Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 8th September, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams

Contact: Lucy Tricker, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 367 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committeemeeting held on 9 June 2020.


The minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 9 June 2020 were approved as a true and 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.


Local Council Tax Scheme pdf icon PDF 328 KB


The Strategic Lead Revenues and Benefits introduced the report and stated that the report outlined the Local Council Tax Scheme (LCTS) including how pension-age people were protected under the scheme, and how the scheme considered those of working age. He stated that section 3 of the report outlined the current scheme, and section 4 outlined the proposed consultation, which would run until December and include an LCTS Summit in November. He stated that the results of the consultation would be analysed and brought before the Committee in January.

The Chair welcomed the report as he felt the LCTS needed a review and was pleased this would be taken for public consultation. He also supported the proposal that the consultation results would be brought back before committee. He highlighted section 4 of the report and questioned if the consultation criteria could be expanded, for example if the criteria surrounding number of dependants in a household could be consulted on. The Strategic Lead Revenues and Benefits responded that the only restrictions on the scheme were the protections surrounding pension-age residents and other vulnerable groups, as well as ensuring that going to work pays, but every other aspect of the scheme could be consulted on.

Councillor Hooper asked how the LCTS Summit would be held, if restrictions remained in place regarding COVID-19. The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property replied that this has not been decided on yet, but could potentially be held remotely via Microsoft Teams. He mentioned that the Deputy Leader was keen to build on the success of the Fair Debt Summit, and added that he would be working with the communications team to ensure residents were aware of the consultation and could respond. Councillor Ralph expressed his concern over the format of the consultation during COVID, particularly as the most vulnerable residents might not be able to access online consultations, but could be most affected by the proposed changes. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service responded that they would work with voluntary sector groups across Thurrock and use their networks to make residents aware of the consultation, as well as signposting through the contact centre. Councillor Ralph asked if assistance could be provided for those with disabilities that wished to respond to the consultation. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service stated that the team could provide assistance on request, such as large-print hard copies of the consultation, and the contact centre would try to facilitate these arrangements. She added that assistance with consultations could also be provided in local libraries and hubs.

Councillor Rigby added that the wording and format of the consultation needed to be considered to ensure it was user-friendly. She stated that there was also a proposed adult social care consultation, and wanted to ensure that there was no confusion for residents between the two consultations. The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property answered that this would be considered before it was released, and that residents would have the maximum consultation time  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Financial Update pdf icon PDF 255 KB


The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property introduced the report and stated that this was an update from the report that was brought before Committee in July. He drew Members attention to 3.2-3.4 of the report which showed additional central government grant support, of which £0.5billion was not ring-fenced and was for general spending, and the rest ring-fenced for specific purposes. He highlighted point 3.6 of the report which outlined the general grant position, which was £9.2million in July and had increased to £10.757million since then. The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property outlined point 3.8 of the report which described £58.3million in business rate relief, and £23million as part of the discretionary grant scheme that had been directed out to businesses. He described section 4 of the report which summarised direct COVID pressures on the council, such as expenditure on food parcels during the height of lockdown and a reduction in income. He stated that these pressures equated to £12.9million, of which £10.7million could be offset with a central government grant, leading to a deficit of £2.2million as a result of direct COVID pressures. He stated that a Cabinet report had been published today which outlined other indirect pressures. 

The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property described section 5 of the report which focussed on council tax, the hardship fund and LCTS. He stated that the collection of council tax was currently holding, but the finance team had seen an increase in the number of LCTS claimants. He added that although council tax was currently stable, the country had not yet seen the peak of economic downturn, so the Council were expecting more redundancies, which would lead to a reduction in council tax collections and a larger increase in LCTS claimants in 2021/22 and 2022/23. He added that the Council’s collection of debt was currently decreased, and the longer people were in arrears, the more likely they were to default on payments. The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property outlined section 6 of the report and stated that the figure of £15mn deficit next financial year had been revised since the report was published, and was currently £20mn deficit, with a further £7mn deficit in 2022/23. He stated that the Cabinet report updated Members on the financial outlook for this financial year and next, but did not focus on how to close the deficit. He added that a report on how to close the deficit would be brought before Corporate O&S in November, before going to Cabinet next year.

The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property commented on the Housing Revenue Account, which was still balanced due to other housing development income, but the finance team were watching overall rent collection closely, as resident’s inability to pay rent due to COVID was not yet showing. He stated that the Capital Programme was currently being completely reviewed, including capacity and inflationary issues. He added that all non-essential spend and recruitment had been halted for this financial year. He summarised  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Quarter 1 (April to June 2020) Corporate Performance Report 2020/21 and End of Year Corporate Performance Summary 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 656 KB

Additional documents:


The Director Strategy, Communications and Customer Services introduced the report and stated that this covered the first quarter of 2020/21 from April to June, which was during the height of national lockdown and the COVID pandemic. She stated that services had been impacted by the lockdown measures both directly and indirectly, and included some services stopping completely. She highlighted that 66% of key performance indicators (KPIs) still hit their targets, although this was down from 74% between April-June 2019 and the 2020/21 end of year figures. She drew Members attention to point 3.6 of the report which described which services had been impacted and commentary surrounding any mitigation. She outlined the current positon as some services had now resumed, but some services would see a longer-term impact, which would continue to be monitored and mitigation sought. She summarised and stated that the report also contained the 2019/20 end of year summary, although the main focus was 2020/21 Quarter 1 and the COVID impact.

The Chair opened debate and thanked all Thurrock Council staff for their hard work in continuing to deliver services wherever possible during the pandemic, even during difficult circumstances and severe limitations. He stated that a large proportion of KPIs had been impacted by COVID and felt that no firm conclusions could be drawn from the data. He asked if there were any services whose missed target was not related to COVID. The Director Strategy, Communications and Customer Services replied that the team were focussing on KPIs which had been below target at end of year 2019/20, but potential mitigation to improve these services might not have happened because of the pandemic. She gave the example of waste collection as the Waste Management Working Group had achieved significant work that had not been implemented yet because of the pandemic. She stated that she hoped to see immediate improvement in some KPIs in quarter 2. The Chair highlighted page 41 of the agenda and asked if the proportion of household waste collected and recycled had increased during the lockdown, as more people worked and stayed at home. Councillor Ralph, as a member of the Waste Management Group, replied that the proportion of waste had dramatically increased due to people working from home and doing more shopping, and waste collectors had described it as ‘Christmas everyday’. He mentioned that before the lockdown waste collection trucks would complete one shift before needing to go to Bywaters to empty their trucks, but were now having to drive to Bywaters twice during a shift. Councillor Ralph thanked the waste collection staff for their hard work during this difficult period, in particular his local waste collector Paddy who had worked very hard and deserved recognition. 

Councillor Duffin stated that even though there had been a pandemic, there was still numerous KPIs which had met their target, including the KPI regarding apprenticeships. He felt pleased to see that there were clear route to greens for KPIs which had not met their target. Councillor Hooper echoed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 253 KB


The Chair stated that a financial update report would be added to the Work Programme for November’s meeting, to which the Committee agreed.