Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 21st October, 2021 7.30 pm

Venue: New Council Chamber - Town Hall, Reigate

Contact: Democratic Services (01737 276182)  Email: Democratic@reigate-banstead.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

34.

Apologies for absence and substitutions

To receive any apologies for absence and notification of any substitute Members in accordance with the Constitution.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Moses.

Councillor Cooper and Councillor Whinney attended the meeting remotely.

35.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 314 KB

To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the previous meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the previous meeting on 9 September 2021 were approved.

36.

Declarations of interest

To receive any Declarations of Interest (including the existence and nature of any Party Whip).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no Declarations of Interest.

37.

Organisation Portfolio Holder Updates pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To receive an update from the Organisation Portfolio Holders for Corporate Policy & Resources, Finance & Governance and Investment & Companies and make any observations to Executive Members.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members received briefings from the three Organisation Executive Members overseeing three areas of the Council’s work: Corporate Policy & Resources, Finance & Governance and Investment & Companies.

The presentations from each of the Executive Members/Portfolio Holders were published on the Council’s website as part of the Committee’s agenda pack.

Councillor Lewanski, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Policy & Resources, gave an overview of the Council’s work. This included: rapid implementation of IT systems to enable staff and Members to work remotely and securely, revision of ICT strategy in line with future ways of working; scoping improvements required for data centre and telephony systems, updates to delivery of online automated transactions, corporate policy development, project management updated framework and reporting, communications to support emergency COVID-19 response and use of data and insight to deliver services more efficiently.

Organisational Development and HR had been reviewing different ways of working to benefit residents post the pandemic, including hybrid working to enable remote working with future physical workspaces, as well as workforce planning and resourcing.

Members made observations and asked questions on the following areas. This included supplementary questions arising from Written Answers to Members’ Advance Questions:

·       Customer relations – approximately 60 plus online transactions with the public were handled through the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system currently. Work was ongoing to review the work done to date to move processes online which had been facilitated by the CRM platform. The Head of IT confirmed that around 30,000 people had signed up to request Council services in this way. Over 50,000 transactions a year were carried out using the digital platform. Members asked for further information as a follow-up written answer.

·       Cyber-attacks – Members highlighted the increase in cyber-attacks on IT systems of companies and organisations more generally, following the increase in online working. The Head of IT confirmed on the cyber front that IT monitors all systems and blocks around 2000 attempts a month. There was secure access to systems via Council-issued laptops and the organisation had to meet public sector network accreditation each year set by the Cabinet Office.

·       Fraud and identity fraud – how did the Council ensure it was protecting residents against fraud with the decrease in face-to-face contact and remote working? This included dealing with potential identity fraud, such as criminals purporting to be calling from the Council.  It was confirmed that the Revenues, Benefits and Fraud team dealt with any reported cases of fraud. Members requested more information in a follow-up written answer.

·       Telephony – it was confirmed that plans to replace the entire telephony and remote access systems in 2022 were underway. There had been some problems with external calls going direct to a staff extension number due to remote access systems. This had not affected the Borough Council’s main phone line or internal calls.

·       Hybrid working HR was working through the detail on hybrid working with staff and the impact this might have on working conditions before communicating more widely the future planned approach. All staff could book a desk  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Environmental Sustainability: Progress update pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To receive a progress update on the work towards the objectives set out in the Council’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy and proposed new actions at Annex 1 and 2.

To provide any observations for consideration by the Executive on 18 November.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received an annual update on the work towards the objectives set out in the Council’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, adopted in July 2020.

 

Councillor Lewanski, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Policy and Resources, outlined the work that had taken place over the past year. More detail was given in the environmental sustainability strategy update slide pack published as part of the agenda pack. In addition, the agenda pack included two annexes: Annex 1 which set out the progress, challenges and next steps of the Action Plan in 2020/21. Annex 2 set out additional proposed actions.

 

During the past year, the new sustainability team had been established at the Borough Council. Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, good progress had been made and action on more sustainable ways of working was being weaved throughout services across the Council. These activities were based on four key themes: energy and carbon, low impact consumption, biodiversity & the natural environment and implementation cross-cutting areas such as Planning, partnership working and procurement.

 

The sustainability team had two main areas of focus:

 

1)    To work to become a more sustainable Council. Actions to date have included purchasing energy with renewable tariffs and offsetting so our energy supply could become carbon neutral; switching to low carbon vehicles as these were replaced and improving the Borough’s green spaces to absorb more carbon dioxide and to support biodiversity. A range of activities to support and train staff and Members to underpin a more sustainable future was underway.

 

2)    To support residents and businesses to become a more sustainable Borough such as: joint working with Surrey local authorities and Surrey County Council; bidding for Government funding for decarbonisation of housing stock; supporting schemes such as Solar Together to install solar panels in the borough; installing new electric vehicle charging points in Horley (with more to come in Banstead); working with community groups to identify areas to plant trees; planned work to engage young people on climate change through local schools.

 

Councillor Lewanski thanked the Cross Party Member Sustainability Working Group for their detailed questions and feedback on the strategy.

 

Written answers had been provided to members on the Council’s staged approach to working towards the Council’s 2030 net zero carbon target and use of carbon offsetting measures and hedge cutting in the borough.  A supplementary question from Councillor Essex requested more detail on offsetting schemes and costs as a follow-up written response.

 

Committee Members highlighted four priorities which would require significant planning, financial spend and delivery to achieve carbon reduction and get the Council to net zero by 2030.

These were:

 

·       Improving the Council’s own assets and buildings.

·       A plan to convert the Council’s fleet.

·       Rolling out electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure – including for taxis and private hire vehicles.

·       A plan for domestic retrofit programmes.

 

Members asked questions and made observations on the following areas:

 

Engagement with young people – Members asked about plans for working with young people on climate change and sustainability issues. Plans were underway  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.

39.

Companies Performance Update - Autumn 2021 pdf icon PDF 292 KB

To note the Autumn 2021 Companies Performance Update, as set out in the report and Annexes, and to make any observations for consideration by theCommercial Ventures Executive Sub-Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a six-monthly update on the performance of companies owned or part-owned by the Council from the Portfolio Holder for Commercial and Investments, Councillor Archer. Further information was set out in a report to the Committee – Companies Performance Update – Autumn 2021 – which was published in the meeting agenda pack. To support good governance of the Council’s companies, the Committee, and the Commercial Ventures Executive Sub-Committee (CVESC) received regular updates on the performance of these companies.

 

The three operational companies owned or part-owned by the Council currently consisted of:

 

·       Greensands Holdings Ltd (a property development and investment company wholly owned by the Council which owns an office building and a plot of development land). This was currently considered to be performing overall in line with the Council’s objectives and expectations. Members noted that the current directors of the company were William Pallett, Derek Beck and Councillor Michalowski.

·       Horley Business Park Development LLP (which is a joint venture to bring forward planning and development of the proposed Horley Business Park with Millhill Properties (Horley) Ltd and Berwick Hill Properties Ltd). The Council is a partner in this proposed development. This was not currently performing in line with objectives due to activity being limited by matters currently being resolved with the joint venture partners.

·       Pathway for Care Ltd, a supported living provider, where the Council is a minority shareholder. The majority shareholding was held by Transforming Healthcare Group Ltd. Additional information was being sought from the majority shareholders on current performance.

 

It was reported to Members that Camelia Close (Tadworth) Residents Management Company was set up in May 2021 as a short-term arrangement. This was not a Council-owned company but related to a RBBC development site and would be in place until all units were sold, when leasehold management would be transferred to a specialist resident management company.

 

The Council was currently developing Part 2 of its Commercial Strategy to set out its approach to future commercial activity. The O&S Commercial Strategy Scrutiny Panel was due to meet on 2 November 2021 to receive an overview of current work to date.

 

Members asked questions and made the following observations:

 

·       Business rates collection – long-standing proposals to reform business rates were still under consideration by the Government. The Council received around £50m through business rates and retained approximately £2m.

·       Gatwick Airport ‘strategic gap’ – this was Surrey County Council-owned land between the proposed Horley Business Park development site and the M23 spur road. The emerging plans for Gatwick Airport proposed that some of this land be used as a site compound temporarily to aid with other proposed construction work at Gatwick Airport.

·       Greensand Holdings Ltd rental ­income ­– Members asked for clarification on rental income and loan interest. It was confirmed that modest rental income was received on Council owned land at Fishers Farm (part of the Horley Business Park development land). A loan to purchase the land via Greensands Holdings accrued loan interest of £1.152m as of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.

40.

Constitution of Budget Scrutiny Panel pdf icon PDF 264 KB

To consider and agree the membership and scope of work of the Budget Scrutiny Review Panel taking place on 1 December 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members noted the timetable and scope of the Budget Scrutiny Panel due to take place on 1 December 2021 to consider and respond to the draft Budget proposals for 2022/23 due to come to Executive on 18 November 2021.

The Committee agreed membership of the Budget Scrutiny Panel as Councillors Baker, Blacker, Buttironi, Elbourne, Essex, Harrison and Tary.

RESOLVED – that the Committee:

1.    Agreed the membership and timetable of the Budget Scrutiny Panel set out in the report and due to take place on 1 December 2021.

2.     Agreed the scope of the Budget Scrutiny Panel’s work.

41.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 146 KB

To consider and agree any changes to the schedule for Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Forward Work Programme 2021/22.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered the Forward Work Programme 2021/22 for the Committee set out in Annex 1 of the report.

It was agreed that the membership of the Commercial Strategy Scrutiny Panel (constituted at Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 21 January 2021) was Councillors Blacker, Elbourne, Essex, Harrison, King, Parnall and Walsh. The Panel was due to meet on 2 November 2021.

Members asked for a note from the Head of Legal to give a further update on progress with the Charitable Trusts legal work (set out in Annex 2 - Action Tracker).

RESOLVED that the Committee noted its proposed Forward Work Programme 2021/22.

42.

Executive

To consider any items arising from the Executive which might be subject to the ‘call-in’ procedure in accordance with the provisions of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules set out in the Constitution.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was reported that there were no items arising from the Executive that might be subject to the ‘call-in’ procedure in accordance with the provisions of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules.

43.

Any other urgent business

To consider any item(s) which, in the opinion of the Chairman, should be considered as a matter of urgency - Local Government Act 1972, Section 100B(4)(b).

 

(NOTE: Under the Committee and Sub-Committee Procedure Rules set out in the Constitution, items of urgent business must be submitted in writing but may be supplemented by an oral report.)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

44.

Exempt Business

RECOMMENDED that members of the Press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that:

(i)             It involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as the information in the report relates to the financial or business affairs of the authority; and

(ii)            The public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED – that members of the Press and public be excluded from the meeting for the consideration of Item 12 of the agenda (Companies Performance Update, Autumn 2021) (Exempt) under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that:

(i)             It involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act at the information in the report relates to the financial or business affairs of the authority; and

(ii)            The public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

 

45.

Companies Performance Update, Autumn 2021 (Exempt)

To note any Exempt information in relation to the Companies Performance Update, Autumn 2021.

 

Additional documents: