Agenda and draft minutes

Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 27th June 2024 5.30 pm

Venue: Guildhall, High Street, Exeter. View directions

Contact: Pierre Doutreligne, Democratic Services Officer  Telephone 01392 265486 or email

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 169 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 28 March 2024.




The minutes of the meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee held on 28 March 2024 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as a true and accurate record.




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 Democratic Services Manager 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 24 June 2024.

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




The Chair reported the receipt of two questions from members of the public under Standing Order No. 19:-


Question from Ms Marilyn Spurr


“Given that Exeter City Council has declared a climate emergency I would expect that this would be to the forefront of any policy. What consideration has been given in the Treasury Management Strategy to the impacts of climate change, specifically in relation to the Carbon Footprint (environmental) implications?”


The Chair asked Councillor Vizard, Portfolio Holder for Climate, Ecological Change and Communities, to answer Ms Spurr’s question. Cllr Vizard gave the following response:


“Exeter City Council’s Treasury Management Strategy is compliant with Secretary of State Investment Guidance which emphasises the security and liquidity of any investment, followed by yield.  There is currently no requirement to produce a policy that addresses climate emergency, Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG), or ethical investment issues.  Authorities can implement such a policy but are not permitted to prioritise these considerations above security, liquidity or yield.    

Whilst the Council does not specifically refer to ESG considerations in its Treasury Management Strategy, managing the ESG risk is part of current treasury management practices, as the Council uses mainstream rating agencies to assess counterparty creditworthiness – they now more formally incorporate ESG risk alongside more traditional financial risk metrics when assessing counterparty ratings.

The Council has previously used the Standard Chartered Sustainable Deposit where the rate is the same as the standard fixed term deposit so there has been no impact on security, liquidity or yield. Our Treasury Management advisers state that “The deposit guarantees that investment is referenced against sustainable assets, both existing and future.  The investments are referenced against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; thus funds are put to work addressing some of the world’s biggest long-term threats including, but not limited to, climate change, health, financial inclusion and education.”


In a supplementary question, Ms Spurr asked the Portfolio Holder why an emergency could not be prioritised. Cllr Vizard offered to reply to Ms Spurr in writing.


Question from Mr Chris Hill


The Council's corporate plan says that it aims to reach Net Zero by 2030 as part of its Climate Emergency strategy. What assessments have you made of the banks used by the council and those banks' investments and how they align with the goal of Net Zero?


The Chair asked Councillor Vizard, Portfolio Holder for Climate, Ecological Change and Communities, to answer Mr Hill’s question. Cllr Vizard gave the following response:


The Council seeks external treasury management advice from the Link Group. Link provide regular counterparty lists and suggested investment durations and notify us of any creditworthiness changes.  These counterparty lists are based on credit ratings from the three rating agencies (Fitch, Moodys and Standard & Poors), and the rating agencies take Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) risk into account when they make their assessments.


In a supplementary question, Mr Hill asked the Portfolio Holder if  he agreed that the carbon footprint caused by investing in the exploitation of fossil  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


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 Bialyk – Leader of the Council

Councillor Asvachin – Housing, Homelessness Prevention and Customer Services

Councillor Foale – Art, Culture and Tourism

Councillor Vizard – Climate, Ecological Change and Communities

Councillor Williams – Place and City Management

Councillor Wright – Corporate Services and City Centre


Advance questions from Members relating to the Portfolio Holders should be notified to Democratic Services via




In accordance with Standing Order No. 20, the following question was submitted by Councillor Read in relation to the Portfolio of Councillor Asvachin, who attended the meeting:-


“At the previous meeting, we heard that the Great Western Hotel was at maximum occupancy and providing some breakfasts. Communal kitchens were also discussed. What is the current state of play at Great Western Hotel regarding occupancy and progress to communal kitchens? Is this a priority to pursue and, if so, when can we expect it to happen? And can the Portfolio Holder let us know the exact number of children in the Great Western Hotel?”


The Portfolio Holder for Housing, Homelessness Prevention and Customer Services gave the following answer:-


“Exeter City Council has 30 ‘block-booked’ rooms at the Great Western Hotel  as of today: 18 occupied, four prebooked, two in void (repairs) and six ready to let. Typical average occupation is between 25 and 29; however, there is an unusually high number of vacancies at this specific time.


A small kitchen is available with microwaves at this time. Work on a shared kitchen has begun, with plumbing and other services to be installed along with partition walls. Completion is estimated to take approximately 6 weeks.


Exeter City Council does not place children at the Great Western Hotel. However, the owner does use a few rooms for this purpose for private clients. There are 2 families at Great Western Hotel, accommodated in a different part of the hotel. Family 1 consists of Mum, Dad and 1 child. Family 2 also consists of Mum, Dad and 1 child.”


In a supplementary question, Councillor Read asked:-

·         what would be provided in terms of kitchen facilities; and

·         how long the families in question were expected to stay at the Great Western Hotel.


Councillor Asvachin informed Councillor Read that she would reply to her in writing.




Work of the Community Safety Partnership to Tackle Violence Against Women and Girls at Night

This will be a presentation by key members of Safer Exeter - the city’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP) - regarding work that has been conducted to make Exeter a safer place for women and girls at night. The presentation will cover:-


·         the role of the CSP

·         funding bids and the outcomes they have delivered;

·         CCTV improvements;

·         the Safe Space;

·         Best Bar None;

·         the SWAN charter;

·         the policing strategy around the evening and night time economy.


At the end of the presentation, Members will have an opportunity to ask questions to the presenters:-


·         Insp. Nathan Johnson – Police Lead for Safety of Women

·         Jeanie Lynch – Deputy Chair, Safer Exeter and CoLab Resilient Women Lead

·         Peter Scargill – Chair of Safer Exeter and Director, University of Exeter

·         Nicola Wheeler – Chief Executive, InExeter

·         Mat Jarratt – Chair, InExeter

·         Laura Wright – Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for City Centre, Exeter City Council

·         Simon Lane – Service Lead for Environmental Health and Community Safety, Exeter City Council



Additional documents:


The Chair explained that, as the originator of the proforma requesting a Scrutiny item on “Local Measures to Tackle Violence Against Women and Girls”, Councillor Atkinson had been invited to sit with the Committee for this item and would be allowed to ask the first question after the presentation.


The external guests (Peter Scargill, Jeanie Lynch, Mat Jarratt, Supt. Antony Hart and Insp. Nathan Johnson) introduced themselves to the Committee, then talked Members through the presentation, which included:-


·         Purpose of the Exeter Community Safety Partnership

·         Partners

·         Areas of Focus 2020-2025

·         Funding

·         Improving Safety for Women in Exeter

·         CoLab Women

·         Women’s Centre for Exeter

·         Best Bar None

·         Safe Space

·         Police Overview

·         Evening and night time economy (ENTE) Locations and Patterns

·         Bystander Intervention Programme

·         Network of High-Definition Cameras



Community Safety Partnership


Peter Scargill (the only non-statutory Chair of a CSP in Devon) noted the uniqueness of the set-up. Jeanie Lynch praised the breadth of the partnership as well as the breadth of commitment across the city.


CoLab Women and Women’s Centre


Jeanie Lynch stressed how important the Safer Streets Funding had been. She also highlighted the need for a women’s hub in Exeter.


Best Bar None and Safe Space


Mat Jarratt remarked that these two projects did not exist in isolation, adding that:-

·         it was crucial not to consider best-case scenarios but real-life experience; and

·         the statistics for the Safe Space were inspiring.


Police Overview


Supt. Hart made reference to:-

·         the improved intelligence at Devon & Cornwall Police’s disposal;

·         the importance of internal as well as external culture; and

·         hotspot policing in Exeter.


Insp. Johnson, remarking that the night time economy had changed, talked Members through the four “Tier 1” hotspots and stressed the importance of foot patrols.


Portfolio Overview


Councillor Wright remarked that members of the LBGTQ+ community were also vulnerable within the NTE context. She also praised:-

·         Tony Cox for being responsible for many ideas aimed at improving the safety of women in Exeter;

·         street pastors; and

·         the work of everyone involved in the implementing the CCTV network, reminding Members that this was not a statutory duty.


Finally, she introduced the “Need Help” sign with the aid of which women who feel at risk can direct police operatives to the nearest camera.


The Director Net Zero Exeter & City Management praised the wide variety of representatives in the room and noted that the spirit of cooperation demonstrated in Exeter was the envy of all CSPs, adding that the Exeter model was recognised as best practice by the College of Policing.



Councillor Atkinson thanked all participants for their contributions but felt more detail could have been provided about:-

·         Serious Violence Duty;

·         Cause of Violence

·         Partnership Working across Devon; and

·         the deployment of staff to alert to VAWG.


The Service Lead - Environmental Health and Community Safety assured Councillor Atkinson that Exeter was fully involved in work taking place across the South West Peninsula. He acknowledged that more detail and/or topics could have been covered but explained that a conscious decision had been made  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Scrutiny Work Plan and Proposals Received pdf icon PDF 163 KB

Additional documents:


Members discussed the Work Plan and Scrutiny Proposals submitted.


Performance and service provided to customers and stakeholders of Stagecoach South West in Exeter


The Chair advised that she had met the Managing Director of Stagecoach, adding that, although she was one of the proposers, her personal preference would be for this item to go the Transport Working Group first. Councillor Moore welcomed the proposal to invite Stagecoach to the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee and made reference to:-

·         the Bus Impact Plan; and

·         the fact that the new Combined County Authority would have Transport in its remit.


Councillor Holland remarked that Transport was still currently a County matter and wondered if someone from HATOC should be invited. Councillor Wardle clarified that, while Stagecoach representatives could be invited, they did not have to accept the invitation.


It was moved by Councillor Parkhouse and seconded by Councillor Rees that the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee agree in principle to add this Scrutiny proposal to the Work Plan, with timescale and scoping to be confirmed at the next meeting of the Committee. Following a vote, the recommendation was CARRIED unanimously.


Update on Exeter Community Lottery first year of operation, amount raised for good causes


Members noted that Exeter Community Lottery was on the agenda of the September meeting of the Executive and felt that the November meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee (instead of October) would allow for more precise scoping for this piece of work.


It was moved by Councillor Parkhouse and seconded by Councillor Rees that this item be put on the Work Plan for 27 November 2024, with timescale and scoping to be confirmed at the next meeting of the Committee (3 October). Following a vote, the recommendation was CARRIED.


Anti-Social Behaviour in the City Centre – its causes and possible solutions


While Councillors Read and Moore supported the proposal, with Councillor Moore singling out street attachment as an issue of importance, Councillor Wardle felt that the proposal would add little to what had been presented earlier in the meeting. Councillor Holland agreed with him and reminded Committee members of the importance of the Police Neighbourhood Meetings. Councillor Miller felt that there could be capacity for the item on the Work Plan but not until March 2025.


Councillor Wardle proposed, and Councillor Pole seconded, an amended to defer any discussion on the subject until the January 2025 meeting of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee. Following a vote, the amendment was CARRIED.



Budget Scrutiny proposal


Councillor Moore referred to the recent meeting of the Combined Customer Focus and Strategy Committee and sought clarity on how to progress the scrutiny of the budget process. She proposed that the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee should receive a report from relevant Portfolio Holders on options for approaches to achieve a balanced budget, followed by three spotlight reviews (i.e. one meeting) to consider each of the following:

1.    HR: staff pay, skills gaps, use of contractors and use of apprenticeship levy

2.    Progress of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.