Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Commission
Wednesday, 11 March 2020 10.30 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

72.

Minutes. pdf icon PDF 182 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 27 January 2020 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.

 

73.

Question Time.

Minutes:

The following questions, received under Standing Order 34, were put to the Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission:

 

Questions asked by Mr John Marriott on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England

 

Introduction

 

In response to a question at the Environment and Transport Scrutiny meeting in March 2019, Mr Pearson acknowledged that

 

"there is an increasing urgency for action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and that this needs to be achieved through the achievement of carbon neutrality in the quickest time possible" 

and that it was

"important to set on record that the County Council is committed to taking actions aimed at reducing the worst impact of climate change." 

He noted that

"We will however continue to take action to meet and exceed where possible the commitments and targets set out in our Environment Strategy."

"We take our leadership role seriously and seek to build on the global and national commitments made to address the situation by working with partners to take action in Leicestershire."

Inter alia, one of the actions was

Working with the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership and other partners to identify how we can work together to move Leicestershire towards a low carbon energy and transport future.

In May 2019 the County Council declared a Climate Emergency and in September the Cabinet agreed to Review its Environment Strategy and Action Plan. One of the key actions was to "consider how best to engage with Communities, businesses and other stakeholders." 

 

In September 2019, in response to a question from CPRE Leicestershire, the Council acknowledged that "the private car would be likely to remain the dominant mode of travel." It was claimed that the SGP was predicted to have a minor positive effect overall on Climate Change, although there appears to be no evidence to support this statement.

 

The joint Leicestershire / Leicester City "Strategic Transport Policies" document has been approved for consultation, however it does not seem to appear on the City Council's web site. This is an extremely simplistic and vague document which lacks any supporting information. It fails to explain how the policies will accommodate additional development or show that it will achieve an acceptable transport and environmental solution. It follows the Strategic Growth Plan in assuming that new road projects, and other proposals to increase highway capacity significantly, are essential. These views appear to reflect the views of bodies like LLEP, Midlands Engine and a small group of 'stakeholders" with mainly business interests.

 

On the 5th March 2020 the Environment and Transport Scrutiny Committee was due to consider a Revised Environment Strategy (RES) 2018-2030 prior to it being presented to Cabinet on 28 April 2020 and to County Council on 13 May 2020. The RES refers to the County Council's declaration of Climate Emergency and to its commitment to support the limiting of global warming to less than 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement.

 

The declaration also requested officers to undertake a review of the aspects of the RES necessary to achieve the carbon neutrality by 2030 aspiration, together with an assessment of the cost and technology implications.

 

The Scrutiny report for RES notes (para 12) that wider ‘local authority influenced’ emissions for Leicestershire includes emissions from the Housing, Transport, Agriculture and Industry sectors. It points out that this will include "Vehicles driving through and within the county". In para 13 & 14 it notes that LCC internal emissions are essentially trivial compared to those which it could influence. Transport is recognised as being a major contributor and potentially the most difficult to tackle.

 

 

 

The recent decision regarding Heathrow Airport  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.

74.

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).

 

75.

Urgent Items.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items for consideration.

 

76.

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.

 

Dr Eynon declared a personal interest in the consultation on the Equality Strategy 2020-2024 and Proposed Outcomes as her sone was disabled (minute 79 refers).

 

77.

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

Minutes:

There were no declarations of the party whip.

 

78.

Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 35.

Minutes:

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

 

79.

Consultation on the Equality Strategy 2020 - 2024 and Proposed Outcomes. pdf icon PDF 365 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which sought its views on the draft Equality Strategy 2020-24, provided details of the outcome of engagement and consultation and set out the principle actions proposed on the 2020-21 Action Plan.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.

 

Arising from discussion the following points were raised:

 

(i)          Members welcomed the draft Strategy and felt that the work done to date by the County Council was encouraging.  It was suggested that further consideration be given to consistency of language, for example to use ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)’ throughout and to refer to ‘people with disabilities’ rather than ‘disabled people’.  It was also suggested that there was currently a lack of clarity in the draft Strategy between ‘equity’ and ‘equality’.  It was important to define these terms and be clear that the focus was on equity of outcome.  Officers undertook to do this before the final version of the Strategy was submitted to the Cabinet.  The foreword would also be reviewed to remove reference to Brexit.

 

(ii)         It was noted that the next national census would be undertaken in 2021 and that data relating to protected characteristics would be updated following this.  However, the Council had a duty to publish a Strategy and would not be able to wait for the census results.  It was confirmed that, once available, the results would be taken into account through the annual action plans.

 

(iii)       In response to a query, it was confirmed that age discrimination had not been identified as an area of concern and was not a priority area within the Strategy.  The age profile of County Council staff was similar to that of other Local Authorities; there were challenges in attracting younger staff although work on career pathways, retention and initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Levy were helping to address this.

 

(iv)       The target for BAME staff representation was based on data for both Leicestershire and Leicester City, as this reflected travel to work patterns.  Employment data was regularly monitored to ensure that all ethnic groups were represented fairly.  Currently, BAME staff were under-represented at a senior level, as were female staff, so these were areas of focus within the Equality Strategy and action plan.  Positive action, such as targeted advertising of posts, could be taken although ultimately appointments must be made on merit.

 

(v)        With regard to the consultation, members felt that every effort had been made to reach out to as many people as possible and that the groups targeted were appropriate, but that the numbers of responses to the survey, even allowing for some to be from groups rather than individuals, was disappointing.  It was suggested that the consultation process and principles used by the County Council could be an agenda item for a future meeting of the Commission.

 

(vi)       Some concern was expressed that, through the focus on hidden disabilities, the County Council was asking staff to disclose information that they would rather not share.  Reassurance was given that the focus was on giving managers the right support to manage staff.  A contrasting view regarding the importance of collecting data and monitoring it to measure outcomes and track the success of the Strategy was also expressed.

 

(vii)     Members emphasised the importance of supporting people with disabilities, including non-visible disabilities into work.  This was felt to be a particular issue for young people who were in education until the age of 25 and were therefore missing out on work experience.

 

(viii)    It was confirmed that the County Council had a Trans  ...  view the full minutes text for item 79.

80.

2019/20 Medium Term Financial Strategy Monitoring (Period 10). pdf icon PDF 308 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided an update on the 2019/20 revenue budget and capital programme monitoring position as at period 10.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.

 

Arising from discussion the following points were raised:

 

Revenue

 

(i)          A review of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) policy had been announced by the Government during the previous summer.  It was hoped that the interim findings would be report around Easter time.  It was not yet known whether they would recommend a tightening of the criteria or making more money available.  In the meantime, the Department for Education had issued financial guidelines which mandated the carrying forward of deficits. The County Council remained responsible for formulating and implementing deficit recovery plans.

 

(ii)         In terms of children’s social care placements, the County Council was proposing to increase provision in the county.  This could end up with the County Council owning the buildings but using an established provider to operate the services.

 

(iii)       It was expected that coronavirus would have a limited impact on this year’s budget.  However, next year’s budget could be affected in a number of ways.  These included the need to buy more equipment, loss of income, slippage with savings programmes and potential issues with providers.  It was expected that the Government’s budget, due to be announced that afternoon, would include funding to mitigate the effects of coronavirus, but not that it would help to address the immediate issues of SEND and children’s social care overspend.

 

Capital

 

(iv)       Concern was expressed regarding the level of slippage in the Capital Programme and whether this could have been foreseen.  It was acknowledged that in previous years the process had been better, for example through categorising the Programme to reflect the level of certainty around a capital project, but this was no longer the case.  Officers undertook to ensure that the Capital Programme was more realistic in future years and provided assurance that the slippage was due to over-optimistic estimates of what could be delivered rather than a performance issue.

 

(v)        It was confirmed that work had started on the café and education centre at Snibston Country Park.  This was due to open next July.  The slippage related to land that had previously been the car park.  The original plan had been to sell the land for housing, but consideration was now being given to its use as an extra care centre and specialist dementia unit.  Although this would reduce the capital receipt available to the County Council, it would have a net benefit due to delivery of revenue savings and avoiding the need to purchase an alternative site.

 

(vi)       The Commission was reminded that the Snibston Discovery Centre had required a subsidy of approximately £750,000 per year to run.  That revenue saving had now been made for a number of years.  The proposals for the Country Park were more self-sustaining.  It was recognised that there was a cost to maintaining the scheduled ancient monument and hoped that income streams such as the café would be able to offset some of the cost.

 

(vii)     With regard to the relocation of the Records Office, it was confirmed that this was necessary because the current building was not big enough and expansion would be too expensive.  The County Council was about to appoint architects to design the new building, which should have the capacity to contain records for a number of years.

 

(viii)    Officers undertook to provide further information relating to the savings at the Croft Depot which would not  ...  view the full minutes text for item 80.

81.

Date of next meeting.

The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 8 April at 10.30am.  Please note that there will be an afternoon session.

 

 

Minutes:

It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would be held on 8 April at 10.30am.