Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 6th July, 2023 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Blackdown House, Honiton

Contact: Sarah Jenkins  01395 517406 email


No. Item


Public speaking

Information on public speaking is available online



Jack Rowland asked a question in relation to the Service Plan reports showing a variation on delivery – specifically on:

·        the objective to “Develop a mitigation strategy for phosphate levels arising from development affecting the River Axe”.  The report showed the reason for the variation being due to the post of District Ecologist becoming vacant, but is soon to be filled. He asked when the post would be filled, and if the previous post holder had begun work on a mitigation strategy or if the new post holder would have to start from scratch.  Bearing in mind the importance of such a strategy in relation to planning applications in the area, and impact on other authorities.  The timescales for delivery were requested.

·        the objective “Seaton Jurassic – conclude how best to deal with the building defect issues and alongside let/sell to ensure the site is continued to use in some form or another by March 2023”.  The report showed comment that discussions progressing constructively with Seaton tramway as future operator. An opening prior to Easter 2024 is looking unlikely.  Cabinet decision made September 2022 on a lease, can officers confirm if current negotiations are on track without divulging commercially sensitive information. Will the centre be open by the tourism season for 2024.


Written responses to the questions had been received from officers as follows:


River Axe phosphate levels:

The post of Ecologist, following resignation and departure of the previous post holder last year, was filled in mid-April 2023 and as part of his job the new ecologist is taking the lead on River Axe mitigation matters. The previous ecologist had left handover notes with the work that had been undertaken to date, including a review of potential mitigation options, and the new ecologist has been getting up to speed with the work previously undertaken and upskilling themselves in this complex and specialised area.


The Council are also looking to secure additional ecological staff support, specifically on account of the new demands and work requirements with Development Management associated with the implementation of mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) required under the Environment Act 2021 from November 2023.  Some of this work may overlap with the River Axe mitigation work , e.g., exploring options for nutrient mitigation and stacking these with BNG environmental credits to deliver best outcomes for the environment and land managers.


The Council has taken the role of lead authority in respect of collaborative working with partners in other planning authority areas (Dorset and Somerset) and is advancing work on strategic solutions to provide appropriate mitigation in respect of addressing net increases in phosphates arising from development and adversely impacting on the River Axe.  It is relevant to note, as well, that developers can identify and deliver mitigations measures themselves that would allow for new development to come forward.  It is understood that a number of schemes are being investigated by developers.


The Council are working with a wide range of stakeholders and partners including industry and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 181 KB

Additional documents:


The minutes of the previous meeting held on 9 March 2023 were agreed.


Declarations of interest

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



Councillor V Johns; Other Registerable Interest: Director of OSM Community Larder that deals with Fairshare.  Cllr Johns did not leave the meeting during this item.


Councillor B Collins: Other Registerable Interest: Company Director of Foodsave CIC which also deals with Fairshare. Cllr B Collins did not leave the meeting during this item.


Matters of urgency

Information on matters of urgency is available online





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.





Decisions made by Cabinet called in by Members for scrutiny in accordance with the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules

There are no items identified




Quarterly performance report - quarter 4 2022 - 2023 pdf icon PDF 317 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the quarterly monitoring report of the quarter January to March 2023, providing performance information and progress against the performance indicators and key objectives.


The report highlighted four indicators showing a status of concern:

·        Number of households living in temporary accommodation

·        Working days lost due to sickness absence

·        Percentage of Stage 2 complaints responded to within stated timeframes

·        Days taken to process new Housing Benefit claims and Days taken to process changes to Housing Benefit claims


Actions to mitigate those indicators were set out in the report.


The report also listed seven key service objectives showing a status of concern:

·        Continue to collect and spend Community Infrastructure Levy monies to deliver the infrastructure needed to support new development

·        Improve void turnaround times and review the Void Standards for properties being re-let as part of our Price Per Void contract and ensure that a suitable lettable standard is achieved for new tenants achieving “right first time”

·        Review compliance procedures by an external body to drive continuous improvement

·        To report on our delivery of high quality new and improved play areas, open spaces and sports pitches funded from development proposals

·        Working with the neighbouring land owner to deliver a masterplan for the Hayne Lane site in Honiton December 2023

·        Review of Taxi Policy to help seek to meet climate change targets, to reduce emissions and incorporating the national standards recommended by the Department of Transport

·        Revising the Cemetery Regulations to ensure an updated and fit for purpose regime for burials by December 2022


Actions to mitigate those delays were set out in the report.


Discussion by the committee included:

·        Lack of post holder to liaise between local councils and others to deploy s106 monies means that some money cannot be released, particularly with time sensitive linked funds, so concern that money will be lost; the issue of resourcing was still present and further enquiries will be made to try to establish what can be done to remedy the situation.

·        Work signed off by contractors on housing stock where the work has not been completed.  In relation to voids, clarification will be sought from the Housing service for the committee.

·        Revising the cemetery regulations – are the team any nearer to completing this or is additional resource needed to get this achieved?  Cllr Whibley, as Chair of Licensing, outlined the extensive increase in work for the Licensing team and the pressures for prioritising work. If there is any scope to add additional resource to the team, this would be welcomed.

·        S106 money delays the delivery of parish play areas and this has been ongoing for some time and should be prioritised to avoid loss of funds. Parishes are getting frustrated and some recommendations should be made to Cabinet to either resource correctly or relax the schemes to permit some schemes to proceed;  The Chair suggested debate under their forward plan item to undertake some research into the situation before coming up with recommendations to Cabinet.  A report was expected from Ed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Forward Plan 2023 - 2024 pdf icon PDF 181 KB

Additional documents:


The Chair asked the committee to consider a manageable schedule of work for the them to undertake whilst maintaining some flexibility to handle any urgent matters that may come up during the year.


Waste and recycling contract

Waste contract discussion had already taken place prior to the meeting, and the Portfolio Holder for Coast, Countryside and Environment was present to discuss how Scrutiny can get involved with this work.  The Portfolio Holder outlined how current work on an extension to the current contract was progressing, with three months extension almost agreed.  Aside from this, consideration was needed for the next contract term, including aspects such as the vehicle fleet in respect of how they are powered and kept powered; changes in how waste streams are changing; charges for waste by manufacturers; changes to collection timings.


The Portfolio Holder informed the committee that the Waste and Recycling Team are working on reviewing options for future service provision to take account of industry changes and the best routes to continue our excellent service from this authority, bearing in mind that the Council is the number one in the country.    A briefing paper will go before the Strategic Management Team and Cabinet in the late summer/early autumn of this year, to instigate commissioning the replacement of our current contract.  He welcomed cross party nominations, with interest and knowledge of the service, to get involved with this process, being mindful of the sensitivities of contractual information.  The Scrutiny committee would be kept informed of progress.


The Chair responded, commenting that he would like to see Scrutiny members involved and view the Cabinet report as a critical friend before the decision is taken by Cabinet to extend the current contract.  The committee would have the topic added to their forward plan for Spring 2024 or earlier as required.


Other issues

Cllr Ingham suggested inclusion of a number of issues and outlined how the Scrutiny Committee should timetable such work, particularly on the Local Plan as it does not reflect the wants and needs of the local community using the current methodology.  He also felt there were no significant changes visible to deal with climate change; the threat to local business for the increase in car park charges should be examined; and concern on the contract for Housing repairs not delivering what tenants needed, and residents suffering as a result.


Debate from the committee on the topic of the Local Plan included arguments on the methodology, changes in central government advice, but the plan should not be stalled and it would only confuse the issue to examine it while it is already underway and legislation is still pending that may change it again.


The Chair outlined recent discussions with other Chairs on housing issues and work was underway to see how best to scrutinise that work, as that remit fell to the Housing Review Board as the scrutiny function for Housing.  There may be a way forward working as a collective but he needed further discussion  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.