Agenda and minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 18th September, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room, County Hall, Lewes. View directions

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Democratic Services Adviser

Items
No. Item

12.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Minutes:

12.1     The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of meeting held on 11 June 2019 as a correct record.

13.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

13.1     Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Martin Clarke (Councillor Phil Boorman substituting) and Nigel Enever (Councillor Colin Belsey substituting).

14.

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:

14.1     There were none.

15.

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:

15.1     There were none notified.

16.

Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 153 KB

Report by the Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

16.1     The Chief Executive introduced the report. The purpose of the report is to provide the Committee with information on the expenditure and performance plans for services within its remit, the Core Offer, and the current savings plan. Cabinet discussed the State of the County report at the meeting on 16 July 2019 which sets out the financial position for the Council. Subsequent to this, the new Chancellor has announced a spending round, the details of which have been circulated in a briefing note to all Councillors. The additional funding that has been announced in the headline figures is very welcome, but Officers do not know yet how much of this additional funding East Sussex County Council (ESCC) will receive. The announcement also includes the ability set a Council Tax precept for Adult Social Care above the current cap on general Council Tax increases. As the settlement is for the next financial year only, all additional funding announced will be one-off in nature.

 

16.2     The Scrutiny Committee will be updated when there is more certainty on the funding settlement for ESCC for 2020/21. There is also a commitment to ensure Scrutiny will remain involved in the draft budget proposals.

 

16.3     The Lead Member for Resources welcomed Scrutiny’s involvement in the RPPR process and looks forward to hearing Scrutiny’s ideas, as there are significant stresses across the services and budget. There is a degree of variability due to changes announced in the financial settlement for Local Government. The next steps for the Council will be to plan the budget in detail once further information is available.

 

Discussion by the Committee

 

16.4     The Committee discussed the report and commented that there are a lot of unknowns regarding the budget. The Committee agreed to defer a detailed discussion of the budget until the more detailed figures from the financial settlement are known. It observed that if the more detailed financial information is not available until close to the budget setting meetings, it is more difficult to work up alternatives especially with one-off funding for another year. The Committee also raised the question of how the Council is going to apply the one-off funding and the impact on current savings plans.

 

16.5     The Chief Executive reassured the Committee that the Council is used to dealing with one-off funding and is careful not to create a continuing revenue commitment from the use of one-off monies. The Committee were invited to contribute any suggestions for areas that may be worth exploring for further savings or investment.

 

16.6     The Committee discussed forming an RPPR Board to consider the budget proposals in more detail. The Committee agreed to form an RPPR Board comprised of Councillors Bob Bowdler, Godfrey Daniel, John Barnes, Chris Dowling, Pat Rodohan and Stephen Shing. The Democratic Services Adviser is to contact Councillors Martin Clarke and Nigel Enever to see if they wish to take part in the RPPR Board.

 

16.7     The Committee RESOLVED to agree to:

1) Request further information on how the one-funding,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Climate Change Notice of Motion: Climate Emergency pdf icon PDF 296 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Minutes:

17.1     The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport introduced report. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stated that far reaching changes will happen unless we tackle climate change. The public are becoming more concerned about environmental issues and in particular climate change. Most local authorities in the South East have declared a climate emergency. It is important to set out the actions the Council is going to take to become carbon neutral. The Council has a good track record in putting in place measures to reduce our carbon footprint and working in partnership with others to bring about change. It is recommended that the Committee recommend Council agree the combined motion in paragraph 3.1 of the report.

 

17.2     Councillor Bennett as proposer of the Conservative Group Motion outlined that the Motion emanates from a Notice of Motion that was made at the Local Government Association (LGA) conference which received cross party support. He confirmed that he is happy with the principle of a joint motion as this not a political issue and there is a responsibility to work together on this issue. He added that there is also a report going to the Lead Member for Resources meeting that will enable the Council to procure electricity from renewable sources.

 

17.3     Councillor Godfrey Daniel speaking on behalf of the proposer of the Labour Group Motion commented that it is good to work together on this issue. The only minor disagreement between the two Motions is on the target date of 2050 rather than 2030. The Labour Group would like the target reviewed to an earlier date if possible, but recognise that this may be challenging given the current level of information and funding.

 

17.4     The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport outlined that overall the proportion of greenhouse gases is increasing. The IPPC report has given 12 years in which to make the necessary changes. So the pace of change will be crucial and a step change like this will have its challenges. However, tackling climate change is the right thing for the Council to be doing.

 

17.5     The Committee discussed the report and made a number of comments on the contents of the report.

 

17.6     The Committee asked for clarification whether other greenhouse gases as well as CO2 are included in the Council’s work on climate change. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport responded there are some issues, which are outside of ESCC’s control which will need to be tackled through regulatory control or other legislation. Where the issue is within ESCC’s control then action can be taken by the Council. For example, ESCC has moved away from landfill to dispose of domestic waste which is an emitter of methane gas. Transport is an overall emitter of greenhouse gases and the Council can reflect this in Transport policies.

 

17.7     It was clarified that the Council will develop an action plan to tackle climate change and this will include issues such as transport and other greenhouse gas  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.

18.

Scrutiny Review of Superfast Broadband - Update Report pdf icon PDF 173 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

18.1     The Team Manager, Economic Development introduced report. The purpose of the report is to provide an update on the implementation of the recommendations from the scrutiny review completed in March 2017. Further work has been undertaken on the redesigned web site which now provides information on the history of project; how to get the best out of broadband; detailed information on the roll out programme at property level; and a news section to announce when structures go live and other important updates.

 

18.2     The first two contracts undertaken as part of the Broadband Project have been completed on target, and Contract 2 will come in ahead of target in terms of the number of properties reached. As set out in the report, the delivery of Contract 3 has been delayed slightly. The Team Manager, Economic Development  outlined that for Contract 3 the Council wanted more clarity on what is going to be delivered and required the successful bidder to complete a survey of all the remaining properties without superfast broadband. This will provide information on the estimated cost of reaching the remaining properties and will help to target resources cost effectively. This is the only contract nationally that has this requirement.

 

18.3     Unfortunately there were some issues with the quality of the information from the survey, but this has now been reworked to remove duplicates and other properties where broadband services are not required e.g. landfill sites. This has led to some delays in agreeing a deployment plan. However, BT Openreach has continued with preparations to deliver the contract, and has submitted revised proposals for deployment. These have been examined and are acceptable. The supplier will be issuing a change request to implement changes to the contract following the data corrections. Consequently, the Council will soon be able to let communities know whether they are included in the deployment plan.

 

18.4     The coverage achieved by the Broadband Project as at July 2019 is 97.3%, compared to 65% in July 2013. The take up rate for superfast broadband services is 64% against a national benchmark of 20%. This means that the there is good superfast broadband coverage across the County and people are using it.

 

18.5     The Committee discussed the report and noted the excellent work that had been undertaken on the Project to reach as many properties as possible. It was clarified that there will be a map, or other tool, that will identify those properties that will not be covered by the deployment plan agreed for Contract 3. The Committee commented that as coverage was now just over 97% and most of the work had been done, it might be better for Scrutiny to focus work on the remaining hard to reach properties after the completion of Contract 3.

 

18.6     The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport outlined that the Project has done a lot for the rural community through the roll out of the various contracts, but the last 3% of properties will be more expensive to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.

19.

Highway Drainage - Update report pdf icon PDF 344 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Minutes:

19.1     The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services introduced the report. The report provides an update on the strategy set out in 2017 to improve highways drainage. It is a significant area of expenditure which uses £3.2million per annum of capital and revenue funding. The main elements of the strategy are:

·          identifying, prioritising and resolving drainage issues, including dealing with known flooding hot spots;

·          improving our drainage asset knowledge through investigation and encapsulation of historic records and knowledge; and

·          working with partners and local communities to understand and proactively manage drainage together.

 

19.2     The report sets out how the work to improve highway drainage has been tackled. The Asset Management Team has been learning as work has progressed and invested in new techniques and technology. The strategy and approach is working quite well and has included work in the following areas:

·          The approach to blocked gullies and drain outlets has been changed by using more powerful jetting equipment and camera surveying blockages at same time.

·          Of the 157 flooding hotspots originally identified, 97% will be resolved by end of this year.

·          The fence to fence design approach is now working very well for carriageway investigations and designs.

·          A lot of time and energy has been dedicated to improving the ditch and grip network. This is an area of maintenance that has not received as much attention as it may have needed in the past. This has now been corrected with programmes of ditch reconstruction and the reforming of grips (the channels that run between the edge of the road and the ditch).

·          Work to improve the knowledge and understanding of the drainage network has included digitising all paper based records to help investigations and design. The Asset Team is capturing new information on drainage network through the survey work involved in investigations of flooding hot spots and blocked outlets. The Team is following a best practice approach to information gathering focussing on problem areas. Due to the time and cost that it would take to get a complete understanding of the drainage network, it will take some time to achieve this.

·          The Asset Team is engaging with Borough, District and Parish councils to work on drainage issues such as highway flooding, road sweeping and improving knowledge.

 

19.3     The Committee noted the scale of improvements outlined in the report and commented on the excellent ditching work that had taken place. In discussion, the Committee outlined that it is sometimes difficult to know where the boundary is between the work of East Sussex Highways and the Asset Management Team, especially in situations where drainage problems may need to be escalated for resolution. The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services responded that for drainage issues the first point of contact should be the Highway Steward or Customer Service Manager. If Councillors are not getting the information they need, then they should raise it with either himselfor the Assistant Director, Operations. Sometimes there is a lot of history behind a particular drainage problem and it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.

20.

Highways Asset Plan pdf icon PDF 336 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

20.1     The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services introduced the report. ESCC has been an early adopter of the asset management approach, which is now linked to the Department of Transport (DfT) incentive funding. The incentive funding was introduced in 2014 and is assessed by a set of 22 self-assessment questions which are submitted to DfT each year. Evidence is required to support the assessment and the submission is verified by the Council’ Section 151 Officer, the Chief Finance Officer. If the Council had not achieved band 3 status, it would have lost £1.73 million of DfT revenue funding from the incentive fund.

 

20.2     It was clarified that in order to achieve band 3 funding the Council has to meet band 3 in 18 out of 22 questions. Currently the Council has been assessed as achieving band 3 in 19 out of the 22 questions. The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services outlined that the Council has achieved band 3 so will not drop down to band 2 funding levels, and the Team are working on the remaining questions to be guaranteed band 3 status in future. It is likely that the Council will be able to achieve band 3 scores in resilient network and drainage. The final area is developing longer term forward programmes of work. At present there are well developed forward work programmes in some areas such as carriageway repairs, but there are others where more work is needed.

 

20.3     The Assistant Director Operations added that in future the incentive funding may be linked to the Well Managed Highways Infrastructure Code of Practice. The Council is in a good position should this be the case. The early adoption of an asset management approach by the Council is paying dividends and has enabled the Council to maintain 100% of the available DfT funding.

 

20.4     The Committee discussed the report on the Highway Asset Plan and the DfT incentive funding. The following points were made during the discussion of the report.

 

·          The information for the DfT incentive funding has to be submitted annually at the end of the financial year.

·          The road network classifications used in the road network hierarchy are reviewed at regular intervals and the Team Manager, Asset Management confirmed that the Team are currently updating road network hierarchy.

·          It was clarified that concrete roads in appropriate conditions (e.g. housing / industrial estates with low statutory undertakers renewals) have a long lifespan, but they take much longer to construct due to curing times and are difficult to repair, so this method is rarely used outside of motorways and industrial estates.

·          The resurfacing programme usually employs around three teams to carry out resurfacing across the County.

·          Thin surfacing (e.g. surface dressing) and other specialist treatments like jet patching usually involves using specialist equipment which is delivered using one team to carry out a programme of work once a year, usually during summertime due to materials being temperature sensitive.

·          The Council does use night time working for busy roads,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 205 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

21.1     The Committee discussed the work programme and reviewed the reports coming to the future meetings. Under the Reference Group section it was suggested that the Committee form a Review Board to examine the work being undertaken to make savings in the Archives and Records Service (including the services provided at The Keep), and to prepare for changes in digital communications for future archivists. The Committee agreed to form Review Board to examine this issue comprised of Cllr Barnes and Cllr Smith.

 

21.2     The Committee enquired about the timing for a meeting of the Review Board to consider the Parking Charges consultation. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport responded that the Board will have the opportunity to see the report on the consultation and proposals before it goes to the decision making meeting.

 

Orbis Scoping Board

 

21.3     The Committee received a report back on the scoping work that had been undertaken which focussed on the capacity of Orbis to increase traded services. The Scoping Board heard that there is already considerable work underway to assess business readiness and develop a strategy to increase the amount of traded services provided by Orbis. Therefore the recommendation of the Scoping Board is not to proceed with a scrutiny review at this stage but to establish a reference group to monitor the delivery of this work.

 

21.4     The Committee agreed to establish a reference group comprised of Councillors Martin Clarke, Nigel Enever and Andy Smith.

 

Road Markings Scoping Board

 

21.5     The Committee received a report back on the scoping of a potential scrutiny review of road markings. The recommendation from the Scoping Board is to proceed with a scrutiny review of this service area, with the initial lines of enquiry being:

·          the prioritisation of the existing programme for renewing road markings;

·          the materials used;

·          funding levels and;

·          options for improving road marking maintenance.

 

21.6     The Committee agreed to proceed with a scrutiny review of road markings with the Review Board comprised of Cllr Taylor, Cllr Shing and Cllr Daniel. It was agreed that Councillor Godfrey Daniel will Chair the Review Board. 

 

21.7     The Committee RESOLVED to amend the work programme with the items agreed in paragraphs 22.1, 21.4 and 21.6 above.