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:
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
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.
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 incorporate lessons learnt from tranche 1 and 2 projects. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport commented that schemes would have been designed and implemented differently, with enhanced community engagement, but this had not been possible due to the constraints placed on the funding by central Government. The Local Cycling and Walking Implementation Plan (LCWIP), being considered by Cabinet in September, sets out the plans for walking and cycling infrastructure which aims to resolve the conflicts between different users. It is a better way to plan and implement walking and cycling schemes, as well as providing a sound basis for securing funding.
15.8 The Committee discussed the best way to include lesson learnt from the Active Travel Fund and the LCWIP in the work programme, as there were many good initiatives from the Emergency Active Travel schemes such as School Streets pilots and areas where engagement could be improved. The Committee agreed to initially include LCWIP and Active Travel as part of the LTP reference group to be explored through the scoping work. The LCWIP and Active Travel could be subject to a separate piece of work if Committee wishes to do more specific work on walking and cycling schemes.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Points
15.9 The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport outlined that a strategic approach to EV charging needs to be taken to identify what type of chargers should be used to ensure compatibility, to determine where charge points should be provided, what route to market should be taken, and whether ESCC wishes to be a provider. This also has links to the LTP. The Committee noted that some local authorities were trialling the use channels across the pavement to allow charging cables from people’s homes to be used. This and other innovations may also need to be considered. The Committee agreed to request a briefing on plans to develop and implement EV charging infrastructure in East Sussex, with a timescale of early to mid- November.
15.10 The Committee agreed to request a report on the Team East Sussex post pandemic Recovery Planto gain an understanding of the planned economic development activity, and to have a report on how economic development and regeneration projects are selected and developed to understand how the projects that will have the most benefit are selected. The reports are to be presented at either the March 2022 or June 2022 committee meeting, subject to agreement with officers.
Broadband Project update and Gigabit Voucher Scheme
15.11 The Committee considered that it was important for the Committee to look at this topic and agreed to keep the report on the work programme and request an update report be presented to the Committee at the March 2022 committee meeting. This topic has links to transport issues and the LTP, as better broadband reduces the need to travel and also has links to mobile phone coverage.
Grass growing on pavements and in gullies
15.12 The Committee discussed the issue of grass growing on pavements and in gullies which presents a trip hazard and obstruction to people with buggies or who use mobility aids (such as wheelchairs and mobility scooters) as well as impeding drainage and increasing the risk of flooding. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport outlined that there are mixed views on this. Some people want more weed control, others less or none. Weeds are treated once a year at present, but there are challenges in the use of herbicides such as glyphosate, and alternative methods may need to be sought. There have been petitions to ban the use of glyphosate and there is a Notice of Motion on this topic. The department has been undertaking work to cut verges less and to promote green verges. This would be a good topic for scrutiny to look at given the mixed views on this subject.
15.13 It was suggested that perhaps the Highways reference group could look at this and other pressing issues. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport clarified the focus of the reference group is on the procurement of the new highways maintenance contract, but it could identify areas of policy that the Committee may wish to examine as part of a separate review.
Scrutiny Review of Road Markings second update report
15.14 It was agreed to defer the second update report from the November 2021 meeting to the March 2022 committee meeting.
15.15 The Committee RESOLVED to amend the Committee’s work programme in line with paragraphs 15.2, 15.4, 15.6, 15.8, 15.9, 15.10, 15.11 and 15.14 above.