Venue: Committee Rooms 1 & 2 - Deanes. View directions
Contact: Democratic Services Team
Apologies for absence and substitutions
Councillor Falconer sent his apologies. In his absence, Councillor Miller was appointed Vice Chair for the meeting.
Apologies were also received from the Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development who had been due to present on item 6.
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest.
To consider any items of business, other than those shown on this agenda and which, by reason of special circumstances to be stated at the meeting, in the opinion of the Chairman, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency.
The Chair referred to correspondence that the committee members had received in relation to a Freedom of Information request and response, submitted to the council by a member of the public.
It was noted that the email had only been circulated to members and that officers should also be included in order to obtain complete information. It was suggested that the process fell under the remit of Law and Governance.
The Chair suggested that the Committee should seek a review of the FOI process, and a review of the particular case in relation to the fact that it appeared that an inaccurate and misleading response had initially been sent by the council to the originator of the FOI.
Resolved: The Committee
· Agree to circulate the matter to the Legal Services Manager; and
· Require a report detailing the FOI process, and the response history relating to the specific request for consideration by the Committee at the earliest opportunity.
Minutes of the meeting held on 20 November 2018
It was requested that clarification and information documents circulated in response to certain minuted queries be appended to the minutes to ensure that the information reached the public domain. This was agreed.
The minutes of the meeting held on 20th November 2018 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
s106 Funds Council Motion
Referral of a motion
It was resolved at a full Council meeting held on 13th December 2018, to refer the following motion to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration:-
We are concerned that S106 funds that currently reside with the Council totalling some £8.5 million for use within Parishes and communities within the Borough have not been scoped adequately or with sufficient consultation to allow them to be accessed for use.
There are some £1.5million of S106 funds which have no refund clause and £2.8million held over 5 years.
A recent letter from Sherfield on Loddon Parish Council to the Chief Executive highlighted the re-allocation of S106 funds from the Redlands Development, which was within the Parish, to the Hampshire County Council site for Community facilities of some £279,000. This amount is still showing allocated to Sherfield on Loddon Parish Council on the S106 statement recently received. Additionally, there are funds which could be used for projects on the Village Green, but currently rejected by Officers.
There has been support from 6 Parish Councils who have experienced issues of the incorrect scoping of S106 funds and are in a position of having projects which they are unable to fund whilst holding S106 funds due to either "out of date" consultation or no consultation by Officers.
This situation is a cause for concern with Parish Councils and with residents in a time of trying to do more with less and request this situation be reviewed by Scrutiny. We hope a resolution can be found to release S106 funds for projects that are required, through legal variation means or another proposed way forward.
The motion was debated and a number of members highlighted the need for ward members to be involved in section 106 discussions. The following additional points were also made:
Cllr Rowland, proposer of the motion, was invited to speak.
It was explained that the motion originated due to ongoing frustration at the lack of success in releasing s106 funds to local communities. The efforts of the Head of Borough Development and Implementation were acknowledged, but it was noted that there were a number of historical cases where scoping documents and agreements did not always reflect the needs of a community leading to funds being unused and reallocated elsewhere.
It was suggested that a review of historical s106 agreements be undertaken with a view to varying or releasing dormant funds, where applicable, for the benefit of local communities.
Cllr Rowland referred to a specific case within her own parish whereby as a consequence of two planning consent agreements, £74,944 of funds had been scoped and allocated to a privately owned local football club. The parish council had not been consulted in relation to the allocation, and it was thought that the football club had requested the funding towards a new club room/community hall, of which Bramley already had four. Further whilst the Bramley Neighbourhood Plan listed a range of preferred projects, none had been selected.
It was commented that the system had changed in the past few years so that members were not involved in scoping documents any more. It was suggested that the process required better understanding and possible changes.
There was agreement to pursue a review of the s106 process. It was clarified that the review would cover both urban and rural wards.
Resolved: The Committee
· Agree to apply to group leaders to request volunteers to form a Members Advisory Panel; and
· Agree to request a report of s106 monies focusing on both the process under which s106 agreements are drawn up and the process that manages allocation and spending.
Contact Officer: Anne-Marie Scott
The report provides an update on the council’s non-permanent staffing arrangements, including temporary workers supplied by an agency, whether under the Matrix contract or outside of it, and independent interims and consultants which the council contracts with for additional expertise and capacity.
The Interim HR and Organisational Development Project Manager presented the Non-Permanent Staffing Report. The report stated that at times the Council required temporary resources including agency workers, interims and consultants to deliver projects and deal with peaks in workload as well as provide specialist skills or advice on an ad hoc basis.
Monitoring of such staff is undertaken via contract, IR35 regulations and the agency workers’ directive.
Cllr Rowland, as Head of HR committee was invited to speak. Cllr Rowland expressed surprise at the number of interims in post throughout the organisation and commented that the impact on permanent staff could be quite unsettling and potentially detrimental to performance. Further surprise was expressed at the cost to the council. It was suggested that the council focus on more long term commitment to recruitment.
The Chair noted that constitutional changes passed by council in the preceding year, had excluded involvement by the HR committee in relation to any interim appointments. As a member of the Constitutional Working Party he commented that he intended to lobby for an amendment to the constitution to ensure future involvement.
The committee welcomed the report and made the following comments and further requests for information: -
· It was suggested that report item 10.4.2 should be the most important strategy for the council to adopt and develop.
The Interim HR and Organisational Development Project Manager commented that a project to review pay, benefits, grading and flexible working to ensure sector competitiveness had been scoped and agreed by SLT.
Further, a commitment to the strategy in relation to digitalisation and agile working projects was currently in progress to develop how the organisation would look in 5 years and ensure that the workforce would be fully supported to achieve the vision.
· Concern was expressed in relation to use of the term ‘approximately’ in item 2.2.
It was explained that whilst interim staff contracts were managed centrally, consultancy services were commissioned and invoiced as necessary by individual departments and would potentially be coded differently. Three different systems (procurement, payroll and matrix contract management), monitored and processed the different services which could occasionally lead to inaccuracies in actual spend throughout the year, but would result in a defined year end figure.
· It was explained that central government held a formal Shortage Occupation List and that accountancy and planning both featured which affected the public sector as a whole.
· It was clarified that in the past 3 years the council had spent approximately £7 million on specialist advice and consultancy fees, and £3 million on agency fees.
It was suggested that it would be useful to compare the total amounts with benchmark figures. It was explained that to do so would require clear definition and parameters for a benchmark with which to compare.
It was suggested and agreed that HR committee take this matter forward.
· It was agreed that a comparison between the agency and interim costs detailed in Appendix 1 as opposed to established costs be provided for the committee. It ... view the full minutes text for item 31/18
Contact Officer: Geoff Coe
Scrutiny Committee queried how the Council manages repairing obligations across the property portfolio where buildings and land are leased to third parties. This briefing note provides an explanation of how Property and Legal Services deal with this important Landlord and Tenant issue.
The Interim Property Manager presented the BDBC Dilapidations Procedure report. It was noted that the council’s property portfolio comprised just under 800 properties with a mixture of community assets, direct let investments and ground lease properties.
It was noted that 70% of property income derived from ground leases. The report detailed four potential remedies available to enforce obligations under ground leases, and their requisite advantages and disadvantages.
Cllr Kim Taylor was invited to speak. Cllr Taylor had prepared a list of printed questions which were subsequently permitted, with the caveat that this was a unique occurrence, to form an addendum along with eventual responses to these minutes (please see Appendix 1).
· It was explained that there would be a facility to record annual inspections on the new software system, but that there had been no formal recording to date. Consequently, records would be available in the future, but there was nothing historically.
· There has been constant dialogue with the head lessee of the Ice Rink and with the sub-tenant due to the sensitivity and specialised nature of the facility. It was clarified that dialogue would automatically always be with the head lessee as the contractual partner.
It was explained that there was ongoing dialogue due to the substantial repair costs, which were not the council’s responsibility. Further, there was a difficult balance to achieve between progressing the work and maintaining the asset.
It was suggested that a progress report on the Ice Rink which was expected by Community Environment Partnerships committee in June, should incorporate responses to the questions raised in Appendix 1.
· It was noted that all property inspections currently took place externally and was suggested that under the permissions of the Jervis v Harris Clause, a 5-year internal inspection should also take place.
The Interim Property Manager commented that such additional inspections would require significant resource. It was clarified that the majority of the portfolio was industrial sheds, whereby generally the external state of the building would reflect the internal state. It was explained that a pragmatic industry centred approach was taken to inspections due to not wishing to incur significant administration costs to the council.
· It was queried whether there were any obligations on head lessees to apply due diligence when sub-letting.
It was explained that this would not be present in older ground leases but would in newer contracts. It was quantified that a landlord would generally only enforce such an obligation if the proposed sub tenant was bankrupt or not of sufficient covenant strength.
· It was noted that community buildings throughout the borough were run by charitable trusts, which did not tend to generate much income. It was queried whether the council could examine the vulnerability of such trusts to ensure assistance and protection in the future.
The Interim Property Manager responded that there were 28 community halls within the borough and that responsibilities were split so that the charitable trusts were responsible for all internal decoration, repairs and heating costs and the council for ... view the full minutes text for item 32/18
Review of work programme
The Committee reviewed and agreed its work programme, with the following comments:-
The meeting ended at 8.10 pm.
Scrutiny Agenda Item 7 Dilapidations process Questions Councillor Taylor
Q1 What recording systems and processes exist to record annual inspections and the outcomes?
Q2 What kind of lease is the lease for the Ice Rink. Is it a Direct Let or Ground Lease or some other type?
Q3 What BDBC annual inspections took place at the Ice Rink between 2000 and 2018 and where/how are these inspections and the outcomes recorded?
Q4 What date did the joint inspection take place in 2011, what prompted the inspection and who was the Head Lessee at the time of inspection?
Q5 During the 2011 joint inspection structural cracking was identified. What consequential discussions took place with the Head Lessee and what was the agreed outcome? For example, was the Head Lessee contacted for initial discussions? Was an agreed program of repairs arrived at, if not what enforcement action could have been taken at this stage?
Q6 What date was the Head Lease assigned to Standards Securities Limited. Was this consented to by BDBC at the time of the assignment?
Q7 What action was taken by BDBC following the meeting 2013 in terms of inspection or independent surveying in view of the identified ice pad heave?
Q8 What discussions took place with SSL the Head Lessee following the meeting 2013 in view of the identified ice pad heave? What was the agreed outcomes of the discussions?
Q9 Since the financial circumstances of Planet Ice Basingstoke was considered material at the time was any action was taken to verify that repairs were indeed beyond Planet Ice (Basingstoke) Limited's means, or beyond the means of its parent company PI Property (Leisure) Limited.
Q10 What date was the public report and subsequent investigation by the Environmental Health Buildings Control team in 2016
Q11 As a result of the report what specific action was taken?
Q12 Was the Head Lessee contacted as a result of the 2016 report, and if so what action was agreed, if not why?
Q13 Going forward is there potential for a perceived conflict of interest that needs careful consideration to balance the moral and fiduciary responsibilities to ensure the property is kept in good repair and the future valuation for possible compulsory purchase.
Q13 When was the council provided with a copy of the April 2018 survey?
Q14 What is the current position with regard to ongoing discussions with Head lessee SL.
Q15 Going forward is there potential for assessment of potential conflict of interest to be incorporated in the procedure? The balance between moral and fiduciary responsibility for maintaining public assets and possible compulsory purchase valuation could give rise to a public perception of conflict.