Agenda item

Covid-19 Recovery Plan and Future Services Framework

The Committee is requested to:

(a)   note the serious impact Covid 19 has had on the Council’s finances and takes this into account when considering this report.

(b)   that members of Overview and Scrutiny receive the report and make       recommendations to Cabinet on:

(i)     the Covid 19 Recovery Action Plans for the four thematic areas as set out in appendices 1-4

(ii)     the policy options as set out in paragraph 6.4

(iii)   the future services framework as set out in appendix 5

(iv)   the governance arrangements as set out in appendix 6; and

(c)    that progress on the Recovery Action Plans and Future Services Framework be reported to the Committee every 6 months.

Minutes:

Mrs Shepherd introduced this item and outlined the report.  The future impact of Covid 19 was uncertain, but there were likely to be  long term implications for businesses, the community and  for the Council.  The report focused on both the Council’s immediate need for recovery, as set out in the four recovery plans  and the longer term recovery in the form of a Future Services Framework template, which would determine the types and levels of services to be provided from 2022-23.  The Corporate Governance and Audit Committee would consider the financial impact, later in the week, and recommend to Cabinet and Council what it considered was a prudent financial position for the Council to take.  How quickly the Council eliminated its budget deficit and the additional amount of resources to be allocated to the recovery process was a decision for members. 

 

Mr Ward addressed the Committee regarding the financial impact of Covid 19 on the Council’s income streams and the proposed use of reserves.  The proposals were reasonable and balanced, and protected frontline services as far as possible until the full impact on the Council’s finances was known.  Doing nothing to address the situation was not an option, as it would only run down the Council’s finances

 

Mrs Lintill, Leader of the Council, was invited to address the Committee.  She fully supported the proposals put forward by Mrs Shepherd and Mr Ward.

 

Mrs Bangert read out the comments of a resident in her Ward.

 

Mr Hughes read out the comments of four residents, and business owners at St James Industrial Estate in his Ward.

 

Mr Brown observing the meeting was invited to address the Committee.  He raised concerns regarding the relaxation of development control and member oversight of the planning process.

 

Members of the Committee went through the thematic work streams in turn and during the course of a wide-ranging discussion made a number of comments and officers provided further information as follows:

 

Community & Housing Recovery

·      The Council was looking at the potential to adjust its affordable housing requirement.  It was part of the Local Plan review process and the degree to which it could happen needed to be informed by the evidence, which would inform an appropriate outcome for members to determine where priorities lay.  Affordable housing within the Council’s control would be looked at as part of the Affordable Housing Task and Finish Group’s role.

·      The Council was working closely with Stonepillow to create pathways for rough sleepers, which as could be seen from the action plan, was a priority.  Following the publication of the report, the Government had announced additional funding to extend stays for rough sleepers.  Further details were awaited.

·      Concern was expressed that there was not enough mention about the need to ensure there was external consultation about the process, particularly with community groups.

·      Mrs O’Kelly, observing the meeting, was invited to address the Committee concerning the overall approach.  The green agenda should be joined up and included throughout the Recovery Action Plan as an overarching theme and provided examples. 

Economic Recovery

·      Miss Barrie, observing the meeting, addressed the Committee and advised that the Economy Recovery Plan should be bold and focused on rebuilding the local economy, enhancing community equality and create a sustainable future based on equality and opportunity.

·      Officers responded to concerns that the Recovery Plan did not have a thread through it to encourage the young, and engage the College and University.  A recovery group had been set up with key partners, including Chichester College, University of Chichester, and this Council to look at a recovery plan for the wider area.  The University had invested in a major science facility at its Bognor Regis campus with future schemes in place for the Chichester campus.  Work was taking place with the Local Enterprise Partnership and Coastal West Sussex Sub-Group concerning skills and innovation. 

·      Broadband provision was a key priority both in the Chichester City and the rural areas. 

·      It had previously been made clear to members that environmental issues were a “golden thread” running through all Council policies and plans and were at the forefront of officers’ minds.

·      Mr Hughes agreed not to table his amendment concerning infrastructure projects on the understanding that this matter would be taken as a high level decision and today’s discussion was not going into the details of them now.

Planning, Health and Environmental Protection Recovery

·      Mr Evans, observing the meeting, addressed the Committee concerning mental health provision.

Organisational Recovery

·      The impact of staff working at home was being proactively managed.

Future Services Framework

·      Commercialisation of the Council was a key objective in the Council’s Corporate Plan and a principle that ran through the Future Services Framework.

Governance

·     Mrs Lintill was invited to address the Committee.  The informal Recovery Teams were not task and finish groups and most actions were operational. They would enable a wider involvement of members to act as advisors to assist Cabinet members. No decisions had been made on the final membership.  She assured the Committee that the recovery teams would ask the more detailed questions, such as the future use of East Pallant House etc.  Advisors role would be expected to ask the views of the wider council membership so as to be as inclusive as possible.  Membership would have a geographical balance.  Mrs Lintill was thanked for her inclusive approach.

 

Mr Johnson, observing the meeting, made a proposal which the Chairman agreed to table on his behalf, concerning the headings ‘Working from Home and ICT’ and ‘Use of East Pallant House’ on pages 69 and 70.  However, Mrs Shepherd informed Mr Johnson that this proposal was too detailed at this stage.  The recommendation in the report included looking at the Council’s office accommodation, which would take into consideration impacts on staff, members and the community.  Members were assured that the office accommodation options appraisal and terms of reference would be brought to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  No vote was taken. 

 

Mr Ward confirmed it was the Council’s intention to include the green agenda as part of the procurement criteria.  With regard to the actions in the report, Mrs Shepherd stated that a number of the actions were officer delegated powers.  However, policy decisions were ultimately made by members through the appropriate committee route. 

 

Mrs Shepherd stated that the Council had a close working relationship with the employee unions and reference to the implications for staff were included in the report at page 21.  Following an email sent to the Committee from Unison Chichester Branch, Mr Mildred advised that the Union was currently being updated on an informal frequent basis.  Formal consultation was taking place with the Joint Employee Consultative Panel, to ensure staff were consulted and able to make recommendations at every stage of the recovery process. 

    

Mrs Shepherd confirmed that a number of the suggestions put forward by members were too specific at this stage and many of which were already being dealt with   She assured members that they would have the opportunity to influence those areas of concern, which would be picked up in the Recovery Action plans.  

 

Mrs Sharp proposed an amendment to paragraph 3.1 (a) of the recommendation: that the Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee note the serious impact Covid 19 has had on our communities, residents’ health, well-being and livelihoods and on the Council’s finances. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee believe that the Covid 19 Recovery plan should be green, clean and focused on tackling the climate emergency.  The best way to do this is by listening to and consulting with residents and businesses.  On being put to a vote this motion was not carried.

 

Mr Dignum proposed an amendment to paragraph 3.1 (b) of the recommendation: that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee:

1)  Supports the development of the Covid 19 Recovery Action Plans for the four thematic areas as set out in appendices 1-4;

2)  Supports the policy options as set out in paragraph 6.4;

3)  Endorses the future services framework as set out in appendix 5;

4)  Endorses the governance arrangements as set out in appendix 6.  On being out to a vote this motion was carried.

 

Mr Dignum proposed an amendment to paragraph 3.1(c)of the recommendation: that the progress on the recovery Action Plans and Future Services Framework be reported to the Committee every 3 months instead of every 6 months. On being put to a vote this motion was carried.

Mr Hughes proposed additional text to the Community and Housing section: that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference for the Local Housing Delivery Task and Finish Group. The group in question is looking into the viability of the council setting up an arms-length housing company. Given the likelihood of an increased need for affordable housing in the district, this group must be adequately resourced and prioritised. On being put to a vote this motion was not carried.

 

RESOLVED

 

1)    That the serious impact Covid 19 has had on the Council’s finances be noted and taken into account when considering this report; and 

2)    That progress on the Recovery Action Plans and Future Services Framework be reported to the Committee every 3 months.

 

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET

 

That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee:

1)  Supports the development of the Covid 19 Recovery Action Plans for the four thematic areas as set out in appendices 1-4;

2)  Supports the policy options as set out in paragraph 6.4;

3)  Endorses the future services framework as set out in appendix 5; and

4)  Endorses the governance arrangements as set out in appendix 6.

 

The Committee adjourned for a lunchbreak from 12.30pm until 1.00pm.

 

Supporting documents: