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Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday 8 July 2014 7.00 pm

Venue: Room B12, Civic Centre, Home Gardens, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1DR

Contact: Email: memberservices@dartford.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor D A Hammock (substitute Cllr. Hunnisett), Councillor J A Hayes, Councillor R S L Perfitt (substitute Cllr. Sandhu) and Councillor Mrs P A Thurlow (substitute Cllr. Mote).

 

2.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of the Grant of Dispensation (if any) by the Audit Board or Managing Director.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

3.

Confirmation of the Minutes of the meeting held on 29 April 2014 pdf icon PDF 108 KB

Minutes:

The Chairman asked Members to confirm the minutes of the Committee’s previous meeting held on 29 April 2014.

 

The Lead Member for Transportation and Infrastructure stated that his comments regarding the Big Bin Swap Scheme made at Scrutiny on 4 February 2014 had not been fully recorded in the minutes of that meeting and that he wished them recorded retrospectively.

 

The Chairman advised the Lead Member that his objections regarding the minutes of the meeting on 4 February had been discussed by the Committee on 29 April and that the Committee had agreed that the minutes which had appeared in the agenda were a true and accurate record of the previous meeting held on 4 February and that the matter was now closed.

 

The Chairman then confirmed that Members had received copies of a letter dated 27 May 2014 from Councillor David Brazier, KCC Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport. The letter from Councillor Brazier was in response to the Chairman’s letter of 14 May 2014 (written jointly with Councillor Tony Martin as Chairman of Dartford JTB) recording the concerns of Dartford Members and residents both at Borough and Parish level over the implementation of KCC’s Street Lighting Policy [Draw-Down: Scrutiny 29 April 2014 - Min. No.40 refers].

 

The Chairman expressed his disappointment with the KCC response which indicated little progress in addressing Dartford concerns as discussed by the Committee on 29 April and set out in his joint letter of 14 May. He advised that similar disappointment had been expressed by Members over the KCC response at JTB on 10 June.

 

However, he noted that the policy was subject to review after 12 months and advised that Borough [and Parish] Members should gather information regarding the roll-out of the lighting scheme in their individual Wards in preparation for a challenge of the policy at the 12 month review stage. 

 

 

                                    RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the minutes of the meeting held on 29 April 2014 be confirmed as presented in the agenda papers for 8 July 2014 as a true and accurate record of proceedings.

4.

Urgent Items

The Chairman will announce his decision as to whether there are any urgent items and their position on the agenda.

Minutes:

The Chairman announced that there were no urgent items for consideration.

5.

To consider references from other Committees (if any)

There are no references from other Committees at present.

Minutes:

There were no references from other committees.

6.

Regulation 9 Notice pdf icon PDF 70 KB

To consider any issues arising from the Regulation 9 Notice for the period 16 June 2014 to 31 October 2014.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the contents of the Notice for the period 16 June 2014 to 31 October 2014 be noted.

7.

General Exception Provisions Relating to Key Decisions pdf icon PDF 48 KB

In accordance with Standing Order 54(6)(e) to note the details of a General Exceptions Regulation 10 Notice that has been issued in respect of the provision of a new pavilion at Hesketh Park, Dartford.

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

That Members note the details of the General Exception Regulation 10 Notice in respect of the provision of a new pavilion in Hesketh Park.

8.

Orchard Theatre Annual Report 2013-14 [WP] pdf icon PDF 58 KB

To note the contents of the Orchard Theatre Annual Report for 2013/14 as submitted by the Theatre Director, Mr Chris Glover of HQ Theatres Ltd.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed the Orchard Theatre Director, Mr Chris Glover of HQ Theatres Ltd to the meeting, together with the Leisure & Communities Officer and noted the presence of the Strategic Director (Internal Services) and the Cabinet Portfolio holder for Environment, Leisure and Facilities. 

 

The Chairman reminded Members of the arrangements whereby the Committee reviewed the annual report and accounts for the management of the Orchard by HQ Theatres Ltd each year, to ensure that the terms and targets in the management contract were being met and the Theatre performing to expectations. The Committee would consider the principal 2013-14 annual report document that evening, with consideration of the Orchard’s accounts for the corresponding period being undertaken when they became available [October 2014].

 

The Chairman congratulated the Theatre Director on another comprehensive and encouraging annual report for the Orchard and invited questions from Members.

 

The Theatre Director and the Leisure & Communities Officer confirmed the following points for Members in subsequent discussion:

 

·         Youth Theatre numbers had increased with the Orchard due to participate in a Youth Theatre festival that week-end;

·         The Theatre Director undertook to consider the business case for discounted and standby tickets for Youth Theatre participants to other Orchard shows;

·         The needs of the 18-25 year old age group were being met in the Orchard’s programme through comedy shows including stand-up and musicals e.g. ‘Joseph’;

·         It was acknowledged that the Panto run had been tailored to the availability of the major star Craig Revel Horwood and that the Panto run could have been extended, had Mr Horwood been available. However, the overriding concern was to secure a major star;

·         Dartford residents already benefited from discounted tickets under the ‘Friends Scheme’ [receiving 2 tickets for the price of 1] but the Director undertook to look into a Premiere Card loyalty scheme for Dartford residents with a discounted membership rate;

·         Advertising discounted tickets for Dartford residents for poorly attended  shows was difficult, given the potential impact on future advance bookings;

·         Average attendance at 57% was slightly down on the previous year explained in part by the increase in the number of shows performed;

·         New partnerships with Dance and Drama groups allied to a proposed standby scheme should raise the average attendance figure going forward;

·         The perceived need for larger seats for  larger patrons at the Theatre was noted;

·         The important role played by Group Co-ordinators in bringing more group bookings to the Orchard had been recognised by HQ Management Ltd [report page 3 agenda page 25];

·         Group bookings currently ran at 7% of annual business with a target of 10% the goal in the coming months;

·         It was hoped that the Orchard Accounts FOR 2013-14 would be available in October 2014.

 

 

The Chairman thanked the Theatre Director for attending Scrutiny that evening and congratulated him and all his staff for another excellent year for the Orchard.

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the Committee note the Annual Report for the management of the Orchard Theatre for the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014;

 

2.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Draw Down: Provision of New Pavilion at Hesketh Park pdf icon PDF 65 KB

To consider the report submitted to Cabinet on 12 June 2014.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman advised that he had Drawn-Down the Cabinet report for discussion given that it was a Key Decision and that not all Members in his Group had been able to attend CAP prior to the matter going to Cabinet [CAP B of 9 June 2014].

 

The report and EXEMPT Appendix set out the current position concerning the provision of a new pavilion at Hesketh Park. Funding for the project had been set at £1M from the capital budget under the capital programme for Community Facilities 2014-15. The project was termed a Key Decision as it would incur expenditure beyond the agreed Council threshold (currently £500,000).

 

The Chairman welcomed the Council’s Heritage, Events and Projects Manager to the meeting and thanked the Chairman of Dartford Cricket Club, Mr Jim Lowrie for attending given the Club’s position as proprietor of the existing pavilion and major benefactor of the new building. He also noted the presence of the Cabinet portfolio holder to respond to the Committee’s questions.

 

Prior to inviting the Stone Ward Member from his Group to open the debate; the Chairman reminded the Committee that given the presence of guests, the meeting would have to go into closed session if any Member wished to discuss the EXEMPT Appendix papers in detail.

 

The Ward Member for Stone asked on what basis Cabinet had agreed to invest £1M from the capital budget in a new cricket pavilion in Hesketh Park, given what could be achieved from a similar sum being invested in the development of Dartford’s High Street. He wondered how Cabinet had decided that the re-furbishment of the cricket pavilion should take priority over other projects.

 

The Cabinet Portfolio holder for Environment, Leisure & Facilities advised the Committee that the project to provide a new cricket pavilion in Hesketh Park was the next stage in the Council’s strategy of re-investing in sports and leisure facilities that the Council owned and controlled. The cricket pavilion project followed on from previous sports heritage work undertaken at Princes Park, the Judo Centre and the [ongoing] re-furbishment and expansion of the Fairfield Pool facility. Dartford Cricket Club was one of the oldest in Kent and represented the Borough across the County. Refurbishment of the new pavilion would attract jobs to the area and provide an enhanced community facility in addition to cricket, and had the full backing of the Friends of Hesketh Park. The project was being taken forward in a transparent process with three reports having been presented to Cabinet [and CAP] to date.

 

The Ward Member then addressed the issue of funding for the project. He asked whether any alternative funding had been sought from KCC or the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) given the proposal to commit £1M of tax payer funding to the project.

 

The Cabinet Member advised that he had discussed with the Managing Director (MD) the prospects of possible external funding for both the new cricket pavilion and the Fairfield expansion and refurbishment projects. The England & Wales Cricket Board  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Dartford Turnaround Project - Part of the Kent Troubled Families Programme pdf icon PDF 132 KB

To note the attached report.

Minutes:

The report from the Community Safety Officer (CSO) set out the formation and delivery (to date) of the Dartford ‘Turnaround’ project. The Project forms part of the Kent Troubled Families Programme which, in turn, forms part of the National Troubled Families Programme aimed at working with families which; have a parent out of work, a child who has poor school attendance or is a cause of anti-social behaviour (ASB) or crime; were (as a family) a high cost to the public purse.

 

The Chairman thanked the Strategic Director (External Services), the CSO and the Kent County Council Troubled Families Programme Manager for their attendance that evening and patience during discussion of preceding agenda business.

 

He welcomed the CSO’s report which he found helpful in terms of background and funding both for the Kent-wide programme and the Dartford project. He noted that a number of issues were due for year-end assessment and wondered how the various targets would be met.

 

In particular, the Chairman sought an explanation of the nature of the work undertaken with Troubled Families whom, it appeared, fell into two distinct groups: ‘Troubled’ and ‘Troublesome’. He noted the four criteria applied to families for inclusion in the Programme and the weight given to the criteria and each family group category to determine resource allocation. He surmised that families in the ‘Troubled’ category appeared easier to help and required fewer resources.

 

The CSO in his role as manager of the Dartford Turnaround Project gave an initial response to Members. He advised that:

 

·         ‘Troubled’ families were defined as having ‘internal’ problems such as parental unemployment and/or children with poor school attendance records and could be viewed as ‘easier’ to help on a 1 to 1 basis and be less resource intensive;

·         ‘Troublesome’ families by comparison involved in crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) had a wider impact on the community as a whole and potentially on the Council’s resources;

·         Both categories of troubled family attracted a High/Medium/Low intervention rating by the Council, but in reality, all families in the Dartford Project needed a High to Medium degree of support in both groups;

·         Significant reductions in the levels of youth crime and ASB by members of Dartford Troubled families had been achieved, building on existing partnership connections within the Dartford CSU;

·         Helping parents back into work was now seeing good progress, as was increasingly positive school attendance figures, although the challenge was to maintain those good attendance figures for children over the required 3 term criterion, given the variety of complex problems affecting performance in this category;

·         38 families had been helped in the current period representing a 40% claim against the target of 95 families to be turned around in total over the 3 years of the Project;

·         KCC data indicated that Kent was performing well in the national rankings on a numerical basis, given the number of families that have been worked with, but in percentage terms Kent still had a way to go to meet the national average given  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Review of Housing Revenue Account (HRA) 2013-14 [WP]

Officers to respond to Member’s questions.

Minutes:

The Chairman invited the Lead Member for Transportation and Infrastructure to open the debate given his proposal that the topic be added to the Committee’s Work Plan for 2014-15 [Min. No. 32 of 4February 2014].

 

In the absence of a specific report for the Committee to consider; the Council’s Principal Accountant, Head of Housing Services and the Strategic Director (Internal Services) in her role as the Council’s Section 151 Officer, were present to respond to Members’ questions.

 

The Lead Member for Transportation and Infrastructure advised the meeting that the area of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) 2013-14 that he particularly wished to examine that evening were the financial arrangements the Council had entered into to secure the Council’s Housing Stock. The Lead Member added that it was his understanding that the Council were paying-off the loan quicker than anticipated.

 

The Committee received an initial response from the Principal Accountant, who confirmed the following points for Members:

 

·         The capital sum borrowed by the Council in February 2012 to buy itself out of the previous annual Housing subsidy payment to central Government was £86.9M;

·         Repayment of the principal sum was being undertaken on schedule, with annual repayments of £4.4M which had reduced the capital sum outstanding [debt.] to £78M;

·         In 8 years’ time [2022] an additional payment of £5M over and above the £4.4M annual repayment for that year, would considerably reduce the annual interest the Council paid on the outstanding capital sum borrowed, from that point onwards to the end of the loan period;

·         At present the annual interest payment on the principal sum borrowed was £1.9M which combined with the annual capital repayment [£4.4M] meant that the Council was now paying less annually to secure its Housing Stock than under the previous annual subsidy payment to central Government;

·         The Council had accrued some £1.267M in receipts in the 6 quarters to date under the Government’s ‘Right to Buy’ Replace scheme (RtB) which allowed local authorities to retain a higher proportion of the receipts from the sale of Council properties to tenants with the balance accruing to the Government;

·         Provided the Council match-funded the retained receipts from the RtB replacement scheme on a 70:30 basis (some £2.957M) from the HRA by March 2017; the receipts could be retained to fund the building of new affordable housing under the 1-4-1 Scheme.

 

The Head of Housing Services added the following detail and background to the Council’s new build programme as previously reported to Cabinet on 3 April 2014 [Min. No. 150]:

 

·         Under the former annual subsidy payment arrangements to central Government the amount of money the Council was asked to repay annually was subject to fluctuation, which made long-term planning difficult;

·         Following the Council’s decision to progress with the HRA reform, and to make a one-off long-term payment (ending the need for the fluctuating annual payment) it was now easier to construct and manage a 30 year business plan for the Housing Revenue Account going forward;

 

·         Separately the Council was participating in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Scrutiny Committee Annual Report 2013/14 [WP] pdf icon PDF 48 KB

To receive the draft Scrutiny Committee Annual Report for 2013/14 and comment accordingly.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman thanked the Committee Co-ordinator for preparing the draft Scrutiny Annual Report 2013-14 document and appendices and commended it to Members for presentation to the next meeting of the General Assembly of the Council.

 

The Chairman advised that following the Committee’s scrutiny of Kent County Council’s (KCC) Flood Protection Policy on 4 February 2014; the KCC Cabinet had subsequently approved 17 recommendations to improve the Policy including issues raised by the Committee. He re-emphasised the importance of two-way communication between County and Borough / Parish Councillors and noted that the amended KCC policy included all important resilience measures. 

 

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the Scrutiny Committee Annual Report 2013-14 and appendices be submitted to the next meeting of the General Assembly of the Council.

13.

Review Scrutiny Committee Work Plan 2014-15 pdf icon PDF 54 KB

Members to review the current Work Plan for 2014/15 attached at Appendix A to the report and comment accordingly.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman noted that the following items had been added to the Work Programme (WP) for consideration by the Committee in November:

 

·         Managing the Marshes;

·         Review of the Council’s Business Continuity (Resilience) Plans.

 

He also noted the absence of WP items prior to that date.

 

           RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the current Work Programme for the Committee be noted.