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Overview and Scrutiny Minutes - 27th February 2008

TORRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL

OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

Committee Room, Riverbank House, Bideford

27th February 2008

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

Independent Members: Mr F French and Mr R Rumbold

ALSO PRESENT: Councillor A T Inch

APOLOGIES: Councillor C J Leather, Councillor A J Symons and D Scotting

32.

MINUTES

Resolved: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 16th January 2008 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

(Vote: 10 For, 0 Against)

33.

FORWARD PLAN

The Committee considered their Forward Plan, which had been circulated with the Agenda.

The Chairman requested, and it was agreed that, as with other Committees, an Action List be prepared for future Overview & Scrutiny Committee meetings in order that progress on the forward plan can be monitored.

The Committee then made the following observations and amendments.

(1) Agenda Items for 9 April 2008

(a) Presentation from the Friends of the BAG. It was agreed that in light of the decision of the Special Community Development Committee meeting held on the 26th February 2008 to adopt Option 5 and streamline the Museum and Arts Service, this presentation be cancelled and a general update given to the May 2008 meeting.

(b) Public Health & Wellbeing & GP Surgery Opening Hours - The Committee expressed their concern about health across the region in general and agreed there was a need to get more involved. It was noted that Devon County Council have an Overview & Scrutiny for Health Committee and it was suggested that perhaps Torridge should be represented on this. It was agreed that Julia Page be asked to include GP Surgery Opening Hours in her presentation and that following this presentation the Committee look at how they can best get involved. It was noted that the Cultural & Leisure Team at Torridge were currently looking at the health and well-being of staff and would be keen to be involved.

(c) North Devon Plus/Regeneration - The Committee noted that this would take the form of a general update and it was agreed that the Martin Wickham, ND+ Manager should be invited to attend the meeting to make the presentation.

(2) Meeting for March 2008

The Chairman referred to the forward plan and suggested that an additional meeting be held in March. It was agreed that the next meeting be scheduled for 19th March 2008, commencing at 6.00pm in the Committee Room at Riverbank House.

The Chairman then asked Members for any additional items that they might like to bring forward.

Councillor Fulford drew the Committee's attention to the detrimental effect the Farmers Markets and Food Fayres held on Bideford Quay have on the Bideford Pannier Market trade and requested that this be placed on the Forward Plan for investigation. The Committee noted that the Farmers Markets had already been organised for this year. It was agreed that this be placed on the March Agenda and that an investigation into the affects on the Pannier Market trade be carried out and reported to that meeting.

Resolved: That the Forward Plan, as amended, be noted.

(Vote: 11 For 0 Against)

34.

EQUALITY SCHEME REVIEW

The Head of Human Resources reported on the forthcoming Equality Scheme Review and outlined the work involved in producing an equality scheme that would meet all the necessary criteria as laid down by Statutory Bodies. This process would include reviewing the strategies and policies already in place and making them compliant and also making sure that future strategies and policies are written to reflect equality. In order to undertake this review the Council would need to undertake Equality Impact Needs Assessments (EINAs) to identify the impact of strategies and policies. Some training had already been put in place for Members and Staff.

The Head of Human Resources then asked the Committee to what extent they would like to be involved in the Equality Scheme Review. It was noted that Training on equality generally and EINAs specifically would be available to Members.

Resolved: That the Overview & Scrutiny Committee be involved in the Equality Scheme Review and that the Head of Human Resources supply all necessary information and training needs as and when they were available.

(Vote: 11 For, 0 Against)

35.

LEISURE PROVISION CONTRACT

The Cultural and Leisure Services Manager referred to the Leisure Provision Contract which was presently let to Parkwood Leisure. This contract had now been running for 9 years and was due to end in December 2009 and was not currently considered to be value for money for the Council. It was noted that an Options Appraisal would be carried out on the leisure provision contract and a new contract drawn up ready to be tendered for on the expiry of the present contract. A growth bid for £15,000 had been allocated to fund the option appraisal consultants.

The Committee considered the various aspects of the current contract and noted the facilities covered by the contract and the problems experienced with some of the sites, ie the Rock Pool and Torrington Pool. It was noted that as part of the Option Appraisal process it would be necessary to receive financial information from Parkwood relating to income, user numbers, etc and the Cultural & Leisure Services Manager undertook to request this information as part of the Appraisal process.

Resolved: That the report on the proposed Option Appraisal of the Leisure Contract be noted and the Overview & Scrutiny Committee look at this again once the Option Appraisal was complete.

36.

POST OFFICE CLOSURES

Councillor Mrs Church circulated the notes of a meeting held with Post Office Ltd on 20th February 2008 regarding the proposed Post Office closures in Devon. It was noted that:

- the closures will be compulsory but that there was the opportunity to identify "gold nuggets" - identified as post offices that may be in an areas where houses may be erected or regeneration is expected. It was noted that any identified 'gold nuggets' would mean a 'saved' post office in the same vicinity would then be closed instead. This was not a way of keeping more post offices open.

- it was estimated that 90 Post Offices in this area would close and that an 'outreach' service would be offered instead (with limited services) - this taking the form of a mobile van service or shared services with community facilities. Members questioned the security of such services.

- the future of the existing Post Office Ltd network was not clear, even after the closures. The Post Office Account service was now up for re-tendering and this would be a serious loss to Post Office Ltd.

- details of the closures in Devon will be released on the 20th May.

The Committee discussed the effect of the closures, especially in the rural areas, and it was agreed that a letter of dissatisfaction be prepared in response to the proposals and that this letter be an open letter to the Prime Minister, MPs, Post Office Ltd and the press.

Resolved: That Councillor Mrs Church draft and circulate prior to the next meeting an open letter of objection regarding the Post Office closures for consideration at the next meeting and that Committee Members let Councillor Mrs Church have any views/observations for inclusion as soon as possible.

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