Agenda and minutes

Place Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 22nd September, 2021 10.30 am

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

Contact: Martin Jenks  Senior Democratic Services Adviser


No. Item


Minutes and Actions from the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 159 KB

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting and confirm the actions agreed at the non-statutory meeting held on 23 June 2021.

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8.1       The Committee RESOLVED to agree the minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2021 as a correct record and agree the recommendations made at the meeting.


Apologies for absence

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9.1       Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Alan Hay. Apologies were received from the Lead Members Councillors Nick Bennett, Claire Dowling and Rupert Simmons. Apologies were also received from Phil Hall, Chief Operating Officer and Ian Gutsell, Chief Finance Officer.


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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10.1     There were no disclosures of 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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11.1     There were no urgent items.


Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 397 KB

Report by the Chief Executive.

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12.1     The Assistant Chief Executive introduced the report. He outlined that this is the start of scrutiny’s engagement in the budget setting process for 2022/23 and beyond. The State of the County report in July set out the context for the detailed financial planning during the rest of the year. The financial and policy position remains one of uncertainty and there have been a number of developments since July which will be covered in an RPPR Update Report which will be considered by Cabinet on 30 September 2021. There have also been a number of Government announcements which include:


  • There will be a three year financial settlement following the spending review which is likely to be published on 27 October 2021.
  • The Government is aiming for a balanced budget from the financial years 2023/24 through to 2025/26.


  • The Government has announced plans for Health and Social Care reform which will be funded by a 1.25% levy on National Insurance contributions made by employers and employees. Details will be set out in a White paper which will be published later in the year. The impact on East Sussex could be significant in terms of the local care market and on our health partners.


  • A plan for Levelling Up will be published later this year with a view to addressing inequalities between and within places and regions in the United Kingdom. It is anticipated that more details will become available around the end of October or the beginning of November to be delivered by the renamed Ministry for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities which replaces the former Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.


12.2     The Committee should expect further policy changes to be made in the coming months and will be kept informed through reports to Cabinet and Full Council. The impact of any policy changes will be factored into the financial planning process.


12.3     The Committee discussed the report and a summary of the points raised is given below.


Local Council Tax Discount Schemes


12.4     The Committee asked for more details on the potential loss of income as a result of the proposed changes to the Local Council Tax Discount Schemes by Lewes and Rother District Councils, and whether this would mean a reduction in the services East Sussex County Council (ESCC) will be able to provide.


12.5     It was clarified that a report on ESCC’s response to the consultation by the two billing authorities is being considered by the Lead Member for Resources on 1 October 2021. It is estimated that if the Lewes District Council proposals are implemented it will result in a loss of income to ESCC of around £800,000. It is thought the proposals by Rother District Council will have a less significant impact, but they have not been quantified. The Lead Member report will set out what this might mean in terms of reduced service provision, and any impact on services will be dealt with through the RPPR process.


Capital Programme - Street Lighting


12.6  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Presentation on Cyber Security Measures

Presentation by Khy Perryman, Information Security & Governance Manager.

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13.1     The Information Security and Governance Manager gave a presentation on the Council’s cyber security arrangements, including measures to counter ransomware attacks. He outlined that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) had identified ransomware as the number one threat to local government organisations. He gave the example of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council where a ransomware attack got through to their core IT infrastructure via an older, legacy system which had less protection. This resulted in Redcar and Cleveland Council being unable to access databases and machines, forcing them to close services and initiate business continuity arrangements. The estimated cost of the attack was £10.4 million including damage to IT systems, loss of income, decreases in productivity and the impact on staff.


13.2     The Council constantly monitors cyber security threats and uses a wide range of cyber security measures to protect its systems and information from ransomware. Some of the measures used include:


  • Protective Domain Name Service (PDNS) which is a tool provided by the NCSC to check domains are not linked to malware or other threats when a user clicks on a link or searches for something using an URL (Uniform Resources Locator) or web address.
  • Trusted Platform Module (TPM) microchips are used in new laptops to give added encryption protection and makes them less vulnerable to attack and more resilient.
  • Moving to ‘Always On’ VPN (Virtual Private Network) to enhance security.
  • Increasing the resilience of services by using things such as ‘hot, hot’ data servers for business critical systems to ensure there is no downtime if a back-up server has to take over.
  • Increasing the use of virtualised servers and blade servers to make it easier to take servers off-line and quicker to bring them back online if there is a problem.
  • Continuing to develop shared intelligence through the NCSC Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership and work with other local authorities. This helps to identify emerging threats and the NCSC can also identify any weaknesses or issues with systems, including third party systems.
  • Collaborative working with our Orbis partners Surrey County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council, sharing lessons learnt and security configurations.
  • Continued development of in-house cyber security staff, including five staff who hold NCSC accreditation which is equivalent to a Masters level degree.
  • Holding three back-ups in two locations with one off-line (3-2-1 rule) to protect against ransomware, which is something NCSC is promoting as best practice.


13.3     The Council is constantly working to improve and maintain its resilience in the event of an attack. It is likely that the Council will be targeted, and this may result in some system downtime. The Team is working with departments and partners to see what the impact of various scenarios would be, and how they would cope with system downtime (e.g. 24 hours downtime, 48 hours down time etc.) to help inform their resilience and business continuity plans.


13.4     The increase in remote working during the pandemic has presented some challenges and the Council has adapted its  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


Emergency Planning and Business Continuity pdf icon PDF 638 KB

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.

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14.1     The Assistant Director Communities introduced the report. He outlined that emergency planning services in East Sussex are provided through the East Sussex Resilience and Emergency Planning Partnership (ESREP) which is a partnership of local authorities comprised of ESCC, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) and four out of the five District and Borough councils in East Sussex. The overarching aim of the Emergency Planning Team, which is based in East Sussex, is to support all the partners in meeting the requirements of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. All partners contribute to a central budget which funds the staff, activities and training provided by the Team.


14.2     The Team works closely with the multi-agency partners within the Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) which provides pan Sussex emergency planning. Throughout the pandemic the Team has worked with colleagues within ESCC departments, the SRF and local and national partners via a number of working groups established by the SRF to work on the Covid-19 pandemic. This work ran alongside the normal work of the Team to deal with other emergencies and undertake planning around EU exit. Some of the Covid-19 work is still ongoing through the various working groups that were established. Lessons learnt exercises will be undertaken as part of the ongoing work.


14.3     Looking forward, the Team is looking to revise its approach to emergency planning ‘business as usual’ activities through work with SRF partners and ESREP. Planned work will include:


  • The creation of an ESREP risk register
  • Lessons learnt capture
  • Consolidation of plans and exercises; and
  • Exploring the use of new technological solutions.


14.4     At the beginning of the pandemic, ESCC was required to implement business continuity arrangements at speed. Most plans were able to flex to meet the organisation’s requirements and most notably, the rapid move to working from home using agile technology. This enabled the Council to continue to provide services to residents whilst at the same time deal with the extra requirements of the pandemic. The corporate business continuity group will be reviewing business continuity measures and plans with all departments and ESREP partners, including any lessons learnt from the pandemic.


14.5     The Committee asked how the experience of volunteers who assisted with the work on the pandemic will be captured so that any learning and feedback can be incorporated into future plans. The Assistant Director Communities responded that volunteers played a crucial role in supporting the response to the pandemic, and their experience as well as that of officers will be included in the lessons learnt exercise. In particular, the use and training of volunteers in response to a longer term incident or issue will be included in the review.


14.6     The Committee noted that the report also mentions climate change adaptation and resilience measures. The Committee asked how this will be embedded in future business continuity planning. The Assistant Director Communities commented that climate adaption will be an area of focus of the work being undertaken by ESCC and ESREP when reviewing business continuity  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 375 KB

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15.1     The Chair introduced the report and outlined the purpose of the agenda item. The Senior Democratic Services Adviser summarised the outcomes of the work planning Away Day held by the Committee on 13 September 2021 for agreement by the Committee. He also asked whether the Committee wished to retain the update report on the Broadband Project and gigabit voucher scheme, and the desired timescale for the report.


15.2     The Chair asked the Committee to agree the membership of the re-established Highways Services Re-Procurement Project member reference group as set out in paragraph 2.2 of the report. The Committee agreed the membership of the reference group as being Councillors Beaver, Collier, Hollidge and Kirby-Green. The Committee requested that an initial meeting be arranged as soon as possible to understand the terms of reference and review the work to date.


Reference Groups and Scrutiny Reviews


15.3     The Chair outlined the proposed changes to the work programme, for agreement by the Committee. The changes are:


  • To remove the following potential scrutiny review topics from the work programme:

v  Glover Report on the Landscapes Review (but will keep a watching brief for developments).

v  Highway Licence Fees

v  ESCC Communications and Marketing function


  • To establish a Scrutiny Member Reference Group to work with officers on the revision of the Local Transport Plan (LTP4).
  • To proceed to the scoping stage for a Scrutiny Review of Procurement, which will focus on the Council’s approach to Social Value measurement and buying local initiatives.


15.4     The Committee agreed to remove the topics from the work programme and establish a reference group to work on the LTP and to undertake scoping for a Scrutiny Review of Procurement. A number of Committee members have already volunteered to take part in these groups, and the Chair asked for further volunteers to put their names forward either at the meeting or afterwards via email.


Reports for Future Committee meetings


15.5     The Committee discussed a number of topics for reports to be presented at future committee meetings which is summarised below.


Trading Standards


15.6     The Committee commented that it was concerned about the impact of the proposed savings on the service and would like a report to provide some more information and assurance on the impact on the services. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport suggested that the impact of the savings could be explored at the RPPR Board meeting in December. He noted that scams activity increased during the pandemic and therefore added to the Team’s work. The impact of EU exit could be the subject of a later report, as some of the new border controls had been delayed until June/July 2022. The Committee agreed to receive further information on the impact of the savings under the RPPR item at the November 2021 meeting and include a report on the work of the Trading Standards Team in the work programme.


Emergency Active Travel Fund


15.7     The Committee discussed how it might be able to look at future projects and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.