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Apologies were received from Councillor David Turner. Councillors Jo Robb and Katharine Keats-Rohan were present online. It was noted that Councillors Leigh Rawlins and Kate Gregory were delayed and would be joining the meeting in person.
Urgent business and chair's announcements
To receive notification of any matters which the chair determines should be considered as urgent business and the special circumstances which have made the matters urgent, and to receive any announcements from the chair.
Chair ran through some housekeeping matters.
Declaration of interests
To receive declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests, other registrable interests and non-registrable interests or any conflicts of interest in respect of items on the agenda for this meeting.
To review the committee minutes of the meeting held on 7 August 2023 and agree as a correct record.
The minutes of the South Scrutiny Committee meeting on 7August were agreed as a correct record and the chair would sign them as such.
To receive any questions or statements from members of the public that have registered to speak.
John Salmons spoke to item nine, on planning enforcement. Mr Salmons provided his views on the enforcement process. The chair thanked Mr. Salmons for his statement.
To review the attached scrutiny work schedule. Please note, although the dates are confirmed, the items under consideration are subject to being withdrawn, added to or rearranged without further notice.
Committee noted the work programme.
Scrutiny committee is recommended to note the overall outturn position of the council as well as the outturn of individual service areas.
Cabinet member for Finance and Property Assets introduced the report. Also present was Head of Finance, and the Strategic Finance Officer was present online to answer questions. The Cabinet member explained that the main points were that there had been a reduction in net expenditure and a carry forward of capital spend.
Head of Finance added the following points for committee to note:
· On revenue, the budget raised to £21m from the projected £15m at budget setting in 2022, including budget carry forwards and slippage in one off Revenue growth schemes from the previous year being added to the budget and the £21m formed the basis of the variance for the year in terms of Revenue expenditure.
· Table three points out that there was an underspend on expenditure of £3.4 million but when we take into account investment income there’s no significant underspend.
· There was a significant carry forward of over 4 million from certain schemes and these are shown in more detail in appendices.
· This budget was set the week before the invasion of Ukraine began which means that our expenditure budget did not take account of what happened to the economy during 2022-23 where we saw our costs go up which we had not foreseen when we set the budget. We also saw interest rates go up and utility costs supplies and services costs go up but at the same time we had more money in our investments.
· Regarding capital and the significant slippage over the last two years. We had undertaken a very detailed piece of work, looking at the revenue budget. It had been subject to significant budget challenging exercises, but we had neglected capital from such an exercise but we were rectifying that as we speak. We're in the middle of a capital programme challenge exercise now, which was reviewing all of our current capital projects in terms of meeting current corporate priorities and making sure we've got the funding.
· We had not got the profiling right when we set the capital program for 22-23, which we were endeavouring to fix as part of next year's budget setting.
· There were significant slippage items - those relating to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding. As part of our current CIL funding strategy, we allocate all the CIL we take after the amount for Parishes and the admin levy. 50% was allocated to Oxfordshire County Council, 20% was allocated to Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and 30% was for South Oxfordshire. What the underspend represents was money that we had collected on behalf of CCG and hold for the CCG to spend on schemes on their behalf. We await details from CCG on what schemes the funding should be allocated to.
Below summarises the main comments and questions raised by the scrutiny committee.
Scrutiny Committee is asked to note the consultation and engagement carried out by the council during 2022-2023 and make any comments to Cabinet for consideration.
Cabinet member for Corporate Services, Policy and Programmes introduced the report. Present in the room was the Communications and Engagement Manager, to answer any questions raised. The Head of Corporate Services was also online to take questions.
The report was the first of its kind, so the team were interested in Scrutiny committee’s suggestions. It covered both South and Vale. You can see the range of consultation and engagements. It was worth noting that consultations are statutory for the councils, whereas engagements are voluntary reaching out exercises and align with the Corporate Plan. There was desire to innovate and use different resources to reach out to different sectors of the community. The Cabinet member commended the team for their work.
The main questions and comments raised by scrutiny committee were:
Scrutiny Committee is asked to consider the latest progress report of the new approach to planning enforcement (as set out in the Planning Enforcement Statement 2021) and provide any comments to the Cabinet Member for Planning.
(Nb: The link to the 2021 statement above is an appendix document for this item, also mentioned on page 25 of the agenda pack. It has not been included as an attachment, so please access it via the link.)
Cabinet member for Planning introduced the report, supported by the Enforcement Team Leader and Head of Planning:
The report provided an update on the continued improvement of planning enforcement work. Overall since the last report the on-hand enforcement case numbers had been further reduced and the performance improvement in throughput of cases had been maintained. In graph one on page 63 overall case numbers were continuing to fall. Councillors requested further reporting on older cases up to and over 36 months and graph two on page 64 confirms that focus on reducing the older cases was also starting to progress. In April, extra resources were moved into the team to help with managing workload and achieve the six-week performance target. This had worked well with greater consistency in the six-week performance target as seen on graph three on page 65. The additional resources had been made permanent to enable the team to maintain its improved performance and deal with an increasingly complex case load. Complex cases means, for example, sites with multiple breaches and or where a multi-agency team both internally and with our partners was required.
The Cabinet member considered that the current planning enforcement statement which sets out our approach to plan enforcement was working well and that there was no need for further change at this time. Cabinet member welcomed any questions or comments from the committee.
The committee provided their comments and questions, outlined as follows: