Agenda and draft minutes

Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 6th October, 2021 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Callum Wernham  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist

Media

Items
No. Item

32.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

 

Alison Swaddle attended the meeting virtually and was therefore marked as in attendance, and was unable to proposes, second or vote on items.

33.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 258 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 1 September 2021

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 1 September 2021 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

34.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

35.

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 www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions

Minutes:

There were no public questions.

36.

Member Question Time

To answer any member questions.

Minutes:

There were no Member questions.

37.

Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2022-2025 pdf icon PDF 264 KB

To begin the Overview & Scrutiny process of the draft 2022-25 MTFP

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 15 to 38, which gave a strategic overview of the draft Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2022-2025.

 

John Kaiser (Executive Member for Finance and Housing) and Graham Ebers (Deputy Chief Executive (Director of Resources and Assets)) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.

 

It was stated that this was the third year of the budget scrutiny process, of which the previous years had helped the overall budget setting process. This was a challenging time for local authority finances, with issues including inflation and social care costs providing increasing pressures on budgets. It was likely that the upcoming Local Government finance settlement would be a three year settlement, which would add an element of certainty with regards to funding. The potential impact of social care reforms could see severe pressures placed on Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) finances, as Wokingham had self-funding and partial self-funding social care users contribute around £8.5m per annum. Children’s Services were still on their journey to a ‘Good’ OFSTED rating, whilst the increases to building costs and materials had meant that some capital projects were being reviewed with regards to a temporary hold whilst costs stabilised.

 

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

 

·           What were the concerns in relation to CIL and S106 contributions? Deputy Chief Executive response – WBC’s approach was to provide the funding upfront to unlock future development. S106 and CIL contributions were then received later from developers. Where a developer was struggling, or there was a significant time gap between the upfront funding and receipt of contributions, WBC could see pressures on its finances. The general reserve was there to cushion any impact, however if several large developers all started struggling simultaneously then reserves may not be enough.

 

·           What was the worst case scenario financially for WBC with regards to the adult social care reforms? Deputy Chief Executive response – In very crude terms, the better the NHS was funded the better their throughput of patients would be, which would mean more clients entering the social care sector. If there was no forthcoming funding whatsoever, these reforms could place a £20m burden on WBC in several years’ time.

 

·           It was noted that Members were appreciative of taking both capital and revenue proposals together this year.

 

·           Were WBC being penalised for having a good collection rate of Council Tax, how confident were WBC that a 3 year Local Government settlement would be forthcoming, and should a three year settlement be agreed what could be done mid-settlement to improve the terms for WBC? Executive Member and Deputy Chief Executive response – When looking at grants, WBC were good in many areas and subsequently received smaller grants. The only way that central Government could improve struggling Councils was by providing them with additional funding. WBC needed to be very alive to the levelling up agenda and the impact that this might have on the Borough. Officers were more confident than not with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Leisure Service Provision Update pdf icon PDF 195 KB

To consider an update regarding the provision of leisure services across the Borough, and action plan associated with the draft Leisure Strategy

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 39 to 72, which gave an update on Leisure Service provision within the Borough.

 

The report outlined the investment that had been made to a variety of facilities within the Borough, including the Cantely Park enhancements and the new outdoor activity centre at Dinton Pastures. A variety of specialised programmes were in place, including the SHINE programme for over 60’s and Wokingham active holiday camps for children. A draft revised Leisure Strategy had been developed, and the associated action plan was appended to the report for consideration.

 

Parry Batth (Executive Member for Environment and Leisure), Graham Ebers (Deputy Chief Executive (Director of Resources and Assets)), Susan Bentley (Prevention Manager), Joseph Howorth (Commercial Activity Manager), and Beverley Thompson (Sport & Leisure Manager) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.

 

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

 

·           Were the 1.3 million fitness attendances for the 2019/20 year, and was the 1700 figure for the walking for health programme the total number of walkers or attendances? Officer response – The 1.3 million fitness attendances were for the 2019/20 year, and there were 1700 walkers for the walking for health programme in that year.

 

·           How were the views of residents who were not currently using leisure facilities being captured? Officer response – A consultation had been undertaken and publicised online, and a number of wants had taken place in a variety of locations across the Borough.

 

·           How was the free membership for children in receipt of free school meals being advertised? Officer response – These passes were given directly to schools within the Borough to distribute to eligible children. These children could then attend as many sessions as they wished to attend.

 

·           The SHINE programme had seen the unlimited sessions pass rise from £180 to £780 per annum, which could be very off-putting for a number of residents. Had officers noticed any fall off in attendances of SHINE sessions as a result of these changes? Officer response – This programme had been reduced as a result of Covid-19, and in order to maintain the original programme and offer more variety the price was increased. Splitting the fee into monthly instalments had been investigated, and officers were working hard to procure a new booking system. There had been a slight decrease in member take-up, however there had not been much of a decrease in attendance of sessions. Approximately 76% of the total offering was being taken up by members.

 

·           There was some concern that the increase in the unlimited session SHINE fees was very large and could be at the detriment of many residents within the Borough. Officers noted that this offering was still cheaper than that offered by other Local Authorities via benchmarking.

 

·           Would spending be split up in future to show where Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) had invested in services rather than where third parties or grants had been used, for example the Loddon Valley Leisure Centre upgrade? Deputy Chief  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.

39.

Bringing the Public Protection Service back in-house pdf icon PDF 226 KB

To consider a verbal update regarding bringing the Public Protection Service back in-house

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 73 to 78, which gave an update on the process of bringing the Public Protection Service back in-house.

 

The report outlined that the majority of associated regulatory services would be brought back in-house, with a minority of services with more regional significance being provide by West Berkshire Council. Examples of services to be provided by West Berkshire Council included Trading Standards, air quality, and farm animal welfare. The exit plan was likely to be signed off via delegated decision after 8 October 2021.

 

Bill Soane (Executive Member for Neighbourhood and Communities), Stephen Brown (Interim Assistant Director – Place), and David Thrale (Interim Public Protection Consultant) attended the meeting to answer Member queries.

 

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

 

·           It was noted that the PowerPoint slide pack would be circulated to the Committee.

 

·           Was the exit plan on target? Officer response – Yes, this was on track and the goal was to enhance the overall service provision. Staff were doing a fantastic job to enable the transition back in-house to run smoothly.

 

·           Were any costs in relation to bring the service back in house being kept as low as possible? Officer response – Costs were being kept as low as possible for all parties during negotiations. Negotiations were difficult as the partnership feel that they were losing out by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) leaving, however officers were working as hard as possible to get a fair deal for both WBC and the partnership.

 

·           Were there any concerns that critical milestones may not be met on time? Officer response – There had been concerns earlier on in the process with regards to some deadlines, however officers were now more confident as the process moved forwards.

 

·           Were issues relating to the pension scheme for staff on target to be addressed? Officer response – Parity would be assured for all staff, and allowances would be made for staff who were expected to work antisocial hours.

 

·           Were negotiations relating to jointly owned partner assets going smoothly? Officer response – The key assets were vehicles, and WBC were looking to take a number from the partnership to eliminate the liability aspect for vehicles. The remainder of joint assets were fairly low level.

 

·           Had meaningful discussions taken place with the police with regards to antisocial behaviour, and the move on this aspect of the service back in-house? Officer response – Discussion had been had with the police since the beginning of this process, and discussions had also taken place with the Community Safety Partnership. The aim of the service was to build better partnerships, and it was expected that this would be beneficial for the police service, the Community Safety Partnership, and WBC.

 

·           Who would produce the report in relation to air quality for DEFRA? Officer response – This would be provided by the partnership for WBC, as it was felt better value to pay towards the cost of the expert that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.

40.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 27 KB

To consider items scheduled for upcoming meetings of the Committee

Minutes:

The Committee considered their work programme, which was set out in agenda pages 79 to 82.

 

It was noted that whilst Council owned companies were not currently scheduled for an upcoming Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, these were still on the wider work programme and could be looked at in the next municipal year.

 

Officers commented that the provisional plan was to receive an interim update on the BME forum at the extraordinary meeting of the Committee on 3rd November, with a more substantive update then planned for March 2022.

 

It was noted that the item on overgrown pavements would be widened to include how the Council managed a range of contracts including street cleansing and highways issues.

 

It was commented that the Council’s strategy for lowering transport emissions alongside the electric vehicle strategy would be out for consultation after Christmas 2021. It was suggested that these issues be taken to either the 5th January 2022 meeting or a further extraordinary meeting.

 

Officers noted that an update on the Domestic Abuse Strategy would be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee on 18 October, and the intention was to invite Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Members to listen to the presentation and ask questions.

 

Members asked that an update report be produced with regards to any updates relating to the proposed in-Borough Crematorium.

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     Callum Wernham be thanked for attending the meeting;

 

2)     Items relating to scrutiny of Council owned companies be provisionally scheduled for the next municipal year;

 

3)     The item on overgrown pavements be widened to include how the Council managed a range of contracts including street cleansing and highways issues;

 

4)     The provisional plan be to receive an interim update on the BME forum at the extraordinary meeting of the Committee on 3rd November, with a more substantive update then scheduled for March 2022;

 

5)     Officers explore the options regarding scheduling an item relating to the consultations on the Council’s strategy for lowering transport emissions alongside the electric vehicle strategy;

 

6)     The Domestic Abuse Strategy be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee on 18 October, with the intention to invite Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Members to listen to the presentation and ask questions;

 

7)     An update report be produced with regards to any updates relating to the proposed in-Borough Crematorium.