Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Monday, 8th March, 2021 1.30 pm

Venue: Via Zoom

Contact: Linda Albon  Member Services and Governance Officer

No. Item


Previous Minutes. pdf icon PDF 139 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of 11 January 2021.


Councillor Mason pointed out an error on the agenda in that the previous minutes to be approved should read 8 February 2021 and not 11 January 2021.


The minutes of the meeting of 8 February 2021 were confirmed subject to the following minor amendment:


·         OS40/20 (top of page 4). Councillor Booth said Dan Horn had confirmed the number of pitches at Turf Fen travellers site were reduced from 8 to 4 some years ago which is why some people believed it was not in full occupancy.


Update on previous actions. pdf icon PDF 101 KB

Members to receive an update on the previous meeting’s Action Plan.


Members were provided with an update on the status of actions raised at previous meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel.


1.    Councillor Connor stated his disappointment that Clarion have not got back to him regarding issues with premises at Doddington, which are still ongoing. He asked if Anna Goodall could contact Clarion on his behalf for them to contact him by telephone as soon as possible.

2.    Councillor Connor still wants an answer in respect of future planning applications and how additional surface water is going to be dealt with. Anglian Water have said they do not plan to update infrastructure in the next five years so when will this be done? Local people are saying there is nowhere for additional surface water to go.

3.    Councillor Booth said that he was still waiting for young driver accident statistics from Matt Staton. Also, he was waiting for information on when the Friday Bridge pumping station was likely to be refurbished and what is its design life expectancy?

4.    Councillor Miscandlon said he had previously thanked Briony Tuthill from Anglian Water for attending a panel meeting, but we need to meet with someone who has more technical knowledge. As previously stated by Councillor Connor and Councillor Booth, we need to know about an infrastructure replacement programme as there clearly needs to be one due to the problems in the whole district. Councillor Mason confirmed that work is in hand to bring Anglian Water back to a future meeting and he will update the panel when he has more information.

5.    Councillor Cornwell asked that as there are still many unresolved items we formally move these to the outstanding actions list so that they are not forgotten.


Update on CPCA Growth Service and impact on Economic Development in Fenland pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To provide the Overview & Scrutiny Panel with a general update presentation on Economic Growth activities between the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) & FDC and to provide a specific update presentation on the CPCA’s Growth Service and the impact on Economic Growth in Fenland.



Councillor Mason welcomed Councillor Ian Benney, Justin Wingfield and external guests, Alan Downton from the Combined Authority (CPCA) and Paul Webster from the International Investment Service to the meeting.


The Update on CPCA Growth Service and Impact on Economic Development in Fenland report was presented in two parts. Councillor Benney gave a broad overview of the activity between FDC and the CPCA, followed by a presentation by Paul Webster and Alan Downton.


Councillor Mason thanked both Paul Webster and Alan Downton for their interesting presentation.


Members made comments, asked questions and received responses as follows:


1.    Councillor Miscandlon also thanked Paul Webster and Alan Downton for their presentation, saying that as a former apprentice himself he was pleased to see emphasis on the importance of apprenticeships, of which he is an advocate, and looks forward to an exciting time ahead for that programme.

2.      Councillor Wicks said it would be good for councillors to know more about grants available for small businesses to be able to promote them. He said that whilst he favours apprenticeships there are limited opportunities within Fenland for these as we only have three local further education hubs. He questioned whether they are conducting the courses that we will need to grow businesses within this area as he noted that engineering, business administration and business management were not available. Alan Downton replied that the CPCA needs to work with FDC to assess future requirements; not all courses are in place at the moment and there is still work to be done, but working together these issues can be addressed. Paul Webster added that there is a training allocation funding pot within the CPCA that can be accessed to develop new learning pathways as required. They will be demand-led in terms of what businesses are asking for to ensure a work force for the future. Their own programme is looking to have two local apprentices in the in the field of business management and business administration so they will also need access to that form of education as mentioned by Councillor Wicks.

3.      Councillor Benney advised that the funding schemes change as the funds are available, however they tend to be oversubscribed very quickly but he will ensure Councillor Wicks is notified about them as they arise. Addressing Councillor Wicks’ comments about suitable apprenticeships he pointed out that Chatteris has been awarded some £3.2m for an engineering training college. Furthermore, we have a delivery of homes within Fenland that we are not achieving because there is not the labour force here to deliver it. Too many young people are going to university when there are good, well-paid jobs available locally if we can get young people interested in building trade jobs such as quantity surveyors, electricians, plumbers etc. that require a whole range of skills that we can train young people in. He has pushed hard to encourage training centres to get apprenticeships within the building trade because there is a need and jobs are available at  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC46/20


Investment Board Annual Report pdf icon PDF 173 KB

To provide an update to the Overview & Scrutiny Panel of the work of the Investment Board from April 2020 to March 2021.



Councillor Mason welcomed Councillor Boden to the meeting to present the first Investment Board Annual Report 


Members made comments, asked questions and received responses as follows:


1.    Councillor Booth recognised that there has not been the opportunity for the Investment Board to get fully up and running given the constraints of COVID-19 and suggested that we not wait for an update in a year’s time.  He noted that one of the aims of the Board is to invest in residential development and he asked what the approach is going to be regarding delivery of social housing. Councillor Boden said it is the Board’s intention to be commercial and will be unlikely to pursue social housing unless legislation dictates it; the objective of Fenland Future Limited is to operate as any commercial developer in order to achieve a return.

2.    Councillor Yeulett said the report referred to the Investment Board being created to be more ‘fleet of foot’ and asked what that meant. Councillor Boden said it refers to the need to move quickly i.e. with a speed greater than usual at local government level, to compete for investment opportunities with private businesses.

3.    Councillor Miscandlon said whilst it is desirable to keep investment within the geographical area would the Board consider opportunities outside of Fenland. Councillor Boden said if the opportunity arose, it would not be ruled out but most of our real opportunities will lie within or close to Fenland.

4.    Councillor Miscandlon said that Fenland owns some land, some of which is up for sale, therefore would it be in our interest to apply for planning permission to increase its intrinsic value, so that when sold we profit further. He also asked if there was a possibility of building our own houses although, bearing in mind that we transferred our housing stock, would it be the intention to go back into social housing and how would this affect our stock partner Clarion? Councillor Boden said in respect of our smaller plots of land, although it would not be economically viable for us to build on these ourselves, it would be prudent to at least apply outline planning permission and or have a clawback provision within the sale so that if speculative development was achieved then we would get some recompense for that. For larger areas of land, we have to consider that we do not have the expertise to develop ourselves but look to work in partnership with a developer to build and cooperate with us. In any development we undertake there will be some obligation to have affordable housing, it may not be in the form of social housing, and it is not our intention to build social housing as there will not be the return, but it not our intention to reintroduce the social housing stock.

5.    Councillor Mason said members would be interested to know what assets are placed on loan security or earmarked for that purpose. Councillor Boden said no further borrowing has taken  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC47/20


Transformation & Communications Portfolio Holder Update pdf icon PDF 251 KB

This report sets out the Council’s progress in delivering the Transformation and Communications portfolio. 



Councillor Mason welcomed Councillor Tierney to the meeting to present the Transformation & Communications Portfolio Holder update.


Members made comments, asked questions and received responses as follows:


·         Councillor Miscandlon said he feels we should encompass a broader method of communication than mentioned within the report, such as local radio. Not everybody has access to a computer or social media, and he asked what the Council could do about this. Councillor Tierney said the normal approach is to send out press releases, but the suggestion of including radio is something officers can take on board to ensure the maximum number of people hear the good news that FDC is doing, and so we will include as many forms of media that we can. The press team work hard but new ideas are always welcome.

·         Councillor Boden advised that Fenland Youth Radio has just been added to FDC’s publicity and press release list.

·         Councillor Booth asked for clarification as to why some of the items on the list of projects were on the transformation programme as he thought they were things we would deliver naturally. He asked if it is the intention that the transformation programme overlooks all projects delivered across the district as opposed to more innovative projects. Councillor Tierney said his portfolio role is to act as a strategic lead on transformation and not to interfere with the work of other portfolio holders or committees; he will just ensure that loose ends are tied up. It does not matter that there are some additional projects in there, he will merely guide the overall direction of travel that we are taking.

·         Councillor Booth raised the issue of complaints. He has commented many times before that a good quality organisation takes complaints as an opportunity to learn and improve as an organisation. He has previously asked for a breakdown of the nature of complaints as opposed to just the number. He asked for a commitment to provide this information going forward, i.e. broad themes and what action will be delivered to counteract further similar complaints. Councillor Tierney agreed it is important to look for patterns in the nature of complaints and to identify any gaps in service delivery; he agreed that this can be done going forward but also giving regard to confidentiality where required.

·         Councillor Cornwell suggested a weekly newsletter could be emailed to people who interact with their local authority. It will particularly keep the majority of more rural customers aware of what is going on. Less people now read newspapers and a large number of our residents do not get a local newspaper so often press releases are not seen. Councillor Tierney thanked Councillor Cornwell for the idea. He said part of his role is to stay ahead and not leave anyone behind. When we have new ideas, we can look at it but with a view to seeing if the amount of additional officer time makes it worthwhile. He pointed out that press releases do not just to papers,  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC48/20


Future Work Programme pdf icon PDF 130 KB

To consider the Draft Work Programme for Overview & Scrutiny Panel 2020/21.


Councillor Mason pointed out that members commented at the February meeting that a rolling 12-month Future Work Programme be developed. This work is underway and will be circulated for comment prior to being brought back to the panel at the next formal meeting.