Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Monday, 8th November, 2021 5.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre, St Luke's Avenue, Harrogate HG1 2AE. This meeting will be livestreamed here: https://bit.ly/HarrogateYouTube (Copy and paste the link in your browser).. View directions

Contact: Claire Wilson - Scrutiny Officer  Tel: 01423 500600 ext. 58323 Email:  claire.wilson@harrogate.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

58.

Apologies for absence and notification of substitutes:

Minutes:

Notification had been received that Councillor Rebecca Burnett was acting as a substitute for Councillor Norman Waller, Councillor John Ennis was acting as substitute for Councillor Stuart Martin and Councillor Victoria Oldham was acting as a substitute for Councillor Bernard Bateman.

(5.31 pm)

59.

Declarations of interest:

Members to advise of any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

Councillor Pat Marsh and Councillor Chris Aldred declared an interest in Minute 63/21. Councillor Pat Marsh was on the Board of Brimhams Active and Councillor Chris Aldred was employed as agency staff working at the Harrogate Convention Centre. As the items were not matters for decision they remained in the meeting and participated in the discussions.

(5.32 pm)

60.

Minutes: pdf icon PDF 243 KB

Of the meeting of 27 September 2021.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 27 September 2021 were approved as a correct record.

 

(There were ten votes for the motion and two abstentions.)

 (5.33 pm)

61.

Exempt information:

To determine whether to exclude the press and public during the consideration of any exempt items – item 6 (part).

Minutes:

Appendices A – E of the report considered at Minute 63/21 were exempt by virtue of paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 as they contained information relating to the financial affairs of the Council and were considered commercially sensitive. Consideration of the item, however, took place in open session.

(5.33 pm)

62.

Public arrangements- questions:

To consider any questions under Standing Order 27.

Minutes:

There were none.

(5.34 pm)

63.

2021/22 October Financial and Service Plan Performance Update: pdf icon PDF 342 KB

The Service Finance Manager to submit a written report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed the Service Finance Manager (SFM) to the meeting, to present the October Financial and Service Plan Performance report to the Commission. This was the second update of the 2021/22 financial year. The overall financial forecast for the year-end position was an underspend of £436k, compared to a forecast underspend at quarter one of 32k.

 

The significant variances were summarised in a table at paragraph 5.4 of the report. The forecast net cost attributable to the pandemic had reduced since the July report, the net cost was now forecast to be £271k. This net cost was due to the fact that whilst the expected cost of the pandemic to services in terms of lost income and increased expenditure was less than budget, the forecast income support grant was also less than budgeted. This net cost was however more than offset by forecast net savings of £707k. This included salary savings of £762k across the council. Of these salary savings £339k were in sport and leisure to the end of July 2021. From 1 August 2021 sport and leisure services were provided by Brimhams Active Ltd and not Harrogate Borough Council. The net cost attributable to the pandemic included income shortfalls compared to budget predicted for some services including finance and place-shaping and economic growth. There had been a significant improvement in the income forecast at Harrogate Convention Centre.

 

Members noted the forecast underspend was a significant figure and raised concerns about the volume of vacancies affecting service delivery and putting employed staff under pressure. It was confirmed that there were difficulties with recruitment nationally and across many sectors. Councillor Pat Marsh referred to anecdotal reports that applicants were experiencing delays in the processing of planning applications and suggested proactive communications about this, including reaching those who may not access social media. The Director of Corporate Affairs agreed to take this suggestion forward with the communications team. It was confirmed that the Council did use social media to communicate changes to waste and recycling collections and leisure services

 

The Chair, Councillor Chris Aldred, referred to paragraph 5.10 of the report where £150k of savings relating to the repair and maintenance of dwellings was reported. He queried how this was affecting tenants living in the properties. The Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Communities (CM HSC), who was in attendance at the meeting for the item discussed at Minute 66/21, confirmed that there were staffing shortages in the housing and property service. This was being mitigated by the use of agency staff, with the costs for this also reflected in the report before the Commission. The CM HSC explained the service had lost some more experienced staff however two students had been recruited to undertake work-based training over a two year period. The CM HSC explained that the in-house maintenance team had an excellent track record and all urgent work was undertaken as a priority and, despite challenging circumstances, the service was doing everything possible to ensure the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 63.

64.

2021/22 October Corporate Performance Update: pdf icon PDF 720 KB

The Improvement and Development Manager to submit a written report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed the Improvement and Development Manager (IDM) to the meeting to present the 2021/22 October Corporate Performance report and thanked her for the report. The IDM referred to the report explaining that the information included was for quarter two 2021/22 (July – September). It was noted that there were still some COVID-19 restrictions in place at the beginning of this period. Overall 71% of corporate delivery plan actions were on target with 69% of performance indicators on target. Areas of good performance highlighted were waste and recycling with all performance measures better than target and delivery of affordable homes. Areas where performance was lower than expected were the length of time to re-let properties and the length of stay in bed and breakfast accommodation. 

 

The Commission heard that a planning application had been submitted for works to the Hydro swimming pool and leisure facility and a pre-planning consultation has taken place for a new pool in Knaresborough. In reference to corporate health, sickness absence remained low. Proportionally, the reasons for sickness had altered slightly with 17.6% of days lost due to heart related illnesses. It was noted that some council staff had transferred to Brimhams Active Ltd. and this had changed the profile of the council employees group. Sport and leisure had been the service area with the youngest workforce. It was noted that the type of illness that resulted in the most days lost was stress and depression (25%). It was reported that vacancies meant that there was a delay in implementing some actions within the People Strategy, the Director of Corporate Affairs confirmed that the Organisational and People Development team were continuing to deliver as much of the Strategy as possible with reduced resources.

 

In relation to customer complaints there was improved performance for both stage one and two complaints, although responses to stage two complaints remained below target.  The IDM explained that 79% of staff had undertaken their appraisals where the target was 90%, this was partly due to redeployments during the pandemic.

 

Following a question about why HCC was showing as amber in the report when the facility had been performing well, the IDM confirmed that this was likely to be an error. Details of good performance (economic impact and overall income) were reflected in the Corporate Plan: Delivery Plan appendix. 

 

Councillor Pat Marsh raised a query about funding for the Ripon Renewal master-planning project. The specific reference to this was at 6.2 of the report where it was noted that officers working on the Ripon Renewal master planning project and NYCC's Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan were also linking with the Clotherholme proposal to explore opportunities for connectivity, sustainable travel, employment and training. It was confirmed that further information could be requested for the service.

 

In response to a question about timescales for the determination of planning applications, the IDM confirmed this information was included in the documents considered at Minute 63/21. The Commission received a breakdown of performance against indicators  ...  view the full minutes text for item 64.

65.

Forward Plan of Key Decisions: pdf icon PDF 145 KB

To consider current Forward Plan items.

Minutes:

The Chair explained the purpose of the item was to make Members aware of forthcoming decisions on the Forward Plan to enable pre-decision scrutiny. The Forward Plan item informed Members when reports would be published and names the lead officers. The Chair provided an update for the date of decision for Disposal of Council owned land off Claro Road, Harrogate (Forward Plan Reference 46ED21), the date listed in the documents was 13 October 2021, however this item was due to be considered by Cabinet at their meeting to be held on 10 November 2021.

(6.22 pm – 6.23 pm)

66.

Affordable Housing Delivery in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

The Executive Officer for Housing Growth to deliver a presentation. The Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Communities to be in attendance.

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the item, explaining that the work item formed part of the Commission’s work programme for 2021/22. He explained that significant work had been undertaken by officers across several Council teams in preparation for the meeting and expressed gratitude on behalf of Members for this work. The Chair introduced the Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Communities (CM HSC), Councillor Mike Chambers and the Executive Officer for Housing Growth (EOHG) to the meeting to deliver a presentation.

 

The EOHG delivered a presentation, this supported a briefing note that had been circulated to Members prior to the meeting. The key points were:

 

The Nidderdale AONB: was designated in 1994 to protect the beautiful landscape/nature. The AONB has a population of around 14.5k, this was considered a very low population density. The AONB covered around half of the geography of the Harrogate district but represented only around 9% of the overall population.

 

The Local Plan: in the development process, the Local Plan Inspector removed four site allocations in the AONB, this was due to their impact on the designated landscape. The Local Plan Inspector did note that some small scale development in the AONB may be appropriate. The four sites that were removed would have delivered a total of around 250 new homes, with 100 of these being affordable homes. The Nidderdale AONB Joint Advisory Committee also objected at these large site allocations, favouring developments of ten dwellings or fewer on small village infill and/or brownfield sites or under Rural Exception Site (RES) policy.

 

Detailed information was provided about the delivery of affordable homes in the AONB, this included:

 

         Development at Church View, Dacre Banks – five affordable (shared ownership) homes on this development site, local people had priority to acquire these. This was a brownfield site (former car garage/showroom). Planning policy requirements mean for developments of ten or more houses 30-40% must be affordable. The affordable homes were indistinct from market homes.

         Development at Poppyfields, Summerbridge – in 2020 the Council acquired five homes for social rented housing (this is on a development of 13 homes).

         Right to buy/buying back – over the years many Council homes have been sold under the Right to Buy. Those sold since the designation of the AONB in 1994 (a total of 50) have a restrictive covenant in place, meaning that any purchaser must have lived or worked in the AONB for three years previously (and the homes cannot be used as holiday accommodation). The Council is also able to buy back ex-Council houses, using funding from Homes England grants and the Housing Revenue Account and it was reported that CM HSC had just approved the acquisition of a four bedroom ex-Council house within the AONB. In some cases ex-Council houses had very large gardens and so it was possible to apply for permission to build another dwelling on the plot.

         Council houses and demand in the AONB – there were 169 in the Nidderdale AONB, and round 20  ...  view the full minutes text for item 66.

67.

Feedback from other Committees and External Bodies:

The Chair to provide updates from:

 

·       Management Board 11 October 2021 (Overview and Scrutiny Chair and Vice-Chair attendance)

·       Cabinet 13 October 2021 (Overview and Scrutiny Comments on the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022/23 – 2026/27)

Minutes:

The Chair provided an update to the Commission following attendance of the Chair and Vice-Chair at a meeting of Management Board held on 11 October 2021. Twice-yearly meetings of the scrutiny Chairs with senior leadership had been a recommendation following the Commission’s review of Statutory Guidance for Scrutiny Committees in 2019. The Chair confirmed that the meeting had been useful and detailed two-way updates had been provided.

 

Councillor Sam Gibbs, Vice-Chair of the Commission, had attended a Cabinet meeting held on 13 October 2021 to present the Commission’s comments on the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy. He confirmed that Cabinet thanked the Commission for their deliberations and received their comments. The Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022/23 to 2026/27 would be considered at a meeting of the Council to be held on 15 December 2021.

 

(7.13 pm – 7.16 pm)

68.

Overview and Scrutiny Draft Work Programme 2021/22: pdf icon PDF 396 KB

The Scrutiny, Governance and Risk Manager to submit a written report.

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the report submitted by the Scrutiny, Governance and Risk Manager (SGRM). He referred to the table at paragraph 3.4 where the dates and focus of future meetings were listed. This included a new date for a special meeting with the Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire, this meeting had been postponed and the new date for this was the 13 December 2021. The Chair explained that this meeting was held on behalf of the Council and Members could submit questions in advance. The Chair referred to another special meeting which would be held on behalf of the Council on the 25 April 2022 with the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.

 

(7.16 pm – 7.18 pm)