Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber - Municipal Offices. View directions
Contact: Harry Mayo, Democracy Officer 01242 264 211
Cllrs. Beale and Fifield sent apologies, while Cllr. Willingham was in attendance as a substitute.
The Chair welcomed back Cllr. Harvey as Vice-Chair after his leave of absence, and thanked Cllr. Tooke for taking on the role during that time.
Declarations of interest
Cllrs. Joy and Payne noted that they both sat on the Budget Scrutiny Working Group, and had taken part of the discussion on the budget proposals under consideration in item 8.
Cllr. Willingham added in relation to item 7 that he was Chair of the Licensing Committee and the council’s night-time economy champion.
Minutes of meeting held on 28th November 2022
Prior to the meeting, Cllr. Chelin had highlighted two typos in the previous minutes. With those changes in mind, the minutes of the 28th November 2022 meeting were approved and signed as a correct record.
Public and Member questions, calls for actions and petitions
There were none.
Briefing from Councillor Jeffries, Deputy Leader (if he has an update, or if O&S Members have questions for him).
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 Deputy Leader reported that CBC had been unsuccessful in its Levelling Up bid for funding to contribute to the National Cyber Innovation Centre, which was disappointing but would not prevent progress on the Golden Valley development. He was keen to get feedback from the decision makers on why this project had not been supported, given its potentially transformational impact on communities in Cheltenham and across Gloucestershire. The GV development had launched its first public consultation events across Cheltenham, including on the High Street and at Gloucestershire College, and the team would be at the High Street Pod on 4th February.
He added that the Leader of the Council had signed up to a shared commitment to decarbonise transport alongside all other councils in Gloucestershire. Transport made up a significant part of the county’s carbon emissions, and as a council they were committed to solutions like integrated mass transit and improving the reliability and cost of public transport.
Looking forward, they continued to face a challenging financial situation, with inflationary pressures and energy prices being the two biggest issues to grapple with. He recalled that in December 2021, inflation had reached a 40 year high of 4.2%. This had peaked at 11.1% last year, though it had reduced slightly since. Interest rates had also increased eight times. Over the same period, energy costs had risen from about 15p for a unit of electricity and 3p for a unit of gas to 40p and 10p respectively, even with the government’s caps on pricing.
The latest budget monitoring report for 2022/23 reported a £2.39m overspend against what was a reasonable and prudent budget when it was set. The Local Government Provisional Finance Settlement setting out the level of government funding saw a 3% increase in core funding against inflation at the time of 11.1%, and only guaranteed one year of funding. It placed greater reliance on local tax generation and this council’s commerciality to enable a balanced budget for 2023/24.
One Member asked when they were likely to hear back from central government about why the Levelling Up bid failed, and suggested that residents deserved to know why they hadn’t supported a project with real benefits for deprived parts of the town. The Deputy Leader was not sure of the timescale of this.
One Member praised the work of finance team in challenging times, and wondered whether Cheltenham’s reputation as a wealthy town might have contributed to its lack of support from central government, when in reality it contained areas of acute deprivation.
Matters referred to committee
There were none.
Objective: Outlining the steps the council are undertaking, in partnership with others, to improve residents’ experience of race week.
Louis Krog (Head of Public Protection)
Andre Klein (Cheltenham Racecourse)
Louis Krog (Head of Public Protection) (LK) and Andre Klein (Cheltenham Racecourse) (AK) outlined the key points from their briefing note, which outlined the direction of travel ahead of the festival in March.
AK explained that they anticipated more than 250,000 racegoers over the four days of the festival, with the largest day being Gold Cup day on the Friday. The racecourse had made some changes to capacities across all four days, limiting numbers to 68,500 (a reduction of more than 5,000 on Gold Cup day) to alleviate some of the pressures experienced last year and improve the experience for customers and residents. Gold Cup day was already sold out, and they were looking forward to providing a good experience for racegoers.
He added that he had been leading on the work to make changes in order to mitigate the issues seen last year, in particular minor social misdemeanours like those seen on Richmond Road. Last year’s festival had received about 200 complaints in total, though this included things like beer prices and cold chips. They had trialled the Love Our Turf campaign in November, seeking to promote positive behaviour, improve racegoers’ journeys and above all reduce negative experiences for residents. They were developing a better rapport between the racecourse and residents, and the campaign sought to demonstrate an enhanced level of care and respect by providing more street cleaning, bins and toilets, and by placing stewards and wayfinders on the street to facilitate safe and orderly travel.
He added that they were keen to ensure this wasn’t just a racecourse initiative, and were working closely with CBC officers, the Business Improvement District (BID) and Chamber of Commerce to ensure a joined up approach to the strategy. The November trial had received no negative feedback, and the principal difference now would be the larger footprint of the festival, covering additional areas. A significant marketing and advertising campaign would support its operational delivery.
LK added that the council’s focus was primarily on the enforcement side of things, and they were looking to learn lessons from last year. The Police and Crime Commissioner had arranged a debrief with ward councillors after the 2022 festival, while internal debriefs and reflections had taken place too. The presence of envirocrime officers would be upscaled, particularly at key sites and peak times, as well as police officers and PCSOs with additional powers to act as a deterrent. They would focus on active reporting of offences, and would close a key road southbound on all four evenings to get people away from the racecourse more quickly.
He noted that the council’s approach was not just aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour (ASB), but also at supporting wider public safety in areas like taxis and sexual entertainment venues (SEVs). In effect, officers would be on duty from 8am on Tuesday until 2am on Saturday. It was an incredibly resource-intensive program, putting a strain on capacity, but they recognised the need to build on the successful approach trialled in November. ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Objective: Update from the Chair of the Budget Scrutiny Working Group on the group’s response to the 2023/24 budget proposals.
Cllr. Matt Babbage (Chair of the Budget Scrutiny Working Group)
Gemma Bell (Director of Finance and Assets)
Cllr. Babbage (Chair of the Budget Scrutiny Working Group) introduced the group’s response to the 2023 budget proposals, noting that several BSWG members were in attendance at this meeting as well as the Cabinet Member for finance. As a scrutiny working group, they sought to scrutinise and challenge the budget setting process and highlight issues of particular importance, and had had a wide-ranging discussion about the General Fund and Housing Revenue Account budget proposals.
One Member asked whether the group had a particular view on how the council could react to significant external challenges like inflation and interest rates. Cllr. Babbage acknowledged that these macroeconomic challenges had a direct impact on CBC’s operation, for example in the increased cost of the Ubico contract. The question was how to determine the best approach, and the council had a diverse set of investments that helped to mitigate the impact of economic uncertainty.
The Cabinet Member Finance and Assets placed on the record his thanks to the BSWG, noting that challenge and oversight were an important part of the budget process. Cllr. Babbage added his thanks to the finance team for their work in putting the proposals together.
Objective: Detailed look at the results of the residents’ survey, including benchmarking against the last results in 2019.
Darren Knight (Executive Director Place and Communities)
Darren Knight (Executive Director Place and Communities) (DK) introduced the report and gave a presentation on the background, results and implications of the residents’ survey. He was broadly pleased with the results, noting that although overall satisfaction was relatively low, the most common reason for this was highways, which were not a CBC responsibility. The survey gave a good overall sense of where things were at, and would tie in with the Corporate Plan going to Council on 20th February.
The Chair moved into Member questions and debate:
Gloucestershire Health O&S Committee (6th December 2022) – update from Cllr. Bamford.
Gloucestershire Economic Growth O&S Committee (29th November 2022 and 18th January 2023) – updates from Cllr. McCloskey.
The Gloucestershire Police and Crime Panel has not met since the last O&S meeting.
Cllr. Bamford’s update from the Gloucestershire Health O&S Committee on 6th December 2022 and Cllr. McCloskey’s updates from the Gloucestershire Economic Growth O&S Committee meetings on 29th November 2022 and 18th January 2023 were taken as read. The Gloucestershire Police and Crime Panel had not met since the last O&S meeting.
One Member highlighted the discussion of NHS dentistry in the Health O&S Committee update, especially the third paragraph on the lack of school dental services. There was a clear gap in provision for pupils whose parents couldn’t afford to go private, with 1 in 5 children suffering from serious tooth decay. This was an appalling failure to look after the most vulnerable in society, and it was a travesty that it had been allowed to get to this state. Intervention was needed and as a first step they hoped to see the restoration of school dental services. The Chair agreed that it was scandalous to see this happening in Cheltenham, and noted that tooth decay often led to serious health conditions. Another Member noted that dentistry could not be disconnected from overall health, considering the consequences of a lack of dental maintenance. They hoped this would be communicated to the responsible parties, and taken forward to advocate for those who weren’t receiving the right level of care.
Update from Scrutiny Task Group on Tackling Multiple Deprivation
Harry Mayo (Democracy Officer)
The update from the Scrutiny Task Group was taken as read.
The Democracy Officer added that the group’s final scheduled meeting had since taken place on 26th January, where members discussed how best to classify and refine the large number of recommendations produced throughout the process. They sought to draw out the key issues to highlight in the final report, and were keen to focus on areas directly within the council’s gift or overseen by closely related partners like Cheltenham Borough Homes, to maximise the positive impact.
Cllr. Willingham added as the Chair of the task group that there was a tight deadline for producing the report in time for the next O&S meeting on 27th February, and it might have to be deferred to the April meeting as a result in order to ensure a high quality report with deliverable recommendations. It would be better to take a little longer and deliver a better report, given that they were looking at issues that were decades in the making.
The workplan was taken as read. The Chair added that Members had suggested several topics for scrutiny, which they would review at the next Chair’s briefing.
One Member asked whether the wheelchair access item under ‘items for future meetings’ would cover a wide range of policy areas or one particular aspect. The Chair suggested that a wide-ranging discussion would be most appropriate.
Date of next meeting