Place Scrutiny Committee


MINUTES of a meeting of the Place Scrutiny Committee held at Council Chamber, County Hall, Lewes on 18 July 2022.




Councillors Matthew Beaver (Chair) Councillors Chris Collier, Alan Hay, Julia Hilton (Vice Chair), Ian Hollidge, Eleanor Kirby-Green, Philip Lunn, Steve Murphy, Paul Redstone, Stephen Shing and Colin Swansborough (substituting for Councillor Holt).




Councillors Nick Bennett, Claire Dowling and Rupert Simmons




Philip Baker, Assistant Chief Executive

Ros Parker, Chief Operating Officer

Ian Gutsell, Chief Finance Officer

Rupert Clubb, Director of Communities, Economy and Transport

Nick Skelton, Assistant Director Communities

Andy Arnold, Environment Team Manager

Katy Thomas, Team Manager Economic Development

Richard Strawson, Team Manager Trading Standards



1.            Minutes of the previous meeting held on 23 March 2022


1.1       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 23 March 2022 as a correct record with the following amendments:

·         The first sentence of paragraph 30.5 to read: The Committee noted that the provision of gigabit services in larger towns in the County (e.g. Bexhill, Eastbourne, Hasting, Lewes) are covered by commercial providers, but the smaller towns are also important such as Hailsham, Uckfield, etc.

·         The first sentence of paragraph 31.3 to read: It was agreed that the Committee should invite representatives from Southern Water, the Environment Agency and OFWAT (the Water Services Regulation Authority) to a future meeting to discuss what actions Southern Water are taking to reduce the amount of untreated sewage discharged into water courses and the sea following a number of recent incidents.




2.            Apologies for absence


2.1       Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Stephen Holt (Councillor Colin Swansborough substituted for Councillor Holt). Apologies were also received from James Harris Assistant Director, Economy.




3.            Disclosures of interests


3.1       Councillor Julia Hilton declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest under item 6, Scrutiny Review of Becoming and Carbon Neutral Council update report, as she is a voluntary director of a local community energy co-operative.

3.2       Councillor Paul Redstone declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest under item 6, Scrutiny Review of Becoming and Carbon Neutral Council update report, as he has participated in the Solar Together Sussex scheme.

3.3       Cllr Alan Hay declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest under item 9, Work Programme under the discussion about electric vehicle charge points as he is an employee of the National Grid.




4.            Urgent items


4.1       There were none.




5.            Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR)


5.1       The Assistant Chief Executive introduced the report which provides a broad stock take of the Council’s position as it enters into the Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) process for 2023/24. It brings together two key items which are the Council’s end of year Monitoring report and the State of the County (SoC) report. They set out the Council’s performance, challenges, and reflects the high levels of uncertainty both over the last financial year and the coming year in 2023/24. The Committee is invited to consider the information contained in the report and identify any further information or items it wishes to consider as part of its RPPR work or the wider work programme. The Committee is also invited to comment on the criteria for assessing one off investment outlined in paragraph 1.6 of the report.

5.2       The Committee discussed the report, making a number of comments and raising a number of questions which are summarised below.

Monitoring Report

5.3       The Committee asked for clarification of what is meant by the term ‘eligible’ as part of the Council’s performance measure “The percentage of eligible 2 year olds who take up a place with an eligible early years provider” (page 26 of the report). The Assistant Chief Executive responded that he would report back separately on what constitutes ‘eligible’ as part of the definition of the performance measure.

5.4       A Committee member observed that the Monitoring report section on Legal Services contains information on the number of Local Government Ombudsman complaints but there is no information on the number Judicial Review cases the Council is involved in or other litigation work where the Council may be required to make a payment. The Assistant Chief Executive outlined that it is not normal practice to report back on the litigation work of Legal Services as part of Council Monitoring, which includes Judicial Reviews, contracts, insurance claims, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) tribunals and child protection proceedings etc.. Any payments made will be dependent on the case involved and does not necessarily mean the Council has been found to be at fault. The annual reporting of Local Government Ombudsman cases is a legal requirement, and the Governance Committee has requested that they are included in quarterly Council Monitoring reports. The Assistant Chief Executive offered provide the number of Judicial review cases for the last year.

5.5       The Committee asked for clarification of the Covid funding carried forward figures contained in the report (page 16, paragraph 3.4 of the report). The Chief Finance Officer outlined that the figures in the table represents the Covid funding (both specific and general) available in 2021/22, being £30.2m carried forward from 2020/21 plus £43m received in 2021/22, less that allocated in year of £50.1m and £5.2m allocated for specific use in future years, resulting in £17.9m being available to be carried forward to 2022/23. The £17.9m represents £8.9m of general Covid funding and £9m of specific funding as determined by the grant terms of condition. The total carry forward is less than the previous year and will reduce as the Council either spends the money or has to return it where specific grant conditions cannot be met. The Council has been successful in maximising the use of Covid grant funding where possible. Some work will continue on the impact of Covid and clarity is being sought on funding that can continue to be carried forward.

5.6       The Committee noted that over the last year the number of Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) collisions had risen 15% despite the behaviour change project work that has been undertaken and the total number of collisions reported to the Police and Crime Panel had risen 27% from around 11,000 to 16,000. The Committee commented that the £170,000 one off investment earmarked for highway safety measures for the next two years could be allocated to the School Streets project to help keep people safe.

5.7       The Committee asked a number of further questions about the report, which are summarised below:

Performance Targets and Direction of Travel

5.8       The Committee commented that some performance targets appeared to be lower than last years outturn. Also, the direction of travel arrows in the table indicating the trend in performance appeared to be misleading, as some showed a negative direction of travel when performance targets were being met and in some cases exceeded. The Committee suggested that it might be helpful to add a narrative to explain the direction of travel indicators. The Assistant Chief Executive outlined that performance targets are revised in the light of previous years targets and trends, in addition to what is reasonable for the Council to achieve.  Many targets were also impacted by Covid. The Assistant Chief Executive added that he would be happy to look at the direction of travel indicators and the suggestion of adding narrative to explain the direction of travel.

State of the County report

5.9       The Committee discussed the Council Priority Outcomes and some Committee members commented that the word ‘vulnerable’ should be removed from the outcome of “Keeping vulnerable people safe” and that this should instead read “Keeping people safe” as the council’s services are there to keep everyone in the community safe. It was also suggested the word ‘well’ was not needed in the definition of delivery outcomes (e.g. People feel safe at home and well supported by their networks) as this does not need stating.

Criteria for One-off investment opportunities

5.10     The Committee supported the criteria for one-off investments as outlined in the report. Councillor Hilton commented that she would like to see opportunities for identifying ideas or approaches to support new ways of problem solving in areas such as the Council’s work on climate change, added to the criteria. Councillor Collier commented that he particularly supported the use of the investment money to help reduce service demand. He suggested that if Cabinet is looking for ‘oven ready’ projects, the spending ideas for Children’s Services contained in the Opposition’s budget amendment could be considered.

RPPR Board

5.11     The Committee noted the recommendation contained in the report and agreed to establish a RPPR Board to consider the Portfolio Plans, Medium Term Financial Plan, and submit comments on them to Cabinet on behalf on the Committee. (Post Meeting note: the membership of the RPPR Board will be all Committee members).

5.12     The Committee RESOLVED to:

(1) Note the information within the 2021/22 end of year Council monitoring report and State of the County 2022 report relevant to the remit of the Committee;

(2) Endorse the proposed criteria for assessing one-off investment proposals as set out in paragraph 1.6; and

(3) Agreed to establish a RPPR scrutiny board to consider the developing Portfolio Plans and Medium Term Financial Plan and to submit scrutiny’s final comments on them to Cabinet in January 2022.




6.            Scrutiny Review of Becoming a Carbon Neutral Council - second update report


6.1       The Environment Team Manager introduced the report. This is the second progress report on the implementation of the recommendations from the Scrutiny Review of Becoming a Carbon Neutral Council. The review focussed on the council’s scope 1 and scope 2 carbon emissions where the Council has better data and more control over emissions. Work is also underway to tackle scope 3 emissions, including from the Council’s supply chain (e.g. targets to reduce emissions have been included in the Highways maintenance contract, and free energy audits and grants are being offered to some smaller suppliers). Around one fifth of the recommendations have been completed with others ongoing due to the length of time needed to implement them. The updated corporate climate emergency action plan will inform how the additional resource of £3m per year up to 2024-25 to address the County Council’s carbon footprint will be spent.

6.2       The Committee discussed the report and a summary of the discussion and issues raised is given below.

Carbon Savings vs Costs

6.3       The Committee asked if there is a good understanding of carbon savings versus costs. The Environment Teams Manager outlined that there is a good understanding of the carbon savings of the proposals to reduce carbon emissions, however the costs are changing due to the economic climate. These can be reported back to the Place Scrutiny Committee Working Group and the costs per tonne will be included in the updated corporate climate emergency action plan.

De-carbonisation of heating

6.4       The Committee noted the two pilot projects to install heat pumps and carry out other energy efficiency measures at two schools in Herstmonceux and Ninfield. The Committee commented that heat pumps are generally good at maintaining an even temperature but not so good at rapid heating of spaces. Schools heating needs may require a boost to respond to when pupils arrive in the morning or later in the day. It asked if the heating systems being designed in the pilot projects could respond to this requirement (e.g. two phase heat pumps). It was clarified the pilots will consider this point and any lessons learnt. It was also outlined that the use of hydrogen ready boilers will be kept under review.

Carbon Offsetting and renewables

6.5       The carbon reduction hierarchy suggests taking steps to reduce emissions first and using offsetting last. However, if the Council wants to use offsetting then it would need to be involved early to achieve the benefits from things such as tree planting. It is probably best to take a multiple approach across all aspects of the carbon hierarchy, which includes carbon reduction measures and offsetting in order to achieve the Council’s climate change goals. It would be good to get a view from the Working Group on the approach to take to offsetting.

6.6       There is a fledgeling voluntary natural capital carbon offsetting market. This is a new type of market where landowners are encouraged to undertake tree planting, for example, and then offer the carbon offset on the market. There is currently a South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) funded project to look at brokerage hubs for the voluntary carbon offset market, which is separate to regulated carbon trading schemes.

Climate Change Communications Plan

6.7       The Committee observed that the web site information on climate change is not very interactive. The Environment Team Manager outlined that the web pages are in the process of being updated, but there were technology constraints on how interactive the web pages could be. The communications plan is also in the process of being updated. It was clarified that the Environment Board consisted of representatives from a number of external organisations including representatives from Eastbourne Borough Council, Lewes District Council and Wealden District Council.

Solar Panels

6.8       The Council has surveyed many of its buildings for suitability to install solar (PV) panels. The target is to complete ten building installations this year and ten in the next year. Other finance and delivery opportunities are currently being discussed with the Procurement team, such as working with local energy co-operatives.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charge Points

6.9       The Committee asked whether the Council has looked at different sub-groups of users in devising the EV charging point strategy. The Environment Teams Manager responded that different users are considered (e.g. the charge point at County Hall will also cater for local residents who can access the site). Most charge points will likely be in the 7 Kilowatt range as this meets a number of user needs and is eligible for grant funding.

Carbon Reduction Target

6.10     The Committee commented that it would be useful to have the impact of each measure in the corporate climate emergency action plan on the Council’s 13% per year reduction target when it is updated. The Environment Team Manager responded that where it is possible to measure the amount of carbon reduction for an intervention this can be included in the action plan. Some interventions, such as behaviour change, are difficult to measure so it will not be possible to list the carbon reduction contribution of all interventions.

School Emissions

6.11     The Committee noted the Government plans to include all schools in multi-academy trusts and asked if it would be possible to include carbon transition plans in trust documents (e.g. the leasing or transfer of school buildings). The Environment Team Manager commented that if a maintained school becomes an academy its emissions will no longer be counted as part of the Council’s carbon emissions. Some multi-academy trusts may be large enough to be covered by the Government requirement to report carbon emissions. It is not clear whether the Council would be able to include the requirement to report or have carbon transition plans in academy transfer documents.

Local Food Partnerships

6.12     The Committee asked if Local Food Partnerships were an area that could be explored in the Council’s wider work on climate change. The Environment Team Manager outlined that the Public Health team funds food partnership co-ordinators in all the Borough and Districts in East Sussex.

6.13     The Committee RESOLVED to:

1) Note the progress report on the implementation of the recommendations of the review; and

2) Note the agreed additional spend on corporate climate change of £3m per year up to 2024-25.





7.            Support for Businesses and Economic Regeneration


7.1       The Team Manager Economic Development introduced the report. The East Sussex Economy Recovery Plan (ERP) consisted of six missions with a focus on the health of businesses and supporting jobs. The report outlines the Economic Development Team’s work on business support throughout the Covid pandemic and the extensive partnership working that was undertaken. The Lead Member for Economy commented that a great deal of progress has been achieved in supporting businesses. He highlighted that future funding opportunities to support business may be reduced and this may also affect the work of the Skills Board.

7.2       The Committee discussed the report and a summary of the points raised is given below.


7.3       The Committee discussed the reduction in funding sources available to support business as the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) comes to an end and is replaced by the less generous UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF). The Committee asked what alternative funding may be available to support businesses in future. The Team Manager Economic Development explained that each of the Borough and District councils has been allocated around £1 million in total from the SPF for the next 3 years. The Team is in discussion with these councils about the use of the SPF fund, and Rother and Wealden District Councils have committed to funding some business support. A proposal for countywide business support is being developed with the Borough and District councils. The Team is unaware of any other funding sources available for business support and any future sources are unlikely to be on the same scale as the former EU funding. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport added that the grants and loans fund is still available to support small and medium sized businesses.

Manufacturing Support and TfSE

7.4       The Committee asked if there was support for the manufacturing and construction sectors during the pandemic (e.g. through mission 3) and how the work of Transport for the South East (TfSE) has helped support businesses. The Team Manager Economic Development commented that much of the work to support businesses has been sector specific on sectors such as on tourism. However, the Team has looked at manufacturing and will look at this sector in the future. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport commented that the TfSE work is part of broader work on economic regeneration and growth.

Digital Connectivity

7.5       The Committee observed that mission 6 which is activity aimed at capitalising and growing digital connectivity would include the rollout of 5G technology, which has been a divisive issue in some communities. It was clarified that the siting of 5G masts comes under the planning responsibilities of the Borough and District councils. Although the East Sussex County Council is a statutory consultee in the planning process, the Borough and District councils will make final decisions after taking advice from the Health Security Agency. The Council is undertaking work to address connectivity through the Broadband Project and Project Gigabit rollout.

Locate East Sussex and Businesses Saved

7.6       The Committee asked what the measurable impact had been of the support provided for businesses in terms of businesses saved or business growth. The Team Manager Economic Development responded that the Team does have some impact analysis that can be supplied to the Committee, but the Team does not have any information on the impact of the Covid grants which were administered by the District and Borough councils.

7.7       The Committee noted the information on the success of Locate East Sussex and asked if there is any information on the reasons why business did not locate in East Sussex (e.g. lack of office space or faster connectivity). The Team Manager Economic Development outlined that the lack of land supply and office space tends to be a factor. Businesses more commonly stay and move around in East Sussex rather than new businesses locating here.  Some scoping work is being carried out to examine the reasons why businesses locate here (e.g. quality of life factors) and why they do not. Feedback can be gained from enquiries to Locate East Sussex, but there is no information available from commercial property agents at present.

7.8       The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport commented that land and office supply has been an issue which is why infrastructure decisions have been taken to build new office and industrial space to address the market failure in this area. The workforce is also a challenge and work has been undertaken with schools and colleges to ensure the right training courses are available for the skills that employers need. The Employment and Skills team works with schools to ensure young people have the skills they need to get into employment and supports young people to help them get jobs.

7.9       The Committee RESOLVED to:

(1) Note the success of the Team East Sussex Economy Recovery Plan;

(2) Note the ongoing importance of supporting businesses to the economy of East Sussex (paragraph 2.7) and the impact that a current lack of funding for future years will have in providing support to Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs); and

(3) Note current and ongoing work to support businesses and the economy in the context of much reduced funding levels.




8.            Trading Standards Service - update report


8.1       The Team Manager Trading Standards introduced the report which highlights the changing nature of the pressures on the Service including the new European Union (EU) Exit duties. The report also summarises the Team’s work on the response to the Covid pandemic which had a considerable impact on the Team.

8.2       The Committee thanked the Trading Standards Team for their work to protect all residents in East Sussex, including those who may be vulnerable to scams, and welcomed the take up of apprentices within the Team. The Lead Member for Economy commented on the exemplary work of the Team to protect all citizens within East Sussex, and the progress being made to protect those living on their own or who are elderly who have increasingly been targeted by scammers. The Team has also provided advice and guidance to local businesses on exports post EU exit, and will continue to innovate to meet the requirement to carry out checks at the port of Newhaven.

Work on Scams

8.3       The Committee discussed the Team’s work on scams and the impact that it has on victims financially and also on their mental health. The Committee asked what more can be done in this area and how much partnership working is undertaken. The Team Manager Trading Standards outlined that the Team work closely with Sussex Police and on intervention points to help residents. For example, the National Banking Protocol ensures a 999 incident response when large sums of money are withdrawn which can make the difference between preventing a scam succeeding and someone becoming a victim. The Team also works very closely with Borough and District councils and their Environmental Health teams. The close working relationships developed during Covid with the Police and Borough and District councils is being maintained with regular meetings with a lot of joint working on things like messaging and communications. There is a single point of access for services through the Trading Standards Team with a memorandum of understanding in place to exchange information with the Police.

8.4       It was noted that younger people are also being targeted by scams. Recent statistics show that people in the 18-30 age group are more likely to be scammed, but the amount lost per victim is likely to be larger for older people. Face to face work with people who fall victim to scams enables an assessment to be made of the financial and mental health impact on victims. Where appropriate a referral to Adult Social Care can be made for additional support.

8.5       It is thought younger people fall victim to scams due to the amount of on line scams and use of new technology. The Team is developing some training for schools to help young people be aware of the risk, but the amount of work in this area is limited by resources. The messaging around scams is being adjusted to include on line scams that young people may fall victim to. It was clarified that the Team does not have a direct input into national work on in app purchases and gaming. This work is undertaken by the Competition and Markets Authority who will investigate and make recommendations to protect users who may not be able to protect themselves.

8.6       The Committee RESOLVED to note the activities undertaken by Trading Standards and be aware of current workloads and commitments.




9.            Work programme


9.1       The committee discussed the work programme and the following points were made.

Highways Maintenance Issues

9.2       It was agreed to set up a scoping board to examine the previous scrutiny work and Highways maintenance issues raised at the last meeting.

Hailsham East Community Centre

9.3       Councillor Murphy outlined that he had not received responses to all the questions he had raised at the last meeting about the Hailsham East Community Centre. It was agreed that the Chief Operating Officer and the Director of Children’s Services, as appropriate, would follow this up with Councillor Murphy after the meeting.

LTP4 Reference Group and TfSE – Strategic Infrastructure Plan

9.4       The Committee noted that the new Department for Transport (DfT) guidance on Local Transport Plans (LTP) is due to be issued in September/October this year and that Transport for the South East (TfSE) is currently consulting on their Strategic Infrastructure Plan which has links to the LTP. The Chair of the LTP4 Reference Group suggested that members of the Group be canvassed about arranging another meeting to have a briefing on the TfSE Strategy and to progress issues. It was agreed that the Chair of the LTP4 Reference Group would canvas members about having a briefing on the Strategy.

Review Board on Countywide Climate Change Work

9.5       The Committee discussed establishing a review board to review the Council’s Countywide work on climate change, which could look at countywide actions and how the Council works with other organisations (e.g. District and Borough councils) on this issue. It was agreed to add this as a potential scrutiny review topic to the Committee’s work programme and develop a draft terms of reference through a scoping meeting.

EV Charging

9.6       The Committee asked about the progress on work to implement an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging strategy for the County. The Environment Team Manager outlined that work was underway to establish what sort of EV charging network would be right for East Sussex to meet the County’s needs and was confident that the Council will be able to have a good charging network in place in time for the transition to Electric Vehicles. The Committee noted that there may be a National Grid capacity issue in implementing a network of charge points, and supported a cautious approach to implementation which meets the needs of the County.

Asset Transfer/Disposal Process

9.7       The Committee discussed a potential scrutiny review topic of examining how the Council makes decisions about the disposal or retention for income generation or asset transfer to community groups, of assets that have been declared surplus to the Council’s operational needs. The Chair asked Committee members to contact either himself or the Senior Scrutiny Adviser after the meeting if they would be interested in examining the potential scope for a review on this topic.


9.8       The Committee RESOLVED to:

1) Note agenda items for the future Committee meetings, including items listed in the work programme in appendix 1;

2) Note the upcoming items on East Sussex County Council’s (ESCC) Forward Plan in appendix 2 to identify any issues that may require more detailed scrutiny; and.

3) Agree to amend the Committee’s work programme in line with paragraphs 9.2, 9.4, 9.5 and 9.7 above.





The meeting ended at 12.27 pm.



Councillor Matthew Beaver (Chair)