Agenda and minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 24th November, 2022 10.30 am

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

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Scrutiny Adviser


No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting held on 30 September 2022 pdf icon PDF 149 KB

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17.1     The Committee discussed the accuracy of the minutes of the last meeting and agreed to amend the minutes to reflect the concerns raised by the Committee about two specific economic development projects discussed under agenda item 6. A sentence will be added to the minutes to reflect this and that the Committee will take this up through the work programme.

17.2     The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 30 September as a correct record subject to amendment agreed by the Committee in paragraph 17.1 above.


Apologies for absence

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18.1     Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Chris Collier (Councillor Trevor Webb substituting) and Paul Redstone (Councillor Sam Adeniji substituting). Apologies were also received from Councillor Claire Dowling, Lead Member for Transport and Environment and James Harris, Assistant Director Economy.


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.


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19.1     There were no disclosures on interests.


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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20.1     There were none.


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

Report by the Chief Executive.

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21.1     The Chief Finance Officer introduced the report and outlined that the Council had received the Autumn Budget Statement and councillors had received a briefing on its content. The Autumn Budget Statement gave an indication of where the funding for local government is going to be allocated. The announcement indicates an overall increase in the level of funding, but further details of what this means for the Council will become clearer when further announcements on the provisional Local Government Settlement are made, which is expected around 21 December. The Fair Funding Review has been delayed until 2025 and there is no indication that there will be a multi-year settlement for local government.

21.2     The Chief Finance Officer summarised the key parts of the Statement:

  • The 2023 Business Rate revaluation will go ahead with £13.6 billion available for transitional relief to support businesses affected, and the Council will be protected from the impact of any changes in revenue.
  • There is a range of funding for Social Care: £600 million for the Better Care Fund and £400m to support discharges from hospital; £1.3 billion increase in social care grant for adults and children but it is not yet known what other funding streams are included in this figure and what the specific allocations will be.
  • The implementation of Social Care reforms has been delayed from October 2023 to October 2025, but the funding to support the reforms will still be given to local authorities to help address service pressures in this area.
  • Council Tax - The referendum limit has been increased from 2% to 3% and the Adult Social Care precept has been raised from 1% to 2%.

21.3     The Committee discussed the report and asked a number of questions. A summary of the discussion is given below.

  • The use of redundant shops was discussed. This reflects that fact that some high street chains have closed shops and the Council is working on a scheme to re-purpose empty shops. The Director of Communities Economy and Transport (CET) offered to provide further information on the scheme if members of the Committee are interested in receiving further details.
  • Active Travel England survey to determine funding for cycling.  Active Travel England have £30 million to allocate across all local authorities and there is a self-assessment process to allocate funding. The Council is in discussion with Active Travel England regarding this funding and it is hoped that the Council will hear the outcome by Christmas.
  • The Committee asked if it was possible to split the jobs created and businesses retained performance targets. The Director of CET agreed look at those targets to see if they could be split.
  • The Rights of Way (RoW) maintenance performance target has been lowered from previously achieved levels of 94% and 88% to 80% and the flood authority performance measure is 62% against a target of 80%. The committee asked for the reasons behind this. The Director of CET outlined that there are challenges around having enough resources to meet the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Southern Water Storm Overflow and Sewage Discharges into the Sea and Water Courses in East Sussex pdf icon PDF 298 KB


Presentation by Southern Water on the actions it is taking to reduce the use of storm overflows and sewage discharges.

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22.1     Dr Toby Willison, Director of Quality and Environment, Southern Water introduced the presentation on Southern Water’s work to tackle the issue of storm overflows and sewage discharges. He outlined that Southern Water places a high priority on its impact on rivers, water courses and the sea. It has accelerated investment to tackle these issues, and this has included nature-based solutions and better water quality monitoring.

22.2     Toby Willison outlined that at the time of privatisation of the water industry, around 70% of sewage discharges went directly into the sea without treatment. There has been a huge improvement in treatment since then, with 95% of sewage coming into treatment works which is fully treated. However, it is important to recognise that residents’ expectations of water quality and the quality of the environment have increased. Tackling the last 5% is the most challenging in terms of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and spills into the environment. Southern Water as an organisation is absolutely committed to tackling this last 5%.

22.3     Dr Nick Mills, Head of Storm Overflow Task Force, Southern Water explained that the Task Force was set up twelve months ago to demonstrate the principles of how the use of storm overflows could be reduced through six pathfinder schemes. At present Southern Water is building a regional plan to meet (and exceed) the targets set in the Environment Act to reduce the use of storm overflows through a £2 billion investment programme. He outlined that there needs to be more transparency in the way the system and Southern Water operates.

22.4     It is important to separate surface water which is seen as being clean (i.e. it does not need treating) from foul sewage (e.g. from toilets). There are three approaches being taken to reduce storm overflows, which are:

  • Source control. These are measures to prevent rainwater and ground water entering the combined sewer system.
  • Optimisation of existing infrastructure and using more technology and monitoring.
  • Building bigger infrastructure. This is expensive but it will need to be done in certain places.

22.5     In a typical water catchment area the majority of water entering the system in a storm event is surface water run-off and rainwater from rooves and roads. The base flow (i.e. the normal foul sewage flow that requires treatment) is usually quite low. The use of smart water butts and swales or Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDs) in modern housing developments can help reduce water flows in combined sewers and thereby reduce the need to use CSOs. These are the sort of areas where Southern Water would like to collaborate with other partners and be an investor, if necessary. However, it does not own these assets. At present there are pilot schemes with Kent County Council and in Fairlight near Hastings to trial some of these approaches (e.g. smart water butts).

Questions and Answers based on the presentation.

22.6     The Committee discussed the written responses provided by Southern Water to the questions the Committee had asked prior to the meeting.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 370 KB

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23.1     The Committee discussed the work programme. It was noted that the Committee may need to allow some time at the next meeting for updates following consideration of the Southern Water item.

23.2     The Committee discussed the development and delivery of economic development projects following the discussion of the minutes of the last meeting, where a report on economic development projects was considered. The Committee discussed the possibility of forming a scoping board to look at a possible scrutiny review of the delivery of projects by SeaChange and others, to see if there were any lessons that could be learned and how to track learning in future projects. It was also suggested that the scoping board could look at understanding better the opportunities for scrutiny to be involved in the various stages of the development of economic development projects. The Committee also agreed to add a report to the work programme on the Queensway Gateway project to understand the progress and the issues around the delay in the completion of this project.

23.3     The Committee discussed the content of a report on Community Asset Transfers and Asset Use, which is already on the work programme. It was suggested the report should also cover the Community Asset Transfer policy which was due to be updated in 2020; an outline of the succusses of the SPACES programme which is due to end in 2023 and whether it has met its goal; some indication of how long and how many buildings or assets have remained empty or unused; and an update on the nine buildings that are under discussion for Community Asset Transfers with community groups (Cllr Hilton to provide a list after the meeting).


23.4     The Committee RESOLVED to:

1) Establish a scoping board to look at possible scrutiny review of the delivery of economic development projects including those by SeaChange to identify any opportunities for learning, and where scrutiny can best have an input into the project development process;

2) Add a report to the work programme on the Queensway Gateway project;

3) Agree the additional information requested in paragraph 23.3 is included in the future report on Community Asset Transfers and Asset Use; and

4) Add an update on the Southern Water item to the work programme following consideration of the report.