Venue: Surrey Heath House
Contact: Andrew Crawford Democratic Services Officer
The Chairman welcomed Members and Officers to the meeting and in particular welcomed Councillors Mrs Vivienne Chapman and Charlotte Morley, the Community and Regulatory Portfolio Holders respectively, plus Louise Livingston, the Executive Head of Transformation and Jenny Rickard, the Executive Head of Regulatory Services who were attending to assist Members in their discussions.
The Chairman reminded Members that the Committee had requested written submissions from Portfolio Holders, to be circulated with agendas and that Members would be asked to submit as many questions as possible in advance of the meeting. A number of questions had been submitted and the Portfolio Holders would address these as part of their presentations.
Although the Purdah period for the Surrey County Council elections would not officially begin until the following day, the Chairman reminded Members of the need to avoid electioneering, going forward.
To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 7 December 2016.
The open minutes of the previous meeting, held on 7 December 2016, were agreed and signed by the Chairman.
The Committee considered a report on the Council’s Five Year Strategy and the Annual Plan for the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. The Strategy had been agreed by the Council in August 2016 and had subsequently been refreshed. Both the Strategy and Plan had previously been considered by the Executive on 7 March 2017.
In response to questions submitted prior to the meeting, the following information was reported to the Committee:
(i) Consultants had already been engaged to work up proposals to take forward the refurbishment and rebranding of the Mall shopping centre in Camberley
(ii) The previous planning application for Pembroke House, Frimley Road had been the subject of a large petition and had been refused. However, this had been in relation to a large supermarket occupying the ground floor and issues around a lack of amenity space. No complaints had been received in respect of the affordable housing. A new planning application would be submitted and considered in due course.
(iii) Proposals to improve the public spaces across the town centre starting with Princess Way and the High Streetwere based on the Public Realm Strategy. The Council had recently submitted applications to the EM3 Local Enterprise Partnership to improve the public realm for both areas, including measures to resurface the public footway and seating areas in Princess Way and resurfacing the High Street and pavement to make them more pedestrian friendly. The Camberley Town Centre Working Group was working with businesses to deliver projects to improve the High Street.
(iv) The Borough formed part of a functional economic area with Rushmoor and Hart and, in developing the respective Local Plans, each Council would ensure that there was enough strategic employment sites and would have strategic policies in their Local Plans to allow Growth.These policies were monitored through annual Authorities Monitoring Reports, this Council’s report being monitored by the Executive.The Council’s Economic Development Strategy also sets out measures used by the Council to work with both public and private partners to promote and assist with the delivery of economic growth.
(v) Measures to encourage inward investment were set out in the Economic Development Strategy, which was aligned with the growth strategies of both Surrey County Council and the EM3 LEP.
Inward investment was encouraged in a number of ways, including ‘Open for Business’, which included working with small companies, business associations and key account management for the larger employers in the Borough.
A report on economic activity was submitted to the Executive annually and the main measure of success would be an increase in the total business rates collected and the Council Tax Base.
(vi) The Council was working with the Yorktown and Watchmoor Business Association and had submitted an application to the EM3 LEP to develop a new bus route to link trains and buses with the Business Parks, which were currently not served by public transport. This would include transport and infrastructure improvements and was an example of a direct way ... view the full minutes text for item 31/PF
Councillor Charlotte Morley, the Regulatory Portfolio Holder, reminded Members of the key functions covered by her Portfolio. She noted that, whilst she could address strategic issues, it would not be possible to discuss individual cases in the open part of the meeting.
In the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:
Enforcement - Members asked questions on enforcement arrangements and in particular in respect of:
(i) The workload/extensive number of enforcements covered by one Enforcement Officer , including the number of enforcement issues which were outstanding;
(ii) The workload of the Council’s Arboricultural Officer;
(iii) The way in which enforcement was prioritised for different types of enforcement;
(iv) The training that officers received, particularly in respect of rural area issues;
(v) The frequency with which the Enforcement Policy was reviewed and timescales for a review of the current policy; and
(vi) Concerns that enforcement across the Borough was considered to be less than satisfactory.
Councillor Morley reminded Members that the Council had agreed a Local Enforcement Plan in September 2014, which reflected the resources agreed, as part of an earlier restructure. A further review was not proposed at this time.
The Local Enforcement Plan included a set of priorities for types of enforcement action, which reflected, at least in part, the resources available. As a result, the current approach sought to make best use of resources available, by seeking assistance from Corporate Enforcement Officers and the Contact Centre. Planning Officers were also key to enforcement processes. Councillor Morley agreed to explore the possibility of an increased role for the Contact Centre.
The Council recruited trained Planning Officers and gave them any necessary local familiarisation/training in both rural and urban areas, according to the needs of the individual officers. Planning Officers took professional qualifications and were mentored by senior officers. A newly introduced ICT package would enable access for planning/enforcement officers to Council systems whilst out on site.
The Council took enforcement action through the courts where appropriate and a number of current cases were in the judicial process already.
Councillor Morley noted that a number of the questions submitted in advance of the meeting had been specific and related to particular Council Wards. She reported that she would respond directly to these questions and urged Members to contact her on Ward specific issues.
Members expressed continued concerns over the performance of the enforcement function and it was proposed that the Executive be asked to review the resources for Planning enforcement, with a view to substantially improving this service.
Key Workers – A shortage of suitable key-worker housing had been identified in the Borough, with both Health and Social Care managers reporting severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.
Councillor Morley reported that Key Worker accommodation was being considered as part of the work of the Local Plan Working Group. The Working Group would report its findings to the Executive in due course.
Homelessness Reduction Bill – Recognising the potential impact of this emerging legislation, Members queried what steps the ... view the full minutes text for item 32/PF
Councillor Mrs Vivienne Chapman, the Community Portfolio Holder, had submitted a report highlighting key areas for her Portfolio and ongoing issues.
Green Waste Club - In response to a number of queries on the Green Waste Club, going forward, Councillor Mrs Chapman highlighted the following:
The Council’s contract with Biffa would end in February 2018, when the new joint contact with Amey would commence.
Biffa currently ran the Green Waste Club and arrangements had been made for a seamless transfer so that participating households would not experience any change. However, Biffa had now written to all Green Waste Club members seeking to retain their custom and asking members to pay in advance, for a new contract with Biffa for 2018.
Agreement had already been reached between the Council and Amey for that company to take over green waste arrangements. In effect, Biffa would be using new contracts agreed with existing members to collect commercial waste which would not be processed by Surrey County Council or Surrey Heath facilities. Residents taking up the Biffa offer would be without Council or Amey support if anything went awry.
A clear message to this effect had been issued in the recent edition of Heathscene and this message would also be conveyed on the Council’s web pages. Other steps to address this issue and the legal implications of Biffa’s actions would also be considered.
Street Cleansing – Members queried the scope of the survey which indicated that 96% of streets had been graded A or B, expressing concerns about the status of some roads in the Borough, including the area around Frimley Park Hospital and Station Road under the A322 By-Pass. Councillor Mrs Chapman confirmed that the survey was Borough-wide, but that she would take on board the comments raised and discuss those with the Council’s contractor. When residents called about a litter issue, the Council had a team which could react to one-off litter issues. However, neither the Council nor its contractor were authorised to enter private properties to remove litter.
Councillor Mrs Chapman reported that, when there was a requirement to clear highway land adjacent to dual carriageways, this Council had to liaise closely with both Surrey and Hampshire County Councils, as Highways Authorities, as, where possible, verge cleaning of dual carriageways was combined with sorting potholes and defective street lighting.
Community Services – Councillor Mrs Chapman briefed the Committee on developments in Community Services and in particular, partnership work with Runnymede Borough Council, including a shared manager and a range of far-reaching initiatives on dementia. In 2017/18, the Council would build on its partnership with Runnymede Borough Council, SCC Adult Social Care and the Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group, to strengthen and develop new services for the community.
One recent initiative included a pilot study introducing integrated health management through various forms of technology in the homes of people with moderate dementia and a carer on site. Half of the households in the pilot will have technological aids introduced and a comparison ... view the full minutes text for item 33/PF
Task and Finish Groups
To consider the establishment of any task and finish groups and to receive updates from any existing Groups.
Councillor Robin Perry reported on a meeting of a Task and Finish Group, held on 14 March 2017, which had sought to review the impact of recent Government benefit reforms on Surrey Heath Borough Council and local residents, with a view to making recommendations on possible changes that could help minimise any negative repercussions.
The Group was assisted by Maria Zealey, from the Surrey Welfare Rights Group and the Revenues and Benefits Manager, Robert Fox.
The main welfare changes identified were:
(i) Benefit Cap – down to £20k pa from 7 November
(ii) Universal Credit - being introduced in phases,
(iii) Housing Benefits - capped at Local Housing Allowance rates,
(iv) Personal Independence Payment - replaces Disability Living Allowance,
(v) Employment and Support Allowance being phased out from April 2017,
(vi) Youth Obligation – from April 2017, 18-21 year olds to loose automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit
(vii) Child Tax Credit – from April 2017, entitlement to Child Tax Credit will be removed for third or subsequent children born after April 2017,
(viii) Spare Room Subsidy (Bedroom Tax),
(ix) social tenants with a household income of more than £31k will have to pay higher “market rate” rents.
Looking at the impact of benefit changes on Borough residents, the number impacted upon by the benefits cap and the introduction of Universal Credit was relatively small, but the impact on those individuals was likely to be high.
There had been an increase in homelessness and personal debt, exacerbated by the bureaucratic nature of the new schemes and, notably the need to have access to and basic skills in ICT.
Many debt management and Benefits Advice support services had been discontinued as part of general financial cutbacks.
The Task and Finish Group was planning to meet again before formulating recommendations to the Committee.
Resolved, that the update be noted.
To consider a Committee Work Programme for the municipal year 2017/18.
The Committee considered a report enclosing a draft work programme for the municipal year 2017/18.
Members noted that the Council Leader and Chief Executive had been invited to the Committee’s July meeting to discuss the Performance report for 2016/17. Because the original meeting date, of 5 July 2017, clashed with the Local Government Association Conference, this meeting had been moved to 12 July 2017 to enable the guests to attend.
The Committee agreed the following Work Programme for Municipal Year 2017/18:
Exclusion of Press and Public
Part 2 (Exempt)
In accordance with Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public were excluded from the meeting for the following items of business, on the ground that they involved the likely disclosure of exempt information, as defined in the paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, as set out below:
Note: Minute 37/P is a summary of matters considered in Part II of the agenda, the minute of which it is considered should remain confidential at the present time.
To confirm and sign the exempt minutes of the meeting held on 7 December 2016.
The exempt minutes of the previous meeting, held on 7 December 2016, were agreed and signed by the Chairman.
Review of Exempt Items
To review the item or parts thereof which can be released as information available to the public.
The Committee reviewed the minutes which had been considered at the meeting following the exclusion of members of the press and public, as it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information.
RESOLVED, that minute 37/PF and the associated agenda report remain exempt for the present time.