Agenda and draft minutes

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 5th March, 2019 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Lucy Tricker, Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

33.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 101 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committeemeeting held on 31 January 2019.

Minutes:

The minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 31 January 2019 were approved as a correct record, subject to an amendment by Councillor Fletcher to change the word ‘required’ to ‘expressed preference’ when discussing Portfolio Holders attending overview and scrutiny meetings.

34.

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.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

35.

Declaration of Interests

Minutes:

There were no interests declared.

36.

Verbal Update: The Overview and Scrutiny Functions and Motions Process Update pdf icon PDF 211 KB

Minutes:

The Democratic Services Manager introduced the report and stated this update detailed the overview and scrutiny project and the work that had been done since the January Corporate Overview and Scrutiny meeting. He began by discussing Part 3 of the briefing note and described how this would be a desktop exercise to compare Thurrock with other councils based on their geographical location and organisation. He outlined that part 2 of the briefing note focussed on how the Committee and other overview and scrutiny Members could engage with each other in the form of a symposium; and described how part 1 outlined the work that Members could undertake with Cabinet in the form of a workshop. The Democratic Services Manager asked Members for their input on the topics that could be discussed at the symposium and workshop. He added that the briefing note proposed a structure, but asked if Members would like to add or remove any items. He also asked Members who they would like to lead the symposium, as this could be done by either a member of the Democratic Services team or an external representative for political neutrality. He summarised and stated that this work would be ongoing, and the Democratic Services team would update and make changes following comments from Members.

The Chair opened the debate and asked if Democratic Services were planning to undertake both a symposium and a workshop, or if it was a case of ‘either/or’. The Democratic Services Manager replied that both would be undertaken if agreed by Members. The Chair stated that he felt it was a good idea to start informally with a small workshop which could open the conversation, and then discuss the formal elements such as what the Constitution would allow. He drew the Committee’s attention to Part 1 of the briefing note and stated that this could open discussion between Portfolio Holder’s and overview and scrutiny Members, and stated that Cabinet Members currently had a blanket invite to attend overview and scrutiny meetings. He then asked if Cabinet would like to receive written responses, as well as overview and scrutiny Members attending Cabinet.

Councillor Fletcher stated that he felt Part 1 of the briefing note was a good idea as it involved both Portfolio Holder’s and overview and scrutiny Members which could open a dialogue. He then raised a point regarding which decisions could become recommendations taken to Cabinet. He finally highlighted Part 3 and asked if Democratic Services could look East to boroughs such as Havering and Dagenham, as well as to Southend. He also stated that comparing with Essex County Council may be difficult, as their structure and organisation were significantly different compared to Thurrock.

Councillor Hague stated that as part of the democratic process, overview and scrutiny committee’s reviewed and commented on reports before they were taken to Cabinet, and stated that in the past, Portfolio Holder’s had attended overview and scrutiny meetings. He asked what had changed that meant Cabinet Members no longer attended.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.

37.

Verbal Update: Capital Programme and Process Report

Minutes:

The Strategic Resources Accountant introduced the report and stated this updated Members on the capital process and how the capital programme was formulated. He began by saying that the capital programme included projects that would run for between 3 and 5 years, and corporate finance invited submissions for projects around September. He stated that these were reviewed for accuracy and purpose at a detailed level, and were assessed for how the projects fit within the corporate priorities. He stated that once this was completed the projects were formulated into papers which went to either the Service, Property or Digital Board, and were ranked from 1-3, with 1 being essential projects and 3 being projects that would be nice to have and could run in the background. He elaborated by stating that once the submissions had been reviewed by the relevant Board, it was then ratified and sent to Directors’ Board, before being agreed by Cabinet and then Full Council. He summarised and stated that capital programme followed the same timescales as the budget setting process.

The Chair opened debate and stated this report had come to Committee due to Councillor Hague’s point at the last meeting regarding the level of detail and understanding of the previous Capital Programme report. The Chair felt that in January of the next municipal year, the programme would be in a good place for a report to be brought before the Committee, which would have a good level of detail, as well as a top level overview, which the Committee could scrutinise. The Strategic Resources Accountant replied that in regards to the Property Board, many capital projects were very detailed due to the number of assets, and gave the example of legionnaire’s testing, as although this was a small scale project, due to the number of council properties, this became classified as a capital programme. He added that he felt there would be the potential to bring larger scale issues such as council house building to the committee. He felt there was a balance to be struck between the Committee receiving an overarching summary of capital programmes and the very detailed submissions that corporate finance received. He added that criteria could be put in place so the Committee did not have to scrutinise essential works or work that would be funded through an external provider.

Councillor Hague added that in the previous Capital Programme report, strategic investments were not linked to the corporate strategy, and did not contain a qualitative assessment of the return on investment. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services replied that due to the comments at the last Corporate Overview and Scrutiny meeting, strategic investments were now linked to corporate priorities, as a note had been added to the Full Council Capital Programme report.

The Chair summarised and asked for a report to be added to next municipal year’s Work Programme which gave more detail on the capital programme, and asked for the next Chair to organise this with the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Quarter 3 Corporate Performance Report 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Minutes:

The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services introduced the report and stated this was for quarter 3 monitoring, which ended in December 2018. She stated that it showed consistent performance with Quarter 2 as 70% of key performance indicators (KPI’s) had met their target. She highlighted the positive performance of planning applications, as 100% of both major and minor planning applications had been dealt with in target time. She elaborated that because of this, the planning team had been shortlisted for Planning Team of the Year at the national RTPI awards. She explained that within the report, KPIs which had not met their target had commentary alongside to explain the reasons why.

The Chair began the debate and stated that this report showed little change from Quarter 2 and felt concerned regarding the failed indicators. He felt that the percentage of bins missed for collection and percentage of tenants satisfaction, as outlined on page 22 of the agenda, had been missed for the majority of the municipal year, and although had shown better performance recently, were still not meeting targets. He asked if the two indicators would be on target at the end of the municipal year, and if the team had taken any additional actions to ensure they met their targets. The Director for Strategy, Communications and Customer Service replied that the figures showed ‘Year to Date’ numbers, as opposed to quarterly figures, so the challenges at the start of the year were still present in the figures. She explained that for the last four months, 99% of bins had been collected on time and the KPI was now at green for those months, and this was due to the mitigation work by the team. She stated that for the KPI to meet its target by the end of the municipal year would be a challenge, due to the Year to Date figures, as it would be difficult to catch up. She added that at officer level, monthly figures were looked over, and the performance was increasing, but that level of detail was not reflected in the report. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services then added that a lot of work had been undertaken to ensure the KPI regarding tenant satisfaction met its target, for example letters had gone out to all Council tenants detailing the work of the Tenants Excellence Panel. She commented that in January and February a positive impact on the KPI could be seen, and felt hopeful that the KPI would hit its target in Quarter 4.

The Chair stated that although the monthly performance was increasing, it was not reflected in the report, and commented that he felt worried by the two indicators mentioned as they did not appear to be moving fast enough. He added that he would like to add a recommendation that a letter be written from the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee to the Cleaner, Greener and Safer, and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider those  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.

39.

School Capital Programme Update 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Education Specialist Service Manager introduced the report and highlighted an inaccuracy in the executive summary which stated that 180 places would be created, when in fact 210 places would be created. She described how the report was split into two sections, with the first section asking for approval for £2.2m to increase the capacity of Benyon Primary School to a two form entry; and the second section asking for approval for £1m to increase the number of secondary school places across the borough, to ensure the Council met its statutory duty in September. She stated that this report asked for comment, before going to Cabinet next week, and elaborated that Cabinet had received a report in November 2018 which included a feasibility study, but this report brought back firm costings. She highlighted that there was as shortfall of school places for children starting secondary school in September, and the £1m to ensure there were places would be coming from the Schools’ Basic Need fund.

The Chair began by stating it was important for the Council to meet its statutory duty in ensuring there were enough school places for children, and asked if the Benyon Primary expansion would be included within the current boundary of the site, and the Education Specialist Service Manager confirmed that it would be. She highlighted that a Traffic Impact Assessment had been undertaken on the site, as well as advice being sought from the highways team and pre-planning advice. The Chair then asked how large the shortfall was in secondary school places across the borough. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that at the beginning of the year, there had been a shortfall of 300 places, but as national offer day on 1 March 2019 approached, the shortfall had reduced to 100, as parents had been requesting out of borough places. She clarified that the figure of 100 shortfall of placements included in-year applications.

The Chair then asked how much planning had been undertaken to find schools willing to take an additional bulge class. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that lots of work had been done to find additional places, particularly in Grays and Stanford-le-Hope. She added that the additional places in Benyon Primary School were due to the development in Ockendon. She also commented that additional classrooms and facilities would be built in Benyon Primary School to accommodate the additional children.

Councillor Jefferies asked if the education team had spoken to local secondary schools about taking an additional bulge class and how easy it would be for schools to find those places. He also welcomed the expansion of Benyon Primary School. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that lots of secondary schools had been asked to take the bulge class, and the response had been positive. Councillor Fletcher asked if the out of borough places for children had been voluntary, or if there were simply not enough school places for the children within the borough. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.

40.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 51 KB

Minutes:

The Chair stated that a report on the capital programme would be added to the January meeting of the next municipal year, as well as an update report on the overview and scrutiny project whenever progress had been made. He stated this was the final meeting of the municipal year and thanked Members and officers for all of their hard work.