Agenda and draft minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny - Tuesday, 8th November, 2022 7.30 pm

Venue: Conference Room 1 - The Forum. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 358 KB

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The minutes from the last meeting were approved and signed by the Chair. 

 

2.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Taylor and Hearn

 

3.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

4.

Public Participation

Minutes:

There was no public participation.

 

5.

Actions From the last meeting pdf icon PDF 7 KB

Minutes:

The actions from the previous meeting were noted.

 

6.

Consideration of any matter referred to the Committee in relation to Call-In

None

Minutes:

None

7.

Q2 - Planning, Development and Regeneration performance Report pdf icon PDF 499 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

ARobinson took the report as read, noting the updates on the mitigation strategy to lift the current moratorium and work with HCC on planning resilience. ARobinson highlighted progress on 2 supplementary planning documents in the last quarter, and noted the collection of £750,000 in CIL in the last quarter. ARobinson advised that income across the planning service is down over the last quarter, as are search fees, and performance in development has decreased due to the moratorium and a national downturn in the number of planning applications submitted. ARobinson highlighted the progress made in enforcement.

 

Cllr Foster commented on paragraph 2.3 in the report regarding planning resilience and requested clarification around 'potential collaboration with partners'. ARobinson advised that they are considering a number of options on how to improve planning resilience and they are looking at opportunities with media partners as well as across HCC to identify other resources. ARobinson explained that there is an issue with recruitment across the county and they are therefore working with partners on a strategic solution, including the sharing of resources.

 

Cllr Stevens asked if they are looking at a central county planning body. ARobinson confirmed that this is not being considered and that they are looking to identify any particular skillsets. Cllr Anderson also noted that they are looking at non-controversial services, such as back office operations where there is no scope for differing interpretations in what is in the public interest and where there is a benefit from sharing with other authorities.

 

Cllr Wilkie requested an overview of how resource sharing will work. ARobinson advised that they are in the early stages of the process and are currently exploring options with partners as part of a wider initiative led by HCC to better understand the current status of each local authority. Further updates will be brought to the Committee and it was reiterated that there are no plans for a joint planning service that would operate across the county.

 

Cllr Wilkie noted IT improvements and asked if this is part of the resilience planning. ARobinson explained that the planning system is not operating as well as it could due to capacity in the system and there are a number of inefficiencies within the system. One area of consideration is IT systems and if more can be done to digitise data and speed up applications.

 

Cllr Harden thanked A Robinson for the report.

 

8.

Complaints Policy pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Minutes:

HPeacock provided an overview of the policy, noting that this is part of the Customer Strategy as approved by Cabinet in February 2022. The policy highlights key areas of the strategy to put the customer at the centre of services. HPeacock took the report as read, noting the focus within the strategy regarding phoning customers in relation to frustrations, updated response times and reviewing levels of responsibilities with team leaders handling stage 1 complaints and heads of service dealing with stage 2. The aim is to implement the policy by 1st December 2022, subject to approval from Cabinet. HPeacock also introduced OBurrough, a corporate graduate who has assisted with the development and implementation of the policy.

 

Cllr Foster referred to a complaint in 2019 that was ignored and that the follow-up complaint was also ignored, resulting in going to the RGO. Cllr Foster noted the timeframes that were not met previously and asked if a response would now be given if they were not met. Cllr Foster advised that the issue was that 2 services were involved and the complaint was considered closed once it was sent to the relevant service. Cllr Foster also noted that she did not receive a copy of the complaint made and that the phone number did not provide an option to get through to complaints.

 

HPeacock confirmed that part of the work linked to the development of the policy is the centralisation of complaints resource under the Customer Service unit, and the centralisation of this resource, including the tracking and monitoring of complaints, allows better oversight of when complaints are slipping against deadlines. HPeacock commented on the previous complaint and the number of services being involved, noting that one officer will be appointed as the lead on the complaint and will be responsible for collating responses and then responding to the customer. On the issue raised by Cllr Foster, HPeacock advised that there will be one point of contact who is responsible for highlighting issues to the service or officer handling the complaint, adding that, as part of the policy, they have confirmed with all heads of service what they are responsible for to ensure complaints are allocated to the appropriate person.

 

Cllr Foster queried if the complainant would have the contact details of the person handling the complaint. HPeacock confirmed they would have the contact details of the person handling the complaint, who is expected to phone the customer in the first instance where they provide their contact details.

 

Cllr Foster asked if a copy of the complaint is provided when logged. HPeacock confirmed that templates are being considered with the expectation that the key elements of the complaint are included. On providing a copy back to the customer, HPeacock confirmed that this would be considered further.

 

Cllr Harden clarified that the customer would be contacted in the first instance and asked if this had taken place before. HPeacock confirmed that this isn't part of the current approach and was reflected in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Green Waste Subscription pdf icon PDF 805 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RLeBrun took the report as read, noting that the Council is facing significant financial and environmental pressures in the medium-term and must therefore consider a number of options to close the budget deficit in future years. The situation has been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis as well as the recently approved 2022-23 National Pay Award. The option being considered is to introduce a chargeable garden waste service to help the council reduce the cost of the service provision. RLeBrun noted that the collection of garden waste is a discretionary service, not a statutory service, and does not have to be provided by the council. The proposal is to introduce a paid service for all garden waste from the first week of March 2023 when the garden waste service recommences after the winter break.

 

Cllr England thanked RLeBrun for the report and acknowledged on the need to save money and agreed that it is logical to look at non-statutory services, though he urged caution around the unintended consequences if the decision is rushed. Cllr England asked if the proposal would effect recycling versus residual waste, noting that the report states there is no detriment amongst those who carried this out, though there is evidence from Haringey that 4% of residual waste was garden waste and could therefore increase Dacorum's residual waste, an area that they are looking to improve upon. Cllr England also noted Hemel Hempstead's recycling centre, stating that it is not considered fit for purpose and asked if it was the right time to put more pressure on it. Cllr England asked if the proposal would also lead to more bonfires and queried the air quality risk posed by people burning wet garden waste, noting that there is no safe level and that some people may decide to take this route during the cost of living crisis. Cllr England then asked how many of the 36% who don't pay but don't have garden waste have composted successfully and asked what they are encouraging people to do if not to recycle locally, suggesting that it could lead to dumping of waste. Cllr England clarified that he was not against the proposal and noted his concerns of implementing it too quickly and not doing it well, stating that there could be some unintended consequences. Cllr England stated that giving people £10 off the service would be enough for those struggling and that they should recognise the cost of living crisis on those on fixed income. Cllr England then asked if the proposal is driven by environmental virtue or if they are simply looking to save money. Cllr England then asked if home composting is a goal and suggested that the primary objective should be to first establish home composting successfully before proceeding with the proposal. Cllr England asked when recycling would be standardised in the UK and if the council is giving a commitment to remove the charge when it is implemented.

 

Cllr Harden clarified that Cllr England  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 391 KB

Minutes:

Cllr Harden advised that a discussion took place pre-meeting to look at the Work Programme and comments raised and confirmed that a new Work Programme will be circulated in the coming days.

 

Cllr Timmis requested an item on climate change and how residents are being encouraged to take action. Cllr Timmis stated that an item on water and floods should also be included, noting that Affinity Water have attended the meeting in the past. Cllr Timmis also requested an item on Luton Airport expansion plans and the government enquiry regarding their recent application, which Luton Borough Council granted, to expand from 18m to 19m passengers, and that a further expansion is in the pipeline. Cllr Timmis noted the impact on both the immediate and wider areas.

 

Cllr Beauchamp noted that there is a water resource programme that is ongoing and is jointly hosted by Thames Water and Affinity Water, and suggested that both parties be invited to discuss their plans for the future.

 

Cllr Timmis noted the amount of acronyms included in the Work Programme. Cllr Harden advised that a glossary is usually included and that they would ensure a glossary is included within the reports.

 

Cllr England asked if air quality could be included. Cllr Harden stated that they are awaiting government information and the item is pencilled in for the January meeting.

 

There being no further business.

 

Cllr Harden formally closed the meeting at 9:09pm.