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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Rooms A and B, Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood

Contact: Ms Rehill, Democratic Services 

Items
No. Item

445.

Membership

Substitutes are not permitted to this Committee, unless a Member of the Committee has been unable to attend meetings for a period of three months or longer.

Minutes:

There were no changes.

446.

Communications and apologies

(a) Communications (if any) relating to business on the agenda.

 

(b) Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence received from Councillors Dobin and Wayne.

447.

Declarations of interests (if any)

Members are required to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests they or their spouse/partner have in any matter which is to be considered at this meeting.  Members must also declare any other pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests they have in any matter to be considered at this meeting. The responsibility for declaring an interest rests solely with the member concerned.

 

Members must clearly state to the meeting the existence and nature of any Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, other pecuniary interest or non‑pecuniary interest and the agenda item(s) to which it/they apply.

 

Disclosable Pecuniary Interests are prescribed by the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012 as follows:

 

a.     Employment, office, trade, profession or vocation

Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.

 

b.     Sponsorship

Any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other than from the relevant authority) made or provided within the relevant period in respect of any expenses incurred by a member in carrying out duties as a member, or towards your election expenses. This includes any payment or financial benefit from a trade union within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

 

c.     Contracts

Any contract which is made between the relevant person (or a body in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest) and the relevant authority— (a) under which goods or services are to be provided or works are to be executed; and (b) which has not been fully discharged.

 

d.     Land

Any beneficial interest in land which is within the area of the relevant authority.

 

e.     Licences

Any licence (alone or jointly with others) to occupy land in the area of the relevant authority for a month or longer.

 

f.      Corporate tenancies

Any tenancy where (to the member’s knowledge) - (a) the landlord is the relevant authority; and (b) the tenant is a body in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest.

 

g.     Securities

Any beneficial interest in securities of a body where –

(a)    that body (to the member’s knowledge) has a place of business or land in the area of the relevant authority; and

(b) either (i) the total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body; or
(ii) if the share capital of that body is of more than one class, the total nominal value of the shares of any one class in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest exceeds one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that class.

 

In cases of Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, Members must withdraw from the meeting room while the matter is being considered.

Minutes:

There were none.

448.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 577 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 7 November 2013.

 

In accordance with the Constitution no discussion shall take place upon the minutes, except upon their accuracy.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the last meeting held on 7 November 2013 be approved and signed as a correct record.

449.

Planning Application Validation process pdf icon PDF 57 KB

The Committee previously requested the ATTACHED report on the validation process, including information on time taken to register, how and when applicants were notified, reasons for delays etc.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Development Team Manager was in attendance for this item.

 

The report was presented and a number of points discussed, including:

-        larger/complex applications took longer to validate.

-        the performance drops shown in report paragraph 3.1 coincided with the increase in applications, which was a cause for concern given that the numbers continued to increase (in particular, a 53% rise in pre-applications compared to the same time last year).

-        overall performance in determining applications had not been hampered by the slow validation process because planning officers were issuing their decisions within the statutory 8 weeks. In fact compared to the 9 neighbouring districts, Hertsmere’s performance was the highest.  However this meant that planning officers worked under severe time pressures to meet the 8 week deadline whenever the shortfall created by the slow validation process was particularly severe.

-        validation performance should be on track to improve as a new staff member was in post and there would be a temporary post to deal with the forthcoming Hertswood School applications.

-        Head of Service vacancy was not causing delays to validations.

-        point 4 on the action plan related to making processes more paperless. Past experience had shown that it was better to base super-users in the service department rather than in IS Services, as they were then directly aware of the service’s needs.

 

RESOLVED that

i)                 a follow-up report be presented to the 11 February 2014 meeting so that the Committee may better understand the volumes of applications involved. The report to include a performance graph up to the month of December 2013 and a table detailing the number of pre-applications and applications that were processed per month.

ii)               discounts should not be given for cheque payments, instead agents should be advised that it was policy to receive electronic payments.

Action by: Development Team Manager

450.

Financial Monitoring (regular item) pdf icon PDF 94 KB

 To consider the ATTACHED update.

Minutes:

The Head of Finance was in attendance for this item.

 

The report was presented and a number of points were discussed, including:

-        a slight increase in the surplus was due to increased parking income.

-        the Committee requested information on the nature of the Watford Partnership Arrangement, which was generating savings.

-        the Committee asked Officers to look into why parking meters were not providing two hours of parking for £1, as per the stated tariff, and why they did not accept the new 10p coins.

-        the Committee asked Officers to check why businesses were being asked to pay for parking permits by cheque and not electronically.

 

Action by: Head of Finance and Director of Resources

 

RESOLVED that the report be noted.

451.

Microphone system

To consider a VERBAL report on a new microphone system for the Council’s meeting rooms.

Minutes:

The Head of Finance was in attendance for this item.

 

A verbal update was provided and a number of points highlighted, including:

-        current system had been purchased in 2008 for £38 000. It had an annual maintenance fee of £1700.

-        current system had problems with interference from wi-fi/mobile signals, echoing/fading and the batteries needed replacing.

-        soft testing of the market had taken place and a mini-procurement exercise would commence shortly. The preferred option was a wired-in system (that would also charge iPads) in the Chamber and portable microphones in the Committee Rooms.

-        project team was in place (Director of Environment, Democratic Services Manager, Asset Management) and councillors would be involved. The intention was to set up a Member Panel and visit other councils to look at their systems.

-        timescale for implementation was two months.

 

The Committee raised a number of issues, including:

-        when rooms were hired out to external customers the hire fee should charge extra for provision of microphones. This hire fee would offset the costs of the microphones.

-        was it possible to fine tune the current microphones’ frequency to avoid interference with the wi-fi system? For example, was it possible to run the wi-fi on the 5GHz spectrum in the areas where the microphones were used? All alternatives to purchasing a new system should be explored before any final decision was made.

Action by: Head of Finance

 

RESOLVED that the verbal update be noted and the following queries addressed:

-        was it possible to fine tune the current microphones’ frequency to avoid interference with the wi-fi system? For example, was it possible to run the wi-fi on the 5GHz spectrum in the areas where the microphones were used? All alternatives to purchasing a new system should be explored before any final decision was made.

Action by: Head of Finance

 

452.

Localisation of business rates (local pooling) - update pdf icon PDF 36 KB

To consider the ATTACHED report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Resources and the Head of Finance were in attendance for this item.

 

The key points of the report were highlighted and during the ensuing discussion a number of issues raised, including:

-        the Council needed to generate new business rates. One method would be to encourage a mix of commercial and residential development, for example, apartment blocks should be built with commercial space on the ground floor.

-        there was value in joining a pool in terms of building positive partnerships with neighbouring councils and because pooling would ensure more monies were kept within the Hertfordshire region as a whole. However, as per paragraph 3.5 of the report, the Council wanted assurance that pooling would not result with less money for Hertsmere than at present. The Council also wanted to be assured that partners had provided adequate cover for rate appeals. Hertsmere did not want to pick up the costs of other partners’ rebates, as it had cover in place for itself and would not want this undermined by inadequate provision by partners.

-        the Council need only remain in the pool for  year or it could withdraw now and join later.

-        it was unclear at this stage whether it was beneficial for Hertsmere to join the pool. Partners’ figures would need to be examined more closely in January 2014 to establish any such certainty.

-        it was certain that Hertsmere would not have negative growth despite the expected highs in residential development. This was due to Hertsmere taking an exceptionally prudent approach in setting its business rates base.

-        the decision to join the pool would be taken by the Executive Portfolioholder and Director of Resources due to the tight timescales involved.

 

RESOLVED that

i)                 an update on pooling be provided to the 27 January 2014 Joint Scrutiny meeting.

ii)               Overview and Performance Committee supported whatever the Director of Resources will recommend on whether to join the pool or not join it. Whatever the final recommendation, Officers to monitor what would have happened if the Council had followed through on the alternative recommendation, as this data would inform future deliberations on whether the Council should remain in/join a pool.

Action by: Director of Resources

453.

O&S Learning and Development

(a)         To note any forthcoming dates for overview and scrutiny learning and development opportunities; and

 

(b)         To receive feedback from Members and Officers in relation to any overview and scrutiny related learning and development events.

Minutes:

Noted that Councillor Hodgson-Jones would attend a Regeneration Briefing in March 2014.

454.

Reports from Scrutiny Committees

The Chairman of the Resources and Environment Scrutiny Committees will report on the work of their respective committees in the current municipal year to date.

Minutes:

The Head of Partnerships and Community Engagement was in attendance for this item.

 

Councillor Griffin reported that Environment had looked at community transport and were going to further scrutinise why, in disputes over neighbour’s high hedges, it was the complainant who had to pay the £400 fee.

 

Councillor Hoeksma reported that Resources had received the annual update on Police Community Support Officers and on the Ward Improvement funds.

 

The Committee discussed the need for a consistent remit and timescale across all the Infrastructure Scrutiny Reviews. The Committee confirmed the following points:

-        to balance out the sizes of the groups, Councillor Gilligan be asked to move to the Radlett group as Shenley issues could be accommodated in its remit. Councillor Clapper be asked to join the Radlett group. Councillor Swallow be asked to join the Potters Bar group.

-        the main purpose of all the groups was data gathering. They were not expected to deliver recommendations or implement recommendations. The groups should investigate existing provision, establish what the future need was likely to be and define the planning gap between existing provision and future needs. The information that was found would feed into the next version of the Corporate Plan and the Core Strategy. If the groups did generate recommendations, these could be presented in an appendix to their report.

-        to work efficiently, rather than expect witnesses to repeatedly turn up at different groups to present the same information, the groups should meet jointly to interview such witnesses. Logistically speaking, it was likely that not all Members in the groups would be able to attend such joint sessions, so it was acceptable if only one representative of each group was present at such joint sessions.

-        the regional groups should not look at individual planning matters or community centres/village halls. They should look at community provision such as doctors, dentists, medical care, social care, libraries, childcare/provision, leisure facilities.

-        the transport group should split its research into short-term opportunities and long-term (decades ahead) possibilities. The employment group should seek to establish a long-term vision for the area and not focus on individual employers or the business rates.

-        funds were available from the Scrutiny budget. Any spend must be approved by the relevant parent Committee.

-        all groups should meet in January 2014 to elect a chair, consider their remit and plan their work.

-        a special meeting of Overview and Performance Scrutiny Committee would be held on 1 May 2014 at which all groups would present their final reports.

455.

Overview and Scrutiny Budget

The current unspent balance stands at £ 8500.  Spend to date - £350. Officers will report any additional expenditure at the meeting.

 

Minutes:

Noted that the budget stood at £8500.

456.

Forward Plan of the Executive & Committee's Work Programme pdf icon PDF 43 KB

To consider the ATTACHED Forward Plan and identify possible issues for scrutiny.

To consider the Committee’s ATTACHED work programme and requirements for Officer and/or Portfolio Holder attendance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Noted the Forward Plan.

 

Add timetabling for Infrastructure Scrutiny Reviews - February meeting.

Add Infrastructure Scrutiny Reviews Interim Update - 31 March meeting.

Add Business Rates Pooling to a meeting in Autumn 2014.

 

Add an extra meeting in May 2014 to receive the final reports of the Infrastructure Scrutiny Reviews.

457.

Any other business which the Chairman considers urgent

In accordance with S100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, amended by the Access to Information Act of 1985, no urgent business may be raised unless it has been approved by the Chair.  The item and reason for urgency must be announced at the start of the meeting.

Minutes:

There was none.

458.

Dates of future meetings

Future meetings of the Committee are scheduled to take place

at 7.30pm at the Civic Offices, Borehamwood, as follows:

 

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Monday 31 March 2014

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Tuesday 29 July 2014.

Minutes:

The next meeting was scheduled for 11 February 2014. The Joint Scrutiny meeting on 27 January 2014 would start at the later time of 8pm.