Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: John Meikle Room, The Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton TA1 1HE. View directions

Contact: Max Perry Email: 


No. Item


Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.


Apologies were received from Councillors Kathy Pearce, Hazel Prior-Sankey, Lance Duddridge, Simon Coles, and Susannah Hart. Cllr Martin Lovell attended as substitute for Cllr Simon Coles and Cllr Rosemary Woods attended as substitute for Cllr Susannah Hart.



Minutes from the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 116 KB

To approve the minutes from the previous meeting.


Resolved that the minutes of the Scrutiny Committee – Communities held on 14th February 2024 be confirmed as a correct record.


Resolved that the minutes of the Scrutiny Committee – Communities held on 14th February 2024 be confirmed as a correct record.


Declarations of Interest

To receive and note any declarations of interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.

(The other registrable interests of Councillors of Somerset Council, arising from membership of City, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes: City, Town & Parish Twin Hatters - Somerset Councillors 2023 )


There were no new declarations of interest.


Public Question Time

The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.

For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.

We are now live webcasting most of our committee meetings and you are welcome to view and listen to the discussion. The link to each webcast will be available on the meeting webpage, please see details under ‘click here to join online meeting’.


The chair agreed that the public questions would be heard with the relevant agenda item (Taxi Fares – Tables 2024).


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 36 KB

To discuss the work programme.


To assist the discussion, the following documents are attached:-


(a)  The Committee’s work programme

(b)  The Committee’s outcome tracker


Please use the following links to view the latest Somerset Council Forward Plans and Executive Forward Plan of planned key decisions that have been published on the Council’s website:


Somerset Council Forward Plans

Somerset Council Executive Forward Plan



Additional documents:


Confirmed Cultural Strategy was on track for the 13th June meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.


Added item Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Availability.


An update was requested regarding the status of the Cultural Strategy item, and it was confirmed that it would be ready for the June 13th meeting of Scrutiny – Communities.


It was requested that a post-Glastonbury Festival ‘wash-up’ session be held later in the year.


It was clarified that future Scrutiny Committees would consistently be on Thursdays.


An item for Wheelchair Accessibility and Taxis was added to the work programme as it is considered within the purview of the committee.



Glastonbury Festival Verbal Update

To receive the update.


Requested a post Glastonbury wash up session be added to the committee work programme later in the year, with the potential to run jointly with Scrutiny Committee – Climate and Place in order to capture all of the Council’s festival activities.


Sarah Dowden, Service Director for Regulatory and Operational Services, gave an update on the change in approach to managing Glastonbury Festival and monitoring the licensing conditions, and how efficiencies will be made by reducing staff on site this year.


During the discussion, the following points were raised:


·       What are all the services on site that we are expected to provide? We don’t provide services, we monitor to ensure they are complying with their license.

·       For services provided by the police and SWAST, do they fund their own operations? Other agencies are able to charge for resources, if there are extra staff on site.

·       What about public health? Not aware of the detail of that, but know that they work alongside UKHSA, so have external support. They don’t charge for their services.

·       £32,000 is the maximum we can charge for licensing, could we ask them to volunteer more money to support services? No, we are charging within the licensing regulatory framework.

·       Are there any test runs for the efficiency changes? What are the risks of the efficiencies? We can adapt on site. That is the role of the silver officer. Two or three times a day there are formal feedback meetings with staff on site, allowing us to focus resources and be flexible in areas we are monitoring.

·       Is there scope to roll it back part way through the festival? No, we wouldn’t be able to get administrative staff on site. There will be capacity on site with the staff already there (over 80).

·       Are highways compensated for their work in the festival? Not under the remit of licensing and regulatory, but don’t believe so.

·       Highways falls under Climate and Place, which recently had an item on Glastonbury Festival. A post-Glastonbury wash up session probably needs to cover the whole festival, run jointly with Climate and Place. We would hope to get Glastonbury Festival to attend as well.

·       We can only charge on a cost recovery basis, so it would be useful to review how much it actually costs us so that we can charge.

·       Do we have an overall view of all the agencies involved? Yes, there is a monthly all agency meeting chaired by Sarah Dowden. Looking at how to efficiently use staff resources.

·       How did you come by the figure of 80 officers? This is the historic number from Mendip District Council. This is due to the rotas and the rest periods, as some work until 3am so time off is needed. There are also students, graduates, and volunteers. There are efficiencies to be made with the rotas.

·       Are staff paid overtime? Some are, depending on TUPE conditions.

·       It is clear that our hands our tied financially with how much money we can charge and how much we are required to be on site.

·       District councillors in the past have been invited on site to Glastonbury to see how much goes into monitoring. Would that be possible? Yes, we can have a conversation to see if that is  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


Devolution of Services Verbal Update

To receive the update.


Requested that the devolution programme and a review of service level agreements for devolved services be added to the work programme.


Sarah Dowden, Service Director for Regulatory and Operational Services, gave an update on the current progress of devolution based on the pilot carried out with Bridgwater Town Council. Service transferred include street cleansing, street sweeping, ground maintenance, open spaces, play areas, and fly tipping. The proposed transfer date is 1st May 2024.


During the discussion, the following points were raised:


·       Where there are existing contracts in place are they continuing with those contracts? For Bridgwater area staff are in-house. There is no contract in place. This allows us to be more flexible with timelines as we are not dealing with contract expiry or transfer.

·       Open air street markets not in the list – is that because there aren’t any? No markets are covered under this.

·       Will there be things to do with Bridgwater Carnival that are devolved? Yes, work around the carnival such as post-midnight cleanup will now fall to Bridgwater Town Council.

·       Is the overall cost to the taxpayer going to be higher than currently, with each town council having their own contract? We don’t know what it will look like at the end of devolution. It’s not clear what services will be left over.

·       For Bridgwater Town Council, precept increased for Band D of £3.52 per week, £183 per year. Appendix 16C to the budget gives every Parish precept. This can be shared so councillors can see the increase cost to taxpayers.

·       Will trucks get to the sign and turn around? Yes, unless they choose to buy services in with us, everything else will in effect turn around at the boundary.

·       Some of these are statutory functions. Do we have to be assured that these functions will be carried out to the statutory standard? Yes.

·       If service levels were dropping in Bridgwater, how would we deal with that? There are quarterly meetings. It would be a different process to review it.

·       There is a benefit to staff being TUPEd across as there is consistency in who will be doing the work. The cost of staffing then transfers to Bridgwater Town Council.

·       What are the possibilities of Bridgwater Town Council handing them back to us? It is possible, but they have set their precept in order to fund this.

·       Is there a contract with a timeframe? There is an agreement, with no end date.

·       This will be a partnership going forward. The Bridgwater Town Council Clerk will be happy to share information with parishes or towns on how the devolution process has gone.

·       It would be helpful to see what the action is in Service Level Agreements if the service level is not met and how that would roll out to other devolution agreements. Yes, this can be added to the Work Programme later in the year.

·       Were there things that were not possible or viable for the devolution? Yes, but that is a question for the overall devolution programme. We only deal with regulatory and operations and they guide the conversation.

·       Williton Parish Council would like to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.


Community Services Budget Monitoring (Month 10) pdf icon PDF 183 KB

To receive the report.


Budget Monitoring

Christian Evans, Head of Finance Business Partnering, gave a report on the financial position at the end of January, showing the overall position as well as the position within Community Services specifically. Community Services had a £700,000 underspend, an improvement of £400,000 from month 9.


During the discussion, the following points were raised:


·       Congratulations to the Community Directorate on balancing the budget within the year.

·       For Housing options, grant funding seems to have doubled. Is that funding for future years or is there going to be additional pressure in the future budget? Housing options has ringfenced government grants. There are reserves in the budget, but don’t have the figures available.

·       Were there any costs associated with the increased ticket sales for the pantomime, such as marketing? The entertainment venue worked very hard on this, thinking about it in a different way. Not aware of costs.

The committee commended the team for their hard work on the budget.



Taxi Fares - Tables 2024 pdf icon PDF 183 KB

To consider the report and make any recommendations to Executive.

Additional documents:


The committee resolved to recommend that the Executive Committee looks at all the factors that determine taxi driver incomes, the total impact on income of the proposed changes and at comparisons across rural authorities with regard to day/time pricing and days charged at time and a half when coming to a decision.



Public Statements were read by Jared Colclough and Robin Colclough.


Robin Colclough:


Hello my name is Robin Colclough, and I have been a licenced taxi driver in Taunton Deane for very nearly 30 years. I have been the owner & operator of Scorpio cars for 28 of those years.

I am also the spokesperson for the Taunton taxi drivers and owners trade association, When we saw the first proposed tariff change, we were extremely worried about the following points,

The change to the timing of time and a half from 22;00 to 23;00 and the loss of Saturday daytime would have a devastating effect on taxi owners but more importantly a crippling effect on a drivers ability to earn a living wage.

A driver who normally works these hours would see a average loss of nearly £80 a week in takings, bad enough for the owner but critical for the driver on commission, this would equate to £2000 a year in lost earnings for a driver on the national average commission of 50% - even after taking into account the increase in the basic tariff the driver would still be down over £1200 a year in earnings.

In previous years that might be the loss of a week away with the kids in summer, now it could be the gas or electric bill that doesn’t get paid!

Drivers on 50% commission very rarely earn minimum wage and evenings and weekends are the chance to make up weekly pay.

If they lose this opportunity, then I can assure you Taunton will steadily lose drivers who will leave for better paid jobs.

This also applies to owners who will struggle to maintain their business’s with lower earnings.

When time and half was reduced from 23:30 to 22:00 I personally presented some research I did to the licensing committee.

The basic premise of this research was, the time at which 6 large companies in Taunton paid an enhanced hourly rate,

The earliest was Maynards bakery who paid a higher rate to those starting their evening shift at 17:00 the latest was Asda who paid a higher rate from 21:00. When the time was lowered from 23:30 to 22:00 we, as a trade, made a promise not to ask for it be to any lower in future. The proposal to move it back to 23:00 is a low blow we never expected. It is bad enough that we have to wait until 22:00 but 23:00 is quite simply not fair.

I can absolutely guarantee that any and all passengers traveling after 22:00 will be paid an enhanced hourly rate long before the taxi driver is.

A lot of taxis in Taunton cover school run contracts for Somerset Council, at a rate lower than metered rate. The ability to earn extra from time and a half to cover the bills associated with the business and to earn a living themselves isn’t a desire but an absolute necessity.

Whist I do not wish to labour  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.


Octagon Theatre - Capital Programme pdf icon PDF 78 KB

To consider the report.


Requested that this item return in August ahead of the full business case being submitted to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in September.


Steve Hughes, Programme Manager, and Liz Dawson, Service Director for Cultural Services, gave a report on the revised plan for the Octagon Theatre ahead of it being added to the capital programme.


During the discussion, the following points were raised:


·       Is there a specific reason Somerset Council take responsibility for the overspend of the project should it happen? The theatre is currently closed, and the risk does currently sit with this council. The officer responsible is confident it will not materialise and the reduced scheme can be delivered within the budget, and has a track record of projects delivered under budget.

·       Is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funding on the way? Town clerk is not aware of the status of this. We meet with the Yeovil Town Clerk on a weekly basis to talk about the devolution programme and where we are with the project. Can take it away as an action to ensure there is no confusion. The approach with DCMS is a phased approach, the outline business case has been submitted. There is a requirement for a final and full business case that will be submitted on time.

·       Paragraph 2.1 – the new scheme will be funded by DCMS, Yeovil Town Council, Grant Funded – is this not confirmed? Should the scheme go ahead, it will be funded by £10m from DCMS, £3.75m from Yeovil Town Council, and the rest of the funding is in hand.

·       There is no risk register against this project, so how can we have 100% confidence after a lot of building around the county has gone over budget? There is a risk register, and an Octagon Project Board. It has been scrutinised and if there are risks we are dealing with them. Any project has risks, but we have already done surveys and have a lot of knowledge. There are a large number of officers working on this, including experts on risk assessments. Once there is a final business case, we will be looking at governance, and there will be a high level of involvement from strategic asset management to ensure we keep on top of risks and deal with them appropriately. The recommendation today is only to add it to the capital build programme – we are not asking for money. This project will come back through the governance process.

·       Could we have a risk register? We will bring that next time this comes to committee.

·       There is in principal support from DCMS and Yeovil Town Council, and affordability is contingent on both these decisions. We won’t be in a position to run the theatre until 2026 – when will YTC take responsibility for it? What is the risk it stays with Somerset Council? There are ongoing discussions around devolution across directorates. Yeovil is a large package, and a lot of HR resource is being used. It is in everyone’s interest to get the deal done in the right and proper process. There is a lot that needs to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.