Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Commission
Thursday, 6 December 2018 10.00 am

Venue: Sparkenhoe Committee Room, County Hall, Glenfield

Contact: Mrs R Whitelaw (Tel: 0116 305 2583)  Email: rosemary.whitelaw@leics.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

Webcast.

A webcast of the meeting can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWFpwBLs6MnUzG0WjejrQtQ

 

62.

Question Time.

Minutes:

The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 35.

 

63.

Questions asked by members under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).

Minutes:

The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).

 

64.

Urgent Items.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items for consideration.

 

65.

Declarations of Interest.

Minutes:

The Chairman invited members who wished to do so to declare any interest in respect of items on the agenda for the meeting.

 

All members of the Commission who were also members of district or parish councils declared a personal interest in the report on proposals for a unitary structure of local government in Leicestershire (minute 68 refers).

 

66.

Declarations of the Party Whip in accordance with Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 16.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of the party whip.

 

67.

Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 36.

Minutes:

The Chief Executive reported that no petitions had been received under Standing Order 36.

 

68.

The Development of a Unitary Structure for Local Government in Leicestershire.

Members are asked to refer to the previously circulated papers for the Scrutiny Commission meetings on 14 and 30 November.

 

Councillor Neil Bannister, Leader of Harborough District Council and Councillor Mike Hall, Leader of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council have been invited to attend the meeting for this item.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed Councillor Bannister, Leader of Harborough District Council, Councillor Hall, Leader of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and the Leader of the County Council, Mr N J Rushton CC, to the meeting for this item.

 

At the invitation of the Chairman, the Leader of the Council reminded members of the statement he had made at the meeting of the County Council held on the previous day.  The Commission would be expected to conclude its work during the following month and then produce a report for consideration by the Cabinet.  A full business case for a unitary structure of local government in Leicestershire would then be produced.  This would be shared with the Scrutiny Commission and would ultimately be submitted to the full Council.  If accepted by the full Council, it would become the County Council’s agreed policy.  The Leader acknowledged that there was currently little chance of the proposal being taken forward by the Secretary of State but felt that it was important to be ready for any changes of national policy or government.

 

The Chairman invited Councillor Neil Bannister to make a statement.  Councillor Bannister highlighted the following points:-

 

·       He was not going to defend the status quo regarding the delivery of services to residents.  This changed continuously and the district councils had undergone transformation programmes and identified some opportunities to share services.

 

·       The District Council Leaders were constructively engaged together to look at functional, rather than structural, reform and identify savings.  A scoping document to this effect had recently been issued to consultants.  The scope included services provided by the Police, Fire, Schools, GPs, Clinical Commissioning Groups, the County Council, District Councils and Parish Councils and would be commissioned shortly.  Councillor Bannister noted that the County Council had consistently been invited to work by the district councils to work collaboratively with them.

 

·       It was a matter of regret that the district councils had not been involved at the start of the County Council’s process.  He felt that this was a matter of courtesy, especially as it had caused concern for district council staff.  He suggested that the Commission should seek the views of the Trade Unions on the County Council’s proposals.

 

·       Councillor Bannister felt that the County Council should also have engaged with Leicestershire MPs at the start of the process.  It was now accepted that the MPs did not support the County Council’s proposals.

 

·       Councillor Bannister suggested that the Commission should ensure that it heard from unitary authorities such as those in Shropshire and Cheshire which were facing difficulties and challenges.

 

·       Councillor Bannister noted that a single unitary authority for Leicestershire would be the largest county unitary in England and would serve some rural, disparate communities.  It could therefore be perceived as too large and remote.  He suggested that the Commission should hear from Birmingham City Council regarding the issues of scale that it faced.

 

·       Councillor Bannister felt that the Area Committee structure proposed by the County Council was unnecessary as the district councils already performed this function.  He also suggested that it was unnecessary to establish new parish and town councils as those that he had heard from were overwhelmingly against the proposal and had concerns regarding their time, qualifications and resources to take on additional responsibilities.

 

·       Councillor Bannister was of the view that more careful consideration should be given to the proposed Strategic Alliance for the East Midlands; this could not just replicate the model used in the West Midlands.

 

Councillor Bannister concluded by urging the County Council to work with the district councils on functional reform.

 

The Chairman then invited Councillor Mike  ...  view the full minutes text for item 68.

69.

Housing Infrastructure Fund Bids. pdf icon PDF 416 KB

A set of slides is attached which will be presented at the meeting.

 

A report on the Housing Infrastructure Fund Bids is being considered by the Cabinet on 18 December, this will be made available to members before the Commission meeting.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a presentation and report from the Director of Environment and Transport which outlined proposals for two Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) bids, one relating to the southern section of the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road and a second for a South West Leicestershire Growth Area.  The report would be considered by the Cabinet on 18 December.  A copy of the report and the slides forming the presentation, marked ‘Agenda Item 8’, is filed with these minutes.

 

In introducing the report, the Director of Environment and Transport and the Leader of the Council, Mr N J Rushton CC, advised members of the Commission that the HIF bids sought funding for infrastructure to support housing development.  The details of both housing development and the routes for proposed new roads would be determined through the Local Plan processes of the relevant district councils and would be subject to the usual consultation processes.  However, if the bids were not submitted, there was a risk that housing developments would still go ahead but that they would be unsupported by infrastructure.

 

Mrs Maggie Wright CC, local member for the Stoney Stanton and Croft Electoral Division, emphasised the overwhelming concern in the local area with regard to the massive size of proposed developments.  It would be important to stress to local people that these proposals represented potential opportunities and nothing had yet been determined.  However, should developments such as the proposed Hinckley Strategic Rail Freight Interchange go ahead, the survival of nearby villages would depend on the provision of appropriate infrastructure.  The existing road network was already struggling, there were traffic enforcement cameras in Sharnford and most villages had traffic monitoring groups.  Mrs Wright felt that it was frustrating that the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange application would be determined by the Secretary of State rather than the local authority and urged the County Council to support nearby villages with the best option.

 

Arising from discussion the following points were raised:-

 

(i)          It was acknowledged that the timing for submission of the bids was difficult, as not all district councils had signed up to the Strategic Growth Plan yet.  However, it was emphasised that the submission of bids did not represent the final decision on whether the proposed infrastructure should be developed.  If the bids to the HIF were successful, a further report would be submitted to the Cabinet to seek approval for the developments to proceed.

 

(ii)         In the event that funding was awarded to the County Council, this would be conditional on successful planning applications to deliver the anticipated housing growth.  The bid process could not override local planning processes.  It was also noted that any funding awarded from the HIF would have to be drawn down by 2022/23.

 

(iii)       Concern was expressed that addition of south facing slip roads at Junction 2 of the M69 had previously been discounted because of the impact on traffic through local villages.  Clarity was also sought regarding the location of the link improvement around Stoney Stanton and Sapcote.  It was confirmed that a link road was required to mitigate the impact of the south facing slip roads and to prevent excessive amounts of traffic going through villages near Junction 2 of the M69.  The exact location of the road had not yet been determined and would be subject to public consultation.

 

(iv)       Clarity regarding the size and scope of the South West Leicestershire Growth Area was sought.  The Commission was advised that the Growth Area was not a firm proposal being put forward by the County Council but an illustration that there was market interest in developing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 69.

70.

Date of next meeting.

The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled to take place on 28 January 2019 at 10.00am.

 

Minutes:

It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would be held on 28 January 2019 at 10.00am.

 

[It was subsequently confirmed that there would be a meeting of the Commission on 15 January at 10.30am.]