June 12th Joint Oversee & Scrutiny Committee
6.30 p.m.; Civic Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea
Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/MmOF3f
Council Leaders Interview
The council leaders for Worthing (Cllr Paul Yallop) and Adur (Cllr Neil Parkin) will be jointly interviewed by the scrutiny committee members on their priorities for the coming year.
The vision and priorities for the councils are included as an appendix to the report for this item. The vision consists of four bullet points, of which numbers 1 and 3 are process-oriented and about the internal working of the council(s), number 2 is again process-oriented, but with external partners, and number 4 is so vague and nebulous as to be meaningless – it’s worth quoting in full, really: ‘Developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship’ – how do you measure achievement of that? Not a single goal for something that will improve the town or the life of its people.
Similarly for the priorities: there are twenty-seven points, virtually of all of which are about maintaining the current levels and standards, keeping costs low, or supporting worthy but nebulous activities with external partners.
It shows a real poverty of vision and ambition when your top environmental priority is to keep collecting rubbish and recycling (no mention of improving recycling rates); your top economic aim is to support regeneration , but doesn’t mention any specific sites or projects (I’m sure every resident could name one or two), and your housing target is no more definite than to ‘seek to meet the housing needs of our communities’.
2012/3 Work Programme
This is really no more than an update on the previously agreed programme, but two items caught my eye:
1. There is due to be an update on the councils’ ‘involvement with’ Fuel Poverty (possibly could have chosen a better phrase, there) in July; an article in today’s Independent (http://ind.pn/KpQGwj) highlights a new report saying that,while DECC estimates 3.9 million people live in fuel poverty, the figure could already be nearly six times at high at 23 million, and could reach 30 million by the end of 2012. I hope someone raises this at the meeting.
2. The work programme refers to a twice-annual report on the work of the Local Strategic Partnership, with the last one reviewed in December 2011, and the next one due in June 2012. Perusing the agenda shows that there is no such report for review.
Ropetackle & Arts Funding Working Group
Sadly, this is a confidential item, so no report is available in advance. I hope the committee members will fully scrutinise the reasons why this is being taken in confidential session.
June 13th Planning Committee
6.00 p.m.; Gordon Room, Town Hall
Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Mk03zQ
There is only one application on the agenda – a request to cut down a protected horse chestnut tree at St Mary’s RC School in Central ward. The recommendation is to refuse, which seems sensible to me.
A bit of a damp squib here too, with only one enforcement item, and that one is recommended for no further action. Sometimes when building starts on a development, it becomes apparent that the planning permission given is not going to be achieveable – in this case, because part of the building on the site was to be retained, but turned out to be in too poor a condition to remain. As the developer has agreed to rebuild ‘as was’, based on a detailed photographic record, and with materials and details to be agreed, choosing not to enforce the original permission seems sensible
On a general note, a light agenda like this for the Planning Committee is not uncommon these days; partly this is due to the recession, but also the Committee has delegated the bulk of the planning decisions to officers. While no one wants to see a return to the days of 8-10 hour Planning Committee meetings, perhaps this sparse agenda indicates that the pendulum ought to swing back a little.
June 14th Joint Governance & Audit Committee
6.30 p.m.; Civic Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea
Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Kpvh4t
Annual Governance Statement
Only one ‘red’ traffic light, which relates to establishing a protocol for leader/chief executive relations, but this is one of several items which are described as delayed or not progressing – although some of the latter are still ‘green’!
Really pleased to see the panel recommend that special allowances should be removed from policy advisers. On a small council like Worthing, there are far too many of these makeweight posts with no defined accountability or remit; if the cabinet members want advice they should ask the scrutiny committee (or committees, it’s a pet peeve of mine that Worthing only has one).
Also, it makes sense to reduce the allowance for the Licensing Committee Chairman, it used to be a heavy workload, and now isn’t.
I was slightly worried when I saw this item that the council was considering getting rid of the recourse to petitions offered to residents, but thankfully it’s just a procedural item regarding a contract for software. There is a good result to this: the recommendation is to allow e-petitions to be submitted via any online petition software, which means that the petitioner(s), not the council, will have control of the process.
Forward Plan Decisions (June-September FP):
(no decisions are listed in the next four months as due to be made exclusively in Worthing, whether by the cabinet, a cabinet member or the council; three joint decisions with Adur are on the Plan: the Capital Strategy, Medium Term Financial Strategy and possible arrangements for localised Council Tax Schemes. All these are to be considered in June/July)
Cabinet/Cabinet Member Decisions
Leader of the Council:
(last decision 27/3/12)
Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Regeneration:
Cabinet Member for Resources:
(last decision 1/5/12)
Cabinet Member for Customer Services:
(last decision 17/8/11)
Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing:
(last decision 16/5/11 – 390 days and counting…)
Cabinet Member for Environment:
(last decision 31/5/12)
No word from WBC on why the Allotments Policy was not a key decision, but it was a short week last week with the bank holidays, so maybe I’ll hear something this week.
Joint Cabinet Decisions with Adur:
Application for Voluntary Redundancy: report issued 17/5/12, decision due after 25/5/12.