Agenda and minutes

SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 3rd November, 2021 6.15 pm

Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions

Contact: Email:  Marcus Prouse Email:

Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item




Minutes of the previous Corporate Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 146 KB


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.)


    Additional documents:


    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:-



    Minute No.

    Description of Interest


    Action Taken

    Cllr M Blaker

    All Items




    Cllr N Cavill

    All Items

    West Monkton


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr S Coles

    All Items

    SCC & Taunton Charter Trustee


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr L Lisgo

    All Items

    Taunton Charter Trustee


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr J Lloyd

    All Items

    Wellington & Sampford Arundel



    Cllr F Smith-Roberts

    All Items

    Taunton Charter Trustee



    Cllr L Whetlor

    All Items



    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr G Wren

    All Items

    Clerk to Milverton PC


    Spoke and Voted


    Cllr Wren further declared that he had a friend who was one of the partners of Cushman & Wakefield following the Portfolio Holder for Asset Management and Economic Development having mentioned Cushman and Wakefield in his introduction. 


Public Participation

    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.


    Temporary measures during the Coronavirus pandemic

    Due to the temporary legislation (within the Coronavirus Act 2020, which allowed for use of virtual meetings) coming to an end on 6 May 2021, the council’s committee meetings will now take place in the office buildings at the John Meikle Room, Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton. Unfortunately due to capacity requirements the Chamber at West Somerset House is not able to be used at this current moment.

    Following the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council meeting rooms will have very limited capacity. With this in mind, we will be recommending that those members of the public who have registered to speak to attend the meetings in person at the office buildings, if they wish. (We will still be offering to those members of the public that are not comfortable in attending, for their statements to be read out by a member of the Governance team). Please can we urge all members of the public who are only interested in listening to the debate to view our live webcasts from the safety of their own home to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).



    Additional documents:


    There was no Public Participation. 


Corporate Scrutiny Request/Recommendation Trackers pdf icon PDF 191 KB

    To update the Scrutiny Committee on the progress of resolutions and recommendations from previous meetings of the Committee.

    Additional documents:


    Regarding the Outturn Report which was discussed by the Corporate Scrutiny Committee on 7th July 2021, information in relation to appendix was requested but had not yet been provided to members. Officers responded that the information had been requested and would be provided once received. 


    A further response and update on extensions to planning applications as a result of the phosphates issue was requested. Alison Blom-Cooper who was in attendance at the meeting provided an update on progress with resolving the planning backlog as a result of the phosphates issue. 


    Three requests for information from 1st September 2021 meeting were still outstanding. The Chair asked officers to request that this information be provided. 


    The Corporate Scrutiny Request and Recommendation Trackers were noted.  



Corporate Scrutiny Committee Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 53 KB


Executive and Full Council Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 196 KB


To consider reports from Executive Councillors - Cllr Federica Smith Roberts pdf icon PDF 355 KB

    To consider reports from Executive Councillors on their respective Portfolios;


    i.                 Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts – Leader of the Council & Communications


    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.


    Additional documents:


    The Chair advised that the agenda order had been revised so that item 9, to consider reports from Executive Councillors – Federica Smith-Roberts was discussed ahead of item 8, the Innovation District Update.  


    Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts was welcomed to the Corporate Scrutiny Committee meeting. The Chair explained that this was an opportunity for councillors to ask questions to the Leader and then opened the debate.  

    During the debate the following comments and questions were raised:  


    ·        An explanation of the makeup of the Local Government Reorganisation Joint Committee upon which Cllr Smith-Roberts sits was given. It was encouraged that the views of all councillors would be represented by the Leader on this Joint Committee. It was recognised that a two-way flow of information would be beneficial 

    ·        It was highlighted that a letter from government regarding the draft Structural Change Order had been received and that it was currently with the Council’s legal team and would be shared with councillors the next day.  

    ·        Concerns were expressed about how long councillors will have to comment upon the draft Structural Change OrderCouncillors commenting upon the draft was encouraged 

    ·        Continuing to progress the Council’s initiatives and current projects where possible ahead of the new Unitary Authority being implemented was encouraged.  

    ·        Concerns were raised about the level of representation for the residents of Somerset West and Taunton and particularly representation for sparsely populated areas following the implementation of the new Unitary Authority.  

    ·        It was highlighted that both the Local Government Reform Joint Committee and Local Government Reform Advisory Board meetings are open to all 

    ·        Concerns were raised about the capital and revenue provisions for Local Government Reorganisation, and it was questioned as to whether budgets had been agreedThe Leader responded that budgeting for the set-up costs of the new authority were still being discussed.  

    ·        Concerns were raised about the creation of Local Community Networks and the impact of their creation upon parish councils 

    ·        It was questioned why the letter from government regarding the draft Structural Change Order had been circulated to the monitoring officers and legal first and had not yet been provided to councillors.  

    ·        It was questioned whether compensation was ever paid to Maggie’s Centre. The Leader responded that no compensation had been paid to Maggie’s Centre.  

    ·        Supporting local business through the impact of Covid-19 was encouraged. It was encouraged that the Leader should consider meeting with local businesses. The efforts of the Council in ensuring Covid grants were paid out promptly to businesses were praised.  

    ·        It was questioned what the net return and yield is from the commercial strategy and what the latest progress on the commercial strategy was.  

    ·        Concerns were raised about the procedure through which a motion was put forth and adopted at the last Full Council meeting and whether this had set a precedent. 

    ·        It was questioned whether the Council has a communications strategy and where information  ...  view the full minutes text for item 61.


Innovation District Update pdf icon PDF 622 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Asset Management, Cllr Marcus Kravis.


    This report provides an update on the establishment of SWT as an Innovation District as per a request by the Corporate Scrutiny Committee.

    Additional documents:


    The Portfolio Holder for Asset Management and Economic Development introduced the report to the CommitteeThe following points were made by the Portfolio Holder during the introduction.  


    ·        A study was commissioned in July 2020 as a commitment of the economic development strategy which was approved by Full Council and undertaken under thdelegated authority of the portfolio holder.  

    ·        Research has shown that jobs in the technological, innovation or research and development sectors created more jobs in the wider economy and that those jobs tended to be better paid. Companies in those sectors also tended to get more involved in sponsoring things such as education. 

    ·        Innovation did not necessarily need to be structured around universities. 

    ·        Having a technological or innovation company based on Exmoor or in our coastal communities would have a greater positive impact on the communities around it.  

    ·        It was suggested that innovation was vital for the long-term transformation of our area.  

    ·        Through consultation we aim to strengthen our relationships with universities around Somerset and other research organisations.  

    ·        Seven key points were identified for achieving innovation in the district: the innovation ecosystem, growth of talent for innovation and enterprise, support for information exchange, getting the right infrastructure, establishing leadership and stewardship through an advisory board, having a distinctive brand and creating an attractive and vibrant place to live.  

    ·        It was raised that it was important to encourage creative industries and digital industries.  

    ·        Our consultants EIBC concluded that there was no case for Somerset West and Taunton Council to promote or invest in a new science park but that there was a case for the creation of an innovation district. There were about twenty innovation districts currently but Somerset West and Taunton would be one of the first in a rural area.  

    ·        Following engagement with members, stakeholders and businesses the summary findings were published in March 2021. The findings were shared with members and the public. 

    ·        The next task of the Innovation Leadership Group would be to agree the areas of collaborative focus and address gaps in our innovation district support system. This would be concurrent with looking to create the proposed physical Innovation Centre.  


    During the debate the following comments and questions were raised: 


    ·        It was questioned whether there were strategic aims in place yet from the Innovation District for improving innovation and if so what the details of those aimwere 

    ·        It was raised that encouraging more young people to stay in or move to the area would be important in enabling innovation and development. 

    ·        Concerns were raised about poor broadband and digital infrastructure in the district hindering innovation and development.  

    ·        Setting up strategic partnerships was encouraged.  

    ·        The evidence and reasoning for not pursuing a science park in Somerset West and Taunton was questioned and discussed. 

    ·        Concerns were raised that the terms of reference for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 62.