Agenda and minutes

Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 29th June 2023 5.30 pm

Venue: Civic Centre

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

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 541 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 30 March 2023.



The minutes of the meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 30 March 2023 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as correct.




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 26 June 2023.


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



No questions from members of the public were received.




River Exe pdf icon PDF 237 KB

To welcome Vicky Garner, Grace Gladding, Ian Lake and Mark Worsfold of South West Water, Mark Rice of the Environment Agency and Michaela Barwell of Natural England.


Letters from South West Water, Simon Jupp MP and Notice of Motion (Extract below) to Council on 21 February 2023 attached.


Ask Exeter City Council to invite the Chief Executive of South West Water plus senior representatives from the Environment Agency and Natural England/Natural Resources Wales to attend a meeting to answer questions on the current levels of sewage discharge. 


Additional documents:


The Chair welcomed the following representatives to the meeting, who had been invited following a Notice of Motion submitted to Council on 21 February 2023 by Councillor Read. Each representative of the three bodies introduced themselves:-


South West Water


Mark Worsfold, Director of Asset Management;

Alan Burrows, Director of Environmental Liaison and Culture; and

Vicky Garner, Partnership and Community Coordinator.


Environment Agency


Mark Rice, Area Director; and

Clarissa Newell, Area Environment Manager.


Natural England


Michaela Barwell, Operations Manager – Devon, Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Team.


The Place Project Officer advised Members of the City Council’s role in respect of the River Exe. It did not have a significant remit as the Environment Agency was the responsible body for monitoring water quality and pollution levels. The Council, however also monitored conditions when there were intermittent pollution issues such as nutrients in the Canal and sewage discharge in the river with a particular ongoing focus on the condition of the Northbrook and Higher Leat. Generally, there were fewer problems manifesting themselves in the lower Estuary than upstream and, whilst conditions could be better, the overall condition of the River Exe was reasonable.


In accordance with Standing Order No. 45, Councillor Read was in attendance and explained the purpose of her Notice of Motion. The River Exe was an enormous asset to Exeter which was recognised to have a huge benefit to the health and wellbeing of Exeter’s residents and of great importance to biodiversity and wildlife. Residents were increasingly concerned over pollution levels with sewage discharges, which were particularly evident after heavy rain. With wild water swimming becoming increasingly popular, especially with warmer summers, the river was used for bathing and a citizens testing programme had been instigated to help provide data to the authorities. As a Harbour Board Member, Councillor Read referred to its Business Statement of “leading on the environmental stewardship of the River”.  Whilst 12% of pollutants were the responsibility of South West Water a further 88% should also be accountable including agricultural runoff, badly managed septic tanks, road runoff and misconnected domestic drains all impacted adversely on the health of rivers in general and the Exe specifically. Moreover, South West Water’s clean up target was over an exceptionally long period. Other points raised were:-   


·         could South West Water confirm that the final Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans (DWMP) had been published?;

·         does the Local Plan review recognise the impact of, and legislate for, the impact of new developments on treatment works?;

·         do South West Water and the Environment Agency measure the impact of polluted water on wildlife along the river banks?; and

·         when would real time and accurate data be made available on the location and the volume of sewage spills? 


South West Water


Mark Worsfold and Alan Burrows advised that the Environment Agency was the monitoring body of South West Water’s environmental regime with Ofwat the financial and economic regulator. South West Water’s Drainage and Waste Water Management Plan 2025 to 2040 had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Presentation on the role of Scrutiny pdf icon PDF 177 KB

A presentation will be made by the Democratic Services Manager.

The current terms of reference for the Scrutiny Committees are attached.






The Democratic Services Manager presented the role of scrutiny and its importance within the Council’s democratic process in acting as a critical friend for the Authority through the two Scrutiny Committees - Strategic and Customer Focus. He advised that Bethan Evans of Governance Training and Consultancy Ltd. would hold a bespoke scrutiny training session on 7 September 2023.


The following points were highlighted in the presentation:-


·         the Terms of Reference of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee covered corporate and financial performance monitoring, the annual budget setting process and service specific/operational matters.


·         Scrutiny Committee Work Plan;


·   the Work Plan was set by the Scrutiny Programme Board which was chaired by Councillor Allcock, a non-Executive Member, and comprised of the Chairs and Deputies of both Committees;

·   the Work Plan was generated by Members of Scrutiny who were encouraged to submit a proforma to suggest areas of scrutiny and which was reviewed and commented on by the Strategic Management Board; and

·   the Scrutiny Programme Board reviewed the requests and assessed how the suggestions, as well as the Work Plan itself, aligned with the Council’s priorities and resources.


·         Role of Scrutiny was:-


·   to hold the Executive to account through “call in”;

·   to assist with the review of Council policy and service delivery issues including budgets; and

·   enabled public engagement by asking questions about Council responsibilities.


·         Call In Under Standing Order 17


·   Executive decisions could be called in if the process was either deemed deficient, failed to consider alterative action, failed to take account of relevant factors or the decision was wrong in fact or law;

·   a call in required seven Scrutiny members from either Scrutiny Committee;

·   after deliberation, Scrutiny may take no further action or refer back to Executive;

·   a call in does not apply to urgent matters or recommendations to Council; and

·   Executive can consider the recommendation of Scrutiny but decide to take no action.


·         Forward Plan;


·   Democratic Services publish the Forward Plan on a monthly basis setting out all decisions that will be taken over the coming months; and

·   Councillors are given the opportunity to get involved in policy formulation before the Executive makes a decision on them by asking for a report to be brought to Scrutiny.


·         Task and Finish Groups/Spotlight Reviews


·   Task and Finish reviews are a series of meetings to consider a specific issue; with recommendations presented to Scrutiny and Executive for consideration as part of the decision making process; and

·   Spotlight reviews look at one matter normally in one meeting.


In response to questions, the Democratic Services Manager advised that the proforma had been recently updated as requested by the Scrutiny Programme Board and that the proforma requests were added to the Work Plan which, if agreed by the Board, would be reported to the relevant Scrutiny Committee and ultimately included on the Scrutiny Bulletin. He also confirmed that seven Members from either Committee were required for a Call-In.


The Chair thanked the Democratic Services Manager for the presentation and Members noted the report.



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 Council Housing Development and Support Services

Councillor Foale     -   Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Democratic Services and Environmental Health

Councillor Pearce   -   Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention

Councillor Williams -   Portfolio Holder for Place and City Management


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




No questions had been received from Members.



Forward Plan of Business and Scrutiny Work Plan pdf icon PDF 296 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. This on-line document is a source for Members to raise issues at Scrutiny on forthcoming Executive agenda items:-


Also attached is a draft work plan of future 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.