Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

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Venue: St Aldate's Room - Oxford Town Hall. View directions

Contact: John Mitchell, Committee Services Officer  email  DemocraticServices@oxford.gov.uk

Note: Meeting moved from 06 December 2021 

Items
No. Item

68.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

None.

69.

Chair's Announcements

Minutes:

In response to a question from the Chair, the Scrutiny Officer confirmed that in the absence of a further legislative change it remained  a requirement to hold Committee meetings in person.

 

70.

Work Plan and Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 229 KB

 

The work plan is driven to a very large extent by the Cabinet Forward Plan a summary of which is attached. The Scrutiny Committee agrees its priorities for items coming onto the Forward Plan, which then form part of its work plan.

 

The Committee is recommended to:

 

1.    Confirm its agreement to the current priorities and the work plan both of which are attached.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer updated the Committee with the latest changes to the Workplan. After a brief discussion it was agreed that the Cabinet report on Grant Allocations to Community and Voluntary Organisations should also be added to the Workplan for the February meeting.

 

71.

Annual Monitoring Report and Infrastructure Funding Statement pdf icon PDF 548 KB

Cabinet, at its meeting on 15 December, will consider a report on the Annual Monitoring Report and Infrastructure Funding Statement. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

The Committee considered the report for 2019/20 on 01 December and made no recommendations in relation to it.

Cllr Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery and Rachel Nixon, Senior Planner, have been invited to attend for this item. 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cllr Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning & Housing Delivery, introduced the report which fulfilled a statutory duty for all planning authorities to report performance, annually, against a range of targets. He then responded to a number of questions from the Committee.

Accommodation outside University campuses was only deemed to be University accommodation if provided directly by one of the Universities for its students. This did not, therefore, for example, include the Student Castle, which was open to students from anywhere.

The significant number of students not on full time taught courses were excluded from accommodation needs as the relevant policies distinguish between those on full time taught courses and those who are not. This was a matter which had been discussed at some length during inspection of the current Local Plan. A  student on a 9 month taught post-graduate course would be counted towards the number with accommodation needs.

Table 7 (Net additional dwellings completed since start of the Local Plan period) included communal and non-communal dwellings and there might be merit in splitting the table to distinguish between the two in future.

It would not always be easy to identify a developer’s contribution to a particular number of affordable dwellings given that it could take many forms and sometimes at a place other than the principal development.

It would be beyond the scope of the Local Plan to encourage the use of sustainable transport for visitors to Oxford as an element  of the Sustainable Tourism  part of the Plan.

Projections of the age profile of the City’s residents were taken account of in preparing the Local Plan.

The significant recent reduction in student numbers from both universities without accommodation was probably largely attributable to the consequences of Covid.

The proportion of affordable housing to be included as part of the Northern Gateway represented significant progress given the original stance of the developer.

In the case of major applications  which did not secure a reduction of 40% of regulated energy as required by Policy RE1 it would it would be useful to know where and why.

For land identified in the Local Plan as suitable for housing, officers were in regular and frequent contact with landowners to press them as to when proposals would come forward.

72.

Workplace Equalities and Action Plan pdf icon PDF 356 KB

Cabinet, at its meeting on 15 December, will consider a report on the Workplace Equalities and Action Plan. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

The Committee considered the previous year’s report on 01 December 2021 and made a number of  recommendations in relation to it; a reminder of the Cabinet’s response to them is attached.

Cllr Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Customer Focused Services and Helen Bishop, Head of Business Improvement, have been invited to attend for this item.  

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cllr Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Customer Focused Services introduced the report. Which reflected the Council’s ambition to be a welcoming  and  inclusive employer with a diverse, representative and high performing work force. The Workforce  Equality Report  attached to the report fulfilled a statutory requirement and contained some  positive indicators.  The target  for BAME employees had been exceeded  and the gender pay gap decreased. There had, nonetheless, been a stagnation in the number of BAME applications and there was more which could be done in this area, especially in relation to work with schools and further education establishments.

There had been good progress with the recommendations made by the Committee a year previously.

Helen  Bishop, Head of Business Improvement , noted that this area  of work was underpinned by the new People Strategy which emphasised the importance of a truly inclusive culture which would be integrated into all aspects of an employee’s work life.

The Committee raised a number of matters  which were responded  to by Cllr Rowley and the Head of Business Improvement.

There would be merit in seeing the equivalent HR data for the Council’s companies. While such data could not be included in the formal annual equalities report, there was no reason why a parallel report could not be prepared by ODS in relation to them. It was understood that the relevant data were collected by the companies.

It would be helpful to include a brief reference to the fact that pay grades was always evaluated in accordance with an agreed scheme, on the basis of the responsibilities of a particular post. 

It was regrettable that a high proportion of managers chose not to declare their ethnicity (given the value of having comprehensive data about this indicator) and there would be merit in encouraging them to do so.

There was still a long way to go in relation to securing a workforce which was truly representative of the local community. There were perhaps occasions when the desire to fill a post swiftly had overridden the importance of doing all that was possible to improve the diversity of the workforce.

An account of what positive actions were being taken to address these matters would be helpful in the future.

In order to encourage employees to declare protected characteristics there would be value in making clear the use to which these data were put and the benefits of that.

The Committee resolved to recommend to Cabinet that the Council:

1.    Considers asking ODS for a report providing similar details of the diversity profile and the actions being taken to ensure the workforces of these companies are reflective of the community they serve;

2.    Publishes as an appendix to next year’s report the same statistics for the staff in its wholly-owned companies as it does for its own staff;

3.    In the next year’s report, provides details of the positive action schemes undertaken by the Council – those started, those completed and those planned, and their results (where relevant) –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 72.

73.

Strategic Grants Review pdf icon PDF 524 KB

Cabinet, at its meeting on 15 December, will consider a report on the Strategic Grants Review. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

Cllr Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities and Ian Brooke, Head of Community Services, have been invited to attend for this item. 

No report was brought to Scrutiny last year concerning grants. However, a number of grants-related recommendations were made as part of the Domestic Abuse Review Group, which are attached.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In advance of the first item of substantive business a brief presentation was made to the Committee on behalf of some of Oxford’s advice centres and in anticipation of item 8 on the Agenda, Strategic Grants Review.  Sue Tanner, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Rosehill and Donnington, spoke on  behalf of the three local advice centres, Agnes Smith in Blackbird Leys; Barton and Rose Hill; and Donnington. She drew attention to a paper which had been distributed by them to members of the Committee in advance of the meeting. A copy of that paper is attached to these minutes.

Advice centres had suffered significant cuts in grant funding in recent years and were now faced with a proposal to remove the Development Fund and to cut a further £25,000 from the budget for advice centres and Citizens Advice.

Advice centres carry out work which, was in effect delegated, to  them by  the City Council, such as the distribution of the Covid support grants and receiving referrals from the Hubs.  All the work they did was in line with Council’s strategic priorities.

Advice centres worked in the most deprived areas of the city, bringing  financial gains for clients in those neighbourhoods . Last year the three centres helped clients to access nearly £10 million,  which was a good return on the £0.5 million received from the City Council.

She hoped that the Committee would recommend rejection of the proposal to reduce by £25,000 the core funding to the advice centres

Cllr Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities, introduced the report by first thanking Sue Tanner for her presentation at the beginning of the meeting and for the important contribution made by all those who work in advice centres. The workload of advice centres had undoubtedly increased as a result of Covid, having to  deal with a multitude of issues, frequently affecting the most vulnerable   members of the community and  particularly women. The proposals before the Committee didn’t seek to identify, specifically, where cuts would be made but, rather, to set out  a strategy for making such decisions in due course. Comments made at this stage would help to inform the strategy.

Cllr Aziz  was grateful for the letter which had been sent to members of the Committee on behalf of the advice centres  in advance of the meeting  and said she would be pleased to meet their representatives to discuss their concerns. It was agreed that this letter should inform the Budget Review group’s deliberations.

The strategy sought to set out a new approach to grant funding which supported the following principles: equalities at the heart of the programme; recovery from Covid; tackling deprivation; and environmentally sustainable. The strategy also sought to make the process of accessing grants easier and, in particular, to facilitate access to grants by organisations/groups  which had not done so previously.

Ian Brooke,  Head of Community Services, said the need to take £200k from the overall programme was a difficult and unwelcome challenge. The review  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.

74.

Budget Review Group - Scope pdf icon PDF 227 KB

At its first meeting of the civic year Scrutiny established a Budget Review Group to examine the Council’s budget proposals for 2022/23. The Committee is asked to agree the attached scope, having raised any questions or made any amendments.

Minutes:

The Committee resolved to agree the scope of the review group.

It was agreed however that the membership of the review group would benefit from an improved gender balance. The Committee agreed to appoint Councillor Imogen Thomas to the Finance and Performance Panel and the Budget Review Group, replacing Councillor Duncan Hall.

Child Poverty Review Group

The Scrutiny Officer reported that the County Council was, unfortunately, unable to participate in the review as full members of it. The Review Group would therefore proceed with a membership of 4 City Councillors. County Council colleagues could however be invited to contribute on an ad-hoc basis as the need arose.

 

 

75.

Report back on recommendations and from Scrutiny Panel meetings pdf icon PDF 216 KB

 

At its meeting on 10 November Cabinet responded to the following reports from Scrutiny:

-       Anti-social Behaviour Policy

-       East Oxford Community Centre

-       Discretionary Housing Payment Policy

-       EV Strategy

Requests for updates from the following Panel Chairs will be requested:

-       Councillor Nigel Chapman (Companies Scrutiny Panel)

James Fry (Finance Panel

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer reported back on Cabinet’s response to the Committee’s recommendations in relation to Anti-social Behaviour Policy; East Oxford Community Centre; Discretionary Housing Payment Policy; and EV Strategy, the majority of which had received a favourable response.

 

The Committee was disappointed however with the negative response to aspects of the recommendations in relation to the EV strategy and the time it had taken to get those responses. It was noted that the Cabinet Member was due to appear before the Committee in March to report back on the strategy and some of these matters could be revisited then.

 

Cllrs Champan and Fry fedback to the Committee on the most recent meetings of the Companies Scrutiny Panel and Finance & Performance Panel respectively.

 

76.

Reports for approval pdf icon PDF 144 KB

The following report awaits the Committee’s approval to be submitted to Cabinet:

-      Tourism Review Update

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minutes:

The report before the Committee included two recommendations for Cabinet.  In discussion it was agreed that two further recommendation were warranted:

1.    That the Council, in its work with partners, pursues a renewed focus on attracting domestic tourists to Oxford; and

2.    That the Council reviews and updates its responses to the recommendations made by the Tourism Review Group in light of the changes of Covid and the proposed Oxford Economic Strategy and City Centre Action Plan.

 

77.

Dates of future meetings

Scrutiny Committee

 

 

·         18 January

·         01 February

·         07 March

·         05 April

 

Standing Panels

Housing & Homelessness:16 December, 02 February, 04 April

Finance & Performance: 07 December, 24 January, 09 March

Companies: 13 December, 24 March

 

All meetings start at 6.00 pm except Housing and Homelessness on 16 December, which will start at 5pm.

 

Minutes:

Scrutiny Committee

 

 

·         18 January

·         01 February

·         07 March

·         05 April

 

Standing Panels

Housing & Homelessness:16 December, 02 February, 04 April

Finance & Performance: 07 December, 24 January, 09 March

Companies: 13 December, 24 March

 

All meetings start at 6.00 pm except Housing and Homelessness on 16 December, which will start at 5pm.

 

78.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 401 KB

 

Recommendation: That the minutes of the meeting held on 02 November be APPROVED as a true and accurate record.

 

Minutes:

The Committee resolved to APPROVE the minutes of the meeting held on 02 November 2021 as a true and accurate record.