Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 7 November 2023 6.00 pm

Venue: Abbey House, Abbey Close, Abingdon OX14 3JE

Contact: Candida Basilio, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item




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. 





Minutes pdf icon PDF 269 KB

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.


Public participation

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.


Work schedule and dates for all South and Joint scrutiny meetings pdf icon PDF 171 KB

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 Please note, although the dates are confirmed, the items under consideration are subject to being withdrawn, added to or rearranged without further notice.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.


Financial outturn report 22/23 pdf icon PDF 379 KB

Scrutiny committee is recommended to note the overall outturn position of the council as well as the outturn of individual service areas.

Additional documents:


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.

  • Committee asked questions of clarification on the underspend and the impact of the war in Ukraine in terms of inflation. It was responded that there was no concern that the grant funding wouldn’t be enough  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Consultation and Engagement annual report pdf icon PDF 243 KB

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.

Additional documents:


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:


  • A member asked how do consultation results follow through to the next stage consistently? The officer responded that it varies by consultation. For the Joint Local Plan (JLP), a report was produced and a recommendation from an independent officer. Planning Policy team were involved in analysis of the JLP response and produced a consultation statement on the website including officer responses. Head of Corporate Services added that we could strengthen the “what happened next” part of the analysis. He also mentioned the team will be using a new and more engaging software.
  • Diversity and Inclusion strategy – of 234 people, how many were from diverse groups? The demographic profile was included in the report but some respondents were representing groups. The officer responded that they had created a database of 273 equalities organisations across our districts for direct contact on consultation and engagement.
  • The officer explained they were hoping to broaden consultations by going to cafes, schools etc to speak to people. It was tricky to get young people to engage.
  • It was confirmed that Inclusion and Diversity Champions were officers across the council teams.
  • Committee commended the report and supported the direction.
  • A member suggested focus groups and panels to help engage those difficult to reach groups, although recognition given to resourcing issues. Cabinet member suggested a targeted approach to engage young people on specific sections/themes that mean something to them. The officer did raise that always consulting the same people via a focus group was not ideal.
  • Ethnicity slide – on the lower % figures, can we try to understand the granular details of those figures in future reporting?
  • Cabinet member for Healthy Communities was invited to speak by the chair, and she added that this was a living document and we can always do better. The engagement was promising, and the report was a good start. Cabinet member cited some examples of outreach she was involved in. She said members can have more direct involvement in engagement in their daily work. Cabinet member for Corporate Services alerted members to the fact that the full data on individual consultation and engagement exercises can be found in their individual reports.
  • Committee discussed demographics data, which was expensive but was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Planning enforcement update report pdf icon PDF 450 KB

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:


  • Member would like to see the numbers at zero to six months.
  • Scoring elements – a member asked whether this had been reviewed as per the last scrutiny meeting, to give higher scores to the most serious cases. The officer explained that the feedback that they got was reviewed, and as a result, they added greater weight to breaches of condition. You can see in the triage form that there was now a weight  given of four. Anything that hits a five or more goes to the next stage of investigation.
  • Paragraph 12 was highlighted by a member for showing the district was bucking the national trend of meeting customer demand and resourcing. A member would like to see qualitative data on the work of the team. Anonymised case studies etc, to highlight examples. Number of notices served as well? Background could be given to law and the framework the team works to. A suggestion was given that six-monthly reporting was too onerous, and yearly, with some qualitative data, would be better. The Cabinet member explained that there was no national targets to work to at present – she added that notices served wasn’t a good measure. The Cabinet member informed that other authorities were asking the team about their work, which was a sign of success. Parish and Town council training had been helpful in informing people of how the system works with the new Enforcement Statement (this was a previous scrutiny suggestion). Head of Planning suggested we could bring appeals success as a measure for enforcement, in due  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.