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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham.

Contact: James McLaughlin, Head of Democratic Services  The webcast can be viewed at http://www.rotherham.public-i.tv

Items
No. Item

176.

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 13 February 2019 pdf icon PDF 94 KB

 

To approve the minutes of previous meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board held on 30 January 2019 as a true and correct record of the proceedings.

Minutes:

Resolved:-

 

That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 13 February 2019 be approved as a true and correct record of the proceedings.

177.

Declarations of Interest

 

To receive declarations of interest from Members in respect of items listed on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

178.

Questions from Members of the Public and the Press

 

To receive questions from members of the public or press who are present at the meeting.

Minutes:

A member of the public asked the Chair about the effectiveness of Democratic Services on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10. In response, the Chair indicated his confidence in the service and the support provided to elected Members. As a supplementary question, the member of public asked the Chair how he rated the performance of officers and the complaints procedure after it had taken six and a half months for his complaint to reach stage 2 of the Corporate Complaints Procedure. In response, the Chair indicated that he could not comment on individual cases and reminded the member of the public that he had followed up concerns on his behalf previously, which the Chair understood to have been followed up with officers.

 

A member of the public asked the Chair why the webcasting equipment was not used during the Board’s deliberations of petitions and requests to review petition responses where the subject matter was not considered to be sensitive. In response, the Chair indicated that he had taken the decision in respect of webcasting, as he did not consider it appropriate to discuss concerns regarding decisions taken by officers publicly. Any deliberation would be followed up with a public record of the outcome of the deliberation and the reasons for any recommendation. It was consistent practice that discussions concerning individuals would be undertaken privately and he would continue to uphold that practice.

 

A member of the public asked a question concerning the Council’s responsibilities and those of other public bodies in respect of protecting individuals from slavery. In response, the Chair indicated that the Council had adopted a policy on Modern Slavery in 2018, however he would ask an officer to respond directly to the member of the public in respect of the specific concerns raised.

179.

Exclusion of the Press and Public

 

To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during consideration of any part of the agenda. There are exempt appendices at Agenda Item 7 (Site Cluster Programme Amendments)

 

Minutes:

Resolved:-

 

That, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for agenda item 7 (Site Cluster Programme Amendments) on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972

180.

Area Housing Panel Review pdf icon PDF 136 KB

Cabinet Portfolio:                 Housing

Strategic Directorate:           Adult Care, Housing and Public Health

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report submitted by the Strategic Director of Adult Care, Housing and Public Health which was due to be determined by the Cabinet at its meeting on 18 March 2019, which set out the basis for a review of the current Area Housing Panel arrangements, in the context of the new neighbourhood working approach.

 

The report proposed that the current geographical arrangements for Area Housing Panels should be reviewed and recommendations brought forward for Cabinet consideration later in the year. The report also referred to the current arrangements for the allocation and governance of the annual Area Housing Panel budget and the options considered for the structuring of the budget from 2019/20, including revised governance processes.

 

The Board were keen to further understand the administrative arrangements supporting the allocation of monies and the governance processes that would be followed. Assurances were sought for Members and Area Housing Panels to receive appropriate training and support. In response, the Cabinet Member for Housing indicated that the majority of training, support and awareness raising would be undertaken with elected Members. This would be addressed in the further report proposed to be considered by Cabinet, but it was acknowledged that there needed to be stronger governance processes around Area Housing Panels on a ward level.

 

Assurances were sought in respect of the procedures in place to ensure that the additional monies would be spent on council properties rather than other priorities in wards. In response, it was confirmed that guidance was in place to assist Members, officers and residents. It was confirmed that there should always be a substantial benefit for tenants associated with any proposal.

 

Clarification was sought in respect of whether officers or Members had decision making responsibility on the spend of funds. In response, the Cabinet Member for Housing confirmed that the priority would be remain legal at all times and the Housing Revenue Account would be audited annually. In the event of there being an issue or disagree, it would be referred to the Assistant Director of Housing Services and the Head of Service who would provide guidance for Members to consider. Following up, the Chair sought assurances as to who would provide final approval to spend funds. It was confirmed in response that funding would be allocated to each ward and it would be looked at with ward Members to fit in with Ward Plan priorities. The Cabinet Member confirmed that the governance arrangements needed further consideration. In the event of a dispute, there would need to be honest conversations to achieve a consensus so that monies could be allocated accordingly.  

 

Members sought to understand what work would be undertaken with tenants before changes were implemented, as the proposals could be seen as a move to take power away from them. The Cabinet Member for Housing indicated that a significant amount of consultation had taken place with the Housing Involvement Panel and the Quality & Standards Steering Group. The feedback to date had indicated that tenants  ...  view the full minutes text for item 180.

181.

Site Cluster Programme Amendments pdf icon PDF 163 KB

Cabinet Portfolio:                 Housing

Strategic Directorate:           Adult Care, Housing and Public Health

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report submitted by the Strategic Director of Adult Care, Housing and Public Health which was due to be determined by the Cabinet on 18 March 2019 concerning proposed amendments to the Site Cluster programme which was increasing and accelerating the amount of new housing in Rotherham. Members noted that, at the point of reporting to Cabinet in 2017, the total scheme cost could only be estimated. Given that the sites concerned were extremely challenging and extensive ground remediation work had been necessary to make them developable. Other unforeseeable costs had arisen from utilities diversions and an industry-wide increase in the cost of materials and labour. The report to Cabinet in July 2017 stated that in order to protect the Council from exposure to a situation where the amount exceeded the amount authorised, the development agreement provided the Council with the ability to reduce the number of units built on the final site. The report indicated to Cabinet that the authority needed to decide whether to reduce the programme to ensure the original budget was not exceeded, or to increase the budget to enable all 217 homes to be built, and Rotherham to receive the full range of benefits afforded by the partnership. The report recommended the latter approach.

 

It was reported that the Council and its Employer Agent, Rider Levett Bucknall, had challenged and scrutinised all costs presented by Wates and a range of efficiencies had been identified. The remaining risks had been analysed and a realistic maximum price had been calculated. If a decision was reached to increase the budget, there would be two further options to consider. One option was to continue with the current contractual arrangements. If any savings were identified, the final cost could potentially fall below the revised budget figure. However, the Council would bear the costs associated with any further risks that materialise for example as a result of the UK’s exit from the European Union or adverse weather conditions. Alternatively, the Council could renegotiate the contract to a fixed, guaranteed maximum price contract, which would ensure no further risk of cost increases for the Council. This was the recommended approach.

 

Members were encouraged to see due diligence being undertaken in the management or the project, with measures devised to manage the risks associated. Whilst risk appetite was high at the outset of the project, it was evident that things had not progressed as had been intended and the approach now was to minimise the risk associated with the programme. Members sought assurances that the risk appetite had been lowered in the light of this experience and whether there was a commitment to pursue fixed price contracts in future. In response, the Cabinet Member for Housing indicated that a lot of lessons had been learned from this experience. The approach had been adopted as the Council was directly delivering homes and there was commitment the authority’s leadership to make sure that they were built. It was accepted that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 181.

182.

European Union Exit Risk Assessment and Contingency Planning pdf icon PDF 133 KB

 

To consider a briefing in respect of issues and risks arising from the exit from the European Union on 29 March 2019

Minutes:

Consideration was given a report which provided:-

 

·         a briefing about progress towards the anticipated departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) including potential scenarios

·         an assessment of issues and potential risks to the people and economy of Rotherham associated with the UK exit from the EU.

·         an overview of the contingency planning undertaken by the Council and its partners in response to potential risks associated with EU exit.

 

The report reflected that there had been much uncertainty about how the UK would leave the EU and the clarity anticipated by autumn 2018 had yet to be realised. EU exit presented a significant change which would have economic and social consequences across the UK, including Rotherham. The Council had sought to identify and address the local risks through contingency planning based on potential scenarios, notably a ‘no deal’ EU exit where the impact and risks would be greatest. It was noted that EU citizens would need to apply for settled status and the Council and partners would support this process with the Home Office.

 

Clarification was sought from Members in respect of how EU citizens would be informed of the need to apply online for settled status and how the Council would be assisting them. In response, officers confirmed that there was a central government information campaign which was targeted across the country, which was anticipated to inform the majority of EU citizens. Within Rotherham, a communications strategy was being developed by the Council which would complement the central government campaign.

 

Members sought assurances from an emergency planning perspective and the extent to which the community had been included in the planning. In response, officers confirmed that emergency planning was critical for statutory and public bodies and a tactical process had taken place to check and challenge business continuity plans. Officers were assured that the Council was doing as much as possible. Furthermore, the Assistant Chief Executive explained that had been very difficult to communicate to the community around the EU Exit process, however there were a number of voluntary sector organisations that had been working closely with EU citizens around the challenges on how they feel. Whilst this had not been comprehensive, it needed to be noted such engagement had taken place. It was clarified that there was a separation between major incident plans and business continuity, therefore town and parish councils were not part of the business continuity process.

 

Clarification was sought as to the number of EU citizens in the borough and whether they had self-declared. In response, officers confirmed that the numbers quoted were an estimate, as any EU citizen could come to Rotherham. However, the sources used for the calculation were the 2018 Schools Census, Allowances for Pre-School, and the 2017-18 Annual Population Survey. In response to a question concerning the number of ex-patriots who might return to Rotherham following the EU Exit, it was explained that there was no data available to suggest what those numbers would be. There was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 182.

183.

Urgent Business

 

To determine any item which the Chairman is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

The Chair reported that there were no items of business requiring the urgent consideration of the Board.

184.

Date and time of next meeting

 

The next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board will be held on Wednesday 27 March 2019 at 11.00 a.m. in Rotherham Town Hall.

Minutes:

Resolved:-

 

That the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board be held on Wednesday 27 March 2019 commencing at 11.00 a.m. in Rotherham Town Hall.