Venue: Sparkenhoe Committee Room, County Hall, Glenfield
Contact: Mrs J Twomey (Tel: 0116 305 2583) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The minutes of the meeting held on 8 September 2021 were
taken as read, confirmed and signed.
The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been
received under Standing Order 34.
The Chief Executive reported that the following question had been received under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5) from Mr Max Hunt CC:
“Could the Chairman provide me with a list of all non-transport related bids by the County Council (or shared by the County), annually over the last 5 years, of over £1million, indicating:
(a) The funding pot;
(b) Maximum bid;
(c) LCC bid;
(d) Date submitted (approx);
(f) Date determined;
(g) If successful or not.”
Reply by the Chairman
The table below details those non-highway related schemes for which funding bids have been made by the County Council (or in partnership) over the last 5 years, detailing the information requested in (a) to (g) above.
As can be seen from the table above, the County Council is a partner in a number of funding programmes. It is not always the accountable body for these projects and is not therefore in receipt of the whole funding allocated when bids are successful.
There were no urgent items for consideration.
Declarations of interest in respect of items on the agenda.
The Chairman invited members who wished to do so to declare any interest in respect of items on the agenda for the meeting. The following declarations were made.
All Members of the Commission who were also members of a district and/or parish/town council declared a personal interest in all items on the agenda so far as this was relevant.
Whilst not under this item, during the meeting Mrs H. Fryer CC declared a personal interest in agenda item 9 (Draft Communities Strategy) as a member of the Rural Community Council.
Declarations of the Party Whip in accordance with Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 16.
There were no declarations of the party whip.
Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 35.
The Chief Executive reported that no petitions had been received under Standing Order 35.
Mrs P. Posnett CC, Lead Member for Community and Staff Relations, has been invited to attend for this item.
The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which presented the draft Strategic Plan for 2022 to 2026 for comment. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed the Lead Member for Communities, Mrs P Posnett CC, to the meeting for this item.
In presenting the report, the Assistant Chief Executive confirmed the following:
· The Plan set out the Council’s ambitions and priorities for the next four years and outlined what the Authority would seek to achieve and how it intended to do that.
· The current Plan would expire next year, and this had therefore been refreshed to take account of recent developments including the current pandemic and exit from the EU.
· Once approved, the Plan would set the strategic aims of the County Council and so would underpin all future Council plans and strategies. Many actions were already captured through existing plans and strategies, but these would be developed in line with the new Plan.
· Scrutiny Committees would continue to receive performance updates against the Strategic Plan in line with current practice.
The Lead Member commented that the aims as set out in the Plan were aspirational and therefore high level and broad. Actions would be added and developed to support this. The consultation would provide a wealth of information from the public and partners to help shape those action and the way forward.
The Commission supported considered extracts from the minutes of the other Overview and Scrutiny Committees which had also looked at the Plan so far as it was relevant to each County Council department. A copy of these extracts is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion the following points were made:
Members commented that the Plan included several
aspirations that were outside the Council’s control. It was questioned
whether the Plan should just focus on its own functions and specific areas of
responsibility. Given the far-reaching nature of the Plan a member
queried the Council’s control over the deliverability of some aspects. By
way of example, a member challenged the inclusion of the aim to increase the
number of neighbourhood plans on the basis that this was not a County Council
function (this being a function of (and therefore funded by) district
councils). Recognising that the Council often had a broader role as a
partner and as an enabler and facilitator, it was suggested that the Plan
should more clearly differentiate between those aspirations for which Council
would have lead responsibility, and those where it would have a
contributing/partnership role; specifying in the commitments section, which
partners it would work with.
A member challenged the lack of reference in the
Plan to district councils. Whist parish and town councils were
specifically referred to, it was highlighted that 25% of the population of the
County did not live in a parished area. Members agreed that district
councils had a stronger role to play in those areas, alongside other third
sector organisations, and so should also be referenced.
A member commented that the Plan included some
aspirations which were unattainable and therefore unrealistic, and some which
were competitive or opposing. It was suggested that the document could be
proofed to challenge the realism of some aspirations and to address where
conflicts arose and how these might be addressed. It was noted that
competing aims was reflective of the complex nature of the Council’s role and
the breadth of services it provided. Members acknowledged that having a
Plan in place provided a framework to address those conflicts
(iv) A Member challenged that whilst the ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
Mrs P. Posnett CC, Lead Member for Community and Staff Relations, has been invited to attend for this item.
The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which presented the draft Communities Strategy: Leicestershire County Council Collaborating with our Communities – Our Communities Approach for 2022 – 2026 for comment. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’, is filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed Mrs Posnett, the Lead Member for Communities, to the meeting for this item.
In presenting the report the Assistant Chief Executive confirmed the following:
· The refreshed Strategy set out the Council’s planned approach to collaborating with communities. It built on the existing strategy that had been effective in guiding the Councils work in recent years to support, strengthen and empower communities, in particular shaping the Council’s approach through the ongoing pandemic.
· The new Strategy had been aligned with the Strategic Plan, covering the same period, and set out an approach that would aid delivery of that Plan.
· The proposed approach was intended to support communities to achieve their goals through coproduction and collaboration and to help communities build back after the pandemic. The Strategy had also therefore been aligned with the Council’s planned Covid recovery work.
· The Strategy reflected lessons learnt over the last 18 months and took account of feedback from communities, partners and members during that time.
Arising from discussion, the following points were made:
Overall members welcomed the Strategy and
supported its proposed approach. Members felt the length of the Strategy
was appropriate and found it easy to follow.
Members agreed that the pandemic had taught the
Council and residents a lot about how the Council connected with communities,
and what support it offered. It also showed how communities themselves
could come together without instruction to address issues locally.
Communities had worked very hard during the pandemic and it was important to
recognise this and ensure the Council continued to support that activity as
much as possible.
A member commented on the importance of the
priority ‘prevention. As pressure on the Council’s resources continued,
preventing and reducing demand would be critical.
A member raised concern that much of what was
set out in the Strategy was similar to the Government’s ‘Big Society’ approach
which did not deliver on the grounds it was impractical. It was
emphasised that the principal behind Big Society was to look at what communities
could do for themselves. However, the Strategy focused on and made clear
what the County Council’s role would be in supporting and engaging with
communities to respond to local needs.
It was recognised that communities were now
being asked to do things that previously the Council would have
managed/provided, but reduced resources meant this was no longer
possible. A member commented that whist frustrating for many, until the
Council’s fair funding campaign was recognised and taken forward by the Government,
the situation would not improve.
(vi) A member expressed strong criticism of the Strategy and the Strategic Plan on the basis that, in their view, unparished areas and the issues affecting them were not being adequately represented. It was argued that much information on which the Council acted was skewed in favour of parished areas despite the fact that 38% of Leicestershire residents (noting that this percentage differed from that suggested by another member under consideration of the Strategic Plan), did not live in a parished area. By way of example, the member highlighted a recent County wide bus survey undertaken by the Council, the responses to which had been dominated by parish councils which the member argued distorted the issues drawn out from that consultation in favour of those affecting parished areas. Matters affecting ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
Mrs D. Taylor CC, Lead Member for Children and Family Services and Community Safety, has been invited to attend for this item.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services, which advised of new duties placed on the County Council by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which recently came into force and to seek its views on the draft new Leicestershire Domestic Abuse Reduction Strategy 2022-2025, as required by this new piece of legislation. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’, is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following matters arose:
Members welcomed the new funding which had been
allocated to the County and district council’s and supported the proposed
approach as set out in the draft Strategy. Members commented that the
additional funding would enable greater support to be provided to victims of
domestic abuse at what was a very critical time, given the impacts of the
Covid-19 pandemic and the national and local lockdowns. Members noted
that once the Strategy had been agreed, an action plan would be developed with
partners and overseen by the required new Domestic Abuse Partnership
Board. A Member highlighted that current partnership arrangements in this
area were already well established and worked very well and building on those
existing arrangements would be the right approach.
Members noted that the new funding would be used
to provide services such as advocacy support, and specialist support for
victims with protected characteristics or complex needs once they were in safe
accommodation. Consideration would be given to how best to add capacity
and build on existing services mainly through greater support for the voluntary
sector which provided almost all services to victims of domestic abuse.
There would also be some services that would be entirely new, and these would
be developed to reflect the needs of underrepresented groups such as males, and
LGBT and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller victims.
A member emphasised that uncertainty around the
level of demand for services, given the impact of the pandemic, and ensuring
this could be adequately met would be a key issue. The Director advised that the new funding
would certainly help over the next year, perhaps couple of years, to respond to
the expected increased demand, but said that sustainability would be a
risk. This would be managed through commissioning plans for new and
revised services so far as possible, but Members acknowledged that there would
inevitably be some reliance on further Government funding coming forward.
Members noted that the new responsibilities
placed on the County Council did not require it to provide accommodation and
that the funding allocated could not be used to purchase or rent properties for
victims of domestic abuse. The Director reported that district councils
would receive funding of approximately £33,000 and each proposed to use this to
appoint new domestic abuse housing officers that would act as a conduit between
private housing providers, district councils, the County Council and
victims. A Member highlighted that this would be especially important for
those district councils that did not have their own council housing supply.
Members were pleased to hear that victims were
now given priority status when they presented as being homeless to a district
council. However, it was acknowledged that, despite this and the planned
appointment of new domestic abuse housing officers, the provision of suitable
accommodation for victims would continue to be a very difficult issue to
resolve. The Needs Assessment had
confirmed there was a general lack of accommodation for victims of domestic
abuse in the area and this was a problem being seen nationally.
(vi) Enabling victims to stay in their own homes would be a priority where this was ... view the full minutes text for item 49.
The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which presented the draft Annual Delivery Report and Performance Compendium for 2021 and which set out some of the impact, significant work and reorientation required to support the Council’s major response to the coronavirus pandemic and planning for recovery, which remained ongoing. A copy for the report marked ‘Agenda Item 11’ is field with these minutes.
Arising from discussion and questions asked, the following points were made:
member highlighted the stark contrast in funding received by local authorities
and that those located in London/to the South west were generally far better
funded than some other areas particularly in the midlands and to the
north. It was recognised that the calculation of local government funding
had become increasingly complex over the years and it was suggested that a
simplified explanation of this would be useful. The Chief Executive
confirmed that the Director of Corporate Resources would be able to provide
such an explanation.
member commented that the Council had performed well despite its low funded
position and had done so year on year for some time. It was suggested
that this painted a picture that did not perhaps support the Council’s Fair
Funding campaign. The Chief Executive emphasised that looking at just the
currently available performance data in isolation did not provide the whole
picture and highlighted that the report included details of the pressures,
risks and demands faced by the Council going forward. The Council had
done well despite its low funded position, but it was recognised that this was
very unlikely to continue with the demand and funding pressures now emerging
and the level of cuts still required.
suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic had potentially been a tipping point for
Leicestershire and it was clear that the County Council could not continue to
meet all the demands put on it by Government, other stakeholders and service
users, as well as make the savings required to achieve a balanced budget.
Members recognised that the Council was becoming increasingly stretched and
this would inevitably start to impact service delivery. Members
acknowledged that the County Council had established strong financial
foundations over a number of years and had so far been able to respond to
pressures, but that it could not continue to meet all the new future demands
identified around adult social care and the environment agenda, for example, on
the funding currently allocated.
Member emphasised that recent reports had suggested that the County Council
would be unlikely to benefit from the levelling up agenda despite being one of
the lowest funded county councils in the country. The identified and
growing funding gap in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy would
likely therefore have to be addressed locally which would inevitably affect
both service delivery and council tax rates, unless the Fair Funding campaign
members expressed frustration at the length of the main report, particularly as
this was a public facing document, and suggested that it risked obscuring those
key issues both members and the public should concentrate on. It was
noted that the Council was obliged to report and include certain performance
information to meet its regulatory requirements and that this had increased
this year due to new Covid guidance being introduced. However, the Chief
Executive recognised that the scale of the information provided was significant
and undertook to consider how best to present this in future.
(vi) The Commission was concerned about the extent to which the report covered wider national issues and pressures rather than focusing ... view the full minutes text for item 50.
A copy of a report to be considered by the Cabinet at its meeting on 19th November 2021 is attached for consideration by the Commission. The Lead Member for Resources, Mr L. Breckon CC, has been invited to attend for this item.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which would be presented to the Cabinet at its meeting on 19th November 2021 regarding proposed investment by the Council’s Corporate Asset Investment Fund (CAIF) into Partners Group multi asset credit 6 (MAC 6) private debt, and JP Morgan Infrastructure Investment Fund (IIF). A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 12’, is filed with these minutes.
During discussion, the following matters were raised:
It was highlighted that the proposed investment
in the IIF managed by JP Morgan would be a step away from the traditional types
of investment made by the Council through the CAIF (i.e. the purchase of land
and property). It was noted that the IIF was generally focused on
companies that provided essential services, such as energy, water and
transportation, such companies being primarily located in the US.
(ii) A member highlighted that this would essentially be an investment in non-tangible funds similar to those made by the Leicestershire Pension Fund and questioned whether assurance had been sought to ensure such investments would align with the Council’s environment and social policies. The Director confirmed that a key part of the Council’s own due diligence (separate from that of the Leicestershire Pension Fund) included consideration of whether JP Morgan would be a responsible investor both from a human and environmental perspective, particularly given that it would manage these investments over a long period of 20-30 years.
Members welcomed the fact that the IIF had just
turned carbon neutral and noted that this had been a key factor when
considering the merits of the potential investment. Members noted that a
quarter of the IFF portfolio was invested in renewable energy and included
companies which were proactively implementing climate change adaptation,
harnessing new opportunities in clean energy and
involved in wind, solar and natural gas generation projects.
The proposed investments were considered
sensible, providing the necessary diversification recommended by the Hymans
Review and a reasonable return. A Member suggested, however, that the
biggest risk would be the exchange risk as the investments would be reliant on
the strength and value of the US dollar (for the JP Morgan IIF) and the Euro
and sterling (for the Partners MAC 6 private debt investment). It was
questioned whether there would be any forward hedging to protect against
this. It was suggested that the purchase of low cost forward options
should perhaps be considered.
That the comments now made be reported to the Cabinet at its meeting on 19thNovember 2021.
Mr L. Breckon CC, Lead Member for Resources, has been invited to attend for this item.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources the purpose of which provided an update on the 2021/22 revenue budget and capital programme monitoring position as at the end of period 6 (the end of September). A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 13’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following points were made:
Concerns were raised regarding
the forecasted increase in overspend for SEND from £5.7m to £10.5m despite
steps having been taken to build capacity in the system. It was
recognised that this was a national issue with no easy answer as demand
continued to increase year on year. The Director reported that the national
deficit for all county and unitary authorities around SEND was approximately
£700m. The Director advised that it was not yet clear what funding would come
out of the Department for Education (DfE) to help tackle the problem, but it
was thought it would likely extend its ‘safety net’ programme. Through
this the DfE had worked with those authorities with the largest deficit, paying
some of this off but also setting requirements for that authority to reduce
costs going forward which the Director said would be welcomed.
Members were pleased to note
that the government’s spending review had been better than expected, and the
Council had received a small increase in funding. However, it was
recognised that there were huge demands on the Authority, with SEND being one
of the largest, and there would therefore continue to be significant pressures
It was not yet clear whether
the Council would benefit from the Government’s levelling up agenda.
Whilst low funded, Leicestershire did not have a low tax base which seemed to
be the key consideration for identifying those areas that would benefit.
The SEND capital programme had
been a success and it was questioned whether there might be revenue benefits to
be had in accelerating the programme. The Director advised that the
programme had been funded from the Council’s own resources (not DfE funding)
and given other pressures already on the capital programme generally, there was
no capacity to push this forward at this time. Members recognised that
even with additional resources to build more capacity, the continued rise in
demand meant reducing this would also have to be addressed.
Acknowledging the need to
address demand, a member questioned whether the Council had the right expertise
to defend decisions when these were challenged. It was noted that the
reforms introduced in 2014 rightly put children at the heart of decisions
around SEND support needs, but as a result, decisions challenged at a Tribunal were
largely overturned and this in turn risked having a further negative cost
impact on the Council’s resources.
In response to a question,
members noted that the concessionary travel underspend resulted from a reduced
number of journeys being taken and if these stayed low then the underspend
would persist. However, the Director highlighted that these savings were
being counter balanced resulting pressures on bus services which the Council
(vii) Members noted that the decision regarding HS2 had not yet been confirmed. The Director advised that money allocated to make the most of HS2 for the benefit of Leicestershire may still be used, but this depended on whether HS2 would go ahead and if not, what might replace it.
That the update on the 2021/22 revenue budget and capital programme monitoring position as at the end of period 6 (end of September) be noted.
Dates of future meetings.
Future meetings of the Scrutiny Commission are scheduled to take place on the following dates:
Monday, 31st January 2021
Wednesday, 9th March 2021
Wednesday, 6th April 2021
Wednesday, 8th June 2021
Wednesday 7th September 2021
Wednesday, 9th November 2021
That meetings in 2022 be held on the following dates starting at 10.00am: