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Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday 7 February 2017 7.00 pm

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

Contact: Email: memberservices@dartford.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

22.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor J A Hayes and the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Transport and Infrastructure.

 

The Chairman welcomed Mr Chris Glover, Orchard Theatre Director HQ Theatres Ltd. together with the Leisure & Communities Officer, to aid Members in their consideration of the 2015-16 Orchard Theatre Accounts [Item 10].

 

The Chairman also welcomed Michael Jennings and Andy Creba from the Arriva Bus Company and Dan Bruce and Phil Lightowler from KCC Transport for the discussion of Fastrack [Item 11].

23.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of any Grants of Dispensation.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

24.

Confirmation of the Minutes of the meeting held on 15 November 2016 pdf icon PDF 156 KB

Minutes:

                                    RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the meeting held on 15 November 2016 be confirmed.

25.

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.

26.

To consider references from other Committees (if any)

There are presently no references from other Committees to consider.

Minutes:

The Chairman confirmed that, as appeared to be the custom, there were no references from other Committees for Scrutiny to consider. He encouraged Members to refer topics for scrutiny from their duties on other Committees, whenever this was appropriate.

 

27.

Special Urgency Provisions Relating to Key Decisions pdf icon PDF 49 KB

To note the report detailing the Special Urgency Regulation 11 Agreement considered by Cabinet on 8 December 2016 [Min. No. 81] in accordance with Standing Order 54(7)(a).

Minutes:

The Chairman advised Members that he had counter-signed the Special Urgency Regulation 11 Agreement for the ‘Sale of Land at Stone Lodge to The Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government’; in his role as Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee and that his action was being reported to the Committee in accordance with Standing Order 54(7)(c). 

 

                                    RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members noted the details of the report.

28.

Regulation 9 Notice pdf icon PDF 95 KB

To note the contents of the Regulation 9 Notice for the period 17 January to 31 May 2017.

Minutes:

The Chairman encouraged Members of all political Groups represented on the Committee to Draw-Down for scrutiny any items on the attached Regulation 9 Notice, either prior to or following consideration by Cabinet.

 

The Vice-Chairman enquired whether Cabinet would be considering the outcome of the Public Consultation exercise by Highways England, on their proposals to make improvements to the A2 Bean and Ebbsfleet Junction. He noted that the topic was not listed on the current Regulation 9 Notice.

 

The Committee Co-ordinator undertook to confirm this point for Members.

 

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the contents of the Regulation 9 Notice for the period 17 January 2017 to 31 May 2017 be noted as submitted in the agenda papers.

29.

General Exception Provisions Relating to Key Decisions pdf icon PDF 50 KB

To note the attached details of a General Exception Regulation 10 Notice issued in accordance with Standing Order 54(6)(e) to be considered by Cabinet on 26 January 2017.

Minutes:

The Chairman advised Members that he had counter-signed the General Exception Regulation 10 Notice in respect of ‘Dartford Town Centre Transport and Public Realm Improvements’; in his role as Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee and that this action was being reported to the Committee under Standing Order 54(6)(e). He stressed that the policy decision itself, had been taken solely by Cabinet.

 

                                    RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members noted the report.

 

30.

Orchard Theatre Accounts 2015-16 Financial Year pdf icon PDF 482 KB

To consider the Director’s Report and Financial Statements for The Orchard Theatre Dartford for the Year ended 31 March 2016.

Minutes:

The Chairman renewed his welcome to Chris Glover and invited the Theatre Director to present the annual accounts for The Orchard for the financial year ended 31 March 2016.

 

The Theatre Director advised Members that profits for The Orchard had increased by some £80K in the period under review in comparison to the previous cycle and that the Council’s share of that profit [10% nett] had increased on a pro-rata basis. In response to specific questions from Members he confirmed that:

 

·         The Orchard was operating at 62% audience capacity (national average) and it was hoped that, on current evidence, profits for the 2016-17 financial cycle could improve on those presented for 2015-16;

 

·         A further growth in profits for The Orchard in 2017-18 was the management objective, but difficult to predict. Profit margins were product-led and the shows currently touring were not deemed as strong as e.g. ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘Chicago’; profit growth in 2017-18 would inevitably reflect the strength of product that management could secure for Orchard audiences;

 

·         HQ Theatres did ‘bench-mark’ profits for theatres within the Group by region, but direct comparisons were often difficult given the wide variance in theatre audience capacity e.g. Southend 1600 but only 600 in Swindon.

 

The Chairman thanked the Theatre Director for responding to Members questions and noted the very positive picture of increasing revenue and profit margins (including by extension for the Council) from the management of The Orchard by HQ Theatres’ Ltd.

 

A Member suggested that future consideration of The Orchard’s Accounts be transferred from the Scrutiny Committee to the Audit Board, as a more appropriate fiscal body, following Annual Council [10 May 2017].

 

The Committee Co-ordinator [with the permission of the Chairman] advised Members that the annual accounts for The Orchard Theatre represented an integral part of the annual performance report for the Theatre,  albeit that the accounts were presented separately and in arrears. On that basis, consideration of both documents should therefore remain with the Scrutiny Committee. He reminded Members of the background to the separate presentation of performance and accounts reports for The Orchard, which dated back to 2009. It was the policy of HQ Theatres Ltd. that the annual accounts for all theatres managed by the Group be completed, before details of accounts for individual theatres were released for examination.

 

The Orchard Theatre Director confirmed his company’s policy for Members   in this regard. 

 

The Vice-Chairman of the Audit Board [attending as a Member of Scrutiny] advised the Committee that it would not be appropriate for the Board to become the responsible body to consider the annual accounts for The Orchard. The role of the Board was to ensure that the Council had adequate checks and balances in place to safeguard its internal accounting systems. The annual accounts for The Orchard were an external document prepared by a commercial company [HQ Theatres Ltd] and as such, did not fall within the purview of the Audit Board. He added that the principal role of the Committee  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

Fastrack Reliability Issues: Update from Arriva and KCC Transport Representatives

To receive an update from representatives of Arriva and KCC Transport on the Fastrack service to Dartford [Min. No. 20 of 2015 refers].

Minutes:

The Chairman renewed his welcome to his Arriva and KCC guests and confirmed that all Members had received copies of the Arriva data recording Fastrack passenger numbers, punctuality and ‘Lost Mileage’ figures for both A and B services, for the years 2015 and 2016.

 

In the absence of a formal report, the Chairman reminded Members that the Committee had previously scrutinised the Fastrack services to the Borough in November 2015 [Min. No. 20 refers] when representatives from Arriva, KCC Transport and Highways England had attended Scrutiny proceedings to respond to Members concerns over Fastrack reliability issues. Arriva representatives and KCC Officers had responded to an invitation to update Members.

 

The Arriva Commercial Manager, Michael Jennings, expanded on the data he had provided to the Committee in advance of the meeting. He gave the following responses to Members specific questions regarding data, routes, Dartford Tunnel closures, roadworks and traffic lights/signals:

 

·         Since November 2015 performance and passenger numbers had improved on Arriva’s 480 and 490 routes from Dartford to Gravesend and between Bluewater and Gravesend respectively, with a corresponding drop in passenger numbers using Fastrack B;

·         The Ebbsfleet-Bluewater service was not the fastest available, but it carried the most passengers from a greater number of locations;

·         Existing Arriva data did not enable the company to identify a ‘worst month’ for performance, nor correlate the impact that closures to the Dartford tunnel had on Fastrack in specific terms. Highways England data on Tunnel closures would be sought and relayed to the Committee [via Member Services];

·         ‘Lost Mileage’ figures for Fastrack B had increased since November 2015 but LM figures for Fastrack A had dropped slightly; the data reflected common problems being experienced by bus operators across SE England [not just Arriva] in terms of traffic congestion and increased road usage - passengers reverting to commuting by car;

·         ‘Start Point’ data indicated that 9 out of 10 Fastrack services started on time, but punctuality figures fell by the ‘Mid-Point’ for both routes with B the least punctual;

·         Reliable ‘End Point’ data for both routes was not available at present, due to a culture amongst Arriva drivers of disregarding the ‘7 minute recovery’ period between outward and return journeys, especially when a service was running ‘late’. Arriva hoped to provide reliable ‘End Point’ data in the future by enforcing the ‘7 Minute Recovery’ procedure with their drivers;

·         Arriva did not terminate late running services unless the projected completion time for the outward journey indicated that the next scheduled service would not start on time;

·         Arriva and KCC now held ‘Punctuality & Improvement Partnership’ meetings to address roadwork issues, with Arriva providing input and feedback to both KCC and directly to individual contractors, as and when ongoing roadworks impacted on Arriva’s routes.

 

Dan Bruce, Senior Development & Infrastructure Officer, KCC Transport confirmed the expanded role Arriva now played in the planning and execution of roadworks. Fastrack services were now given priority by KCC and the impact of proposed roadworks mitigated wherever possible. Arriva now  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Review Committee Work Plan for the remainder of 2016-17 pdf icon PDF 42 KB

To note the attached updated Work Plan for the remainder of the 2016-17 Municipal Year.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman noted the contents of the Work Plan proposed for the next meeting of the Committee on 25 April. The EDC presentation on their Master Transport Plan for the Garden City project would be particularly relevant and timely given the Committee’s discussion on Fastrack earlier that evening [Min. No. 31 refers].

 

He encouraged Members of all Groups represented on the Committee to re-visit Cabinet decisions and draw-down topics for update and discussion as appropriate. Topics that he and his Group had identified for further discussion by the Committee in the forthcoming 2017-18 municipal cycle included:

 

·         A Review of the Council’s Housing Stock and HRA [July 2014];

·         A Review of the Council’s litter contract arrangements[Nov. 2015];

·         Waste & Re-cycling Update [Sept. 2016]

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the Committee Work Plan for the remainder of the 2016-17 municipal cycle as published in the Agenda papers be noted;

 

2.    That Members consider further topics for inclusion in the Committee’s Work Programme for the forthcoming 2017-18 municipal cycle including those listed above.