Agenda and minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 18th July, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, Lewes. View directions

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Scrutiny Adviser

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 23 March 2022 pdf icon PDF 155 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

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.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

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.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

4.1       There were none.

5.

Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) pdf icon PDF 402 KB

Report by the Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Scrutiny Review of Becoming a Carbon Neutral Council - second update report pdf icon PDF 209 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Support for Businesses and Economic Regeneration pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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.

Funding

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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Trading Standards Service - update report pdf icon PDF 329 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 385 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.