The Assistant Director for Communities and Neighbourhoods (Stevenage Borough Council) presented the report to Members. He said that that the Officer Board from each of the four councils meet on a quarterly basis in between the Joint Executive meetings. At the last meeting, Members were concerned about the increasing costs of the partnership so an immediate review into costs was held in relation to operations and how savings could be made. The CCTV Group Manager at Stevenage Borough Council retired and the decision was made not to replace the role and restructure the team which had a financial saving. The Board also commissioned a review into neighbouring districts CCTV provision with exploratory work around potential expansion of the partnership. The review has looked beyond Hertfordshire into surrounding counties. Some of the conversations have progressed and a detailed set of proposals would be bought in front of the committee at a future meeting.
The Assistant Director also highlighted to Members the position of the Town Councils in East Herts which have served notice on their intention to withdraw whilst they carry out a procurement exercise to ensure they were getting best value for money.
Following from the minutes of the last meeting, the Assistant Director explained that there had been some discussion around the progression of the company and investment in business development management. The Officer Board met with the Company Board to understand where the work was going and have encouraged them to present to the Committee at a future meeting.
Councillor Boylan referred to the action points in the last set of minutes not being actioned. He was disappointed that there was no evidence of progression presented to the Committee and did not feel there was any urgency to progress. He said that the Committee had been made aware of the Town Councils intention to withdraw and the partnership cannot assume that they would get the business back.
The Assistant Director for Communities and Neighbourhoods (Stevenage Borough Council) said that the partnership could request that the company provide information and a report but they do not have any control over them. He said that he understood that work was going on and could push for it to be shared with the Committee. Officers were not responsible for writing the business plans as it was a Director responsibility but they had looked a partnership expansion to understand the CCTV service in other Districts. He said the partnership had met with the Chief Finance Officers across Hertfordshire to discuss the financial implications. He said that time was critical, especially with the potential loss of the Town Council cameras and the partnership cannot be complacent and needed to act more commercial.
Councillor Newmark said that the Hertsmere Scrutiny Committee had decided to open a scrutiny review into CCTV to include the operation of the partnership. He felt that the group was opaque, hard to understand and too complicated that it was hampering progress. He said that the Committee have not been presented with an update from the last meeting 12 months ago and no representative of the company was at the meeting to ask questions of. He said that he could see the business case for expansion but expressed a fear that it might lead to dilution of the partnership with less focus and less local knowledge. He also asked what the financial implications were of the loss of the Town Council cameras.
The Head of Housing and Health (East Herts Council) said that there were 30 cameras within the Town Councils which equated to £65k in payments.
The Assistant Director for Communities and Neighbourhoods (Stevenage Borough Council) said that the Committee asked for a governance review due to the confusion between the company and the partnership. The recommendation of that review was that the public realm cameras for each council were to be managed within the partnership and should be owned by the partnership and third party contracts would be managed through the company. He said that there was an opportunity through the procurement exercise with the Town Councils to look at building in variation clauses to allow for a variation in costs related to level of activity. He added that it would make sense to have other authorities on board due to the close relationship with the police. There was a lack in a contribution to the CCTV service from the police who benefit the most from it and the additional authorities coming on board would strengthen the case for a police contribution for crime prevention and detection.
Councillor Curtis said that the company should be serving the interests of its owners, the four councils in the partnership. He said that he was pleased to hear the proposals were being progressed.
The Head of Housing and Health (East Herts Council) said that he heard the frustrations from Members about the company. He said that the remit of the Joint Executive Committee was not the oversight of the company. The four councils each have a representative on the Board of Directors which liaises between councils through the shareholders. He suggested that councils may wish to interact with their shareholder representatives about their frustrations and concerns.
Councillor Boylan said he had been a member of the Committees for two and a half years and said the same plans were presented every time yet the partnership contains the same four councils and has not grown as anticipated.
Councillor Hollywell said she understood the frustrations but said it was a separate conversation to been had in a separate place. She asked if the withdrawal of the 30 cameras by the Town Councils was a potential withdrawal or would definitely be withdrawn.
Councillor Boylan said the Town Councils were required to give notice of their intention to withdraw. They have given that notice whilst they carry out a procurement exercise. They might be looking for a bid from the current provider and they might find that it is best value for money.
Councillor Newmark said that he appreciated the separate governance and lines of accountability but was disappointed that no one from the company was in attendance at the meeting and said that Members should be able to talk to them directly.
The Assistant Director for Communities and Neighbourhoods (Stevenage Borough Council) said that the company has to be accountable to the shareholders. Each council nominates a shareholder representative to ensure the council’s interests were represented. He said that there was a clear opportunity to have a standing item on the agenda to invite the company to every meeting to give an update.
The Head of Housing and Health (East Herts Council) said that the governance review did have a number of ideas about setting up an advisory group with Members involved but at the time, the decision was not to set it up. He suggested that it might be time to revisit and look again at the remit of the group and whether they could act as advisors.
Councillor Newmark said that he felt it was getting over complicated. He said that the Joint Executive Committee should be able to scrutinise. He suggested looking at the group’s terms of reference and include a standing invitation to the Directors of the company to attend the meeting and be held accountable.
Councillor Boylan felt that was a logical solution to the frustrations expressed.
Councillor Clark felt it should be a requirement to attend, not an invitation. He said he had no problem with expansion and Highways England had 1000 cameras across multiple counties and said that the partnership should be grown sensibly.
The Head of Housing and Health (East Herts Council) said that there could be a shareholder agreement that laid out the expectations on both sides and the agreement could include a line that the group expect attendance. The Committee could task Officers to go away and work on amendments to the Terms of Reference and enshrine in a shareholder agreement.
Councillor Clark asked for a timescale on this.
Councillor Boylan suggested the Committee meet again in February.
Councillor Curtis proposed, and Councillor Clark seconded a motion supporting the recommendations in the report. On being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED - That
(A) the Committee notes the work carried out by the Officer Management Board since the last meeting of the Joint Executive.
(B) the Committee notes the service planning and budgetary estimates being proposed for 2022/23.
(C) the Committee notes the notice served by East Herts District Council on cameras within the Partnership.
(D) a further report is presented to the next Joint Executive to present expansion opportunities to introduce new partner councils and cameras into the CCTV Partnership.