Agenda and draft minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee - Friday, 30th September, 2022 11.00 am

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

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Scrutiny Adviser

Media

Items
No. Item

10.

Minutes of the previous meeting 18 July 2022 pdf icon PDF 178 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

10.1     The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 18 July 2022 as a correct record.

11.

Apologies for absence

Additional documents:

Minutes:

11.1     Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Chris Collier, (Councillor Webb substituting), Julia Hilton (Cllr Maples substituting), Stephen Holt and Steve Murphy. Apologies were also received from James Harris, Assistant Director Economy.

12.

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:

12.1     Councillor Webb declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest under agenda item 6 as he is also a Hastings Borough Councillor.

13.

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.

 

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Minutes:

13.1     There were none.

14.

Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 223 KB

Report by the Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

14.1     The Assistant Chief Executive introduced the report which forms part of the Committee’s ongoing involvement in the Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) process. The report includes the RPPR update report that was considered by Cabinet on 29 September, which contains an update on the local and national policy context and the Council’s financial outlook together with an updated Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) and capital programme. The Committee will be aware that Cabinet took a decision to hold most of the one-off 2022/23 Service Grant funding in reserves until the financial picture becomes more certain, and to continue to lobby central Government for appropriate and sustainable funding to meet the needs of the Council’s residents.

14.2     The Committee considered the RPPR update report and whether there was any further information it would like presented at the November meeting. A summary of the Committee’s discussion and any questions raised is given below:

  • Carriageway Patching Programme – The Committee asked if it was possible to have an update on the progress of the programme and where patching work had taken place. It was clarified that there were no specific delays to the patching work, but some works may have to be rescheduled due to weather conditions which has a knock-on effect. The patching programme is in addition to existing work being undertaken under the highway maintenance contract. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport (CET) agreed to arrange for an update on the progress of the patching programme to be sent to Committee members. He also clarified that there had been some delays to the road marking and lining programme due to supply chain issues.
  • SEND Home to School Transport – The Committee noted the budget challenges faced by this service, which is provided by the Transport Hub, due to an increase in number children requiring transport. The Committee asked for more information about the cost pressures for this service and the distances travelled. The Director of CET outlined that there had been an increase in the number of children requiring transport, but also some children travel longer distances to specialist provision. The Department seeks to optimise routes where possible, but another factor is that some children have differing requirements and it may not be always be suitable for them to travel with others. The Department can provide information an average travel distances for the Committee.
  • The Committee asked whether home to school transport is provided where a car has been provided from Personal Independence Payments (formerly Disability Living Allowance). The Director of CET outlined that the eligibility criteria set by Children’s Services will cover this.
  • Home to School Transport – The Committee asked if children do not get into to their first choice of school, whether they get free home to school transport. Also, if highways assess that there is a safe walking route, does this affect home to school transport. The Director of CET responded that he would ask the Children’s Services Department to send the Committee the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.

15.

Project Development to Support Economic Growth and Regeneration Activity in East Sussex pdf icon PDF 327 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

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Minutes:

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.

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 request to see projects to assure themselves that the risks are assessed. There is always a possibility that SELEP could ask for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 391 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

16.1     The Committee discussed the work programme and noted the items on the Council’s Forward Plan. It was suggested that the proposed item on Grid Capacity also include how the Council support a range of renewable energy projects and possibly have a site visit, as well as looking at the capacity of Electric Vehicle charging and solar farms.

16.2     The Committee queried if the scoping board on highways maintenance leads to a review where it is recommended to change policy, whether it would be possible to implement any changes with the new contractor. The Director of CET outlined that there is a difference between policy and the contractor who delivers that policy. Any changes would be subject to affordability and the budget envelop being available to pay for those changes. If the review results in recommendations for policy changes, the funding of those changes would need to be considered through the RPPR process.

16.3     The Committee discussed adding a report and presentation from the Rights of Way Team on their work as this would feed into the work on the Local Transport Plan. The Rights of Way network may be an under used resource which may need some promotion and an appropriate level of maintenance. It was agreed by the Committee to add this item to the work programme.

16.4     The Committee RESOLVED to:

1) Agree agenda items for inclusion in the future work programme as outlined in paragraph 16.3 above, and those listed in the updated work programme in appendix 1;

2) Note the upcoming items on East Sussex County Council’s (ESCC) Forward Plan in appendix 2.