OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY
Minutes of a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 17 November
2010 in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, Holt Road, Cromer at 9.30 am.
Committee: Mr N Ripley (Chairman)
Mrs S Arnold Mrs A C Sweeney
Mr R Combe Mrs J Trett
Mrs H Eales Mrs C Wilkins
Mrs J Moss
Officers in The Deputy Chief Executive, the Financial Services Manager (for items 58,
Attendance: 59 and 60), the Technical Accountant (for item 59), the Property Manager
(for item 61) the Environmental Health Manager (for item 62) and the
Democratic Services Team Leader.
52 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies were received from Mr B Hannah and Mr P High.
Mr J Wyatt for Mr P High, Mr R Price for Mr J Perry-Warnes.
54 PUBLIC QUESTIONS
The Minutes of the meeting held on 20 October were signed as a correct record.
56 ITEMS OF URGENT BUSINESS
57 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
The following Members declared an interest in the items listed below:
Member(s) Minute No. Item Interest
Mr R Price 61 Severe Weather Update Personal – lives in
Cromer and is
on the Stalham and
Overview and Scrutiny Committee 1 17 November 2010
58 BUDGET MONITORING 2010/11 – PERIOD 6
The report presented the budget monitoring position for the revenue account and capital
programme to the end of September 2010. The overall position showed an underspend
for the current financial year of £86,706. The information contained within the report
would be used to inform the revised budgets for 2010/11. The financial position for the
current and future years would be considered within the context of the Government’s
Comprehensive Spending Review and impending grant cuts.
The Portfolio Holder for Financial Services highlighted the variance within the car
parking budget. Income to date had been less than originally anticipated. There had
been a higher income from pay and display machines but a lower income from fines.
This combined with an increase in business rates and the rise in VAT would lead to a
shortfall against the current budget.
Members discussed the report:
a) A concern was expressed that car parking charges would be increased substantially
to cover the shortfall. The Portfolio Holder for Financial Services responded that no
increase was planned for this year.
b) The issue of free parking in the run-up to Christmas was raised. The Portfolio Holder
for Financial Services confirmed that it would be offered this year but there was no
guarantee that it would be in the future.
c) A Member was concerned about the impact of the disputed invoice on the Revenues
and Benefits section. The dispute was over the standard of service for the IT system
used by the section and the concern was that this could have a detrimental impact
on the service offered to customers. The Portfolio Holder for Financial Services
responded that the quality of service had not diminished.
d) A Member commented that poor signage in Sheringham meant that some of the
town’s car parks were not fully utilised thus reducing income. The Portfolio Holder
for Financial Services replied that he was aware of the problem and it was being
dealt with. Signage was also an issue in Holt and this was also being looked at.
To note the contents of the report
59 HALF YEARLY TREASURY MANAGEMENT REPORT FOR 2010/11
The report was prepared in accordance with the requirements of the CIPFA Code of
Practice on Treasury Management. During the first six months of the financial year,
investments were made with the counterparties set out in the Strategy Statement for
2010/11. The Council continued to adopt a cautious approach to its investment activities
and all investments had been repaid in full, on time and with all interest due. By the end
of the financial year, the interest earned on investments was anticipated to be £10,000
above the budgeted figure of £549,600. Although, at 2.2% the actual interest rate
achieved was below the 2.44% anticipated in the budget, this had been off-set by higher
balances available for investment.
To note the contents of the report
Overview and Scrutiny Committee 2 17 November 2010
60 FINANCIAL STRATEGY 2011/12 TO 2013/14
The report presented the current financial forecast for the period 2011/12 to 2014/15
and provided a summary of some of the key messages from the Comprehensive
Spending Review 2010. The Council had made assumptions about how the reductions
in spending for government departments would impact on the external grant. The
external grant was currently £9m with a forecast that it would decrease by 25% over the
next four years, with a 7% reduction in the first year.
In addition, it was likely there would be changes to the way the external government
grant was distributed between individual councils. The main concern related to the
concessionary fares income. To date, the administration and cost of the national
concessionary fare scheme was paid for by the District Council and that cost was
reimbursed through a combination of direct grant and the general external grant. From
April 2012 the scheme would be administered by the County Council and there was a
serious concern that the re-allocation of the government grant could be detrimental to
As far as expenditure was concerned, the Council had updated its current budget to
take account of known increases and decreases, including further savings from the
workstreams. This included the removal of 13 posts from the organisation in terms of
2012/13 expenditure. A pay freeze was assumed and an increase of 1.2 % to the
employer’s pension contributions from April 2011 was included. Over the four years,
savings of 0.5m from changes to officer’s car allowances and the Council’s pay and
grading model had been factored in, as had generated savings during 2011/12 for the
new waste contract. Despite ongoing work to deliver efficiency savings, there remained
a forecast deficit of just over £2m.
To prepare for both the short and long term, proposals were being progressed under
four main headings:
Workstream 1: Review Services and Management Structures
Workstream 2: Prioritisation of services and identification of service savings
Workstream 3: Review of Shared Services and Outsourcing opportunities
Workstream 4: Partnership working and community engagement.
Consultation on the savings proposals with staff and members of the public would
commence in December 2010.
Members discussed the report:
a) A Member was concerned about the possible impact on the district council if parish
councils increased their precept significantly. The Deputy Chief Executive replied
that parish councils could not be ‘capped’. It was likely that if any parish councils
chose to go above a reasonable increase, a referendum would be held and this
would incur a cost – both administratively and via re-billing. Rebilling alone could
add on 2-3% to council tax bills. Otherwise the parish precepts had no real financial
impact on the District Council.
b) Charging 100% council tax on second homes was suggested. This would increase
income for the council and would be a popular move with local residents. The
Portfolio Holder for Financial Services responded that it was an issue that needed to
be taken up with the local MP. There was a concern that a lot of second home
owners would simply move to business rates and then the Council would receive
very little in income.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee 3 17 November 2010
FINANCIAL STRATEGY 2011/12 TO 2013/14 (Continued)
c) A Member queried the figures for the Base Budget forecast for the next four years.
He wanted to know how much of the budget for pay and grading and car allowances
was allocated to car allowances and whether the pay and grading review could not
reduce the forecast further. The Financial Services Manager replied that it was a net
saving on both. The Deputy Chief Executive added that the current car allowance of
between £5,500 and £8,000 a year would reduce to £1,000. Some managers had
previously used the car allowance to supplement their pay rather than purchase a
car to the full value of the allowance and this combined with the pay and grading
review could have a significant impact on their income. Pay protection was factored
in for three years and the pay levels would then be re-assessed to ensure they were
competitive. She did not believe that a re-assessment would find the pay levels to be
d) The one-off saving for contract procurement was raised. It was pointed out that there
had been an initial overspend so any saving was minimal. The Deputy Chief
Executive explained that the £57,000 saving would be generated by Keir leasing the
Council’s fleet of refuse vehicles. She acknowledged that the contract procurement
process had not delivered the level of savings expected. In response to a further
question asking whether it would have been cost-effective to renew the existing
contract; she said that the Council now effectively had an inflation-free contract for
the next four years. Contract inflation was a big issue for many councils and would
have increased considerably under the old contract.
e) A Member asked for further information regarding pension costs. The Deputy Chief
Executive responded that the deficit for the Pension Fund was £38m. The employer
contribution would be increased by 1.2% to try and reduce it. The Member replied
that any restructuring exercise could lead to the loss of experienced staff and other
options such as flexible working should be considered. The Portfolio Holder for
Financial Services said that all staff had been given the option of redundancy, early
retirement, flexible working or a reduction in hours. He added that the use of
transferable skills across the Council would also be considered.
f) The issue of budgeting for a ‘worst case scenario’ was raised. The Deputy Chief
Executive replied that the Council did not forecast on that basis as people tended
not to believe it. It was better to be realistic and budget accordingly.
To send a letter to Norman Lamb, MP proposing that second home owners are
charged the full rate of council tax.
61 SEVERE WEATHER UPDATE
The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Assets outlined the proposal for dealing with severe
weather conditions during Winter 2010/11.
Car parks (including around parking payment machines)
1. Information signs made in A2 size for all NNDC car parks and put up from mid-
November to mid-March then removed and stored. Signs would be prominently
positioned at or near entranceways to car parks.
2. The NNDC website front page was to have an obvious link to a web page containing
information regarding car parks and conditions. When adverse conditions were
anticipated, the NNDC website front page would have a scrolling information bar
providing details of car parking conditions and measures being taken including the
suspension of parking charges due to adverse conditions.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee 4 17 November 2010
SEVERE WEATHER UPDATE (Continued)
3. An additional grit bin would be provided in the district’s main town car parks.
4. Salt / grit spreaders would be purchased for Council staff to use, together with a
bagged supply of salt.
5. The parking enforcement contractor to supply NNDC with up-to-date information
regarding road and car park conditions that they come across during their rounds.
This information would be put on the NNDC website front page as the scrolling
Also the investigation of the possibilities of:
a) A service-level agreement with the County Council (NCC) for the treatment of town
centre car parks and costs associated together with NCC’s terms and priorities of
b) Partnership working with local town councils, whereby NNDC provided a free salt
spreader together with a bagged supply of salt in exchange for the town council’s
local workforce or volunteers treating the relevant car parks.
Cromer Pier (including access to and from via the promenade slopes)
1. Emergency signs would be available to advise the public of the virtual closure of the
slope and promenade due to conditions. The Council would ensure that the signs
were well lit and obvious to the public.
2. Suitable and sufficient barriers would be available to provide an element of physical
3. NNDC would seek to work in partnership with Openwide regarding the necessity of
cancelling theatre performances in the event of severe weather conditions. Theatre-
goers would be notified to ensure they did not travel unnecessarily.
The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Assets stated that the proposal would cost £5000 -
£6000. It had not been decided whether the car park in Stalham High Street should be
gritted along with other towns or whether the supermarket car park would be sufficient.
This depended on the retailer gritting their car park which had not happened previously.
Members discussed the proposal:
a) Tourist Information Centres could display signs regarding emergency weather
procedures in their windows.
b) The lift by the Rocket House in Cromer could be used during severe weather as an
alternative means of accessing the promenade. The Portfolio Holder for Corporate
Assets replied that the capacity of the lift was limited and theatre-goers would still
have to negotiate their way along the promenade.
c) The Lifeboat crew needed access to the pier at all times and any barriers should not
d) Stalham car park should be included with other towns in the district. All Members
To fully endorse the proposal and include Stalham town centre on the list of the
district’s car parks.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee 5 17 November 2010
62 CIVIL CONTINGENCIES UPDATE
The Environmental Health Manager updated the committee on the current situation
regarding emergency planning and business continuity.
Staffing remained a problem. The post of Civil Contingencies Manager was unfilled and
the post of Emergency Planning Officer had been made redundant. This meant there
was currently a lack of specialist knowledge within the Council and although this could
be provided from County Emergency Planning, during a large scale event there was
likely to be little or no support from NNDC.
The Business Continuity Working Group (BCWG) had been suspended following the
redundancy of the Emergency Planning Officer. Several teams within the Council had
not produced business continuity plans and in the event of an emergency the lack of
planning would impact adversely on the prioritisation of service areas and the allocation
of resources. The Policy and Performance Management Officer intended to include
Business Continuity Plans in the requirements for service business planning for 2011 to
address this problem.
A reciprocal ICT service agreement had been signed with Victory Housing. Space would
be provided within the server room at Victory Housing’s office along with access to
power and data communications. The arrangement was mirrored for Victory Housing at
the NNDC office. If an event was likely to exceed 48 hours, office space would also be
made available for up to 20 staff and 10 phone lines for up to 4 weeks.
A flood exercise – ‘Watermark’ was planned for 9 and 10 March 2011. NNDC would
take part and provide support for the proposed live evacuation.
Members discussed the update:
a) It was suggested that the Bush Estate at Eccles–On-Sea would be an ideal venue
for the flood exercise as access was easily cut off by high water. The Environmental
Health Manager responded that the Bush Estate was not likely to be the chosen
location. The Council were considering the use of advance notices, including
precautionary evacuation notices on the Bush Estate when the risk of flooding was
high and NNDC was currently in consultation with the Environment Agency
regarding this issue.
b) A Member had attended the previous flood exercise and was keen to be involved in
the next one to compare the two. He also suggested that the venue chosen should
be one without mobile phone reception. The Environmental Health Manager replied
that the location had not yet been selected. Procedural advice for the event could
state that mobile phones should not be used during the exercise. He acknowledged
that the previous exercise ‘Pontus’ had not been a success. The Watermark
exercise would focus on the procedures that flood wardens should follow. Observers
would include Members, senior flood wardens and the emergency services.
c) The issue of preparation for other large scale emergency events was raised. The
Environmental Health Manager responded that many required a general multi-
agency response. Specific preparations were made for marine pollution and the
Bacton Gas Terminal produced their own plan, with NNDC providing an off-site
d) A concern was raised regarding the reliance on people knocking on doors to
evacuate residents. Sirens were more effective. The Environmental Health Manager
replied that it was the best method as it reduced a reliance on technology. He added
that senior flood wardens met once a month to share information.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee 6 17 November 2010
CIVIL CONTINGENCIES UPDATE (Continued)
e) A Member requested an update on the level of use for Gypsy / traveller sites across
The Environmental Health Manager would attend a future meeting of the Committee to
provide an update on the use of Gypsy /Traveller sites across the district.
63 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY UPDATE
a) The Democratic Services Team Leader had attended DASH (Domestic Abuse,
Stalking and Honour-based crime) training on 1 November 2010. The main message
had been that awareness was the main tool in tackling domestic violence. The
‘Norfolk Says No’ campaign was due to commence on 22 November 2010. The
Democratic Services Team Leader proposed a summary report on domestic
violence for the December committee meeting with a review in six months time.
b) The Committee needed to review the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work
Programme. It had been proposed in May 2010 that it was reviewed 6 months after
the General Election to ensure that all the items remained relevant. The Democratic
Services Team Leader considered that this was the case and recommended
carrying out the remainder of the programme for 2010/11. The Vice-Chairman had
suggested adding an additional item to the work programme - the impact of the
Comprehensive Spending Review on community transport and the effect on
students travelling to local colleges. It was agreed that this should be added. A
Member also proposed an evaluation of the arrangements for supporting
communities in North Norfolk because of concerns that the integration of the North
Norfolk Communities Partnership Support Team into the District Council’s
Supporting Communities Team had not generated efficiency savings.
1. The Democratic Services Officer would produce a summary report on Domestic
2. The Work Programme for 2010/11 would continue. Items on student use of
community transport and an assessment of arrangement for supporting
communities across the district would be added to the work programme.
The meeting concluded at 12.00pm.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee 7 17 November 2010