Agenda item

Forward Plan 2023 - 2024


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 before coming back to the committee with a way forward.


The Chair commented that car park charges would be picked up after a report went to Cabinet in November.


Making access to S.106 monies easier for towns and parishes was discussed with come examples given of those difficulties in accessing the funds.  Views could be sought from town and parish councils on their experiences to date.  A balance on the outstanding amount will also be required.


The proposal from Mid Devon DC Scrutiny Committee regarding a joint review into the planning controls and regulatory requirements associated with the bio-energy industry within Devon, in particular anaerobic digesters, should be followed up.  Links with neighbouring authorities on their scrutiny work should be developed.


Poverty working panel recently reported 60 families in temporary accommodation – should the authority be paying rent to private landlords when there is empty housing stock that could be used. Desire to move to a position of minimal to no temporary accommodation.  The Chair will raise this with the Chair of HRB and the Portfolio Holder.


Progress in finding a site for travelling community was raised.  In response, the Portfolio Holder suggested a meeting with Members to discuss this, but there is a report soon to be provided in confidence to Members on the issue.


Councillors discussed grass cutting and verges, alongside re-wilding.

The Portfolio Holder informed the committee:

·        Of a pending Cabinet biodiversity paper;

·        that review of planning policy, in particular relating to bird boxes and bee bricks, were an issue for strategic planning to review;

·        Climate change on track for most of performance; awaiting DCC input to additional policies but he agreed the benefit of scrutinising delivery;

·        September Cabinet paper on nature emergency, including “re-naturing” rather than “re-wilding”.


Committee members commented on complaints from the public in respect of visibility issues when grass verges were too long; and linking with Devon County Council on their policies for verges. The committee could consider the management plan for grass verges in Dorset; and check if East Devon have got cut and mulch machines which reduces amount of grass left on site and benefits the soil.


Flooding events recently; Devon County Council are reporting on this soon and the report should be considered by the Scrutiny Committee in order to consider working with resilience groups in the area to prepare for future flood events.


The Chair also had meetings planned to discuss public toilet provision but also wanted the scrutiny committee to review this.


In reviewing their work plan, the committee added:

·        Making access to S.106 monies easier for towns and parishes, for the September meeting;

·        Proposal from Mid Devon DC Scrutiny Committee regarding a joint review into the planning controls and regulatory requirements associated with the bio-energy industry within Devon, in particular anaerobic digesters

·        South West Water report

·        Review effectiveness of Blackdown House, in terms of fit for purpose for both employees and Members

·        Budget scrutiny in line with the requirements prior to recommendation to Cabinet – November/December

·        Climate change action plan progress - October

·        Rewilding grass verges/grass cutting review – October

·        Toilet provision

·        Devon County Council’s flood event report


The Monitoring Officer asked the committee about the adoption of a Scrutiny Protocol.  This would set out what the purpose of the committee is, the four principles of scrutiny being included.  It would also set out the process that would be followed in undertaking the scrutiny process, as well as lay out expectations.  This would help inform both Members, officers and members of the public.  The Monitoring Officer would bring forward a draft protocol for discussion at the September meeting.


The committee considered the draft Terms of Reference for annual reports by Portfolio Holders, with the intention for the annual report to be presented to Council once during a civic term.  The terms of reference could also be included in the protocol.



1.     that the forward plan for the Scrutiny Committee be updated; and

2.     that the Terms of Reference be included in the draft Scrutiny Protocol to be presented to the Scrutiny Committee at their next meeting.

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