25.1 The Committee noted that the composition of the Committee may change following the County Council elections in May. However, the Committee considered that it would be worth sign posting a number of issues to the incoming Committee by including reports and suggested topics for scrutiny reviews in the work programme. The new Committee will then be able to consider them when it looks at the work programme at the next meeting in June 2021.
Highways Reference Group
25.2 The Committee agreed that it would be good to keep the membership of the Highways Reference Group as close to the current membership as possible to ensure continuity. It was agreed to delegate authority to the Chair of the Place Scrutiny Committee, in consultation with the Vice Chair, to reconvene the Highways Reference Group after the May elections and appoint members to the Group if necessary before the Committee meets in June 2021.
25.3 The Committee discussed the need to follow up on the work on Climate Change and the progress in changes to working practices for council staff post Covid19. It was noted that the first monitoring report for the Scrutiny Review of Becoming a Carbon Neutral Council is scheduled for the November 2021 meeting, but it would be helpful to have an earlier update on the changes in working practices.
25.4 The Chief Operating Officer commented that as most staff will not be returning to the office until September it would be difficult to give a complete picture to the Committee of the changes. Work is currently being undertaken on the Workstyles programme which is looking at changes to office space, technology and working practices such as increased working from home. The Committee agreed to have a verbal update at the June meeting on the direction of travel and work to date on Workstyles programme, followed by a written report in the Autumn on the lessons learnt from Covid and the changes to working practices.
25.5 The Committee agreed to request a report on Trading Standards as discussed under the RPPR item to examine the current work, focus and sustainability of the Service. The Committee also endorsed the earlier discussion and agreement under the RPPR item to request a report on the Council’s work to support businesses and economic regeneration post Covid19.
Topics for Scrutiny Reviews
25.6 The Committee discussed the possibility of reviewing the Councils Communications function to explore the work they are currently undertaking, the use of new technologies/social media and the impact that any potential future savings would have on this function. It was agreed to add this as a potential scrutiny review topic to the work programme.
Highway Licence Fees
25.7 The Committee discussed the possibility of reviewing the scale of fees charged to Parish and Town Councils for placing items on the highway and other highways works. Such councils range in size and the budget or precept they are able to set. For some councils who wish to work with ESCC to provide facilities for their communities, the scale of highway licence fees relative to their budget can be a barrier to projects proceeding. This is an issue that has been raised by Parish Councils with several of the Committee members.
25.8 The Assistant Director Operations outlined that the scale of licence fees charged by East Sussex Highways on behalf of the Council is set by the Council. If objects are placed on the highway, they have to be licenced under the requirements of the Highways Act. The Council charges fees to cover the administration costs of issuing the licence and the cost of enforcement. Fees charged are retained by the contractor to pay for the licencing service. The level of fees and fee increases can be reviewed through the RPPR process.
25.9 The Committee agreed to add a review of highway licence fees to the potential scrutiny review topics in the Committee’s work programme.
25.10 Under this item the Chair asked if it would be possible for the Committee to have a briefing note on the use of Apprenticeships and details of the Kickstart programme to help young people into employment. In particular, are Apprenticeships targeted at young people or can anyone access them.
25.11 The Committee RESOLVED to amend the work programme in line with paragraph 22.14 of the minutes and paragraphs, 25.4, 25.5, 25.6 and 25.9 above.