Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 20th November, 2018 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Lucy Tricker, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 78 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committeemeeting held on 4 September 2018.


The minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 4 September 2018 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 interests declared.


Long Term Investment Strategy pdf icon PDF 85 KB


The Director of Finance and IT presented the report and explained that this was a brief update on the council’s investment strategy, but could not be too detailed as many investments were commercially sensitive. He went on to say that investments had always taken place within the council and was a daily process for officers. He described that the council had built in delegations to be able to invest, and the investment strategy went to Full Council once per year to re-evaluate the strategy. The Director then drew Member’s attention to Section 5 of the report which outlined the Council Spend Review that had taken place in October 2017 and the fact that the council continued to save money and increase income through investing. He stated that the finance department consider a range of investments, and how some may be simple, for example through credit or reference checks, but that other investments could be more detailed. He added that as the council had a balanced budget for the next four years, services could be enhanced or new services could be procured, and gave the example of new police officers now working in Thurrock. He summarised and stated that the current investments were short or medium term, but this had bought the council time to consider their approach to investments, and were now considering 10-40 year deals which were at due diligence stage, as well as other property investments.

The Chair began discussions by stating there was lots of unanimity across the council in support of investments, which reduced the need for spending cuts. He questioned how many of the current investments were time limited, for example 5 year deals at £10 million, what would happen once they ended, and if new longer term investments would cover this timeline. The Director of Finance and IT stated that he felt confident new investments could cover the timeline, and directed Members attention to 6.3 of the report and used the example of the Swindon Solar Farm, which although was only a 5 year deal, would be standing for 25 years and as such the contract was renewable. He added that the finance team were looking at existing investments and if there was a possibility for their renewal.

The Chair then questioned the types of investments the council were making, and if these were a balanced portfolio which supported the council’s core purpose. The Director of Finance and IT once again drew Members attention to the example of the Swindon Solar Farm and how this combated fuel poverty and created partnerships which opened other opportunities. The Chair asked a follow up question regarding how the council were mitigating risks when investing, to which the Director of Finance and IT answered that all investments were asset backed. He pointed out 4.3 in the report and stated that the council often sought advice from UK and global experts that considered due diligence on the council’s behalf. He stated that they looked at the entire investment for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Mid-Year/Quarter 2 Corporate Performance Report 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 139 KB


The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services opened the report and described how this was the mid-year performance report which covered the previous six months. She highlighted that although the report stated 70% of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) had been hit, this figure had now increased to 71% as new data regarding the number of delayed transfers of care on page 22 had been released. She also highlighted the number of volunteers within the council and new apprenticeships had increased, which she felt was very positive. She also explained that where some KPIs had not met their targets, commentary was provided within the report.

The Chair opened the debate by stating that he felt it was very good to see an increase in the number of volunteers, particularly as this was such a large increase, and felt this was a testament to officers who engaged with volunteers. He asked how the council had managed to encourage volunteers and how the momentum could be continued. The Corporate Director Adults, Housing and Health replied that volunteers were always wanted within the council, but this rise was due to an increase in co-ordination between different departments, for example receiving volunteers applications and then undergoing reference checks. He congratulated Natalie Warren, Mykela Pratt and the recruitment team on their hard work on this matter. He added that there was always a high turnover of volunteers as they found paying jobs, or moved on.

Page 23 of the agenda was the next point of discussion for the Chair as he stated that the percentage of timeliness of response to complaints had seen some progress, but he felt was still adrift of target. He asked how the target could be met to get the KPI back to green. The Director of HR, OD and Transformation replied that this KPI was now being reported back to Directors Board on a monthly basis, and was closely monitored through leadership group. She mentioned that a common complaint was because bins were being missed for collection; work with the crews had improved this position and this should reflect a reduction in the number of complaints. The Chair then discussed the percentage of refuse bins emptied on the correct day and how this seemed to be falling behind every quarter. For example, it had fallen behind because of snow and then industrial action, and asked if the team had looked at the underlying causes for the missed KPI, as this was now the third quarter targets had been missed. The Director for Strategy, Communications and Customer Services replied that a detailed action plan was in place, which included the training of drivers, increased flexibility, solving access issues, and using shunter drivers during peak hours. She explained that the service was now starting to see an impact due to this detailed action plan, and the figure for October was 99.6% of refuse bins being collected on the correct day, which was the highest performance this year. The Chair welcomed this news  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Grays South Regeneration Project: Civic Offices Update pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Additional documents:


The Assistant Director Property and Development began by describing the Grays South Master Plan which included high quality places to live and visit. He described that work on this project would include repurposing the Thameside complex; and a new underpass for the railway line; increased housing near the town centre; a new Grays Shopping Centre; and the new Civic Offices building. He explained that the new Civic Offices building was critical as it set the tone for development and opened up governance processes, as well as promoting resident self-service and releasing land for housing. He added that in 2017, Cabinet had agreed for the proposal to go to the design stage, and the council had procured a consultancy team to do this. He mentioned that the hope was for the new plans to be submitted for planning in spring 2019 and would include consultation with South Essex College and St Peter and St Paul’s Church among others. He felt this was an elegant building and would be a bold civic presence in the high street.

The Assistant Director Property and Development  then talked through the designs starting with Page 40 of the agenda and the foyer of the new building, which would be a large, adaptable space primarily used as a reception and customer services areas, but could also be used as a venue to hold meetings, display museum exhibits, or launch activities. He added that a homeless waiting area would be separate from the foyer to maintain people’s dignity and give some privacy. A café was also included in the designs which would be for use by residents, visitors and members of the public. A registry office was also being included, as this would move registry services from the Thameside complex, to open it up for cultural development. He then described the plans on Page 41 and the separation between Members and the public, as Members would have their own entrance. In addition, the Council Chamber was laid out so everybody could see the Mayor, and the public would feel as if they were part of proceedings. He added that there would be views of the church, and could be used after hours for use by the public as it was a very large venue. He then mentioned that Committee Room 1 could also be used for weddings or other ceremonies, and this could bring in extra revenue for the council.

The Assistant Director Property and  Development then discussed the plans on Page 42 and how the Mayors Parlour would hold a sense of gravitas as the balcony would have views over the river, Grays town centre and the Church. Additionally, Members would be able to look into the Council Chamber from the second floor to give a sense of open democracy. He described how the Council Chamber would frame the Church, and provide a link to the heritage of Grays, as well as having views of the river and the square below. He described how the windows would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 48 KB


The Chair suggested that an item on Customer Services Update be added to the January meeting, and an item on Councillor Spillman’s Full Council Motion regarding the overview and scrutiny processes also be added to the January meeting. Councillor Duffin asked that Councillor Spillman’s Motion report also include effectiveness options to improve the effectiveness of scrutiny.