Meeting documents

SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 6th July, 2022 6.15 pm

Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions

Contact: Sam Murrell, Email: and Jess Kemmish, Email: 

Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item




Minutes of the previous Corporate Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 163 KB


Declarations of Interest

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


    (The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)


    Additional documents:


    Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-



    Minute No.

    Description of Interest


    Action Taken

    Cllr I Aldridge

    All Items



    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr N Cavill

    All Items

    SCC & West Monkton


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr S Coles

    All Items

    SCC & Taunton Charter Trustee


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr H Farbahi

    All Items



    Spoked and Voted

    Cllr L Lisgo

    All Items

    Taunton Charter Trustee


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr N Thwaites

    All Items



    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr L Whetlor

    All Items



    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr G Wren

    All Items

    SCC & Clerk to Milverton PC


    Spoke and Voted



Public Participation

    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, but you can also access them on the Somerset West and Taunton webcasting website.

    Additional documents:




Corporate Scrutiny Request/Recommendation Trackers pdf icon PDF 63 KB


Corporate Scrutiny Committee Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 190 KB

    To receive items and review the Forward Plan.


    Additional documents:


    ·                  "Business of Cities" report be brought forward to discuss. This was facilitated under the previous Portfolio Holder for Economic Regeneration; Cllr Marcus Kravis and it was requested that this be aired to the public to provide clarity. The Committee wants to know how the money which was used to fund the report has been spent. Reference made to the Innovation Report from Catapult that was recently circulated to members. Could this be brought to Scrutiny to follow up and debate the findings? A suggestion was made for August as the diary was empty.  

    o        Chris Hall agreed to go away and follow this up with the team as it doesn’t currently sit on any of the forward plans, and thus has missed the standard reporting cycle for August. 

    o        Prop: Farbahi / Sec: Firmin to bring forward the Catapult report to Corporate Scrutiny in August for the Committee to debate. 

    ·                  It was suggested that a monthly report on progress on Local Government Reorganisation would be a beneficial item for the committee to review.  It was asked that the PFH attend for a 10-minute slot so that members of the public could be informed. (The Chair is happy for this to be done as a standing item via zoom if the PFH, Sarah Wakefield can accommodate). 

    o        The Committee was informed that the monthly LGR briefings are due to be reconvened and this would provide timely updates to members. 

    ·                  Flood prevention and finance – Can officers provide an update on what work is currently being done and how funds are being spent regarding flood prevention work? This is specifically in the Taunton Deane area, and not coastal defence. An overview of current SWT strategic schemes and projects was suggested, with officers requested to attend in October 2022. 

    ·                  Garden Town Status – Following the £2m funding received from central government how is this project progressing? Can an overview be provided again at the August meeting to show how the money is being spent. 

    o        Chris Hall advised that subject to annual leave commitments a show and tell type format could be used to update Committee on the project at the August meeting. There would not be enough time to produce a full written report. 


    The Chair noted the Corporate Scrutiny forward plan. 



Executive and Full Council Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 191 KB

    Additional documents:


    ·        It was asked what was meant by "placeholder" on the Forward Plans? 

    o   This term is used to identify that an item of a confidential nature will be coming forward to that Committee in the future. It acts as a reservation so that the agenda allows for it and doesn’t become too full. The two items listed on the forward plan as "placeholder" will be discussed with the relevant Chairs outside of the meeting. 

    o   Cllr Aldridge raised the point that the term "placeholder" was misleading and appears to hide the business of the Council, rather than being open and transparent. The Monitoring officer agreed to follow this up with colleagues and stated that as soon an appropriate report titles were available, they would be added on all the Forward Plans. These will be updated to ensure they follow the correct democratic pathway and reporting cycles and would be re-circulated to Members. 

    ·        Constitutional items are going to Audit and Standards, and then on to Full Council. Two reports are regularising Constitutional and Code of Conduct matters across all 5 councils prior to the move to Unitary. This should make the transitional arrangements much more transparent. 

    ·        Community Governance Review – Parishing of Taunton. Currently in the second phase of consultation with feedback and results due to go to Full Council in September. Full Council will also consider the Statutory Change Order at that time. This will then need to be passed onto Somerset County Council for official sign-off, due to the transitional arrangements. Following on from this will be the "implementation stage" which will involve getting the Council up and running prior to April 1, 2023. The report going to Full Council in September will outline how this will all happen in a safe and legal manner. 


    The Committee noted the Executive and Full Council forward plans.   


    Cllr Federica Smith Roberts joined the meeting at 6.55pm 



Connecting out Garden Communities - Public Consultation pdf icon PDF 294 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby (Planning and Transportation)


    Report Author:  Graeme Thompson, Principal Planning Policy Officer and Sophie Jones, Planning Policy Officer


    Additional documents:


    Graeme Thompson presented his consultation report to the Committee for consideration. 


    An email had been submitted from the Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC) in support of the Connecting Garden Communities Consultation. This was read out by Cllr Buller as follows: - 


    "We would like to express our general support for the work in this report. Whilst we may differ on some details, we believe that the work is extremely important in filling the many gaps in SCC's original Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), which was not integrated with major development sites.  


    It is also important that the work is embodied in the thinking of the new unitary authority. A mechanism for doing this needs to be agreed. One option would be for it to be a supplement to the LCWIP, which is a DfT recognised document (although not statutory). 


    We are pleased that TACC's contribution in terms of volunteer time is recognised in the report. To date, we have found the officers' process for developing the active travel network to be open and professional. 

    We would be grateful if this email could be circulated to the rest of the



    Kind regards 

    Mike Ginger (for Taunton Area Cycling Campaign)" 


    The Chair acknowledged the letter and asked that the officers and Portfolio Holder (Cllr Mike Rigby) concerned ensure that TACC’s proposals are embraced/taken forward by the new Unitary, as a supplement to the LCWIP if appropriate


    During the debate the following points were raised:  

    ·        Officers were commended for the work and collaboration that had gone into the consultation report and the positive outcomes for everyone. 

    ·        Sustainable transport needs to start further out in the rural areas and needs to be more than just aspirational, it needs to be delivered! It should also include those communities such as Ruishton that are split by the A358 or the M5 motorway and would benefit from safe travel routes into town. 

    ·        How is the network of routes arrived at, when there appear to be some obvious omissions, such as the canal path? This is already a busy walker's route, but the pathways are exceedingly narrow. Could the towpath be widened to accommodate more users? 

    o   The canal is an asset that is owned by the Land and Rivers Trust, so any work would need to be undertaken in partnership, with full consultation with all user groups. Whilst this doesn’t prohibit the work from happening it does prevent challenges that make it unlikely.  

    o   Associated costs would also be considerable. For instance, widening of canal tow paths along the Bridgwater/Taunton canal would be extremely expensive and would have a detrimental impact on other areas of the environment and ecology.  

    ·        How is demand determined, in order to understand who wants to travel where? 

    o   The LCWIP is very data led with good historical information about the pathways of travel for usual routes to schools, employment and business. It also uses the existing Local Plan to determine where development will be in the future,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.


Corporate Performance report, Out-turn and Quarter 4 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 573 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Member Benet Allen.


    Report Author:  Malcolm Riches, Business Intelligence and Performance Manager.



    Additional documents:


    Cllr Federica Smith Roberts introduced the report in the absence of the PFH Cllr Benet Allen. 


    Annual Plan: 31 commitments under the RAG status of the report. 23 were

    flagged as green and 8 are amber. There are none showing as red. 


    Key Performance Indicators: 22 are green, 1 is amber and 6 are red. The appendices provide the main commentary on these statuses and give an explanation and the reasons why performance has fallen below target. 


    During the debate the following points were raised: 

    ·        Concern was expressed over the high number of planning appeals that had been overturned by the planning inspectorate. Cllr Coles as chair of the planning committee did try to answer this query, but it was referred to the Written Answer Tracker for a fuller response. 

    ·        Page 264 Environment and Economy.  Number 1 priority is high quality employment opportunities. Is it possible to provide examples of companies being attracted to SWT in the last year?  Written Answer Tracker. 

    ·        Page 272 Homes and Communities – Why are these flagged green when communities and development has been adversely affected by the phosphates issue over the last 2 years.  

    o   In excess of 100 applications are being held, which relates to approximately 2,300 properties being delayed. 

    ·        Page 280 Concern was expressed about the delay in producing the Local Plan for 2023 due to Unitary.  

    o   Evidence based work is ongoing and all five councils are currently working on their Local Plans, which will feed into collective unitary plans. 

    ·        Questions were asked around the delays in processing planning applications. 

    o   There is currently an issue around recruitment and retention in the planning roles and in planning administration. This is not unique to SWT but is being discussed across all 5 councils in this LGR workstream. The planning sections are stretched due to unfilled vacancies, sickness and planned annual leave. These pressures result in delays and backlogs. 


    Prop: Coles / Sec: CavillUnanimous. (Cllr Farbahi did not vote due to leaving the room during the debate) 



Access to Information - Exclusion of Press and Public

    During discussion of the following item (Appendix E only) it may be necessary to pass the following resolution to exclude the press and public having reflected on Article 13 13.02(e) (a presumption in favour of openness) of the Constitution. This decision may be required because consideration of this matter in public may disclose information falling within one of the descriptions of exempt information in Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972. Corporate Scrutiny will need to decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption, outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.


    Recommend that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the next item of business (Appendix E only) on the ground that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 respectively of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, namely information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).


    Additional documents:


    A vote was taken to move into confidential session if necessary.


    Prop: Whetlor / Sec: Coles – unanimous 



General Fund Financial Monitoring - Out-turn position 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 432 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Benet Allen, Portfolio Holder for Communication and Corporate Resources  


    Report Author:  Kerry Prisco, Management Accounting and Reporting Lead


    Additional documents:


    Cllr Federica Smith Roberts introduced the report in the absence of the PFH Cllr Benet Allen. 


    It has been an immensely challenging year in financial terms due to the pressures from Covid, interest rates, inflation, supply chain issues, global conflicts as well as adjusting to Brexit. Despite being a relatively small local authority, SWT has successfully managed those risks, which is credit to the hardworking finance team. In year underspends have been used to absorb some of these financial pressures. 


    Planned spend of just over £2m has been rolled into 22/23 with budget carried forward so that SWT can continue to deliver its activities.  


    Hinkley B stayed open which contributed to a windfall fund at the end of the year. 


    During the debate the following points were raised: 

    ·        Page 319 – Economic Development Initiatives 769 – what is the outcome? Regeneration Project 2.9m - Where is this specifically? 

    ·        Employment Land Schemes 575 – Clarity on this. 

    o   The answer was deemed confidential, so Committee moved into private session to discuss this. Recording and web-casting was suspended. 


    Meeting was adjourned to go into private session at: 8.17pm 


    Meeting resumed at: 8:26pm


    ·        How do we record payments to consultants? 

    o   These are accounted for within the relevant budget heading and are not split out. Cllr Farbahi requested a list of consultants used, and this was agreed by Paul Fitzgerald. To be followed up in the Written Answer Tracker. 

    ·        Page 322 – Payments to Taunton Bus Station? 

    o   16K was set aside for the Bus Station and this was to cover the security arrangements such as fencing whilst it was empty, and the compliance works to get it up to the required standard prior to renting to the NHS for vaccinations. 

    ·        Phosphates 14K, 2 mil land acquisition for current year. What is happening with this? Land purchased over a year ago but because the money is still unspent does not appear to have progressed! 

    o   More in-depth member briefing is being planned at the end of July to discuss phosphates in more detail. 

    o   Money will be spent in the current financial year but this is commercially sensitive and not yet publicly available.  

    o   Schemes are currently being investigated to consider phosphates credit purchase to offset the calculator. There is currently a very small pilot project underway at Cotford St Luke to deliver a wetlands scheme, but SWT is looking at alternative methods of delivery. 

    ·        What are Section 31 grants – Collection Fund? 

    o   Government funding to cover deficits incurred during the financial year due to Covid. 


    The Chair made closing comments on the impact of current issues on this year’s budget, the first Quarter of which would be brought forward to Corporate Scrutiny in September. 


    Meeting ended at 20:36