Agenda and minutes

Environment, Culture and Communities Overview & Scrutiny Panel
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Fourth Floor, Easthampstead House, Bracknell. View directions

Contact: Derek Morgan  01344 352044

Items
No. Item

30.

Minutes and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 84 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Environment, Culture and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel held on 23 September 2014.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Panel held on 23 September 2014 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

31.

Declarations of Interest and Party Whip

Members are requested to declare any disclosable pecuniary or affected interest, including the existence and nature of the Party Whip, in respect of any matter to be considered at this meeting.

 

Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or an Affected Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest or any indications that Members would be participating under the party whip.

32.

Urgent Items of Business

Any other items which, pursuant to Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, the Chairman decides are urgent.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

33.

Public Participation

To receive submissions from members of the public which have been submitted in advance in accordance with the Council’s Public Participation Scheme for Overview and Scrutiny.

Minutes:

No submissions had been made by members of the public under the Council’s Public Participation Scheme for Overview and Scrutiny.

34.

2015/16 Draft Budget Proposals pdf icon PDF 91 KB

To consider key themes and priorities for Environment, Culture and Communities as outlined in the Council’s Draft Budget Proposals for 2015/16.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Environment, Culture and Communities presented a report on the key themes and priorities for the Environment, Culture and Communites Department as outlined in the Council’s Draft Budget Proposals for 2015/16.

 

Particular attention was drawn to the pressures on the Environment, Culture and Communities budget in the coming year totalling £424,000.  This comprised:

  • Waste PFI Contract - £160,000 reduced income from recycling
  • Concessionary fares - £107,000 increased payments to bus companies
  • Development Management Section - £129,000 additional resource required to deal with a significant increase in planning applications and enforcement (offset by increased fee income)
  • Bracknell Leisure Centre - £28,000 lower annual rent from new lease

 

However, budget savings for 2015/16 amounted to £813,000, the most significant of which were £485,000 on the public realm contracts which had been re-let from 1 October 2014 (with no loss of quality) and £129,000 for Development Management increased fee income.

 

The Capital Programme for 2015/16 for the Directorate totalled £13.852m of which £4.797m was Council funded and £9.055m was externally funded.  The outline programme for the two following years was also detailed.

 

From questions and discussion the following points arose:

  • Some large percentage increases had been proposed in relation to some fees and charges for highway licences or consents payable by developers or statutory undertakers.  It was requested that an explanation and further detail of these proposed charges and the fee for overrunning work be sent to Panel Members following the meeting and that a report describing how the permit scheme was progressing be submitted to a future meeting of the Panel.
  • Capital works on highway network maintenance totalled £1.65m, funded by a Government cash grant, and £200,000 Council funded work on road and footway re-surfacing, in addition to revenue funded work on pothole repairs where no re-surfacing work was programmed.
  • Cycle paths were included with roads and inspected three times each year to assess what maintenance was required.
  • The Capital Programme contained provision for £2m to be spent in each of the next three years on Town Centre Infrastructure works.  The Finance Review Group would be meeting soon to consider the scheduling of work over the period, rolling forward any unspent sums as necessary.  In addition there were some transport related improvements funded by Section106 developer contributions.
  • Further traffic signal infrastructure works were programmed.  It was requested that the operation of the intelligent transport system now operational at the Twin Bridges roundabout be reviewed since traffic did not appear to flowing freely.
  • The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) was due to be implemented from 6 April 2015.  CIL contributions would be collected through 2015/16 for allocation in 2016/17.

35.

Quarterly Service Report (QSR) pdf icon PDF 953 KB

To consider the latest trends, priorities and pressures in terms of departmental performance as reported in the QSR for the second quarter of 2014/15 (July to September 2014) relating to Environment, Culture and Communities.  An overview of the third quarter of 2014/15 will also be provided.

 

Please bring the previously circulated Quarterly Service Report to the meeting.  The QSR is attached to this agenda if viewed online.

Minutes:

The Panel considered the latest trends, priorities and pressures in terms of departmental performance as reported in the QSR for the second quarter of 2014/15 (July to September 2014) relating to Environment, Culture and Communities.

 

The QSR showed a projected underspend of £265,000 against budget but this was expected to reduce to around £100,000 at the year end.  The main variances were on:

  • Concessionary fares – additional £119k
  • Planning policy – additional £105k
  • Waste disposal – additional £61k
  • Downshire Golf Course – additional £35k
  • Waste recycling – reduction of £55k
  • Public realm contracts – reduction of £265k

 

On the Capital Programme, it was anticipated that about 60% of the programme would be spent at the year end, the remainder being carried forward.  In particular some £150k on disabled facilities grants and £200k on both maintenance of car parks and car park improvements would be carried forward.

 

Other points highlighted in the report or arising from questions were as follows:

  • Staff turnover was running at a satisfactory 11 to 12% per annum, with an average vacancy rate of 7.4%.  Some difficulties in recruiting Planning staff had been experienced and the measures being put in place to overcome these were explained.
  • Staff sickness continued to be very low, averaging less than 5 days per employee per year.
  • Recruiting volunteers for the Great Holland’s Library had been a great success allowing the opening hours to be increased.
  • Applications for planning permission had increased by 20 – 25% and while additional resources had been required to deal with the workload, there had been a corresponding increase in fee income.
  • Additional pressures were also being created by the high number of planning appeals and challenges to the Council’s Sites Allocation Plan.  A significant test of this policy was expected from the decision (expected in February 2015) from the Public Inquiry held into the Council’s decision to refuse permission for 74 dwellings at Tilehurst Lane, Binfield.
  • The Council had in place its five year land supply for housing, which required review at least annually.   Efforts were made to ensure there were as few obstacles as possible for developers to progress schemes, using Local Plan policies to secure affordable housing wherever appropriate.
  • The Panel was pleased to note that Magistrates had dismissed the appeal by McDonalds against the Council’s decision to refuse to allow additional opening (all day) hours at its restaurant in Wildridings.  Further detail would be included in the next QSR.
  • With regard to complaints, it was requested that some detail be given about complaints that had been upheld.
  • For performance indicators, it was suggested these be kept under review to ensure they remained relevant and informative.  A request that information be included on the number of agency staff hours bought in would be looked at.
  • The Land Registry’s proposal to take over provision of the Local Land Charges Register removing this service provision from all local authorities was unlikely to take effect until 2017.

36.

Results of Trial Recycling Incentive Scheme pdf icon PDF 51 KB

To consider the results and value of the trial Recycling Incentive Scheme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel considered a report on the results of the Trial Recycling Incentive Scheme carried out with the benefit of a £108k grant from the DEFRA Reward and Recognition fund.  The two key objectives of the scheme, (1) to increase households participating in the kerbside recycling service from 75% to 82% within two years, and (2) to reduce contamination (incorrect materials) in collected recycling from 13% to 8% over the same period, had both been achieved.  The Executive was due to consider the report along with a recommendation to continue to develop and promote the scheme as part of its waste management process, and the Panel was invited to comment.

 

The Panel noted that over 12,000 (almost a quarter of) Bracknell households had joined the scheme and the number was continuing to grow.  Uptake of the rewards offered was also growing, along with the range of rewards.  SITA was sponsoring the reward scheme which had been particularly successful in benefitting local good causes.  The scheme had been successful in decreasing the amount of recyclable materials found in waste by almost 1000 tonnes resulting in a saving of around £90,000 per annum, with potential to save a further £100,000, with little or no further investment.

 

The Panel was satisfied that the Recycling Incentive Scheme was a valuable service that was well worth continuing and expressed its support for the recommendation to the Executive to continue to develop and promote it.

37.

Update on Commercial Sponsorship pdf icon PDF 11 KB

To reconvene the Commercial Sponsorship Member Reference Group in order to assess the trial of commercial sponsorship currently being undertaken by the Council.

Minutes:

The Panel considered a report requesting that the Commercial Sponsorship Member Reference Group be reconvened in order to assess the trial of the commercial sponsorship currently being undertaken within the Council.

 

The trial had commenced in August 2013, had realised an income (net of all costs) of £29,000 in the first 15 months of operation, and would continue with the current supplier until October 2015.  It was envisaged that the reconvened Member Reference Group would review the working of the contract and provide a steer on whether to procure a new contract.

 

RESOLVED that, subject to the confirmation of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission that this could be accommodated within the work programme, the Commercial Sponsorship Member Reference Group be reconvened in order to assess the trial currently taking place.

38.

Bracknell Forest Borough Local Plan Update pdf icon PDF 361 KB

To receive a progress update report in respect of the Bracknell Forest Borough Local Plan.

Minutes:

The Panel considered a report on the progress of documents forming part of the Bracknell Forest Borough Local Plan since the previous report in September 2014.

 

It was noted that the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan was still at an early stage of development, with more work to be undertaken on collection and assessment of the information required.  Although not part of the Development Plan, the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) would be an important measure in delivery of the infrastructure to support and mitigate planned development.  The Council’s draft CIL Charging Schedule had been submitted for examination and had been found to be compliant, realistic and consistent with national guidance.  The Examiner’s report had been submitted as an appendix and indicated that subject to minor modifications to some definitions, the Charging Schedule could be submitted to the Council for final approval, for implementation on 6 April 2015.

 

Arising from questions, the Panel was informed of the progress of other Berkshire Authorities with regard to the introduction of CIL and how newly adopted Neighbourhood Plans would sit alongside the National Planning Policy Framework and the Bracknell Forest Borough Local Plan.

 

The Panel noted the report.

39.

Cultural Services Offering Overview and Scrutiny Working Group Report - Executive Response pdf icon PDF 96 KB

To receive and consider the Executive response to the report of the review of the Council’s Cultural Services Offering.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel considered a report containing the Executive response to the report of the Overview and Scrutiny review of the Council’s Cultural Services Offering undertaken by a working group of the Panel.

 

The Executive had commended the working group for the review carried out, the report produced and had noted the aspirational approach taken towards future development of cultural services in the Borough.  The Executive had made a positive response to the vast majority of the working group’s recommendations, but had taken a different view in those cases where it was considered it was necessary to adopt an approach which better reflected the financial parameters within which the Council must work and the national context as a whole.

 

The Panel agreed to note the Executive response for the time being.

40.

Work Programme 2015/16 pdf icon PDF 86 KB

To consider the Panel’s Work Programme for 2015/16.

Minutes:

The Panel was invited to suggest topics for inclusion in its proposed Work Programme for 2015/16 which was under development.  The current Work Programme and list of topics previously reviewed were provided by way of background information.

 

The Panel did not suggest any future review topics and noted the report.

41.

Overview and Scrutiny Progress Report pdf icon PDF 280 KB

To note the Bi-Annual Progress Report of the Assistant Chief Executive.

Minutes:

The Panel received and noted the bi-annual Progress Report of the Assistant Chief Executive on Overview and Scrutiny activity over the period June to November 2014.

42.

Executive Key and Non-Key Decisions pdf icon PDF 47 KB

To consider scheduled Executive Key and Non-Key Decisions relating to Environment, Culture and Communities.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel received and noted the scheduled Key and Non-Key Executive Decisions relating to Environment, Culture and Communities.