Overview and Scrutiny Committee Minutes

Date:
Tuesday, 20th September, 2016
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Cathryn Henry (Chairman), Councillor Steve Hemingway (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Ian Albert, Councillor Paul Clark (Substitute), Councillor Bill Davidson, Councillor Steve Deakin - Davies, Councillor Elizabeth Dennis, Councillor Jean Green, Councillor Ben Lewis, Councillor Paul Marment, Councillor Gerald Morris, Councillor Frank Radcliffe and Councillor Valentine Shanley.

NB: Councillor Ben Lewis arrived at 8.41 p.m and Councillor Paul Marment left at 9.25 p.m.
In attendance:
Councillor Tony Hunter (Executive Member for Community Engagement and Rural Affairs), Councillor Bernard Lovewell (Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health), Norma Atlay (Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance), Andy Godman (Head of Housing and Public Protection), Ian Couper (Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management), Peter Carey (Environmental Health Manager), James Ellis (Advisory and Litigation Lawyer), Stuart Izzard (Communities Manager), Andrew Mills (Service Manager - Grounds Maintenance),Rachel Cooper (Payment and Reconciliations Manager), Brendan Sullivan (Scrutiny Officer) and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services Officer).
Also Present:
At the start of the meeting, 11 members of the public.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
43 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Steve Jarvis, Michael Muir and Janine Paterson.

Having given due notice Councillor Paul Clark advised that he would be substituting for Councillor Steve Jarvis.
44 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 July 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
45 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
No other business was submitted for consideration by the Committee.
46 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
(1) The Chairman reminded those present that, in line with Council policy, the meeting would be audio recorded;

(2) The Chairman welcomed Councillors Tony Hunter (Executive Member for Community Engagement and Rural Affairs.) and Bernard Lovewell (Executive Member for Housing and Environmental Health) to the meeting;

(3) The Chairman informed Members that when considering items regarding the Proposed Crematorium at Wilbury Hills Cemetery Business Case, it would be necessary to consider Item 18 - the Part 2 element, prior to Item 16 - the Part 1 element;

(4) The Chairman drew attention to the item on the agenda front pages regarding Declarations of Interest and reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
47 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
MR CHRIS PARKER - WALSWORTH COMMUNITY CENTRE
Mr Chris Parker thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding Walsworth Community Centre as follows:

The Walsworth Community Centre was booked each week by various groups including the Kingfisher Dementia Group, Mother and Toddlers, Art Groups, Metal Detecting, Credit Union and Yoga to mention a few. It also provided a venue for weddings, christenings, birthdays and other family events.

Another 500 houses were due to be built in Walsworth creating a greater demand for the Centre.

The Centre was built in 1852 and was a highly valued community value that the local community wishes to save.

The report entitled Community Centre Leases (Minute 57 refers) being considered this evening stated that the Centre was not in a good state of repair due to its age. This was disputed as the building, which was built in the Victorian age as a British School, was in a similar condition to the Hitchin British School.

The Walsworth Community Association had honoured the obligations of the original lease, keeping the interior of the building in a good state of repair and decoration. The Association had also recently paid for and completed external decoration and window replacement.

The Stock Condition Survey completed by the Council in 2013 indicated maintenance costs of £130,000 plus internal refurbishment costs of £10,000 over a ten year period. The Association questioned the figures, particularly that of £38,000 required for external resurfacing and perimeter fencing.

This original estimation had suddenly increased to £220,000 over 25 years, this was unrealistic as no-one worked on a 25 year maintenance programme for their property and the revised estimates had not been shared with the Community Association who ran the Centre.

The report also stated that the Association had been unable to find new Trustees. The Association had not sought new Trustees as they understood that the Trustees under the old lease continued to be so, in accordance with the Charity Commission guidance.

An application had been made to list the building as an Asset of Community Value, this had not been actioned sooner as it had been discovered that NHDC did not own all of the land, in fact some had been transferred to North Herts Homes.

The report stated that the Association would have difficulty in maintaining a repairing lease. The Association would only have difficulty in maintaining a building that had to date not been adequately maintained by the Council under the original lease agreement.

The Association understood that, if they were to take on a full repairing lease, they might become eligible for lottery and Council funding to complete repairs and any necessary upgrading, but there were no guarantee that this would be forthcoming.

The Association was willing to pay for repairs where required, but could not meet the costs estimated by the Council.

The recommendations contained in the report were unfair on the community groups and the Association that operated the Centre. The volunteers, who had run the Centre for many years, felt threatened by the option included in the recommendation to close the Centre.

Whilst negotiations continued regarding the lease, the Centre remained open for business, providing a valuable service for the local community.

Members asked several questions including whether the Council had undertaken any exterior repairs over the last 5 years and whether the Association had considered applying for listed building status

Mr Parker advised that very little repair work had been undertaken by the Council since the lease expired in 2012. In respect of listed building status, the building had been altered some 30 years ago and the opportunity to list the building was probably before that took place.

Members queried how the groups using the hall would be affected if the Association had to raise funds to undertake repairs.

Mr Parker advised that the Association had some funds available, but could not afford the estimated £220,000 quoted in the report. If prices were raised to cover costs, some groups would no longer be able to meet there.

The Chairman thanked Mr Parker for his presentation.
48 URGENT/GENERAL EXCEPTION ITEMS
No urgent or general exception items were received.
49 CALLED IN ITEMS
Since the last meeting, no decisions had been called-in by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
50 PRESENTATION BY THE EXECUTIVE MEMBER FOR COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND RURAL AFFAIRS
Councillor Tony Hunter, Executive Members for Community Engagement and Rural Affairs, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a PowerPoint presentation regarding the issues within his Portfolio as follows:

SCOPE
The constitutional scope of the Portfolio was diverse and included a large amount of partnership working

TOURISM
This was one of the areas that the Council had no budget for, but supported other agencies with advice and through Area Committee grant funding. Recently a Tourist Centre had been opened to the Royston Library.

EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
This was achieved by co-ordinating and consulting with other services including community and volunteer sectors. Social cohesion and social relationships were considered.

COMMUNITY SAFETY
Work was undertaken, by a very small team with various agencies such as the Fire Brigade, Police and NHS and Councillor Hunter was the representative from this Council sitting on the Police and Crime Panel.

The Team were responsible for developing community safety strategy and policy and currently managed 17 Anti Social Behaviour cases and organised Community Safety engagement events across the District.

The challenge for this area was to address the dichotomy between the perceived and actual community safety issues and crime levels in North Herts.

The CCTV system was operated in collaboration with Stevenage Borough Council and generated revenue for this Council.

The Council previously received grant funding of £24,000 per annum from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner however would, in future, have to bid for funding for specific projects.

The Council had statutory safeguarding responsibilities for children and vulnerable adults. Training events were offered for Councillors, Staff and others regarding PREVENT and other safeguarding issues such as Child Sexual Exploitation.

The department sought opportunities to mainstream community safety, so that it became embedded in everything the Council did such as planning, waste services and green spaces.

The key community safety projects included:
Continuing to work with the delivery of statutory services;
Increasing public confidence and reassurance in regulatory services;
Fulfilling safeguarding responsibilities;
Keeping North Herts a safe place to live, work and visit in challenging economic circumstances.

RURAL COMMUNITIES
Councillor Hunter was the spokesperson for Parish and Town Councils

CUSTOMER SERVICES DIRECTORATE - CULTURAL SERVICES
The development of the District Museum at Hitchin Town Hall was continuing and consideration was being given to the best way to open this facility without 14/15 Brand Street if necessary. The aim was to provide an excellent museum experience.

The community facility at Hitchin Town Hall was open and already had a number of regular bookings as well as one off events such as wedding receptions, comedy evenings and the Chairman’s Civic Reception. We continued to receive a lot of diverse enquiries.

POLICY AND COMMUNITY TEAMS
The Policy and Community Teams supported Area Committees, administered grants and supported or managed community halls.

The Teams offered support and guidance to community groups and provided activities, events and policies regarding public health, physical activity, wellbeing and safeguarding.

The Active Communities Team had secured grant funding from Sport England, which was being used to provide various projects across the District.

The challenges for the future included focusing funding and support to where it would be most needed, ensuring sustainable transfer of community halls to the voluntary sector, managing the outcomes of the Local Plan and new development and fixed term funding from Hertfordshire County Council Public Health.

Many Councillors had been shocked at the effect of protecting MOU’s had on the reduction in the area committee budgets this year (55 percent reduction), but it highlights the difficult financial position the Council is facing and the tough choices that will have to be made.

The key projects in this area include:
Implementation and management of the new grants Policy and Budgets;
Review of annual MOUs
Sustainable transfer of community centres to the voluntary sector
Deliver of Get Active North Herts, a Sport England funded programme.

Members asked whether the Council had undertaken the required maintenance on the Walsworth Community Centre. They asked for clarification regarding whether 14/15 Brand Street would be included in the development of the District museum and whether Hitchin Initiative had been involved in meetings regarding Hitchin Town Hall

The Executive Member for Community Engagement and Rural Affairs advised that the development of Hitchin Town Hall without 14/15 would be a challenge and was only mentioned in this context. A meeting had taken place with Hitchin Initiative and other meetings with interested parties were being organised.

In respect of maintenance of community halls, there was a budget for this, but the Council was currently working with community groups to find a way in which they can take on maintenance of the halls thereby relieving pressure on the Council’s finances.

The Chairman reminded Members that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would, at the appropriate time, be undertaking a full review of Hitchin Town Hall.

Members acknowledged that the fear of crime was more about perception in North Herts, but were concerned that the lack of street lighting added this and asked for an update regarding street lighting.

The Executive Members advised that this was a County function, but, as a County Councillor, he could advise that reasons for the light switch off were to save money and about green issues. A number of footways and areas identified to County Councillors had been reassessed and the lights now remained on. LED lighting was being rolled out across the County which was a much more controllable lighting that could be not only switched on and off, but dimmed to provide low emission lighting.

Members asked whether, during the review of MOUs, it was likely that funding to these organisations would be reduced and what sort of projects would be provided using the pubic health funding.

The Executive Member advised that the review of MOUs was a panned review and that, although he could not pre-empt what the outcome may be, he acknowledged the value of the work undertaken by organisations such as Citizens Advice North Herts and North Herts CVS and the amount of money this saved the Council.

In respect of the public health funding he would circulate the PowerPoint presentation prepared by the Active Communities Manager detailing the planned projects and activities.

The Chairman thanked Councillor Hunter for his presentation.

RESOLVED: That the Committee and Member Services Officer be requested to circulate the following to all Members and Substitutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee:
(i) The PowerPoint presentation given at this meeting;
(ii) The PowerPoint presentation prepared by the Active Communities Manager detailing the planned projects and activities.
51 REGULATION OF INVESTIGATORY POWERS ACT - INSPECTION AND ANNUAL POLICY REVIEW AND NEW USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN INVESTIGATIONS POLICY AND PROCEDURE
The Advisory and Litigation Lawyer presented the report of the Corporate Legal Manager and Monitoring Officer entitled Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - Inspection and Annual Policy Review and New Use of Social Media in Investigations Policy and Procedure as follows:

OSC INSPECTION
There had been an inspection by the OSC, which was detailed in Appendix B.

ANNUAL REVIEW OF RIPA POLICY
The RIPA Policy had been updated in line with the recommendations made during the OSC Inspection. The updated Policy was attached as Appendix A.

USE OF SOCIAL MEDIAIN INVESTIGATIONS POLICY AND PROCEDURE
The new Policy was attached as Appendix C.

In response to questions, the Advisory and Litigation Lawyer advised that the Office of Surveillance Commission were concerned that any use of social media in investigations was done in a legal manner. The OSC were impressed with the Council’s approach in having a separate policy.

Investigating Officers were already using social media to investigate crimes including fraud and information captured through social media had been used as evidence in a number of court cases.

This Policy made sure that this practice was regulated, complied with the rules of evidence in court and alerted Officers to the circumstances where RIPA authority may be required. Following adoption of the Policy training would be given to relevant Officers.

Members expressed some concern that they should be made aware of actions to take should they innocently gain information by their use of social media.

The Advisory and Litigation Lawyer advised that should Members become aware of any information that they believe could result in an investigation they should contact Legal Services for advice.

It was felt that all Members should be made aware of the need to contact Legal Services in these circumstances and that this could be achieved through a brief note in Members Information Service

RESOLVED: That the Advisory and Litigation Lawyer be requested to prepare a brief note for inclusion in Members Information Service regarding the issues of using Social Media and the Use of Social Media in Investigations Policy.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET: That the recommendation contained in the report entitled Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - Inspection and Annual Policy Review and New Use of Social Media in Investigations Policy and Procedure be supported.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment on the report entitled Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - Inspection and Annual Policy Review and New Use of Social Media in Investigations Policy and Procedure prior to consideration by Cabinet.
52 1ST QUARTER PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
The Payment and Reconciliation Manager presented the proposed process for Performance Indicator and Key Project Monitoring, which had been developed following the Task and Finish Group on Performance Indicators as follows:

PROPOSED PROCESS FOR PERFORMANCE INDICATOR MONITORING
1. The Performance Indicator Monitoring Report will be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on a quarterly basis;
2. The Payment and Reconciliation Manager will circulate an exception report to all Members and Substitutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee approximately one month prior to the Committee meeting. This will include a link to the full Performance Indicator report;
3. Any Member or substitute of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee can ask for a particular Indicator to be included in a subsequent Committee Report presented by the Payment and Reconciliations Manager by contacting the Committee and Member Services Officer before the finalisation of the agenda (usually two weeks before the date of the meeting);
4. The Chairman’s Briefing will be held in good time of the scheduled Committee meeting to allow a decision to be made regarding any additional Executive Member or Officer presence required to contextualise the performance of under or over performing Indicators (normally 1 month prior);
5. The Performance Indicator Report presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will include only those exceptions already communicated to Members and any additional items requested ad agreed by the Chairman.

PROPOSED PROCESS FOR KEY PROJECT MONITORING
1. The Key Project Monitoring Report will be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on a quarterly basis;
2. The Payment and Reconciliation Manager will circulate the Key Projects Monitoring report to all Members and Substitutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee approximately one month prior to the Committee meeting;
3. If the monitoring of a particular project raises concern, any Member or substitute of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee should advise the Committee and Member Services Officer before the finalisation of the agenda (usually two weeks before the date of the meeting):
4. The Chairman’s Briefing will be held in good time of the scheduled Committee meeting to allow a decision to be made regarding any additional Executive Member or Officer presence required to contextualise the performance of under or over performing projects (normally 1 month prior).

The Payment and Reconciliations Manager presented the report entitled Performance Indicator Monitoring 2016/17 - First Quarter. She advised that 19 indicators were being reported with 8 being green, 2 were amber, 7 were for information only and were 2 red and drew attention to the following:

MI P&R 001 - PERCENTAGE OF RAISED SALES INVOICES FOR PAYMENT THAT HAVE BEEN PAID
This indicator was marked as red, but was due to two large invoices being paid after the due date. These had subsequently been paid therefore the collection rate for July was 96.13 percent.

BV9 - PERCETAGE OF COUNCIL TAX COLLEXTED IN YEAR
Performance was improving due to the introduction of new systems.

LI034 - PERCENTAGE OF HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION SERVICE PROGRAMMED INSPECTIONS COMPLETED
This indicator was marked as red. This was due to the loss of a Licensing Officer. The department had recruited to that position and were confident that the backlog would be completed by the end of 16/17.

MI LI 013 - NUMBER OF VISITS TO LEISURE FACILITIES
A Member queried why attendance at Letchworth Outside Pool had decreased.

The Payment and Reconciliation Manager advised that the pool was closed for a period of time due to flooding.

NI191 - KG RESIDUAL WASTE PER HOUSEHOLD & NI192 - PERCENTAGE OF HOUSEHOLD WASTE SENT FOR REUSE, RECYCLING AND COMPOSTNG
These indicators were marked as amber however the figure for street sweeping had not yet been included and early indications were that inclusion of this figure would turn the indicators to green.

The draft LG informed benchmarking data showed that the Council remained in the top quartile regarding both waste and recycling in the first quarter of 16/17.

RESOLVED:
(1) That the proposed Process for Performance Indicator Monitoring by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be adopted;

(2) That the proposed Process for Key Project Monitoring by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be adopted;

(3) That the report entitled First Quarter Performance Indicators 2016/17 be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to monitor Performance against targets.
53 PROPOSAL TO SET UP A COUNTY WIDE HOME IMPROVEMENT AGENCY SERVICE IN HERTFORDSHIRE
The Environmental Health Manager presented the report of the Head of Public Protection Service entitled Proposal to Set up a County Wide Home Improvement Agency Service in Hertfordshire.

He advised that the report outlined the proposal to establish, in conjunction with the County Council and some other District Councils, a shared service for the delivery of adaptations and other improvements to help elderly and other vulnerable people live independently and safely at home.

He referred Members to the background to the report which included the Council’s Housing and Homelessness Strategy, in which there was an action to explore the options for improving the value for money for Disabled Facilities Grants.

The Government had invested significant additional funding in Local Authorities with responsibility to deliver Disabled Facilities Grant in order to support the national Care Agenda.

This service would result in an improvement to the quality of the service delivery by reducing the time taken to provide adaptations and provide efficiencies in the process. This would also provide a platform from which other services could be delivered to support people to live independently.

This report sought in principle agreement following which a detailed business case would be developed and a further report would be presented to Cabinet,

In response to questions the Environmental Health Manager advised that the proposed shared service would increase resilience, benefit residents and produce efficiencies by making better use of the resources available.

He further advised that the different Authorities were at different stages in the provision of this service, for instance one District already has a contract with a provider that will run for another 2/3 years. Those Authorities who did not wish to or were unable to join the shared service at this point would be welcome to do so at a later date.

Members asked about the management of the Occupational Therapists employment and whether, by being part of a shared service, this Council becomes responsible for the duties of other authorities within that shared service.

The Environmental Health Manager was unable to comment on the employment terms of the OTs as they were currently employed by Serco on behalf of the County Council. In respect of responsibilities, the shared service would enable this Council to discharge its duties and provide a platform for other agencies to contribute towards the service.

The Head of Public Protection Service advised that this Service was seen as a delivery vehicle for the statutory duties of this Council and it had been made very clear that the monies put in to deliver those duties would be protected for that use. It would be necessary to ensure clear governance arrangements to ensure that the statutory duties of this Council were delivered in practice.

In respect of the means-tested element, Members were concerned that, when a Policy is written for this service, exceptional circumstances should be taken into account, such as someone who could no longer earn due to an accident and that the future earnings be considered and that consideration should be given to special arrangements for members of the Armed Forces.

The Head of Public Protection Service informed Members that a further report would be presented to Council and that one of the work streams was to consider Policy making.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET: That the recommendations contained in the report entitled Proposal to set up a County Wide Home Improvement Agency Service in Hertfordshire be supported.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment on the report entitled Proposal to set up a County Wide Home Improvement Agency Service in Hertfordshire prior to consideration by Cabinet.
54 MEMBERS’ QUESTIONS
No questions had been submitted.
55 RESOLUTIONS OF THE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
The Scrutiny Officer presented the report entitled Resolutions of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

RESOLVED: That the actions resulting from the resolutions of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review and monitor the progress of resolutions made.
56 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE WORK PROGRAMME
The Scrutiny Officer presented the report entitled Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme, the following issues were discussed:

CRIME AND DISORDER
The Scrutiny Officer reminded Members that there was a requirement to hold a Crime and Disorder meeting each year and suggested this should be held at the December meeting. He would invite the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner to attend the meeting.

TASK AND FINISH GROUPS
The Scrutiny Officer advised that the Task and Finish Group on the Management of Larger Projects was underway and that a Task and Finish Group on Performance Indicators had been held immediately prior to the last Committee meeting.

Members considered the suggestion from the Scrutiny Officer that a Task and Finish Group on Value for Money be held immediately prior to the next meeting of the Committee.

The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance commented that the process of having a Task and Finish Group immediately prior to a meeting could cause difficulties, in that the Scrutiny Officer could miss a large proportion of the Committee meeting whilst typing up the notes of the Task and Finish Group. It also did not allow time for the Members of the Task and Finish Group to reflect on the outcomes before presenting them to the Committee and that, if Task and Finish Groups were held before a meeting, the report should be presented at the next Committee meeting.

There was some discussion as to whether to hold a Task and Finish Group on Community Centre Leases and whether there was a synergy between this subject and Hitchin Town Hall in that the expectations of a project are not met and whether a Task and Finish Group could look at how we learn the lessons of working with community groups.

Members felt that further Task and Finish Groups should not be considered at present due to the upcoming workload, particularly in relation to the review of Hitchin Town Hall.

RESOLVED: That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to plan and carry out its workload efficiently and effectively.
57 COMMUNITY CENTRE LEASES
During the item being debated Councillor Bill Davidson declared a Declarable Interest as he was a Trustee of Coombes Community Centre, Royston. He advised that this interest was of such significance he would leave the room for the remainder of the debate.

During the item being debated Councillor Jean Green declared a Declarable Interest as she was a Trustee of Coombes Community Centre, Royston. She advised that this interest was of such significance she would leave the room for the remainder of the debate.

The Head of Finance Performance and Asset Management presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance entitled Community Centre Leases.

He reminded Members that the approach taken during negotiation of renewal leases had been guided by the Community Halls Strategy, which included that “When community centre leases come up for renewal the Council will seek opportunities to agree a renewal on a repairs basis that is appropriate for the operation of the facility and provides value for money to the local taxpayer’’.

This update report had been requested by Cabinet on 30 March 2016 when they resolved that “The deadline for the conclusion of the discussions/negotiations referred… above be fixed as August 2016, and if no agreement between the parties is reached by then, the matter be reported back to Cabinet.”

Most Community Centre Leases had either been resolved or were near resolution, but there were three Centres that would require more time for negotiations as follows:

COOMBES COMMUNITY CENTRE, ROYSTON
Negotiations were continuing and it was felt that there was potential to achieve a lease that was broadly in line with the requirements of the Community Halls Strategy and therefore more time was being requested.

ST MICHAEL'S MOUNT COMMUNITY CENTRE, HITCHIN
There was some potential to achieve a lease that was in line with the recommendations of Cabinet and therefore more time was being requested.

WALSWORTH COMMUNITY CENTRE, HITCHIN
This was the least modern of the Centres therefore a condition report had been prepared, which would be shared with the community group as soon as possible.

An application had been received for this Centre to be made an Asset of Community Value and this would be considered shortly.

In all cases it was necessary to assess the value of Community Centres to the community against the cost to the Council.

Members noted that, if negotiations with Walsworth Community Association were unsuccessful, one of the options was to close the Centre. They were concerned that, should this option become a strong possibility, Cabinet be consulted before any final decision was made.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that he would expect to report to Cabinet with any final options.

Members asked for clarification regarding the deadline dates quoted in the report. They sought reassurance that the additional time requested could result in positive resolutions and queried whether a sufficient amount of time had been requested, particularly in respect of the Walsworth Community Centre.

The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance advised that the last time this issue was presented to Cabinet they had requested that work continue until 31 August 2016 and that this report asked for that deadline to be extended.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management confirmed that the aim was to reach a positive resolution and that progress could be made in the time requested.

Members queried whether the Council had continued to maintain the buildings during the period of negotiations and asked what maintenance work had been completed during this period and asked for this information to be circulated to Members.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management reminded Members that there was a fund, totalling £1 million that was available for all Community Centres to make bids to for capital works.

One Member suggested that the Council should consider selling some assets and using the income to maintain other assets, such as community centres.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that consideration was being given to ways in which capital assets could be best used and that a report regarding this would be presented to Cabinet in November 2016.

The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance reminded Members that the Council was in a tough financial position and had to make some tough decisions about where it could continue spend its revenue funding. The Medium Term Financial Strategy identified that the Council had to save £2.75 million over the next 4 years and was in addition to using £3.4 million of balances to bridge the gap

Following the debate it was:

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to refer the report regarding use of Surplus Capital Assets, due to be considered by Cabinet in November 2016, to the Chairman of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee;

(2) That the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to circulate to all Members and Substitutes of this Committee, details of maintenance work undertaken on Walsworth Community Centre during the negotiation period together with a comparison of work undertaken in previous years and, how that compares to any other similar Community Centres (if applicable).

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET:

(1) That recommendations 2.1, 2.2 and 2.4 contained in the report entitled Community Centre Leases be supported;

(2) That Cabinet agree to more time for similar negotiations (to Coombes and St Michaels Mount) to be undertaken with Walsworth Community Association. Should there be no substantive progress by 31 January 2017 then Officers be authorised to consider alternative management arrangements and uses for the community centre;

(3) That, should the option to close a Community Centre become a strong possibility, a report be presented to Cabinet prior to any final decision being taken.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment of the report entitled Community Centre Leases prior to consideration by Cabinet.

Councillors Bill Davidson and Jean Green returned to the room.
58 PROPOSED CREMATORIUM AT WILBURY HILLS CEMETERY, LETCHWORTH GARDEN CITY - INTERIM REPORT ON BUSINESS CASE
This item was considered after the Part 2 item (Minutes 60 refers).

The Service Manager - Grounds Maintenance presented the report of the Head of Leisure and Environmental Services entitled Proposed Crematorium at Wilbury Hills Cemetery - Interim Report on Business Case.

In response to a question, he advised that the Council currently operated 7 cemeteries across the District, however 3 of those were reaching capacity. There were also a number of churchyards which continue to hold burials. Cabinet resolved that Wilbury Hills would, as capacity was reached in each cemetery, become the District wide facility for burials.

The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance advised that this was the first time the Council had worked with partners in the burial service, but they had worked with partners in other service areas.

The Council had a policy of considering all options when looking at the provision of a service and when doing that would consider risks and benefits. In this case the proposal was based on the needs of residents and that people currently had to travel some distance if they wished to have a cremation rather than a burial. It was then considered that the Council could generate an income and create a win - win situation.

Members asked whether other Authorities had worked with the private sector to provide this type of service.

The Service Manager - Grounds Maintenance advised that there was a wide range of business models including the wholly privately operated facility, those working in partnership to fully Council operated facilities.

Members debated whether the recommendations needed to be amended to make clear that one option available would be not to go ahead with the project.

The Service Manager - Grounds Maintenance informed Members that this was implicit in the recommendations as the Council had a duty to get best value. He advised that negotiations ad discussions would be held before a further report with a recommendation to go ahead, or not was presented.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET: That the recommendations in the report entitled Proposed Crematorium at Wilbury Hills Cemetery - Interim Report on Business Case be supported.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment of the report entitled Proposed Crematorium at Wilbury Hills Cemetery - Interim Report on Business Case prior to consideration by Cabinet.
59 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC
RESOLVED: That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the said Act (as amended).
PART II
60 PROPOSED CREMATORIUM AT WILBURY HILLS CEMETERY, LETCHWORTH GARDEN CITY - INTERIM REPORT ON BUSINESS CASE
  • Report
This item was considered prior to the Part 1 item (Minutes 58 refers).

RESOLVED: That the contents of the report entitled Proposed Crematorium at Wilbury Hills Cemetery - Interim Report on Business Case be noted

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment of the report entitled Proposed Crematorium at Wilbury Hills Cemetery - Interim Report on Business Case prior to consideration by Cabinet.
Published on Thursday, 13th October, 2016
10.15 p.m.