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Overview and Scrutiny Minutes - 19th March 2008

TORRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL

OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

Committee Room, Riverbank House, Bideford

19th March 2008

PRESENT: Councillor C J Leather (Chairman)
Councillors R Brown, D C Fulford, D M Lausen,
Mrs F M Perkin, S Robinson and R M M Tisdale

Independent Member: Mr R French

ALSO PRESENT: Councillors R E Johns and P W Pennington

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Mrs C B Church, R Johnson, B J Lacey,

A J Symons (Torridge District Council) and Mr R Rumbold (Independent Member)

37.

MINUTES

The Minutes of the Meetings held on the 29th, 30th and 31st January and 7th and 27th February 2008 were presented.

(a) 2008/2009 Revenue Budget (Minute 29 Refers)

The Chairman reported that the issue relating to staff bids raised at Full Council in respect of the appointment of a Housing Enabling Officer had now been resolved. He advised that the Head of Financial Services had confirmed that the Housing Enabling Officer was already in post.

Thereafter, it was;

Resolved: The all the Minutes be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

(Vote: 8 For, 0 Against)

38.

ACTION LIST/FORWARD PLAN

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

The Head of Financial Services referred to the visit of the Audit Commission in June/July in connection with the Council's request for CPA reclassification, and advised that at this time the role of Overview and Scrutiny would be examined. He pointed out that it was important for the Committee to link their work programme against the Council's five defined roles.

The Head of Financial Services also referred to Performance Management, and the recent budge setting exercise, when the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had expressed a keen interest in examining the base budget. In this connection the Head of Financial Services referred to the introduction of the monthly business review, which it was proposed should be included with the Members Bulletin, and which could be brought forward to Overview and Scrutiny for consideration and challenge as necessary. Members noted that it was anticipated this information would be presented on a traffic light system, allowing for the capture of any deterioration.

The Head of Financial Services drew attention to the Excellence Plan approved by Policy, Performance and Resources Committee, and suggested that Overview and Scrutiny Committee might wish to examine the provision of the identified services.

In response the Chairman confirmed that his Committee were keen to examine one or two services and to look at budgets against need and spend criteria, and other relevant issues. The Head of Financial Services confirmed that in this instance the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would be satisfying themselves that services were being provided correctly.

The Chairman expressed the view that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would also like to be involved in the new Leisure Services Contract, recognising that the existing contract expired in 2009. It was agreed that together with the Culture and Leisure Services Manager this Committee could carry out a forceful piece of work to be presented to the Policy, Performance and Resources Committee at the time of the renewal of the contract.

Reference was made to the Notice of Motion referred from Full Council to the Policy, Performance and Resources Committee relating to the Council's assets, and it was recognised that depending on the outcome of the Notice of Motion the Asset Strategy could be an item to be included on this Committee's Forward Plan.

The Head of Financial Services circulated to the meeting a list of identified items, which the Committee might wish to consider for scrutiny purposes. As a result of this a discussion ensued on civil parking enforcement, which it was felt might also be a topic the Overview and Scrutiny Committee could examine, and which should be worked into the Forward Plan in the future.

The following amendments were then made to the Forward Plan:

(a) Deletion of the Sonic Action Plan from the meeting scheduled for the 9th April 2008, and the inclusion of two additional Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meetings on the 18th June 2008 at 6.00 p.m. and the 20th June 2008 at 10.00 a.m. to discuss the new Sonic Action Plan and Code of Corporate Governance.

(b) Invitation to be extended to Mark Sampford Wood, Chairman of the Local Medical Council to speak to the meeting scheduled for the 9th April 2008 in respect of GP Surgeries Opening Hours.

(c) Martin Wickham, the Manager of ND+, to be invited to address the May 2008 meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Committee instead of the 9th April 2008 meeting. (Date of meeting in May yet to be determined)

Thereafter, it was;

Resolved:

(1) That the Forward Plan, as amended, be noted.

(2) That the Action Plan be noted.

(Vote: 8 For 0 Against)

39.

POST OFFICE CLOSURES

The Committee considered the draft open letter of objection to the planned closure of some Post Offices, prepared by the Vice Chairman of this Committee, which it was proposed should be sent to the Prime Minster, the MP for Torridge and West Devon, Post Office Ltd and the Press. The Chairman confirmed that any such letter would need to be approved by full Council before despatch.

The Chairman also referred to the debate currently taking in place in Parliament relating to Post Office Closures, and the many campaigns against the proposals currently underway.

The Committee discussed the recently publicised efforts of Essex County Council who were looking to take over those Post Office under threat in their area, with a view to providing one stop shops. It was suggested that Devon County Council should be asked to follow this initiative, and that the Chairman should prepare the appropriate draft letter.

The Committee also discussed the services which the Post Office could no longer provide e.g. payment of telephone bill, purchase of TV Licence, and expressed concern about how this affected the viability of local rural Post Offices.

The Chairman thanked Members for all their input into the draft letter of protest circulated by Councillor Mrs Church, and reported that Councillor Robinson had suggested that the letter should include reference to the Petition laid before the House of Commons drawing attention to the disastrous effect the proposals would have on the rural communities.

Resolved:

(1) That Full Council be recommended that the letter of protest prepared by Councillor Mrs C B Church, as amended by the inclusion of reference to the Petition laid before the House of Commons, be despatched to the Prime Minster, the Torridge and West Devon MP, Post Office Ltd and the Press. (Copy enclosed with Minutes as Appendix A)

(2) That Full Council be recommended that the letter to the Devon County Council prepared by the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee urging them to look at the proposals currently being examined by the Essex County Council in respect of one stop shops for rural Post Offices under threat be despatched. (Copy enclosed with Minutes as Appendix B)

(Vote: 8 For, 0 Against)

40.

FARMERS MARKETS/FOOD FAYRES - BIDEFORD QUAY

The Meeting noted that the previous Overview and Scrutiny Committee had looked at this matter in March 2007, when the operation of Farmers Markets/Food Fayres on Bideford Quay had been established.

The Committee also received information prepared by the Tourism Officer, relating to the possible detrimental effects of such Markets/Fayres on Bideford Pannier Market. This information took the form of the Minutes of a Bideford Farmers Market Meeting held on the 23rd February 2007 when this very issue had been discussed, together with a summary of the views put forward by the then Pannier Market Manager and Market Traders.

The Culture and Leisure Services Manager was then invited to address the meeting. She explained that the Markets had been very successful, and had shown a small profit. It was pointed out that they were unique and offered something different bring people into the Town, who would hopefully then go on to visit the Pannier Market.

The Chairman pointed out that this Council had agreed a programme for Farmers Markets/Food Fayre on the Quay for the current year.

The Culture and Leisure Services Manager also referred to the administrative work in respect of these Markets, which was currently dealt with by the Tourism Development Officers. In this respect the Committee noted that the establishment of a Sub Committee to administer the Markets was currently being investigated.

The Committee also discussed the expansion of the Markets to include say Antiques; the possibility of moving the Market to the Mill Street area although it was felt this was not practicable and alternative means of dealing with the administration of these Markets.

The Chairman stated that he hoped any economic enterprise throughout the District was successful, and would not prove detrimental to existing businesses.

Resolved: That the Farmers Markets/Food Fayres be monitored in the current year but that it be recognised that the Committee believe people who comes to the Farmers Markets will visit the town.

(Vote: 8 For, 0 Against)

The meeting commenced at 6.00 p.m. and ended at 7.20 p.m.