Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Monday, 1 July 2013 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Fourth Floor, Easthampstead House, Bracknell

Contact: Katharine Simpson  01344 352308

Note No. Item



Apologies for Absence/Substitute Members

To receive apologies for absence and to note the attendance of any substitute members.


The Commission noted the attendance of the following substitute members:


Councillor Mrs McCracken for Councillor Heydon

Councillor Worrall for Councillor Finnie



Minutes and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 98 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 2 May 2013 and 15 May 2013.

Additional documents:


RESOLVED that the minutes of the meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 2 May 2013 and 15 May 2013 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


There were no matters arising.



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 Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.



Councillor Mrs Birch declared an interest in that she was the spouse of the Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Health and Housing.


Councillor Mrs McCracken declared an interest in that she was the spouse of the Executive Member for Culture, Corporate Services and Public Protection.



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.


There were no urgent items of business.


Appointment of Church of England Representative pdf icon PDF 60 KB

To appoint Reverend Canon Nick Parish to the Children, Young People and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Panel.


RESOLVED that Reverend Canon Nick Parish be appointed as the Church of England Representative on the Children, Young People and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Panel for an open ended term of office until such time as his nomination is withdrawn.


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.


There were no representations submitted under the public participation scheme.


Commercial Property Portfolio

To receive a briefing on the extent and operation of the Council’s Commercial Property Portfolio.


Steve Caplan, Chief Officer: Property, gave a presentation in respect of the Council’s Commercial Property Portfolio.  The presentation included: details of the number and types of properties in the portfolio, data relating to rental income and void properties, benchmarking data, an overview of the key functions of the Property Services Team managing the portfolio and a summary of the disposal process.


The Council’s Commercial Property Portfolio included all Council owned properties that were non residential, not occupied for the corporate service of the authority e.g. Easthamstead House and were not occupied or used for the general benefit of the public e.g. libraries, leisure facilities, schools and community centres.  The Council operated a decentralised model, whereby each department managed the properties in use for their operations, drawing on technical support from the corporate tean as necessary.


In Bracknell Forest the portfolio included 11 neighbourhood shopping centres, 106 shops and 95 industrial and business units with a current approximate value at April 2013 of £29million, though this could be as high as £35milion, and gross rental income of approximately £2.5million.  All the retail properties were currently let and discussions were taking place with organisations interested in renting the four empty business units currently on the portfolio.  The Council’s performance compared favourably to the private sector, particularly as there were more onerous obligations on the public sector, for example in relation to the EU Public Procurement directives.


The performance of the portfolio was currently good with premises only being void for as long as it took for the legal formalities to be completed.  Between 2010/11 and 2012/13 income from the portfolio had risen by 2% a figure that compared well to other local authorities.  The rent charged on retail properties varied between £10 and £15 per square foot amounts that were considered sustainable in the current climate.


The tenant was responsible for maintaining and repairing the shop and shop front and service charges were used to maintain common areas.  Regular condition surveys were conducted for all premises and maintenance requirements were incorporated into the Capital Programme. Limited funds to cover the cost of repairs and maintenance were also available through the Revenue Budget.


 Arising from Member’s questions and comments the following points were noted:


  • The empty retail unit in Great Hollands Shopping Parade was currently subject to a lease with Londis who had plans to extend the unit by combining it with their adjacent current store.  Officers would contact Londis about the unit’s usage
  • The 9% return rate on the portfolio would be lower if the portfolio’s value rose
  • If a tenant was not in breach of their lease then the local authority had limited powers to compel the tenant to take work forward or keep the retail unit open to the public however the possibility of incorporating a clause into leases that required a tenant to maintain an active shop would be explored
  • The Corporate Property Team provided support to individual directorates as required to ensure that those Council properties that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Residents' Survey 2012 pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To consider the action plan to address issues arising from the survey of residents’ opinions in 2012.

Additional documents:


Abby Thomas, Head of Community Engagement and Equalities presented a report containing a draft of the action plan devised to address areas of improvement identified from the results of the Residents’ Survey 2012. 


The Action Plan had been designed to address areas of improvement in five cross cutting areas:


  • Involvement and influence over local decisions
  • Residents’ attitudes towards their local area
  • Use of and satisfaction with specific council services
  • Perceptions of the Council overall
  • Communication with the Council


In response to Members’ questions the following points were made:


·         QA Research, the company commissioned to conduct the survey, defined older people as people aged over fifty

·         Results would be broken down to show satisfaction rates at ward level

·         Dissatisfaction levels, particularly over parking in and around the town centre, were likely to increase as the town centre regeneration progressed

·         In future surveys, alternative incentives to supermarket vouchers would be explored to appeal to differing age groups

·         There was a significant amount of confusion amongst the public with regard to where responsibility lay for different services and joint working would be necessary to ensure that customer service provision was seamless between the Borough and Parish Councils

·         The possibility of including a telephone survey with a statistically representative sample of residents would be explored for future surveys

·         An extensive communications plan to provide feedback to residents had been developed and implemented

·         Work would take place to further develop engagement with schools and the College

·         More needed to be done to raise awareness of the wide variety of volunteering work that took place across the Borough

·         The grading of wards according to deprivation levels was carried out by the Office of National Statistics using a range of indicators.  It was acknowledged that across the Borough there were areas of great affluence adjacent to areas that were classified as deprived and care would need to be taken to  ensure that this was dealt with appropriate sensitivity

·         Consideration would need to be given to how the results might be supplemented with the views of young people

·         Conslutation planning had become more explicit, for example in terms of the scope and objectives of the consultation, and there was greater transparency over the results of surveys


It was noted that detailed, measurable specific actions would be developed to support the key actions in the draft action plan and the updated action plan would be circulated to members for consideration.


The Commission thanked Abby Thomas for the update.



Executive Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Forthcoming items on the Executive Forward Plan of a corporate nature are attached for consideration.

Additional documents:


The Commission received a report summarising the Executive Key and Non-Key decisions relating to corporate issues.


I039715: Use of Bailiff Service in Revenue Services Annual Report – It was confirmed that the report would include benchmarking of the service against both previous years and other local authorities.



Quarterly Service Reports 2012/13 pdf icon PDF 189 KB

To consider the latest trends, priorities and pressures in terms of departmental performance as reported in the Quarterly Service Reports for the fourth, and final, quarter of 2012/13 (January to March) relating to:


·                     Chief Executive’s Office

·                     Corporate Services Department


Please bring your copies of the previously circulated Quarterly Service Report to the meeting.  Copies are available on request and attached to this agenda if viewed online.


The Chairman has asked that any questions arising from the Quarterly Service Reports should be referred to either the Assistant Chief Executive or Director of Corporate Services in advance and only raised in the meeting if you consider the issue requires wider discussion.


Additional documents:


The Commission considered the latest trends, priorities and pressures in terms of departmental performance as reported in the Quarterly Service Reports for the fourth quarter of 2012/13 (January to March) relating to the Chief Executive’s Office and the Corporate Services Department.


The Chief Executive’s Office


Tackling domestic abuse was a complex process that required partnership working with multiple agencies and a range of different approaches.  Work was also taking place to expand the cohort of households being worked with to approximately 100. Members would be sent a note setting out the various factors influencing the number of reported cases and clarification would be sought on how the effectiveness of work undertaken to tackle domestic abuse was measured.


Corporate Services


The implementation of the new Automated Operator system and the transfer of work relating to benefits changes back to the Benefits Team would have a positive impact on the length of time taken for phone calls to the Customer Contact Centre to be answered.  The Director of Corporate Services stressed that the majority of phone calls were answered within 20 seconds.



Corporate Performance Overview Report pdf icon PDF 55 KB

To consider the Chief Executive’s Corporate Performance Overview Report covering the fourth, and final, quarter (January to March) of 2012/13.


The Chairman has asked that any detailed questions arising from the report should be referred to the Assistant Chief Executive in advance and only raised in the meeting if you consider the issue requires wider discussion.

Additional documents:


The Commission considered the Corporate Performance Overview Report detailing Council performance during the fourth quarter of the 2012/13 financial year (January to March 2013).  Arising from Member’s questions and comments the following points were noted:


  • Data relating to households in all types of temporary accommodation would be circulated
  • Detailed analysis of data relating to those staff leaving within one year of started was being carried out and the outcomes would be reported in the Workforce Monitoring Report scheduled for consideration by the Employment Committee in September. It was agreed that this report would be circulated to the Commission
  • Information pertaining to the work taking place to secure sufficient secondary school places in the Borough to meet forecast demand would be circulated
  • Concern was expressed that the performance of indicators OF2a.2: Older people admitted to residential or nursing care on a permanent basis and L172: Timeliness of financial assessments were not on track and it was agreed that the reasons behind the apparent poor performance would be provided to the Commission


The Commission noted the report.






Overview and Scrutiny Progress Report pdf icon PDF 112 KB

To note the Bi-annual progress report of the Assistant Chief Executive.


The Commission noted a report providing an update on Overview and Scrutiny activity during the period September 2012 to April 2013.



Work Programme Update pdf icon PDF 35 KB

To note the progress against the Overview and Scrutiny work programme for 2013-14.


To receive verbal updates from the Overview and Scrutiny Panel Chairmen on each panel’s progress against the work programme, drawing attention to any major issues or changes needed to the programme:


  • Adult Social Care and Housing – Councillor Turrell
  • Children, Young People and Learning – Councillor Mrs Birch
  • Environment, Culture and Communities – Councillor Finnie
  • Health – Councillor Virgo


The Commission received a report providing an update on the Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme for 2013-14 with particular reference to Working Groups of the Commission


The Commission was informed that the work of the Delegated Authorities Working Group was nearing completion with the report currently being drafted.  The next significant piece of work would be to review the impact o the relocalisation of business rates and a request for volunteers to participate in the working group would be made shortly.


The Commission noted the report.


Date of Next Meeting

The next planned meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission will be on 5 September 2013.


It was noted that the next planned meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission would take place on 5 September 2013.