Agenda item

Refresh of the Work Programme


The Committee considered the report of the Interim Corporate Director of Resources that provided members with an updated draft work programme for 2021/22 (for copy of report, see file of minutes).


The Overview and Scrutiny Officer was in attendance to present the report and highlighted that the work programme identified those agenda items prioritised by the Chair and Vice Chair to come to formal committee and those items to be delivered via briefing reports throughout the lifecycle of this work programme. The Overview and Scrutiny Officer advised members that there was a need for the work programme to be flexible to accommodate items that may arise throughout the year.


Five meeting dates had been allocated for 2021/22 running from September to May and it was hoped that additional meetings may be an option as the work programme progresses.


A copy of the work programme had been circulated for consideration and members were invited to discuss and consider those areas contained in the programme and to identify any additional priorities for discussion and consideration.


Councillor Adam referred to the Partnership presentation delivered earlier in the meeting and highlighted that the work programme only made reference to the Ecological Emergency and not the other two workstream areas and it was important they were included in the committee’s future work programme.


Councillor Elmer advised that the item referenced in the work programme was identified separately to the partnership work and at the time the Chair and Vice Chair were unaware of the partnership work in this area. However, they would consider adding to the work programme and including where appropriate in the programme update reports relating to the other remaining partnership workstreams.


The Chair indicated that consideration would be given as to how they could build the items mentioned into the work programme.


Councillor Adam then referred to the Street Lighting Energy Reduction Project that was included in the work programme as a briefing report and suggested that this item should come to committee. He commented that this particular project was initiated in 2013 with a refresh update in 2015 and a further update report was due to comeback to committee in 2020, but this had not happened. However, at the last meeting of the committee in March 2021, as part of the work programme debate Members had indicated this was an important area for the council to look at as there had been a number of issues with regard to the removal of some street lighting and therefore should be an item debated at formal committee.


Councillor Adam then referred to the allotments policy and how they had heard from the environment climate change partnership who were keen to encourage food growth. He identified that the council has an allotments policy and the committee had previously established a working group to look at this policy in 2018, with this review continuing for two years, encompassing a great amount of work which culminated in him, as Chair of the committee, presenting the report to Cabinet in 2020. The committee’s recommendations included some key issues to ensure that allotments were seen as a key part of provision. He asked if this could also be included into the work programme, initially as a briefing report to bring members up to date in this work programme with a further report coming to committee in the 2022/2023.


The Chair indicated that all the points raised by members would be considered to see how they could be incorporated into the work programme. Councillor Townsend asked if they could also consider including the Stockton and Darlington Bicentenary celebrations into the work programme.


The Chair confirmed that it would be considered.


Mr Bolton supported Councillor Adam on the request for the allotments to be included in the work programme. He then raised two issues for consideration in the work programme the first Seaham Garden Village proposal.


Councillor Elmer commented that at the next meeting they were going to be looking at the Carbon Emergency Response plan and it was important when they look at that plan, they also celebrate successes but also identify the gaps and asked members to think about where the county was not doing so well.


Mr Bolton responded that the committee in the past had received reports on geothermal projects, but these projects had not progressed. His second item was in relation to Brightwater project which was a heritage lottery funded project which was working around river skerne and its attributes. The aim of the project was to bring back land to wetlands and suggested that members could consider visiting the project to see the work.The project is funded by Heritage Lottery funding and commenced in 2018, the project is led by Durham Wildlife and Durham County Council and suggested that members may want to visit the project.


Councillor Elmer advised that he had knowledge of the areas involved as he had worked in those areas.


Councillor Nicholls referred to wild meadows and flowers and what they could learn from other authorities which had successfully transformed areas into wild meadow. Councillor Nicholls then spoke of the need to involve people in communities through civic pride with litter picking schemes and better engage with parish councils and ensure that funding was available and asked if this could be included in the work programme.


Councillor Elmer referred to the ecological emergency that cut across all council services asking how we can make improvements. He then indicated that wildflower meadows were a part of that because of their diversity and that it was important to take people with us on the journey through consultation and interpretation on site location. Sites must be in the right places to create a network of ecological sites and to single out the responsibilities of planning for making decisions reflecting on how land is maintained and managed.


The Overview and Scrutiny officer advised that Civic Pride was included in the work programme under environmental schemes/projects.


The Chair indicated that they had a section on waste management so would look to see if this could be incorporated into that report.


Councillor Nicholls thanked the Chair and added that schemes/ projects such as Civic Pride were appreciated by communities and that the work undertaken in relation to Climate Change was positive.


Councillor Adam referred to the work programme and that there was no mention of site visits. The Overview and Scrutiny Officer advised that currently we were unable to include site visits due to COVID restrictions and when the restrictions were lifted this would be included in consultation with the Chair/Vice-Chair and committee.


The Chair indicated that they would take all the points raised away and look to see if these could be incorporated into the work programme moving forward.


Resolved: (i) That the comments of the committee on the proposed work programme for 2021/22 be noted.


(ii) That the work programme for 2020/21 and the flexibility it offers to respond to emerging issues be agreed.

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