Agenda and minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 11th June, 2019 10.30 am

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

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Democratic Services Advisor

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 148 KB

Minutes:

1.1       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 19 March 2019 as a correct record.

2.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

2.1       Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Chris Dowling and Darren Grover. Apologies were also received from the Lead Members Councillors Bill Bentley and Claire Dowling.

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.

 

Minutes:

3.1       There were none.

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.

 

Minutes:

4.1       There were none.

5.

Chair's Announcements

Minutes:

5.1       The Committee recorded its thanks to Councillor Richard Stogdon the former Chair, for his contribution to scrutiny and chairing the scrutiny committee over the last ten years.

 

5.2       The Chair advised the Committee that as a result of changes in the Committee’s membership announced at the Annual Council meeting on 14 May 2019, it was necessary to replace members of the Countryside Access Review Board and appoint a new Chair of the Review Board.

 

5.3       The Committee RESOLVED to appoint Councillor Martin Clarke as Chair of the Review Board and that Councillor Bob Bowdler would join the Review Board.

6.

SPACES Programme Update pdf icon PDF 318 KB

Report by the Chief Operating Officer.

Minutes:

6.1       The Chief Operating Officer introduced the report and outlined that the purpose of the report is to update the Committee on activity under the SPACES Programme. This and the following report were requested as a result of the initial scoping work the Committee carried out on vacant and surplus property.

 

6.2       The acronym SPACES stands for “Strategic Property Asset Collaboration in East Sussex” and is a partnership of a group of public bodies and third sector organisations, which was established in 2013. The work of the SPACES Programme is guided by a Board made up of representatives from each of the constituent organisations, with the Chair of the Board rotating each year between the partners. The Chief Operating Officer introduced Bethan Bolland (ESCC) who will be taking up the role of SPACES Programme Support from 15 July 2019.

 

6.3       The group does not manage or have responsibility for any property assets, but seeks to get better use of public sector estate. This is done by reviewing the use of assets, and by partners exchanging information on their assets in order to achieve best value. For example, by sharing information about surplus property and property or office space needed, property assets can be shared to the mutual benefit of the partners. One key area of work is the interface to the One Public Estate (OPE) programme. The SPACES Programme has included work to create collaborative shared work space such as hot desks or ‘touch down’ space, which can be used by staff from the various partners and Civil Service staff from central Government departments (e.g. Department for Work and Pensions).

 

6.4       The Committee discussed the report and asked a number of questions or sought clarification as summarised below.

 

Shared Workspace

 

6.5       The creation of collaborative shared work space is intended to enable greater flexible working for individual staff members in situations where they may find it more efficient, or where it is necessary to use alternative facilities. This can reduce travelling; deal with travel or other disruptions (e.g. offices being out of use) and; enable staff to collaborate with partners. Participating organisations have to sign up to information security standards and Health and Safety standards for the shared work spaces.

 

Building Utilisation and Efficiency

 

6.6       Each partner uses their own methodology for measuring building utilisation, which takes into account the strategic importance of the building use or activity. Most local authorities have introduced flexible or ‘agile’ working so they can be more flexible about their use of space, whereas the Police and other services may have less flexibility in the way they provide services.

 

6.7       When East Sussex County Council (ESCC) carried out the Agile review of buildings between 2013 and 2016 it used a ratio of six desks for every ten staff. It is now starting a utilisation survey to test the occupation of floors in each of the buildings. This will produce a utilisation figure as a measure of building productivity. This can then be used to assess  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Vacant and Surplus Property Update report pdf icon PDF 223 KB

Report by the Chief Operating Officer.

Minutes:

7.1       The Acquisition and Disposals Manager introduced report. ESCC has a relatively low number of surplus and vacant property assets in comparison with other local authorities who own more property. Some of the surplus properties are former school sites which have additional constraints such as the requirement to get Secretary of State approval prior to disposal or redevelopment. The diagram at the bottom of page 20 gives an overview of the processes ESCC goes through when a property becomes surplus. The options appraisal process involves a substantial number of activities, with each property asset requiring a different set of activities depending on the nature of the property or site.

 

7.2       The work undertaken on vacant and surplus property is informed by the Council’s Property Asset Disposal and Investment Strategy, and the requirement to achieve best value for the Council.  The outcomes from the appraisal process range from a straight forward disposal or sale of a surplus property asset, through to the development of an asset for sale or retention for revenue generation purposes. Assets may also be retained for strategic purposes. Each surplus asset will require different activities which will take varying lengths of time to complete.

 

7.3       The Committee discussed the report and raised the following points.

 

7.4       The Committee expressed concern about delay between declaring a property asset surplus or a property becoming vacant, and the development or disposal of the asset. The Committee highlighted the additional building security and maintenance costs that are incurred in such cases, and the likelihood of severe damage through arson and vandalism (e.g. the recent fires at Pinehill and Mount Denys in Hastings). The Committee asked if there is a target or standard timeframe for disposal, as five years in this example would appear to be unacceptable due to the additional costs and the visible sign of neglect which impacts on the local community.

 

7.5       The Acquisition and Disposals Manager responded that there is no standard or normal disposal timeframe as it will depend on the level of risk (planning risk, site risk, title, market etc.) attached to each asset. The more problematic sites noted are subject to a number of hurdles that  frustrate a speedy disposal that secures best value, often influenced by such matters as the planning process or obtaining Secretary of State Approvals where required. It is understood that five years is not acceptable, but in the case of the Helensdown Campus there have been challenges as the Council still has an operational building on this site. Although it may appear that there has been little progress in this example, there have been active discussions with the Adult Social Care department to explore the development of this site.

 

7.6       The Chief Operating Officer outlined that there is a balance between holding a property asset vacant to allow for discussions and options to be explored, and getting the best value from that asset. Officers also recognise the impact on the local community that empty buildings can have.

 

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

8.

Exclusion of the Press and Public

 

To consider excluding the public and press from the meeting for agenda item 8 on the grounds that if the public and press were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as specified in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended), namely information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

Minutes:

8.1       The Committee agreed to exclude the press and public for item 8 on the meeting agenda.

9.

Vacant and Surplus Property Update - Additional Information (exempt)

Report by the Chief Operating Officer.

Minutes:

9.1       The Chief Operating Officer introduced report and outlined that the detailed additional information contained in this report is exempt for reasons of commercial confidentiality. The priorities contained in the Property Asset Disposal and Investment Strategy are to develop and dispose of assets to maximise the value to the Council, or yield a revenue return where this is possible. The Strategy does not currently prioritise investment in commercial property.

 

9.2       The Acquisition and Disposals Manager outlined the activities that have been undertaken for a number of the property assets and gave explanations where there have been delays in the development or disposal of a particular property or site.

 

9.3       The Committee had a general discussion concerning the role of various property vehicles, such as separate property companies, that some local authorities have established. It also discussed the possibility of using other approaches to develop property assets, such as Clear and Sustainable Futures, that could help to reduce costs and develop other opportunities.

 

9.4       The Committee also discussed the maintenance arrangements for public libraries. It was clarified that ESCC does own the Eastbourne Library building where there was a recent roof leak. The Chief Operating Officer will let the Committee know what caused the problem at Eastbourne Library. Condition surveys of library buildings are undertaken every three to four years. These are used to develop planned maintenance programmes for libraries, which are funded by a specific provision within the Council’s capital programme. The Council does prioritise the maintenance of libraries which are maintained to higher standards as they are high profile public buildings. Reactive maintenance work is also carried out throughout the year where the need arises.

 

9.5       The Committee RESOLVED to note the additional information contained in the report.

10.

Any other exempt items previously notified under agenda item 4

Minutes:

10.1     There were none.

11.

Work Programme (including Forward Plan) pdf icon PDF 219 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Forward Plan items

 

11.1     The Committee reviewed the Forward Plan and discussed the report going to the Lead Member for Transport and Environment on 17 June 2019 on the public consultation on parking fees. The Committee agreed that it would like to examine the consultation results and give a view on the parking fee proposals before consideration by the Lead Member. As the proposals affect Eastbourne, Hastings and Lewes it was agreed to form a Board comprised of one committee member from each of these areas plus one other committee member to examine the proposals. It was agreed that Councillor Godfrey Daniel (Hastings), Councillor Andy Smith (Lewes), Councillor Pat Rodohan (Eastbourne) and Councillor John Barnes would make up the Board.

 

Potential Scrutiny Review topics

 

White Lines and Road Markings

11.2     The Committee discussed a possible review of white lines and other road markings. The issue is that some white lines and road markings, particularly at zebra crossings, are wearing out but may not be renewed for some time as part of a planned maintenance programmes (e.g. until 2020). This may lead to community safety issues and increased liability if markings are not visible. The potential review would examine the existing programme for renewing white lines, the techniques used and longevity of markings. The committee noted that this was a county wide issue and agreed to form a Scoping Board to examine the feasibility of undertaking a scrutiny review on this topic. It was agreed that the Scoping Board would be comprised of Councillors Barry Taylor, Stephen Shing and Godfrey Daniel.

 

Climate Change

11.3     The Committee discussed the issue of climate change and whether the Committee could undertake some scrutiny work on this topic. The Council has an Environmental Management policy and there is an Environment Strategy for East Sussex. The Committee would like to examine what actions the Council is taking against the policy and Strategy, including the Council’s carbon footprint (CO2 emissions), use of single use plastics, and providing a leading example to others. It was agreed to form a Scoping Board comprised of Councillors Martin Clarke, Stephen Shing, Bob Bowdler and John Barnes to explore this scrutiny review topic.

 

Work Programme

 

11.4     The Committee noted the items on the current work programme and RESOLVED to add the items in paragraphs 11.1, 11.2 and 11.3 to the work programme.