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The Chair welcomed members of the public and Councillors to the meeting and explained that all participants were taking part remotely and the meeting was also being viewed online and recorded.
She outlined that due to concerns related to COVID risk, the Council had delegated much of its decision taking power to its Senior Officers for the period up to 17th January 2022. Consequently, the meeting was being held on a consultative basis only, and the normal procedural rules as detailed in the Council’s Constitution, would continue to be closely adhered to.
However, where the meeting would have normally decided a matter, it will now make recommendation to a Senior Officer. The Officer will then take that recommendation into account, when making their decision.
The Chair welcomed Cllr Jake Bonetta as the new Vice Chair of the Committee and then started the meeting by doing a roll call of those present. She confirmed that the meeting was quorate.
During the meeting the public would be able to participate if they had pre-registered to speak. No members of the public had pre-registered to speak, but one individual, Paul Smith of Cranbrook, had emailed Cllr Millar with a brief statement they requested be read out at the meeting.
The Democratic Services Manager read out the statement which supported Cllr Millar’s proposal for the creation of a publicly accessible register of Senior Council Officers Interests. It outlined Mr Smith’s view that this would be in the interest of public confidence, transparency, and accountability, since Senior Officers have access and responsibility for the use and allocation of significant amounts of public finance within East Devon, and referred to the £20 million Commercial Fund and oversight of the proposed £40 million, Cranbrook Infrastructure Loan Scheme. Mr Smith went on to state that his comments were not intended to imply any past irregularity of conduct, but to ensure that any future suggestions of malfeasance could be scrutinised and where appropriate, quickly dismissed.
Following a vote the Chair confirmed that the minutes of the previous meeting, which was the Joint Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting of 16th September, were noted and accepted as a true record by members of the Overview Committee.
Declarations of interest
Guidance is available online to Councillors and co-opted members on making declarations of interest.
No declarations of interest were given.
Matters of urgency
Information on matters of urgency is available online.
There were no matters of uregency.
To agree any items to be dealt with after the public (including press) have been excluded. There are no items that officers recommend should be dealt with in this way.
There were no confidential or exempt items.
The Chair invited the Senior Economic Development Officer, Geri Panteva, to provide a summary of the report.
The report was to provide members with an update on the current status of different initiatives to improve digital connectivity in East Devon, and more specifically:
· Provide an update on the roll-out of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme since a new delivery contract was awarded at the end of 2020
· Provide an update on the latest developments by Jurassic Fibre
· Present a case study of an ultra-fast broadband connection supplied to a new residential and commercial development in East Devon (Winslade Park at Clyst St. Mary) and,
· Highlight an alternative way to connect hard to reach rural areas through the Starlink satellite internet service piloted in East Devon (KOR Communications case study)
The COVID-19 pandemic had affected all aspects of the economy and society, including established working models and practices, and prompted by periods of national restrictions, working from home has become a new norm, which is expected to have long-lasting impact on how businesses approach their operational models going forward. Such changes have highlighted the importance of a reliable and fast digital and broadband infrastructure and associated connectivity.
Although set in a predominantly rural environment, and whilst East Devon has many challenges in delivering such infrastructure, it is at the same time seeing one of the most significant private investments in digital infrastructure delivered by Jurassic Fibre and is benefitting from the largest public funded super-fast broadband programme in the country – Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS).
Comments or questions during the debate on this topic included the following;
· What will Jurassic Fibre and CDS be doing to ensure they connect to every individual household rather than the general local area?
In response the officer stated that the Government’s Building a Digital UK initiative was aimed at funding programmes which are unlikely to be commercially viable, for example, for the purpose of reaching hard to reach areas. In contrast, for private companies commercial success is important and they will incline towards areas with many potential customers. In this situation, there will always be people or communities who could miss out on some opportunities but the report highlights different options available.
· There is a great difference in the reality between stating that 95% of areas will be covered and connected digitally, to stating that 95% of households will be covered. This is both confusing and suggests a much better coverage than the reality.
· There are wards in East Devon which contain areas without any broadband connectivity. Is there a strategy in place for dealing with such areas remaining unconnected?
In response the officer stated that a Plan had been developed in March by the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport, aimed at encouraging and supporting a range of different contractual delivery options.
The Chair thanked the officer for her report and presentation and invited members to vote to indicate whether they accepted the update received. Following a vote, she ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Public toilets review
This item has been deferred to an Extraordinary meeting of the Overview Committee scheduled for Thursday 25 November at 6pm to enable more time for consideration of the report and issues outlined therein.
The Chair explained that following discussions earlier this week, it was agreed to defer this item to an additional and Extraordinary meeting scheduled for Thursday 25th November at 6pm, in order to give Elected Members and members of the public more time to read the report and accompanying papers before debate.
Proposal forms received;
1. CIL/S106 Participatory Budgeting Policy – submitted by Cllr Paul Millar
2. Review of Members Allowances – submitted by Cllr Paul Millar
3. Public Register of Senior Officer Interests – submitted by Cllr Paul Millar
The Chair introduced this item by stating that the Committee had received three Proposal forms from Cllr Paul Millar, to be considered by Overview Committee members for possible inclusion on a future agenda. As such the items were not for immediate debate, but for members to consider whether further information is required, so that they could be included at a future meeting where they could be debated.
In relation to the CIL/S106 Participatory Budgeting Policy, the Chair invited Cllr Millar to give a brief introduction, before inviting comments from other members.
Cllr Millar said that he considered that the current policy was unclear, and that EDDC and Ward Members should assume greater control over arranging consultations and deciding which play parks, and projects, ought to go out to consultation. He went on to say that currently decisions are devolved to Town and Parish Councils, many of which meet behind closed doors when debating and deciding projects for allocations of CIL/S106 spend, and only EDDC officers are able to attend these meetings.
Given that EDDC is the authority legally accountable for S106 monies, its Ward Members have very little say unless they are on the town/parish council and the relevant 'Steering Group'. This is neither transparent nor democratic, which is why he wanted to propose that whilst there can still be a role for representatives of Town/Parish Councils and Councillors in steering groups but that these should be partnership groups between the District and Town/Parish Councils.
Comments or questions during consideration of this topic included the following;
· Cllrs need information on how the system works rather than a change in policy, so perhaps an information evening could be organised.
· It would be helpful to know the criteria used by officers to make decisions about S106 funds.
· There is no problem with the system at present. The idea of an information session is a good one because discussion with officers is helpful. This happens already in Exmouth with a S106 Working Party.
· Honiton does not currently appear to have a S106 working party. Ward Cllrs would be in a good position to be involved.
· There is no universal approach across the District.
· Problems occur because not everyone understands S106 or what is in place.
· A report from the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) was undertaken on S106 and Cil and presented to the Audit & Governance Committee on 28th January which was very helpful. Members were encouraged to read this report and consider the direction of travel outlined in it.
· Axminster Cllrs have been very involved in discussions with officers for several years on S106 and participatory funding. Ward Cllrs and the Parish Council have all been involved in the discussions.
· The current system also works well in Whimple.
· It was suggested that a report could be made available on a regular basis so that Ward Cllrs could ask officers how the money could be spent.
Cllr Ledger said that he would welcome any suggestions to the Strategic Planning Committee ... view the full minutes text for item 14.