Agenda and minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee - Friday, 14th July, 2023 10.30 am

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

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Scrutiny Adviser


No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 143 KB

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1.1       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 28 March 2023 as a correct record.


Apologies for absence

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2.1       Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Chris Collier, Alan Hay and Eleanor Kirby-Green (Councillor Johanna Howell substituting). Apologies were also received from Philip Baker and James Harris.


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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3.1       Councillor Julia Hilton declared a personal non prejudicial interest under item 5 Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources when discussing solar PV projects for schools, as she is a Director of a community energy co-operative. Councillor Matthew Beaver declared a personal non prejudicial interest under item 6 as he is the Chair of the Combe Valley (Pebsham) Country Park Board. Councillor David Tutt declared a personal non prejudicial interest under item 8 Work Programme as he is a member of the Southern Water consumer challenge group.



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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4.1       There were none.


Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) 2024/2025 pdf icon PDF 228 KB

Report by the Chief Executive.

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5.1       The Chief Finance Officer introduced the report which is the start of the Committee’s work on the Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) process and sets out how that Committee can contribute to the process. The report contains the State of the County report which provides an overview of the current operating environment for the Council. The Committee is invited to identify any areas of interest for inclusion in the work programme or further information for presentation at subsequent meetings. The Committee is also recommended to establish an RPPR Board which will submit comments on behalf of the Committee to Cabinet on the budget for 2024/25.

5.2       The Committee made a number of comments and asked questions based on the report which are summarised below.

5.3       Emergency Active Travel Fund – The Committee commented on the £0.6 million underspend in the capital programme and asked whether ‘shovel ready’ projects could be developed including those linked to Rights of Way, to ensure future funding is fully spent. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport (CET) responded that the delivery of projects under the Emergency Active Travel Fund were challenging due to the funding conditions and very tight timescales. The funding is being used to support the safe routes to school project, which also supports Active Travel. In future it will be important to build consensus on planned projects in advance of funding becoming available.

Hastings Bexhill Movement Access Programme

5.4       The Committee noted the slippage on the delivery of this package of schemes with £1 million being spent. As such, cost inflation pressures present a risk to delivery and the Committee asked what could be done to speed up the delivery of the schemes. The Director of CET acknowledged that inflation risk is a challenge to project delivery. Schemes can take time to deliver as some are controversial and require consultation before they can be delivered. Delays have also been experienced in the design and feasibility stages. The new highways maintenance contractor, Balfour Beatty Living Partnerships, has a new designer for schemes who is reviewing the current projects to see if they can be speeded up. Also, reducing the number of projects would improve delivery. The challenge is having the revenue funding to develop projects and a pipeline of projects is slowly being built within existing capacity.

Home to School Transport

5.5       The Committee noted current overspend and planned investment in home to school transport and asked if more information could be provided about the nature of this expenditure. The Director of CET explained that the demand for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) home to school transport had increased expenditure. Work has been undertaken to optimise routes and share vehicles and chaperones where possible, but there are a number of individuals where it is not possible to share a vehicle due to their needs. The Chief Finance Officer clarified that £4 million out of the £8.9 million planned investment is for Home to School Transport. The Director of CET  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Rights of Way and Countryside Team - update report pdf icon PDF 471 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

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6.1       The Team Manager, Rights of Way & Countryside, introduced the report and gave a short presentation on the services provided by the Rights of Way (RoW) and Countryside Team. The Committee discussed the contents of the presentation and report. A summary of the comments and questions raised by the Committee is given below.

Footpath Diversions

6.2       The Committee asked about footpath diversions for major developments and what powers existed to ensure paths are reinstated. The Team Manager, Rights of Way & Countryside responded that footpath diversions for developments under the Town and Countryside Planning Act should be part of the planning process and are processed by planning authorities, in consultation with the RoW Team. Developers do have the right to apply to temporarily close footpaths for 6-18 months, but if they do not reopen them the Team can serve a notice and taken enforcement action as well as the Planning Authority being able act if the developer breaches planning conditions.

Stile replacement and footpath accessibility

6.3       The Committee asked about the criteria for replacing stiles on footpaths with gates to improve accessibility and wheelchair accessible routes. The Team Manager, Rights of Way & Countryside outlined that the Team had undertaken a mapping exercise to see where it would be possible to reduce the number of stiles and where they are a danger to use. The Team also responds to requests to remove stiles. Work to replace stiles has mainly been on village edge routes and not so much on urban routes where they are less of an issue.

6.4       The Team does develop and promote wheelchair accessible routes when external funding is available. This work tends to be with the South Downs National Park Authority and the District and Borough councils. The Team does not have maps of wheelchair accessible routes but would like to look at developing this if there is external funding available.

6.5       The Committee asked if the Council can encourage landowners to replace stiles with gates. The Team Manager, Rights of Way & Countryside responded that existing stiles and gates are authorised structures, and it can take time to persuade landowners to change the stiles they are responsible for. If landowners do not want to change stiles to gates, the RoW Team cannot compel them to replace stiles. The Team is replacing stiles with gates as part of an externally funded project with the High Weald AONB. The project is replacing around 10% of stiles in particular areas of the High Weald.

6.6       It was clarified that if stiles and gates are not repaired or replaced when they are damaged or not fit for purpose, the process is to send a letter to the landowner first requesting that they take action. After 28 days the Team will contact the landowner if no action has been taken and can then serve a notice. Once a notice has been served, if no action has been taken within 28 days, the Team can take enforcement action to remedy the problem and recharge  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Implementation of the Libraries Strategic Commissioning Strategy 2022/23 - 2027/28 pdf icon PDF 287 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.


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7.1       The Team Manager, Library and Information Service introduced the report and provided an update on the implementation of the Libraries Strategic Commissioning Strategy. The Strategy was last updated in December 2021 and took into account the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. Libraries are strongly placed to support communities and are working to drive up the number of library visits post pandemic. The Service has renewed the computers and network provision in libraries and has enhanced access to digital services. The Service is also working with Adult Social Care to support refugee groups. Future challenges include staffing, building costs, inflation, and anti- social behaviour in libraries.

7.2       The Committee commented on the report and asked a number of questions which are summarised below.

Antisocial Behaviour

7.3       The Committee noted the number of antisocial behaviour incidents and asked what measures were being taken to combat this. The Team Manager, Library and Information Service outlined that the Service does have strong mechanisms and appropriate staff training in place to deal with antisocial behaviour. There are library byelaws in force and the Team works closely with other partners such as the Police to deal with this issue. Some libraries have CCTV and there is an incident reporting system to monitor the situation and identify any patterns.

Income Generation

7.4       The Committee asked about the income generation opportunities in libraries, such as having coffee concessions, and the potential commercial opportunities from historic images and documents. The Team Manager, Library and Information Service responded that income is generated from the shared use and leasing out of spaces within library buildings. The Service does have a range of goods for sale in libraries such as greeting cards and recognises the interest in historic documents. The Team is reviewing the goods for sale and will look at the commercial opportunities from historic documents. A coffee concession was trialled at the Seaford library but this was not commercially viable. There is strong competition from other local coffee outlets making concessions difficult, but this will be kept under review in the light of any changing needs.

7.5       The Assistant Director Communities added that around £300,000 a year is generated from renting out space within libraries to services such as Parking, Public Health and the NHS. This provides income but also other benefits such as additional staff. The Assistant Director Communities commented that he did not think it was possible to obtain more income from parking, such as from the sale of parking permits.

Use of Libraries for public consultation and other services

7.6       The Committee asked whether it would be possible to use libraries for public consultations and other services such as the One You health service as a way of attracting people into libraries. The Team Manager, Library and Information Service outlined that the One You health service is offered by a range of partners and is in line with the priority outcome to promote health and wellbeing in the Libraries Strategic Commissioning Strategy. Libraries do currently  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 375 KB

Report by the Assistant Chief Executive.

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8.1       The Committee discussed the recent water supply problems in the north of the County where South East Water is responsible for the water supply. It was suggested that the Committee request South East Water attend a future meeting of the Committee to explain what actions they are taking to resolve the water supply issues experienced by East Sussex residents and businesses. The Committee also considered that it would be beneficial to invite Southern Water, who supply some parts of the County, to answer similar questions about water supply resilience and long term water supply plans.

8.2       The Director of CET commented that it might be helpful for the Committee to think about the sort of questions they would wish to put to the water supply companies about long term water supply and demand, and the short term solutions that can be put in place to resolve the water supply issues that have been experienced. The Committee noted that some of the long term planning is based on the assumption that individual water consumption would reduce from 150 litres per person per day, to 100 litres per person per day which might be unrealistic.

8.3       The Committee agreed to request that South East Water and Southern Water attend a future Committee meeting to respond to questions about the water supply issues and longer term water supply planning for East Sussex.

8.4       The Committee discussed a range of topics that they would like to reflect and include within the work programme. These included the following topics and issues:

  • A recent internal audit of the corporate Climate Emergency Action Plan had an outcome of ‘Partial Assurance’. The Committee requested that the Climate Emergency working group see this report.
  • Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) 2022 Assurance Deep Dive report. The Committee agreed that the Chair and Vice Chair would write to DLUHC to ask when the report would be available.
  • Waste and Minerals Plan review. The Committee asked what stage the work to review the Waste and Minerals Plan had reached and whether there was an opportunity for the Committee to feed into this piece of work. For example, is there a presumption within the Plan that the use of recycled materials will be maximised.
  • Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). The Committee asked if with would be possible to have a report on the new Flexibus service, including an evaluation of the use and success of the service.
  • Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) road collisions. The Committee asked if it could have an update report on the effectiveness of the interventions that had been put in place to try and reduce the number of KSI incidents on the County’s roads, and have an outline of the measures that other local authorities had put in place to tackle this issue.
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points. The Committee asked for a progress report on the plans for the installation of a public EV charging point network  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.