Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions
Webcast: View the webcast
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received on behalf of Cllr Dawn Johnson (subs by Cllr Ed Firmin), Cllr Mark Lithgow, Cllr Andy Milne and Cllr Martin Peters.
Apologies were also received from Executive PFH for Economic Development, Planning and Transportation – Cllr Mike Rigby who was subs by Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts.
To approve the minutes of the previous meeting of the Community Scrutiny Committee held on
The Minutes were approved as a true record subject to the following requests:-
1) For statistics in appendices, it was requested that 6-monthly or annual figures be provided in future reports, as these may be more useful in showing trends over time.
2) The Energy Plan and work on a Net Zero strategy were welcomed. It was suggested there could be a business case for more solar panels at the centres with involvement of both Everyone Active and SWT. Officers agreed to look into this. – It was requested that this is added to the Written Answer Tracker
3) It was recorded that a request had been made for Everyone Active to maintain the environs and neighbouring areas of their leisure facilities, most especially the hedges and fenced areas around the Golf Course.
Prop: Cllr Coles / Sec: Cllr Deakin Approved.
Declarations of Interest
To receive and note any declarations of disclosable pecuniary or prejudicial or personal interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.
(The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)
Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-
Cllr Steve Griffiths also declared a non-pecuniary interest in Item 10 as a volunteer on the West Somerset Railway.
The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.
For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.
We are now live webcasting most of our committee meetings and you are welcome to view and listen to the discussion. The link to each webcast will be available on the meeting webpage, but you can also access them on the Somerset West and Taunton webcasting website.
There were no statements or public questions brought before the Committee.
To update the Community Scrutiny Committee on the progress of resolutions and recommendations from previous meetings of the Committee.
The additional item from Cllr Mansell to be added to the Written Answer Tracker as follows:-
The Energy Plan and work on Net Zero Strategy were welcomed. It was suggested that there could be a business case for more solar panels at the centres with involvement from both Everyone Active and SWT. Officers agreed to investigate this. Can updates please be provided and recorded on the Written Answer Tracker.
The Committee noted and approved the tracker. (Unanimous)
To receive items and review the Forward Plan.
Disappointment was expressed by Cllr Lisgo and Cllr Habgood about the lack of attendance from Cllr Rigby, especially as there were three items on the agenda which fell under his portfolio. The point was made that it was difficult to ask questions of a substitute who may not have awareness of the topic being discussed. It also put pressure on future agendas and forward planning, if an alternative date was needed.
Due to annual leave commitments: Chris Brown the report author for the HRA Low Carbon Retrofit Strategy and Action Plan has requested that this item is deferred to the 26 October 2022, Community Scrutiny Meeting. The delay would not interrupt the democratic pathway as it is due to be taken to the 16 November Executive Meeting, and then onto Full Council on the 6 December.
The Chair put forward the recommendation that the Community Governance Review Report was brought to Scrutiny on the 28 September to debate the issue before the Special Full Council on 29 September. Whilst members of the committee were supportive there was concern about the lack of sufficient time to prepare an adequate response to the report in 24 hours. It was agreed unanimously to follow up this request.
Prop: Deakin / Sec: Coles.Unanimous.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Chris Booth, Portfolio Holder for Community.
This is an information report to update on capital investment to replace 11 CCTV cameras in the ‘spine’ of Taunton’s CCTV network from junction of Staplegrove Road with North Street, through Bridge Street, Fore Street and East Street.
Executive Cllr Chris Booth introduced the item as Portfolio Holder for Community.
This is an information report to update on capital investment to replace 11 CCTV cameras in the ‘spine’ of Taunton’s CCTV network from junction of Staplegrove Road with North Street, through Bridge Street, Fore Street and East Street. There is an earmarked reserve of £60K set aside for work on the CCTV project, which would involve an upgrade from analogue to digital cameras, and improve the data produced.
Scott Weetch presented the report to the Committee which outlined four possible options for the future of CCTV in the Taunton Town Centre, including a “do nothing” approach. There were a variety of delivery mechanisms for CCTV across the district, which made it difficult to adopt a one size fits all assessment. Partners included Sedgemoor District Council who had a service level agreement with the former TDBC, and Avon and Somerset Police. In Minehead and Watchet, the CCTV was monitored solely by volunteers and the numbers have been depleted due to Covid and other factors. This has reduced resilience in the systems.
Comments from the Committee included: -
· Dismay and frustration at the length of time the strategy has taken to be delivered. It was apparent that the service level agreements with partners such as Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) had not been upheld and this was detrimental to the life and resources of the existing CCTV systems in Taunton. Residents and the night-time economy had been let-down by the failures in the system, and some such as the street pastors did not feel safe going about their duties knowing the cameras may not be working.
· Fear of crime is rising not reducing, and lack of CCTV and safeguarding reinforces those fears.
· There have been failings in the systems in Taunton, but due to changes in the administrations between Sedgemoor DC and SWT, these have been challenging to unpick. The previous management regime at Sedgemoor agreed to maintain and upgrade the CCTV as needed, via a Service Level Agreement, but this was not upheld. Unfortunately, this was not made apparent until just before Covid, so was difficult to challenge. Therefore, SWT had to re-assess the entire CCTV network, which meant going back to basics and checking all hardware, software, and data. It was very quickly realised that the Taunton cameras had not been maintained to a suitable standard. Unfortunately, due to the challenges presented by Covid, there had been insufficient monitoring to note this problem earlier.
· Avon and Somerset Police used to run a volunteer scheme out of the Minehead Police Station which monitored the CCTV coverage on a rota basis throughout West Somerset (Minehead and Watchet). Due to Covid and other factors, there is now only 1 volunteer left working with the system.
· It was asked if anyone had contacted the Avon and Somerset Police Crime Commissioner, regarding attracting some extra funding to support these initiatives.
· Cllr Lloyd asked if Wellington Town Council still contributed to the maintenance of the ... view the full minutes text for item 38.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Planning & Transportation.
Prior to the formation of Somerset West and Taunton Council the two former Councils of West Somerset and Taunton Deane had separate car parking strategies. The Refreshed Parking Strategy for Taunton was presented and adopted by Full Council on 22nd February 2018. The Final Report of the Parking in West Somerset Task and Finish Group was approved by the Cabinet on 6th March 2019. Both contained recommendations for the future of off-street parking in the separate authority areas. This report highlights what action has been taken in respect of those recommendations since the formation of Somerset West and Taunton Council.
In the absence of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Planning & Transportation, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts introduced the report via zoom. The report highlighted the work that has been done to amalgamate the two districts of Taunton Deane and West Somerset and would be ongoing as it progressed into the new unitary and the wider Somerset area became part of the strategy.
Stuart Noyce and Richard Brown presented the report to the Committee.
During the debate the following points were made: -
· Cllr Mansell noted that the former West Somerset DC had carried out a stock condition survey of their car parks. Is this happening in the Taunton Deane area? Can this be shared with Members once finalised? As part of the unitary transfer of assets, all car parks are being surveyed (including the Multi-Storey) and will form part of a portfolio of costings for the next 25yrs. It also takes into account the anticipated costs to maintain in the future, from the complex infrastructure of the multi-storey to the simple car park white lining maintenance programme. Some of the assets had been improved over the last few years by introducing EV charging points and the upgrading of car parking machinery. This new information will need to be captured. An assessment is also being undertaken to examine the income generated by each car park and balance that with the maintenance programme. Once the assessment is completed it may be possible to bring that back to Committee and share with members.
· LGR Process - When are the fees and charges likely to be reviewed, as there isn’t consistency across the district? The current fees and charges for the SWT district were set for this year by Full Council. All fees, charges and licences are being reviewed across the whole county in line with unitary processes. It is likely to form part of the budget process for the new council. This work is being undertaken now to ensure alignment once the new Council is operational.
· Cllr Habgood expressed anger that there did not appear to be a comprehensive strategy for the management of car parks or car parking income, and there was a lack of transparency. He saw this as a failure in the administration. The Leader responded by highlighting the challenges of bringing the two councils together: combatting COVID-19 and the changing behaviour of users of the car parks. There were also other areas of the PFH report going to Full Council on 6 September that clearly highlighted the level of progress that was being made to the car parks and the maintenance programme district wide.
· Cllr Lisgo recognised that merging the two councils into SWT had caused difficulties, but asked what learning had been achieved through this process which could make the passage smoother as we move towards the unitary council? It will be a good opportunity to look at car parking in its entirety across the councils including on-street car parking and park and ride. ... view the full minutes text for item 39.
To consider updates from Executive Councillor for Economic Development, Planning & Transportation, Councillor Mike Rigby
3.2 of the Scrutiny Terms of Reference state that the Scrutiny Committee may review and scrutinise and ask questions of the Leader, lead Councillors, the Executive in relation to their portfolios.
Attached is Cllr Rigby’s July Full Council Portfolio Holder Report. Since the publication of this Agenda the Report for September’s Ordinary will be published on 25th August 2022 and can be accessed via that Agenda Pack.
3.2 of the Scrutiny Terms of Reference state that the Scrutiny Committee may review and scrutinise and ask questions of the Leader, lead Councillors, the Executive in relation to their portfolios. Cllr Rigby had tendered his apologies and in his absence Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts was prepared to substitute for him.
· Cllr Janet Lloyd asked for the outcome of the Stantec report on the health of the town centres, following the expenditure of the Emergency High Street Fund. Cllr Deakin did find a copy of the report online which can be accessed here. Referred to the Written Answer Tracker for a response.
· Cllr Mansell stated that he would like to see the rural centres such as Bishop Lydeard and Wiveliscombe covered by the Health Check survey too.
· Cllr Mansell welcomed the Active Travel initiatives that were being explored especially the Wellington to Taunton cycle link. He was aware that land availability was likely to be an issue, so this was something for the new council to pursue.
· Cllr Pritchard asked if rising costs and inflation are having an impact on existing workplans and placing projects at risk especially regarding pedestrianisation and more sustainable transport? There are specific budget allocations set aside for various projects but if SWT decided to deliver on them all, we would be over budget by approximately £1million. More work is being done to establish priorities and need and look at what is affordable and best deliverable but there are very real challenges around rising costs and budget deficits.
· The Committee was supportive of Active Travel and recognised that more sustainable methods of transport are required, especially in Taunton where 80% of car journeys are under 5 miles. It was also important to work with partners and stakeholders such as the Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC) and maintain good relationships.
· It was recognised that there is a lot to do, and more resource and money is needed.
· Cllr Whetlor asked that the Stantec Town Centre Health Check report was circulated to the relevant parish clerks, and there was better clarity in their reporting methods and emails.
Access to Information - Exclusion of Press and Public
During discussion of the following items 12 and 13 (Item 12 ONLY Appendix E & Item 13 in totality),it may be necessary to pass the following resolution to exclude the press and public having reflected on Article 13 13.02(e) (a presumption in favour of openness) of the Constitution. This decision may be required because consideration of this matter in public may disclose information falling within one of the descriptions of exempt information in Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972. Community Scrutiny will need to decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption, outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
Recommend that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the next two items of business (Item 12 Appendix E only) on the ground that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 respectively of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, namely information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).
The committee voted to move into confidential session for part of Item 12 (if necessary) and for the entirety of Item 13.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Fran Smith, Portfolio Holder for Housing.
This report provides an update on the projected outturn financial position of the Council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) for the financial year 2022/23 (as at 30 June 2022).
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Fran Smith, Portfolio Holder for Housing. In her absence the report was introduced by Cllr Federica Smith Roberts via zoom.
Kerry Prisco as the report author read out a briefing statement on behalf of Cllr Fran Smith as follows: -
“Members will recall that setting a budget for 2022/23 was extremely challenging. The Housing Sector is experiencing the most challenging period in a generation as multiple risks, from both a regulatory and economic perspective, crystalise and competing demands place pressure on the service. However, a balanced budget was presented and approved, albeit with a strategy relying on one-off financial measures.
The projected outturn financial position for the year is an overspend of £745k based on estimates made as of 30 June 2022. This is mainly due to a potential pay award pressure exceeding that budgeted, the rising cost to bring void properties back up to a lettable standard due to the condition of properties returned and inflated cost of materials, as well pressures on staffing costs.
There are still further risks and uncertainties well documented within the report, with some that will materialise over the next few months and place further pressure on the reported outturn position e.g., pay award, insurance premiums and depreciation.
Whilst the current level of General Reserves at £3.213m does provide the ability to cover the current predicted overspend, if required, the projected overspend will reduce to General Reserves £2.468m, which does not provide sufficient resilience to mitigate the risk of any further significant overspend or additional pressures.
The Housing Management Team will take steps to reduce, and halt spend especially for discretionary activities, to help mitigate the current position, and to try to maintain a more secure reserves position”.
· Cllrs Habgood/Lisgo asked if this was the worst-case scenario and what steps were being taken to protect services going forward? There are steps being taken to protect core services, whether via cuts, stopping discretionary works or finding alternative methods of delivery. It is likely that central government will implement rent freezes going forward to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis. Work is currently taking place to protect the HRA Business plan but that relates to next year. The report details the current position at the end of Qtr1, and managers are currently looking at their budgets to determine if they have any slack that can be trimmed, or where savings can be identified. Procurement is also being investigated to see if there is better buying power on the supply of materials.
· The HRA is very much a reflection of the wider world and the current challenges being faced by many residents in the district. Unfortunately, it is going to be a very difficult time for everyone.
· Capital Projects - SWT is currently looking at the projected risks/costs and is working to mitigate against this. Some of the capital projects are protected due to fixed rates combating against inflationary increases, but SWT is working with its contractors to protect our ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
Confidential Item - Asset Management Lease
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby, Executive Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Planning & Transportation.
This report seeks approval to enter into a new lease agreement.
The Committee moved into confidential session at 8.14pm.
The Committee noted the report at 8:40pm and the meeting was closed.