Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday 2nd February, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Online meeting - Livestreamed. View directions

Contact: Peter Mannings  Tel: (01279) 502174 Email:  peter.mannings@eastherts.gov.uk

Link: The livestream for this meeting can be viewed here

Media

Items
No. Item

327.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

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Minutes:

There were no apologies.

328.

Minutes - 8 December 2020 pdf icon PDF 56 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2020.

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Minutes:

It was moved by Councillor Goldspink and seconded by Councillor Bell that the minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2020 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, this motion was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that the minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2020 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

329.

Chairman's Announcements

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Minutes:

The Chairman introduced and welcomed Katie Mogan, newly appointed Democratic Services Manager, to her first meeting of the Committee.

 

The Chairman said that the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 came into force on Saturday 4 April 2020 to enable councils to hold remote committee meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic period. This was to ensure local authorities could conduct business during this current public health emergency.  This meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee was being held remotely under these regulations, via the Zoom application and was being recorded and live streamed on YouTube.

 

The Chairman said that comments had been sent to Members regarding the Executive’s comments on recommendations made by Overview and Scrutiny Committee in relation to two Task and Finish Groups’ comments on Parking and on Affordable Housing including enhancing the council’s relationship with registered social housing providers. He did not read out the full wording and asked that a summary appear in the minutes, as follows:

 

On 5 January 2021, the Executive received a report which included consideration of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations on enhancing working arrangements between the council and registered providers, following the investigative work of a task and finish group.

 

The Executive approved the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations, which were:

 

·                        that Housing and Planning Officers review how the housing service’s in-depth knowledge of affordable housing need can be most effectively shared with developers at the pre-application stage to maximise the delivery of the size, type and tenure of affordable homes that are most needed locally

·                        that dialogue between the council and registered providers is maximised to promote high standards of management and development, including:

·                        that East Herts Council reinstates regular Housing Forum meetings to cover both housing management and housing development matters and

·                        that East Herts Council works with registered providers on maximising the environmental sustainability of registered providers’ existing and new homes

·                        that Council Officers and registered providers make it easier for elected members to understand key registered provider policies and raise issues directly with the registered providers, including:

·                        that each registered provider be asked to provide a dedicated e-mail address for elected Members to use to directly raise issues

·                        that East Herts Council Officers work with their registered provider counterparts to draw up a short briefing note for Members on the options available to registered providers to tackle anti-social behaviour perpetrated by their tenants or tenants’ household members or visitors.

 

On 24 November 2020, the Executive considered the outcome of the work of the Task and Finish Group, which made a number of recommendations in relation to Town Centre Parking, an update in relation to a Resident Parking Zone and consideration of Climate Change / Sustainability implications of parking policy. The Executive also considered the matter on 11 February 2020 when it was agreed that authority be delegated to the Head of Operations in consultation with the Chairman of Overview and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 329.

330.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any Members’ Declarations of Interest.

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Minutes:

Councillor Bell declared a non-pecuniary interest in the matter referred to in minute 331, Cultural Strategy, on the grounds that she sat on the Board of Trustees for Hertford Museum, as a representative of East Hertfordshire District Council.

331.

Cultural Strategy pdf icon PDF 88 KB

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Minutes:

The Head of Housing and Health and the Community and Wellbeing Programme Manager presented a report that invited Members of Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review the draft Cultural Strategy ahead of its submission to the Executive and before its determination by Council, on 2 March 2021.

 

The Head of Housing and Health said that the report was an opportunity for Members to bring to the attention of the Executive, the comments of the Committee before the Executive made a recommendation to Council that the strategy be adopted.

 

Members were advised that 2020 had been intended to be the Hertfordshire Year of Culture 2020 (HYOC2020). Despite the pandemic lots of arts and cultural organisations had been able to deliver virtual sessions in a creative and innovative way and this had benefitted residents in the District. The Head of the Housing and Health said that the importance and benefits of a Cultural Strategy remained and were, if anything, even stronger in 2021, in respect of re-engagement and recovery from the pandemic.

 

The Community Wellbeing Programme Officer explained that the Cultural Strategy presented a very broad overview of the role culture played in people’s lives. Members were reminded that the strategy contained visions and ambitions that required partnership organisations to work with the Council. The Officer also said that a broad range of organisations had signed up to deliver the strategy in partnership with East Hertfordshire District Council.

 

Members were advised that experience and learning gained from HYOC2020 activities delivered via digital platforms had been incorporated into the strategy document along with input from the Leadership Team, Members and from Officers. The Committee was also advised that in November and December, the strategy was circulated for public consultation. Officers had taken on board comments and suggestions in amending the strategy document which were generally positive.

The Community Wellbeing Programme Officer said that she was very pleased that the Council had attracted some Arts Council funding via the Royal Opera House Bridge project even before the Cultural Strategy had been completed. Members were advised that the renamed Hertfordshire Lifestyle Network wished to learn from East Hertfordshire District Council’s experience in developing a cultural strategy for Hertfordshire.

 

The Executive Member for Wellbeing made a number of comments in support of the Cultural Strategy document. He said that some more work would be required in terms of an engagement plan and delivery. He emphasised that his vision of the strategy was to “plug into” things that the Council was already doing such as the healthy hub and social prescribing. He said that he hoped the strategy would enable the Council to reach residents who did not have access to arts and culture.

 

Councillor Goldspink said that this was an excellent strategy and was particularly pleased to see the inclusivity of the Cultural Strategy and the emphasis that had been placed on the fact that the strategy was for everybody in the community. She referred to the very clear and honest comments that had been made  ...  view the full minutes text for item 331.

332.

Planning Enforcement Plan – Review and Update pdf icon PDF 101 KB

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Minutes:

The Executive Member for Planning and Growth submitted a report that set out the approach to the updated Planning Enforcement Plan 2021. The Head of Planning and Building Control said that the current plan was last updated in 2016. The updated plan was attached as an Appendix. Members were advised that the approach and priorities to handling enforcement cases needed to be updated.

 

The Committee was advised that the level of enforcement complaints were high and the Head of Planning and Building Control explained that a majority of enforcement investigations did not result in any further action being taken. She explained the reasons for this and said that all enforcement reports were investigated.

 

The Head of Planning and Building Control stated that the new plan proposed a triage approach be undertaken before a file was opened for further investigation. She said that this would help Officers identify cases that did not constitute a breach of planning control or were really minor cases. This triage approach would enable Officers to better manage the number of cases and respond quickly based on priorities depending on the level of breach.

 

The Head of Planning and Building Control said that Officers had recognised that the current system needed to improve and a new approach was needed to improve the overall effectiveness of the planning enforcement service.

 

Councillor Curtis asked how long the planning enforcement service had been reliant on a high proportion of agency staff. He asked a number of questions relating to the numbers of agency staff and the hours they worked and also how much more expensive they were than non-agency staff.

 

The Head of Planning and Building Control said that within the last 2 years, Officers had looked at extra resources to assist the enforcement team due to the high number of cases. She said that this had supported recruitment that had taken place and had ensured a wider breadth of experience within the planning enforcement service.

 

The Service Manager (Development Management) said that the planning enforcement service had been working with a number of extra staff throughout 2020. He said that it was very difficult to quantify cost because although agency workers were more expensive, there were no overheads. Members were advised that some agency staff were more expensive than others and the situation was purely one of workload.

 

The Head of Planning and Building Control said that the planning service had undergone restructuring in previous years on the operational side but that it was necessary to review it from a planning enforcement viewpoint including resources and the current difficulties in the planning sector in terms of experience at a certain level.

 

The Head of Planning and Building Control said that she was looking to fill a number of vacant posts and as part of that process,she wanted to make sure that Development Management was a flexible service. She said that she wanted to have experienced “rounded” planners and enforcement Officers that could turn their hand to dealing with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 332.

333.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Draft Work Programme pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer said that this was the usual work programme Members received at each meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Committee. She drew Members’ attention to several scrutiny reports that would be submitted to the meeting due to be held on 23 March 2021.

 

The Scrutiny Officer referred in particular to the draft Annual Scrutiny Report for 2019/20. She said that this report would be submitted to Council for approval, along with the Annual Scrutiny Report for 2020/21. Members were reminded that a report would be submitted to the Committee in March following the review of scrutiny carried out by the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny.

 

The Scrutiny Officer said the work programme would amended to include the Cultural Strategy (a review in 6 months), and the inclusion of a review of Planning Enforcement (12 monthly review).

 

Councillor Curtis said that it was good that those items had been added to the work programme. He said that looking at the work programme; he could not help but think that it was rather sparse still and Members should think over the coming months of policy areas to review as a Committee. He made the point that there were no new task and finish groups and Members needed to be thinking about that.

 

The Scrutiny Officer thanked Councillor Curtis for his points and she said that the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny (CfGS) had picked up on similar points in the scrutiny review. She advised that the CfGS had said in their report that Members should really be getting involved very early on the decision making process. The Scrutiny Officer said that Members were actively encouraged to review the Council’s Forward Plan, so that they had the opportunity to be aware of forthcoming decisions with a view to mounting challenges or requesting task and finish groups.

 

The Scrutiny Officer reminded Members that decisions made by Council could not be called in for challenge. She said that decisions made by the Executive could be called in before implementation.

 

Councillor Wyllie encouraged the Committee to email him or the Vice-Chairman, Councillor Goldspink, or the Scrutiny Officer with suggestions for topics for scrutiny. He pointed that Members could only really explore two items per meeting. The Scrutiny Officer said that she had shared the link to the Forward Plan in her report to the Committee. 

 

It was moved by Councillor Curtis and seconded by Councillor Bell that the draft consolidated Work Programme be approved. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that the draft consolidated work programme be approved.

334.

Urgent Business

To consider such other business as, in the opinion of the Chairman of the meeting, is of sufficient urgency to warrant consideration and is not likely to involve the disclosure of exempt information.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.