Agenda and minutes

Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 21st June, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN. View directions

Contact: Callum Wernham  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist


No. Item



To receive any apologies for absence.


There were no apologies for absence.


Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 367 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 May 2021


The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 24 March 2021 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman, subject to the following minor amendments.


Agenda page 9: “2) It be recommended that the Low Carbon transport Strategy revert to be named the Low Emissions Transport Strategy”


Agenda page 10: “8) An update regarding the Borough Wide Parking Management Plan be considered by the Committee in March 2022.”


Agenda page 10: “9) An update regarding Flood Risk Management and an update from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service be considered in March 2022.”


Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


A pecuniary and prejudicial declaration of interest was submitted from Paul Fishwick relating to agenda item 15, on the grounds that he was the owner of a business which had received a grant from the Council in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Paul added that he would leave the room for this item, and take no part in any discussions or votes related to the item.


Public Question Time

To answer any public questions


A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.


The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.


Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting.  For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to


There were no public questions.


Member Question Time

To answer any member questions.


There were no Member questions.


Community Safety Partnership Annual Report pdf icon PDF 639 KB

To review the Community Safety Partnership Annual Report

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 11 to 36, which provided an annual update on the work of the Community Safety Partnership (CSP).


The report outlined an overall reduction in crime offences of 9.9% across the Wokingham Borough in the last 12 months. Incidents which had seen an overall reduction included burglary, vehicle crime, and drugs possession offences. As a result of the pandemic, there were a number of areas of concern including car meets in Council car parks and open spaces, and domestic abuse. The community safety team have lead a tri-Borough operational based response with local service providers and key stakeholders to adapt services for victims of domestic abuse. The CSP had 4 key priorities which came to an end on 1st June 2021, which included addressing violence against women and girls, tackling anti-social behaviour; harmful behaviour and organised crime, reduction and prevention of exploitation and and address the needs of vulnerable victims and offenders, and empowering and enabling the resilience of local communities.


Bill Soane (Executive Member for Neighbourhood and Communities), Narinder Brah (CSP Manager) and Felicity Parker (Superintendent, Bracknell and Wokingham Local Police Area) attended the meeting to answer Member questions.


During the ensuing discussions, Members raised the following points and queries:


·           Were there any specific statistics relating to cybercrime within the Borough? Officer response – Cybercrime was a key area which had been highlighted within the strategic assessment. There had not been ay local increase in this area, and Action Fraud was an agency which helped victims deal with cybercrime. The CSP was also supported through colleagues within the Public Protection Partnership, who had noticed personal protection equipment and vaccination fraud offences. In the future, additional details relating to cybercrime within the Borough would be added to the annual update report.


·           The data on agenda page 14 related to anti-social behaviour was absent from the report, and it was believed that this was previously provided by the Thames Valley Police (TVP). What were the current figures and how did they impact on the overall crime figures? Police response – The data was available, but not to hand, and would be circulated to the Committee.


·           There had been decrease in areas such as burglary incidents and domestic abuse. There was a concern that less instances of domestic abuse may have been reported because of victims being in lockdown with their abusers. What could be done to ensure the safety of those at risk? Police response – There had been a significant decrease in burglary incidents, which was something that the CSP was proud of and they were awaiting to see if this trend continued post Covid-19 (C-19). During the first lockdown, visits were made to medium and repeat risk victims of domestic abuse to ensure that they were being provided the best service possible.


·           Agenda page 27 had indicated an overall reduction of CSP funding of around £1000. What effect would this have on service delivery? Officer response - This funding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Communities, Insight, and Change Directorate Priorities pdf icon PDF 421 KB

To consider the priority list from the Communities, Insight, and Change Directorate


The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 37 to 42, which outlined the directorate priorities for the Communities, Insight, and Change Directorate.


The report outlined a number of areas of work for the year ahead, including providing IT capabilities and resilience, launching the business change strategy and embedding the change framework methodology into the organisation, tracking of customer satisfaction through various channels, ensuring that services were open to everyone by minimising any barriers or equality issues, maintenance of Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) housing stock in addition to increasing customer satisfaction to 90%, and supporting communities to be clean and safe.


Gregor Murray (Executive Member for Resident Services, Communications and Emissions), Shahid Younis (Deputy Executive Member for Corporate Strategy, Insight & Change), Keeley Clements (Director – Communities, Insight, and Change), and Simon Price (Assistant Director – Neighbourhood and Communities), attended the meeting to answer Member queries.


During the ensuing discussions, Members raised the following points and queries:


·           What was the satisfaction rate of Council tenants currently? Director response – At a low point, satisfaction reached 76%. Currently, satisfaction levels were around 88%, and the service was looking to improve this level further.


·           What preparation had been done in anticipation of the eviction ban coming to an end? Director and officer response – The Council’s “all in” policy had been very successful at keeping people off of the street during the Covid-19 (C-19) pandemic. WBC was expecting landlords to look to sell some properties due to changes in their circumstances, and WBC would need to review the overall position in the coming months. Due to the court backlog and a possible extension to the eviction ban, evictions may not take place for three to four months.


·           Could some clarity be provided relating to the proposed strategic use of the HRA? Director and officer response – Officers were looking at unlocking the HRA to understand the borrowing capacity to be able to contribute to strategic projects. The aim was to buy some of the newly developed S106 properties, in addition to redeveloping and buying speculatively where appropriate.


·           What was being done to improve the customer experience, including action tracking? Director response – Workflow tracking was planned in the medium term, and the service already knew of 5 to 6 areas where customers were more engaged. Where customers had queries, WBC needed to respond appropriately and in a timely fashion. A website UX UI Specialist had been hired to streamline the WBC website and reduce “clicks” needed to reach useful information.


·           What was the strategy for taking graduates on board at WBC? Director response – A cohort of graduates had been taken in under change management for rotation around the organisation, to build their depth and breadth of knowledge and skills.


·           What was the Insight Strategy? Director response – There was a difference between data and insight, as insight was about contextualising and understanding what the data was telling us. As a Council, we needed to build up and connect our datasets  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


Planning Application Consultation - Committee Request pdf icon PDF 387 KB

To consider information regarding how the Council publicises and consults on planning applications


The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 43 to 46, which gave an update on how Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) consulted on planning applications.


The report outlined that WBC followed the statutory obligation to either display a notice on the site for no less than 21 days, or by serving a notice to any adjoining owner or occupier. WBC chose to serve notices to neighbours, and also ask that applicants voluntarily display a site notice which was provided to them. This approach was set out within the statement of community involvement. There were additional requirements for major applications within the Borough.


Wayne Smith (Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement) and Marcia Head (Service Manager – Place and Growth) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.


During the ensuing discussions, Members raised the following points and queries:


·           Some residents had reported that they had not received notices of nearby planning applications. Whilst most objections to applications did not lead to refusals, residents wanted to be consulted and ward members wanted to ensure that residents were engaged and consulted. What exactly was sent out to residents? Officer response – An A5 postcard was sent out with the WBC crest printed on the top of the card. The postcard was not sent in an envelope, and had the planning application details written on it. If there was a sensitive application, then more houses would usually be informed. Residents did not have to be consulted to comment on an application, and many residents spoke to each other about applications which usually led to a comments being left via the WBC planning section on the website for that specific application.


·           The Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement commented that in addition to neighbours being consulted, Town and Parish Councils and local ward members were informed of every planning application in their area. 26,000 postcards had been sent out over the past year, and Covid-19 (C-19) had not slowed the planning process.


·           Had there been a change in the average number of postcards sent out for each application? Officer response – The average was 6 as a usual residential property consulted with three properties, adjoining neighbours and the property to the rear, however larger or more sensitive applications attracted far more postcards which took the average to 6.


·           Was 26,000 postcards per year sufficient to ensure that residents were aware of local planning applications? Officer response – WBC received tens of thousands of comments on planning applications per year. Planning was a balance, where objections had to be weighed up against planning law. Even where an application received no objections, officers still weighed up the impact of the development on the local community.


·           Could the notification system be modernised, via sending consultations digitally? Officer response – This had been looked at in the past via an account system where you could opt-in to receiving digital notifications, however if the homeowner moved then WBC would not be fulfilling their duty to notify immediate neighbours  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Covid-19 - Business & Economic Development Recovery Update

To consider an update on the Borough’s ongoing Business and Economic Development recovery as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic

Additional documents:


Guy Grandison proposed an extension to the meeting by a maximum of 30 minutes. This was seconded by Alison Swaddle and subsequently carried.


The Committee considered a report, set out in supplementary agenda pages 3 to 12, which gave an overview of the Council’s ongoing business and economic development recovery from the Covid-19 (C-19) pandemic.


The report stated that whilst most of the work to date has been reactive, there was now a transition into the recovery phase for the Borough’s economy and businesses. Over the coming year, the plan was to speak to all of Wokingham’s businesses to develop a strong lasting relationship with the business community.


Stuart Munro (Executive Member for Business and Economic Development) and Rhian Hayes (Interim Assistant Director Housing and Place) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.


During the ensuing discussion, Member raised the following points and queries:


·           Members commented that Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) had gone above and beyond in being a supportive organisation throughout the pandemic for businesses across the Borough.


·           Were there any statistics on the numbers of new businesses that had popped up during the pandemic, and how WBC might be able to support them going forwards? Officer response – This was typically a statistic which had a large time lag, however this information would be available in the future, and WBC was keen to support emerging businesses.


·           The Committee wished to extend their thanks to all those who enabled such a thorough response in such a difficult period of time.


·           What was the key to the successful deployment of business grants? Officer response – WBC staff delivered for our residents, and in particular Andrew Kupusarevic and the business rates team worked incredibly hard to ensure smooth delivery of business grant payments on or before time.


·           How long would the Covid Marshals be kept on for? Officer response – The opening up fund would enable the tenure of the marshals to be extended for another couple of months.


·           How was WBC planning to engage with all of the businesses across the Borough, and identify their needs properly? Officer response – Businesses had a wide range of varying needs. WBC was planning to speak to each business to understand their specific needs.


·           It was noted that there was still a strong demand for commercial space within the Borough.


·           Were companies letting us know if they planned on letting staff go after the furlough scheme ended? Officer response – Whilst there was no requirement for businesses to do so, WBC would seek to capture this information wherever possible.


·           Was there any update on the claimant count within the Borough? Officer response – The current rate was 3.3%, down from 3.5%, and officers were watching this rate to see which direction it would go.


·           How many Borough residents had been furloughed in the Borough? Officer response – 10,900 people, or 13 percent of total jobs, had been furloughed within the Borough.


·           The business change survey had identified a number of businesses that were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Committee Work Programme/Meeting Schedule pdf icon PDF 121 KB

To consider the Committee work programme and list of upcoming meetings


The Committee considered the provisional list of items scheduled for upcoming meetings, including the extraordinary meeting scheduled for 21 July. Officers commented that further items would be scheduled for future meetings once discussions with the appropriate Executive members, Directors, and officers had been achieved.


RESOLVED That the work programme be noted.