Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 14th March, 2017 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Charlotte Raper, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 101 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committeemeeting held on 18 January 2017.


The minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 18 January 2017 were approved as a correct record.


Items of Urgent Business

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.


There were no items of urgent business.


Declaration of Interests


There were no declarations of interests.


Connected Thurrock - Thurrock's Digital & Information Technology Strategy 2017-20 pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:


The Operational Service Lead – ICT presented the report which outlined the digital strategy for the next three years.  Members were asked to provide feedback to be put forward to the meeting of Cabinet on 5 April 2017.


Councillor Liddiard considered the report to be good and agreed that the strategy was very aspirational.  He queried whether there were any examples of similar strategies proven to work within the Country.  The Committee heard that there were many strategies though the proposed model was more comprehensive as Thurrock had elected to bring everything together.  There were many Local Councils currently on the journey to deliver similar outcomes though the proposed Strategy was towards the more ambitious end of the scale.


Councillor Liddiard agreed with the numbers but was unsure it could be delivered within 3 years.  Members were advised the Strategy in reality covered 3 years and beyond.  The aim was to drive agility and so there was a need to keep the strategic roadmap going beyond the strategy length. 


Councillor Liddiard highlighted that within his work in the local community hub in his ward about 90% of the residents were unable to use the internet, even on their phones and required a high level of support from the hub volunteers.  He expressed scepticism that these and similar residents could be converted and asked whether there was an opportunity to work with the community hub volunteers and staff in customer services in a different way and change the mechanisms in place to make life easier for all concerned.  The breakdown of services people required assistance for, in his experience, was 70% for housing, 20% for benefits and 10% for council tax and other minor issues; he wondered whether it might be better to focus on those areas people needed most.


The Operational Service Lead – ICT agreed that officers were cautious not to bake exclusion into the strategy and it was necessary that residents could get in contact and engage in the best way for them.  There would be digital buddies and people like the hub volunteers to help make the technology simpler.  In order to ensure residents engaged the digital experience would need to be better than the traditional experience.  As for focusing on key areas, the aim was to develop platforms that worked across a range of areas and to avoid individual point systems, though there would be prioritisation of service areas as the strategy unfolded.


Councillor Maney observed that he felt the report was somewhat light on delivery as to how the ideas would be implemented.  He hoped that, when it was referred to Cabinet, Cabinet would look clearly at the delivery of the strategy otherwise it might come back to Overview and Scrutiny Committees in the future.  The Committee heard that Councillor Maney’s comments were reasonable but the intention had been an outcome focused strategy to offer a degree of flexibility compared to a full delivery plan.  Immediate delivery plans would be put together to manage the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Consultations in 2016 pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Additional documents:


The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service presented the report which was in response to a request by the Committee.  Appendix 1 provided a list of all the consultations from 2016.


Councillor Duffin asked how long it took to respond to the Residents’ Survey.  The entire survey took approximately 15 minutes.


Councillor Duffin asked how the £3000 for the consultation regarding the change of election process had been spent.  Members heard that the cost was for communicating with residents via newspaper adverts, posters, an advert on the Council’s facebook page and a leaflet which had been included with every Council Tax bill.  It was queried how useful the facebook advert had proven compared to cost.  It had only cost a few hundred pounds, but the ‘reach’ of the advert was not known and would be provided outside of the meeting.


Councillor Duffin enquired as to what made value for money as some of the consultations received less responses from residents than there were elected Councillors.  Certain consultations were very targeted towards specific audiences, while some were much wider.  The Communications Team promoted consultations wherever possible, via the media, community hubs, and even directly through Councillors but residents could not be forced to participate.


Councillor Duffin also asked whether the £7000 investment into the consultation portal had been value for money, as there were online survey generators that did the same for free.  The Committee heard that the portal was more than merely a survey tool; it also facilitated petitions, generated reports and provided a database that officers could access in future.


Councillor Liddiard expressed his view that, given the number of responses compared to the size of the population; he would be uncomfortable relying upon 80% of the consultations to make decisions.  Councillor Gamester interjected that one consultation had received only one response up until February and asked whether there was a better way to ensure the Council obtained statistically relevant data.  For some decisions the consultations were not the only source of evidence, there were also workshops and other engagement activities.  The Residents’ Survey had been undertaken by an external market research company with a methodology to ensure the 1000 residents polled were representative of the make-up of Thurrock and there was confidence in the results.  Officers would be mindful of how valid responses were.


Councillor Duffin asked if consultations generally cost around £3000 or whether the election consultation was an exception.  Members heard that a case would be put forward for each consultation.  The consultation regarding the elections process was borough-wide and open for 12 weeks to allow residents to have their say, which was a long time.  For more targeted consultations, such as for housing tenants, letters would be sent directly which was a far less expensive process.  Borough-wide consultations also varied in expense, with far more being spent on the consultation regarding the Local Plan.


Councillor Watkins asked whether BMG Research might be used to conduct all borough-wide consultations as they did with the Residents’  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Quarter 3 Corporate Performance Report 2016/17 pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Additional documents:


The Strategy & Performance Officer presented the report which provided the Committee with a progress update in relation to performance.  The report highlighted 4 areas which were ‘in focus’; one had achieved its target whilst three had not.


The Chair referenced section 3.3.4 of the report, focus 4, and noted that the target for street cleanliness had not been met, despite the investment into the ‘Clean it, Cut it, Fill it’ campaign.  The Chair asked for an explanation as to why the target had not been met.  The Corporate Director of Environment and Place informed members that despite being under the Council’s own local target it was better than the benchmark average.  The assessment methodology was also quite subjective; surveys were carried out on 10 different land types which provided a snapshot of the appearance of parts of the borough.  The assessment methodology would change from April 2017, from which time the Council would be working with Keep Britain Tidy, providing national benchmarks for more consistent data.




That the Committee


·         Noted and commented upon the performance of the key corporate performance indicators in particular those areas which are IN FOCUS;


·         Identified any areas which require additional consideration.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 47 KB


Members were given the opportunity to suggest items to act as a steer for any incoming Chair and Members to the Committee next municipal year.  Councillor Duffin proposed a report regarding the Communications Team and their decision making processes.