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To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors S Bell and J Ranger.
To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2019.
It was moved by Councillor D Hollebon and seconded by Councillor M Goldspink that the Minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2019 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
RESOLVED – that the Minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2019 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Members were reminded that they had discussed the issue of public speaking and the issue of different venues for future meetings at a previous meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
In the context of public involvement, the Chairman said that the Constitution did allow Overview and Scrutiny Committee to receive evidence from the public in the form of public speaking. Councillor D Snowdon said that this was acceptable so long as requests to speak sent to Democratic Services were routed through the Chairman of the Committee. This was supported.
Councillor M Goldspink said time limited public speaking would ensure effective management of public speaking. Councillor K Crofton said that public speaking should only be by invitation where the person asking to speak could contribute to a topic being discussed by the Committee.
The Executive Members for Corporate Services and Financial Sustainability submitted a report inviting Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review the performance of the East Herts website. Website satisfaction had been identified as an area of concern following the first meeting of the Committee in 2018/19 and this report had been requested from the Head of Service.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy confirmed that this report had been requested some months ago. He said that satisfaction levels with the website had been in the red category for some time, as measured by the Gov.metric system. The Committee was advised that there had been 2.5 million webpage views within the last 12 months and it was worth noting that face to face feedback was always higher than website ratings.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy said that wording could be uploaded to the website to explain that the online Planning Portal was not controlled by East Herts. The Digital Content Manager explained that updating the new website was an ongoing process.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy said the website was a useful tool for customers and the most commonly visited pages were council tax, bin collection/missed bins, planning and elections. He said that the planning portal was often subject to downtime which reflected badly on the website even though the portal was separate to East Herts.
The Committee was also advised that the Council Tax pages had technical limitations in terms of what customers could do beyond making basic payments. The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy advised that the Housing, Waste and Licensing pages were more popular. He said that the quality of the service customers received was passed on via the Gov.metric tool.
The Digital Content Manager said the new website had been redesigned with new 2019 European Union (EU) regulations in mind as all the pages on the website had to achieve the AA accessibility rating and the new website had this accessibility built into it at source. All of the content on the website also had to meet the same accessibility standards in terms of making the website more accessible.
The Committee was advised that the new legislation covered all documents on the website as well as all videos. The AAA rating could not be achieved if maps and videos were included on the website.
The Digital Content Manager said the Gov.metric tool or widget would be added to online forms and modernised as part of a better reporting system. She commented on the modular layout of the website and a data driven approach to making the website more appealing so that users had better journey when navigating the website.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy confirmed to Councillor M Goldspink the definition of SOCITM (Society for Innovation, Technology and Modernisation). Councillor A Ward-Booth said that the block style layout of the website was an improvement.
The Digital Content Manager said that the old website had a bounce rate of 50%, ... view the full minutes text for item 335.
The Scrutiny Officer submitted a report that reviewed the actions included in the existing work programme and proposed amendments to the ongoing work programme. She drew Members’ attention to the scoping document within the agenda and referred to the work of Task and Finish Groups.
The Scrutiny Officer referred in particular to the Parking Task and Finish Group and advised Members that the Head of Operations would be reporting on these recommendations and other related matters to Executive on 11 February 2020 with the recommendation that the findings be submitted to the next ordinary Council meeting for a decision.
The Scrutiny Officer said that following discussions with the
Chairman and Vice Chairman a decision had been taken not to
scrutinise the matter of Hertford Town Centre and Bircheley Green, as the owners of the site needed
time to bring forward their development proposals for the
The Scrutiny Officer explained that the first meeting of the East Herts Climate Change Forum had taken place on 15 January 2020 and further meetings would be held in 2020/21 across the District at three monthly intervals. Members agreed that an update in relation to the Environmental Climate Forum be included as a standing item on each OS Committee
The Scrutiny Officer updated the Committee in respect of the matter of cycle storage provision in Bishop’s Stortford which had been raised by a Member. She explained that the issue had been raised with Greater Anglia and partner organisations and the Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability had been involved in research. The Scrutiny Officer explained that as a result of the information already available in terms of cycle provision and future proposals for the District and following discussions with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman that a Task and Finish Group was not needed.
The Committee was reminded that a Task and Finish Group had explored the relationship between the Council and registered social housing providers. A Task and Finish Group had met on 19 December 2019 which had established what probing questions could be asked to both tenants’ representatives and to senior Officers of two housing associations. The Scrutiny Officer explained that she was still trying to arrange meeting with relevant parties.
Councillor N Symonds said that smaller meetings with tenants and the housing associations was the best way forward. She confirmed that the Head of Housing at Network Homes could also be invited. The Chairman reminded Members that Overview and Scrutiny Committee had tasked the Task and Finish Group to speak to the Housing Associations on behalf of the Committee. Councillor D Snowdon said that the Task and Finish Group Members should be allowed to carry out what had been asked of them.
The Scrutiny Officer said that the Performance, Audit and Governance Oversight Committee had received a report on Section 106 allocations on 24 September 2019 and Members had agreed to take no further action. Members were asked to agree that this subject be removed and from the current work programme. This was supported. ... view the full minutes text for item 336.