Agenda and minutes

Economy, Transport and Environment Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 15th March, 2017 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room, County Hall, Lewes

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Democratic Services Advisor

Items
No. Item

31.

Minutes of the meeting held on 9 November 2016 pdf icon PDF 150 KB

Minutes:

31.1     The Committee RESOLVED to agree as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 9 November 2016.

32.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

32.1     Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Claire Dowling and James Harris, Assistant Director, Economy.

33.

Disclosures of interests

Disclosures by all members present of personal interests in matters on the agenda, the nature of any interest and whether the member regards the interest as prejudicial under the terms of the Code of Conduct.

 

Minutes:

33.1     There were no disclosures of interests.

34.

Urgent items

Notification of items which the Chair considers to be urgent and proposes to take at the appropriate part of the agenda. Any members who wish to raise urgent items are asked, wherever possible, to notify the Chair before the start of the meeting. In so doing, they must state the special circumstances which they consider justify the matter being considered urgent.

 

Minutes:

34.1     There were none.

35.

Scrutiny Review of Superfast Broadband pdf icon PDF 87 KB

To consider the report of the Review Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

35.1     The Chair of the Review Board introduced the report and asked Officers for their views on the recommendations of the Review Board. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport (CET) and the Team Manager, Economic Development welcomed report and did not foresee any problems with implementing recommendations which will help convey clear messages about the Broadband Project.

 

35.2     The Committee RESOLVED to agree the report of the Review Board and to make recommendations to Cabinet for comment and the County Council for approval.

36.

Review of East Sussex County Council's Dutch Elm Disease Strategy pdf icon PDF 133 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

36.1     The Team Manager, Environmental Advice introduced the report and outlined the background to Dutch Elm Disease (DED), which is a fungus spread by beetles which feed and breed in Elm trees . The County Council took part in a protection scheme in early 1970’s and adopted a sanitation programme. The remaining Elm tree population now forms the largest collection of mature English Elm trees in the world.

 

36.2     The Cambridge study examined whether it would be better to stop the sanitation programme or take targeted action to remove diseased trees. In the short term (around 20 years) the study concluded that it was both cheaper to continue the sanitation programme, as it reduces disease spread and therefore the number of trees that need felling, and it maintains a larger population of healthy trees.

 

36.3     The data (see graph on page 46) shows that there has been a significant reduction in the number of trees felled since 2012, which is broadly in line with what the Cambridge model predicted and has enabled a reduction in the DED budget of 11%.  Therefore, there is now more robust evidence that the sanitation programme is having the desired effect and it is anticipated that the number of trees that need felling will continue to fall until a lower, more sustainable level of felling is reached.

 

36.4     The Committee asked if there had been any new research into Dutch Elm Disease.  The Team Manager, Environmental Advice explained that there had been a lot of interest initially in research when the disease re-emerged in the 1970’s, but there has been little new research more recently.  Authorities in Amsterdam have a detailed Dutch Elm Disease control strategy and have an annual vaccination programme in place. The East Sussex County Council (ESCC) Team would like to trial the vaccine on the Eastbourne street trees.

 

36.5     The Team Manager, Environmental Advice confirmed that Dutch Elm Disease does not affect young Elm trees present in hedgerows. The infection by beetles depends on the size and condition of the tree. It is thought that if the wood is too wet, the beetles have difficulty burrowing into the tree and therefore do not attack the tree. The beetles have no known natural predators.

 

36.6     The Committee discussed the best timescale for a future review of the Dutch Elm Disease Strategy. The Committee concluded that it would like to have another update report it two years time and to invite the author of the Cambridge study to give evidence to the Committee. The Committee agreed to continue to support the Dutch Elm Disease sanitation programme.

 

36.7     The Committee RESOLVED to:

1)         Continue to support the Dutch Elm Disease sanitation programme; and

2)         Request an update report in two years time and invite the author of the Cambridge study to give evidence to the Committee.

37.

Highways Infrastructure Services Contract - Update report pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

37.1     The Contracts Manager (Head of Service – Highways) introduced the report and outlined the background to the letting of the seven year Highways Infrastructure Services Contract awarded to Costain in a joint venture (JV) with CH2M. Under the contract model approved by Cabinet, a new Contract Management Group has been established to manage the contract. The Contract Management Group includes teams dealing with:

           service development;

           contract performance & compliance;

           asset management; and

           commercial management.

 

37.2     Work on the Highways Contract commenced on 6 January 2016 with the start of mobilisation process. The new contract started on 1 May 2016 and has involved the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) transfer of 150 staff from ESCC and previous contractors. The early part of the contract has focussed on providing staff training and introducing new Information Technology (IT) systems and business processes. It is acknowledged there have been challenges in the delivery of the contract outcomes, but these issues have now largely been resolved and were related to combining staff, cultures, and the implementation of new processes.

 

37.3     The new contract has a robust commercial and performance management framework in place. This includes direct monitoring of contract performance to ensure ESCC is receiving value for money from the services delivered by the contract. The contract has performance incentives as well as penalties. There is good early evidence that the contract is now delivering the outcomes that the Scrutiny Committee consider are important.

 

37.4 The Contract Performance and Compliance Manager described the performance frameworks that her team works to, and outlined how the Service Performance Indicators (SPI’s) are measured to assess the performance of the contract. The Contractor is required to complete returns on a monthly basis, together with evidence of performance. The Compliance Team look at all types of work under the contract, performance indicators and data collection.

 

37.5     It is fairly usual for not all the SPI’s to be green at the start of a contract, particularly as ESCC has set challenging performance targets for the Contractor to achieve. If an SPI is not green, the Contractor has to submit a smart action plan to improve performance back to the expected level. If the performance falls below the expected level for two consecutive months, ESCC can instruct the Contractor to undertake a root cause analysis study. If an SPI is 10% below target, ESCC can carry out contractual service review to identify the actions necessary to improve performance. All contract performance measures are monitored at monthly Service Management Board meetings.

 

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

 

Service Performance Indicators (SPI’s)

 

37.7     The SPI’s in Appendix 1 are grouped under the desired contract outcomes identified by the Scrutiny Committee and the overall score of the grouping is an average of the constituent SPI’s. Some SPI’s are calculated over a whole year, and therefore more accurate figures can be provided when a full year of data is available.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Climate Change Adaptation pdf icon PDF 135 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Minutes:

38.1     The Team Manager, Environmental Advice introduced report. There is a consensus in the scientific community that climate change is taking place, but there is not a consensus on that scale of change and when it will occur. Therefore, this makes it more difficult to plan which adaption measures should be put in place to ensure communities are resilient to the effects of climate change. A recent Government report noted that over the last century the United Kingdom (UK) has seen a 1º degree increase in temperatures and about a 15-16 cm rise in sea levels. The main impacts of climate change in East Sussex are predicted to be more flooding, droughts and heat waves. The adaptations required will flow from these impacts.

 

38.2     Currently, ESCC is reasonably well adapted to the predicted effects of climate change over the short term, mainly due to the requirements of legislation such as the Civil Contingencies Act, and the Flood and Water Management Act. There is significant uncertainty on what additional measures may need to be undertaken in the longer term. Consequently, the report suggests that ESCC reviews climate change adaptation measures every 5 years, in line with the Government cycle of updating policy which is based on research.

 

38.3     The Committee commented that it agreed with the analysis in the report and asked:

           what more ESCC could do to adapt to the impacts of climate change; and

           whether ESCC is in discussion and working with the utility companies on climate change adaption issues.

 

38.4     The Team Manager, Environmental Advice replied that ESCC has ongoing discussions with utilities and bodies such as the Environment Agency to co-ordinate work plans and investment. There are smaller issues that ESCC is also working on, such as looking into setting up a heat alert for vulnerable residents, to forewarn them of heat events through the Sussex Air partnership.

 

38.5     The Director of CET commented that there is evidence that we are locked into warming for a significant time. The report therefore looks at adaptation measures rather than mitigation measures and the implications for planning and delivering services in East Sussex.

 

38.6     The Committee RESOLVED to request an update report on the County Council’s climate change adaptation plans in two years time.

39.

Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 140 KB

Report by the Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

39.1     The Chair introduced report and noted the response to the Committee’s recommendations. The Committee did not suggest any improvements to the RPPR process and noted that there were items on the Committee’s work programme related to areas of proposed savings in the Medium Term Financial Plan for 2018/19.

 

39.2     The Committee asked how much additional money had been allocated to East Sussex for pot hole repairs that was announced in the autumn statement.  The Director of CET outlined that the County Council will receive around £2.2m from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) and a further sum for pothole repairs, which the Assistant Director, Operations will confirm following the meeting.

 

Following the meeting the Assistant Director Operations confirmed that ESCC will receive:

·              a one-off grant from the Department for Transport (DfT) of £2,133,000 from its National Productivity Investment Fund. The Council is awaiting publication of the DfT guidelines for what this funding can be used for, but in the Budget the Chancellor said: “Transport – Autumn Statement 2016 announced £1.1 billion from the NPIF to support local transport and £220 million to address pinch points on the national road network, improving productivity by making it easier for people and goods to move within and between towns and cities”.  The County Council is required to publicise how it intends to spend this grant, which it will do so in due course.

·              a one-off grant of £846,000 from the DfT National Pothole Fund and ESCC will use this money to carry out preventative patching to prevent the formation of potholes, as we have in previous years. It is a DfT requirement that we publish on the ESCC website where this money is spent.

 

40.

Scrutiny Committee future work programme pdf icon PDF 176 KB

Minutes:

40.1     The Committee discussed the future work programme and agreed to amend the programme as  follows:

·              Dutch Elm Disease - Request an update report be presented to the Committee in March 2019, and invite the author of the Cambridge study to give evidence to the Committee (paragraphs 36.6 and 36.7).

·              Highway Contract - Receive an update report on the performance of the Highways Contract in September 2017 (paragraph 37.32 and 37.33).

·              Climate Change Adaptation – To receive an update report in 2019 (paragraph 38.6).

 

Scrutiny Arrangements and support for Committee Members

 

40.2     As it was the last Scrutiny Committee meeting of the Council term, the Committee discussed how the scrutiny arrangements had worked, and any advice or support they thought would be helpful for new Scrutiny Committee members. During the discussion the following points were made:

 

·              The Committee did not think joining up scrutiny committees into one scrutiny body would be beneficial. In Hastings Borough Council (HBC) the experience of combining the Resources Scrutiny Committee and the Services Scrutiny Committee resulted in fewer Members attending more meetings, and led to:

o      a reluctance to volunteer to be on the scrutiny committee;

o      a loss of specialist knowledge; and

o      not necessarily getting the best people on the scrutiny committee.

 

·              The Committee considered it was important to brief new Councillors on the amount of work that is involved in committee work.

 

·              The new Committee would benefit from a properly constructed Away Day, covering the work of Committee, and in particular Highways.

 

40.3     The Lead Member for Transport and Environment commented that there are lessons to be learnt from other Local Authorities and District and Borough Councils. The Scrutiny Review Boards have worked well, comprised of Members who are interested and knowledgeable in the subject. It could be beneficial to allow other non-Scrutiny Committee Councillors to take part in Review Boards, where they have relevant expertise to contribute and are interested in the subject area under review.

 

40.4     The Chair thanked all the Committee Members for the work on the Committee during the current Council term.

 

41.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 180 KB

The Forward Plan for the period to 30 June 2017. The Committee is asked to make comments or request further information.

Minutes:

41.1     The Committee noted the Forward Plan.

42.

Any other items previously notified under agenda item 4

Minutes:

42.1     There were none.