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Minutes of former scrutiny committees - for information only
To note the minutes of the Place Scrutiny Committee held on 23 July 2020 and Resources Scrutiny Committee held on 19 August 2020.
Please note that links to these minutes are included for information only and not for the purpose of confirming as a correct record.
Councillors noted the minutes of the former Place Scrutiny Committee held on 23 July 2020 and Resources Scrutiny Committee held on 19 August 2020, which had been included on the agenda for information only.
Declarations of interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive any updates from the Chairman of the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee and to note the committee’s terms of reference as set out below:
The Scrutiny Committees shall:
(i) Challenge, review or scrutinise the decisions or actions taken by the Cabinet.
(ii) Through the Call to Account process:-
- Scrutinize and review decisions made or actions taken in connection with the discharge of any of the executive functions of the Council.
- Consider petitions made in accordance with the Council’s Petitions Scheme requiring senior officers to be called to account at a public meeting of the Council.
(iii) Through the Call-In process consider executive decisions.
(iv) Provide clear focus upon the scrutiny of matters in relation to:-
· The Council’s strategic approach to Dorset-wide objectives and the Corporate Plan
· Budget plans
· Transformation plans
· The effectiveness of partnership arrangements
(v) Consider matters referred through the Councillor Call for Action.
Councillors noted the terms of reference of the committee.
The Vice-chairman read out a statement relating to a report on Dinah’s Hollow slope stabilisation, that was to be considered at Cabinet on 6 October 2020. The full text of the statement is included at appendix 1 to these minutes.
To receive questions or statements on the business of the committee from town and parish councils and members of the public.
Public speaking has been suspended for virtual committee meetings during the Covid-19 crisis and public participation will be dealt with through written submissions only.
Members of the public who live, work or represent an organisation within the Dorset Council area, may submit up to two questions or a statement of up to a maximum of 450 words. All submissions must be sent electronically to email@example.com by the deadline set out below. When submitting a question please indicate who the question is for and include your name, address and contact details. Questions and statements received in line with the council’s rules for public participation will be published as a supplement to the agenda.
Questions will be read out by an officer of the council and a response given by the appropriate Portfolio Holder or officer at the meeting. All questions, statements and responses will be published in full within the minutes of the meeting.
The deadline for submission of the full text of a question or statement is 8.30am on Thursday 24 September 2020.
There were no submissions from town or parish councils or from members of the public.
To consider a report of the Corporate Director for Property and Assets. The committee have the opportunity to raise any comments which will be forwarded to Cabinet for their information.
The committee received and considered a report of the Corporate Director of Property and Assets which set out the approach and methodology to be used as the basis for the review of the council’s assets and the basis for determining the future shape and size of the estate. In addition to the report, the committee received a presentation in order to provide further detail on the key issues which included the impact of the current situation with Covid-19 in this area.
The Chairman highlighted to the committee that this report was in relation to the methodology around the council’s asset management plan and did not go into detail of specific assets held by the council.
The committee considered the issues arising from the report and presentation and during discussion, the following points were raised:
· In response to a question, the Corporate Director noted that local access was an important element in the service strategy and that this needed to be reflected in the council’s property portfolio. The example of Children’s Services was provided where the service was looking for a more local presence
· A recent review of leisure services and subsequent report to Cabinet included work with the service to understand the best way to utilise assets in this area
· Reference was made to county farms which were a valuable, revenue generating asset for the council. All assets would be reviewed but as a general rule there would be a wish to continue where assets were generating revenue
· An example was provided of a third party lease where there would be a choice as to whether this was reviewed or exited and other elements which were driven by the ability to vacate a premise. There was a need to prioritise where the council could achieve the greatest value
· The council’s office estate would be included in the review
· A point was made that there needed to be a clear timetable for this work with targets as to when reports would be made and decisions taken. The Corporate Director confirmed that there needed to be a timeframe to be agreed by the appropriate portfolio holder and Cabinet to move the work forward
· A discussion was held in respect of issues around school assets and academisation
· The link between the sale of assets and the council’s role as a planning authority was considered. The Corporate Director provided an overview of the number of ways that an asset could be disposed of ranging from no consideration of planning issues, some level of planning consideration through a pre-planning process through to a full planning process in respect of an asset
· In response to a concern raised with regard to governance issues in this area, the Corporate Director (Legal and Democratic Services) assured councillors that the council had arrangements in place that were legally compliant and which maintained a clear separation between the executive and planning functions
· A point was noted that reference to climate change/energy costs did not cover one off costs of things ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee is invited to review the report, ‘Approach to Value for Money’, which will be considered by Cabinet on 6 October 2020. Comments made by the committee will be fed through to Cabinet
A copy of the report which will be considered by Cabinet on 6 October 2020 is included on this agenda.
The committee considered the report, ‘Approach to Value for Money’, which was to be discussed by Cabinet at their meeting on 6 October 2020. Cabinet would be considering the development of a value for money framework and timeline, which would set out how it would implement value for money benchmarking of all services to feed into a prioritisation exercise for conducting fundamental value for money reviews of all the council’s services. The Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee had the opportunity to review the report and provide comments to Cabinet. It was noted that the report had also been considered by the Audit and Governance Committee.
In presenting the report, the Head of Business Insight and Corporate Communications noted that the former council’s had a range of approaches and this work would provide the opportunity to agree the approach for Dorset Council moving forward. Benchmarking and customer consultation would take place and the work would review what support the Local Government Association (LGA) and the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) might be able to provide.
The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Development and Change welcomed comments from the committee on the approach proposed and suggestions for how the work was progressed. He noted the difference between this area of work and performance management. He thanked officers for their work in this important area.
Councillors considered the issues arising from the report and during discussion the following points were raised:
· There was a need to ensure value for money at all levels of government
· The work proposed represented a starting point and there were questions that needed to be answered and links to be made to corporate priorities
· In response to a question, the role of allocated business partners within the corporate services department was outlined. The role of business partners, who were members of staff, was to work with front line services to provide specialist support in areas such as human resources, finance and procurement. Information on business partners was available to councillors on the council’s Intranet site. It was noted that business partners would be key to taking this piece of work forward
· The council did not currently have all the information it needed in respect of performance monitoring and the impact of the situation with Covid-19 was recognised. Although the approach to value for money was distinct, there was still a relationship with work being progressed on performance monitoring. Work on performance management had recently been restarted
· A request was made for detail of timescales associated with this work. The Head of Business Insight and Corporate Communications noted that a timeline would be put in place once the approach had been approved by Cabinet and some initial benchmarking had been undertaken
· Reference was made to paragraph 9.2 of the report and the notion of ‘Equity: the extent to which services are available to and reach all people that they are intended to – spending fairly’, and whether equality impact assessments were undertaken? In response it was noted that sometimes ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To note the complaints performance during 2019/20 and quarter one of 2020/21 and consider how the committee can use complaint data to assist in its scrutiny role.
The committee received a report from the Service Manager for Assurance, which noted the complaints performance during 2019/20 and quarter one of 2020/21 and invited councillors to consider how the committee could use complaint data to assist in its scrutiny role. The appendices to the report included the current complaints key performance indicators for the Place Directorate. It was noted that complaint numbers in respect of Corporate Services were low and not currently reported separately, however this would be addressed moving forward. Other key points to note included work done to manage complaints before they escalated in the process where possible, fostering a culture of learning from complaints and a recent rise in the number of compliments being received by the council.
Councillors considered the points arising from the report and the following points were made:
· Reference was made to page 33 of the agenda which set out that 6 learning points and actions had been identified from complaints. Details of these had not been included in the report on this occasion but could be included in future reports
· In response to a question, the Service Manager for Assurance confirmed that the complaints team would get involved if there was an issue with how a child had been classified under SEND provision
· It was noted that further work could be undertaken to see how the council compared with other councils in this area
· Reference was made to page 33 of the agenda and the number of complaints associated with neighbour disagreements and whether this data could be broken down into geographical regions? It was agreed that this would be investigated
· The number of compliments received by the council during quarter 1 2020/21 was noted. Work on capturing compliments had only recently started and more work was required in order to capture this information.
The Chairman thanked officers for the report and their work in this area.
That the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee note the complaints performance during 2019/20 and quarter one of 2020/21 and how the committee can use complaint data to assist in its scrutiny role.
To review a draft forward plan for the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee.
The committee noted the draft forward plan which incorporated items brought forward from the former Place Scrutiny Committee and Resources Scrutiny Committee. The Chairman noted that the committee needed to review the draft forward plan and prioritise items for consideration.
A discussion was held in respect of the list of Executive Advisory Panels (EAPs) included at the end of the draft forward plan. The Executive Director of Place noted that some EAPs would continue to conclusion, however other work identified would be transitioned over to the overview committees. The overview committees would be taking a lead on the development of policy moving forward although some areas may also require involvement from the scrutiny committees.
In respect of the current list of EAPs, the Leader noted that he had asked all Cabinet members to look at current EAPs in their area and to speak to the chairmen of the overview committees in order to pass on work as appropriate. The exception to this was the Local Plan EAP which would continue to conclusion.
If the overview committees set up working groups to look at issues in this area, they could choose to include non-committee members on these groups, where particular knowledge or expertise could be brought in.
The Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment provided an update in respect of the work of the Climate Change EAP which was soon to conclude.
To review the Cabinet Forward Plan and decisions taken at recent meetings.
The committee noted the Cabinet Forward Plan and decisions taken at recent meetings.
The committee considered how Cabinet decisions could be reviewed by the committee in order to provide assurance that action had been taken following decisions being made and whether further action was required.
To consider any items of business which the Chairman has had prior notification and considers to be urgent pursuant to section 100B (4) b) of the Local Government Act 1972. The reason for the urgency shall be recorded in the minutes.
There were no urgent items.
To move the exclusion of the press and the public for the following item in view of the likely disclosure of exempt information within the meaning of paragraph x of schedule 12 A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).
The public and the press will be asked to leave the meeting whilst the item of business is considered.
There is no exempt business.
There was no exempt business.
Appendix 1 - Chairman's Update
Dinah’s Hollow Slope Stabilisation – Statement made by the Chairman of the committee
The forward plan and the agenda for the Cabinet meeting on 6 October include an item about proposals for a Major Highway Improvement Scheme on the C13 road at Dinah’s Hollow, Melbury Abbas.
The item is an important one because the C13 provides the only suitable alternative north-south link to the A350 through Dorset and at Dinah’s Hollow there is a longstanding identified risk of landslip throughout the hollow.
Schemes have been designed to stabilise the slopes on both the east and west sides of the Hollow and the Cabinet are being asked to consider two recommendations:
1. That a scheme to stabilise the slope on the east side of the Hollow should be progressed immediately using an existing budget at a total cost of £130,000 and.
2. To consider alongside other priorities as part of the 2021.22 budget setting process the affordability of a £3.98M scheme to stabilise slopes throughout the hollow.
If the Cabinet were being asked to make a definite decision about a £3.98 scheme in advance of considering the other budget pressures we face next year then I would have wanted the report to come to our meeting today for scrutiny. However, the Cabinet are not being asked to make a commitment on 6 October and instead we and the other committees will have an opportunity to look together at the proposals for Dinah’s Hollow alongside all of the other budget pressures before any decisions are made. On that basis I am satisfied that the Dinah’s Hollow report need not come to us today.