Venue: Guildhall, High Street, Exeter
Contact: Howard Bassett, Democratic Services Officer Telephone 01392 265107 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To approve and sign the minutes of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 1 April 2021.
The minutes of the meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 1 April 2021 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as correct.
Councillor Alys Martin
Councillor Martin had submitted her apologies due to her need to meet Government requirements to self-isolate in respect of Covid-19.
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 19
Details of questions should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support via the email@example.com 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 June 2021.
For details about how to speak at Committee, please click the following link - https://exeter.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-meetings/public-speaking-at-meetings/overview/
No questions from members of the public were received.
Questions from Members of the Council under Standing Order 20
To receive questions from Members of the Council to the relevant Portfolio Holders for this Scrutiny Committee. The Portfolio Holders are:-
Councillor Harvey - Portfolio Holder for City Management
Councillor Ghusain - Portfolio Holder for Communities and Culture
Councillor Williams - Portfolio Holder for Supporting People
Councillor Wright - Portfolio Holder for Council Housing Development and Services
Advance questions from Members relating to the Portfolio Holders should be notified to the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support.
In accordance with Standing Order No 20 the following questions, which had been circulated in advance to Members of the Committee, had been submitted by Councillors Atkinson, M. Mitchell and Sparling.
Questions from Committee Members
Councillor M. Mitchell
Can the Portfolio Holder provide an update regarding the council house building programme for the next five years and clarify whether the targets are realistic?
Members will be aware that an ambitious Council house building target was set and agreed last year of 500 homes over a ten year period - a target which balanced the Council's ambition of increased supply with that of retrofitting and maintaining our existing properties.
I am pleased to report that substantial progress has already been made with our Council Development Programme and I can confirm that;
75 properties have either been completed and occupied or will be completed within the next three months
92 properties have Planning Approval and are at the Tender stage of development - with development work anticipated to commence later this year/early 2022
22 properties have had detailed feasibility work completed and will be progressing to Planning later this year A potential sites list which could yield 239 properties over nine locations is being subjected to a detailed development appraisal with our development partner Exeter City Living - we anticipate a detailed development programme resulting from this.
As such, I am able to confirm that 428 properties and potential sites currently form our development plan and demonstrates excellent progress in year two of our 10 year target.
Supplementary question and answer.
What more can be done to build more houses?
The Council is doing a great deal already in uncertain times caused by Brexit and the Covid-19 Pandemic. Future house building by the Council will continue to be considered with due regard to feasibility.
A new Exeter City Community Trust Initiative plans to offer >100 supported accommodation places across several wards, including Alphington, to partners including Exeter City Council. Myself and Ben Bradshaw M.P. have been made aware of some issues for vulnerable current residents who are to be evicted to make way for the new scheme.
What housing advice is given to single men and women on a low income with a history of vulnerabilities when they are threatened with eviction? Is available accommodation affordable?
If there is a gap between provision and housing such that it could lead to homelessness and hardship, as a city how can we work with private sector and social landlords and other agencies and housing advice services to improve the situation in the short to immediate term?
In particular, what lessons can the City Council learn from housing schemes like the Exeter Community Trust initiative?
Councillor Williams, the Portfolio Holder for Supporting People, gave the following response:-
What housing advice is given to single men and women on a low income with a history of vulnerabilities when they are threatened with eviction?
Anyone threatened with eviction will be offered either an appointment ... view the full minutes text for item 17.
On behalf of the Corporate Manager Policy/Communications/Community Engagement, the Corporate Manger Democratic and Civic Support presented the report which sought agreement to adopt a Consultation Charter, setting out the Council’s commitment to best practice in consultation and to ensure a consistent approach to consultation arrangements.
The report had been brought forward after consideration by a Spotlight Review Working Group and Councillor Atkinson, as Chair of the Group, advised that the recommendations had been agreed unanimously by this cross-party group. She commended the report to the Committee.
The following responses were provided in respect of questions submitted by a Member of this Committee prior to the meeting:-
1. Does the Consultation Charter include planning applications?
Arrangements for consultation on planning applications are determined by specific regulations.
2. How does the Council plan to engage those who do not have digital access throughout a consultation process?
Consultation plans will need to set out how all audiences will be consulted. Previous consultations have included a range of methods, including public meetings, exhibitions, focus groups, targeted mailings, face-to-face and telephone interviews and printed material.
3. How will officers be supported to assess and address the carbon/environmental impacts of both the proposals and the consultations?
Officers will work with the Council’s Net Zero team to obtain guidance and advice on assessing and addressing the carbon/environmental impacts of both the proposals and the consultations
A Member asked for consideration to be given to an additional element to be added to the report. He felt that criteria for calling for a consultation should be formalised and the mechanisms to enable a consultation to be called set out. He suggested that, at present, a consultation process was instigated by officers and that the means for Members as well as the public to seek appropriate consultations should be identified. He also referred to the consultative process followed in respect of planning applications, suggesting that a guidance document could be produced to ensure that developers consulted fully on their proposals.
It was noted that the report stated that “any consultation could be proposed through the scrutiny process” and that the consultation on planning matters was a matter for the Planning Committee.
The Chair of the Spotlight Review Working Group referred to the undertaking in the draft Charter to consult residents and other stakeholders whenever a decision will directly affect them and which would also have regard to equality impact issues, emphasising the need for a degree of flexibility in this process. She also stated that any Member could raise questions on behalf of residents through existing processes.
A proposal for the draft Charter to be amended to include reference to formalise criteria for calling for a consultation and to set out mechanisms to enable a consultation to be called was moved and seconded put to the vote and LOST.
Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee supported the recommendation that the Executive recommend to Council approval of the Consultation Charter.
The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support will attend to make a presentation. The current terms of reference for this Scrutiny Committee are attached.
The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support spoke on the role of scrutiny, the current system having been introduced in October 2019 with an undertaking to review after a year. Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, a review had not been possible, although both Scrutiny Committees had received valuable briefings through a question and answer process since the beginning of the crisis. It was now the intention to commence the promised review and for recommendations to be brought to Executive and Council this Autumn.
The Corporate Manager reminded Members of the important role of scrutiny within the democratic process and of the following three distinct aspects:-
· holding Executive to account such as through the call-In process with Members also able to question Portfolio Holders on their areas of responsibility;
· opportunities to contribute to policy development with the Council’s Forward Plan, which is published monthly, providing advance notification of matters to be brought forward and which can be considered first by Scrutiny Committees prior to report to Executive; and
· examination of specific matters in greater detail through Task and Finish Groups, a good recent example being the Buller Statue Task and Finish Group.
The Corporate Manager also made the following points:-
· the role of the Scrutiny Programme Board in assessing requests for in depth reviews. It was the intention for the Board to identify a work plan and timescale of future items of business for scrutiny having regard to the best use of resources, corporate objectives and equality of workload between the two Scrutiny Committees;
· the recent circulation of profoma for Members to put forward such requests. These to be assessed first by the Strategic Management Board prior to consideration by the Scrutiny Programme Board. Requests already made by Members would receive priority consideration; and
· the commitment to build on the good progress made on developing the scrutiny function in the Council taking on board good practice and examples within other authorities.
A Member suggested that the production of an annual scrutiny report as well as building into the Committee cycle, a formal review of scrutiny would enhance the overall scrutiny process within the Council. The Chair confirmed that reviewing the operation of scrutiny would be of great value, including the potential for training, particularly for new Councillors.
The Corporate Manager advised that the review of scrutiny would be one of the elements to be considered by the soon to be constituted Governance Review Board which would be reporting to Executive and Council in the Autumn.
Members noted the update.