Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday 18th January, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Wallfields, Hertford. View directions

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

Media

Items
No. Item

284.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

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Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor Bell and Councillor Frecknall. It was noted that Councillor Crystall was substituting for Councillor Frecknall.

285.

Minutes - 2 November 2021 pdf icon PDF 168 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 2 November 2021.

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Minutes:

Councillor Ward-Booth proposed and Councillor Symonds seconded, a motion that the Minutes of the meeting held on 2 November 2021 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that the Minutes of the meeting held on 2 November 2021, be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

286.

Chairman's Announcements

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Minutes:

The Chairman said that if any Member wished to discuss any matters relating to page 181 of Agenda Item 8, regarding Electric Vehicle Charging Tariffs, the Committee would need to exclude the press and public.

 

The Chairman reminded Members to wipe down their desk and chair after the meeting had concluded.

287.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any Members’ Declarations of Interest.

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Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

288.

The East Herts Housing Strategy 2022 to 2027 pdf icon PDF 169 KB

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Minutes:

The Head of Housing and Health submitted a report on the draft East Herts Housing Strategy 2022 – 2027. Members were advised that the current East Herts Council Housing Strategy for 2016 to 2021 now required replacement and new Strategy for 2022 to 2027 had been drafted to respond to new legislation, changing market conditions and evolving trends in housing need.

 

The Head of Housing and Health said that it was not statutory requirement for a local authority to have a housing strategy, but there were a number of benefits of having a housing strategy. These benefits include allowing oversights of the need for affordable housing development, housing demand among people with special needs, and the measures which could be undertaken to improve housing standards and sustainability.

 

The Head of Housing of Health referred to the four strategic priorities of the housing strategy within the report, as well as the set of objectives associated with each strategic priority. He highlighted a number of key issues including increasing the supply of new homes at the lower end of affordable rent spectrum, the need to focus on housing need in rural communities, and working with partners to tackle issues such as housing support for rough sleepers.

 

Councillor Goldspink asked if the Executive Member had investigated the statement from the Local Government Association (LGA) in relation to seeking more funding to provide additional homes for social rent, as there was insufficient affordable housing for social rent in this area.

 

The Head of Housing and Health said that the Housing Strategy recognised the need to increase all forms of affordable housing, including homes for social rent. He said that this matter had been identified as a strategic priority within the strategy and a detailed set of actions would be prepared in due course, as outlined in the report.

 

The Head of Housing and Health said that the LGA had promoted the case for more funding to be made available to Homes England to support affordable housing development. Members were advised that all forms of funding were being explored and at present, almost all affordable housing developments in East Herts were funded though planning agreements. The Homes England grant for affordable housing was not available in these circumstances, as the subsidy was provided by the private developer.

 

Councillor Goldspink asked if the Council could provide some pre-fabricated housing units, sometimes referred to as pods, for homeless people. Other Councils had provided low cost separate individual units of this kind for homeless people. The Head of Housing and Health said that the Council was always open to considering methods for increasing accommodation for homeless households. An additional 17 self-contained units had been acquired and provided in East Herts during the past 12 months, with a further two self-contained temporary accommodation units were being developed in Ware.

 

The Head of Housing and Health said that homeless households often required packages of care and support, and homeless people needed to feel part of the wider society.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 288.

289.

Parks and Open Spaces Strategy (2022 - 2027) pdf icon PDF 181 KB

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Minutes:

The Executive Member for Wellbeing submitted a report in respect of the Parks and Open Spaces Strategy for 2022 – 2027. He said that the draft strategy had been updated to reflect feedback that had been received following a public consultation held in the autumn of 2021.

 

Members were advised that parks provided a vital opportunity for residents to enjoy the outdoors and green spaces were central to the Council’s vision of offering health and wellbeing to all and they also provided a calm environment for all generations to relax and exercise.

 

The Executive Member for Wellbeing said that sustainable habitats provided an abundance of wildlife. He mentioned the Queen’s diamond jubilee and touched on the topic of carbon capture from trees and hedgerows. Members were reminded of the work of volunteers and were also reminded that the strategy would operate alongside the Council’s wider plans outlined in the corporate objectives.

 

The Executive Member for Wellbeing said that the strategy would support environmental sustainability and would sit alongside the Council’s Cultural and Health and Wellbeing Strategies. He stated that the aim of the Council was to deliver cost effective services and explore inventive solutions to ensure that the parks could continue to meet the needs of communities as well as generating sustainable income.

 

The Executive Member for Wellbeing said that the parks and open spaces were appreciated and were well used during the lockdowns. He said that a couple of them consistently won green flag award status and there was a lot to be proud of in the parks and open spaces.

 

Councillor Snowdon said that he welcomed the ban on the release of helium balloons and sky lanterns. He asked if the Executive Member for Wellbeing would consider adding a ban on the release of fireworks in non-organised displays.

 

Councillor Snowdon also noted that there were only two mentions of Parish and Town Council’s in the document. He asked if the Executive Member for Wellbeing could elaborate further on what the Council could do to work with the Towns and Parishes to further engage them in terms of the management of the parks and open spaces.

 

The Executive Member for Wellbeing said that the matter of fireworks was covered in government legislation and they were illegal in streets and public spaces. He said that the authorisation of really well organised formal public displays would be included in the Council’s operational policies.

 

The Executive Member for Wellbeing said that the strategy did commit the Council to exploring alternative delivery models for play areas. He said that the Council would work with the local community and was open to discussions regarding bespoke arrangements for the management of parks and open spaces.

 

Councillor Goldspink asked why there was no mention within the strategy of access for people with disabilities. The Executive Member for Wellbeing said that the strategy did focus strongly on promoting equality and access for all. He said that all of the protected characteristics had been considered as part of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 289.

290.

Introduction of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging tariffs pdf icon PDF 169 KB

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Minutes:

The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability submitted a report that outlined proposals to introduce a tariff for the use of electric vehicle (EV) charging points within the car parks managed by the Council in line with the Council’s fees and charges policy, as approved in December 2021.

 

Members were advised that the proposed tariff was 25p/kwh and the report set out the plan the replace the free EV chargers with charging points with a tariff for use. The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that subject to funding for upgrading the infrastructure, a strategy for the implementation of future electric vehicle bays and the infrastructure was currently being developed and would be brought forward in due course. 

 

The Executive Member said that some current projects were nearing completion and a pricing strategy needed to be determined before these projects could be made available to the public and be enforceable.

 

Councillor Wyllie, on behalf of Councillors Crystall and Devonshire, asked if the Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability could confirm if any approaches had been considered regarding introducing ultra-fast chargers and what might the associated costs be.

 

The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that the report covered the introduction of tariffs for use in Council provided EV chargers, rather than the Council’s overall approach to charger provision. He said that the mainstay of the current provision consisted of fast destination charges able to dispense 7 to 11kwh.

 

Members were advised that rapid chargers could be located in some Council owned locations, for example for taxi charging.

 

The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that rapid chargers were best placed near to main roads with easy access routes in and out. He said that recent high level modelling by the Council had indicated a cost of £35,000 plus for two rapid charging points, with the actual cost dependent on whether additional electricity infrastructure was required.

 

The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that if suitable locations were identified and agreed with external operators, one feasible approach could be to offer sites on a concession basis. He said that ultra-fast chargers represented a further step forward in technology.

 

Members were advised that ultra-fast chargers of 100kwh to 300kwh were outside of the reach of the Council as they were very expensive to install and had a very significant electricity supply capacity. The locations being focussed on were existing petrol station forecourts or dedicated ultra-fast charging hubs.

 

The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that East Herts Council was unlikely to own land of the appropriate size and location to interest the market. He said that the Council was looking to locate to extend the EV charging network into more rural parts of the District. Members were advised that Officers were drawing up a funding bid to the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles in consultation with a number of Parish Councils and village hubs.

 

The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that meetings had taken place with Tesla about possible sites for super chargers.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 290.

291.

Corporate Plan Refresh 2022/2023 pdf icon PDF 75 KB

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Minutes:

The Leader of the Council submitted a report inviting the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review and comment on the Corporate Plan priorities ahead of them being adopted by Council alongside the 2022/23 budget.

 

The Leader said that this was the third revision of the Corporate Plan which had been set after the elections three years ago. She said the first revision reflected the aspirations of the Council and the plan was also revised due to COVID-19 in order to support residents and communities through the pandemic.

 

The Leader said that this latest revision to the Corporate Plan was based providing adequate and sufficient support to communities, residents and businesses. She said that full details were in Appendix A and she summarised the four key themes of SEED. She welcomed questions from the Committee and said that the Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy was also present to take questions.

 

Councillor Goldspink referred to the sustainability section and asked if the Council could do its own tree planting as well as encouraging other initiatives.

 

The Executive Member for Wellbeing said that he had been invited to several tree planting projects around the District. He said that there had been funding that had gone to Hertfordshire County Council and it was possible to bid for funding through Sustainable Hertfordshire. He said that Officers were looking at a number of places where trees could be planted in parks and open spaces.

 

Councillor Goldspink commented that if there were tree planting initiatives taking place then it should be publicised. The Leader recognised the possibility of including some suitable wording. She said that it was important to ensure that any wording was accurate.

 

Councillor Goldspink referred to digital by default and asked that those less able to access the internet were not forgotten. She stated that such people did need face to face meetings and assistance and were not able to access services digitally online.

 

The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy said that the Council had not lost sight of the importance of catering for people who were digitally excluded. He referred to subsequent work programme item in respect of digital exclusion and what this meant in East Herts. He said that he had invited external speakers to address Overview and Scrutiny Committee regarding case studies elsewhere in the hope that this would stimulate some debate on this important topic.

 

Councillor Goldspink said that she would prefer that the point that she had made was included. The Leader said that the change of wording to digital by default was to ensure that those who can access services digitally could do so and also ensure that the Council resources were available to ensure that those who did not have access to a computer or did not know how to use one could access services in person.

 

Councillor Curtis proposed and Councillor Snowdon seconded, a motion that the report be received and that Members’ comments in respect of tree planting initiatives and digital by default  ...  view the full minutes text for item 291.

292.

East Herts Health Hubs – Promoting easier access to health and wellbeing advice and support pdf icon PDF 79 KB

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Minutes:

The Executive Member for Wellbeing submitted an information only update report in respect of East Herts Healthy Hubs. Members were invited to review progress to date provide any observations or recommendations to the Executive Member for Wellbeing or the Head of Housing and Health.

 

Councillor Curtis said that he would like it noted that the Committee was grateful for the work that had been done by the Executive on delivering this scheme. He said that the Committee should encourage the Executive Member for Wellbeing and Officers to continue to expand the output of the delivery of healthy hubs. Members received the report.

 

RESOLVED – that the update report be noted.

293.

Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 77 KB

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Minutes:

The Democratic Services Manager said that this was the usual work programme Members received at each meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Committee. She said that an email had been sent to the Committee inviting Members to consider items for inclusion on the work programme for the 2022/23 civic year.

 

The Democratic Services Manager referred to the refreshed corporate plan that had been discussed this evening and she asked Members to complete the scrutiny proposal form that had been sent to Members by the Scrutiny Officer.

 

Councillor Goldspink suggested that a working group be set up to investigate the possible ways in which the District Council could support organisations operating in East Herts to secure suitable funding for the provision of homes for social rent.

 

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services reminded Members of the review of the Overview and Scrutiny process that had been completed in the 2020/21 Civic

Year. He mentioned the possibility of a rapid review.

 

The Democratic Services Manager said that the idea of a rapid review was for there to be a full day session where Members would invite external presentations and a report would come back to Overview and Scrutiny Committee. She said that a Task and Finish Group would be a longer process involving a number of meetings.

 

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services suggested that Members liaise with Officers outside of the meeting to reach a conclusion as to what might be best suited to what Members were trying to achieve. Councillor Goldspink said that she was happy with that suggested approach.

 

The Chairman confirmed that the topic of a rapid review in respect of investigating the possible ways in which the District Council could support organisations operating in East Herts to secure suitable funding for the provision of homes for social rent would be added to the Agenda for the meeting in March 2022.

 

The Chairman said that a Member has asked that street cleansing be discussed on the 22 March 2022, as the contract was due for renewal in the near future, so that Members comments could be passed on to those who would be looking at the new contract.

 

The Chairman also mentioned the confusing nature of the signage in Council car parks. Members were supportive of this matter being added to the work programme along with the matter of the rapid review. It was proposed by Councillor Hollebon and seconded by Councillor Goldspink, that the amended Committee Work Programme be approved. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.

 

RESOLVED – that (A) the main agenda items for the next meeting be agreed.

 

(B)   the amended Committee Work Programme be approved.

294.

Urgent Items

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.

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Minutes:

There was no urgent business.