Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview Group - Tuesday, 7th November, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Rushcliffe Arena, Rugby Road, West Bridgford

No. Item


Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of Interest.


Minutes of the meeting held on 5 September 2023 pdf icon PDF 249 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on 5 September 2023 were approved as a true record and were signed by the Chairman.


Financial and Performance Management pdf icon PDF 282 KB

Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services

Additional documents:


The Senior Business Partner presented the Q2 position for the Council’s financial and performance monitoring for 2023/24.


The Senior Business Partner summarised the position and said that the projected outturn for revenue had worsened with the predicted budget efficiency of £0.55m now sitting at £0.287m for 2023/24. She said that this was mostly due to due to Rushcliffe Oaks Crematorium, with a half yearly review indicating that projected performance would be £310k less than budget. She said that there had also been a reduction in demand for planning services in relation to new developments which had led to a £259k under recovery of income.


The Senior Business Partner said that there was some offset against efficiency loss from utilities savings as the original budget had been set pessimistically at the height of uncertainty to allow tolerance in price volatility and the Council was now able to release £183k of that. She said that capital underspend had increased from £6.457m to £9.292m with the Council looking to rephase £7.068m of that, leaving £2.224m.


The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group referred to the reported reduction in usage in crematoria across the region and the Senior Business Partner said that whilst it was difficult to predict death rates, there was some seasonality with fewer death during the warmer months and that covid-19 may have led to some people dying earlier than predicted.


Members of the Group referred to grounds maintenance costs. The Senior Business Partner said that when originally considered as part of the budget setting it had been thought that the works could be provided within existing Streetwise resource, however now that Streetwise had been brought inhouse and the Crematorium had opened, the Council had more information about ongoing maintenance and it had been determined that increased staffing and equipment was required. She explained that some of the costs related to vehicle hire from contracts established prior to the Council bringing Streetwise inhouse and it was predicted that costs would reduce once those obligations had expired. The Crematorium Manager was looking at how costs could be reduced whilst continuing to deliver a high standard of service.


The Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group noted that much work had been done in raising awareness of the facility with funeral directors and suggested that this be replicated in the community. The Communications and Customer Services Manager confirmed that the Council was currently preparing communications to raise awareness and engage with residents, including a video on the Council’s Youtube channel highlighting that the facility had a comfort dog called Maizie. 


The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group noted the underspend for registered housing providers and the Senior Business Partner referred the Group to paragraph 4.10 of the Social Housing Models report which was presented to the Communities Scrutiny Group on 5 October 2023 which provided information in relation to the budget, housing needs and strategies.


The Vice Chair of Communities Scrutiny Group asked about total payments to the Development Corporation and The Senior Business Partner  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.


Annual Customer Feedback Report 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 210 KB

Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services



The Service Manager Corporate Services presented the Annual Customer Feedback Report for 2022/23 and explained that this provided information about complaints and compliments received by the Council about the services that it delivered.


The Service Manager Corporate Services summarised that there were no matters which caused alarm and that the overall picture was one of steadiness and stability. She noted that due to previous turnover of staff in the Planning Team the Council had had an issue with a number of complaints related to planning but that following training those issues appeared to have been addressed. She said that a complaint which had been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman had related to planning and the Council had been found to be at fault and as such had issued a letter of apology and paid £200 compensation.


The Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group said the data showed that performance was excellent and the Chairman echoed these sentiments and congratulated the Council.


It was RESOLVED that this report was scrutinised and, subject to any comment, was accepted as a true record of customer feedback in 2022/23.


Corporate Strategy pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services


Additional documents:


The Service Manager Corporate Services presented the Corporate Strategy Report and explained that a very draft form of the Strategy had been brought to the previous Corporate Overview Group meeting in September, including information from the public consultation, after which it had been opened up for consultation with Councillors. She said that the Corporate Strategy presented today was believed to be near final and following review this evening, was due to be presented to Cabinet next week before moving to Full Council in December.


The Vice Chair of Communities Scrutiny Groupraised concern about the first recommendation of the report which asked the Group to consider the results of the Councillor’s consultation as she did not think that that sufficient information had been included in the report for this to be approved. The Group asked that the Service Manager for Corporate Services feedback that it would have been helpful for the Group to have seen the responses from Councillors.


The Vice Chair of Communities Scrutiny Groupreferred to the fact that the papers for Cabinet, including this version of the Corporate Strategy, had already been published before the Group had had chance to comment on it, which did not create a positive perception. Members of the Group echoed these comments but suggested that it would still be possible for this Group to feedback and make recommendations for Cabinet to consider.


The Service Manager Corporate Services said that the publishing of the Cabinet papers had been a technicality and that the report to Cabinet was clear that the Strategy was being considered by Corporate Overview Group this evening and that any recommendations from the Group would be verbally presented to the Cabinet meeting. She confirmed that there was then a month between Cabinet and Council for any recommended changes to be made.


The Service Manager Corporate Services said that it would be possible to remove the first recommendation, ‘A’, from the report if the Group agreed for this to done.


The Vice Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group expressed surprise that only four responses to the consultation had been received from Councillors, one of which was from a political party. The Service Manager Corporate Services confirmed that Councillors had been notified about the consultation through emails, Councillors Connections and through discussion at this Group. She said that the matter of one response being from a political party had not skewed the results.


The Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group asked about home and hybrid working practices at the Council and the Service Manager Corporate Services said that this came under the remit of the Head of Paid Service and was an internal, operational, matter rather than an outward, corporate, practice and as such it wasn’t included in the Strategy. She confirmed that the Council had facilitated for its staff to be able to work from any location and that working remotely did not impact on staff being able to complete all aspects of their job. She said that the Council  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Feedback from Scrutiny Group Chairs


The Chairman fed back on behalf of the Chair of Communities Scrutiny Group who had commented that Officers were often regurgitating information from their reports. The Deputy Chair of Communities Scrutiny Group added that there was also occasion when Officers had not fully addressed the questions asked on the matrix.


The Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group said that the degree of Officer introduction could depend on the complexity of information being reported with some information requiring longer presentation and he welcomed the addition of the matrices to reports to allow Councillors opportunity to assess points raised. He said that the Chair’s briefings also gave opportunity to evaluate the reports and level of introduction required.


The Chairman said that it was often preferential for Officers to focus on expansion of key points in the report via verbal update.


The Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group said that it was possible for Committees to invite Cabinet members and external and expert bodies to attend meetings to provide information where relevant.


The Service Manager said that training was being provided for Officers in relation to writing reports for scrutiny.


The Chairman said that this discussion highlighted how scrutiny was an ever evolving process and encouraged Members to attend scrutiny training offered by East Midlands Councils. Information about the free, virtual, Scrutiny Skills sessions provided by East Midlands Councils would be circulated to Members after the meeting.


The Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group reported that the last meeting reviewed the Internal Audit and Risk Management reports and said that a Member Working Group looking at the Constitution had been set up. He noted that the Asset Management Plan would now report to Governance Scrutiny in February due to changes in EPC ratings linked to the type of energy used which required additional work in reviewing the Plan.


The Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group reported that the last meeting had reviewed how the Council planned for infrastructure growth, noting that the process involved long period forward planning which meant that it was less adaptable to short term change, and had included discussion about elements of infrastructure not in place. He reported that the Group had also reviewed the Council’s Growth Boards and had approved changing focus towards holding task and finish delivery boards as determined by the Strategic Growth Board rather than holding set geographical boards.


The Chairman said that Members submitting questions in advance of Group meetings where possible helped Officers to provide answers and information.


The Chairman noted that scrutiny matrices no longer provided Officer recommendation as to whether they proceed so as not to influence outcomes and enable better discussion.


Feedback from Lead Officers


There was no feedback to report.


Consideration of Scrutiny Group Work Programmes pdf icon PDF 143 KB

Report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services


Additional documents:


The Chairman explained that due to the fulsome nature of the agenda and number of matrices submitted two minutes’ presentation and five minutes’ discussion was allowed to ensure that there was time for the Group to review them all.


The Vice Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group presented the matrix for Retrospective Planning Applications. She explained that she had been involved in a number of retrospective planning applications recently where she had wondered whether they would have been allowed to go ahead if submitted before being built. She said that she had submitted the matrix to know more about how retrospective applications were accepted by the planning department and the process that they went through in reviewing and determining an application.


Members of the Group agreed with the sentiment behind the matrix but thought that this may be a question that could be answered through a briefing note in the first instance.


The Service Manager Corporate Services explained that Officers recommendation would be that as the scrutiny matrix was seeking information that wasn’t currently known, it would be appropriate to put those questions to Officers. She said that if a matter related to something which a wider group of Councillors would benefit from knowing then training may be appropriate. She said that it something did not relate to a problem, perhaps in service delivery, or a matter where a tangible outcome could be achieved then it was not a matter for scrutiny.


The Vice Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group said that it was a series of questions and thought that training would be required to enable a two-way dialogue.


Members of the Group said that there was some perception by residents that there were people who abused the system and said that there would be value in holding a training session to inform and better equip Councillors to challenge those perceptions.


The Vice Chair of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group expressed concern that a training session may not be well attended and said that it was also possible that training would identify aspects that may appear to not be working well, hence her final bullet point about improving the system.


The Service Manager Corporate Services informed the Group that if a matrix had been approved through the Corporate Overview Group and had been through the scrutiny process, then unless the recommendation of the Scrutiny Group was for it to return for further information the matter was considered to have been addressed and could not return within the two year period. She said, however, that if the matter was referred for example to be answered through a briefing note or training session in the first instance and had not been through the scrutiny process then a matrix could be re-submitted within the two years.


The Group agreed for this item to be addressed through training.


Councillor Billin joined the meeting to present the matrix for Local Power Generation. He said that his question related to clean energy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.