Cheltenham Borough Council
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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Pittville Room - Municipal Offices

Contact: Rosalind Reeves, Democratic Services Manager 

No. Item




None received.



Declarations of Interest






Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 46 KB


The minutes of the last meeting held on the 10th of October 2012 were agreed as a correct record.




Public questions, calls for actions and petitions






Matters referred to committee - ICT Update

ICT update – The ICT Manager will be attending the meeting to answer any questions on the member briefing note – ICT sent to members on 23 November 2012



A briefing note had been circulated to all Members on 23 November 2012 to keep them informed of matters relating to the virus infection of key ICT Systems and what had been done to prevent its spread and to restore service.  Mark Sheldon, Director Resources and Paul Woolcock, ICT Infrastructure Manager were in attendance at the meeting to answer any questions from the committee.


Following an introduction from the Director Resources, Members made the following comments and asked a number of questions:


  • When systems go down there was an issue about how contact was made with Members and remote workers and perhaps there needed to be a system of alternative e-mails, possibly working collaboratively with other authorities to send messages out.  The loss of the computer-based telephone system at the same time as losing systems needs to be looked at for the future. Availability of remote access over the weekend is critical to Members but if the system is down on Friday afternoon it is typically not restored until Monday morning. More consideration needs to be given to weekend recovery.
  • Members were concerned about the loss of moowa which had provided a convenient method of accessing outlook over the web which they could do from their place of work at lunchtime or on their county council laptop. Members highlighted that they would not be able to load Citrix or any other software onto a work machine or county council laptop which they did not administer. They requested a definitive decision on the future of moowa as Citrix was not necessarily a suitable solution unless Members were sitting at home working on their own PC or Council laptop.
  • How often does the council review its antivirus software and are we using the latest products? Was there going to be an immediate review to assess whether the antivirus software being used by the council and its GO partners was fit for purpose?
  • What was the nature of the virus and if it was a known virus, why was its signature not picked up by the council's antivirus software?
  • If the virus did come in from a desktop system, what implications does this have for the training that had been given to staff and Members on data security?
  • Was the risk of a computer virus infection now on the corporate risk register?
  • In his introduction, the Director Resources said that there was no financial cost incurred as a result of the virus. If staff had been working weekends how was this the case? 
  • What was the knock-on impact on future ICT budgets of any new software that may have to be put in place to safeguard systems for the future?
  • Has there been any reputational damage to the relationship with our partners?
  • Is there any redress against the company who has provided us with antivirus software?


In response, the ICT Manager responded that there were no current plans to restore moowa and Citrix  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Feedback from other scrutiny meetings attended


Councillor McCloskey reported on two meeting she had attended earlier that day.  Firstly the County Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  The committee had received an update on the floods and how the emergency services were dealing with the situation. In the afternoon she had attended a meeting of the new Police and Crime Panel. The panel had now completed their induction and the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner attended their meeting and outlined his plans and approach to his new role.



Update on Elections

A verbal update from the Chief Executive and Returning Officer, Andrew North on the recent Police and Crime Elections with regard to taking forward the recommendations from the report of the investigating officer on the Warden Hill elections reviewed by the committee at its meeting on 16 July 2012.


The Chief Executive and the Returning Officer, Andrew North, gave members a verbal update on the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections. He explained how the recommendations from the report of the investigating officer on the Warden Hill elections, reviewed by this committee on 16 July 2012, had been implemented.


Overall the elections process had been very successful. The only difficulty identified was that due to the ICT problems the elections staff had only been able to check 88% of postal ballots rather than their usual target of 100%.  However this was well with within the legal requirement of 20%. Backup arrangements for communications with Stroud also had to be implemented so that Cheltenham totals could be advised.


There had been four training sessions for staff involved in the elections, two during the daytime and two in the evening to facilitate attendance.  Attendance had been made compulsory and any staff not attending would be disqualified from election duties.  He personally had attended two of the training sessions and he confirmed that they contained practical demonstrations which were very effective and encouraged debate and there had been a quiz at the end of the session to check learning. All staff had been given a hard copy of the presentation used during the training and had been given access to the guidance documents produced by the Electoral Commission There had been one-to-one sessions with new presiding officers and new poll clerks had been placed with more experience poll clerks on the day. The role of the Inspector had been clarified and on visiting polling stations they had requested staff to talk through the process they were operating.


Regarding the final recommendation in the report of the investigating officer, the Electoral Commission had been contacted and the suggested change to the guidance notes had been made.


This committee had requested a further recommendation which was that a register of significant queries should be maintained at each polling station.  This had been done and a number of queries had been recorded although they were more about the public questioning the need for a Police and Crime Commissioner or the lack of information on candidates rather than any queries about the election process being operated at the polling station.


In conclusion, he could confirm to members that all the recommendations in the investigating officer's report had been implemented and would continue to be addressed in all future elections.


The chair thanked the Chief Executive for this update.



Updates from scrutiny task groups pdf icon PDF 21 KB

An update from the Democratic Services Manager on the latest status across all the scrutiny task groups currently in operation.


The chair referred to the update which had been circulated and the Democratic Services Manager talked through the significant points.


Regarding the budget scrutiny working group, the chair of the group, Councillor Andrew Wall, informed the committee that the working group had been presented with draft budget papers for 2013/14 at their meeting in October. As a group they had felt that this was too late in the budget cycle for them to influence the budget in any way and therefore they had agreed that the focus should be on planning for next year's budget cycle. With this approach they would not be in a position to make recommendations to the O&S committee on the 2013/14 budget at their meeting on 10 January 2013. In response to a question he confirmed that they would be reviewing their timetable for the coming year to ensure that they would be in a position to make recommendations in future years.


After further discussion, the committee decided that the budget was a very important issue for scrutiny and therefore they requested a presentation at their meeting on 10 January with an opportunity to ask questions of officers and the Cabinet Member Finance.


Regarding the JCS and Planning Liaison scrutiny task group, it was noted that a speical meeting of this committee or its subcommittee may be required in mid-January to review the recommendations from this task group before they are forwarded to the joint member steering group.


Councillor Sudbury referred to the task group update which advised that herself and Councillor Chard had stepped down from this group. She wished it to be noted that this was in no way due to a lack of interest but they had taken this action in order to ensure that the membership of the task group had credibility in terms of its balance.


Regarding the Events scrutiny task group, the committee recalled that they had considered this at the last meeting and given clear steer on what further work needed to be done.  Councillor Penny Hall, as chair of the working group, advised that the task group had taken their advice on board and as a result they were nearing completion and were in fact meeting after this meeting to finalise the report. In view of this, the committee agreed that the task group should report to Council in December to seek views from all members on their recommendations.  The report would then be endorsed by this committee in January before being forwarded to Cabinet later in the month. The Democratic Services Manager agreed to consider how this report would be presented at Council and liaise with the Mayor.



Report of the Scrutiny Task Group - Community Governance Review pdf icon PDF 17 KB

The report of the scrutiny task group will be presented by Councillor Barbara Driver as a member of the group and the O&S committee are asked to consider the report before it goes to Council in December.

Additional documents:


The Strategy and Engagement Manager introduced the report of the scrutiny task group on the community governance review. Helen Down, as Participation and Engagement Team Leader and author of the report, invited comments from the committee on any aspects of the recommendations.


Councillor Driver, as a member of the working group, commended Helen Down for the work she had done in getting the review to this stage. It had been a difficult process and had felt somewhat chaotic at times with all members of the group wanting to voice their strong opinions.


In the discussion that followed, members raised a number of concerns about the outcomes set out in the report.

  • It was very clear that the parish councils were keen to extend their boundaries but Scrutiny members were unsure of the logic behind some of the proposals being made. Members made particular reference to Battledown and Charlton Kings and the old GCHQ site at Oakley where a small number of households would be asked about a large area of land. 
  • Members felt thatThe Reddings was a very distinct community and had no real links with Up Hatherley due to the railway line, yet it was suggested that it could be incorporated into that parish council’s area. Councillor Britter as the ward councillor for that area, had feedback from his residents that there was no interest in being parished. There was reference that it had previously been a parished area but this was over 30 years ago and the area now consisted of many new houses.
  • Advice was sought about the  optimum size for a parish council as the recommendations would result in very differing population sizes and could increase significantly with any major developments in those areas.
  • There were concerns about the consultation and the fairness if only a small number of people responded. A period of three weeks was too short and some felt the consultation could be much wider across the town, though this would cost more.
  • There was concern that if the consultation was done on a household basis, as proposed, individual electors would not have a vote.
  • There was concern about the cost of the consultation which was being borne by the borough council.
  • Councillor Teakle mentioned an informal survey that she had been part of that suggested that there was a general perception that currently people preferred the status quo i.e. to remain a part of a parished area if they were in one and not to be parished if they were not already.
  • There are a number of important changes coming up which could have a major influence including neighbourhood plans, major developments and how would these be taken into account?
  • The parish council boundaries should be linked as far as possible to ward boundaries.
  • Councillor Sudbury, as a former member of the task group, had found it a difficult experience. She felt very strongly that the starting point for any review should be based on community identity so that people can  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Report of the scrutiny task group - Grass Verges pdf icon PDF 65 KB

The report of the scrutiny task group will be presented by Councillor Penny Hall, the chair of the group and the O&S committee are asked to consider the report before it goes to Cabinet in December.


Additional documents:


The chair of the scrutiny task group introduced their final report on grass verges. In her introduction, she thanked officers, members of the working group and the county council for all their contributions. In particular she thanked John Rees, Ubico Ltd - Environmental maintenance manager and Tony McNamara, CBC Community parks development officer for their input and they were in attendance at this meeting to answer any questions. She added that the Cabinet Member Sustainability had been engaged in the review. She highlighted the recommendation regarding information on the website which she felt was critical to the overall success of the improvements being put forward. She asked the committee to consider whether they now want to these recommendations to go directly to Cabinet or whether they wished them to have a wider debate in Council.


In the discussion that followed members commended the task group for engaging the county council in the review and on an excellent report. They were concerned that the bye laws regarding parking on the grass verges could not be enforced as this was a frequent source of complaints from residents. They would welcome any action that could be taken on this.


There was some discussion about biodiversity. The chair of the working group assured members that there were no cost savings associated with wild flower borders and they would not be positioned so as to block views from private driveways. The suggestion to seek sponsorship for wild flower borders was noted.


In response to a question from a member, officers confirmed that typically two cuts would be missed whilst waiting for bulb foliage to die down and the next cut would then be timed for May or early June.


Regarding the practice referred to in 4.4 of blowing the cut grass off the pavements and back onto the verges, a member suggested that a more sensible practice would be for someone to follow on with a brush and spade and a black plastic bin liner and gather up the cuttings for composting. Officers advised that this would be very costly and impractical in view of extent of the verges being considered. Their priority must be to ensure the pavements are clear and the council would not be liable for injuries to persons from slipping on the cuttings. 


The chair thanked the task group for an excellent piece of work.


Resolved that the recommendations of the scrutiny task group on grass verges be endorsed and forwarded to Cabinet in December.



Review of scrutiny workplan pdf icon PDF 50 KB

Review the workplan and members are encouraged to put forward potential items for consideration by overview and scrutiny.



The workplan was noted and it was agreed that follow-up of recommendations would be included.


The internal audit report on the ICT virus problem would also being added to the workplan.


Councillor Driver suggested a review should be carried out of small pockets in the town which may suffer from deprivation but may not get the consideration that the more obvious deprived areas get.


Councillor Smith suggested that a review could be carried out of the joint services with One Legal and the Chief Executive suggested that it may be worth looking at Building Control as this also a shared service with Tewkesbury Borough Council which was set up at the same time as One Legal,



Date of next meeting

Date of next meeting: Thursday 10 January 6 pm


Thursday 10 January at 6 p.m.