Agenda and minutes

Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 4 April 2019 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

963.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Etheridge and Fearn. 

964.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 141 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 31 January 2019.

Minutes:

The record of the meeting held on 31 January 2019 was agreed and signed

by the Chairman as correct. 

965.

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. 

966.

Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests and Whipping 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

 

There were none.

 

Other interests

 

In relation to agenda item no. 6 (Universal Credit and Welfare Reforms Six Monthly Progress Report), Councillor Wildey disclosed that his wife was in receipt of a Personal Independent Payment.

 

967.

Attendance of the Leader of the Council pdf icon PDF 196 KB

This report sets out activities and progress on work areas within the Portfolio of the Leader of the Council, which all fall within the remit of this Committee. This information is provided in relation to the Leader of the Council being held to account.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members received an overview of progress on the areas within the terms of

Reference of this Committee covered by Councillor Alan Jarrett, Leader of the

Council, i.e.

 

·         Strategic leadership of the Council

·         Communications and marketing

·         Finance

 

Before Members considered the report, a Member remarked that this would be Councillor Royle’s last meeting of the Committee as he was standing down at the elections. Councillor Royle had served as Chairman of the Children and Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee for many years and was well-respected across the Council and would be missed. Councillor Jarrett concurred with the comments, noting that Councillor Royle had successfully navigated the Committee through many difficult issues.

 

Councillor Jarrett responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows:

 

·         Pentagon Centre – in response to whether two further independent market valuations should have been obtained regarding the purchase of the Pentagon Centre, the Leader stated the advice received was from a nationally recognised firm at a cost of £50,000. For a major strategic project such as this obtaining more quotes would have been expensive, delayed the decision to purchase and not affected the eventual outcome. The Council also hoped to purchase Mountbatten House which would greatly enhance the opportunities to regenerate Chatham.

·         Tourism – a Member asked what more could be done to promote Medway. The Leader commented that Medway was already extensively promoted and he hoped local residents would promote the heritage and history that Medway offered.

·         Medway’s economy – noting the growth in the local economy, a Member asked what plans were in place to increase the pace of growth. The Leader replied that the economy had increased from £3.5b to £5.2b in eight years. Innovation Park Medway was expected to create 1,400 high skilled jobs and the large number of SME businesses in Medway, which the Council supported, added to the economy’s resilience.

·         Alcohol Awareness and Domestic Abuse campaign – a Member congratulated the Communications Team on this very effective campaign.

·         Marriage Brochure – in response to a question, the Leader made a commitment that the next version of this brochure would also include civil partnerships.

·         Luton Road – a Member referred to a meeting with residents where the Council had promised follow up action which had not materialised. The Leader undertook to ensure this action was taken.

·         City of Culture – the Leader concurred with comments from a Member that the Council should bid to become City of Culture 2025. Learning from previous unsuccessful bids for City status, he had concluded that Medway needed a coherent city centre. The Council would seek to achieve this in Chatham.   

·         Regeneration activity across Medway – the Leader agreed with a comment that there had been an imbalance in terms of regeneration activity across Medway. The focus had been on the west of the borough and more needed to be done in the east. He was looking to correct this imbalance.

·         Review of Local Government Finance – the Leader agreed with a comment that the possible removal of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 967.

968.

Universal Credit and Welfare Reforms - Six Monthly Progress Report pdf icon PDF 118 KB

This report provides Members with a progress report regarding Universal Credit and welfare reforms as agreed by Cabinet in September 2014, including the work of the Welfare Reform Officer Group.

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

The Chairman welcomed Tracey Munton, Lauren Munson and Steve Randall from the Department of Work and Pensions.

 

Members considered a progress report regarding Universal Credit (UC) and

Welfare reforms, including the work of the Welfare Reform Steering Group.

 

A Member asked what the current waiting times were for UC applicants in Medway amidst concerns some had to wait for five weeks. DWP representatives replied that the five weeks were the assessment period of a UC claim, which were paid calendar monthly, and did not represent a delay. Claimants could request an advance of up to 100% of the claim on day one and were provided with information about re-payment figures and timescales for repayment. Budgeting support was also offered and claimants were made aware of the Local Welfare Provision scheme. Claimants were advised to claim for only what was needed. The advance was divided in up to 12 monthly payments but the Government was looking at possibly extending this period. 

 

A Member asked if there had been any changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) process. DWP representatives commented that they were looking to see if the PIP process could be streamlined and to ensure the mandatory reconsideration process was applied in a uniform way. DWP would make enquires to see if any changes to the process were planned and, if so, this would be shared with Members.

 

Members welcomed the introduction by DWP of Defrazzle cafes where people could access mental health support and be signposted to other services. This had started in Sittingbourne and was now a national programme that helped tackle social isolation. DWP undertook to look into a suggestion that the new community Café in the Rochester Community Hub could play a part in this.

 

In response to a query about outreach work in the community, DWP advised that DWP staff did as much outreach work as possible.

 

A Member expressed concern about the Local Welfare Provision (LWP) service. Calls to Imago went unanswered and messages were not returned. DWP advised Imago no longer provided this service and LWP had been delivered by the Citizens Advice Bureau since January 2019. However, a Member commented that the Council was still directing residents to contact Imago. The Chief Finance Officer undertook to feed this back to the service.

 

Reference was made to a recent spate of benefit sanctions applied by the DWP for seemingly odd reasons. DWP representatives expressed surprise at this as sanctions were a last resort and agreed to look into these cases. 

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the work referenced in this report and recognise that the Member Task Groups recommendations are embedded in the Council’s policies, practices and contracts and those of its partners;

 

b)     note that, in line with the Cabinet’s decision that the Welfare Reform Officer Group should continue until the introduction of Universal Credit, the Group has now been disbanded, and;

 

c)     agree that reports in future should be on an annual basis and that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 968.

969.

Council Plan Performance Monitoring Report Quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 295 KB

This report summarises performance at quarter 3 2018/19 for the programmes and measures which fall within the remit of this Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which summarised the performance of the

Council’s Key Measures of Success for Quarter 3 2018/19 as set out in the

Council Plan 2016/21.

 

Members commented on the large number of measures which were significantly below target, many of which related to children or vulnerable people. A Member made the point that the Council’s emphasis should be on matters it could directly change. The Chief Finance Officer commented that, where a measure had been significantly below target for two consecutive quarters, the Corporate Management Team would commission a deep dive to see what could be done to improve performance or whether the target needed revising.

 

A Member expressed concern at the high number of private sector households the Council had assisted in having their properties improved, noting the year-end target had already been exceeded. This suggested there may be an endemic problem in Medway and officers were asked what was being done to reduce the figure and whether any comparative information from other unitaries existed. The Head of Strategic Housing advised that the private housing sector in Medway had doubled between 2001-2011. Future reports would give more details of the type of interventions as these ranged from easily resolved to quite complex. Efforts would be made to find comparative information. The Council was keen to take more enforcement action to send out a stronger message.  

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to note the quarter 3 performance of the

measures of success used to monitor progress against the Council’s priorities.

 

970.

Revenue Budget Monitoring 2018/19 - Quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 582 KB

This report presents the results of the Council’s revenue budget monitoring for Quarter 3 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 3 of the 2018/19 financial year.

 

Referring to Medway Commercial Group’s (MCG) intention to cover a budget shortfall with a one off receipt from the disposal of Aburound House, a Member queried how MCG could be using a capital receipt from a property the Cabinet had agreed to sell in 2016. The Chief Legal Officer advised that the property had been sold to MCG.

 

Some Members expressed concern that since the urgent closure of Deangate Golf Course in April 2018, costs of £150,000 had been incurred and, also, that this financial information had not been made available at the time of the decision. The Chief Finance Officer advised that no budgetary provision for Deangate had been made in 2019/20 and the costs referred to related to preparing the site for future use.

 

In response to a query, Members asked for a briefing note on the underspend in parking services, detailing the ratio between penalty charge notices and income permits and, also, what assumptions had been made in setting the budget.

 

A Member expressed surprise at the favourable variance of £910,000 in highways services, arguing the poor condition of roads warranted additional spending. The Chief Finance Officer advised that the Council had received additional Government funding of £1.1m for highways. The underspend had been used to offset pressures elsewhere in the Council.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the result of the third quarter of revenue monitoring for 2018/19;

 

b)     note that Cabinet has instructed officers to identify further management action to ensure a breakeven position is achieved by year end, and;

 

c)     request a briefing note on the underspend in parking services, as detailed above.

 

971.

Capital Budget Monitoring 2018/19 - Quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 149 KB

This report presents the results of the Council’s capital monitoring for Q3 of the 2018/19 financial year, including out-turn forecasts and reference to any new schemes for approval

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which presented the results of the Council’s

Capital monitoring for Quarter 3 of the 2018/19 financial year, including out-turn forecasts and reference to any new schemes for approval.

 

Referring to the forecast overspend of £122,000 on the Command of the Heights Phase 2 scheme, a Member queried the origin of the Section 106 contributions identified to fund this. Noting that the Chief Finance Officer would be seeking agreement from the Leader of the Council to add these Section 106 contributions to the capital programme, a request was made that this information be shared with Members before a decision was taken. The Chief Finance Officer undertook to provide this information.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

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

 

b)     note that information regarding the addition of Section 106 contributions to the Capital Programme in relation to the Command of the Heights Phase 2 scheme will be shared with Members.

 

972.

Six Monthly Review of the Corporate Risk Register pdf icon PDF 89 KB

This report presents the latest six monthly review of the Corporate Risk Register. Following scrutiny by the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny, this report will be presented to Cabinet 11 June 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report regarding the 6 monthly review of the Council’s

Corporate Risk Register.

 

A Member asked what discussions were taking place with other bodies regarding the recent Government announcement that extra police officers could be drafted into Kent to deal with any consequences of the UK exiting the European Union without a deal.

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     review the amended Corporate Risk Register presented at Appendix 1 to the report;

 

b)     consider whether any further changes are required or whether any risks should be added or removed;

 

c)     submit the Corporate Risk Register to Cabinet on 11 June 2019;

 

d)     note that from 2019/20, updates to the Corporate Risk Register will be produced every quarter, and;

 

e)     request a briefing note on the recent announcement that extra police officers could be drafted into Kent to deal with any consequences of the UK exiting the European Union without a deal.

 

 

973.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 143 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 the Committee of the current work

programme.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee:

 

a)        noted the work programme, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report;

 

b)        noted the work programmes of the other overview and scrutiny

committees (Appendix 2 to the report), and;

 

c)         agreed that the briefing notes referred to in paragraph 3.3 of the report are no longer required.