Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber - Municipal Offices. View directions

Contact: Harry Mayo, Democracy Officer  01242 264 211

No. Item



Cllr. Harvey.


Cllrs. Beale, Britter, Harvey and Williams sent apologies, with Cllr. Willingham substituting.


Declarations of interest


Cllr. Willingham noted for the record that he also sat on the county council, which was relevant to item 16.


Appointment of Interim Vice-Chair

Objective: To appoint an interim Vice-Chair during Cllr. Harvey’s leave of absence.


Cllr. Chelin nominated Cllr. Tooke, with Cllr. Willingham seconding this.

Members resolved to appoint Cllr. Tooke as Interim Vice-Chair for the duration of Cllr. Harvey’s absence.


Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 238 KB

Minutes of meeting held on 5th September


The minutes of the 5th September meeting were approved and signed as a correct record.


Public and Member questions, calls for actions and petitions


There were none.


Cabinet Briefing

Briefing from Councillor Hay, Leader (if she has an update, or if O&S Members have questions for her)


Objective: An update from the Cabinet on key issues for Cabinet Members which may be of interest to Overview and Scrutiny and may inform the work plan


The Leader of the Council did not have a briefing.


Matters referred to committee pdf icon PDF 288 KB

Matter referred to O&S by Council on 17th October


A matter was referred to the committee from 17th October Council concerning fuel poverty and the work the council was doing to support deprived areas.

The Chair moved into the debate about how the committee could respond to this:

  • One Member stressed the need to act proactively and urgently, taking a broad-based approach that increased awareness and understanding.
  • One Member highlighted the importance of insulation and efficient heating to the issue of fuel poverty. Investing to save was key, but they also needed a skilled workforce to deliver this, and a rolling plan to ensure quality work and reliable contractors.
  • One Member noted that the O&S committee was already running a task group on the topic of tackling deprivation, which had been set up before the current cost of living crisis escalated. The task group reported back to O&S and would eventually go on to Council, perhaps highlighting areas like planning policy where the council could make the biggest difference (for example with regard to secondary glazing). Another Member suggested adding fuel poverty to the task group’s remit.
  • One Member noted that it would not be possible for a single O&S meeting to cover the issue in real depth, so it would need to identify a particular aspect to focus on.
  • One Member highlighted the option of a Cabinet Member Working Group (CMWG), and noted that there was already one in place focusing on Housing. It was important to avoid overloading the council’s resources, both in terms of finances and officers.
  • One Member noted that the option of getting developers to fund council planning departments was being explored elsewhere in the country, and could provide greater scope to invest in the council’s workforce.


The Chair summarised that fuel poverty was clearly an issue of great scope and complexity, with a real lack of precise information around it. For example, they did not know how many houses in the town were poorly insulated, and what degree of insulation would be needed to get these up to standard. The committee needed to engage with Cheltenham Borough Homes (CBH) and get an assessment from them. The CMWG for Housing also had a role to play, as did the scrutiny task group and a number of council departments. The referral highlighted a crisis that would not be solved overnight, and would require a properly resourced long-term plan.

In terms of actions, he suggested that the current Housing CMWG be involved in developing this long term plan, along with the scrutiny task group on Tackling Multiple Deprivation. The chair’s group would also consider who could be invited to future O&S meetings to provide additional evidence, such as CBH, the fire service, environmental health and property services.

Members supported the recommendations as a sensible way to tackle a broad issue, and stressed the need to involve partners wherever possible. Another Member was pleased with the response but reiterated the need to act fast, with the number of households in fuel poverty  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Publica annual report pdf icon PDF 293 KB

Objective: Consider the annual report: where is performance good, what needs improving, and where are they with the CT recommendations?


Jan Britton (Managing Director, Publica)

Bill Oddy (Group Manager – Commercial Development, Publica)


Additional documents:


Jan Britton (Managing Director, Publica) (JB) introduced the annual report, explaining that the organisation worked with a lot of different councils, with CBC comprising about 4% of its work. The main services it provided were IT, HR and some financial processing.

The Chair moved into Member questions and debate:

  • One Member noted that the key performance indicators (KPIs) which had been the focus of previous annual reports were absent. Had these been deemed to not be a priority? JB responded that this report primarily aimed to tell a story of Publica’s continuing journey. They did keep copious amounts of KPI data, which was available if Members wished to see it, although the CBC-related data was relatively limited. Publica produced quarterly KPI reports for other councils for whom they provided more services.
  • One Member asked how they coped with conflicting priorities between partner councils. JB responded that he did not like the word conflict, and preferred to think of it as balancing competing demands and pressures. It was difficult to ensure that everyone always benefitted at the same time, and they inevitably needed to prioritise. He constantly communicated with chief executives in a collegiate way, and partner councils tended to understand that a bit of give and take was necessary.
  • One Member asked for more specifics about what exactly Publica was doing for Cheltenham. JB responded that with just 4% of Publica’s turnover being related to Cheltenham, there wasn’t a massive story to tell, but the focus was on IT and especially cybersecurity. This was an incredibly fast-moving field, and the incident at the city council highlighted its importance.
  • One Member asked how Publica was supporting its staff to get through the current cost of living crisis. JB responded that they made an annual commitment to be a real living wage employer, which was uncommon for a local authority provider – for example, CBC did not do this. They took employee wellbeing very seriously and provided an employee benefit program on top of salaries. There was constant dialogue with staff about their needs and issues.
  • One Member found the report interesting, and asked about what difficulties or areas of improvement there were. JB replied that partnerships always required constant maintenance, and there was no substitute for ongoing dialogue. His role was easiest when he was working with all the councils together rather than individually as a mediator. In the last year, all the councils had got round the table more frequently than ever before, and CBC’s Chief Executive had been key in this.
  • The Leader of the Council added that the leaders of all four member councils met prior to Publica board meetings to talk through the key issues they wanted to raise. There had been an away day in July as well to further strengthen this partnership. She was pleased with the working relationship between CBC and Publica.
  • One Member asked for more specifics on the increased efficiency referred to in the report. JB clarified that they were assessing options  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Biodiversity pdf icon PDF 676 KB

Objective: How does the council ensure that biodiversity is always a priority in decision-making in relevant areas?


Liam Jones (Head of Planning)

Mike Redman (Director of Climate Change and Place Services)

Adam Reynolds (Green Space Development Manager)

Laura Tapping (Climate Emergency Programme Officer)


Mike Redman (Director of Climate Change and Place Services) (MR) introduced the report, explaining that it had been produced in response to a member request and was a timely overview of the work the council was engaged in to protect and promote biodiversity. He acknowledged that the paper only really scratched the surface of the topic, which was inextricably linked to the council’s climate agenda. The commitments the authority had made were particularly salient: put simply, if they did not get carbon emissions under control, the implications for biodiversity were serious, with millions of species at risk of extinction due to rising global temperatures. Officers from a range of different departments had contributed to the report, including the climate team, green space management, trees, planning and flood risk management. He felt it showed an impressive range of things that CBC was doing to promote biodiversity and mitigate the worst effects of the climate emergency.


The Chair moved into Member questions and debate:


·         One Member highlighted the importance of biodiversity to individuals’ quality of life in the town. Exposure to the natural world had a major impact on mental health, and the most deprived areas were the least likely to have areas of biodiversity.

·         One Member asked whether the council had a commitment to always use native species when they planted plant trees and flowers, and to use the best species for the natural habitat. MR responded that this was a complex issue, as most species were threatened by disease and higher temperatures, and it was not clear whether they would thrive in the future, so they could not always rely on native species. The county council was also reluctant to plant many of the species they had seen flourish in the past because they were forest trees which could get very big and cause damage to highways. He was in regular contact with the council’s experienced Trees Officer, Chris Chavasse.

·         One Member acknowledged the tension between tidiness (which many residents prioritised) and biodiversity, and the need to balance competing interests.

·         One Member asked what levers the council could pull in terms of promoting biodiversity through housing. MR responded that there were some constraints from a legal point of view – if a building complied with building regulations then there was not a lot they can do. The council had passed a climate change SPD to encourage more carbon neutral developments, and was working with Climate Leadership Gloucestershire to lobby central government to allow greater autonomy for local authorities on these issues. Developers were obviously focused on making a profit, and climate was not their key concern.

·         One Member asked whether ‘friends of’ groups had the opportunity to advise and influence the council on local issues. MR responded that they worked very closely with these groups through the Green Space team. It was good to encourage community groups to have a degree of autonomy in the face of climate change, and helped build resilience.

·         One Member noted that in their  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Response to Council referral on 18th July regarding UNICEF child friendly status and No Child Left Behind pdf icon PDF 401 KB

Objective: To consider the discussion paper provided in response to the 18th July Council referral, and consider any next steps.


Richard Gibson (Head of Communities, Wellbeing and Partnerships)


Richard Gibson (Head of Communities, Wellbeing and Partnerships) (RG) introduced his report, which had come about as a result of a Council motion in July. It sought to answer three key questions: what was UNICEF child-friendly status and how did it compare with No Child Left Behind; given current council priorities, would working towards UNICEF child-friendly status add value to their work; and was it realistic, given current workloads for the council, to lead the work to achieve child-friendly status alongside its existing priorities and its commitment to No Child Left Behind?

He outlined how child-friendly status involved adopting a rights-based approach based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as opposed to the voluntary-based No Child Left Behind program. There was nothing within the convention that Members would not support, though it would be a long-term commitment (their guidance suggested three to five years) rather than a quick win. It could not be achieved without consideration of the financial impact, and the report highlighted some of the associated budgetary issues. He also highlighted that they would need the support of two-tier colleagues, including the health service, county council, the police and the voluntary sector, rather than just being a CBC-led project.

The report also considered alignment with the council’s corporate priorities, including health and wellbeing and the town centre. The final question was simply ‘is it realistic?’, the answer to which would depend on the budgetary situation and whether an aligned approach with partners could be achieved. There was also the question of workload: with limited officer capacity, it was worth considering what might need to be reprioritised to make room.

The Chair moved into Member questions and debate:

  • One Member highlighted the importance of the cost-benefit balance, and the possible opportunity cost. It was hard to see how child-friendly status would be achieved without diverting attention from NCLB, unless it generated extra income.
  • One Member noted that a number of the current child-friendly cities listed in part 3.7 had well-documented issues with gangs and youth crime, and questioned what child-friendly status (or working towards it) was actually achieving.
  • One Member noted that the list of partners the council would need to get on board included GCC children’s services, which was deemed inadequate not long ago, while the 2021/22 PEEL Report had raised questions about policing.
  • One Member highlighted the work of NCLB as a visible presence in Cheltenham’s communities, and suggested that the resources needed for child-friendly status would be better invested in expanding NCLB. Both county-wide buy-in and a major shift in finances would be required to deliver both.
  • One Member emphasised the importance of the rights of children to education, to play and to see their friends, which had been constrained in the last few years. If these were to be specifically enshrined in council policy, they would like to see something far stronger.
  • One Member asked how many of the key points raised at 3.4 in the report were already covered by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Feedback from other scrutiny meetings attended pdf icon PDF 258 KB

Gloucestershire Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee (22nd September) – update from Cllr. McCloskey to follow


Gloucestershire Police and Crime Panel (26th September) – update from Cllr. Willingham to follow


Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (18th October) – update from Cllr. Bamford to follow

Additional documents:


Cllr. McCloskey’s update from the 22nd September Gloucestershire Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee and Cllr. Bamford’s update from the 18th October Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee were taken as read.


Cllr. Willingham gave a verbal update on the 26th October Gloucestershire Police and Crime Panel. This had consisted of two meetings on the same day, the first being an exercise to appoint a new Chief Executive (the former Deputy Chief Executive), before an update from the Police and Crime Commissioner. Cllr. Willingham raised issues regarding antisocial behaviour, the time taken to respond to non-emergency 101 calls and the HMICFRS’ report into inadequacies in Gloucestershire Constabulary’s procedures. A senior police officer gave a presentation on this, which was available online. Key topics included some police officers’ reliance on food banks and vouchers, as well as administration issues. It was clear that the police were seeking to get on the road to recovery, and it was important to ensure that the right policies and support were in place to make that happen.


Updates from scrutiny task groups pdf icon PDF 185 KB

Update from Scrutiny Task Group on Tackling Multiple Deprivation


Harry Mayo (Democracy Officer)


The update from the Scrutiny Task Group on Tackling Multiple Deprivation was taken as read. The Democracy Officer added that there would be two task group meetings before the next O&S meeting on 28th November, focusing on education and housing respectively.


Review of scrutiny workplan pdf icon PDF 143 KB


There were no comments on the scrutiny workplan.


Date of next meeting

28th November


28th November.



The committee is recommended to approve the following resolution:-


“That in accordance with Section 100A(4) Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the remaining agenda items as it is likely that, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, if members of the public are present there will be disclosed to them exempt information as defined in paragraph 3, Part (1) Schedule (12A) Local Government Act 1972, namely:


Paragraph 3; Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).”


Members resolved to move into exempt session.


High Street defects

Objective: Briefing on situation with High Street defects.


Sophie Barton (Townscape Manager)

Darren Knight (Executive Director Place and Communities)

Additional documents:


The Executive Director of Place and Communities introduced the paper on the High Street defects and responded to Member questions.