Agenda and minutes

Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 23 August 2018 6.30pm

Venue: Meeting Room 9 - Level 3, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham ME4 4TR. View directions

Contact: Michael Turner, Democratic Services Officer 

Items
No. Item

302.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Mrs Josie Iles, Khan and Tejan.

303.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 119 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 5 July 2018.

Minutes:

Reference was made to minute no. 171 (c) and the decision to write to the Government asking for an explanation why the reduction in the maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2 was not taking effect until 2020. A Member made the point that his impression had been this letter would be signed by the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen plus the Opposition Spokespersons of the Committee and the Licensing and Safety Committee and commented on the importance of being clear in future whether a letter should be signed by members or officers, the norm being officers.

 

The record of the meeting held on 5 July 2018 was agreed and signed by the

Chairman as correct. 

304.

Urgent matters by reason of special circumstances

The Chairman will announce any late items which do not appear on the main agenda but which he/she has agreed should be considered by reason of special circumstances to be specified in the report.

Minutes:

There were none.

305.

Declarations of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and Other Significant Interests pdf icon PDF 212 KB

Members are invited to disclose any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests in accordance with the Member Code of Conduct.  Guidance on this is set out in agenda item 4.

 

Minutes:

Disclosable pecuniary interests

 

There were none.

 

Other significant interests (OSIs)

 

There were none.

 

Other interests

 

There were none.

306.

Call in: The Long Term Future of the Corn Exchange, Enhancement of the Guildhall Museum - Sale of the Former Conservancy Building, 17 High Street, Rochester pdf icon PDF 311 KB

This report advises the Committee of a notice of call-in received from seven Members of the Council of the Cabinet decision to delegate authority to the Chief Legal Officer, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Resources, to declare surplus and dispose of the Conservancy Building on n the best terms reasonably obtainable.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report regarding a call-in received from seven

Members of the Council of Cabinet decision 96/2018 to delegate authority to the Chief Legal Officer, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Resources to declare surplus and dispose of the Conservancy Building as shown edged black on the plan, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, on the best terms reasonably obtainable.

 

The City of Rochester Society and the Friends of the Guildhall Museums had been invited to address the Committee on this issue. As noone from the Society had been able to attend the meeting their written representations had been circulated to the Committee. In addition, a letter from a member of the public, Mr Froment, had also been sent to Members.

 

The Committee was requested to consider the Cabinet decision and decide either to take no further action, refer the decision back to Cabinet or to refer the decision to Council for reconsideration.

 

The Chairman then invited Mr Richard Moss from the Friends of the Guildhall Museums and Mr Froment to speak.

 

Friends of the Guildhall Museums – Mr Moss stated that the Friends of the Guildhall Museums were opposed to the sale of the Conservancy Building. More than 7,000 people visited the Guildhall Museum each year, more than half of whom visited the Conservancy Building. The building was an important cultural hub and the Discovery Zone was the only step free accessible learning place in Medway, used by many community groups including disabled and aged persons groups.  Mr Moss questioned whether the sale would affect the reputation of the Council and make it more difficult for the authority to attract external funding. It could also lead to the loss of National Portfolio Status from the Arts Council and a loss of funding of £200,000.

 

The building provided space for visitors to examine its artefacts and such space would have to be found elsewhere if it was sold. The building also housed a large safe which contained valuable civic artefacts and storing and insuring this elsewhere could be expensive as well as the Dickens Country exhibition and it was inconceivable that free public access to this could be lost.

 

The Friends had been involved in recent plans to expand and enhance the museum only to find that half of the museum would now be closed. This brought into question whether the same commitment from voluntary groups would be found in the future if it was sold.

 

Mr Froment was then invited to speak and read out a letter circulated to Members setting out his reasons why the Conservancy Building should be retained, the key points of which were:

 

·         The Conservancy Building was important in its own right and was Grade 2 listed. Although the Council had said the facade would be protected, a range of uses may be permitted which could imply conversion and loss of the internal features, including the staircase. If sold for private use then, even if these features were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 306.

307.

Petition pdf icon PDF 132 KB

This report advises the Committee of a petition which falls within the reference of this Committee, including a summary of the response sent to the petition organisers by officers.

 

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report advising of a petition regarding the Conservancy Building, 17 High Street, Rochester, including a summary of the response sent to the lead petitioner.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to note the report.

308.

Public Rights of Way Claim - New Road, Chatham pdf icon PDF 129 KB

 

This report sets out the current status of the public rights of way claim in respect of land adjoining Union Place Car Park, to the rear of 195-203 New Road, Chatham.  It also outlines a suggestion that has been put forward for an alternative, private access agreement, as well as clarifying any planning consent requirement for the fences and gates that were erected by the new owner after the sale of the land.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which set out the current status of the public rights of way (PROW) claim in respect of land adjoining Union Place Car Park, to the rear of 195-203 New Road, Chatham. The report also outlined a suggestion that had been put forward for an alternative, private access agreement, as well as clarifying any planning consent requirement for the

fences and gates that were erected by the new owner after the sale of the land.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the report;

 

b)     ask for a further progress report when there are further developments, and;

 

c)     recommend to the Head of Planning that enforcement action be taken in respect of the gates and fences referred to in paragraph 6 of the report.

309.

Becoming a Single-Use Plastic Free Council pdf icon PDF 266 KB

This report outlines the progress to date in becoming a single use plastic free Council.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report on progress in becoming a ‘single-use plastic-free’ Council.

 

In January 2018, Council had agreed to request Cabinet:

 

·   to become a ‘single-use plastic-free’ Council by phasing out the use of

unnecessary ‘single use plastic’ (SUP) products such as bottles, cups,

cutlery and drinking straws in all Council buildings and at all Council events as soon as is reasonably practical;

·         to encourage our facilities’ users, local businesses, stakeholders and other local public agencies to do the same, by championing alternatives.

 

In response to a query from a Member regarding how long discussions had been ongoing with Medway Norse on this initiative, the Chief Legal Officer assured Members that discussions had been taking place for several months.

 

Several Members expressed their satisfaction with the fact that some progress had been made but considered the pace needed to be accelerated in some areas such as catering, Council organised events and influencing the wider community. The report made no reference to discussions with the local business community to encourage and support the use of singe use plastic. Officers undertook to address that point via the communications team. 

 

Regarding a question about timescales, the Head of Category Management advised that April 2019 was the target for the events infrastructure framework, which would first be piloted before being rolled out. Catering contracts needed to be varied but this could only be done with the agreement of both parties.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)        note the update in this report on progress made to becoming a single use plastic free Council, and;

 

b)        ask for a further progress report at the January 2019 meeting.

310.

Revenue Budget Monitoring 2019/19 - Quarter 1 pdf icon PDF 531 KB

This report presents the results of the Council’s revenue budget monitoring for

Quarter 1 of the 2018/19 financial year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which presented the results of the Council’s revenue budget monitoring for Quarter 1 of the 2018/19 financial year.

 

The Chief Finance Officer reported that, after proposed management action, an adverse forecast variance of £4.861m was projected but he expected the quarter 2 monitoring report to show a reduction in this figure.

 

A Member commented that the financial pressures facing the Council reflected the difficult local government situation nationally and a concern was that, as the position worsened, it would become even more difficult to set a balanced budget.

 

Reference was made to the non-recurrent actions totalling £1.27m (paragraph 5.2.4) and, given the lack of detail in the report, a briefing note on this was requested.

 

Members then discussed the following issues:

 

Medway Matters – a concern was expressed at the overspend on the magazine and the Assistant Director – Transformation advised this was due to an under recovery of advertising income.

 

Castle Concerts – some Members expressed concern that the Castle Concert ticket sales had underachieved compared to their income budget by £305,000. It was argued that the alcohol ban on 4 of the 5 days had significantly impacted ticket sales and it was questioned whether this policy should be changed. The point was also made that it was very difficult to decide on which acts to book when bookings had to be made a year in advance. The size of the venue was also an issue as it was costly to run but not big enough to attract more prominent acts.

 

The Assistant Director – Transformation commented that ticket sales had been affected by the World Cup and other events in Kent. The decision on the alcohol ban had been taken after advice from the Safety Advisory Group. One event had sold out so the ban had not been an issue for that evening. Going forward the Council would be looking more closely at which acts to book and the event overall would be reviewed to ensure it resulted in value for money. A Member welcomed the new approach and hoped the events would be more successful next year and also asked that the alcohol ban be reviewed, noting alcohol had been allowed at the Proms event without any problems. As the World Cup quarter and semi-final dates had been known well in advance then the World Cup should not have been an issue.

 

Better Care Fund (BCF) - a Member asked if the £214,000 underspend due to the use of improved Better Care Fund to offset additional and continuing placement pressures could be retained by Adult Social Care given the BCF was time limited. The Chief Finance Officer replied that the Council’s advisors were reasonably confident the BCF would be replaced by alternative funding so the assumption was that the Council would not suddenly lose the £6m grant. If that was to happen then using the £214,000 from the underspend would make little impact.

 

Car Parking Charges – A Member argued that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 310.

311.

Capital Budget Monitoring 2018/19 - Quarter 1 pdf icon PDF 146 KB

This report presents the results of the Council’s capital monitoring for Q1 of the 2018/19 financial year, including out-turn forecasts and reference to any new schemes which require approval.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which presented the results of the Council’s capital monitoring for Quarter 1 of the 2018/19 financial year, including outturn forecasts and reference to any new schemes which required approval.

 

In response to a query, the Chief Legal Officer advised that the £3m grant funding recently received by the Council that had been mentioned earlier in the meeting was a result of a successful bid to the Accelerated Construction Programme for schemes at Whiffens and the Queen Street site at the Brook in Chatham. Further details would be circulated to Members.

 

A Member asked for a briefing note on the history behind the series of mercury abatement works in the capital programme.

 

In response to a question regarding the Chatham Placemaking project, officers confirmed that a missing letter in one of the engravings in the new pavements had been corrected at no cost to the Council.

 

A Member referred to the Medway Tunnel capital funding and noted that the funds were depleting leading to a budget pressure. The Chief Finance Officer replied that revenue maintenance was addressed in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and the extent of capital investment would be looked at when the next MTFS was formulated.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the spending forecasts summarised at Table 1 of the report, and;

 

b)     request a briefing note on the history behind the series of mercury abatement works in the capital programme.

312.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 185 KB

This item advises Members of the current work programme and allows the Committee to adjust it in the light of latest priorities, issues and circumstances. It gives Members the opportunity to shape and direct the Committee’s activities over the year. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report advising Members of the current work programme.

 

A Member suggested that the Committee should look at the rationale behind the Council’s decision to not commission a Brexit Impact Assessment and to also consider what work undertaken by other organisations in assessing the potential consequences of exiting the EU that the Council has considered and what gaps may exist. Another Member considered this issue should be added to the risk register given the potential impact on businesses and also the volatile health landscape in respect of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan and the pharmaceutical industry.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)        note and identify items for inclusion in the work programme (Appendix

1 to the report);

 

b)        add to the work programme for the October meeting the Housing Strategy and the Housing Allocations Policy and Tenancy Strategy for pre-decision scrutiny prior to consideration by Cabinet on 20 November;

 

c)         consider at the next agenda planning meeting the timing of a report on Brexit, with the scope as detailed above, and;

 

d)        note the work programmes of all overview and scrutiny committees

(Appendix 2 to the report).