Overview and Scrutiny Committee Minutes

Tuesday, 13th December, 2016
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor Steve Hemingway (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Ian Albert, Councillor Steve Deakin - Davies, Councillor Elizabeth Dennis, Councillor Jean Green, Councillor S.K. Jarvis, Councillor Paul Marment, Councillor Gerald Morris, Councillor M.R.M. Muir, Councillor Frank Radcliffe and Councillor Valentine Shanley.
In attendance:
Mr David Lloyd (Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire), Chief Inspector Julie Wheatley (Hertfordshire Constabulary), Councillor Julian Cunningham (Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues), David Scholes (Chief Executive), Ian Couper (Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management), Kerry Shorrocks (Corporate Human Resources Manager), Johanne Dufficy (Customer Services Manager), Rachel Cooper (Payment and Reconciliations Manager), Brendan Sullivan (Scrutiny Officer) and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services Officer).
Item Description/Decision
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Cathryn Henry (Chairman) and Bill Davidson.
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 20 September 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
No other business was submitted for consideration by the Committee.
(1) The Vice-Chairman reminded those present that, in line with Council policy, the meeting would be audio recorded;

(2) The Vice-Chairman welcomed Mr David Lloyd (Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire),Chief Inspector Julie Wheatley (Hertfordshire Constabulary) and Councillor Julian Cunningham (Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues) to the meeting;

(3) The Vice-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.
Mr Colin Dunham thanked the Vice-Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation making some suggestions regarding the management of major projects as follows:

With the Council striving to become more business like, Government cuts etc, now is the time for large projects of the future to have safeguards.

Senior Officers should have time logged to oversee major projects, most firms have systems ie computer based.

Before the Council approves any large projects, except statutory ones, the Project Team Leader should inform the Portfolio Holder of estimated officer hours, time scales and ancillary costs such as outside advice so that the whole project could be properly costed. Cabinet would then make a decision whether it should go ahead or not.

The Risk Officer should produce reports for the Project Team Leader on a weekly basis so that the Project Leader and Portfolio Holder can make a decision to carry on, provide more staff or stop projects as needed.

At the end of the project, or when a project is stopped, final figures should be produced in order to keep Members informed and the true costs of projects should be subject to the scrutiny of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the public, with questions asked such as “was the project value for money, were the relevant skills available from the start of the project”, with the aim of either praising the work done and/or learning lessons.

The Vice Chairman thanked Mr Dunham for his presentation and advised that his comments would be passed to the Chairman of the Task and Finish Group on Larger Projects, which was being undertaken.
No urgent or general exception items were received.
Since the last meeting, no decisions had been called-in by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

A Member asked whether it would be possible to Call-In the Revised Green Space Strategy, which was due to be considered by Cabinet on 20 January 2016.

The Chief Executive explained the technicalities of the Call - In process, particularly that the process started after a decision had been made, that 5 members of the Council were required to start the process and that there were requirement for a meeting to be held within a certain number of days of the Call-In.
Mr David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation supported by Chief Inspector Julie Wheatley (Hertfordshire Constabulary).

Mr Lloyd acknowledged that this was the annual Overview and Scrutiny Committee crime and disorder meeting.

He informed Members that he had recently been working on the Police and Crime Plan called “Community Safety and Criminal Justice Plan” and tabled a copy of this to each Member.

Last week he had visited every District in Hertfordshire and he showed a short film showing highlights.

Strategic Challenges
1. The picture of demand was challenging and the constabularies were undertaking work to identify future need;
2. Only 20 percent of the work of the constabularies was directly concerned with crime. 80 percent of work was non crime issues such as missing persons, community safety and advising on how to avoid becoming a victim of crime;
3. The number of incidents related to mental health requiring Police presence had doubled in the last two years and was estimated to amount to approximately 40 percent of Police time.
Hertfordshire was one of only three Constabularies that didn’t put people suffering from mental illness crisis into custody as a place of safety;
4. There was a large rise in cyber crime which meant there were new offences that required different skills to detect.
The Community Safety and Criminal Justice Plan focused on this type of crime;
5. There was an increasing demand related to safeguarding of vulnerable people including domestic abuse;
6. It was important to provide local policing based of the pattern of local government.
It was important that North Hertfordshire had its own Community Safety Partnership, a police inspector responsible for that area
7. Lessons needed to be learnt about public perception, such as that there are very few police stations. There were many more police stations than perceived, but many of them could not be accessed by members of the public.
Work was being undertaken to look at ways in which the public may be able to get access to police stations such as appointment systems;
8. It was necessary to consider how non local policing would be supported. This was about issues that were managed centrally such as counter terrorism, but required local, on the ground support and intelligence;
9. The people arrested were increasingly foreign nationals, which adds to the case load as issues such a identifying the person can take longer;
10. Consideration was being given to how the criminal justice system could be more cohesive. It took too long for cases to get to trial and this was not good enough. Justice needed to be served at a quicker pace;
11. More and more collaborative work was being undertaken with other Police Forces, particularly Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Currently approximately 50 percent of turnover was done with other forces
This method of working was the way to achieve better efficiency and a better service;
12. Council Tax would likely be increased as the expected savings from working collaboratively had not been achieved in the timescales expected.
Even with the expected increase, Hertfordshire would still have one of the lowest Council Tax precepts in the Country;
13. People have made it clear that they want visible policing and therefore downgrading local policing was not an option considered;
14. Mr Lloyd was heavily involved in the National funding criteria discussions, which would hopefully result in a fairer dispersal of funding;
15. The Proceeds of Crime Act funds were bang used to police new and emerging crimes as well as responding to issues that matters to the public including road safety and fly tipping;
16. Hertfordshire remained one of the safest Counties in the Country with only 8 burglaries and 200 crimes per day across the whole of the County which had population of 1.2 million;
17. The Force received a rating of “Good” in the recent Inspection by the Inspector of Constabulary and the public had confidence in the Constabulary.

Chief Inspector Wheatley informed Members that the North Hertfordshire Police had a high performance level.

All crime levels were up, on a par with the Hertfordshire increases. There were just under 500 crimes, most being criminal damage, domestic abuse, shoplifting and motor vehicle offences. There were some harassment crimes, mostly related to domestic abuse and some low level public order offences.

Most increase in crime could be attributed to better recording due to the National Crime Statistics Recording requirements.

She drew attention to some of the crime statistics as follows:
• Motor Vehicle Crime had increased by 80 offences, mainly in Royston and Hitchin.
• North Herts had the highest outcome rate in the County for Domestic Abuse cases.
• There was a small increase in Violent Crimes/Crimes against the Person but a much improved outcome rate.
• Sexual Offences and Rape offences were significantly down on last year.

Chief Inspector Wheatley concluded by advising that North Herts had really good strong neighbourhood teams.

Mr Lloyd informed Members that, in respect of governance and accountability, gross misconduct hearings took place in public and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire’s office won an award for transparency for the second time.

The Crime and Policing Bill was currently progressing through the House of Lords with Royal Ascent due mid January 2017. This Bill will impose a duty on Police and Crime Commissioners to investigate whether to take on responsibility for Fire and Rescue Services. He advised that he was in the early stages of preparing the business case and would consider whether or not to take on this responsibility based on the results of the business case.

A Member asked why had there been an increase in Domestic Violence for two consecutive years

Chief Inspector Wheatley informed Members that the increase in Domestic Violence figures was likely due to the increased confidence in the Police Force and the work undertaken to encourage people to come forward, such as the Domestic Abuse Conference, making people more willing to report this type of crime. She drew attention the exceptionally high outcome rate for North Herts in this area.

Members asked for a view about prevention versus cure and the detrimental effect that some punishments may have on reoffending and commented that speedy justice was not always the best way forward for all concerned as it was necessary to spend time to get the right information. They queried whether more information about the rehabilitation of offenders should be included in the Plan.

Mr Lloyd advised that there were issues that needed addressing such as housing and employment of offenders, which may support them not to return to crime. Not all justice was through the courts, there were schemes such as restorative justice that could be effective, but the person he listened to most was the victim of a crime and it could not be right that the victim of an offence such as sexual assault had to wait 18 months for their case to come to court. Some consideration had to be given to the needs of the victim and maybe the CPS had a role to play in this in making sure the victim is kept fully informed about when a case would comet court, and reasons for any delays.

Funds would be made available for work with offenders, particularly with those involved n Domestic abuse.

He acknowledged that the State prosecuted offender, but felt that this was in itself part of the problem with the current system as often, during the process, the victim was forgotten and it was part of his role to bring the victim back into the process.

In respect of supporting victims, Members commented that making an appointment to see a Police Officer may be a barrier to reporting crime and that Officers could be available on an enquiry desk and still be working on other matters.

Mr Lloyd informed Members that it was unlikely that enquiry desks would return, as they were under utilised in the past and those that did use them were rarely doing so to report crime. There were now alternative methods of reporting crime and he was looking at encouraging use of social media and other digital methods and for those that wish to speak to an Officer face to face an appointment system would be an improvement on the current system.

Mr Lloyd asked Members to respond, by email, to the Community Safety and Criminal Justice Plan consultation and advised that he would be happy answer any questions sent to him.

Members acknowledged the “Good” rating of the Police Force and asked, what steps would be taken to work towards “Excellent”; what may be contained the strategy regarding hate crime and when this would be available and what plans were in place to address the low level crimes associated with the night time economies in town centres.
Mr Lloyd advised that the “Good” category was satisfactory, but he would continue to work with the Chief Constable towards achieving “Excellent”.

The Hate Crime Strategy had been published and was available on-line and he urged Members to read it. The University of Leicester was working with him to identify and understand hate crime particularly against disabled people, which was something that many were not aware of.

In respect of low level crime in town centres, Chief Inspector Wheatley focussed on Hitchin as an example and acknowledged the vibrant night time economy. The levels of crime in Hitchin were relatively low considering how busy the town centre was, however there was still some work to be done.

The Police had close partnership working with licensed premises and NHDC Licensing Officers who all try to minimise the effect that the night time economy had on the community. She acknowledged that there had been a few violent offences, mainly linked to drugs possession, however work was continuing to see what more could be done to reduce crime.

A Member acknowledged that the fear of crime was higher than the actual crime and that the strategy so far had been to provide visible policing, however the fear of crime remained high and asked what other strategies would be employed to address this.

Mr Lloyd acknowledged that fear of crime had been high for a long time and he felt that this was about the close knit communities in Hertfordshire, who know what has happened within their area and remember it for a long time, whereas it was probably unlikely that people knew their neighbours in inner cities and therefore were unaware of the local crimes

It was important to make sure that the facts are published, this is achieved by having a visible Chief Inspector who writes a weekly column in the press and a Police and Crime Commissioner who repeats the facts as often as possible.

It was suggested that answers to any subsequent questions be sent to the Committee and Members Services Officer for circulation to all Members and Substitutes of the Committee.

The Vice-Chairman thanked Mr Lloyd and Chief Inspector Wheatley for their presentation.
Councillor Julian Cunningham, Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the issues in his Portfolio.

Councillor Cunningham informed Member that his portfolio covered three very different and unrelated strands being Policy, Transport and Green Issues.

• Council approved the Corporate Priorities some months ago and work on the budget was currently being undertaken to give effect to these;
• The Corporate Priorities would be reviewed once the budget discussions had been completed;
• This year would be a challenge financially with some hard decisions to be made. The Council will have to think about what it can no longer provide;
• There was an unavoidable link between finances and Policy;
• The discretionary spend of the Council will come under increasing pressure over the next few years, one example of this pressure is the consultation regarding the Green Space Strategy which proposes changes to their management, which is not a statutory function;
• The percentage of the budget spent on statutory services was increasing year on year and therefore the funds available for discretionary services was reducing;
• A discussion in the near future with this Committee regarding this issue would be valuable;
• Other issues considered within this portfolio included commercial opportunities, how could the Council get a return on their assets and reduction of revenue spend by use of capital investment;
• Capital funds had reduced, due to the number of capital projects and consideration was being given as to whether to continue with capital spend at the same levels or not. This Committee could have valuable input into those deliberations;
• NHDC’s policy was to only invest in things that had a direct benefit to the residents of the District;
• Following input from the Task and Finish Group on Commercialisation, legal discussions have been started regarding the Council taking on commercial projects and the Commercialisation Project Board meets to consider commercial options. One of the major issues for consideration was what role Members would play in governance of any commercial project.

Councillor Cunningham questioned the value of the monitoring report on key projects. He felt that some of the projects were too far in the future to be considered and others were of the type that the Council could not have much influence over such as the Waste Management Contract.

In respect of the monitoring of key projects, Members felt that their role was to monitor whether objectives had been delivered or not, whether or not they were the right objectives and what lessons should be learnt.

• The Council was undertaking a two stage, in depth evaluation of parking operations. The first stage was to look at the charging structure and whether it was fair and comparable with other Districts;
• A survey of the use of the Multi Storey car park had been undertaken, with final results due shortly;
• Generally NHDC parking charges were in line with other Districts;
• The levels of provision of long and short term parking would be considered, as town centres were changing to become more social hubs and less shopping centres the parking requirements were also changing;
• It was likely that increases to charges would be in line with inflation rates;
• The first stage report on parking would be available on-line as soon as possible;
• There was heavy usage of NHDC car parks on Sundays and in the evenings and one proposal was to consider implementing charges for these times across the District. Any proposal will be sent to the Area Committees and Town Centre Managers for consultation before implementation;
• The contact terms of the Civil Enforcement Officers had been reviewed to ensure that they would be available to undertake enforcement duties;
• Phase two of the review would consider issues such as use of technology, management and enforcement operations;
• It was noticeable that there were Controlled Parking Zones across the District which were virtually empty at certain times of the day and therefore these would be reviewed to more effectively use the space;
• The Local Transport Plan had been out for consultation recently;
• NHDC had made a formal response to the consultation, which although generally supportive, highlighted two areas of concern being, the average journey to work in North Herts was twice that of the rest of Hertfordshire and that North Herts residents not only commute to London, but also to Cambridge and this was likely to increase with the development of Cambridge and links between these places needed consideration;
• The author of this Plan attended the Highways Liaison meeting at which Councillors were able to ask questions;
• Thameslink had been consulting on the proposed changes to their timetable. Although there would be some benefits for residents in North Herts such a faster trains and better links, the number of trains on the line would be almost at capacity which would result in fewer trains stopping at Knebworth and Baldock;
• NHDC had responded to the consultation, supporting the County view and expressing severe concern at the proposed degradation of services to Letchworth and Baldock;
• Govia have suggested that most of engineering work on the rail lines be switched to night time operations rather than over holiday periods. NHDC have strongly objected to this;
• North Herts was part of the economic area encompassed within the Oxford - Cambridge Expressway and the links within North Herts were very important. A report regarding the Expressway had been produced and NHDC would be considering this carefully.

Members asked whether information had been gathered on previous usage of car parks and whether consideration had been given to working with local businesses regarding redemption of parking fees scheme.

Councillor Cunningham advised that the last survey on car park usage was undertaken approximately 9 years ago and there was evidence that the numbers of people using NHDC car parks was increasing, hence the need for up to date information. He restated that it was likely that parking charges would increase in line with inflation, but stressed that NHDC did not consider parking fees as a profit centre.

In respect of the suggested parking fees redemption scheme, he advised that the Council were always interested in working with businesses and if any one wished to approach the Council with a scheme, NHDC would be happy to consider it. He informed Members that there had been an increase in the sale of season tickets, a number of which were being purchased by employers for staff usage.

A Member advised that the consultation regarding trains stopping at Baldock had been incorrect and that he understood that there would be one fast train and two slow trains per hour stopping at Baldock outside of the rush hour .He also advised that the County Council were considering a request that the A507 be downgraded to a B road and he asked that the Executive Member talk to County Officers about ways in which HGVs could be prevented from going through Baldock on their way from the A1 to the A10.

Councillor Cunningham advised that he was aware of this issue and would be happy to liaise with the County Council, He did caution that some of the HGVs passing though Baldock were waste vehicles.

A Member asked for clarification regarding the purpose of the car parking review.

Councillor Cunningham confirmed that this would be a two stage process, with the first stage considering the levels of short term and long term parking provision and the parking charge structure. The second stage would consider technology, employment of Civil Enforcement Officers and other operational matters.

A Member expressed concern at the cost of using consultants to provide the information for the car parking strategy and stated that he was disappointed that this could not have been undertaken internally. He asked whether there would be equality in the charging structure between towns in the District and whether there were any ways in which we could improve cycle routes.

Councillor Cunningham clarified that the most expensive car park in the Distinct was located in Royston, despite this there was not a huge differential in the charging structures of the different towns. He acknowledged that there were a lot of journeys undertaken between the four towns in the District which meant that the parking in a particular town was not necessarily used just by the residents of that town. It was important to get the charging structure right and to ensure that all car parks were used to their fullest extent.

In respect of cycle routes, Councillor Cunningham advised that there was money set aside in the budget for this, but there was a resourcing issue in there was only one officer in the transport department who had to undertake all transport work from high level policies to consultations. The County Council were planning to undertake some work on cycle routes next year and the aim was to work towards lining the various cycle routes.

• Energy saving issues were a key part of the refurbishment of the District Council Offices;
• There may be another opportunity to apply for funding for electric car parking points.

A Member asked for clarification regarding the duties associated with the title “Localism Champion”.

Councillor Cunningham advised that he reads all paperwork and reports that related to localism issues and one of the projects undertaken was the “Go Local” clause written into the NHDC procurement obligations, which requires use of local providers if at all possible. Localism also affected the work on the Local Plan and the introduction of Neighbourhood Plans.

A Member asked how NHDC could improve communication issues such as consultations and keeping residents informed in advance of proposals to then enable discussions to take place.

Councillor Cunningham acknowledged that communications was the lowest scoring activity in the District Wide Survey. He advised that more information regarding NHDC communications would be released in the future.

The Vice-Chairman thanked Councillor Cunningham for his presentation.
RESOLVED: That the report entitled Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - Quarterly Update be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To comply with best practice guidance and the Committee’s terms of reference.
The Committee received an information note entitled Half Year Update on Comments, Compliments and Complaints (3Cs).

The Customer Services Manager advised that the format had changed from a report to an information note and drew attention to Appendix A which contained a breakdown by service area and directorate, Appendix B which contained the new dashboard presentation and Appendix C which contained an extract from the Local Government Ombudsman.

The key points were that:
• Over the last three years the total number of 3Cs had reduced;
• Compliments had reduced following the closure of the museums;
• Complaints had reduced following an increase due to changes in the waste service 3 years ago;
• The 3Cs process continued to be advertised;
• There had been a small increase in complaints regarding grounds maintenance
This was largely affected by the weather having an impact on schedules, but the schedules were back on track through contract monitoring and management;
• The percentage of complaints reported to NHDC resolved within the target timeframe had reduced to 70 percent. This was being monitored and actions taken to increase the percentage.
It was important to keep complainants informed if a resolution cannot be found in the target time frame as to why and when a response could be expected;
• Veolia received a high number of the complaints received but, when considered against the number of waste collections undertaken, it was a small percentage;
• Nationally the number of complaints upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman had increased and they had made approximately 3,500 judgements to remedy injustice.

The Vice-Chairman asked Members if they liked the new format of the report.

Members were supportive of the new format and praised the dashboard provided.

Members asked if there were any complaints referred to the Ombudsman from this Council, whether a single complaint of non collection of waste would be regarded as a complaint, why North Herts Leisure Centre received many more complaints than the other leisure centres and how NHDC monitored the recording of compliments and complaints made directly to contactors

The Customer Service Manager advised that three complaints had been referred to the Ombudsman, two were closed with no further action and one is still pending an outcome.

In respect of waste collections a single missed collection that was resolved would not be counted as a complaint, but if there were repeated issues then it would be recorded as a complaint.

Compliments and complaints were received directly by contractors and captured in their own systems. Veolia had recently installed a new recording system and the aim was that NHDC staff would have access to that system. John O’Connor collected data in their own system which was monitored and reviewed through the contract monitoring regime on a regular basis

The Customer Service Manager advised that Royston had historically had very low numbers of complaints, although it was believed that this was due to them not being recorded properly in the past and this had now been corrected. A number of complaints regarding the North Herts Leisure Centre would be addressed by the work being undertaken to upgrade the facility and, although the numbers were high they were a small percentage compared to the number of visitors.

The Chief Executive reminded Members that the Council had invested significantly into the Hitchin facility over the last 10 years and Royston Leisure Centre was only 10 years old. The North Herts Leisure Centre was approximately 35 years old and was starting to show its age and a large number of complaints were related to this. This facility was in the process of being upgraded and it was hoped that a number of the complaints would be addressed by this upgrade.
The Head of Finance and Asset Management presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance entitled Review of NHDC Memorandum of Understandings (Annual Grant Rewards).

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management informed Members that the report reflected he review hat had been undertaken since the Grant Policy report was presented to Cabinet in June 2016.

Section 7 of the report detailed the resolutions with regard to Memorandum of Understanding arrangements.

In respect of resolution 4, Officers were taking forward commissioning with North Herts Citizens Advice Bureau and North Herts Centre for Voluntary Services. It was important to take a sensible approach to the contracts to ensure that undue pressure was not being placed on either side.

The review required by Resolution 9 found that the North Herts Minority Ethnic Forum supported wide range of ethnic groups and provided services that would likely be proved by NHDC if they did not do so and therefore it was recommended that the services be provided in a more contractual way. In respect of RELATE, it was found that they did not provide much of a service in North Herts, they were gradually scaling back what services they offered and they had started to charge for their services and therefore it was proposed that the grant be phased out over a 3 year period.

In respect of Resolution 5 regarding Sport North Herts and Stevenage and North Herts Women’s Resource Centre it was proposed that funding be phased out over a 3 year period.

In respect of North Herts Citizens Advice Bureau Members queried the amount of NHDC Officer and CAB staff time required to set up the proposed contract and expressed some concern that it was not for NHDC to tell CAB what they should be doing and how to do it and that they may be asked to provide advise to residents over a dispute with the Council and the potential for conflicts of interest.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that the aim was to formalise the arrangements so that NHDC were able to determine value for money, but to avoid bureaucracy. It could be that the end result was a type of Service Level Agreement rather than a contract. NHDC did not wish to tell them what sort of advice to give. Once the best way forward had been identified a report would be considered by Cabinet in early 2017.

The Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues advised that NHDC Communities Team had a wealth of information regarding the work of North Herts Citizens Advice Bureau. He stated that almost every Citizens Advice Bureau had been moving towards commissioned services and it was unlikely that the new arrangements would be much different from previous arrangements

A Member asked whether NHDC monitors what was provided by orgainisations receiving MOUs, particularly the North Herts Centre for Voluntary Services and drew attention to the fact the Volunteer Centres no longer qualified for MOU funding and could only apply for bi-annual grant funding and asked whether funding to the North Herts CVS could be reduced to enable funding for voluntary centres.

The Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues informed Members that the North Herts CVS was a central organisation that offered advice and support to other voluntary units. NHDC Communities Team received a lot of information regarding what work was being done and how funding was being used. He advised that funding for different organisations was not within the remit of this report.

A Member asked for an explanation of and reasoning behind the proposed phasing out of funding to Sport North Herts and Stevenage and North Herts Women’s Resource Centre, particularly considering the work that they do regarding public health and reduction of harassment.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that the phased reduction would give the organisations time to adjust and to find alternative funding. Sport North Herts received grant funding, which they then gave to individuals and this was against the NHDC Grant Policy. There were not a significant number of North Herts residents being supported by the Women’s Resource Centre and RELATE were not providing as much of a service in this area as they used to.

A Member expressed concern at what would happen in 2020 when the proposed 3 year funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau ceased.

The Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues reminded Members that this report focussed on the current 3 year MOU funding. The Citizens Advice Bureau had always worked on this 3 year cycle and whilst no absolute guarantees could be given, he would personally vigorously defend funding of the Citizens Advice Bureau as it was one of the most cost effective uses of money. The report did not state that funding would cease after 3 years, but that funding was guaranteed for three years.

Although acknowledging the value of the work undertaken by North Herts Citizens Advice Bureau, Members queried what priorities of the council this funding would satisfy and asked whether they should be based in the refurbished Council building to enable easier signposting.

The Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues advised that this funding benefitted the disadvantaged of the District who are not able to do everything for themselves and the Council was in effect sub-contracting this work. Their Annual Report detailed the amount of money they save per client and retains within North Herts.

In respect of the location of Citizens Advice, he advised that they had just moved into new premise, but prior to doing that had undertaken long discussions with the Council about the possibility of moving into our offices. The timing of the refurbishment of this building did not work for them and more importantly they felt that confidentiality and impartiality f being based elsewhere was important

Members did not wish to make any recommendation to Cabinet and therefore

RESOLVED: That the report entitled Review of NHDC Memorandums of Understandings (Annual Grant Rewards) be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to comment on the report entitled Review of NHDC Memorandums of Understandings Annual Grant Rewards) prior to consideration by Cabinet.
The Payment and Reconciliations Manager presented the report entitled Second Quarter Performance Indicators Monitoring Report 2016/17

The Payment and Reconciliations Manager explained that this report had been prepared using the new process, as agreed at the last meeting, whereby exceptions were circulated to Members together with a link to the full report and drew attention to the following:

This indicator was amber and was due to one invoice for £164,761.59 which was paid slightly outside of the time period.

This Indicator was amber. Generally short term sickness was very good, but levels had risen to the highest for a number of years. Despite this NHDC remained in the top quartile for the Local Government benchmarking for quarter one.

A Member asked if any investigations were being carried out regarding the levels of sickness and the reduction in staffing levels and that staff are being put under further stress.

The Payment and Reconciliation Manager advised that the HR department monitored the correlation between staff levels and amounts of sickness.

The Chief Executive informed Members that it was always a concern when there was an increase in staff sickness. There had been some initial analysis and there did not appear to be any underlying issues however the HR team were continuing to monitor the situation.

This indicator was red. It had previously been reported that there was a vacancy in the Licensing Team which meant that they fell behind with inspections, However good progress had been made in the second quarter moving from 70 percent to 80 percent and the team was confident that they would catch up by the end of the year.

Members commented that they liked the style and content of the new report.

RESOLVED: That the report entitled Second Quarter Performance Indicators Monitoring Report 2016/17 be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to monitor Performance against targets.
The Payment and Reconciliations Manager presented the report entitled Second Quarter Monitoring Report on Key Projects for 2016/17.

The Payment and Reconciliations Manager explained that this report had been prepared using the new process, as agreed at the last meeting, whereby the report was circulated to Members a month in advance of the meeting in order to allow them to call in any Executive Member to answer questions.

She informed Members that Appendix A included the original milestone dates as requested and showed progress against agreed actions and the status of current projects and drew attention to the following:

Redeveloping and improving the North Herts Leisure Centre to ensure it is fit for purpose and offers greater opportunities to meet latent customer demand:
This project was showing as amber. The latest delays were due to data cabling and drainage issues that were not assessed at the beginning of the project. This necessitated some redesign and additional works. The revised estimate for completion was June 2017.

Ensuring that the Council’s office accommodation is redeveloped to increase financial and resource efficiency and making best use of green initiatives:
This project was showing as amber. The procurement process did not undertake a valid bid and approval had to be obtained to go to a framework. Negotiations were currently underway with the framework contractor with a view to agreeing the work programme at the end of January 2017 and commencing work in March 2017. The project was currently estimated to be complete in December 2017, although this was dependent on whether further asbestos was identified.

Working with North Herts Homes to complete regeneration of John Barker Place, Hitchin to provide new homes, better shops and the new community centre:
It was proposed that this project be removed from future monitoring reports. The reason for the proposal was that the new community centre lease had been signed in August 2016 and the remainder of the project was solely under the direction of North Herts Homes and NHDC had no control over timescales for completion. The last update on this project was received in October 2016 despite repeated requests from NHDC officers.

A Member expressed concern at the proposal to remove monitoring of the development of John Barker Place. Westmill was one of the most impoverished areas in Hertfordshire and this Council should be monitoring development in the area.

The Chief Executive advised that it was for the Committee to decide if this should be removed from monitoring or not, however this was a project principally funded by another party over which NHDC may have some influence, but no direct control.

Optimising use and management of the Council’s assets including consideration of long term lease “transfer” or similar to increase community involvement in the provision of community and social opportunities:
On 27 September 2016 Cabinet agreed that negotiations with community groups regarding leases could continue in line with the recommendations made by this Committee.

Negotiations had continued and a report would be presented to Cabinet on 20 December 2016 setting out the options for Coombs and St Michael’s Mount community centres.

A Member commented that, it would appear that NHDC was not treating the Community Centres evenly in terms of funding sources and that this would likely cause problems regarding ongoing lease negotiations.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that the main reason for the different funding sources was that one of the centres had a condition survey which identified as number of issues that then had a budget allocated to it. The other Centre did not have a condition report and therefore the best route to get funding was through the Community Facilities Capital Funding Scheme.

The Vice-Chairman confirmed that Community Centre Leases would be considered at Cabinet and any Member could request to make a representation at that meeting,

The Payment and Reconciliation Manager advised that several projects may not happen in 2016/17 as they were completely dependent on external funding which had not yet been achieved as detailed below:
Walsworth Common Pavilion;
Walsworth Common Pitch Improvements;
Multi Use Games Area, Bancroft Recreation Ground.

The Vice-Chairman reminded Members that this report was in a new format following the work undertaken by a Task and Finish Group and the decisions taken at the last meeting and asked for Member feedback.

A Member asked whether the timetable and implementation of the Local Plan was being monitored and whether there were any documents available showing progress.

The Chief Executive advised that it was Council that was required by law to agree the programme for the Local Plan with the last Local Development Scheme being agreed in February 2016. In the event that there was any significant departure from the Local Development Scheme a report would be made to Council. Monitoring of the Local Development Plan was undertaken externally by the Department for Communities and Local Government and internally through the Project Board and Council.

The Local Development Scheme document was available on the Council’s website, this was reviewed on a regular basis through the annual monitoring report with any deviation from the agreed process being reported to Council.

A Member noted that only projects passed their due date were reported if behind schedule and queried whether there were any projects that had not yet reached their due date, that were behind schedule and suggested that these should be marked as such in the report. He expressed concern that items, such as the proposed crematorium, were marked as complete when all that had been completed was an initial report rather than the project itself.

The Payment and Reconciliation Manager advised that she had, in her introduction, identified three projects that would unlikely be achieved. These had not been marked as amber as this was the second quarter report and at the end of September Officers were unsure whether or not these could be achieved. The situation would be more clear for the December report, at which time the status would be changed.

The report was for the benefit of Members and if it was preferred, she would mark projects that had some doubt as amber as soon as she was advised of any potential issues.

Members agreed that the report should be an “early warning system” and therefore projects that were, on the balance of probability, unlikely to meet the deadline or take place, be marked as amber and that projects should only be marked as complete once the actual project was in place.

The Executive Member for Policy, Transport and Green Issues suggested that trying to monitor projects that were entirely dependent on external funding was not particularly useful and that this Committee needed to have a discussion at some time in the future, about what information they want from a monitoring report and how that should be presented.

Members acknowledged that the report format still needed some the work, but praised the work undertaken by the Payment and Reconciliation Manager on the new format of the report.


(1) That the report entitled Second Quarter Monitoring Performance Indicator Monitoring Report 2015/16 Year End be noted;

(2) That monitoring against the project relating to the development of John Barker Place be removed from future monitoring reports;

(3) That the Payment and Reconciling Manager be requested to mark projects as amber as soon as she is advised that, on the balance of probability, the project would likely not meet the deadline or not take place;

(4) That the Payment and Reconciling Manager be requested to only mark projects that were in place as complete.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to monitor delivery of key projects against targets.
No questions had been submitted.
The Scrutiny Officer presented the report entitled Resolutions of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Task and Finish Group on the Commercialisation of Council Services
Members asked for a progress report on the outcomes from the Task and Finish Group.

The Chief Executive advised that a report was planned for June 2016 however this would have been purely an information note on the work to be undertaken. The Project Board on Commercialisation had achieved a lot throughout the year and a report would be presented in early 2017 on the approach to be taken.

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.
The Scrutiny Officer presented the report entitled Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme and drew attention to the following:

He referred to Paragraph 7.2 of the report and that Councillor Levett was due to present to this Committee in January 2017. He suggested that Members may wish to change this to a presentation by Councillor Gray

There had been some scheduling problems with the Task and Finish Group on Larger projects. He suggested that, in future dates for Task and Finish Groups were fixed so that potential members were aware of when they would be required before joining the Group.

Members asked that the Scrutiny Officer provide a realistic estimate of how many meetings may be needed and whether it was appropriate to have a full day meeting for a particular Task and Finish Group.

The Chief Executive advised that, when arranging meetings, Officers were very mindful of the different commitments that different Members and Officers had. In trying to find a way forward, it would be advisable not to go for one approach of all day time or all evening meetings but to consider whether a mix of meeting timings would be appropriate.

A few issues had been made apparent during the current Task and Finish Group regarding subjects such as publicity and public participation, which meant that it would be the good time to review the Protocol


(1) That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme be noted;

(2) That the Scrutiny Officer be requested to arrange “fixed” dates for future Task and Finish Groups;

(3) That the Scrutiny Officer be requested to invite the Executive Member for Leisure to give a presentation to the Committee on 17 January 2017.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to plan and carry out its workload efficiently and effectively.
Published on Thursday, 5th January, 2017