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 17 November 2021 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.
The following question, received under Standing Order 34 of the County Council’s Constitution, was put to the Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission.
Question asked by Mrs Sharon Scott
“Please can the Chairman explain why the ‘Warehousing and Logistics in Leicester and Leicestershire: Managing growth and change (April 2021)’ report is considered to be an appropriate basis by which to measure the future needs of warehousing in Leicester and Leicestershire.
It was commissioned from GL Hearn with major input from developers who have a vested interest in developing the warehouses and have little consideration of the welfare of the residents of Leicestershire or environmental needs.
The projections in the report are based on Leicestershire continuing to act as a national rather than a regional distributor which does not sit well with Government policy of locating freight hubs close to the market they are intended to serve.
Would the Chairman agree therefore that Council tax payers would have been better served by a report prepared by an independent management consultant such as Deloitte or PWC who would have been more likely to have considered Government policy, Climate change and local welfare and needs?”
Reply by the Chairman
The study entitled ‘Warehousing and Logistics in Leicester and Leicestershire: Managing growth and change’ (April 2021) forms an important part of the evidence base for Leicester and Leicestershire authorities’ Local Plans, highlighting the current and future needs of the sector, with particular emphasis on future floorspace and land needs to 2041.
The Study provides an updated understanding of decarbonisation, ecommerce, property market and needs generated by the warehousing and logistics sector, and is essential evidence to inform Local Plan making and the development management process.
It has been undertaken by consultants working to a brief specified by planning officers across Leicester and Leicestershire with experience of strategic warehousing planning issues in their respective areas.
The needs of local communities are central to Local Plans which look ahead fifteen years to plan for sustainable growth in a balanced way. It is through the Local Plan making process that the balance is considered between the need to provide land for growth and the protection of environmental assets.
Developer input was an important aspect of the study as it helps the local authorities to understand the latest market thinking, how the market has changed since the last study and how it is anticipated to change moving forward. This information provides a greater depth of understanding for planners and others which can be utilised alongside other Local Plan evidence (such as local employment studies, landscape sensitivity studies, Sustainability Appraisal etc.) in considering future Local Plan policies and in decision making through the development management process.
Strategic warehousing in Leicestershire fulfils the role of National and Regional Distribution Centres (NRCs and RDCs), and it is understood that this will continue to be the case in the future although with an increased emphasis on RDCs.
Recommendations from the study are already being used to the benefit of communities in Leicestershire; for example, supply data is being collated and shared more frequently so an understanding of strategic warehousing planning applications, refusals and planning permissions granted across Leicester and Leicestershire can be understood more quickly and inform the consideration of future proposals.
The study was commissioned through a robust procurement process which provided the opportunity for all interested consultants to tender for the work. GL Hearn were appointed through this process.
Questions asked by members under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).
The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).
There were no urgent items for consideration.
Declarations of interest.
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 and/or parish councils declared an ‘Other Registerable interest’ in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (minutes X to X refer). These items did not directly relate to or affect the financial or other wellbeing of either such bodies to an extent that prevented any members from participating in the meeting.
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.
Mr N. J. Rushton CC, the Leader of the Council, and Mr L. Breckon CC, Lead Member for Resources, have been invited to attend for this and other Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) items together with other Lead Members as appropriate.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided information on the proposed 2022/23 – 2025/26 Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) as it related to Corporate and Central items, provided an update on changes to funding and other issues arising since the publication of the draft MTFS, and provided details of a number of strategies and policies related to the MTFS. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed the Leader of the Council, Mr N. J. Rushton CC, and the Cabinet Lead Member for Resources, Mr L. Breckon CC, to the meeting for this item.
The Director of Corporate Resources in introducing the budget highlighted the following:
The Leader welcomed the increased funding allocated by the Government (i.e. Improved Better Care Fund, Social Care Grant and Services Grant) which had improved the Council’s position for the coming year. He highlighted that ordinarily a balanced budget for the first two years of the MTFS could be presented. However, this had not been possible this year. Whilst assurance was provided that the gap could be bridged, the Leader agreed this would require some difficult decisions to be made, highlighting that the Council had already delivered significant savings over a number of years. The Council had been prudent and maximised its opportunities to raise revenue funding by increasing council tax and whilst difficult, it was recognised that this was necessary to help manage the cost pressures faced. The Leader assured members that the Council would continue to pursue fair funding.
Arising from discussion, the following points were made:
MTFS Summary and changes to the Revenue Budget
A member commented on
the degree of risk in the new MTFS which had been demonstrated through the
discussions at each overview and scrutiny committee. The Director assured members that detailed
analysis of the key risks faced had been undertaken and this would be detailed
in the report to the Cabinet along with details of the contingencies being put
in place to address these. The Leader
commented that it was clear in preparing this budget that the Council faced
greater risks over the coming four years than it had faced over the last 10,
but said he was hopeful that some, for example, around business rates reform,
fair funding and the County Deal, could ultimately benefit the Council for the
(ii) Concern was raised about the lateness of the receipt of the Local Government Finance Settlement which it was agreed was unhelpful and made it difficult for local authorities to properly budget. The allocation of funding for only one year added to this difficulty. As ... view the full minutes text for item 61.
The Commission considered a joint report of the Chief Executive and Director of Corporate Resources which provided information on the proposed 2022/23 – 2025/26 Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) as it related to the Chief Executive’s Department. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed Mr N. J. Rushton CC, the Leader of the Council, Mrs D. Taylor CC, the Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Regulatory Services, and Mrs P. Posnett CC the Lead Member for Communities, to the meeting for this item.
Arising from discussion and questions the following points were raised:
(i) Growth Service – The role of the Service had developed over time and it now delivered across five key areas of activity. The Growth Unit itself engaged with growth locations across the County and supported work on issues such as the Freeport and the main sustainable urban extensions across the County. It had a strategic planning role that linked with the Strategic Growth Plan and the work of the City and County Member Advisory Group, and it contributed to work on district local plans, coordinating the County Council’s work on infrastructure provision and the relationship between the two. It also managed the Superfast Leicestershire Broadband Programme, included the economic growth team that liaised with the LLEP and other organisations around economic funding, and also now co-ordinated the Council’s activity to deliver its climate change and net zero carbon aspirations.
Legal Case Management and New Ways of Working –
An operational review was being undertaken of the Council’s external legal
spend which related to the need to seek Counsel’s advice from time to time and
when legal work had to be externalised due to a lack of internal resource or
expertise. It was accepted that this was
more costly than delivering the service in house and work was therefore being
undertaken to determine how this could be avoided for the future. It was noted that this was separate to the
wider Ways of Working Programme being rolled out across the Authority.
(iii) Local Government Association (LGA) Subscription – In response to a question on whether the Council resigning its membership of the LGA had negatively affected its influence of ministers and work with other authorities, the Leader advised that there had been no impact and that he still had good relationships with, and was still involved in discussions on key issues with both. The decision to withdraw its membership was, in his view, sound given the outcome and the financial pressures faced by the Council.
Levelling Up White Paper – In response to a
question the Leader said that this was still awaited and whilst it was hoped
that County Deals would be included within the White Paper, this was not yet
Coroners and Registrars – It was questioned
whether it was possible for the Council to recharge for such services given the
increase in demand. Members noted that
the coroner’s service was a statutory service and so could not be
recharged. The Council was, however,
looking to merge the two coronial areas (South Leicestershire and Leicester
(currently managed by Leicester City Council) and North Leicestershire and
Rutland (managed by the County Council) following the retirement of the Coroner
for the latter. Registrar services were
charged for and where possible a 10% increase in fees would be introduced in
(vi) Shire Community Solutions Grants – Members noted that these grants were very popular and often oversubscribed. Applications were assessed closely and unfortunately due to funding limitations, not ... view the full minutes text for item 62.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided information on the proposed 2022/23 – 2025/26 Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) as it related to the Corporate Resources Department. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’ is filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed the Lead Member for Resources, Mr L.
Breckon CC, to the meeting for this item.
Arising from discussion and questions the following points were raised:
(i) Customer Service Centre (CSC) – Members noted that the budget for the CSC was not being reduced. However, some temporary growth previously added to address the introduction of hidden
disabilities to the blue badge scheme and other similar pressures was now
gradually being removed. The Director
reported that a significant programme of work was being undertaken to make the
Council’s digital access channels more efficient. Residents accessing services digitally had
increased significantly in some areas from 50% to 96%. Flexible staffing arrangements were being
implemented to target peak times and automation projects were being increased
A member asked if the Council had considered the
use of an App to make it easier for residents wanting to access the Council
digitally. The Director advised that
these were considered but evidence suggested that due to the nature of
engagement with residents by the Service, which was often transactional at a
point of need, the development of self accounts was considered the best way
forward. Members noted that whilst many
wished to access the Council via their phones, this was more on an as need basis
which meant an App was not particularly suitable. The situation would, however, continue to be
reviewed each year.
Investment in Tree Nurseries – The Director
explained that in line with the Council’s commitment to plant 700,000 trees, it
was beginning to explore the potential to run its own tree nursery either on
its own land or perhaps in conjunction with the National Forest. There was potential to turn this into a
commercial venture as there was a national shortage of native saplings. It would also help the Council’s biodiversity
and address issues with Ash Die Back.
Members noted that the £100,000 allocation in the MTFS was a notional
figure at this stage whilst the business case was being developed.
the report and information now provided be noted;
(b) That the comments now made be submitted to the Cabinet at its meeting on 11th February for consideration.
The purpose of this item is to enable consideration of the responses of the following Overview and Scrutiny Committees to their respective areas of the Medium Term Financial Strategy:
· Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (meeting held on 19 January)
· Highway and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee (meeting held on 20 January)
· Adults and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee (meeting held on 24 January)
· Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee (meeting held on 25 January)
· Environment and Climate Change Overview and Scrutiny Committee (meeting held on 26 January)
The Commission considered extracts from the minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meetings held to consider the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2022/23 – 2025/26 as related to the County Council departments. A copy of the minute extracts is filed with these minutes.
That the comments now made be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration at its meeting on 11th February 2022.
Date of next meeting.
The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled to take place on 9 March 2022 at 10.00am.
It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would be held on 9th March 2022 at 10.00am.