Proposed amendment to Min. No. 116 of the Executive minutes of 30 November 2021.
From: The Conservative Group
Proposed by Andrew Leadbetter
Seconded by Anne Jobson; Yolonda Henson; Peter Holland and Keith Sparkes
Amendments to recommendation from the Executive to the Full Council on
14th December 2021 with respect to:
The proposed changes to the role of the Chief Executive & Growth Director and Strategic Management Board.
That Executive recommends and Council approves:
(i) That to ensure transparency and accountability Exeter City Council take over the work of Exeter City Futures CIC with respect to the Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan and that strategic partners are invited to support and work with the Chief Executive Officer and ECC on the delivery of that plan.
(ii) That recommendation (1) and (2) are therefore deleted
(iii) That recommendation (3) is amended to read:
That the arrangements are reviewed by regular reporting to Scrutiny which shall include an update on each of the 12 key targets.
(iv) That recommendation (4) be deferred until the first review of the arrangements.
(v) That recommendation (5) be deleted
(vi) That a new recommendation (5) is added that reads:
The Net Zero 2030 plan be added to the corporate risk register
(vii) That recommendation (6) stands
The minutes of the Executive of 30 November 2021 were presented by the Leader, Councillor Bialyk, and taken as read.
In respect of Minute No. 115 (Members’ Allowances 2022/23), the Leader moved and Councillor Wrightseconded the recommendations and following a vote, the recommendations were carried unanimously.
In respect of the following Minute, the Chief Executive & Growth Director declared an interest and left the meeting during the consideration of this matter.
In respect of Minute No. 116 (Changes to the role of the Chief Executive & Growth Director and the Strategic Management Board), the Leader moved and Councillor Wright seconded the recommendations.
Councillor Leadbetter, as leader of an opposition group, moved and Councillor Jobson seconded the following amendments:-
“That Executive recommends and Council approves that:-
(i) to ensure transparency and accountability Exeter City Council take over the work of Exeter City Futures CIC (ECF) with respect to the Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan and that strategic partners are invited to support and work with the Chief Executive Officer and Exeter City Council on the delivery of that Plan;
(ii) recommendation (1) and (2) are therefore deleted;
(iii) recommendation (3) is amended to read “That the arrangements are reviewed by regular reporting to Scrutiny which shall include an update on each of the 12 key targets”;
(iv) recommendation (4) be deferred until the first review of the arrangements;
(v) recommendation (5) is deleted;
(vi) a new recommendation (5) is added to read “The Net Zero 2030 Plan be added to the corporate risk register”; and
(vii) recommendation (6) to stand.
Councillor Leadbetter, in presenting the amendments, stated that, whilst all stakeholders were signed up to the goal of achieving Net Zero Exeter 2030, this could be better achieved within the City Council by its senior officers rather than by a stand-alone body as this would enable proper scrutiny by Members. He asked for an explanation why it was considered that Net Zero could not be achieved in-house but should be put out to a third party organisation.
Councillor Jobson, in seconding the motion, stated that there was a greater likelihood of the Net Zero Exeter 2030 goal being achieved by ensuring that it remained in-house rather than being led by Exeter City Futures CIC (ECF). She was particularly concerned that ECF was not operating in a sufficiently transparent manner, citing as evidence the lack of clarity in respect of the use of various Government grants and the latest set of ECF minutes being 24 November 2020, which only recorded decisions taken and not the background information. Further, the accounts for the year ending 31 December 2019 were not filed with Companies House until December 2020. She also asked why Devon County Council was not currently represented on the ECF Board.
Councillor Jobson also stated that it was vital for the City Council to be democratically accountable to the citizens of Exeter in combating Climate Change and delivering Net Zero and this could best be achieved through the Council’s internal mechanisms including the Audit and Governance and Scrutiny Committees, the Executive and Full Council, rather than a separate company. The City Council, through its democratic processes, was better placed than ECF to share with residents its practices and projects as well as those of the other major stakeholders in the city already working with the Council, to ensure that as many in the city as possible were fully on board with the challenge.
Councillor Leadbetter commended the amendments to Council.
Councillor Bialyk, as Leader, stated that his group would not be supporting the amendments.
The amendments were put to the vote and LOST.
Councillor M. Mitchell moved and Councillor Sparling seconded the following amendment:-
“That recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 5 be referred to the Strategic Scrutiny Committee to consider the implications of the recommendations and to report to the Executive prior to the next Council meeting”
In presenting his amendment, Councillor M. Mitchell stated that, whilst delivering the Net Zero agenda was recognised by all as a key priority for the Council, the proposed changes to the Council’s working arrangements through the secondment of senior officers should be subjected to scrutiny and reported to Council. He suggested that the proposals being put forward should also be considered in the context of Government proposals for changing the planning system, potential reform of the two tier Local Government system as well as the continuing reduction in financial support from Central Government to Local Government. He also asked that each of the recommendations within the report be voted on separately.
Councillor Sparling, in seconding the amendment, referred to the long term impact on generations to come of Council decisions relating to Climate Change and that it would be appropriate therefore, in this context, to devote some extra time to scrutinise the implications of the proposals, in order to agree on the most effective way forward.
Councillor M. Mitchell, in commending the amendment to Council, stated that an unspecific review did not provide the foresight needed to make a major change in working practices and that the implications of the policy needed to be identified and explored. An immediate scrutiny of the proposal was preferable to seeking a review of the arrangements in twelve months.
Councillor Bialyk, as Leader, stated that his group would not be supporting the amendment.
The amendment was put to the vote and LOST.
The Leader, in presenting the motion, stated that the essence of the proposal was to respond as expeditiously and collaboratively as possible to the emergency presented by Climate Change. Working with key institutions across the city such as the University of Exeter, Stagecoach, Great Western Railways, Devon County Council and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital was far more effective than an appointment of a single dedicated officer within the City Council. A time commitment by the Chief Executive & Growth Director and the Director of Transformation to work with their counterparts in these institutions would be a key driver to the success of Net Zero Exeter 2030 and both were of the highest calibre for these roles having built up an extensive network throughout the city’s organisations to support this shared agenda. This commitment would demonstrate the Council’s focus on delivering the Net Zero programme with experienced leadership working with a coalition of partners.
The Council, through its Emergency Budget in response to the Covid Pandemic, had allocated significant funding to the Net Zero Exeter 2030 programme, and its financial commitment to Net Zero was more than many authorities who had not made similar financial allocations. He emphasised that the Council was equally committed to maintaining the existing level of its services. There would be regular reports back to Members on the progress of ECF initiatives and a report on the City Development Fund would be presented to the Executive in the New Year. The Leader stated that no decisions affecting the City Council would be made without first reporting to the Council and he offered an invitation for opposition Members to meet with the Chief Executive & Growth Director for a briefing in their respective groups on the detail of the proposal as well as in relation to the Development Fund.
Councillor D. Moore, as a co-leader of an opposition group referring to the seven points she had raised at Executive, welcomed the proposal to establish a carbon budget for the city, as did the rest of the Progressive Group and asked for confirmation that, once the carbon budget was created, the data would be provided on the amount of carbon reduction achieved and for a focus on the most urgent needs as set out in the base line required to achieve Net Zero. She re-iterated the concerns expressed by Councillor Jobson in the financial and governance arrangements of ECF and felt that there was a lack of transparency and scrutiny given to the proposal. She also stated that it was unfortunate that issues around the City Development Fund were only emerging at this point, even though they had been in the public domain for a while. She stated that it was unclear if the secondments would focus on investment or the Liveable Exeter Board.
Referring to the Development Fund, the 10 priority actions in the Net Zero Action Plan 2030 set out in the Executive report and the seven points of specific concern she had raised at that meeting she felt that, rather than rushing ahead, the earlier amendment calling for scrutiny was appropriate. Working with other institutions was the correct way forward to combine resources to achieve Net Zero but, as with other authorities, it should be the Council itself that uses its status to undertake the leadership role to ensure transparency and inclusive action on the Climate Emergency through the creation, for example, of a working group to ensure rigour and transparency. She remained concerned with the proposal to transfer management arrangements as she felt that the secondments would not be a practical arrangement and that outsourcing the Council’s leadership, responsibilities and power to a private company was inappropriate.
Councillor Leadbetter, as the leader of an opposition group, stated that, whilst his group continued to support the work of the Chief Executive & Growth Director on Net Zero Exeter 2030, their stance was that this work should be done in-house. The group supported progressing the work as quickly as possible but that an element of scrutiny should be incorporated initially. He thanked the Leader for the reassurances he had given and stated that the city was well placed to progress with the Net Zero Action Plan. He accepted the offer to meet with the Chief Executive & Growth Director for a briefing.
Councillor K. Mitchell, as a co-leader of an opposition group, referred to a motion presented to Council in February 2019 seeking a Climate Emergency declaration, the wording of which had not been supported on the grounds of requiring more detail. He also confirmed that his group would also accept the offer of a briefing from the Chief Executive & Growth Director.
During the discussion, the following points were made:-
· the proposed structure for ECF will provide the necessary technical data required as part of achieving Net Zero 2030 as the City Council had limited capacity in this regard;
· the City Council’s solar array and battery storage facility at Marsh Barton would ultimately power electric refuse vehicles, three of which had been ordered, the first in the south west;
· the Net Zero goal was embedded in the Corporate Plan as a key strategic priority and was also included on the Council’s website. The senior staff secondments would provide strong leadership to scrutinize and mediate the city wide programme;
· the Council was committed to its own house building programme through Exeter City Living which, together with building to Passivhaus standards and the retrofit programme of private housing, would meet the requirements of the low carbon agenda and contribute to the Net Zero Exeter 2030 goal; and
· progress would be reported back to the Council through Scrutiny Committees, Executive and Council.
The Leader, in summarising, stated that the 10 key priority actions identified in the Net Zero Exeter Plan 2030 could only be achieved through a collaborative approach. The secondment of the Chief Executive & Growth Director and the Director of Transformation to ECF would help ensure the effective delivery of the Net Zero Exeter 2030 goals as both had strong connections with the private and public sector, community groups and voluntary organisations. He referred to the potential for further collaboration at a regional level, through the retrofit programme being brought forward by Live West in conjunction with other local authorities. He would ensure that the progress of Net Zero Exeter 2030 was fully reported to Members and that the concerns some had raised would be addressed.
He commended the recommendations to Council.
The Leader moved and Councillor Wright seconded the recommendations and following separate votes on each, all recommendations were CARRIED, recommendation 4 being CARRIED unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 7.47 pm and re-convened at 8.00 pm.
In respect of Minute No. 117 (The Exeter Article 4 Direction : Houses in Multiple Occupancy – Response to a recent petition), the Leader moved and Councillor Wright seconded the recommendations and following a vote, the recommendations were carried unanimously.
In respect of Minute No. 118 (Overview of General Fund Revenue Budget 2021/22 – Quarter 2), the Leader moved and Councillor Wrightseconded the recommendations and following a vote, the recommendations were carried.
In respect of Minute No.119 (2021/22 General Fund Capital Monitoring Statement – Quarter 2) the Leader moved and Councillor Wrightseconded the recommendations and following a vote, the recommendations were carried.
In respect of Minute No. 120 (2021/22 HRA Budget Monitoring Report – Quarter 2), the Leader moved and Councillor Wright seconded the recommendations and following a vote, the recommendations were carried unanimously.
In respect of Minute No. 121 (Treasury Management 2021/22 Half Year Update), the Leader moved and Councillor Wright seconded the recommendation and following a vote, the recommendation was carried unanimously.
In respect of Minute No. 122 (Update to Procurement and Contract Procedures), the Leader moved and Councillor Wright seconded the recommendations and following a vote, the recommendations were carried unanimously.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the Executive held on 30 November 2021 be received and, where appropriate, adopted.