Agenda and draft minutes

Extraordinary, Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 1st November, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: Chamber, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL.

Contact: Jenny Shade, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

14.

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. To agree any relevant briefing notes submitted to the Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no urgent items of business.

15.

Declaration of Interests

Additional documents:

Minutes:

No interests were declared.

16.

Call-in to Cabinet Decision 110667 - Asset Disposals Programme - Recommended next tranche of properties for disposal pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report presented outlined the call-in made to the Cabinet Decision 110667 - Asset Disposals Programme – Recommended next tranche of properties for disposal, highlighted the reasons why the call-in was made and the alternative proposal being put forward. The report offered advice to the committee on how to manage the call-in through the committee process and should be used as a summary document to help understand the overview of this particular call-in.

 

Due to Councillor Green unable to attend the meeting due to illness, the chair agreed to read out the statement provided by Councillor Green:

 

I was supposed to be here this evening to object to the selling of land in Purfleet on Thames, which is distrusted into three sections. First being the Purfleet Medical Centre car park, to be sold for potential ground rent. With the Integrated Medical Centre project now up in the air and HOSC is now waiting for a report what next. Will they be happening? Will it be done on a smaller scale? No one knows. All we know is we are waiting and a potential area for expansion could be the rear of the Purfleet Medical Centre which could potentially house any future medical centre building. But with all this aside expect people to pay to park in there hour of need, we are in a cost-of-living crisis, council tax and rent hikes, residents cannot be expected to fork any further expenditure. The next pieces are two pieces of land located off Water Lane and St Clements Courts and Tank Lane and Purfleet Primary School. Purfleet on Thames has seen many developments over the years and no local infrastructure, which the long-anticipated regeneration was supposed to rectify. But unfortunately, just like the Integrated Medical Centre the regeneration is up in the air. I strongly object and why is Purfleet on Thames potentially losing their green belt to ‘the lungs of Thurrock’. In closing I ask you all to support my call-in and call on cabinet to make the right decision

 

The chair asked the Portfolio Holder to speak, the following points were made:

 

·       The land referred to by Councillor Green as green belt was actually white land.

·       This was not recreational land; it was a piece of land the council no longer had any use for.

·       Although the land was idle, the council still had maintenance liability for it.

·       Questioned why land that the council had no use for, should be retained.

·       Supported the disposal as there were no identifiable need or use for the land.

·       Planning processes would still need to be undertaken for whomever purchased the land.

·       Recommended to proceed with the disposal of the land at a market value.

 

Officer updated members on the small piece of land which said “ground rent” this was an old note and should not have been included on the plan.

 

The Chair asked members for their questions, the following points were made:

 

·       Members sought some clarification on the relevant parcels of land  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Call-in to Cabinet Decision 110676 Resources to Support the Council's Budget pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report presented outlined the call-ins made to the Call-in to Cabinet Decision 110676 Resources to Support the Council's Budget, highlighted the reasons why the call-ins were made, and the alternative proposals being put forward. The report offered advice to the committee on how to manage the call-in through the committee process and should be used as a summary document to help understand the overview of this particular call-in.

 

The Chair asked Councillor J Kent to speak, the following points were made:

 

·            Understood how difficult it was to identify large savings from the Council’s revenue budget.

·            Paying Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) £800,000 to identify £5.2million saving was disproportionate.

·            Confusion on what the Portfolio Holder had said at Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 5 October 2023 against the report that had been presented to Cabinet only seven days later.

·            This was unreasonable and the council should be looking to its own members and officers first to identify those savings. 

·            The council should not be looking to bring in outside agencies such as PwC at extortionate fees to do the council’s job. 

 

The Chair asked Councillor Speight to speak, the following points were made:

 

·        Referenced comments made by the Portfolio Holder for Finance at cabinet in regard to the poorly resourced finance team.

·        Referenced also comments made at the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee only four working days later at Cabinet by the Portfolio Holder for Finance on his confidence of the finance team and its findings.

·        Noted it was mentioned at both meetings that PwC were currently working within the council. Having looked into this no payments had been made this year to PwC.

·        Raised his concerns, alongside the uncertainty of members and members of the public and recommended that the decision be referred back to cabinet.

 

The Chair asked the Portfolio Holder to speak, the following points were made:

 

·        Since Section 114 and the BVI inspection it had become clear that significant revenue savings needed to be made.

·        PwC had already been in-situ in the council before he had taken the role of Portfolio Holder.

·        PwC were helping the council identify ways and means of making savings and putting systems in place. There were a lot of change, the council did not have the resources to undertake these changes without outside assistance.

·        The council did not have the resources or knowledge within the officer staff in the finance team. PwC would pass on skills and methods of working to those council staff and retain those skills learnt for the future.

·        Confirmed that what had been said at previous committees had been true.

·        Recommended the call-in be rejected.

 

The Chair asked members for their questions, the following points were made:

 

·       Members agreed there was some confusion on what was said at both committee meetings.

·       Members questioned the sudden decision that extra support was required.

·       Members questioned what due diligence had been undertaken across all aspects of the council.

·       Members noted there had been no financial payment to PwC in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.