Agenda and minutes

Joint Meeting of Scrutiny Committees
Tuesday 11th February, 2014 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Wallfields, Hertford. View directions

Contact: Peter Mannings  Tel: (01279) 502174 Email:

No. Item


Appointment of Chairman


It was proposed by Councillor Mrs D Hollebon and seconded by Councillor G Williamson that Councillor D Andrews be appointed Chairman for the meeting.


RESOLVED – that Councillor D Andrews be appointed Chairman for the meeting.



To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors R Beeching, Mrs D Hone, G Jones, J Mayes, T Page, J Ranger, C Woodward and B Wrangles.


Minutes – 14 January 2014

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on Tuesday 14 January 2014 (Previously circulated as part of the Council Minute book for 29 January 2014).


RESOLVED – that the Minutes of the meeting held on 14 January 2014 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Results of the 2013 Residents’ Survey pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Additional documents:


The Chief Executive and Director of Customer and Community Services submitted a report updating Scrutiny Members regarding the results of the 2013 Residents’ Survey.  The Engagement and Partnerships Officer gave a presentation that summarised the results of the 2013 Residents’ Survey that had been carried out by Opinion Research Services (ORS).


Members were reminded that similar surveys had been conducted in 2009 and 2011.  The joint meeting of Scrutiny Committees was provided with a very detailed breakdown of the survey results in the report now submitted.


The Engagement and Partnerships Officer highlighted the levels of satisfaction across a number of the key functions of the Authority.  Members were provided with a grid analysis summarising the key and low priority issues as well as areas where improvements were most and least required.


In respect of what would encourage residents to access Council services online, 49% of respondents stated that they needed to be sure that online enquiries would be dealt with as quickly as if contact was made via another method and 29% stated that enquiries should be dealt with more quickly than if contact was made via another method.


27% of respondents commented that they would access Council services online if more information was available on the website whilst 21% said that online assistance and help would encourage them to access services online.


The Engagement and Partnerships Officer concluded that the 2013 Residents' Survey core questions had been transferred to the new LGA recommended format and several new questions had been added.  Members were advised that LGA benchmarking with other local authorities who continued to conduct a Residents’ Survey with the newly formatted questions would be undertaken when the relevant content became available.


Councillor N Symonds expressed concerns that the survey covered many areas such as education, potholes, roads and pavements, none of which were areas that were the responsibility of East Herts Council.  The Chief Executive and Director of Customer and Community Services stated that the open ended nature of the questions was based on the LGA model, which ensured that Local Authorities were using the same format to facilitate easy comparisons between the survey results.


Members were reminded that the public frequently did not distinguish which Authorities were responsible for which services.  The current format of the survey provided a balanced picture of what the public felt were the most important services being provided by the Authorities that covered the East Herts area.


In response to a request from Councillor Symonds, the Chief Executive and Director of Customer and Community Services undertook to write to the Chief Executive of Hertfordshire County Council to feedback the survey results that related to the functions that were the responsibility of the County Council.


The Leader explained that passing on relevant data to key partners such as Hertfordshire Constabulary and the County Council was an important part of the role of East Herts Council and the Authority was under an obligation to share this information as appropriate.


The Chairman stated that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 543.


2014/15 Service Plans pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Additional documents:


The Leader of the Council submitted a report on Service Plans for 2014/15.  The Service Plans were produced every year by Heads of Service and set out the key activity that would be taking place to deliver the services provided by the Authority.  The Service Plans did not include day to day activity and the plans reflected the information in the Consolidated Budget Report.  Members were advised that updates would be provided to the relevant individual Scrutiny Committees every six months.


The joint meeting of Scrutiny Committees was invited to scrutinise the Service Plans and to make recommendations to the Executive. 


Councillor N Symonds expressed concern that the options for disabled access to the stage and back stage areas of Hertford Theatre had not already been established and implemented.


The Head of Communications, Engagement and Cultural Services stated that the refurbishment works had only addressed the front of house.  Officers would now examine a number of options for back stage access at the theatre.  Members were advised that comparisons had been made to the Rhodes Arts Complex regarding disabled access and it was clear that the two venues were very different.  Councillor M Wood stated that he was pleased that an independent options appraisal would be undertaken regarding future governance arrangements for Hertford Theatre.


In response to a query from Councillor G Williamson regarding flood alleviation, the Head of Community Safety and Health Services stated that a team of two Officers gave advice to the Authority and other agencies in terms of where resources should be invested regarding surface water management.


In response to a query from Councillor K Warnell, the Economic Development Manager stated that support for the 25 – 49 age group who were out of work had been included in the Service Plans as government funding for this age group had been cut.  Previous initiatives had focussed on the younger unemployed, but this older age group did include a significant number of long-term unemployed who might benefit from additional support.


Councillor J Wyllie referred to the revised management plan for Waytemore Castle as well as the nearby open space linked to proposed housing development.  The Head of Environmental Services advised that Officers were already in consultation with Bishop’s Stortford Town Council and would continue to work closely with them in respect of a Management Plan for the Waytemore Castle and the nearby Red, White and Blue open space.


Councillor S Bull commented on why there did not appear to be any reference in this Service Plan regarding the maintenance of Ward Freman Pool.  The Head of Environmental Services advised that general maintenance of the pools was funded and carried out by SLM as the Leisure Contractor so this did not appear in the Council’s Service Plan or the Capital Programme.  The Council was responsible for replacement of major plant and the Capital programme for did include an item for the replacement of air conditioning at that site.


In response to a comment from Councillor M Wood regarding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 544.


2013/14 Performance Indicator Estimates and Future Targets pdf icon PDF 158 KB

Additional documents:


The Leader submitted a report on performance indicators that the Council was required to monitor and publish annually in the Annual Report.  The report advised Members of estimated performance for 2013/14 and the targets for the next three years.


Members were advised that the future targets were reflected in the Consolidated Budget Report and the final performance outturns would be reported to Members in May 2014.  Members were also advised that there were seven indicators where benchmarking data was available.  When Officers were looking at the latest data available from the LGA, five indicators were estimated to be performing better than the district average, one in line with the district average and the other below average.


Councillor N Symonds commented on the lower satisfaction rating amongst the customers who used Grange Paddocks leisure centre.  Officers advised that, in terms of customer satisfaction, drawing comparisons between the leisure centres was difficult due to the different types of service on offer at each location.  It was also noted that, although lower than before, the current figure still fell within the ‘Good’ banding.  A detailed explanation of the scores would be provided outside the meeting.


Councillor M Pope commented on the delivery figures for affordable housing and asked whether this included reuse of redundant garage sites.  The Leader stated that these were areas for discussion with housing association colleagues.  The Manager of Housing Services referred to significant housing developments on larger sites in Buntingford plus the applications at Bishop’s Stortford North, all of which should contribute to an increase in affordable housing units in the coming years.


In response to comments from Councillors K Warnell and J Wing regarding the percentage of planning applications decisions delegated to Officers compared to those made by Committee, the Head of Planning and Building Control stated that it was the major and significant planning applications that were reported to Members due to the public interest in such applications. 


Members were advised that having more planning applications decided by Members was a less efficient process than decisions delegated to Officers.  The Head of Planning and Building Control stated that changing the delegation arrangements could result in a significant increase in the number of applications determined by the Development Management Committee.


The joint meeting of Scrutiny Committees resolved that the Executive be informed that the future targets for 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 should be approved.  The Chairman thanked the Heads of Service for attending to answer Members’ questions.


RESOLVED – that the Executive be informed that the future targets for 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 should be approved.


Car Park Pay and Display Charging Policy pdf icon PDF 169 KB

Additional documents:


The Executive Member for Economic Development submitted a report to present policy proposals for off-street pay and display charges in 2014/15 and 2015/16, for consideration by Members when making recommendations to the Executive.


The Executive Member for Economic Development advised that the Parking and Transport Strategy focussed on promoting commerce and ensuring the availability of parking.  Members were advised that there was now an increased focus on what residents wanted to use car parks for.  The car parks were increasingly being used for evening activities.


Members were referred to Essential Reference Paper ‘B’ for the proposed new structure for pay and display charge tariffs.  Members were advised that there would be capital costs of implementing the new charging regime.  Essential Reference Paper ‘C’ contained a summary of the financial implications of the proposed changes.


In response to a query from Councillor K Warnell, Members were advised that the new regime included free parking for a half an hour period, an all day charge that went through to the end of the charging period at 22:00 in the evening and a flat rate fee of just £1 after 16:00 hours.  Councillor G Williamson referred to the identified £340,000 deficit should the new regime be approved.  He commented on whether this shortfall would have to be funded by Council taxpayers.


The Executive Member for Economic Development referred Members to Essential Reference Paper ‘F’.  He stated that Council taxpayers would not be funding the proposals as there was currently an overall £610,000 revenue surplus in the car parking budget which contributed to the general fund for managing Council services.


Councillor J Wing stated that he was supportive of the proposed changes as they answered many of the key criticisms he had of the previous proposals put to scrutiny in respect of 30 minutes of free parking in the evening.  He sought and was given clarification that the public would need to have a valid ticket displayed on their vehicles at all times including for the first free half hour.


Members enquired about the method by which parking would be monitored, asking about the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).  Members were advised that ANPR might be one of many options for the future management of the Council's car parks and that the proposal would require the display of a valid pay and display ticket using the Council's current system of operation.


The Head of Information, Parking and Customer Services advised that a full review of the options for the future management of car parks, including ANPR, was being progressed and was part of the Parking Service Plan.  Changes to the current management system would require investment and Members would receive reports recommending the best operational system and a cost and benefit analysis of alternatives, to enable selection of the most appropriate system.  Funding any investment would need to be considered against the Council's policy of the users of car parks paying for their use as opposed to the taxpayer at large.


The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 546.