Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.
15.1 The Head of Economic Development, Skills and Infrastructure introduced the report which covers how projects are selected and developed, their governance arrangements and the development of a pipeline of new projects. There have been a number of large capital projects, many of which have been developed through funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP). The approach the Council has taken and the dedication of staff have enabled it to secure significant levels of investment for East Sussex.
15.2 The decision making on SELEP projects is undertaken by the SELEP Accountability Board, which is supported by technical advisers. Once approval has been given by SELEP, back to back contracts are agreed with the project provider to deliver the project. The role of East Sussex County Council (ESCC) as the local Accountable Body is to oversee the funding and delivery of SELEP projects. Officers carry out regular monitoring and can draw on clauses in the funding agreements to help manage delivery of the projects. The Economic Development Team works with Internal Audit and the Treasury Teams to ensure there is a robust project governance process, which has been recognised externally as being good.
15.3 ESCC has developed a strong pipeline of new projects with Team East Sussex and other partners, in order to take advantage of any existing and new grant funding streams that become available.
15.4 The Committee discussed the report and a summary of their questions and comments is given below.
Scrutiny of Projects
15.5 The Committee commented that once projects are complete the benefits from them can be indirect and may not be delivered for some time. The report suggests that projects can only be scrutinised at the benefits realisation stage, but there should be scrutiny input into the development and monitoring of projects. There should also be an opportunity for scrutiny involvement when projects do not go as planned or encounter difficulties (e.g. the Queensway Gateway project in Hastings). This would allow learning to be gleaned from the project and any lessons learnt applied to future projects. This is important where there may be some financial liability for ESCC arising from the non-delivery of a project. The Committee raised concerns about the delivery of two specific projects and will take this up through the Committee’s future work programme.
15.6 Head of Economic Development, Skills and Infrastructure responded that there is already a substantial level of scrutiny of projects through SELEP and the Accountability Board and the independent technical evaluations that are undertaken on business cases that are submitted for approval. Reports are also submitted to the Lead Member for Strategic Management and Economic Development, and Lead Member for Economy; to quarterly Council Monitoring reports; departmental/corporate capital boards; and in the Portfolio and Council plans that highlight the progress, any issues and corrective steps undertaken with projects.
15.7 ESCC has generally intervened where there has been market failure and there are risks associated with such projects, which can be complicated and complex to deliver. Scrutiny can ... view the full minutes text for item 15