Agenda and minutes

Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 1st December 2022 5.30 pm

Venue: Rennes Room, Civic Centre, Paris Street, Exeter. View directions

Contact: Howard Bassett, Democratic Services Officer  Telephone 01392 265107 or email

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 391 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 6 October 2022.



The minutes of the meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 6 October 2022 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as correct.




Portfolio Holder Reports


In response to Councillor Sparling’s enquiry regarding a request at the previous meeting of this Committee that, in addition to the selected Portfolio Holder reporting in detail to the respective Committee meeting, brief updates from the other three Portfolio Holders could also be provided at each meeting, the Chair advised that the Scrutiny Programme Board on 21 October 2022 had felt that the existing format of one Portfolio Holder updating Scrutiny Committees worked well and that the Board would be keep the matter under review. The suggestion was also under consideration as part of the Governance Review.



Declarations of Interest

Councillors are reminded of the need to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests that relate to business on the agenda and which have not already been included in the register of interests, before any discussion takes place on the item. Unless the interest is sensitive, you must also disclose the nature of the interest. In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, you must then leave the room and must not participate in any further discussion of the item.  Councillors requiring clarification should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer prior to the day of the meeting.



No declarations of interest were made by Members.




Questions from the Public under Standing Order No 19

Details of questions should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support via the email by 10.00am at least three working days prior to the meeting. For this meeting any questions must be submitted by 10.00am on Monday 28 November 2022.


For details about how to speak at Committee, please click the following link -





In accordance with Standing Order No.19, the following question had been submitted by a member of the public, Mr Spurr and was circulated in advance to Members of the Committee. Councillor Ghusain, Portfolio Holder for City Management and Environmental Services attended the meeting and gave the following response as set out in italics below:-


Question to the Portfolio Holder for City Management and Environmental Services - Councillor Ghusain from Mr Roger Spurr


Is glyphosate or any similar herbicide still being used on residential streets in Exeter? If so, why? Whereas usage of glyphosate for 2022 stood at 120 litres, this was an increase from the 2020 figure of 90 litres.


Currently there is a residential weed control programme, commissioned by Devon County Council as the Highways Authority. This carries out two sprays per annum. The regime continues to take place because there remains no cost-effective alternatives to glyphosate based products on the market. Alternatives are either substantially more expensive at the procurement stage, or require significant additional labour at a cost that is financially unsustainable due to ongoing budget constraints. Therefore, operationally, the decision faced by the Highways Authority is continuing with the current regime, or no weed control at all within Exeter. This would leave wide spread footpath weed growth and its associated impacts.


To date, treatment has already been reduced from three and half sprays a year down to two. In the last two years residents have also been offered the opportunity to opt out of the spray to further reduce glyphosate use, with a limited uptake. The City Council also contributes to ensuring that weed control across Public Highway remains an integrated approach. This is in line with the Pesticide Action Network advice, BASIS professional standards as the independent standards advisory charity for agriculture and the amenity sector, and through amenity sector best practice. The public and green spaces team operate deep clean teams to achieve this. Their primary duty is to remove both the growth material that builds in curb lines, and the weeds themselves. Despite recruitment constraints, this service continues to augment the reduced Highways treatment schedule, ensuring that weed control across the residential road network comply with industry and independent best practice. The service also continues to investigate alternatives and will advise colleagues in Devon County if a cost-effective alternative arrives on the market. Until such time, the public and green spaces team, and its sub-contractors, only use amenity licensed plant protection products of which glyphosate is a constituent part. glyphosate remains licenced for use within the UK until 2025.


Supplementary question and answer.


What plans does the City Council have to engage the public more directly by explaining the alternatives to the use of glyphosate for keeping the streets clean and removing the weeds themselves?




Over the last three years the public have been encouraged to look after their own streets or parts of streets with over 20 streets taking up this offer. Although the Government has not placed restrictions  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.


Questions from Members of the Council under Standing Order No. 20

To receive questions from Members of the Council to the relevant Portfolio Holders for this Scrutiny Committee. The Portfolio Holders are:-


Councillor Denning -   Portfolio Holder for Customer Services and Council Housing

Councillor Ghusain -   Portfolio Holder for City Management and Environmental Services

Councillor Pearce   -   Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention

Councillor Williams -   Portfolio Holder for Recycling, Waste Management and Waterways


Advance questions from Members relating to the Portfolio Holders should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support via the email.




In accordance with Standing Order No. 20, the following questions had been submitted by Councillors Vizard and D. Moore and had been circulated in advance to Members of the Committee. The responses of the Portfolio Holders are set out in italics. 


Question to the Portfolio Holder for Recycling, Waste Management and Waterways – Councillor Williams


Councillor D. Moore


Please can the Portfolio Holder provide a briefing on the work to prepare for the roll out of food waste collection in the city centre wards in general, and flats (including purpose built student accommodation) in particular?


Response from the Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management on behalf of the Portfolio Holder.


Work is ongoing across the whole of the city as we continue to roll out food waste to ensure that the roll out is successful and secondary issues are minimised. This includes officer’s conducting site visits where needed, to look at the practicalities involved in certain areas. Those areas where there are transient populations will present additional challenges, not least with the resource required to ensure ongoing compliance. Each of these areas are being carefully looked at prior to roll out being conducted in these areas. With regard to purpose built accommodation, the service will be seeking to work with accommodation providers in the same way that the service works with them on residual and recycling collections at present.


Supplementary question and answer.


Can a guarantee be given that food waste collection will be rolled out to all areas of the city centre and what will be the timetable?




A guaranteed timescale cannot be given because some areas of the city, including the city centre, have properties such which have complex arrangements for waste collection and storage. These may need a bespoke solution and will need prior examination by the cleansing staff to plan the collection regime. A further complication is the current limited food waste storage capacity at the Exton Road depot. New facilities are planned but will require planning approval and consent from the Environment Agency. The design and procurement of this work is underway. A update report on food waste collection will be made to the next meeting of this Committee on 2 February 2023.


A further supplementary question raised by Councillor Sparling on behalf of Councillor Bennett and answer.


With a number of glass recycling igloos overflowing across the city what measures are being taken to maintain a regular collection and is there a contingency plan when the collection vehicle is out of action and/or under repair. 




The Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management, responding on behalf of the Portfolio Holder, advised that, as some residents left a large number of  bottles in boxes outside the igloos, other residents would erroneously conclude that the igloos were full, leading to the further accumulation of bottles. The collection system was working well, but with the ingoing difficulty in recruiting and retaining drivers it was sometimes necessary to redeploy the glass collecting drivers to prioritise  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.


Update from the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention - Councillor Pearce pdf icon PDF 148 KB


Councillor Pearce reported on the Communities and Homelessness Prevention areas of his Portfolio, detailing the issues relating to achieving the Council’s published priorities, major ongoing programmes of work, issues impacting delivery, financial performance and budget requirements and potential changes being considered.


The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-


·         the severe weather protocol encompasses all conditions including heat waves as with the recent summer and wet and windy periods as well as cold winter spells. Eighteen beds are available to accommodate rough sleepers this winter and the two rough sleeping pods, following repair and insulation provision, are to be relocated from the King William Street Car Park to a location in St. David’s;

·         the Exeter Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2023-27 would be reported to Executive in February informed by the work of the Homelessness Task and Finish Working Group. The City Council had won Government funding for the Rough Sleepers Initiative and was securing additional units through the purchase of new properties, securing long term leases on others and buying back properties previously sold under Right To Buy. Fifteen units, primarily flats, were now available and a further five would come on line. With an expanding University, Exeter suffered from higher than average house prices and lower than average wages;

·         it was anticipated that the impact of budget cost savings on the housing service as well support given to those on Housing Benefit and the housing element of Universal Credit from the General Fund would be minimal;

·         the Council and its partners including St. Petrock’s, CoLab and Julian House through the Assertive Homeless Outreach Team and in liaison with the Police undertook constant engagement with rough sleepers and the street attached to monitor the position and ensure that the data base was up to date;

·         22 rough sleepers in Exeter had been recorded at the recent National Count compared with eight in 2021;

·         informal discussions had been undertaken with partners and the voluntary sector on the introduction of the Exeter Community Lottery prior to report to Executive on 29 November 2022. The proposals would be considered at Council on 13 December 2022, after which it was anticipated that a formal consultation process would be undertaken;

·         some 115 local authorities had introduced very successful lotteries, for example the Bedfordshire Lottery raised £200,000 a year. A conservative target for the Exeter Community Lottery of raising between £40,000-£80,000 was anticipated, based on 2.5% of the city’s population contributing through this incentivised giving scheme;

·         the Exeter Community Lottery would supplement and add value to the existing Exeter Grants Programme and was a sustainable way of supporting communities and enabling good causes to help themselves. It could benefit a number of smaller organisations which did not possess the resources to seek support from funding sources;

·         faith groups who played an important part in community life but were opposed to the principle of lotteries could benefit from applying for support through the Exeter Grants programme which would be supplemented by the money raised through the lottery.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


Tackling the Ecological Emergency pdf icon PDF 5 MB

To consider the report of the Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management.




The Interim Service Lead Public and Green Space and the Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management presented the update report on the current position of Biodiversity practices in light of the Ecological Emergency declared by the Council in April 2021.


Particular reference was made to:-


·         at the commencement of the partnership with the Devon Wildlife Trust, biodiversity development had operated with a focus on project development but this had come to an end when the post of an officer with the appropriate experience to identify funding, plan, and deliver on projects ceased. However, the ethos and collaborative working with the Trust continued;

·         the focus is now on delivering acceptable and sustainable programmes in frontline maintenance such as: wild flowers across Exeter, the meadow grass programme, and tailored planting programmes that look to use phytosensors (carbon absorbing  shrubs). Such small scale operational changes should deliver benefits on aggregate;

·         discussions on regeneration are likely to stem from the Exeter Local Plan and planning policy development, as will the new habitat map. There remains a place for large and impactful projects, such as the Northbrook arboretum, again through the partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust. However, this will be on a case-by-case basis as resources allows;

·         with regard to Arboriculture, species diversity and planting diversity is standard practice to help create a resilient tree stock with planting targeted to areas of low canopy;

·         ongoing investigations were continuing into reducing glyphosate use further. To date, there were no new systems on the market and the constraints to both cost and efficacy still apply for current alternatives. As a result, there have been no additional savings reductions this year, but the service continues to explore possibilities for further reductions each year; and

·         biodiversity development and glyphosate reductions remain active priorities for the service.


The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-


·         the figure of 120 litres of glyphosate usage in 2022 was that of the City Council alone. Devon County Council would be requested to provide their figures. The increase in the level of glyphosate use reflected the spraying of hard surface areas across Council housing stock;

·         in offering the public the opportunity to maintain their own streets or areas outside their properties, regard to operational requirements was necessary, for example, it would not be logical for one individual to maintain the whole of Topsham Road but it was also operationally unachievable for opt outs to only encompass the area in front of a property;

·         the City and County Councils were unable to influence weed clearance practices within private housing developments;

·         the city’s valley parks were maintained ostensibly by the Devon Wildlife Trust under lease, although the City Council retains some duties as part of that lease. Hoopern Valley is not a Council site and it is owned and maintained by the University of Exeter;

·         a baseline on biodiversity was not currently available within the Council, however national habitat and species registers were accessible online. It was hoped to create a new updated  habitat map,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.


Homelessness Task and Finish Working Group


The Deputy Chair and Chair of the Homelessness Task and Finish Working Group updated Members on the work of the Group, further meetings having been held on 11 and 19 October and 10 November 2022. A further meeting would be held on 7 November 2022 to consider recommendations to this Committee, the report to include the evidence provided by a number of organisations who had attended the meetings.


The Committee noted the update.



Forward Plan of Business and Scrutiny Work Plan pdf icon PDF 236 KB

Please see for noting a link to the schedule of future business proposed for the Council which can be viewed on the Council's web site -


Also attached is a work plan for scrutiny items.


Should Members wish to raise issues in respect of future business please notify Howard Bassett in advance of the meeting.




Members noted the Forward Plan and the Scrutiny Work Plan.