Agenda and minutes

Joint budget meeting of the Scrutiny and Overview Committees Session 1, Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 11th January, 2023 9.30 am

Venue: Council Chamber, Blackdown House

Contact: Sarah Jenkins  01395 517406 email;


No. Item


Public speaking

Information on public speaking is available online



There were no members of the public registered to speak.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 343 KB

Additional documents:


The minutes of the previous joint meetings held on 12 January 2022 and 17 January 2022 were agreed and signed as a correct record.


Declarations of interest

Guidance is available online to Councillors and co-opted members on making declarations of interest



Minute 70a. Countryside and Leisure.

Councillor Ian Hall, Affects Non-registerable Interest, Councillor is Chair of a charitable organisation running the Axminster Skatepark project.


Minute 70a. Countryside and Leisure.

Councillor Tony Woodward, Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, Councillor has contract as casual worker with LED Leisure Management Ltd. 

The Monitoring Officer granted Cllr Woodward a dispensation to remain in the meeting, as without a dispensation the Overview Committee would have been inquorate at certain points during the meeting.


Minute 70a. Countryside and Leisure.

Councillor Vicky Johns, Affects Non-registerable Interest, Councillor works for an art charity.


Minute 70b. Housing.

Councillor Jake Bonetta, Affects Non-registerable Interest, Councillor is Chair of Honiton Foodsave.



Matters of urgency

Information on matters of urgency is available online



There were no matters of urgency.


Confidential/exempt item(s)

To agree any items to be dealt with after the public (including the press) have been excluded. Thereare no itemswhich officersrecommendshould be dealtwithin thisway.



There were no confidential / exempt items.


Draft Revenue and Capital Budgets 2023-2024 pdf icon PDF 171 KB

Additional documents:


The Portfolio Holder for Finance thanked the Director of Finance and the Finance Manager for their work in preparing the reports.  It was noted that the draft budgets had been prepared against a background of reduced funding by central Government, constraints on council tax limits and high inflation, all of which were significant factors.


Recommendations from the Committees would go forward to Cabinet on 1 February before referral to full Council to agree the budget.


The Director of Finance outlined the budget position and presented the draft Revenue and Capital budgets for 2023-2024, highlighting the following key points to the Committees:

·         With regard to the General Fund position, since the report was compiled the Local Government Settlement has been announced which provided an additional £349,000 in grants, leaving a requirement of £85,000 to be taken from reserves in order to balance the budget.

·         It was acceptable to take this amount from reserves and Government advice was that Councils should consider taking amounts from reserves due to the current significant implications of inflation.

·         The report highlighted significant variations in portfolio expenditure between years with a 25% increase in expenditure due to factors such as the national pay award in the current financial year, the assumed pay award for the next financial year and the Council’s recent pay review.

·         Increasing energy costs had added £200,000 to the budget across the whole Council.

·         Regarding service specific variations between years, a one off cost of £169,000 had been included for the District Election in May 2023.

·         A linked background paper explained the requirement for the inclusion of £100,000 in the budget for the early stage planning of a new town.

·         An additional £1.1m was required by StreetScene for expenditure on recycling and waste as a result of the approved bridging solution and inflation linked to contract payments.

·         The Housing Task Force Team required an additional £182,000 which would be met from earmarked reserve.

·         Special items had been excluded from the draft budget as there was no scope for additional expenditure until the outturn position was known.

·         The report highlighted that since the draft budget had been prepared, LED had requested a revised amount of £1.498m which was an increase of £126,000 above the draft budget figure of £1.372m.  This request would be considered at the forthcoming meeting of the LED Forum, following which recommendations would go back to Cabinet in February before the final budget proposals are considered by full Council.

·         The draft budget assumed a £5 increase to the Council Tax, taking the charge for a Band D property to £161.78, being a 3.19% increase.

·         The draft budget was within the range adopted by the Council, although it was noted that it was close to the bottom end of the reserves level.  This was due to expenditure approved during the current year and the cost of the upcoming elections.

·         The business rate income at £6.7m was significantly above the Government baseline figure and the report highlighted a risk in 2025/26 of this income  ...  view the full minutes text for item 69.


Key Service Plan Objectives 2023-2024


The Committees considered the service plan objectives for the following services:

·         Countryside and Leisure

·         Environmental Health

·         Housing

·         StreetScene


The Director for Housing, Health and Environment delivered a presentation outlining the key issues and challenges for the four services and the cross-cutting themes from each of the service plans.  The presentation included the following:

·         Service plans are aligned with the Council Plan and the four services make a significant contribution to delivery of the Council Plan’s priorities.

·         High level challenges include delivering core services well, using resources effectively, prioritising and maintaining staff morale, ongoing recruitment and retention issues, meeting customer expectations and delivering Council Plan and Service Plan priorities.

·         Addressing the climate change emergency is a corporate commitment with significant work to be undertaken to meet the Council’s targets.  Every Service Plan makes a contribution to meeting the target of becoming a carbon neutral Council by 2040.

·         With regard to public health and wellbeing, challenges were identified as response and recovery from the covid pandemic, tackling environmental and social conditions to promote good physical and mental health, encouraging healthier behaviour to reduce illness and addressing the loss of independence and promote wellbeing and self-care.

·         The importance of corporate health and safety was highlighted, with some areas such as StreetScene requiring a very strong health and safety focus.

·         Addressing poverty and its prevention is now a corporate priority with a clear strategy and action plan.




Countryside and Leisure pdf icon PDF 598 KB


The Assistant Director Countryside and Leisure presented the Service Plan for 2023-2024.  Key challenges under the headings of Maintaining our Nature Reserves and Green Space, Trees and Outdoor Health and Wellbeing were identified as follows:

·         Delivery of duties under the new Environment Act including securing 20% biodiversity net gain on all new developments, as opposed to the mandatory 10%.  Guidance on this duty is awaited from Defra.  Training will be provided for planning officers and information workshops will be held for Members.

·         Development of a local nature recovery plan, led by Devon County Council.

·         Working with Natural England’s policy on nutrient neutrality on the River Axe with the aim of delivering habitat based nutrient neutrality mitigation measures and water efficiency measures on Council housing stock in the Axe Valley catchment.

·         Delivery of nature recovery and re-wilding projects including the Wild Honiton project.

·         Development of a new Tree Strategy for East Devon once the draft Devon Tree Strategy is published around March/April and the expansion and support of the Tree Warden Scheme.

·         Delivery of priorities identified within the Leisure Strategy including actively re-negotiating dual site agreements, a stock condition survey of leisure centres and provision of leisure facilities at Cranbrook.

·         Delivery of priorities within the Culture Strategy which will be assisted by the recent employment of the Cultural Producer.

·         Ensuring synergy between the Leisure Strategy, Cultural Strategy and Tourism Strategy.


The Portfolio Holders for Coast, Country and Environment and Tourism, Leisure, sport and Culture thanked the Assistant Director and his team for their work and acknowledged the significant value of the countryside in maintaining residents’ wellbeing.


Questions and comments from Members included the following points:

·         The Sport England pilot for Cranbrook has taken a long time to get up and running.  There is a clear plan for delivery and focus now needs to be on delivering actions identified in the plan.

·         Concerns regarding durability of new trees planted on developments will be raised with planning enforcement officers and the issue will be included in the new Tree Strategy.

·         Concern was expressed regarding support for the most vulnerable to be able to access leisure centre facilities and Members’ attention was drawn to the forthcoming meeting of the LED Forum and the agenda for that meeting.

·         There is an urgent need to address issues regarding nutrient neutrality on the River Axe and on-going work to set up the framework will be communicated to Ward Members.  £100,000 is available in the Planning service budget and it is vital that the right expertise is brought in for this work in collaboration with Dorset and Somerset.

·         There was a need for sufficient officers to deliver the new Tree Strategy and it was noted that there had been issues with the recruitment of tree officers.  Officers were of the view that the recent pay review should assist with recruitment and other routes such as apprenticeships should also help with long term recruitment and retention of staff.

·         Regarding concerns over Ash dieback, it was noted that this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 71.


Environmental Health pdf icon PDF 620 KB


The new Assistant Director Environmental Health introduced himself and presented the Service Plan for 2023 – 2024.  The overarching priority in the Service Plan is to protect the health of the public and the environment and work to improve healthy lifestyles and reduce health inequalities.  The presentation included the following key points:

·         Regulation of private sector housing including delivery of enforcement, houses of multiple occupancy, regulation of private water supplies, bringing empty homes back into use and improving the energy efficiency of homes.

·         Food and water safety and security.  It was noted that the pre-Brexit EU regulations will fall away at the end of the year and it was not yet clear what impact this will have on the service.

·         Protecting health including regulating environmental pollution risk, anti social behaviour, infectious disease and animal health where this affects disease and food standards.

Key service development / projects for 2023 -2024 included:

·         The creation of a Green Team with representatives from all services to oversee, monitor and report on the delivery of the actions in the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.

·         Improving the winter resilience of private sector housing.

·         Monitoring and improvement of air, land and water quality in the District.

·         Improving food hygiene, health and safety in the District including assessment of the new Food Standards Agency Strategy due during the year.

·         With regard to community safety and anti-social behaviour, identifying and progressing safeguarding improvements.

·         Review of the public health strategy.

·         Review of the corporate Emergency and Business Continuity Plans.

·         Utilise the Contain Outbreak Management Fund on positive health outcomes.


The Portfolio Holder for Coast, County and Environment thanked the Director Housing, Health and Environment for his work in the interim phase prior to the appointment of the new Assistant Director.


The Portfolio Holder for Climate Action and Emergency Response thanked all of the officers involved.


Questions and comments from Members included the following points:

·         Members noted that the position with regard to staffing had improved but that some issues with recruitment remain.

·         With regard to private water supplies, the team risk assesses supplies through water sampling to ensure safety.

·         The team supports communities in managing anti-social behaviour and is part of the Community Safety Partnership.

·         The Portfolio Holder Coast, Country and Environment is holding meetings with the relevant MP and South West Water to address sewage pollution in Exmouth.  It was acknowledged that engineering works in Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton are a long term and multi million pound issue.

·         In response to Members’ concerns regarding damp and mould, it was noted that the Environmental Health team has wide-ranging powers and takes a zero tolerance approach to damp and mould.  The whole housing sector is prioritising work of this type.


When agreeing the recommendation, it was noted for the record that the Members of the Overview Committee were in agreement although the Committee was inquorate and Members did not vote.


That the Environmental Health Service Plan for 2023 – 2024 be adopted.




Housing pdf icon PDF 517 KB


The Assistant Director Housing and the Housing Task Force Service Lead presented the Service Plan for 2023 – 2024 and outlined the key challenges for the service under the following headings:

·         More affordable homes – a decent home for all.

·         Homelessness and rough sleeping.

·         Council homes fit for purpose and satisfied tenants


The Assistant Director Housing also advised that:

·         The service is currently experiencing very high and growing demand and complexity of demand. 

·         There is a national issue of damp and mould which is rightly receiving a lot of attention.

·         Changes are anticipated due to the forthcoming Social Housing Act.

·         The service had to change completely during the covid pandemic and it has taken time to get the service back to normal running pre-covid.

·         The service has also experienced personnel challenges, with high levels of staff sickness and difficulties with recruitment.


With regard to the key challenge of more affordable homes, The Housing Task Force Service Lead outlined the work of the Task Force since February 2022 as it seeks to grow the Council’s housing stock and explores building Council’s own housing in order to re-dress the balance following the right to buy scheme.


The Task Force is reviewing land already owned by the Council and had found 11 sites in the District with potential for development.  The Task Force is seeking to deliver new carbon neutral homes in Honiton by way of ZedPods.


Regarding the key challenges of homelessness and rough sleeping and Council homes fit for purpose, the Assistant Director Housing made the following points:

·         The service is seeing highest ever demand due to the two main reasons of loss of private sector accommodation and family breakdown.

·         Officers are having to spend a lot of time with residents linked to issues with mental health.

·         The Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy 2024 – 2028 is due for renewal during the year.

·         An internal action plan to address damp and mould would be considered at the upcoming meeting of the Housing Review Board.

·         The service worked closely with the Poverty Working Group on the winter strategy.


Questions and comments from Members included the following points:

·         With regard to the replacement of carpets and curtains at the end of a tenancy, this is under review and where possible fixtures and fittings would be retained.

·         Retrofitting of housing stock would bring most homes up to EPC B.

·         Regarding the suitable sites for housing provision, the two largest sites are in Honiton with in excess of 50 homes.  Other sites are in Sidbury, Exmouth and Sidmouth with potentially 70-80 homes in the pipeline.  There is also significant development potential in Axminster which cannot currently proceed until the Natural England embargo is lifted.

·         With regard to the waiting list for homes, it was noted that the vast majority on the waiting list are already housed, but are waiting to move to a more appropriate property.

·         It was noted that the Housing service is seeing an increase in work required when  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.


Streetscene pdf icon PDF 623 KB


The Assistant Director Streetscene presented the service plan for 2023 – 2024 and summarised the key points as follows:

·         The focus for 2023-24 will be on meeting core demands and bedding in the already approved resources, for example, six new operatives to assist with street cleaning due to increased demand for this service.

·         It was anticipated that the recruitment of a new Project Officer will shortly be completed and it was noted that the recent pay review had assisted with recruitment.  The new Project Officer will work on delivery of items such as the review of bin charges and operating models.

·         The service plan includes projects to progress work on climate change such as fleet decarbonisation and more sustainable management of green spaces, together with evidence to show how the service is improving.

·         Work will be undertaken to review financial sustainability and future service shape including a review of software to manage these works.

·         The service plan includes capital projects for the engineering team, however the challenge will be to deliver with a small team.

·         It is anticipated that major projects such as beach management plans will see funding gaps due to global issues and a report on this issue would be considered at an upcoming Cabinet meeting.

·         Work will include consideration of low carbon alternatives to hard engineering.

·         The service plan also focuses on contract renewal of recycling and waste services in 2026 and meeting the requirements of the forthcoming Environment Act.

·         Planning is underway to service up to 90,000 properties in the next decade.

·         The service will be considering future depot requirements and investment in infrastructure which will work in tandem with decarbonisation of the fleet, with the investment required in the tens of millions.

·         It is hoped that the service will move up the Defra league table for recycling and the service is planning for a recycling rate of 70% by 2030, although it was noted that margins for improvement are tight.

·         The recent pay review is helping with recruitment as demand increases due to higher visitor numbers in the District, an increase in residents and longer tourist season due to climate change.

·         It was highlighted that the decarbonisation of the fleet will be a significant investment as electric vehicles are double the cost of conventional vehicles.

·         A re-naturing strategy will be developed to improve the sustainable management of green spaces.

·         Applications for renewal of blue flag status will be made for Exmouth, Sidmouth, Seaton and Beer.


The Portfolio Holders for Coast, Country and Environment and Tourism, Leisure, Sport and Culture thanked the Assistant Director and his team for their work.


Questions and comments from Members included the following points:

·         With regard to a review of street litter bin collection models, Members were advised that the new Project Officer should be in post fairly soon and this review would be a priority.  In order to understand how the operation is set up, the service would take the opportunity to undertake a full review with the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.