Venue: the Council Chamber - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
Contact: Neil Carr Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were submitted from Guy Grandison and Pauline Helliar-Symons.
Chris Bowring and Anne Chadwick attended the meeting as substitutes.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 16 June 2021.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 16 June 2021 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman, subject to the following amendments:
· Cllr Dennis was in attendance.
· CS5 KPI – “What is the basis of this KPI because 52% target is not in line with treating children in care and care leavers as our own?”
· PG22 KPI – “Current data demonstrates ¼ of original target achieved so this KPI should be Red not Green.”
· PG26 KPI – “the data should reflect the average of all the air monitors in each AQMA rather than a single monitor.”
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
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
There were no public questions.
Member Question Time
To answer any Member questions.
In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited Members to submit questions to the appropriate Members.
Gary Cowan asked the Chairman the following question:
The Climate Emergency highlight report to the June meeting was very comprehensive and one I welcome, but I have some concerns with some of the listed key priorities namely:
· 1. Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Transport;
· 5. Increase the levels of carbon sequestration in the Borough through greening the environment;
· 4. Finally create a Local Plan that specifies Net Zero Construction and Infrastructure;
· In any new Local Plan briefings which I have been involved in which will form the basis of the Council’s emerging Local Plan and be subject to public consultation followed by an examination in public, there is no real mention of Net Zero construction and infrastructure;
· Planning Officers seem to pay no attention to additional emissions when approving development that increases traffic on already congested roads, with no thought to reducing carbon emissions. No air quality checks are asked for and trees that impinge on development are usually removed.
· With respect to greening the environment, Planning Officers secretly approved the removal of about 500 mature trees including many with Tree Preservation Orders on them by Bearwood Lakes without any conditions to replace them.
My question is: will Overview and Scrutiny use their influence to insist that Wokingham’s Planning Officers apply, where possible, all the Council’s Climate Emergency plans/policies/targets and aims to every single planning decision they take and, at the same time, add Climate Emergency to the planning status internal consultation reports, also for every planning application?
The Climate Emergency highlight report is very comprehensive and one I welcome but I have some concerns with some of the listed key priorities namely:
· 1. Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Transport.
· 5. Increase the levels of carbon sequestration in the borough through greening the environment
· 4. Finally, create a Local Plan that specifies Net Zero Construction and Infrastructure.
· In any new local plan briefings which I have been involved in which will form the basis of the Council’s emerging local plan and be subject to public consultation followed by an examination in public there is no real mention of net zero construction and infrastructure.
· Planning Officers seem to pay no attention to additional emissions when approving development that increases traffic on already congested roads with no thought to reducing carbon emissions. No air quality checks are asked for and trees that impinge on development are usually removed.
· With respect to greening the environment Planning Officers secretly approved the removal of about 500 mature trees including many with Tree Preservation Orders on them by Bearwood Lakes without any conditions to replace them.
My question is: will the Overview and Scrutiny use their influence to insist that Wokingham’s Planning Officers apply where possible all the Council’s Climate Emergency plans/policies/targets and aims to every single planning decision they take and, at the same time, add Climate Emergency to the planning status internal consultation reports also for every planning application?
As Councillor Cowan was unable to attend the meeting, the following written answer was provided.
The O&S Climate Emergency Task and Finish Group recently published its 2021 report. The report highlighted the importance of the Planning process in achieving the Council’s 2030 Net Zero target and made specific recommendations, as follows:
· Introduce a Supplementary Planning Document linked to the current Local Plan to ensure that, whilst we wait for the new Local Plan Update to be completed, any new homes are built as close to carbon neutral as possible.
· Engage proactively and work together with housing developers, planning to build in the Borough, to clarify the Council’s position on Climate Emergency and explain the planning and building control requirements arising out of the Climate Emergency Action Plan.
· Use the Council’s housing companies to showcase the highest standards of energy efficiency in any future developments. These standards may surpass standards set in the new Local Plan.
The Task and Finish Group highlighted the importance of ensuring that key policies and plans were aligned with the Climate Emergency Action Plan. This included the emerging Local Plan Update. The Group also emphasised the importance of Council services working together with a clear understanding of the Action Plan. To support this the Group recommended that Climate Emergency training should be provided for Members, officers and contractors, with the aim of embedding awareness into every service and every key decision.
The Task and Finish Group’s recommendations will be submitted to the Executive for consideration. We trust that they will be given serious consideration in line with ... view the full minutes text for item 16.1
Discussion with Leader and Chief Executive
To discuss Council priorities for 2021/22 with the Leader and Chief Executive.
John Halsall (Council Leader) and Susan Parsonage (Chief Executive) attended the meeting to set out the Council’s key priorities over the year ahead. The aim was to identify any policies or plans being considered over the year which would benefit from pre-decision scrutiny in line with the Council’s Constitution. A similar exercise was being carried out by the other Overview and Scrutiny Committees in order to maximise the benefit that Overview and Scrutiny could add to the decision-making process.
John Halsall addressed the Committee and highlighted the following points:
Over the past year, the Council had responded well to the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. This had been possible due to the hard work, commitment and flexibility of Council staff. Staff returning to office settings would be considered in the context of balancing business needs with welfare needs.
The Council had a clear Community Vision and Corporate Delivery Plan which had been developed following consultation with the Borough’s residents. The priorities in the Vision and Delivery Plan fed through into the three year Medium Term Financial Plan.
The Council’s approach was innovative and tackled residents’ priorities. These included the regeneration of Wokingham town centre, plans for affordable housing, tackling traffic congestion, the Climate Emergency Action Plan and bringing forward the updated Local Plan.
Other priorities included bringing the Public Protection Partnership (PPP) back in house, tackling anti-social behaviour, domestic violence and fly tipping. A new Waste Strategy would be developed along with proposals to transform adult social care services and home to school transport.
The Council would seek to build on the improved partnership with the community and voluntary sector which had developed during the pandemic. This would include a focus on health inequalities and tackling poverty across the Borough.
Susan Parsonage highlighted the following points:
The Council would seek to build on recent positive inspections (Ofsted and ILAC) relating to Children’s Services. This included significant progress relating to the SEN Statement of Action.
Work would continue with partners in the Community Safety Partnership (police, health, probation and fire and rescue) to deliver the approved strategy. The reintegration of the PPP would result in an intelligence-led model which delivered value for money for the Borough’s residents.
The Council would deliver on the new Arts and Culture Strategy and would seek to develop a positive relationship with the business community, for example in relation to the Climate Emergency Action Plan.
The updated Local Plan would be delivered using a robust timetable while the new Waste Strategy would focus on waste minimisation and an updated re3 partnership.
The Council would also focus on improving the customer interface using improved data from the GovMetric system which would facilitate improved, more responsive services. The past year had demonstrated the innovation and flexibility of staff in delivering new services and improving existing services.
Challenges following the pandemic included mental health and wellbeing, complex cases (adult social care and special educational needs) and the post-Covid response to business as usual.
In the ensuing discussion, Members raised ... view the full minutes text for item 17.
To consider the range of potential deliberative processes aimed at improving public understanding and engagement with the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 19 to 56, which gave details of potential community deliberative processes aimed at improving resident engagement and input into the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan. The aim was to submit the recommended deliberative processes to the Executive in July 2021 with a follow-up report to the October 2021 Executive, setting out the financial implications, timeline and expected outcomes.
Diana Tovar and Grant Thornton (from the Climate Emergency team) attended the meeting to introduce the report and answer Member questions.
The report stated that research had been carried out into a number of potential deliberative processes and that an evaluation matrix had been developed in order to rank the different options (Appendix A to the report). Case studies had also been reviewed where processes were used by local authorities. The processes under consideration included citizens’ assemblies, user panels, focus groups, town meetings, area forums, conversation cafes, crowd sourcing and e panels.
The report concluded that, based on the results of the evaluation, the recommended deliberative processes were focus groups and e panels. These methods engaged a wide variety of stakeholders, were low cost, had a relatively quick turnaround and delivered a large amount of useful data.
In the ensuing discussion, Members raised the following points:
Whilst the public engagement was welcomed, there was a lack of clarity on the desired outcome, i.e. which process would help to deliver the most significant level of carbon reduction. The report indicated that greater weighting had been allocated to cost rather than issues such as range of participants and breadth of discussion. The weighting given to different criteria was also subjective. For example, focus groups received 5 for discussion potential whilst citizens’ assembly received 1 for communication of results. However, there were examples of Councils using citizens’ assemblies that had produced reports with recommendations which were widely circulated and used to inform Climate Emergency action plans.
Diana Tovar commented that the option appraisal and methodology had been used to establish a value for the different deliberative processes. The aim was to establish the most cost-effective option in terms of the balance between cost, time, support required and the quality of the outputs which could then be used to inform the Climate Emergency discussions.
There appeared to be some issues relating to the supporting tables in the report. These related to the weightings given to different options and the actual calculations within the tables. For example, Focus Groups scored 5 for discussion potential whilst Citizens Assembly only scored 4. Similarly, Citizens Assembly scored 1 for Communication of Results, defined as “Very slow results and difficult to relate the results into useful communication”. This seemed wrong as a number of Citizens Assemblies (e.g. Camden) had produced reports with recommendations which were then incorporated in climate emergency action plans. Diana stated that the issue with Citizens Assemblies was more around the cost, level of support required and length of the process rather than the quality of information provided. ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
Establishing the Tree and Biodiversity Protection Task and Finish Group
To consider the establishment of a Task and Finish Group relating to the protection of trees and biodiversity across the Borough.
Following discussion at the March and June 2021 meetings, the Committee considered the composition of the proposed Tree and Biodiversity Protection Task and Finish Group.
The Chairman stated that, in line with the Council’s political balance arrangements, the Task and Finish Group should be set up with three Conservative Members, one Lib Dem Member and one Labour/Independent Member.
Rachel Burgess stated that she was content for an Independent Member to sit on the Group.
The Chairman stated that the Task and Finish Group would establish its terms of reference at the first meeting.
1) the Tree and Biodiversity Protection Task and Finish Group be established with three Conservative Members, one Lib Dem Member and one Independent Member;
2) membership of the Task and Finish Group be open to all non-Executive/Audit Committee Members;
3) the Task and Finish Group consider and confirm its terms of reference at its first meeting.
To consider the current published versions of the Executive Forward Programme and the Individual Executive Member Decision Forward Programme.
The Committee considered a copy of the Executive Forward Programme and the Individual Executive Member Decision Forward Programme, as set out on Agenda pages 57 to 64.
It was confirmed that the Procurement Strategy, to be submitted to the July Executive, was a new strategy based on best practice and guidance from CIPFA.
RESOLVED: That the Executive and Individual Executive Member Decision Forward Programmes be noted.
To discuss the work programme of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and the Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
The Committee considered its forward work programme and that of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees as set out on Agenda pages 65 to 76.
RESOLVED: That the Overview and Scrutiny work programmes be noted.
To consider the latest Action Tracker report.
The Committee considered the Action Tracker report, set out at Agenda pages 77 to 78.
RESOLVED: That the Action Tracker report be noted.