioned a piece of work ‘Maximising Public Services’ to help scope the challenges as well as ideas on how to mitigate the impact. The Council has engaged with the sector to develop a draft Commissioning, Procurement and Grant Strategy with the Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector and Social Value Framework to help maximise the potential of the sector. Both are currently out for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 50 KB

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The Committee noted their agreement to the work programme and had no further points to add.




That the work programme be noted.