Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Monday, 5th December, 2022 1.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Fenland Hall, County Road, March PE15 8NQ

Contact: Linda Albon  Member Services and Governance Officer

No. Item


Previous Minutes. pdf icon PDF 163 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of 10 October 2022.


The minutes of the meeting of 10 October 2022 were confirmed and signed.


Update on previous actions. pdf icon PDF 154 KB

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


Councillor Miscandlon asked if there was an update on the availability of someone from the Combined Authority whilst Mayor Johnson is currently indisposed. Councillor Mason said unfortunately the Deputy Mayor is not available presently, but an invitation request has been made for a future date and that is being followed up.


Review of Clarion pdf icon PDF 3 MB

Presentation attached.


Councillor Mason welcomed Sally Greetham, Yvonne Ogden, Dan Read and John Ferman to the meeting.


Members received a comprehensive presentation which gave an overview of Clarion’s work and development, and an update of the charitable foundation of Clarion Housing Group, Clarion Futures.


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


1.    Councillor Hay noted that whilst Clarion Futures is doing good work with youth provision and the funding of food hubs in Wisbech, March and Whittlesey, she would like to know why no mention has been made of Chatteris. She would also like to know the average waiting time for people on the housing register and if are they all local or include people wanting to move into the area. Furthermore, Councillor Hay noted mention of the empty properties in sheltered housing and said she hears from residents that one of the attractions in the past was the reassurance that there was a live-in warden always available on site, but now there is only one warden available by telephone or who drops in occasionally. Councillor Hay suggested that could possibly be the reason why people are opting not to go into sheltered housing. Lastly, there is no explanation as to what the priority bands A, B, C and D relate to, and Councillor Hay said she would like an explanation of these.

2.    Yvonne Ogden replied that Clarion does work in Chatteris and apologised that this did not come across within the report. Councillor Hay requested that this be addressed in future reports so that the public are aware of what is happening in Chatteris.

3.    Dan Horn stated that the HomeLink allocation policy is administered by Clarion on the Council’s behalf, and he will work with them to provide some statistics regarding the average waiting time as it is recognised as an issue. He will also circulate a link to the Council policy so members can see the different priorities which lead to the bandings, people in Band A being in the most urgent need and those in Band D being in the least urgent need. He added that there is an increasing pattern of more people in Band A, but a rising shortage of available family accommodation is providing difficulty for the Council in meeting its homelessness responsibilities and Clarion is helping with the growing number of people in temporary accommodation.

4.    Yvonne Ogden advised that the model has changed for sheltered accommodation, which is replicated across this housing type with other providers, as they were starting to see demand tail off for accommodation that had on-site wardens. It has been remodelled so that customers have daily contact with a member of the LiveSmart team and members of that team will be on site every day. Having said that, they do realise that the system is not delivering what it needs to, which is why they want to look at the model and see if they can deliver in a different way.

5.    Councillor Miscandlon congratulated  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC16/22


Wisbech Rail Update pdf icon PDF 509 KB

To consider and note the Wisbech Rail Update.


Councillor Mason welcomed Tim Bellamy to the meeting.


Tim Bellamy provided an update on Wisbech Rail and provided some context around the local transport and productivity plan.


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


1.    Councillor Hay said that if the final decision is to go with heavy rail then that is dependent on the Ely Area Capacity Enhancements (EACE), and she asked what the time frame would be for EACE. Tim Bellamy responded that the good news is that he attended a meeting of the all-parliamentary group two weeks ago hosted by Transport East. They outlined that their highest priority scheme is EACE, and they are actively trying to encourage a discussion with the Department for Transport and other MPs from across the country that recognise that EACE is the right answer. He cannot provide a timeframe, but positive sounding is coming from government along with the fact that they have secured additional funding from the Combined Authority to do further work on the snail rail loop which will also help with movement into Newmarket etc. 

2.    Councillor Hay said if at the end of the options assessment it is decided to go down the route of light rail, how easy would it be to convert to heavy rail later as and when the capacity at Ely is large enough to be able to do that. Her concern is that light rail is an inferior service. Tim Bellamy said that the costing to convert to heavy rail would need to be outlined in the report to allow an informative decision to be made. Councillor Hay said she was pleased to hear that.

3.    Councillor Booth said he is disappointed with the content of the report because there seems to be one delay after another. This was first discussed when he was elected to the Council twelve years ago. It is his view that the report seems to be saying there are deficiencies in the 2020 business case because we are having to fund additional research and do more work on what is required to get funding. Tim Bellamy replied that is not correct because things have changed since 2020. All work needs to be updated to reflect changes in government policy. The business case outlined in 2020 was coherent and appropriate at the time but now more work needs to be done to satisfy what both Network Rail and government require to make sure the business case submitted is robust, appropriate, and not open to challenge.

4.    Councillor Booth said if this additional work goes ahead, costing £310k of taxpayers’ money, he would like to know what the next stages are, how much more money will be spent on consultants and how long it will be before Fenland residents can travel between March and Wisbech and Wisbech and Cambridge. Tim Bellamy responded that there is a staged approach to delivering any infrastructure scheme, but the money mentioned will not be spent on consultants. This will be  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC17/22


Future Work Programme pdf icon PDF 165 KB

To consider the Draft Work Programme for Overview & Scrutiny Panel 2022/23.


Members considered the future work programme.


Councillor Booth asked about the Task and Finish Group. Amy Brown explained that meetings had previously been arranged but were cancelled to meet requirements due to the passing of HM the Queen. Subsequently further work is being done to correlate member and officer availability to arrange a series of meetings between now and the next meeting of Overview and Scrutiny in the hope that any recommendations regarding the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be taken to that meeting for approval. Councillor Booth stated his concern that although he had given his availability, his understanding was that other members had not, and given the timescales involved it would be unrealistic now to feed KPIs into the business plan for 2023/24. However, he would like to look at them regardless and if necessary other members should be nominated to go on the Task and Finish group so that the work is not held up. He said that we should be looking at dates going forward from January; KPIs can take months to develop, and it is important to have good quality output rather than rush things through. Councillor Mason agreed that was a sensible suggestion and thanked Councillor Booth.