SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 1st February, 2023 6.15 pm
Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions
Webcast: View the webcast
To receive any apologies for absence.
Cllr Loretta Whetlor (subs Cllr Janet Lloyd).
Cllr Whetlor attended the meeting in her capacity as Chair of the Public Transport Task and Finish Group.
To approve the minutes of the previous meeting of the Committee held on Wednesday 4th January 2023.
The Minutes of the previous Corporate Scrutiny Meeting held on Wednesday 4 January 2022, were approved as a true record.
Prop: Hassall / Sec: Coles Unanimous
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:-
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 questions or comments submitted for public participation.
To receive an update on the Local Government Review (LGR) and Community Governance Review (CGR).
Executive Portfolio Holder Report for Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) – Councillor Sarah Wakefield.
To provide a verbal update on LGR progress. This has been requested as a standing item on the agenda by the Chair, Cllr Sue Buller.
Cllr Sarah Wakefield and Alison North joined the meeting via zoom to provide a verbal update. The key milestones which have been achieved with regard to moving to the unitary council are:-
· The ICT cutover had taken place on the weekend of the 19-23 January which had transferred all SWT systems onto the SCC platform, to enable a smooth transition in April. All ICT staff worked collaboratively and extremely hard over the weekend, to ensure that all systems were working and ready to go on the Monday morning. There were still some teething problems but in the main, the process had gone well.
· Service readiness – Core teams are working through their change lists and product workstream notes to ensure that their services are safe, legal and functioning on Day1 of the new Authority.
The Community Governance update covered the fact that the new Taunton Parish Clerk was now in post. She would be working from an office in Deane House for the time being.
To update the Scrutiny Committee on the progress of resolutions and recommendations from previous meetings of the Committee.
There were no comments on the Recommendation Tracker.
It was requested that an answer to the outstanding item on the Written Answer Tracker from 7/12/22 was submitted within 5 working days of the meeting.
Officers agreed to follow this up, and circulate the answer to the committee.
To receive items and review the Forward Plan.
No comments were made. The Committee noted the Forward Plan.
To review the Executive and Full Council Forward plans.
The Committee noted the Forward Plans. There were no comments or questions arising.
A presentation and final update on the conclusions of the work of the Public Transport Task and Finish Group that was set up to examine the current provision in relation to public transport in the district and what is required to increase provision and improved modal links including consideration of carbon neutrality.
This item will be introduced by Chair of the Public Transportation Task and Finish Group, Councillor Loretta Whetlor, and supported by by Marcus Prouse, Governance Specialist.
Cllr Loretta Whetlor thanked the members of the Task and Finish Group for their input, and Marcus Prouse for providing administrative support. The work of the group had been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such there had not been sufficient time and resource to provide a written report to the Committee.
Marcus Prouse showed a series of slides which provided an overview on the work undertaken by the Public Transport Task and Finish Group. These had been circulated to the Committee prior to the meeting, together with a series of conclusions.
Members of the Committee made the following comments:-
· Was the work on the work-place parking levy followed up and what was the outcome? This had been researched but not implemented. This was mainly due to the impact COVID-19 had on commuting. It was generally accepted that less people were travelling into the offices to work.
· The introduction of £1/£2 subsidised bus fares across the county was welcomed and had increased use of the bus service. The Committee was also pleased with the re-implementation of the late bus service on certain routes. This allowed workers to use the service and assisted the parking situation at Musgrove Park Hospital.
· It was raised that students were not eligible to claim the subsidised bus fare and were tied into the school transport agreement.
· Although the increased public transport between West Somerset and Taunton was welcomed, there was still a very limited service from Minehead to Bridgwater. There was currently only 1 daily bus each way that served Bridgwater/Taunton College and operated in term time. This was not sufficient because there were as many work opportunities in Bridgwater as Taunton. The free Hinkley Bus alleviated this problem somewhat, but due to the erosion of the coast road at Cleeve Hill, Watchet this now did not travel to the pickup point at Blue Anchor.
· It was asked whether Butlins could be encouraged to provide transport for their guests on change-over days, especially from the Taunton train station. Very often these buses were over-filled by people travelling to Minehead with their luggage and families. This placed a lot of pressure on the regular service and commuters at peak times.
· There need to be more input at the development stage of new housing estates, to ensure that bus routes and public transport options were built into the early plans and could be provided as part of S106 and Community Infrastructure Levies.
· It was suggested that during peak times a quicker direct service bus could be provided for those commuters who wanted to travel straight to work, rather than take the longer journey through the villages. There was a mismatch at present, because some buses were over full at peak times, whilst others were practically empty.
· Those Councillors who are now part of the unitary council, were asked to support the recommendations and do their best to see they were implemented.
· Concern was expressed about what happens to the subsidised fares after the 31 March. ... view the full minutes text for item 95.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby (Planning, Transportation and Economic Development).
Report Author: Hattie Winter, Senior Economic Development Officer.
The report was introduced by Lisa Tuck, Service Manager for Economic Development, supported by Hattie Winter and Colleen Blake.
Corporate Scrutiny Committee was asked to note the formal adoption of the SWT Local Labour Agreement Policy into the Council’s Policy Framework.
Currently only Sedgemoor District Council has such as agreement in place as part of their Local Plan, and this will be picked up and adopted by the new Somerset Council. SWT wants to implement this agreement as a material planning consideration going forward, so that it too can become part of the former Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council Local Plans. When these become the new unitary local plans, this planning policy will transfer as part of the process. It is also hoped that this will provide a model for other councils to emulate.
Comments from the Committee included:-
· Members were supportive of the aspirations outlined in the report and agreed that contributing to the local economy via up-skilling and employment were improving opportunities for inward investment.
· The aim of the policy to try and ensure that at least 25% of the workforce is employed locally. This would be promoted via the Department of Work Pensions (DWP), Employment Hubs, Skill Up, Somerset Skills and Learning and via roadshows.
· Current gaps in the labour market are a legacy of COVID-19 which has adversely affected the tourism and hospitality sector. The Economic Development team recognise this and are doing what they can to ensure that new recruits to those industries are employed from the local workforce. They are aiming for 25% local uptake. The team will be working with developers as part of the planning process in the very early stages. Therefore, it needs to be factored in as a material planning consideration.
· It will only apply to large scale development, which is currently classified as 50+ dwellings.
· Concern was expressed about the policy affecting the viability of sites coming forward and might deter developers from building. Alison Blom Cooper stated that as with all planning policies, there would be various concerns about viability but these would be addressed and assessed as sites came forward, and would be considered alongside other issues such as transport links, health and education policies.
· It was queried whether there were currently enough planning staff to implement the policy once it was adopted? SWT currently had a full complement of planning officers, but it was a volatile employment market and was under considerable pressure from the private sector. It was an ever-changing picture. The implementation of the Local Labour Agreement would be monitored and facilitated by the Economic Development team, and there was more capacity to cover this type of work. Currently in Sedgemoor District Council, there is a full-time labour and skills employee who builds up a skills plan with employers to identify labour gaps and how these can be filled. It’s a model that can be transferred to other councils.
· It was queried whether SWT had worked with the construction industry and ... view the full minutes text for item 96.