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Overview and Scrutiny Minutes - 1st August 2007

TORRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL

OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

Committee Room, Riverbank House, Bideford

1st August 2007

PRESENT: Councillor C J Leather (Chairman)
Councillor Mrs C B Church (Vice Chairman)
Councillors R Brown (from 6.40 p.m.), D C Fulford,
B J Lacey, Mrs F M Perkin, S Robinson and A J Symons.

ALSO PRESENT: Councillors J Morrish and A J Saywell

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors D M Lausen and R M M Tisdale.

5.

MINUTES

Resolved: The Minutes of the Meetings held on the 14th and 19th June 2007 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

(Vote: 7 For, 0 Against)

6.

URGENT MATTERS OF INFORMATION BROUGHT FORWARD WITH THE
PERMISSION OF THE CHAIRMAN AND THE COMMITTEE

The Chairman referred to the recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee training session held on the 4th July 2007, which he had been unable to attend, and from which he had received the appropriate paperwork. The Committee noted that the Vice Chairman had updated the Chairman on this training, which it was felt had been useful and pertinent for Members.

The Chairman confirmed that he had recently attended a similar training for Overview and Scrutiny Chairmen held in Birmingham, and he updated the Committee on this event. It was noted that this training had also proved to be useful and interesting and had highlighted the amount of work involved if Overview and Scrutiny operated properly. This training had also suggested that the Committee should not be overloaded with work, and should concentrate on one topic, with a view to operating the scrutiny process well.

The Chairman also highlighted an issue raised at his training relating to the need to ensure that any Service Level Agreements the Authority entered into contained a clause relating to the rights of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to carry out the scrutiny function.

The Chairman concluded his update by advising he would make available to any interested Member of the Committee his paperwork from the Chairmen's Training Session.

The Strategic Director (Resources) referred to the Committee's Terms of Reference, as contained within the Council's Constitution, and circulated a copy of this information to the Members.

7.

WORK PROGRAMME FOR THE COMMITTEE

Councillor Brown declared a personal interest in the item relative to the Burton Art Gallery (Trustee of Holsworthy Museum)

The Chairman advised that the Committee needed to discuss and bring forward topics they would like to see included their future work programme.

Councillor Lacey highlighted a particular issue relating to shops leased by the Council. The Strategic Director (Resources) responded by advising that this related to a specific case, which needed to be investigated by the relevant Officer, but that this Committee could if they so wished examine the policy utilised generally for the Council's leased shops.

Councillor Mrs Church advised that in addition to considering topics to be discussed in the future, it might be appropriate to consider the duration of such examinations and the possibility of establishing working groups to assist the process. She also suggested that topics to be discussed might be community based.

Councillor Symons suggested that consideration could be given to examination of strategic planning and its interaction with planning services (planning co-ordination). Reference was also made to the necessary interaction with the Local Development Framework process.

The Chairman put forward the topic of the Burton Art Gallery, bearing in mind that this would very much depend on the decision taken at full Council on the 6th August, 2007 in the light of the resolution being put forward by the Community Development Committee to form a North Devon Cultural Trust. In this respect the Strategic Director (Resources) detailed the possible different scenarios, which might face the Overview and Scrutiny Committee following the Full Council Meeting on the 6th August.

Councillor Mrs Church referred to the scoping criteria for the selection of projects to be scrutinised, which had formed part of the recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee training. In this respect copies of this documentation were circulated to the meeting, and the Committee used this for a trial exercise against the topic put forward relating to street lighting/community safety, to test the criteria's merits. Having carried out this exercise the Committee recognised that at times discretion would have to be used when selecting topics for scrutinising.

Councillor Robinson referred to the workload involved in the previous year with regard to the scrutiny of the Council's Annual Budget, and suggested that this would be an appropriate topic for the current work programme.

Councillor Brown referred to the current Customer Services Review being undertaken by the Authority, and the effect on the Area Offices. In this respect he suggested that the Committee should look at communications and points of contact within the rural communities. In response the Strategic Director (Resources) advised that the Head of Corporate Support was currently working on an Access Strategy, which could also form part of this topic.

The Chairman felt that it was important for the Committee to reach the heart of policy making. In response the Strategic Director (Resources) referred to the role of the Lead Members who were to work with Officers and bring forward reports.

Councillor Mrs Church expressed the view that she would like Parish Councils to become move involved in the Section 106 process. In response Councillor Mrs Perkins referred to the work undertaken by Parish Councils in respect of the preparation of Parish Plans, and suggested it would be inappropriate to load the Parish Councils with too much work. This gave rise to the suggestion that the Committee should examine customer care.

Councillor Symons pointed out that Councillor Clarke was the Lead Member for Section 106 Agreements, and that the Authority was currently working on an appropriate Strategy for these Agreements.

The Committee recognised the need to ensure that Town/Parish Councils were engaged with the work of the District Council.

Discussion also ensued on information Councillor Mrs. Church had retrieved from the internet in respect of appropriate topics for consideration by the Committee.

The Strategic Director (Resources), in response to a Member's question, confirmed that the Best Value Programme had looked at the Council's services based on a five year programme. She also confirmed that in view of the results of the CPA certain services had been targeted for improvement i.e. Planning, Housing Benefits and Housing, and that these services had undergone a successful re-engineering process. She also referred to the Quarterly Business Review (QBR) submitted to Policy, Performance and Resources Committee, which provided financial and performance information on the Council's services. Information was also provided through the QBR's on Service Action Plans and suggested as an example that Policy, Performance and Resources Committee might well ask Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine this process.

The Committee then debated and prioritised the topics for discussion at future meetings, acknowledging that it might be necessary to have additional meetings; and accepting the merits of possible working groups once Members had gained experience.

Resolved:

(1) That depending on the decision taken by Full Council on the 6th August in respect of the North Devon Cultural Trust, the Burton Art Gallery feature on the Agenda for the Meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 12th September 2007; as Members would wish to examine the present position, and the costs and implications of the Burton Art Gallery forming part of the proposed new Trust.

(2) That the following work programme be approved for future Committee Meetings:

  • (a) - 12th September 2007 - Possibly the Burton Art Gallery; Customer Care and Communications including the proposed Access Strategy; and initial documentation in respect of planning co-ordination to include issues relative to Section 106 Agreements as previously discussed by the Committee.
  • (b) - 24th October 2007 - Half Yearly SonIC (Statement on Internal Control) Review.
  • (c) - 5th December 2007 - Leisure Provision and New Leisure Contract
  • (d) - 16th January 2008 - Annual Budget Review
  • (e) - 27th February 2008 - Planning Co-ordination.
  • (f) - April 2008 - Review the activities of the Committee and consider future work programme

(Vote: 8 For, 0 Against)

8.

APPOINTMENT OF THE INDEPENDENT MEMBERS

The Chairman provided an update on the actions being taken to appoint the three Independent Members of the Committee. It was noted that these vacancies had been advertised in accordance with the Terms of Reference for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and that several applications had been received. These applications had been reviewed by the Chairman together with the Strategic Director (Resources), Head of Human Resources and the Leader. The Committee noted the criteria followed in respect of the short listing exercise.

The Strategic Director (Resources) provided details of the short-listed candidates, and confirmed that the interviews would be held on Monday, 6th August, 2007. Those involved in the interviews would be the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Leader of the Council and the Strategic Director (Resources), being the Chief Executive's representative. Members noted that this complied with the Council's Constitution.

The Committee were advised that during the above exercise it had become apparent that there was no job specification for the Independent Members, and that this was an issue which needed addressing. In this respect if was noted that a draft specification would be prepared and approved for future use.

Resolved: That the verbal report be noted.

(Vote: 8 For, 0 Against)

The meeting commenced at 6.30 p.m. and ended at 8.05 p.m.

O & S Committee - 1st August 2007