The Committee considered the report of the Interim Corporate Director of Resources that presented the progress towards achieving the key outcomes of the Council’s corporate performance framework (for copy of report, see file of minutes).
The Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager advised that this was a regular report to the committee and referred to the period from January to 31 March 2021, so it was not only a quarterly report it was also a yearend report in what has been a year that has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. The purpose of the report was for members to monitor performance of areas within the service that fall within the remit of this committee and to help members identify areas for further scrutiny. The report was presented against the three ambitions in the County Durham Vision 2035 – More and Better Jobs: Long and Independent Lives and Connected Communities.
The report picked up on Leisure Services that falls within the Regeneration and Economic Growth Service Grouping but falls within the remit of this committee. COVID 19 legislation led to closures in the leisure facilities so there will be a loss of income that members may want to scrutinise in further detail when they receive the quarterly finance report. The Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager added that in relation to the council’s outdoor areas which have remained open and have provided an opportunity for exercise outdoors and confirmed that Leisure centres reopened on 12 April. In relation to environmental cleanliness unfortunately the environmental surveys have not been carried out in the quarter being considered.
The Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager advised that there had been significant rises in relation to fly tipping and this was due to the statutory closure of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC). However, HWRC are now open although some were experiencing long queues, but Neighbourhood Wardens had carried out investigations and issued fixed penalty notices relating to fly tipping. The Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager referred members to a chart within the report that showed how Durham County Council compared regionally and nationally using both the amount of fly tipping incidents per 1000 Hectares and per 1000 population, the result was similar for Durham County Council using both methods showing that we are below both the regional and national averages. Members were advised on the work of the Community Action Team in relation to their work at Shildon. In relation to waste there has been an increase in the amount of waste generated by households in terms of residual waste and recycling and this is also reflected nationally. This means that we generated more waste and recycling, but the content of that recycling has gone down by three percentage points on last year and the amount of recycling from our HWRC has also reduced. Contamination of recycling is high at 34% which is greater than last year when it was 29% but it is reducing however there were financial impacts in that we were required to pay financial penalties to our contractors should contamination levels go too high. However, the amount of glass recycling had surpassed the three-year average with an increase of 22%. As a consequence of the increases in waste nationally the whole industry has been overwhelmed and as a result has had to divert more to landfill and therefore there has been an increase in the amount of waste diverted to landfill.
In terms of carbon emissions, in 19/20 we reduced carbon emissions by 51% (from the 2008 baseline) and are now working towards 70% reduction by 24/25.Although carbon emission figures for 20/21 will not be available until Q2 21/22. We are moving forward with a £8.3 million project to create a solar farm at our Morrison Busty depot in Annfield Plain. The solar farm will power the whole depot, including electric vehicle charge points for our fleet. The project is part of a wider refurbishment to improve energy efficiency including new cladding, windows, doors and LED lights.
The Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager advised that Under the question: Is it easy to travel around the County and in relation to maintenance of our highways the percentage of A roads where maintenance is recommended this has increased to 3.0%, 12 months earlier it was 2.8% and the percentage of C roads where maintenance is recommended has increased to 4.3%, 12 months earlier it was 3.7%.
Councillor Adam referred to page 90 of the report in relation to contaminated waste and waste diverted to landfill and indicated that COVID had an impact in terms of the materials that were recycled and the problems with contamination but also the increase in the amount of recycling produced and the impact in terms of the sector finding it difficult to cope. In terms of people’s habits and contaminated material it would be interesting for the council to identify how much contamination was actually from roadside bins and if this waste was transferred to landfill as landfill was costly and not the most effective solution.
The Head of Environment Services confirmed that roadside litter were sent to the energy from waste plant and were not included in the contamination figures. He explained that contamination was also an element of non-target materials such as clothes and hard plastic. He added that the service was planning to carry out more work in relation to education and refresh the campaigns to advise people of what goes into which bin.
Councillor Adam noted that the Council were recycling well, which was positive but in relation to the increase in the waste going to land fill could the reasons for this be identified.
The Head of Environment Services responded that the biggest impact was the closure of the household waste recycling centres and when they reopened other outlets were still closed and the market in terms of the consumption of those resources had dropped. This resulted in items that were normally recycled going to landfill. The market had since picked up but was not fully back to normal and remained fragile.
In response to a question from Councillor Nicholls relating to an update on the highway’s figures, the Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager advised that the figures on road maintenance would be updated in Quarter 2 or Quarter 3.
Councillor Elmer then referred to page 93 of the papers and to reference 99, the indicator relating to the reduction of CO2 emissions and suggested that more information was needed that drilled further down to give a suite of indicators identifying various sources of CO2 as this would help to target improvements.
The Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager informed members that this information was available on the Durham Insight website that gave a range of information in CO2 sources including Industry, domestic and transport. Data starts at 1990 and goes through to the latest data in 2018 so this is information that can be provided to members.
Councillor Elmer suggested that in relation to Council operations this should include investment and procurement and asked if the council were considering their emissions in relation to these areas which needed to be factored in.
The Corporate Scrutiny and Strategy Manager responded that the performance indicator was a national indicator that looks at direct local authority actions and did not include third party impacts in relation to investments and procurement. He indicated that he would look to see if this information could be produced.
Resolved: That the overall position and direction of travel in relation to quarter four performance, the impact of COVID-19 on performance and the actions being taken to address areas of underperformance including the significant economic and well-being challenges because of the pandemic be noted.