SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 3rd August, 2022 6.15 pm
Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions
Contact: Sam Murrell, Email: email@example.com
Webcast: View the webcast
Appointment of Vice Chair
In the absence of Vice-Chair, Cllr Nick Thwaites it was proposed that Cllr Loretta Whetlorwas made Vice Chair for this meeting. (unanimous)
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors Nick Thwaites and Habib Farbahi
To approve the minutes of the previous meeting of the Committee held on Wednesday 6th July 2022.
The Committee resolved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 July 2022, subject to adding the comment from the Chair, Cllr Sue Buller, in respect of Item 9, (Page 8) Connecting Our Garden Communities:
"The officers and PFH concerned ensure that TACC’s proposals are embraced/taken forward by the new Unitary, as a supplement to the LCWIP if appropriate".
(App Cllr Simon Coles / Sec Cllr Ed Firmin)
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.)
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:-
No additional declarations were declared.
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.
There were no public statements or comments submitted in advance of the meeting by members of the public.
To receive items and review the Forward Plan.
Members did not have anything to add, although it was noted that there was room on the Forward Plan for items in October and November.
To update the Scrutiny Committee on the progress of resolutions and recommendations from previous meetings of the Committee.
Cllr Farbahi in absentia had submitted some queries that he wanted answered by officers. These questions were in relation to a member briefing. These questions were passed to the Monitoring Officer who will be following up in due course with the Director of External Operations, and then liaising directly with Cllr Farbahi on his return, to establish what the outstanding issues are.
For it to be noted that future answers should be provided within 30 days unless there is a valid reason for delay (sickness, leave or awaiting information). Any reasons should be stated. It was not considered courteous for members to wait 6 months for a reply to questions and was a waste of time for the Governance team who were constantly having to chase the queries up!
Cllr Whetlor queried whether there had been any progress on the feasibility of analysing Firmstep to identify repeat requests for the same address, or where queries could not be cleared in the first instance? ?Page 29 of the report pack – Followed up with Business Intelligence Team.Some initial work has been undertaken to investigate this, but it raised several issues that would need to be overcome in order to derive meaningful data. Such issues included, for example, being able to determine if repeat requests were for the same issue or whether subsequent requests were for something new. To analyse the data with this degree of granularity would be very time consuming and other priorities have prevented the work from being progressed so far. However, we are still hoping to revisit this and look into it in more detail when time allows.
The members briefing on Phosphates was very informative and it looked like good progress was being made to reduce the logjam of applications being held. It was queried about who would be responsible for sending out letters and follow-ups to developers of affordable and social housing about the possibly released applications? The Phosphates sub-committee is meeting regularly and there is some progress being made to release the held planning applications. Formal communications are likely to be released in the next fortnight but that is subject to Natural England agreeing to the proposed mitigation recommendations made by the Minister before work can proceed.
Thanks were expressed to Sam Murrell for getting the trackers up to date and organising them to make better reading.
Matters Arising - Updates from Officers on Written Answer Tracker Queries
Due to the number of items outstanding on the 21/22 written answer tracker, it was voted unanimously by the Committee for those officers to attend the August Corporate Scrutiny meeting to provide a verbal update on their work.
At the last meeting, the Committee requested that outstanding items from the written answer tracker were concluded and that officers from Economic Development be asked to attend the August Scrutiny meeting to provide a verbal update on the position.
No officers were present, and no apologies had been submitted. The Committee were very unhappy about the non-attendance and expressed their disappointment. It was asked that their dissatisfaction was formally recorded in the Minutes, and an explanation was provided for the lack of attendance.
The Monitoring Officer agreed to follow this up. It was also put on record that if in the future a written answer is not provided within 30 days, then officers will be required to attend the subsequent committee meeting to provide a verbal update!
(App Cllr Sue Buller / Sec Cllr Libby Lisgo)
Taunton Garden Town Work Update
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby (Economic Development, Planning and Transportation)
This item will take the form of a presentation and verbal update delivered by Jenny Clifford, Taunton Garden Town Implementation Manager.
Jenny Clifford presented a series of slides on the current work being undertaken in respect of the Taunton Garden Town. These slides can be viewed here.
Councillors complimented Jenny on her presentation and agreed that most had a clearer understanding of what the work entailed.
Councillors raised the following queries: -
Questions were raised about the stewardship of assets once the District Council ceases to exist. How can we future proof them to ensure they are maintained? Who will be responsible – will it be the parishes, and how will it be managed?
The new development of the Garden Town would implement stewardship of assets as part of the planning policy as these new assets were realised. The transfer of historic assets would need to be done on a case-by-case basis as there is no "one size fits all approach". District Council assets will automatically be transferred to the Unitary on vesting day (April 1) and then it will be for the Unitary to decide their future. It could be done via transfer to a parish/town council, or other delivery mechanisms such as management company. Various consultations will be undertaken on the different types of assets before a decision is made, to ensure the best possible solution is realised.
Government Funding - Does being on the "Garden Town List" give SWT an advantage when applying for funding and trying to draw down money? What would happen if our known ambitions weren’t realised due to a lack of cash-flow, or the funding stream was pulled?
Funding around the Garden Town comes from the Government and Homes England. Taunton is recognised as a garden town community. This earmarks funding specifically for development in Taunton and its suburbs. The Funding comes to SWT and we in turn can distribute it to those developers where there is a need. It also allows SWT to be savvy, in targeting its resources towards those funding streams where there is most chance of success. Homes England is very aware of SWT and its ambitions. There is an emphasis on new developments and not upgrading existing housing. The Government is focussing on new quality design and build. There are currently some issues being experienced due to Phosphates delay, but SWT is lobbying hard to retain the money.
How will be work of the Garden Town be impacted by the Community Governance Review (CGR) and the possible parishing of Taunton into a Town Council? The Monitoring Officer outlined the remaining timeline for the CGR. If it is decided that a Taunton Town Council will become a separate legal entity, then the priorities would be: -
· 1st phase priority of the new town council will be to safe, legal and functioning on vesting day (April 1, 2023). Councillors would be appointed in May 2023, and then decisions would be made about the responsibilities of the new council going forward.
· The 2nd phase will be to organise itself around the functions it will plan to undertake as ... view the full minutes text for item 32.