Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Commission
Tuesday, 15 January 2019 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

71.

Minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2018. pdf icon PDF 171 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2018 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.

 

72.

Minutes of the meeting held on 6 December 2018. pdf icon PDF 171 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 6 December 2018 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.

 

73.

Question Time.

Minutes:

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

 

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.

 

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 79(a)-(e) 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 36.

Minutes:

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

 

79.

The Development of a Unitary Structure for Local Government in Leicestershire. pdf icon PDF 861 KB

The report considered by the Cabinet on 16 October 2018 is attached.

 

Additional documents:

79a

Financial Options Appraisal. pdf icon PDF 872 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report and presentation from the Director of Corporate Resources which set out the methodology used to calculate the savings arising from a unitary structure of local government for Leicestershire, drawing on the considerable evidence around the country of the savings achieved from establishing unitary councils.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9a’ and the slides forming the presentation is filed with these minutes.

 

The Chairman welcomed Mr N J Rushton CC, Leader of the Council and Mr J B Rhodes CC, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Lead Member for Resources, to the meeting for this item.

 

Arising from discussion and questions the following points were raised:-

 

(i)          A few national commentators had suggested that a global recession was likely in the next few years.  Locally, this would have an impact on both demand on council services and the financial position of the County Council.

 

(ii)         The analysis of the benefits of a unitary structure, compared to a shared services arrangement, had been undertaken using a management consultancy toolkit to provide a framework.  The analysis focused on savings relating to overheads and management.  It was not intended to undermine the democratic process or provide commentary on the quality of front line services in either structure.

 

(iii)       The benefits of a shared service model when compared to a unitary structure were limited.  It would be unusual to have full alignment of priorities and approaches across eight organisations, meaning that compromises would have to be made which reduce the overall level of financial benefit.  Governance arrangements were also like to be more complex, reducing the speed of implementation.  This had been the case with the Lightbulb Programme.

 

(iv)       It was confirmed that the business case for a unitary structure of local government for Leicestershire would be externally reviewed by a well-known company with a good reputation in that area.

 

(v)        Some concern was expressed that the level of savings achieved by existing county unitary authorities, such as Wiltshire Council and Durham County Council, were smaller than that achieved by the County Council over the same period of time.  However, the Commission was reminded that organisations tailored the level of savings that they needed to achieve to their funding envelope.  For example Baroness Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council, had confirmed to the Commission that she had not had to consider closing libraries or children’s centres because her Council could achieve a balanced budget without doing so.  In addition, it was difficult to make a direct comparison between authorities because they all presented information differently. The saving proposals for a unitary authority for Leicestershire were in line with the savings made in the 2009 conversions and those proposed in recent business cases.

 

(vi)       In response to a query, the Leader of the Council advised that he had attempted to invite unitary authorities which were struggling financially to give evidence to the Commission but had not been successful.  The Director of Corporate Resources advised that analysis of publicly available information indicated that only a small number of unitary authorities were in financial difficulties and these tended to be smaller in size and therefore unable to achieve economies of scale.  Poor leadership and management was also a significant factor.  In comparison, a far greater number of upper tier authorities were in financial difficulties; these difficulties also tended to be more serious.

 

(vii)     A member requested spreadsheets providing a more detailed breakdown of how the £30 million annual savings would be achieved by a unitary structure of local government for Leicestershire. The Cabinet Lead Member for Resources advised that officers had undertaken a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 79a

79b

Options Appraisal - Area Boards and Planning Governance Arrangements. pdf icon PDF 396 KB

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which provided detail information on the Area Board structures and planning governance arrangements established by Wiltshire Council and Durham County Council.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9b’ is filed with these minutes.

 

The Chairman welcomed the Leader of the Council and the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Lead Member for Resources to the meeting for this item.

 

Arising from discussion and questions the following points were raised:-

 

General

 

(i)          The financial modelling for a unitary authority included a small amount of funding to support the Area Committee structure, although the model had not yet been fully costed.  The views of the Commission regarding how the structure should be developed would be taken into account in the business case and the funding requirements would be revisited at this stage.

 

(ii)         There was general agreement to the proposal to separate the Area Committee structure from the Development Management (Planning) function.  It was also recognised that any proposals put forward in the business case would be subject to public consultation and, where appropriate, co-design with local communities.

 

Area Committees

 

(iii)       The report to the Cabinet in October 2018 had not specified the number of Area Committees that would be needed, although it had suggested issues to be taken into account when designing the geographies.  It would be essential to seek the views of local communities to ensure that the structure reflected local needs and identities.

 

(iv)       There was a general consensus that the Wiltshire model of Area Committees, which were formally constituted and had some delegated executive powers, would be a good starting point for developing a Leicestershire model.  Only elected members were able to vote at the Area Committees in Wiltshire, although arrangements should be developed to enable the Committees to reach decisions by consensus based on the view of all participants.  There was support for replicating this arrangement in the Leicestershire model, although it was felt that there should be an item on Area Committee agendas to enable the public to ask questions.

 

(v)        There was support for an Area Committee model where powers to determine minor highways schemes could be delegated.  It was also suggested that the work currently undertaken by district Health and Wellbeing Boards could be picked up by the Area Committees.

 

Planning Governance Arrangements

 

(vi)       Planning policy, such as the development of the Local Plan was an executive function and final approval was required from the full Council.  It would be possible and indeed helpful to involve local planning committees or even the Area Committees in the process and to seek their views on the proposals.

 

(vii)     A member expressed concern that currently major planning decisions were often ultimately determined by the Planning Inspectorate at a national level, where the local context was not taken into account.  It was noted that moving to a unitary structure of local government for Leicestershire would not resolve this problem.  However, a single, countywide Local Plan, which could only be developed by a unitary authority, would carry greater weight with the Government than the current structure of seven district level Local Plans.

 

(viii)    The model adopted by both Durham County Council and Wiltshire Council, of having a countywide strategic planning committee and local planning committees, was generally supported, although it was felt that further consideration was needed to the thresholds for where applications should be considered and the membership of the Committees to ensure that they were right for Leicestershire.  Members welcomed the idea of the local planning committees meeting in their local areas and were keen to see as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 79b

79c

Services in a Unitary Structure - Corporate Services

Members are asked to refer pages 93 – 110 of the document pack.

 

Minutes:

The Commission considered the appendices relevant to its remit in the report of the Chief Executive to the Cabinet on 16 October 2018 regarding the development of a unitary structure for local government in Leicestershire.  These appendices set out the opportunities that a unitary structure could afford to corporate services.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.

 

The Chairman welcomed the Leader of the Council, Mr N J Rushton CC, to the meeting for consideration of the appendices relating to Economic Growth and Development, and Regulatory Services and the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Lead Member for Resources, Mr J B Rhodes CC to the meeting for consideration of the appendices relating to Combined Property Services and Revenue Collection.

 

Arising from discussion and questions the following points were raised:-

 

Appendix F – Economic Growth and Development

 

(i)          Members advised that Oadby and Wigston Borough Council and Harborough Borough Council had retained their housing stock.  The appendix had only specified Charnwood Borough Council, Melton Borough Council and North West Leicestershire District Council in this regard.

 

(ii)         The appendix suggested that a single choice based lettings system would be cheaper to administer than having a separate scheme for each district.  However, members advised that Oadby and Wigston Borough Council had recently withdrawn from a choice based lettings scheme as it had wanted to change its criteria to match the stricter criteria that Leicester City Council had in place.  In response to this it was suggested that a single unitary council would be able to determine the criteria and geography for its own scheme and there would be more scope for a single larger organisation to work with the City Council on alignment of criteria.  Some members of the Commission retained their reservations about this proposal.

 

(iii)       Members advised that the District Councils had given consideration to Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) schemes but had chosen not to develop them as they attracted less money to mitigate the cost of developments than Section 106 contributions.  In response, it was confirmed that it would be up to the new council to consider whether a CIL would be appropriate.  The reason for including it in the appendix was to highlight that a single, countywide scheme would be less expensive to introduce.

 

(iv)       The financial modelling included an assumption that there would be a rationalisation of the local government estate across Leicestershire on the basis that the new authority would employ less staff than the current structure.  However, details including the location of buildings had not been considered.  This would be a role for the new authority, taking into account the economic impact on towns and villages, cost, business need and value of the land.

 

(v)        The Leader of the Council confirmed that a benefit of having a single authority for Leicestershire would be the greater opportunity for promoting economic development than the current structure provided.  This included being able to have a larger economic development team which could respond strategically to opportunities.

 

Appendix G - Regulatory Services

 

(vi)       It would be possible to establish a single enforcement team including planning enforcement, due to the overlap of skills with the Trading Standards service.  Some unitary authorities had done this.

 

(vii)     Legislation was currently going through the parliamentary processes which would require Trading Standards to have greater involvement in the private rented sector, particularly with deposit schemes.  Leicestershire Trading Standards was in a strong position to respond to this requirement.

 

(viii)    The Trading Standards Service already had some involvement in licensing, such as explosives and making representations to district council licensing committees  ...  view the full minutes text for item 79c

79d

Process for Transferring Staff to a New Organisation.

There will be an oral update for this item.

 

Minutes:

The Director of Law and Governance and Director of Corporate Resources advised that the latest guidance on the process for transferring staff to a new organisation was from the 2008 Regulations.  Should further guidance be issued, Commission members would be informed.

 

The guidance stated that the post of Head of Paid Service must be subject to open competition, with the expectation that a national recruitment process would be carried out. TUPE applied to all other posts, although authorities were encouraged to follow the same process of open competition for other senior roles.  In terms of TUPE, each of the eight organisations would be treated equally.  The principles that would be followed were:-

·       Staff would be provided with as much assurance as possible;

·       There would be equality of opportunity;

·       The cost of redundancy would be managed.

 

Where roles were unique, staff would automatically transfer to the new organisation.  It was recognised that, for roles where there was duplication across organisations, there would be redundancies.  Each existing council should seek to agree a joint protocol for handling redundancies.  This would normally happen after vesting day but a voluntary early redundancy scheme could be put in place, subject to joint agreement.

 

The Commission was advised that the new council would need to operate effectively from vesting day so structures should be developed and some posts appointed to ahead of vesting day.

 

Arising from discussion and questions the following points were raised:-

 

(i)          The joint protocol for handling redundancies would need to include an appeals process, although where possible this could be avoided through the promotion of voluntary redundancy schemes.

 

(ii)         A consultation to look at strengthening pensions protections for local government who had had their roles outsourced had recently been launched by the Government.  The financial impact of this announcement on the County Council was being analysed.  However, it was not expected to affect staff in the transition to a unitary authority.

 

(iii)       Wiltshire Council had a Head of Paid Service but no Chief Executive.  It would be possible for a unitary authority for Leicestershire to adopt this model if members chose to do so.

 

(iv)       It would be essential to plan the structure of the new authority prior to vesting day.  The structure would need approval from both members and officers.  Member approval was likely to come from an Implementation Executive or Shadow Authority comprising elected members from the existing local authorities.  Once Directors had been appointed they would be empowered to build their own services and structures.

 

(v)        It was confirmed that the £30 million annual savings that a single structure for local government in Leicestershire would make only equated to approximately five percent of the total budget.  Redundancies would therefore not be significant in the context of the total number of staff employed by the eight organisations.  An exact figure had not been confirmed.  It was important that staff across all organisations were treated fairly and that joint criteria to assess similar roles regardless of salary and match them to the new structure were in place.  District council staff would therefore not be at a disadvantage.

 

(vi)       Informal briefings had already taken place with the Trade Unions.  Officers had also committed to providing ongoing briefings in the light of developments.  TUPE transfer regulations required Trade Unions to be involved in the process.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)  That the information now provided be noted;

 

(b)  That officers be requested to confirm whether the governance arrangements for transition were determined locally or by the Secretary of State.

 

 

79e

Summary of Emerging and Recurring Themes from the Scrutiny Process. pdf icon PDF 211 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report which summarised the key issues and recurring themes from consideration of the proposals for the development of a unitary structure for local government in Leicestershire by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9e’ is filed with these minutes.

 

Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee

 

The Chairman of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee drew attention to the fact that Harborough District Council and Blaby District Council allocated funding to Public Health, although it was not clear what this funding was spent on.  He also noted that the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee had considered the unitary proposals prior to the publication of the NHS Ten Year Plan.  This might affect commissioning arrangements for some Public Health services.

 

Adults and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee

 

The Chairman of the Adults and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee advised that most adult social care services were only provided by the County Council so the transition to a unitary authority would have limited impact.  More consideration needed to be given to services currently provided by district councils such as leisure and open spaces as it was not yet clear how these would fit into the new structure.

 

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee

 

The Chairman of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee confirmed that a unitary structure made sense for the Children and Families Service as a lot of its services were already delivered in localities.  This would continue to be the case in a unitary structure.  It was hoped that the savings that would be realised from the transition to a unitary structure could be invested in services such as children’s centres.

 

Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee

 

In the absence of the Chairman, members of the Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee advised that a countywide approach to services such as waste, car parking, street cleansing and environmental services would create consistency across the county.

 

Mr Bill CC asked for his concerns about the governance of planning, in particular major planning decisions being taken by the Planning Inspectorate rather than the local planning authority, to be placed on record.  He felt that it was difficult in this regard for local councillors to represent effectively the people who elected them.

 

In reference to point (xvi) in the Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee minutes (page 204 of the report refers), Mr Boulter CC asked for it to be recorded that in his view the County Council did not have good records regarding grass cutting for the Oadby and Wigston area.

 

Role of Parish and Town Councils

 

Members then discussed the role of Parish and Town Council in a unitary structure of local government.  It was noted that they could take on additional services if they wished to do so but this would not be a requirement.  They would receive funding from the unitary authority where these services were in line with its policies and where they could deliver a better, more efficient service.  This point would be clarified in the business case.  It was suggested that, where legislation precluded Parish Councils from taking on services, the new unitary authority could lobby MPs and the Government to make changes in the law.

 

Officers confirmed that work to develop the devolution framework for Parish and town Council was being undertaken jointly with representatives from those Councils and more detail would be included in the business case.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)  That the report and information now provided be noted;

 

(b)  That the findings and views of the Scrutiny Commission  ...  view the full minutes text for item 79e

80.

Dates of Future Meetings.

Meetings of the Scrutiny Commission will take place on the following dates during 2019:-

 

28 January at 10.00am

6 March at 10.30am

10 April at 10.30am

12 June at 10.30am

4 September at 10.30am

6 November at 10.30am

 

 

 

Minutes:

It was noted that meetings of the Scrutiny Commission would take place on the following dates during 2019:-

 

28 January at 10.00am;

6 March at 10.30am;

10 April at 10.30am;

12 June at 10.30am;

4 September at 10.30am;

6 November at 10.30am.