Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Monday, 11th March, 2024 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Rooms A & B - Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services  Email:


No. Item


Disclosures of Interest and Whipping Declarations

In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, councillors are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.


Councillors must also declare if they are subject to their party group whip in relation to any items under consideration.



The following disclosures were made:



Item and Minute

Type and Nature of Disclosure



R A Lanzer

Health & Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee (HASC)

(Minute 7)


Personal Interest –

Member of WSCC



R A Lanzer

Health & Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee (HASC)

(Minute 7)

Personal Interest –

WSCC Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing



Minutes pdf icon PDF 129 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 29 January 2024.


The minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 29 January 2024 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair. 



Public Question Time

To answer any questions or hear brief statements from the public which are relevant to the items on this agenda.  The period will end after 15 minutes or later at the Chair’s discretion.



No questions from the public were asked.



Second Home Council Tax Premium pdf icon PDF 94 KB

To consider report FIN/648 of the Head of Corporate Finance.


The Commission considered report FIN/648 of the Head of Corporate Finance.  The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act came into force on 26 October 2023. The Act allowed Councils to charge higher Council Tax on properties that were defined as long term empty homes and properties that are only occupied occasionally (second homes). 


During the discussion with the Deputy Leader of the Council and the Head of Corporate Finance, the following comments were made:

·         It was noted that the report recommended the introduction of Council Tax premiums on long term empty properties and on second homes.  The wider aim was to reduce the number of empty homes and to encourage the use of properties as main residences rather than as second homes in the borough.   It was therefore proposed to introduce a 100% premium on empty homes after 1 year instead of 2 years and to also introduce a second homes premium of 100% both with effect from 1 April 2025. 

·         Acknowledgement that the additional charge was intended to encourage owners to bring properties back into use and could boost the supply of properties in the borough.

·         It was commented that given the housing emergency declaration in February 2024, together with the Council’s financial pressures the report was welcomed in an attempt to meet both objectives.

·         Clarification was sought and obtained regarding the penalties that would exist for any potentially fraudulent claims. It was recognised that the Council had a variety of information available to assist in fraud prevention and undertook visits to confirm the information held against properties, together with credit searches and further involvement from the Council’s Fraud Investigation Team where required.



That the Commission noted the report and requested that the views expressed during the debate, were fed back to the Cabinet through the Commission’s Comment sheet



Climate Emergency Action Plan Update

To receive an update on the Climate Change Emergency Action Plan.


The Commission received an update on the Climate Emergency Action Plan from the Cabinet Member for Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change, the Head of Economy and Planning and the Sustainability Officer.  It had been agreed that following the completion of the Climate Change Scrutiny Panel, and the previous Climate Emergency Action Plan Update, that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission would receive regular updates on the Climate Emergency Action Plan. (Presentation attached as Appendix A to the minutes).


The following main points were noted during the discussion: 

·         Acknowledgement that the Council had declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and following this and the subsequent Climate Change Scrutiny Panel, the formal Climate Emergency Action Plan was adopted by Cabinet in November 2021.

·         Recognition that there were many significant pathways to achieving net zero and local authorities were only responsible for a small percentage of direct emissions, and yet influence was required in other areas to achieve specific targets.

·         Details were provided as to the implementation of the action plan and the challenges faced.  These included ensuring the monitoring systems and decision making tools were embedded throughout the Council, together with the introduction of carbon emissions training.  It was added that the main current challenge was identification of sources of funding.  Whilst significant progress had been made, there was an urgent need to remain committed to delivery task prioritisation.

·         It was noted that the Council’s climate commitment included scope 3 emissions (from procured goods and services) and this was the biggest risk to achieving climate commitments.  The highest direct emission percentage derived from K2 Crawley, followed by other Council assets.  In order to complete heat decarbonisation further information and clarity would be required on capital investment and various government funding streams as it was acknowledged that retrofitting various sites was costly.  It was noted however, that the new town hall building was extremely efficient and being supplied by the DHN which made this a significant opportunity for the town and would assist in attracting clients to the town hall. 

·         The action plan would be refreshed to focus on delivery, trends of decarbonisation and also link to service plans.  It would also identify dependencies outside the Council’s control.  The action plan would be brought forward to OSC and Cabinet via a report in the autumn.

·         Acknowledgement that procurement played a key role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions through the supply chain, which included construction projects, manufacturing of goods and services.  It was important to work with partners to reduce carbon emission throughout the supply chain and the Procurement charter was being updated to include decarbonisation in decision making.

·         It was noted that there had been an implementation delay with regards to waste and green infrastructure.  It was hoped that the changes to be implemented as a result of the National Waste Strategy would increase recycling and reduce waste.  Recognition that currently the lack of grid capacity and funding streams proved challenging in procuring new (electric) fleet vehicles and as a result alternative fuel sources  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Homelessness Update pdf icon PDF 193 KB

To consider report CEX/067 of the Chief Executive.


The Commission considered report CEX/067 of the Chief Executive.  As a result of the costs being attributed to housing and in particular temporary accommodation, at the meeting on 29 January 2024 the Commission felt that it would be beneficial to receive a detailed report on the rising costs and data attributing to these factors.


During the discussion with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Chief Executive, the Commission raised a number of queries. The issues raised and key responses included:   

·         Homelessness was one of the biggest issues facing the Council and the report was welcomed in providing additional information on this matter.

·         Acknowledgement that the current scale of the predicament facing the borough as well as others across the country was unsustainable.

·         Commission members were updated that much groundwork had taken place within the sector in anticipation of the budget announcement. Partnership working continued with other authorities and the District Councils Network around the Housing Benefit Subsidy (the government contribution to the Council meeting its statutory duty) as the amount had been frozen since 2011.

·         There had been marginal measures to assist the Council as a result of the budget, including increasing the cap from 40% to 50% on the percentage of the cost of a replacement home that can be funded from Right to Buy (RTB) receipts.  It was noted that RTB sales had declined over the last few years and reforms had recently been proposed to the RTB scheme with suggestions that councils maintain a degree of local determination in the application of RTB policy which would allow discretion within the scheme.

·         Following the Notice of Motion in February 2024, the Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing had written to various government departments to urge them to take decisive action following the housing emergency declaration.  Concerns raised included the Housing Benefit Subsidy, additional housing pressures arising from asylum contingency dispersal (following the same principles as agreement for the Chagossians Overseas Territories Citizenship scheme), along with the impact of water neutrality. It was queried whether there was a need to campaign more openly and highlight the consequences should the housing issue not be addressed.

·         Concerns were raised over the growing demand and constricted supply of housing, with the inevitable result of cost increases, which also impacted on other Council services. It was recognised that over the last several years, approximately 1600 affordable and social houses have been built and whilst water neutrality had impacted this, longer term housing development was key.

·         Acknowledgement that the budget for 2024/24 showed a predicted new cost of £5.25m, however this was very much dependent on the success and delivery of mitigations being developed and delivered. Trends, costs and acquisitions were continually being explored however the risk factors were harder to predict.

·         Clarity provided regarding the Water Neutrality Strategy that provided mechanisms for circumventing the issue. The current Crawley Homes retrofitting had come from the HRA and assisted the progression of housing development.

·         Confirmation provided that population growth was a consideration and the Local  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee (HASC)

To receive a brief update on the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee (HASC).


An update was provided from the most recent HASC meeting.  Key items of discussion included:

South East Coast Ambulance Service Update –

·         Nationally, ambulance services had remained in a challenged position throughout 2023, which had transitioned into 2024. The Trust had operated, at times, at its highest levels of escalation.  Despite these pressures and following the national focus by NHS England on category 2 ambulance response times, the Trust’s category 2 performance remained positive and on track to hit the 30 minutes mean target for the year, 2023-24.

·         Overall, the Trust had improved its response times when compared to August/September 2023 and the Trust’s positioning when benchmarked against ambulance services across England. However, was acknowledged that Trust response times were below the national Ambulance Response Programme targets.

·         Emergency call answering had also been a significant challenge to the Trust and it was noted that maintaining the workforce at the Trust’s “West” Emergency Operations Centre in Crawley was challenging due to Gatwick Airport and the service industries that support it.  Options were being investigated to improve call times.


University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust –

·         There was a review of the previously considered Adult Social Care’s self-assessment in preparation for Care Quality Commission (CQC).  Within that self-assessment document were a number of areas for improvement. 

·         The improvement programme was being delivered during a period of significant challenge, which included the need to support NHS partners in the facilitation of discharging patients from hospital, as well as manage increased demand for adult social care. Workforce recruitment and retention issues remained key, as well as independent and voluntary sector providers, with the fragility in the care market together with increasing prices across the whole care sector.

·         Ongoing management oversight of the capacity required had been planned and resourced for the improvement programme during the remainder of 2023/24 and throughout 2024/25.


Performance and Resources Report – Adult Services

·         The report had been designed to reflect the priorities, outcomes and measures included in the Council Plan. 

·         Work had continued this quarter to drive forward the two-year Adult Social Care Improvement Programme, which commenced in April 2023 and had been informed by work undertaken throughout 2022/23 to design models of care and support that were focussed on users of adult social care services.

·         The performance for each area was highlighted including pressures and actions for ongoing work.



Forthcoming Decision List - and Provisional List of Reports for the Commission's following Meetings

To consider any requests for future items. Those highlighted items have been referred to the Commission.




1.     Financial Outturn 2023-2024 (Quarter 4)

2.     Treasury Management Outturn 2023-2024

3.     Crawley Borough Local Plan 2023-2040








It was noted that this was the last OSC meeting of the muncipal year.  The reports that were listed on the Forthcoming Decsion List for the late June 2024 meeting included: 

1.    Financial Outturn 2023-2024 (Quarter 4)

2.    Treasury Management Outturn 2023-2024

3.    Crawley Borough Local Plan 2023-2040

Appendix A pdf icon PDF 441 KB