Cheltenham Borough Council
Cheltenham Borough Council

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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Pittville Room - Municipal Offices. View directions

Contact: Saira Malin, Democracy Officer 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Councillors McCloskey and Hay had given their apologies.  Councillor Harvey attended as a substitute for Councillor Hay.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

No interests were declared.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 228 KB

28 November 2016

Minutes:

The minutes of the last meeting had been circulated with the agenda. 

 

Upon a vote it was unanimously

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on the 28 November 2016 be agreed and signed as an accurate record.

4.

Public and Member questions, calls for actions and petitions

Minutes:

None had been received.

5.

Matters referred to committee

Minutes:

The chairman reminded the committee about the presentation they had received at the last meeting, from Stagecoach.  Council had referred this issue to the committee and as such, a formal response needed to be agreed.

 

The Chairman proposed the following response (copies of which had been circulated in advance of the meeting):

 

At its meeting on the 17 October 2016, Council considered a petition regarding changes, by Stagecoach, to the C Service; namely the removal of the service to Springbank Way in its entirety.  During the debate it was decided that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee should consider bus services in general and how they could be better delivered in Cheltenham.

 

Rupert Cox, Managing Director for Stagecoach (West), attended the 28 November 2016 meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  He gave a presentation which was followed by a question and answer session with members (draft minutes are attached).

 

Some of the key points included:  

 

·         The biggest challenge facing Stagecoach was congestion.  The knock on impact of a journey taking 5-10 minutes longer than it should ultimately resulted in a journey not operating, currently measured at 0.5% of journeys.   Bus priority measures would not only allow bus journeys to be speeded up but they would also be more predictable as the bus would journey unhindered.   Tewkesbury Road in particular would benefit from a bus lane, and whilst unpopular with the public, the business case for the A40 scheme had merit. 

·         North West Cheltenham was, in Stagecoach’s view, a good area for development as there was potential to add a park and ride service.  This would allow for existing services to be made more frequent and given the size of the site, allow for new services: to the Hospital and/or train station for example.  It was suggested that affordable housing should be located closer to bus stops and that is was not advisable to build initial phases at the back of a site and furthest away from existing bus stops. 

·         The cost of parking in Cheltenham for two hours was the same as it had been 10 years ago.  Stagecoach, were willing to work in partnership with the council and develop a written agreement that if parking charges increased, bus fares would be reduced.  Nottingham City Council had introduced a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL); a charge on employers who provide workplace parking, a type of congestion charging scheme.  Money raised from the WPL goes towards the extension of the existing tram system, the redevelopment of Nottingham Rail Station and also supports the Link bus network.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee felt that these were areas where there was scope to explore the options within existing projects/initiatives such as when planning the North West Development and reviewing the car parking strategy for Council.  The congestion issues should be raised with the county council as part of local transport planning for Cheltenham.

 

Council may like to instruct Officers to ensure these areas are covered in relevant project scopes or request that Gloucestershire County  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Feedback from other scrutiny meetings attended pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Gloucestershire Health and Care O&S Committee (15 December and 10 January) – verbal update from Councillor Harvey

 

Gloucestershire Economic Growth O&S Committee (30 November) – verbal update from Councillor Paul McCloskey

 

The Police and Crime Panel have not met since the last meeting of this committee.

Minutes:

Councillor Harvey had attended two meetings of the Health and Care O&S Committee since this committee last met, an extraordinary meeting was held on the 15 December 2016 and scheduled meeting on the 10 January 2017.  He started by summarising the topics covered at the January meeting.  The committee had considered the Mental Health and End of Life Strategy, for which there were no financial implications for the committee to consider and highlighted the existence of the College for Mental Health Support which was a residential college run by GCC, which sounded like a fantastic facility, but one that was not well known.  The Clinical Commissioning Group report was discussed briefly and Health watch Gloucestershire had formally thanked the Commissioning Group for their work.  With regard to the budget, from the figures he saw, it looked as though cuts were being made across the board, which he felt was typical across the country. 

 

He then moved on to talk about the extraordinary meeting which was held on the 15 December.  He had produced a written update which had been circulated to members in advance of the meeting (Appendix 1) but explained that this meeting had bene convened in response to a motion (14 September 2016) in which the Council requested that the Health and Care Scrutiny Committee give further debate to the issue of Accident and Emergency waiting times.  He felt that the A&E unit at Cheltenham was an out of hours service in all but name, as between the hours of 8pm and 8am, ambulances were diverted to Gloucester Hospital.  He had been particularly interested in establishing if reopening Cheltenham A&E would have alleviated the issues of A&E waiting time performance, but he felt was concerned that this was left unanswered.  It was an interesting meeting and he felt that it was encouraging that, representatives from all of the Districts (except Stroud who had left before the vote) had supported the proposal that a fully doctor-led 24/7 A&E in Cheltenham should be an option ‘kept on the table’.

 

The Chairman, as the member who had proposed the original motion to Council (GCC) had been pleased with the outcome of the debate and was left with the impression that this was something that the trust could do (re-open A&E at Cheltenham), but that they didn’t want to. 

 

Councillor Harvey gave the following responses to member questions:

 

·         The number of middle level Doctors had increased since 2013, which he felt raised the fundamental question of why Cheltenham A&E could not re-open.

·         The trust were reporting a circa. £19.4m deficit and yet the Commissioning Group had a £9.469m surplus.  He had been advised that this budget was ring fenced.

·         The four hour target was to treat and admit/discharge the patient but these goal posts had recently changed. 

·         There was no discussion about whether Cheltenham had the infrastructure to support a 24/7 A&E unit.  Discussions had centred on staffing levels.

The Chairman commended the efforts  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Cabinet Briefing

A verbal update from the Cabinet on key issues for Cabinet Members which may be of interest to Overview and Scrutiny and may inform the O&S workplan 

Minutes:

The Leader commented that the Government had now confirmed that it would not be progressing with any new Devolution deals at the current time.  This was not surprising as civil servants working on it had been transferred to work on Brexit. He assured members that there was continuing discussion on matters raised in the proposed devolution package and how they could be progressed locally.  The committee has asked for an update on Gloucestershire Airport.  The Leader reminded members that the Airport was jointly owned by Cheltenham and Gloucester City Council but was located in Tewkesbury Borough.   Just over a year ago, having acknowledged that the Board required an increased skill set, a new Chair, and Vice-Chair were appointed, with extensive knowledge of Airports and Property, respectively and the number of Directors appointed by the Council(s) reduced from three to two.  Over the last year there had been a particular focus on project management and ensuring that best value could be achieved.  He made the committee aware that an issue had arisen recently in relation to pensions.  The airport is part of the Local Government Pension Scheme which is managed by Gloucestershire County Council who allocate costs.  As a business, the company is now deemed higher risk than councils and allocated higher costs which compounds the existing deficit.  £550,000 of Growth Deal funding had enabled the Airport to create a new access road, which had in turn allowed for a new hangar development, though this was yet to be completed.  Officers were, at present, giving consideration to whether the Council(s) should directly invest in hangar development and get a return on any such investment, as well as the ground rent.  The Shareholders Forum were scheduled to meet again in March 2017.  

 

In response to member questions, the Leader gave the following responses: 

  • It was still hoped that the Borough Council would be able to take more direct responsibility for its highways as part of a local deal.  In particular the High Street needed to be improved and discussions were ongoing about a collective response to this, which included the BID.  
  • A full consultation was required to cease the late night levy, as had been required to implement it and it was this to which the Council item for the 23 February related.  

The Cabinet Member Clean and Green Environment hoped that members were aware of the decision that had been taken in December, for the procurement of vehicles.  It had also been decided that Councillors Babbage, Payne and Britter, would form part of the cabinet member working groups for the waste and recycling service redesign and route optimisation project; which represented a good spread of members from across the Borough.  

 

The Cabinet Member took the opportunity to announce that the Council had secured funding for two ‘changing places’ accessible toilets.  The £136k of funding had been awarded by the GCC ‘disabled people and young children special breaks’ capital grant and this included £12k of staff costs.  This was great news for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Everyman Theatre pdf icon PDF 838 KB

Presentation

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed Geoffrey Rowe from the Everyman Theatre.  Geoffrey talked through a PowerPoint presentation (Appendix 2) and key points included:

 

·         The theatre was open for 48 weeks of the year and by the end of the year would have held 650 performances and sold 200,000 tickets. 

·         Performance arts included opera, ballet, pantomime, plays, dance, burlesque and magic.

·         Cheltenham Borough Council owned the building on which the theatre held a full repairing lease.  The theatre had spent £158,000 on repairing and maintaining the building in 2016 and had plans to build a canopy from the Regent Arcade car park.  They had secured planning permission, the funds required and chosen a provider, but were awaiting permission from the landlord (CBC).  In the coming years the front of house and catering areas would be refurbished also. 

·         Cheltenham was famous for its festivals but the theatre was more likely to be open and therefore had a big part to play in terms of Cheltenham’s tourism and cultural offer.

·         The theatre had averaged a £50k annual surplus for the last 6 to 8 years, which equated to approximately 1% of turnover.  Reserves were in place for when refurbishment of the foyer and catering areas took place.

·         The withdrawal of funding (£50k) from Gloucestershire County Council and the reduction in funding received from CBC had impacted some of what the theatre could in terms of outreach work at schools.  The impact had, however, been mitigated by redundancies, savings and fundraising. 

·         The future outlook for the theatre was stable.  Finances and staff were sound, the building was a in good state of repair and the theatre were producing more of their own work.

·         In recent years the theatre were also having a greater involvement in the various festivals and he hoped that this would continue to grow. 

 

Geoffrey gave the following responses to member questions;

 

·         It was largely only people within Gloucestershire that visited the theatre and sales were stable (at approximately 185,000 a year).  Ticket sales were dependant on the level of interest in shows, the Railway Children had not proved as popular as was hoped, tickets sales were also weather dependant and it was undeniably difficult to persuade people to use the balconies. 

·         Artsmark schools chose to promote the arts to their pupils and there were 16 Artsmark schools in Gloucestershire.  The schools approached the theatre from time to time about backstage tours, etc.

·         The council was involving the theatre in the development of the Tourism Strategy.  He did feel that the council could promote the theatre more widely on its website and that attractions such as the Town Hall needed to open its doors more regularly to the public.

·         The ‘Friends of the Everyman Theatre’ group was still active and had 180 members.  The group worked to fundraise and promote events and there had been lots of work with various Trusts and Foundations last year which had helped raise £70-80,000.  The theatre undertook a telephone campaign, which despite initial apprehensions about how this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Development of a place strategy for Cheltenham pdf icon PDF 162 KB

Discussion Paper (no recommendations)

Minutes:

The meeting commenced again at 7.20pm.

 

The Strategy and Engagement Manager introduced the paper as circulated with the agenda.  It had been interesting for him to hear earlier discussions about access to health services (especially Cheltenham A&E), Broadband and cultural provision, as it was issues such as these, and more, that the Place Strategy would pull together to define Cheltenham as a place.  Cabinet had signed-off a draft in October 2016, which set out the working vision and scope for the Place Strategy and the Leader was keen for the Overview and Scrutiny to be involved.  Data suggested that the four outcomes that the Strategy should focus on were: 

  • Businesses.  Investment in this area was lower than some of our competitors.  
  • Tourists.  There had been a downward trend in domestic staying visitors to Cheltenham
  • Young People.  Whilst the number of retirement complexes increased there was a risk that the towns younger generation were being lost. 
  • Communities.  Although Cheltenham has a number of relatively affluent communities, Cheltenham also has a number of communities that are characterised by multiple deprivation. 

An engagement plan had been developed to run to the end of January 2017 and this would support the wider ownership and collective ambitions of the strategy.  The engagement sessions that had been held so far had generated lots of positive feedback and summary notes of this feedback were attached to the paper.  There were tight timescales associated with this piece of work, with the strategy due to go to Cabinet and Council in March and whilst it was no envisaged that this would be a highly polished final version, it would be an important marker in the process. 

 

The Strategy and Engagement Manager and Leader of the Council, gave the following responses to member questions: 

  • The strategy was meant as a fairly concise document and as such, it was not possible to put everything in.  In relation to ‘housing’, it was implicit that young people would only stay and prosper here if they could afford to buy a home.  Again, it was implicit in the ‘communities’ outcome, that residents were important, as well as tourists. 
  • Tim Atkins, Managing Director of Place and Economic Development was the Project Sponsor for this, as well as the Economic Development Strategy and they were both linked.  
  • The Stakeholder group included representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, cultural providers, the VCS, the BID and the University. In addition a local businesses workshop was held. 
  • There was a lot of interaction between the budget and corporate strategy, into which this would link.
  • GCC formed part of the Stakeholder group and parallel work was ongoing at county level on the Vision 2050 work.  Clearly the LEP would be working to attract businesses to the area and Cheltenham would need to define and articulate a common vision and work collaboratively. 

The following comments were made by members:

·         This Council need to consider the impact of emerging technologies such as driverless cars and the impact these will have  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Update on Crematorium Development programme pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Discussion Paper (no recommendations)

Minutes:

The Director of Environment, as Project Sponsor, introduced the paper as circulated with the agenda.  The paper focused on concerns raised by members of the committee at the last meeting about risk and business continuity, in relation to what was, at £7.4m, the biggest project the Council had undertaken for some years.  

 

The Director of Environment, along with the Bereavement Services Manager, gave the following responses to member questions: 

  • The Cabinet Working Group and Project Team regularly reviewed risk, in more detail than had been given in the update provided to this committee.  There were currently 34 risks associated with this project and as it was not possible to eliminate risk, each was being actively managed with a series of actions and timescales.  A recent risk workshop had included the contractor and had been useful in ensuring a comprehensive understanding.  The need to replace the current cremator was the main driver for the project and also a major risk to it.  Plant maintenance was almost a continual project in itself and as such the Project Team were working closely with the contractor, ATI, who had a great deal of experience.  
  • The current pre-construction phase took the project to May and every effort was being made to hit this target, so that a detailed planning application would be ready for submission and any risk of contractual delays could be minimised. 
  • The existing Crawford machines did, from time to time, do things that they shouldn’t but continued to be operational.  The Crawford machines at Port Talbot crematorium led to the facility being burned down, which was not the only one to have failed, but ATI were confident that they could keep them running until they were replaced. Anything above £50k would be considered beyond economic repair and ATI could supply/build a single replacement cremator on site (non-abated) for around £250k.  
  • The Project Team were reluctant to give an estimated date for completion, but the current programme ran to the end of 2018 and the public message was that the works would be completed by Spring 2019.  It was important to note that the service generated a surplus of £700-800k per annum, so the financial risk to the authority is significant. 
  • Officers were always honest and transparent with funeral directors.  There had been occasions when coffins had needed to be held for 2-3 days and the crematorium always sought agreement beforehand.  Were this period of time likely to be any longer for any reason, the funeral directors would be consulted.  It would be possible for the service to be held at Cheltenham and the cremation to take place elsewhere, but this would be subject to agreement and the capacity of other areas at the time. 
  • The cost of spares was not included in the £50k figure for economic repair.  However, a wider range of service components were now being kept in stock as a contingency to reduce down time.  

 

The Bereavement Services Manager took the opportunity to give credit to staff at the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

budget proposals 2017-18

Budget Scrutiny Working Group recommendations (to follow)

Minutes:

The Chairman advised the committee that rather than receive a written report, as stated on the agenda, the committee would instead be given a verbal update by the Chair of the Budget Scrutiny Working Group, Councillor Nelson.  

 

Councillor Nelson reminded members that the BSWG met regularly and took an active interest in all budget areas, which in the last year had included recycling, car parking and 2020.  The BSWG had taken the decision not to produce a report and recommendations as they were comfortable with the 2017-18 budget which had been presented to them and thoughts/comments included: 

 

The group were pleased that the Council were taking the 4 year settlement.  

  • The BSWG had long advocated property investment as a means of generating new income at a time when funding was being cut.  They felt that this was the correct way to make use of the £1m cash available to the Council and making good use of its borrowing capability and were pleased that progress was being made in this area.  He advised members of the need to act with speed and urgency when opportunities presented themselves. 
  • Car parking income always exceeded expectations and the group felt more could be made of this by developing a proper strategy.  They felt that a strategy should be adopted as soon as possible.  
  • As with previous years the group had been impressed with the presentation of the Housing budget by CBH.  Councillor Nelson was scheduled to meet with the Housing Minister and planned to discuss ideas to improve the ability of CBH to borrow.
  • The reductions in the NHB to fund social care were disappointing in the sense that the Government had been promoting the building of new homes, and given the time and effort that had been devoted to developing the JCS housing requirement.
  • Though the lost 2020 savings had been found elsewhere, some members were disappointed by this decision and would have preferred that the money be spent on delivering benefits to the community.   
  • The BSWG considered the rise in Council Tax to be both reasonable and sensible. 
  • A balanced budget had been achieved and Finance Officers were to be thoroughly commended for their hard work and diligence.  

 The following responses were given to member questions: 

 

·         The Housing and Planning Bill was a major initiative and a complex subject which needed to be discussed further.  Councillor Nelson felt that political parties held similar aspirations but had conflicting ideas on how the housing need should be approached. 

·         The Government set limits on what CBH could borrow against its housing stock and that this needed to be challenged, to try and give CBH greater flexibility to build more homes.

 

The Leader confirmed that this was the second year in which the council had been hit by a lower than expected settlement, £600k this year.  It had taken a lot of hard work but a balanced budget had been achieved and it was possible that the final settlement could be slightly better.  

 

The Chairman thanked  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Updates from scrutiny task groups pdf icon PDF 55 KB

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Task Group summary had been circulated with the agenda.  In addition the committee were advised that the 1 February 2017 had been set for the meeting between the Street People Task group and representatives from the SOLACE Project at Gloucester City Council.  

 

The Chairman felt that this was an increasing issue in Cheltenham and urged the task group to undertake a thorough review and devise some recommendations as soon as possible. 

13.

Review of scrutiny workplan pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Minutes:

The work plan had been circulated with the agenda.  The Democracy Officer advised that Officers had been asked to provide an update on North Place to the next meeting, though this was yet to be confirmed.  

14.

Date of next meeting

20 February 2017

Minutes:

20 February 2017.