Agenda and minutes
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The Chairman explained that the meeting would be conducted in accordance with the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panel (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 No. 392.
The Chairman welcomed all Members, officers and members of the public to the meeting.
To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 25 February 2021(Minute Nos. 476 – 484) as a correct record.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 25 February 2021 (Minute Nos. 476 – 484) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
The Chairman will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:
(a) Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote. This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.
(b) Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.
(c) Where it is possible that a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Member might be predetermined or biased the Member should declare their predetermination or bias and then leave the meeting while that item is considered.
Advice to Members: If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.
No interests were declared.
Part A Minutes for Recommendation to Cabinet
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property, the Head of Property Services, the Head of Housing, Economy and Community Services and the Capital Projects Manager have been invited to attend for this item.
Presentation added 19 March 2021
The Chairman explained that a report on the Sheerness Clock Tower Restoration project was considered at the Cabinet meeting on 17 March 2021 and he read-out the agreed recommendation. He acknowledged that the Clock Tower was in urgent need of repair and said that the Cabinet Member for Economy and Property, and officers, had been invited to attend the meeting to explain how the Council had reached the position of the urgent works and how community assets could be protected in the future.
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Property gave a short explanation and the Head of Property Services gave a presentation which outlined a 20-year inspection and maintenance history of the clock tower including:
· A 2007 condition survey which assessed the structure in good condition with slight deterioration of paintwork;
· a 2012 condition survey which highlighted small isolated areas down to bare metal and recommended a specialist survey to assess condition;
· works carried out to repaint the clock tower and replacement lamps to the clockface in 2002;
· new door lock and tower panels painted in 2004;
· six visits to reset the clock from November 2016 to March 2017;
· removal of asbestos in September 2007; and
· nine visits to reset the chiming mechanism between 2008 and 2013.
The Head of Property Services explained that the Sheerness Enhancement Association for Leisure (SEAL) carried out works in 2012 and records showed there was evidence of previous repairs, a structural engineer/professional fabricators appointed and limited repairs were carried out to allow repainting to proceed. She said that other adhoc repairs carried out since 2012 included rectifying the time and chiming mechanism, repairs to damaged lock, repairs to a hole in the floor inside and a fixed wire electrical test as well as remedial works.
The Head of Property Services said that a condition survey carried out in December 2018 recommended that a specialist survey be carried out to assess the condition but that repairs to the clock were considered urgent within two years (priority 2). It was intended that works be carried out as part of a planned maintenance programme in 2019/20 but this did not go ahead due to long-term sickness followed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the debate that followed Members asked questions and raised points including:
· What initial lessons had been learned and how would Swale Borough Council (SBC) ensure this did not happen again?;
· was the tower insured?;
· sought clarification on repairs carried out;
· had wind and stress calculations been carried out when wires for bunting and Christmas lights were tethered to the top of the tower?’
· stressed the importance of Swales Heritage;
· sought clarification on priorities of work and when a priority 2 became a priority 1;
· there needed to be better resilience for long-term staff absence to ensure that work was not overlooked;
· the Sheerness Town Team could advise on the testing capabilities of the wires which had annual testing;
· gave examples of specialist repairers that had carried out other work in the Borough;
· sought information ... view the full minutes text for item 585.
Part B Minutes for information
The Committee is asked to consider the Financial Management Report Quarter 3 – 2020/21.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and the Chief Financial Officer have been invited to attend the meeting for this item.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance introduced the report which set out the revenue and capital project outturn position for Quarter 3 2020/21 as at the end of December 2020 and was considered by Cabinet on 17 March 2021.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance said that the projected overspend had increased by £449k. He highlighted the loss of income in leisure centres and car parking, and the savings to members’ allowances in Table 1. Table 2 illustrated the overall impact and the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance drew attention to the overspend of £2.25m in the Commissioning, Environment & Leisure service budget. He highlighted Government funding received in Table 5 and said effective negotiation had resulted in a £535,597 payment for loss of income to Swale Community Leisure (SCL), lower than expected. The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance drew Members’ attention to the £250k loss in planning fees as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finally, the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance said whilst the Council faced financial challenges, with government funding and effective internal financial management, it had not stretched the sustainable revenue budget and compared favourably with other local authorities.
The Chairman praised the Chief Financial Officer and his team for the prompt payment of invoices which was very important to businesses during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Referring to paragraph 3.12 on page 11 of the report, a Member sought clarification on the percentage of reduction in income from Council Tax collection which was offset by Government grants. The Chief Financial Officer agreed to find out.
In response to a Member’s question on the SCL contract, the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance said there was still over 4 years left on the contract. In the debate that followed, the Chief Financial Officer agreed to provide the Chairman with additional information on the negotiations with SCL. In response to a Member’s question on the £340k funding received from the National Leisure Recovery Fund the Chief Financial Officer advised that £72k was allocated to Faversham Pools.
The Chairman went through Appendix 1 page by page and Members asked questions and made points on Table 8 which included:
· Explanation on the net underspend on Electoral Registration (page 15);
· clarification on the Rough Sleeper Initiative (Page 16);
· clarification on whether the £27k overspend on Conservation (page 17) included the funding from the Area Committee allocation; and
· was there an update on the Barton Hill appeal costs (page 17)?;
The Chief Executive explained that the Electoral Registration underspend was due to the postponement of the process during lockdown. She explained the Rough Sleeper Initiative. The Chief Financial Officer agreed to find out more information on the £27k Conservation overspend. The Leader said the Barton Hill Drive high court challenge had not yet been settled.
On Table 10, Members raised points including:
· The Milton Creek Access Road scheme description was confusing and required updating (page 24);
· clarification and update on Swallows Leisure Centre Roof – internal/external and whether ... view the full minutes text for item 586.
The Committee is asked to consider the Forward Plan with a view to identifying possible items for pre-decision scrutiny.
A Member requested an update on the Beach Hut Policy which had previously been on the Forward Plan, had now been taken off but was still budgeted for.
(1) That the Forward Plan be noted.
Word of Thanks
As the meeting was the last scheduled Scrutiny Committee meeting in the current civic year, the Chairman thanked Members and officers for their attendance and work during the challenging year. He gave particular thanks to the recently retired Policy and Performance Officer.
There was an adjournment from 8.10pm to 8.15pm.