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Agenda item

Refresh of the Work Programme

Report of the Director of Transformation and Partnerships – Overview and Scrutiny Officer, Transformation and Partnerships.

Minutes:

The Chairman asked the Overview and Scrutiny Officer to speak to Members in relation to the Council Plan 2016-2019 – Refresh of the Work Programme (for copy see file of minutes).

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Officer explained that the report highlighted work that had been undertaken by the Committee within the past year and also looked forward to seeking suggestions from Members to be included within the Committee’s work programme for the forthcoming year.   Members were reminded that the aims and objectives were aligned to those of the Council Plan and associated plans, as well as the Altogether Wealthier priority theme.  It was explained that the work programme for 2019/20 would need to include further progress updates on a number of items considered in 2018/19, systematic reviews of recommendations in previous scrutiny review reports, focused scrutiny meetings and additional areas of overview activity.

 

It was explained that two areas had been identified for inclusion in the Committee’s future draft Work Programme: strategic sites within the County; and Masterplans, noting the latter being at a second-round stage.  Members noted this linked to the review undertaken by the Committee in respect of retail support in the County and the Town and Villages Centres report as presented at Cabinet.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Officer reminded Members that the work programme may have to be tweaked as a result of the new County Vision and that Members would have a further opportunity to comment on the Work Programme at the June meeting.

 

The Chairman thanked the Overview and Scrutiny Officer and noted a very busy work programme for the Committee and thanked Members for their work in respect of the Review Group looking at Retail Support. 

She reminded Members of the need to retain some capacity within the work programme going forward in terms of ongoing issues such as the Local Industrial Strategy (LIS), CDP, Masterplans and Brexit.

 

Councillor R Crute noted the uncertainty as regards issues such as Brexit and remined Members of the new County Vision which would be reported upon in June around the time the Committee would set its Work Programme.  He added the main issues would be the Vision, the Strategic Economic Plan, the LIS and how the Shared Prosperity Fund would replace EU Funding, and the skills activity in the county.  He agreed with the Chairman in terms of having a degree of flexibility within the Work Programme in order to be able to meet the demands of issues that may arise.

 

Councillor M Clarke agreed with colleagues and noted interest in visiting the strategic sites within the county and to be mindful of capacity in setting the Work Programme.

 

Councillor S Dunn noted he felt, as did some other Members, that slightly longer Committee meetings were preferable to a number of additional special meetings. 

The Chairman noted that some issues raised within meetings that linked directly to a Member’s Division could be taken up with Officers outside of the meeting afterward, freeing up time for debate. 

 

Councillor P Howell noted he agreed with Councillor S Dunn in terms of longer meetings being preferable to a number of additional special meetings, and he agreed with Councillor R Crute in terms of having capacity for any issues that may become apparent over the year.

 

The Principal Overview and Scrutiny Officer, Stephen Gwillym noted the comments as regards special meetings, however, he noted that in some cases they were required where there were statutory deadlines in terms of responses to consultations, such as the Housing Strategy and CDP.  He added that additional scheduled meetings had been included within the diary of meetings.  Councillor R Crute recognised the hard work of Overview and Scrutiny Members and praised their commitment, noting that the relevance of meetings was the most important factor and reiterated the need for some flexibility to be able to react to issues as they arise.

 

Councillor D Hall noted the regular updates as set out within the Work Programme and asked if there could be other updates on relevant topics such as: government funding; housing; social rent; and empty homes.  He added that he shared the queries raised previously as regards employment and noted that information as regards skills was also important in being able to see the wider context in that respect.  Councillor E Scott noted that some issue, such as housing, could benefit from being looked at elsewhere.  The Chairman noted the links of housing to economy and jobs and felt it was a natural fit for the Committee. 

Councillor R Crute noted that some issues that had been visited by the Committee a number of times were approaching a natural end, and there would be upcoming national and regional issues the Committee would need to react to.  He noted housing as an area of concern, with Selective Licensing hopefully being a way to address issues, however, as the evidence base was being gathered he felt this was a topic for inclusion in the Work Programme for 2020 and beyond.  Councillor E Scott emphasised she had meant that as housing was such an important issue it warranted particular attention by Members. 

 

Councillors all noted the importance of debate and allowing time for this.  The Chairman noted that Overview and Scrutiny Officer worked with presenting Officers in terms of ensuring focussed presentations to allow adequate time for debate within meetings.

 

Mrs R Morris noted she felt there were certain reoccurring themes: low productivity; and young people not being able to get into meaningful employment.  Mrs R Morris explained that she felt that skills were vitally important, especially in areas such as the health sector where shortfall had been identified.  She noted that she felt that a focus on skills was important and added that in many cases less information but more explanation on issues was more beneficial.

 

Councillor P Howell noted the concerns of fellow Members and asked that if there was a volume of work was there scope for sub-groups to look at specific areas.  He added there was perhaps opportunity for afternoon meetings following main Committee meetings. 

The Chairman noted that, as colleagues would be aware, the Council diary of meetings was very busy, with a number of other meetings such as Planning and Licensing that took up Members’ time as well as their work within their Divisions.

 

Councillor R Crute noted that workloads across all Scrutiny Committees was an issue that would need to be monitored and that being aligned to the thematic groups and priorities of the County Durham Partnership was essential.  He added that work should not be duplicated across Committees, though some issues could be cross-cutting and require link up accordingly.  Councillor E Adam gave examples where the issues within the Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee linked to issues of EU Funding and Brexit, cross-cutting with the Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee

 

Resolved:

 

(i)              That the Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee note the proposed Work Programme in relation to the current Council Plan 2016-2019 Altogether Wealthier theme.

(ii)            That the Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee, at its meeting in June 2019, receive a further report detailing the Committee’s Work Programme for 2019/20.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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