Agenda and minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 19th March, 2019 10.00 am

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

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Democratic Services Advisor

Items
No. Item

22.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 120 KB

Minutes:

22.1     The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 15 November 2018 as a correct record.

23.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

23.1     Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Chris Dowling and Pat Rodohan. Apologies were also received from Stephen Potter, Head of Customer & Library Services and Richard Sands, Head of Assets, South East Water.

24.

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:

24.1     Councillor Claire Dowling declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest in agenda item 5 as she is the Wealden District Council Cabinet Member responsible for Emergency Planning.

25.

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:

25.1     There were none.

26.

Emergency Planning - Water Company response to severe weather event pdf icon PDF 229 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

26.1     The Team Manager, Emergency Planning introduced the report and outlined the background to the incident which occurred at the beginning of March 2018. There was a disruption of water supplies over 3-4 days during which time the Emergency Planning Team and Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) were involved in the response to the incident. Learning from this incident has been captured by the multi-agency Operation Kirkwall de-brief held by SRF three months after incident. Since that time the Emergency Planning Team has been working with the Water Companies and the Resilience Forum on the lessons learnt to update and amend emergency plans.

 

South East Water

 

26.2     Douglas Whitfield, South East Water, gave a presentation to the Committee which outlined the water supply areas covered by South East Water; the background to the freeze thaw incident; the company’ response to it; and the follow up work that was been undertaken. The points raised in the presentation are summarised below.

 

26.3     South East Water supplies around 517 million litres of water per day to properties across Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The majority of the water comes from ground water sources (80%) with the remainder coming from surface water sources.

 

Freeze thaw incident

26.4     The Eastern Region which covers Sussex and Kent was affected by the freeze thaw incident during which temperatures went from -11oc to +11oc. The rapid change in temperature caused ground movement which led to a large number of burst pipes, particularly on customers’ premises. 70-80% of the burst pipes were on customers’ premises and around one third (20-30%) were on the water supply network. This led to a 20% increase in demand for water of around 105 million litres on the first day of the incident, which drained the water supply network. This was the worst loss of water supply incident that South East Water has experienced in the last 20 years, and it affected 8,000 properties in East Sussex.

 

26.5     South East Water responded to the incident through an emergency plan and in conjunction with the Resilience Forums. The emergency plan included setting up an incident team in advance of the weather event due to the forecast impact on the water network of an increased number of leaks and burst pipes. However, South East Water did not anticipate an incident of this magnitude, which involved a large number of leaks on customer’s premises.

 

26.6     Teams of engineers repaired 633 leaks over the five day period and 28 burst mains a day; 675 vulnerable customers were contacted and provided with emergency water supplies; and emergency supplies were provided to affected farmers and businesses. South East Water also set up a communications sub group to provide communications through councils and other partners, but accepted that it needs to make more use of these links in future.

 

Emergency Water Supplies

26.7     Customer feedback showed the main concern was about the availability of emergency bottled water and the location of the distribution centres. It was clear  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.

27.

Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 137 KB

Report by the Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

27.1     The Chair introduced report and outlined that this is the Committee’s opportunity to review its input into the RPPR process. The Chief Executive commented that as the Council had just completed the RPPR round and was working toward the State of the County report in July, it was a good point to review the process.

 

27.2     The Chair asked what benefit there had been from the Place Scrutiny Committee input into the RPPR process, and invited comments from the Lead Members. The Chief Executive commented that in shaping the proposals for activity and budget planning that it was helpful to have the Scrutiny Committee’s input on areas of search for savings, desired approach to activity and risk. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport reminded the Committee of the work it has done historically that has helped shape the savings plans.

 

27.3     The Lead Members commented that they valued the input from the Scrutiny Committee and understood the Committee’s request to have more detail earlier. Information had been shared as soon as it was available with Scrutiny Committees and also through Whole Council Forums. The RPPR process involves all Councillors in the budget setting process, and the activity and savings proposals came forward through this process. The Lead Members noted the Committee’s comments on RPPR, but did not perceive there had been any challenge from Scrutiny on the areas of search for savings in the last round.

 

27.4     The Committee discussed the timing of the RPPR information received by the Committee. It noted that at the September meeting the Committee had the full State of the County report and the Portfolio Plans with all the departmental budgets and targets. The savings plans were available at the October Cabinet meeting. The Committee considered whether it may be better to move the September meeting to after the Cabinet papers are published, so the Committee can then ask for further information based on the savings plans presented to Cabinet.

 

27.5     The Chair added the Committee has had real impact where it has early access to the detailed financial information, but this appears to have stopped happening. The way the RPPR process has been presented to the Committee this year has meant the Committee has not been able to make the contribution that it would have liked to have made.

 

27.6     The Chief Executive responded that the Scrutiny Committee did have the opportunity to request information and offer suggestions for savings. As budgets become tighter the room to manoeuvre is much less, therefore savings options are much more constrained. The approach agreed by full Council in February 2019 included savings plans for the next two years as well as 2019/20 so consideration of those could be made immediately. Scrutiny has had impact through other work and officers are ready to make the information available that Scrutiny requests.  It is also possible to look at the timing of Scrutiny meetings if that would be helpful.

 

27.7     One of the Committee members commented that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.

28.

Libraries Strategic Commissioning Strategy (LSCS) - Implementation update report pdf icon PDF 241 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

28.1     The Assistant Director Communities introduced the report. The Libraries Strategic Commissioning Strategy (LSCS) was agreed as way of making the Library and Information Service (LIS) modern and sustainable. The report details the work that is being undertaken to meet the four strategic outcomes of the Strategy. This has included an enhanced e-Library, community library facilities and outreach work. To date, two community libraries shave opened in Langney and Ringmer. The report also details the results of the Public Library User Survey (PLUS), which demonstrate that the LSCS has been successful in maintaining high quality services.

 

28.2     The Committee welcomed the progress on implementing the LSCS and the opening of the community libraries. The Committee sought clarification on a number of issues and asked a number of questions about the implementation of the Strategy.

 

  • The Committee asked what was delaying the opening of the Ore community library. The Assistant Director Communities outlined that the Libraries Team is working with the Ore Community Association and has approved their request which was received last year. The delay is due to work on the detailed agreement between the Council and the Ore Community Association being finalised. The Assistant Director Communities agreed to circulate an update to the Hastings ESCC local Members.

 

  • It was clarified that no expressions of interest were received regarding the operation of the Mobile Library Service, so the Service has been ceased and the vehicle (which was at the end of its useable life) has been disposed of.

 

  • The Committee noted the shared use of library buildings with the Parking Service and asked if other partners could be invited to share library facilities. The Assistant Director Economy outlined that East Sussex College has been approached about the shared use of facilities.

 

28.3     The Committee asked how the £500,000 potential savings identified in the Council’s MTFP will impact the implementation of the Strategy. The Assistant Director Communities responded that the LSCS is a needs based approach to provide a modern and sustainable library service. The Strategy aims to meet users’ needs which are changing all the time, and the Team will review the needs assessment and service offer. Historically the Library Service was demand led and the Team will review whether the strategic outcomes and needs assessment are still being met by the Service. The plan is to carry out the review in 2021.

 

28.4 The Lead Member for Communities and Safety commented that the library structure would benefit from a Parliamentary review, as the legislation is now over 50 years old. The growth of the e-Library and the electronic access to books and information is now a key way library services are used. It is challenging to provide a modern library service, within the constraints of the existing legislation.

 

28.5     The Committee RESOLVED to:

(1) Note how the changes to the Library and Information Service have been introduced and

their impact on service users; and

(2) Endorse the progress that has been made to deliver the Libraries Strategic Commissioning  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Scrutiny Review of Road Repairs pdf icon PDF 87 KB

Report of the Review Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

29.1     The Chair, who was also Chair of the Review Board, introduced report. The Committee discussed the review and the recommendations of the Review Board. The Committee noted the issues raised in the report and endorsed the recommendations.

 

29.2     The Committee noted that in relation to recommendation 7, the Council already has the power to ban parking on pavements and verges. However, use in practice can be problematic in terms of enforcement, and can lead to a misunderstanding of the restrictions. There are also residents who use pavements as a parking space, and enforcement will need to be effective if parking bans are to be successful in protecting pavements.

 

29.3     The Assistant Director Operations responded that the Council can introduce pavement parking bans, but this will need to be through Area Parking Reviews and the use of Traffic Regulation Orders and appropriate signage. The Council can then issue tickets in Civil Parking Enforcement areas, via the parking enforcement contractor. 

 

29.4     The Lead Member for Transport and Environment thanked the Committee for the report and the work put into the review. There are challenges in implementing the recommendations in the report, but all the recommendations will be addressed.

 

29.5     The Committee RESOLVED to:

1) Agree the report of the Review Board; and

2) Make recommendations to Cabinet for comment, and Full Council for approval.

30.

Scrutiny Review of the Effectiveness of School Travel Plans pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Report of the Review Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

30.1     The Chair of the Review Board, introduced the report. He thanked the officers and other Board members for their work on the review. He outlined that the officers in Planning, Development Control and Transport Planning were very helpful in pulling together the information and evidence required for the review. It was highlighted that although there will be time costs involved in implementing the recommendations of the review, there are no additional budgetary requirements.

 

30.2     The other Review Board members added that officers were very helpful and engaged with the review. In terms of the recommendations, it became apparent during the course of the review that the information about creating a School Travel Plan had slipped off C-zone (the support for schools web site), which will be addressed. Other recommendations deal with the need for schools and others to monitor School Travel Plans, as well as providing support for their preparation.

 

30.3     The Assistant Director, Economy commented that it was helpful to have pragmatic recommendations and welcomed the review. He added that officers are happy to accept all the recommendations and they will be addressed through the department’s response and action plan.

 

30.4     The Chair thanked the members of the Review Board and officers for their work on the review.

 

30.5     The Committee RESOLVED to:

1) Agree the report of the Review Board; and

2) Make recommendations to Cabinet for comment, and Full Council for approval.

31.

Economic Development - Presentation

Minutes:

31.1     The Lead Member for Economy introduced a presentation on the activity being undertaken to improve the economy, infrastructure and skills in East Sussex. One of the main challenges for local businesses now is being able to employ people with the right skills. Since 2014 the Economic Development Team has raised £557m for investment in East Sussex, and without ESCC involvement this money is unlikely to have been raised. The presentation will demonstrate the impact this investment has made.

 

31.2     The Assistant Director Economy outlined that infrastructure, skills, and business support are the main areas of focus for the work of the Economic Development Team. However, culture and creative industries, as well as visitor services, are becoming increasingly important. Business growth helps the local economy grow, individuals realise their potential, and helps increase the resilience of communities.

 

Infrastructure

 

31.3     In terms of infrastructure, the Team work to influence strategic road and rail investment as well as enabling the development and delivery of infrastructure projects such as:

  • Newhaven flood defences to support the creation of employment space;
  • The construction of road infrastructure which has opened up land for housing and employment space such as Combe Valley Way (Bexhill link road), North Bexhill Access Road (which is now open), and the Newhaven Port Access Road;
  • Superfast Broadband project which aims to get 99% coverage for superfast broadband throughout the County, to support the digital economy and rural businesses.

 

31.4     Examples of other infrastructure projects the Team are working on include the strategic investment in the upgrade of the section of the A27 between Lewes and Polegate, and High Speed 1 (HS1) to provide high speed rail access to Hastings, Bexhill and onwards to Eastbourne. Work has also been undertaken on the Major Route Network (MRN) which provides an opportunity to bid for money to upgrade key principal roads in East Sussex.

 

31.5     The Team has secured £2.8m to build out the North Bexhill Enterprise Park and the North East Bexhill Gateway Road has enabled more development after opening 18 months ago. Projects have been undertaken to regenerate Town Centres including Eastbourne, Hailsham and Uckfield, with activity also planned in the Bexhill and Hastings areas. There have also been improvements in walking, cycling and public transport through the Local Transport capital programme.

 

Skills

 

31.6     The skills work is delivered through Skills East Sussex which is a board of local employers and colleges in East Sussex. It has established six sector task groups to ensure the curriculum is tailored to address the skills needed locally and in the local economy. All schools now have business advisors to help link schools to enterprise and running your own business if that is a career option students wish to pursue. This area of work also involves working with careers advisers and Children’s Services on the Open Doors project which has helped 400 young people work with 40 local businesses.

 

Business Support and Finance

 

31.7     Business Support work has involved the establishment of Business East Sussex which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 217 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

32.1     The Committee discussed the work programme and noted the recommendation of the Scoping Board on the potential scrutiny review of Property and the SPACES programme. It was agreed not to proceed with a scrutiny review, but to have a report on Property and SPACES, preferably at the June Place Scrutiny Committee meeting. The Chief Finance Officer will confirm the timing of the report with the Chief Operating Officer.

 

32.2     The Committee discussed the proposal to conduct a scrutiny review of Orbis and in particular the way in which the proposed savings will be achieved. It was noted that this is a wide subject area and it was suggested that an initial small group of Committee members meet with officers to explore the scope of the potential scrutiny review. It was agreed that the Senior Democratic Services Advisor will arrange an initial meeting with a Scoping Board comprised of Councillors Martin Clarke, Nigel Enever and Claire Dowling.

 

32.3     The Committee had discussed the possibility of undertaking some work to look at the work of the Coroner’s Service. It was agreed that the Senior Democratic Services Advisor will explore potential lines of enquiry and establishing a Scoping Board with Councillor Godfrey Daniel and other Committee members.

 

32.4     The Chair suggested that the Rural Economy may make a good topic for further scrutiny work. The Assistant Director Economy responded that most of East Sussex is considered to be rural by the Office for National Statistics, with the exception of two towns. Therefore it may be difficult to conduct a review with such a focus, bearing in mind the difficulty of separating the impacts of economic development programmes between urban and rural areas. The Assistant Director Economy will discuss this topic with the Chair outside of the meeting.

 

32.5     The Committee RESOLVED to amend the work programme in line with paragraphs 32.1, 32.2 and 32.3 above.