Venue: Council Chamber, Fenland Hall, County Road, March PE15 8NQ
Contact: Linda Albon Member Services and Governance Officer
Appointment of Chairman for the Municipal Year
It was proposed by Councillor Miscandlon, seconded by Councillor Purser and resolved that Councillor Mason be elected Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel for the Municipal Year.
Appointment of Vice-Chairman for the Municipal Year
It was proposed by Councillor Mason, seconded by Councillor Purser and resolved that Councillor Miscandlon be elected Vice-Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel for the Municipal Year.
To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of 8 March 2021.
The minutes of the meeting of 8 March 2021 were confirmed and signed subject to the following comments:
· Councillor Cornwell referred to the update on previous actions and said the panel had resolved to transfer to this list all unresolved items from a previous Anglian Water (AW) presentation and he asked if that had been done. Anna Goodall responded that AW have agreed to attend another O&S meeting as requested by members, and she is currently in discussions regarding a suitable date, when these items will be addressed. However, we are keen that some of those can be resolved before then and members will receive updates as soon as possible. Councillor Cornwell said members were concerned they were not getting updates from AW and did not want any item overlooked hence the request for items to be added to the action plan. Anna Goodall confirmed that she will ensure they are added to provide reassurance that these items will not be overlooked.
· Councillor Cornwell referred to item 14 in the minutes regarding the update on the CPCA Growth Service, which included a discussion around the Anglia University and skills etc. which he had found very interesting. The minutes suggested he was questioning why we do not have a marine centre in Wisbech, whereas he had in fact raised the point that the marine centres in Wisbech are currently underused. Suggestions had been made around trying to reintroduce skills such as boat maintenance. We have trawlers arriving from the eastern region for maintenance and the skills that are required come in with them and he was therefore trying to get that skillset requirement into the university. He is still waiting for a response from Councillor Benney in this matter and so would like this chased up.
· Councillor Cornwell also mentioned that under the Transformation and Communications Portfolio Holder update he had raised the possibility of having an opt-in mailing list for something like a regular newsletter for distribution. Councillor Tierney was going to look at that so he would also appreciate a chase up on this for a response.
· Councillor Booth referred to Councillor Cornwell’s comments regarding AW. He said that many of the actions have been captured to some degree in Item 6 of the actual action plan but there are still several items of which we are waiting for more technical information, such as the Friday Bridge pumping station. We were told there had been no plans to refurbish it in the next five years, but we are still suffering issues with the water pressure. He suggested we update item 6 on the actual plan and take it forward, but we need to keep it at the top of the agenda. Councillor Mason said we are endeavouring to bring a more engineering-based person from AW to a later meeting as mentioned by Anna Goodall in order to address those problems.
· Councillor Booth stated that in item 5 of the minutes, he had raised concerns regarding apprenticeships. The presentation ... view the full minutes text for item OSC3/21
Members to receive an update on the previous meeting’s Action Plan.
Members considered the update on previous actions and made the following comments:
· Councillor Mason said that members had now received an update on young driver accident statistics as requested by Councillor Booth.
· Councillor Miscandlon said he would like to see these statistics broken down to show more detail, i.e., the number of accidents showing contributory factors such as where drink, drugs or speeding were involved and the number of no-fault accidents. Councillor Wicks asked if it was also possible to take into consideration when these accidents occurred, for example in the small hours, as tiredness could be a contributory factor.
· Councillor Booth said he had asked for the information because for several years Fenland was second or third in the number of highest fatalities in young drivers but one of the main reasons was because of crashes into dykes and ditches around the Fens. There have been many campaigns on these issues over the years.
· Councillor Miscandlon wondered how many of those accidents involved local drivers; it could be that some are new to the area and do not know our roads. He would like some form of monitoring on the decibel level of noisy exhaust systems. There is an antisocial behaviour issue with the revving of engines in particular; the police have told us they have the equipment to do this, and it has already been used in some areas.
The Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report reflects what has been undertaken and achieved by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel during 2020/21 and takes a forward look at the programme of work and challenges for the Panel in 2021/2022.
Member considered the draft Overview & Scrutiny Annual Report for 2020-21.
Councillor Mason thanked all members of the panel for their hard work over the last year under trying circumstances. Although technology is a wonderful thing, it is great to be meeting in person today. Regarding the report, he wanted to highlight the member-led review of the Anglia Revenue Partnership, with which he was particularly delighted; it was a very worthwhile exercise, and he stated his gratitude to Anna Goodall, officers and particularly Councillor Anne Hay for her Chairmanship of that review.
Members made comments, asked questions and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Cornwell said the report is very comprehensive and reflects all that has been done.
· Councillor Boden thanked all members of the panel for their work over the last, difficult year. He finds the work done by O&S to be very constructive to ensure that the Council does things better and has its finger on the pulse. The panel also contributes to policy development and he welcomes all that was done last year and looks forward to the next.
· Councillor Booth stated that were several occasions during the year where the urgency decision making powers were utilised and he said the report does not capture that this was not a normal set of circumstances. Due to COVID-19, these issues had to be agreed rapidly; it is not usual to use these and in all the years he has been on panel, it is the only time O&S has had to use them. He thinks this comment should be captured within the report.
· Cllr Miscandlon said he endorsed the report but agreed with Councillor Booth’s comment. The urgency decision making powers should be used sparingly and in these instances they were taken with great thought and under extreme circumstances.
The Overview and Scrutiny Panel AGREED to approve the annual report for forwarding to Council.
Presentation regarding Council response to COVID-19 pandemic in relation to service delivery by Fenland District Council.
Members considered the Council Response to COVID-19 – Future Implications Report.
Paul Medd confirmed the report had been circulated as a presentation in advance of the meeting and invited questions from the O&S Panel.
· Councillor Booth referred to the rollout of virtual council meetings and asked what the intention is going forward. Are we going to be a prudent authority and still have measures in place or go back to how things were? We need to lead by example.
· Councillor Boden responded that this was an appropriate question and he had been deeply disappointed that the opportunity to continue to have virtual meetings until such time we were all confident that it was safe to have unregulated meetings in person was not taken. He felt this to be a mistake by central Government, but we must abide by their decision and the legal situation. However, it is not a satisfactory position, and officers have been very careful to follow regulations. They have been able to find different locations to undertake larger meetings, but it has been very difficult. His understanding is that many of the legal restrictions will be lifted after 19July. They may or may not relate to guidance about local government and their meetings in buildings, but our intention is to err on the side of caution whilst recognising the legal position.
· Paul Medd confirmed that we must undertake a pragmatic balance between meeting as normal but also seeking to uphold safety wherever possible. Any decisions will be kept under close review as we move forward.
· Councillor Yeulett asked about the work with the 57 rough sleepers as noted in the report. He asked if they have been embedded within society or as the pandemic becomes less severe will they return to homelessness going forward? He also asked what the plans are for the winter. Furthermore, has there been a surge in domestic violence within Fenland? Nationally people are talking about the effect on children, so do we have a handle on that? Also, what are the effects on our finances generally?
· Councillor Boden responded that there was great success 12 months ago in getting all rough sleepers off the streets, however that involves spending a lot of money which came from central Government. That funding is now not available so we cannot sustain this position. However, there are many initiatives to ensure that rough sleeping continues to be addressed; the problem generally is not one of housing but other issues. He cannot say how many of those 57 are still rough sleeping as he does not have access to their records.
· Councillor Boden confirmed that sadly there has been an increase in the nationwide reporting of domestic violence. There has been some increase so far as requirements for intervention for children, but we have not seen an increase in the number projected. He is surprised that it has not been as great a problem with more prominence as he was expecting but he does not ... view the full minutes text for item OSC6/21
To consider the Draft Work Programme for Overview & Scrutiny Panel 2021/22.
Members considered the Future Work Programme.
· Councillor Mason said there has been concern in the past about the performance of Clarion and therefore the panel would like to bring forward the item on Clarion from March 2022 to December 2021; particularly with winter coming up.
· Councillor Booth endorsed Councillor Mason’s comment, particularly in response to feedback from residents. He also asked if the number of items covered at each panel meeting could be spread more evenly throughout the year, with no more than three main topics at each meeting. He suggested the Planned Shared Service Review be moved from September, which has four substantive items, to the October meeting, which currently only has one substantive item. He also suggested the Culture Strategy item be moved to the December meeting.
· Anna Goodall confirmed that residents from Clarion have confirmed they will attend the December meeting.
· Councillor Boden said he noted the council tax support scheme had been deferred from today’s meeting to September. He asked for this item not to be deferred beyond July in future as the timetable, if there is to be significant change, requires a period of consultation and the decision must be made in December before being brought about in April. Anna Goodall replied that she could reassure members after discussion with Peter Catchpole that if we deferred the item to September, it would still allow time to consult on minor changes.