Agenda and minutes

Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 4 July 2019 7.00pm

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

Contact: Michael Turner, Democratic Services Officer 

Items
No. Item

125.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Clarke and Tejan. 

126.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 338 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 4 April 2019 and the Joint Meeting of Committees held on 22 May 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The record of the meeting held on 4 April 2019 and the record of the Joint Meeting of Committees held on 22 May 2019 were agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct. 

127.

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. 

128.

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 (OSIs)

 

There were none.

 

Other interests

 

In relation to agenda item 6 (Voluntary and Community Sector), Councillors Etheridge, Williams and Maple disclosed that they were shareholders of WHoo Cares.

 

In relation to agenda item 10 (Petitions), Councillor Hackwell disclosed that his daughter was a manager at MHS Homes and Councillor Buckwell disclosed that he rented a garage from MHS Homes.

129.

Medway Norse Update pdf icon PDF 145 KB

This report represents a review of the performance of the joint venture

from the perspective of the Council client for the second half of the 2018/19

financial year and is accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report representing a review of the performance of the Medway Norse Joint Venture from the perspective of the Council client for the second half of the 2018/19 financial year. This was accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director.

 

The following issues were discussed:

 

·         Pesticides – in response to a query about pesticides used, the Partnership Director advised that the type used by Medway Norse had not changed and it was non-hazardous within seconds of being applied. He was investigating a concern raised that a dog may have been adversely affected after an area had been treated. It was possible this had been a result of too much pesticide being sprayed.  A Member expressed surprise that nothing had changed in terms of the type of pesticides used as some trees had turned yellow after treatment, which had not happened in previous years. The Partnership Director advised that all spraying had finished by April. It was possible that this year the weed control programme had been too liberal.

 

·         Crematorium Pathways – a Member referred to the poor condition of the pathways at the Palmerston Road cemetery and asked for an assurance that the pathways of the other cemeteries were in a good condition. The Partnership Director acknowledged this was a valid concern and would take this issue forward with the Council. Medway Norse was responsible for patching work but not for re-surfacing.

 

·         Weed clearing – a Member commented that some areas were overgrown and weeds in gutters were causing them to become blocked, which suggested a need for the various public bodes responsible for grounds maintenance to work better together. The Partnership Director commented that after Medway Norse took on responsibility for street cleansing the public should see improvements in this area.

 

·         SEN transport – a Member referred to concerns about the implementation of the new SEN transport policy and queried whether there was a conflict between the statement that transport was being delivered in the best interest of children and young people and the assurance it was being done in the most cost effective manner to ensure best use of public funds. The Partnership Director commented that there was a very professional relationship between the Medway Norse team, parents and the Council. Medway Norse provided the transport but did not decide on eligibility or the type of transport provision. Staff were highly trained and, where appropriate, would feed back to the Council any issues relating to children.

 

Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) – in response to a question about the impact on Medway’s HWRC sites of Kent County Council’s decision to charge for certain categories of waste, the Partnership Director advised that gates and barriers had been erected at the HWRC sites in Medway in readiness for checks. This had led to more space within the sites and a safer layout. In response to a query, the Partnership Director advised that Kent County Council had made  ...  view the full minutes text for item 129.

130.

Voluntary and Community Sector pdf icon PDF 100 KB

 

This report provides the Business Support Overview & Scrutiny Committee with an update on the recent commissioning activity for the Voluntary and Community Sector, as requested at 12 April 2018 Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which provided an update on the recent commissioning activity for the Voluntary and Community Sector, as requested at by the Committee in April 2018.

 

Some Members commented that the origins of this item was a wish to understand the value and extent of the voluntary sector in Medway and how the sector could add further value to work commissioned by the Council. It was important also that smaller charities be given an opportunity to engage in commissioning, either independently or in conjunction with others. 

 

Another Member questioned why the Council did not have a compact with the Medway voluntary sector. The Head of Health and Wellbeing Services assured Members there was a clear strategic direction. The Council was aware of possible pressures affecting the voluntary sector due to an increased demand in social prescribing activities put in place to alleviate pressure on health and social scare. There were good models elsewhere which showed how the Council and the NHS could leverage investment for the sector from other areas.

 

A Member asked for an update on the development of an interactive and digital map of community assets and directory of services for effective signposting. The Committee was advised that this had recently gone live.

 

Noting a suggestion that the Committee should hear directly from the sector, the Committee agreed to re-visit this issue at its next meeting, including possibly hearing from the Chief Executive of Medway Voluntary Action. 

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the report, and;

 

b)     consider the issue of the voluntary sector again at its August meeting, including hearing directly from representatives of Medway Voluntary Action.

 

131.

Scrutiny of Risk and Commercialisation pdf icon PDF 305 KB

 

At a meeting of this Committee held on 31 January 2019, Members asked for a report to the July meeting setting out which Council services have been transferred to Medway Commercial Group and Medway Norse and which then came back to the Council, together with details of what action the Council subsequently took.

 

This report provides the information requested together with a wider overview of the key themes in a recently published Guide for Local Scrutiny Councillors on Risk and Commercialisation

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which set out which Council services had been transferred to Medway Commercial Group and Medway Norse and which then came back to the Council, together with details of what action the Council subsequently took. This report also gave a wider overview of the key themes in a recently published Guide for Local Scrutiny Councillors on Risk

and Commercialisation.

 

Regarding the proposal that a Member Development Session be arranged to provide a briefing for O&S Members on the Council’s current approach to

commercialisation, a Member asked that this event also look at the rationale for and the alternatives to commercialisation. The point was made that the Council itself was capable of delivering services in more innovative, efficient and sustainable ways than commercial bodies. In addition commercialisation was not a new idea and there had been high profile examples of it failing in the public sector.

 

It was suggested the session could also helpfully include a case study examining how a service had been provided before a decision had been made to go down a commercial route, including a projection of how the service was expected to develop in the future. The Assistant Director – Transformation undertook to look at including that. A Member asked that the Member development session begin with an overview of the current arrangements for the benefit of new Members.

 

A Member commented that most of the difficulties had been in respect of Medway Commercial Group (MCG) and a significant concern was how services could be handed back to the Council and the risks this entailed. In addition, more work was needed across the four O&S committees to ensure the range of services being delivered by the commercial bodies set up by the Council were scrutinsed.

 

Some Members emphasised the importance of ethics and governance in establishing and scrutinising commercial activities. The point was made that the MCG Directors were a relatively small group with close links to the Council whereas Medway Development Company (MDC) had appointed two external non-executive directors. The Assistant Director – Transformation commented the MDC model worked better and expected the MCG model to look more like that in the future. Members were assured that a number of steps were followed before decisions were taken to transfer services or enter into shared services arrangements, including consideration by Members of a detailed business case.

 

A Member asked for the rationale underpinning the decisions to transfer services back to the Council. Noting that some detail about this was included in Appendix 1 to the report, the Assistant Director – Transformation commented it was often about a particular service not being profitable.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to:

 

a)     note the information provided in the report and;

 

b)     request a Member Development Session to provide a briefing for

Overview and Scrutiny Members on the Council’s current approach to

commercialisation and a facilitated discussion on the emerging role for

Scrutiny, including the matters raised by Members during the discussion.

132.

New Statutory Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny in Local and Combined Authorities pdf icon PDF 171 KB

 

In May 2019 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published new statutory guidance on Overview and Scrutiny in Local and Combined Authorities having taken into account the findings and recommendations of the House of Commons CLG Committee report on the effectiveness of local authority Overview and Scrutiny Committees which was published in December 2017.

 

This report summarises the recommended policies and best practice included in the statutory guidance that local authorities should adopt, or consider adopting, with an overview of how the current arrangements in Medway measure up and some suggested areas for possible further discussion and development.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report which summarised the recommended policies and best practice included in new statutory guidance on Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) in Local and Combined Authorities that local authorities should adopt, or consider adopting, with an overview of how the current arrangements in Medway measured up and some suggested areas for possible further discussion and development.

 

There was a recognition that in many areas Medway was in a fairly healthy place overall in terms of its O&S arrangements. The Council’s four O&S Committees had different approaches to scrutiny, with the Health and Adult Social Care O&S Committee typically conducting scrutiny in a more outward looking manner. A Member commented that the Statutory Scrutiny Officer in local government did not have parity with the other statutory officers.

 

Members noted that the Guidance stated that, while it was for each authority to determine the method for selecting a Chair, councils should consider doing so by secret ballot. Some Members considered this an interesting suggestion but it was also argued that this method would lack transparency.

 

The point was made that, generally, Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) were not effectively held to account and it was suggested that one model that could work in Medway would be to hold the LEP to account on an annual basis, followed by the Council’s representative on the LEP being held to account.

 

It was agreed that all Members should be made aware of the new Statutory Guidance by making it easily accessible.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to instruct the Council’s Statutory Scrutiny Officer to take the following action, in consultation with the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Opposition Spokesperson of this Committee, in response to the revised Statutory Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny as set out in paragraphs

3.5 and 4.3 of the report:

 

a)     work to more systematically evaluate and capture learning from the impact of Overview and Scrutiny activity generally across all Overview and Scrutiny Committees;

 

b)     explore the potential for Overview and Scrutiny to develop a closer working relationship with the Council’s Communications Team with a view to more reporting and promotion of Overview and Scrutiny activity with a particular focus on the use of new digital technology and to consider the scope to improve the connection between Overview and Scrutiny and the public (for example by more use of the Citizen’s Panel);

 

c)     explore the scope to draw more extensively on independent local experts

where appropriate in Overview and Scrutiny reviews (for example, the

Universities in Medway);

 

d)     work with the Chief Legal Officer on the scope to require organisations

contracted or commissioned by the Council to provide goods and services to provide information and attend Overview and Scrutiny Committees on

request;

 

e)     work with the Chief Legal Officer to develop a framework for overview and

scrutiny of the performance of the Council’s commercial entities noting that the proposed starting point is a Member Development Session in the Autumn with the recently published Centre for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 132.

133.

Sponsorship of Gillingham Football Club pdf icon PDF 299 KB

This paper reports on the Medway Council sponsorship agreement for the 2018/19 season for Gillingham Football Club which has recently come to a close. 

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report on the Medway Council sponsorship agreement for the 2018/19 season for Gillingham Football Club which had recently come to a close.

 

Some Members whose constituents had received complimentary tickets as part of the agreement commented on how well the latter had been looked after by the club and how enjoyable they had found the experience.

 

A Member asked where the re-naming of the stadium to the Medway Priestfield Stadium had been publicised. The Assistant Director – Transformation advised the new name had appeared on the club’s website and also referred to in FA fixtures publicity.

 

Some Members questioned the analysis in the report that there had been no burden on local council tax payers, arguing that on the occasions the club had used the sports pitches then they could not be hired to anyone who would have paid a charge to use the pitches. The Assistant Director – Transformation commented that the pitches were used by the club at times they would not have been, or would rarely be, hired by anyone else. Noting that there were set charges for the hire of the pitches, a Member asked for details of what income the Council would have received if the club had paid the commercial rates for the pitches. In response to a question whether the club had received preferential access to the pitches, the Committee was advised that efforts had been made to publicise the times when the club were using the grounds.

 

In response to a query, although it was very difficult to rule out additional maintenance costs having being incurred as a result of the agreement, the pitches would have had to have been maintained in any event.

 

A Member also asked for the figures of the time spent by the Communications Team that the club were able to draw on under the agreement. The Assistant Director – Transformation undertook to look into this.

 

Another Member made the point that any potential financial loss to the Council had to be balanced against the positive publicity the Council had received and the goodwill the agreement had generated in the community.

 

A Member asked if it would be possible to see details of what community activity the club had engaged in prior to the arrangement with the Council and whether the club would be happy to provide complimentary tickets next season to the 36 organisations unsuccessful in the ballot for tickets under the agreement.  

                                 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to note the report.

134.

Petitions pdf icon PDF 124 KB

This report advises the Committee of any petitions received by the Council which fall within the remit of this Committee, including a summary of the response sent to the petition organisers by officers.

 

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Members considered a report on petitions received by the Council which fell

within the remit of this Committee including a summary of the response sent to the petition organisers by officers.

 

A Member expressed a concern about the independence of the legal advice being sought by the Council on the operation of Uber in Medway as this advice had come from the same Chambers that had also given advice to Uber. It was also noted though that it was not unusual for the same Chambers to act for different parties in a dispute and it was not known whether the same counsel had acted for both parties in this case.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee agreed to note the petition responses and appropriate officer action in paragraph 3 of the report.

135.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 233 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 regarding the Committee’s current work programme.

 

A Member thanked those officers who had worked to satisfactorily resolve the public rights of way issues referred to in paragraphs 3.4 – 3.7 of the report.

 

Decision:

 

The Committee:

 

a)     noted its work programme (Appendix 1 to the report);

 

b)     noted the work programmes of the other overview and scrutiny committees (Appendix 2 to the report);

 

c)     agreed that Physical Activity should be the topic for the next Scrutiny Task Group review with a membership of 7 Councillors (4 x Conservative and 3 x Labour) drawn from the Health and Adult Social Care (HASC), Children and Young People (CYP) and Regeneration Culture and Environment (RCE) Overview and Scrutiny Committees, noting that the HASC Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be the lead Committee;

 

d)     authorised the Head of Democratic Services to appoint the Members of the Physical Activity Task Group once nominations have been received from Group Whips in consultation with the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Opposition Spokespersons;

 

e)     agreed to add the following items to the work programme for pre-decision

scrutiny:

·         Housing Allocations Policy 22 August

·         Draft Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 24 October

·         Housing Enforcement and Licensing Policy - 28 November

 

(f)   agreed to add to the work programme the timetable for holding Portfolio  Holders to account as set out in paragraph 3.13 of the report