Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Commission
Monday, 22 June 2020 10.30 am

Venue: Microsoft Teams (broadcast via Sparkenhoe committee room)

Contact: Mrs J Twomey (Tel: 0116 305 2583)  Email: joanne.twomey@leics.gov.uk

Note: The Scrutiny Commission meeting on Monday 22nd June 2020 at 10.30am will not be open to the public in line with Government advice on public gatherings. The meeting will be webcast live via the website 

Items
No. Item

In attendance

Mr N J Rushton CC

Mr J B Rhodes CC

 

94.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 202 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 8 April 2020 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.

 

95.

Question Time

Minutes:

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

 

Question asked by Mrs Sharon Scott 

 

'With reference to both the Leicestershire Strategic Plan and the Strategic Growth Plan please can the chairman confirm that the change in events arising from the COVID 19 emergency means that the plans will now need to be substantially revised because: 

 

1.     The COVID 19 emergency has demonstrated that many people can work successfully from home. I have spoken to partners in a number of professional firms who say that their firms are now looking closely at whether to switch to more home working in the future to save on rent and heating bills. This is likely to result in more brownfield office sites becoming available in the City and immediate environs of Leicester that can be repurposed for housing. This will lessen the need for other areas of the County to take the over spill from the City. 
 

2.     The COVID 19 emergency is accelerating the move to online shopping. This is likely to lead to more retail closures within the main shopping centres in the City which can be repurposed for housing. This will also lessen the need for other areas of the County to take the over spill from the City. 
 

3.     Spending that LCC has earmarked for strategic development areas such as the proposed Stoney Stanton SDA would be better spent on providing high quality broadband, particularly in South West Leicestershire where the service industries and the professions are big employers and since these are the employers who are likely to make more of their employees work from home in the future. 

 

Reply by the Chairman 

 

A review of all the County Council’s key policies is likely to be undertaken as part of the County Council’s planned recovery from the pandemic, including the County Council’s Strategic Plan.  In addition, the County Council, City Council and Leicestershire districts will also need to consider whether a review the Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Growth Plan (SGP) is required. 

 

With reference to points 1 and 2, COVID 19 has impacted working practices and travel and shopping patterns.  Businesses will no doubt review whether any changes enforced through this unprecedented period become new established practices. Potential implications for the current Strategic Growth Plan and the County Council’s Strategic Plan will be considered prior to any review.  

 

With reference to point 3, the County Council remains committed to supporting economic and housing growth in the County.  Supporting large sustainable developments and the provision of high-quality superfast broadband are key elements of the County Council’s approach.  As part of its work on recovery, and taking account of pressures on the public purse, market conditions and other societal changes post COVID19, the County Council will necessarily be reviewing its spending priorities.  

 

Supplementary question

 

Mrs Scott asked a supplementary question on the response to points 1 and 2 of her original question to the effect that, would, as part of the review of the Strategic Plan and the Strategic Growth Plan, there be a review of extra brownfield sites arising in Leicester City and its immediate environs as a result of any permanent changes in business and retail practices arising from the current pandemic before a decision is taken to expand the urban area out into the villages of South West Leicestershire. Mrs Scott said she was aware that Blaby District Council was currently reviewing its local plan and was under pressure to take the housing overspill from Leicester City into rural areas of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 95.

96.

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).

97.

Urgent Items

Minutes:

There were no urgent items for consideration.

 

98.

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 a district council declared a personal interest in items 8 (LLEP Economic Recovery Strategy), 9 (2019/20 Provisional Revenue and Capital Outturn) and 10 (Coronavirus (Covid 19) Impact and response of the County Council – Recovery) (minutes 101, 102 and 103 refer).

 

99.

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

Minutes:

There were no declarations of the party whip.

 

100.

Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 35

Minutes:

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

101.

Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Economic Recovery Strategy pdf icon PDF 254 KB

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

 

The Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Mandip Rai, and the Chair of the LLEP Board, Mr Kevin Harris, will present this item. The Leader of the Council has also been invited to attend.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered a report and presentation by the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership’s (LLEP) Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mandip Rai, and Chair of the LLEP Board, Mr Kevin Harris, on its Economic Recovery Strategy.  A copy of the report and presentation slides marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ are filed with these minutes.

 

The Chairman welcomed Mr Raia and Mr Harris to the meeting as well as Mr N J Rushton CC, Leader of the County Council and the Council’s representative on the LLEP Board.

 

In introducing the item the Assistant Chief Executive advised that the recent focus of the LLEP had been on responding to the economic impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic.  The County Council had fully participated in that response through the Leader and through officer involvement on the Local Resilience Partnership’s Economic Recovery Cell which was chaired by the LLEP. 

 

Arising from the presentation, Members noted the following:

 

·         The Economic Recovery Strategy was a live document and would be updated as the situation changed and further data became available locally and nationally.  The duration of the pandemic was unknown, and a second peak and further local downs would affect businesses further and the response therefore required.

·         The Chancellor had predicted a 35% contraction in the national economy resulting in 1 in 10 jobs being lost.  Aggregated across Leicester and Leicestershire this could equate to as many as 45,000 to 50,000 job losses.

·         Government support would delay the true extent of the economic impact of Covid 19.  A clearer picture would emerge towards the end of the year and after the furlough scheme had come to an end.   Since March there had been an increase of 18,000 people claiming job seekers allowance and this would likely increase. 

·         The LLEPs role would be to act as a facilitator and coordinate efforts across the region to help small businesses.  Leicestershire was a predominantly SME (small and medium sized enterprises) economy and such businesses had been particularly hard hit.

·         The fundamental approach of the LLEP for Leicester and Leicestershire had not changed.  However, some of the fundamental drivers and infrastructure within the local economy needed to be reinforced and focus diverted to protect the regions current skill base and employment.

 

Arising from discussion and questions, the following points raised:

 

(i)          The pandemic had badly affected the health of those of the older generation, but the longer-term economic impacts would disproportionately affect those in the 18 to 24 year age group.  Members were concerned to note the significant increase in youth unemployment during the pandemic and agreed that the creation of new local employment and training and retraining opportunities would be critical.

(ii)         Members acknowledged that the LLEP could not provide or direct the training provided locally, but were pleased to note the work of the Skills Advisory Panel in producing an evidence bases of local business skill and training requirements which had been shared with FE colleges and universities to help inform future education provision and ensure the two were aligned.   As youth unemployment would be a national issue, the Government would likely introduce wider training schemes that the LLEP would also signpost people too where appropriate.

(iii)       Concern was express that the LLEP’s Plan did not include reference to manufacturing and construction businesses.  Members noted that construction and increased advanced manufacturing remained central to the LLEP’s long term goals as set out in the Local Industrial Strategy.  However, improving productivity in this area would take longer as focus now needed to be diverted to supporting SMEs, protecting employment and creating new jobs.  A key area of support provided by the LLEP  ...  view the full minutes text for item 101.

102.

2019/20 Provisional Revenue and Capital Outturn pdf icon PDF 381 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided information on the provisional revenue and capital outturn for 2019/20.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’, is filed with these minutes.

 

Arising from discussion, the following points were made:

 

(i)              Pressures in areas such as SEND, Children’s Social Care and Adult Social Care, which existed pre Covid 19, continued to be an issue despite actions taken.  The position was also being further exacerbated by the current pandemic.  The Council would continue to lobby Government which had so far not responded to correspondence from the Lead Member for Resources on the issue of SEND funding.

(ii)             A member raised concern at the 18% increase in Adult Social Care legal costs, which it was noted had been driven by the type and number of cases that had recently gone to court.

(iii)           Whilst a member expressed disappointment at the increased costs regarding the use of the energy from waste plant, it was noted that there had been a larger reduction in landfill costs which had underspent by £556,000.  The Coventry facility in which the Council had shares, had been used more and this had reduced costs in that area.

(iv)           A review of the Council’s commercial services would be undertaken as part of the Council’s recovery work, especially as it considered longer term impacts.  The Council had already experienced significant losses in income (£500,000 alone, in the last two weeks at last financial year as the pandemic hit) and the future was uncertain in areas such as the provision of school meals which depended on plans for the re-opening of schools in September.  Members noted that further reports would be brought to scrutiny on the outcome of this review as appropriate.

(v)            It was unclear what longer term adult social care reablement needs might be required as a result of Covid 19 and this would be looked at as part of the Council’s recovery plans.  The use of its new target operating model to monitor this going forward would be considered as part of that process.

(vi)           Whilst elements of the Lutterworth East SDA project had been put on hold, the Council would proceed with its planning application, integral to which was the proposed new spine road.  Members noted that the application was due to be considered by the local planning authority in July.  The unsuccessful outcome of the Council’s HIF bid had been disappointing, and members agreed that consideration would need to be given to future delivery and finance options.  Members further noted that the Council’s consultants had advised that the procurement of a joint venture partner should be delayed as the current pandemic would negatively affect this process.

(vii)         The Corporate Asset Investment Fund portfolio was performing well and generating a good capital return in respect of its industrial and office assets (6.4% and 7.8% respectively), but this was weighted against other rural and development assets which generated, as expected, a much lower rate of income and so reduced the overall capital return of the portfolio to 2.7%.

(viii)        Members were pleased to note that the Council had not been notified of any change to government funding for the A511 Major Road Network scheme which was an advanced project.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the provisional Revenue and Capital Outturn for 2019/20 be noted.

 

103.

Coronavirus (Covid 19) Impact and Response of the County Council - Recovery pdf icon PDF 208 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a joint report of the Chief Executive and Director of Corporate Resources concerning the work being undertaken within the County Council and with partners:

a)    to address the on-going impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) within the County;

b)    to plan the recovery and reinstatement of services linked to the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions by the Government;

c)     the latest statistics which show the economic impact of the pandemic particularly on levels of unemployment;

d)    to outline the financial impact of the pandemic in the current financial year and the medium-term impact on the Council’s finances 

A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’, is filed with these minutes.

 

In introducing the report officers advised as follows:

 

·       There continued to be significant senior officer involvement in the crisis management arrangements set up both by the LRF (Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Local Resilience Forum) and the Council to respond to the Covid 19 pandemic.  The focus of activity remained on both response and recovery but with the latter becoming increasingly important. 

·       The cross member Working Party had now met and agreed the principles that would guide the recovery.  Work had commenced on interim recovery plans and the outcome of these would be reported to the Working Party in July.

·       The latest position regarding the impact of Covid 19 on the Council’s finances suggested pressures up to £55.8million as shown in the table at paragraph 25 of the report.  However, more recent assessments had increased this to £64m due to expected reductions in the Council’s income from council tax and business rates and extra costs of home to school transport.  The County Council was not in the position of some authorities who were considering issuing S114 notices, but the impact on the Council was nonetheless severe and it would require the use of reserves and drastically reducing the capital programme.

In response to questions members were advised as follows:

 

(i)              It was recognised that the recovery process would not be straight forward and that the recovery phase would be running alongside the Council’s response to the pandemic.  Furthermore, there was still much uncertainty about what the new normal might be which made planning difficult and so would require several iterations of recovery plans.

(ii)            Officers were aware that in promoting Digital Value there would be significant advantages and possible cost savings particularly in the way staff work.  It was recognised that the Council would need to have regard to those service users who may have difficulties with the use of digital options.  As plans for reintroducing services were prepared the specific needs of such groups would be considered.

(iii)           The Council needed to strike a balance between its interim recovery plan and the longer-term objectives for the Council and County.  To that end it would need to ensure that the policies put in place did not deter or stifle economic activity and investment, but also ensured that where developments were planned this was accompanied by appropriate infrastructure to serve the communities affected.

(iv)           The Working Party on recovery was not a decision making body and as such, where decisions required member approval this would be done in the usual way of consulting scrutiny and seeking a final decision from the Cabinet.  Members wishing to make comment on the recovery process should contact their Group representatives on the Working Party.

(v)            The planned recovery timetable was to focus on interim recovery – i.e. to the end of the year.  Departments had started to plan on this basis and it was hoped that the outcome of this would be reported  ...  view the full minutes text for item 103.

104.

Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 764 KB

A copy of the draft Annual Report is attached for consideration by the Commission. Subject to approval, the Annual Report will be submitted to the full County Council for consideration at its meeting on Wednesday, 8 July 2020.

 

Minutes:

The Commission considered the draft Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report which summarised some of the key highlights of scrutiny work during 2019/20.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda item 11’ is filed with these minutes.

 

Members were supportive of the report and requested that this be circulated more widely following its consideration by the County Council in July.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the draft Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report 2019/20 be approved for submission to the County Council on 8 July 2020.

105.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 2nd September 2020.

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would be held on 2nd September 2020 at 10.30 am.