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Overview and Scrutiny Minutes - 12th September 2007

TORRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL

OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

Committee Room, Riverbank House, Bideford

12th September 2007

PRESENT: Councillor C J Leather (Chairman)
Councillor Mrs C B Church (Vice Chairman)
Councillors R Brown, R Johnson, B J Lacey, D M Lausen, Mrs F M Perkin, S Robinson and R M M Tisdale.

Independent members: Mr R French, Mr R Rumbold and Mr D Scotting

ALSO PRESENT: Councillor Mrs M Brown

An apology for absence was received from Councillor A J Symons.

9.

MINUTES

Resolved: The Minutes of the Meetings held on 1st August 2007 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

(Vote: 12 For 0 Against)

10.

PLANNING CO-ORDINATION/SECTION 106 AGREEMENTS

The Chairman advised that this item had been included to consider the background to this subject prior to a more detailed discussion at future meetings as necessary.

The Head of Community Planning and Development outlined the main issues regarding Section 106 Agreements and the previous history leading up to the present arrangements. It was indicated that the agreements dealt with issues not covered by normal planning conditions but dealt with other controls and potential community needs arising from planning developments.

The Solicitor set out the rules concerning Section 106 Agreements including Government advice and case law. The Head of Community Planning and Development referred to the "old" planning systems and the new way the planning system could work to deliver facilities for new development. He advised that discussions relating to Section 106 Agreements are now included in the pre planning application discussion process. This process could also be amended to include Ward Members, which is something that would require further discussion and consideration.

Members considered that bearing in mind the issues raised that it would be appropriate to invite other organisations to discuss them with specific reference to the County Council, specifically with regard to how Section106 contributions in relation to education facilities are used and managed, along with highway works. The way the outside development industry considered issues relating to Section 106 agreements was discussed and it was considered relevant to invite an independent party of an industry body to the meeting.

It was also considered that the prospects of drawing down funding could be explored in connection with the location of affordable housing sites to achieve delivery within an agreed timescale.

Resolved: That representatives of the various groups identified including the county Council be invited to attend the next meeting.

(Vote 12 For 0 Against)

11.

CUSTOMER CARE AND COMMUNICATIONS

The Head of Corporate Services referred to the above items and reminded members that both had been the subject of recent separate reports to the Policy, Performance and Resources Committee. She indicated that she would deal with the Communications Strategy first. The previous Strategy and Media Policy had been updated and this version had now been agreed. The policies were supported and it was agreed to ensure that all members of the Committee have copies of the reports.

The Head of Corporate Services then presented information regarding the Customer Care and Proposed Access Strategy, which had also been the subject of a report to the Policy, Performance and Resources Committee. This had included a discussion paper based on the Somerset County Council's Strategy. She advised that there had been issues regarding the budget setting process when savings had been made. During this process issues had been identified regarding customer access, including the use of the Area Offices at Holsworthy and Torrington. The operating costs had increased but customer use had decreased. Alternative methods of service provision were, therefore being investigated and this work was being carried with other partners, including Devon County Council.

It was also reported that funding had been made available via the IDeA to assist the Council with a review of customer access and this work would commence shortly and would include the Lead member Councillor Tony Collins. The Head of Corporate Services then answered Members questions and responded to issues raised concerning payment facilities and the capacity of existing systems including the switchboard.

The Head of Corporate Services also suggested a range of other subjects, which would be appropriate for inclusion within the work programme, including checking performance in connection with the Council's Business Plans and the measurement of impact and outcomes.

The Committee agreed that the above items should remain within the work programme and considered as soon as possible but agreed that in view of the amount of work involved in the Section 106 process this should be the first priority. This would enable additional work to be carried out in respect of the Customer Care and Access Strategy.

Councillor B J Lacey left the meeting at 11.50am

Resolved: That the report be noted and a further report made to a future meeting.

(Vote 11 For 0 Against)

The meeting commenced at 10.00 am and ended at 11.55 pm.