Venue: Ashurst Main Hall - The Charis Centre. View directions
Disclosures of Interest & 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.
No disclosures of interest or whipping declarations were made.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Council-owned Neighbourhood Parades Scrutiny Panel held on 26 July 2021.
The minutes of the meeting of the Council-owned Neighbourhood Parades Scrutiny Panel held on 26 July 2021 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
General Updates and Information
To receive any relevant updates and information from Panel members and officers.
The Commercial Asset Manager updated Panel members regarding potential witnesses at future meetings of the Panel. It was considered that staff at Milligan Ltd, a retail development company, could be asked to share their views on the Council’s neighbourhood shopping parade policy. It was recognised that the company could provide expertise from an independent standpoint which may lead to improvements in the policy; Milligan had advised other local authorities on similar matters. Panel members noted that this was cost-dependent.
· That Milligan Ltd be approached for a quote regarding advice on the Council’s management of the shopping parades.
· That the quote be circulated to Panel members and, following this, a decision be made as to whether to invite Milligan Ltd to give advice to the Panel.
The Panel has invited the following witnesses to attend the meeting to help inform the review:
- Crawley Borough Council’s Neighbourhood Services Manager.
- Members of staff from Graves Jenkins, the agency used for the letting of the Council’s commercial units.
- Current tenants of Council-owned neighbourhood parades shops.
Whilst these individuals are anticipated to speak at the meeting, this may change subject to availability and at the discretion of the Chair. Further witnesses may be called in addition to, or instead of, those listed above.
The Panel invited the Council’s Neighbourhood Services Manager to speak. At a previous witness session with the Panel in June 2021, the Neighbourhood Services Manager had been requested to provide the Panel with more detailed information about the Neighbourhood Services team’s experiences of visiting the shopping parades on a daily basis. The Panel was presented with photographs showing various issues at each of the parades, including (but not limited to) the following:
· Fly tipping. Large items were regularly left next to communal household waste bins, which were not removed (under the terms of their contract with the Council) by refuse collectors. The waste was therefore removed by the Neighbourhood Services team which caused a significantly higher workload and encroached upon the time required to do other essential jobs.
· Overfilled waste bins. Waste was piled high on top of the bins, sometimes blocked footpaths or roads, and was a potential health hazard.
· Broken paving, tree grilles, and lamp posts/poles. These contributed to an unattractive streetscene and made the parades look dated.
· Old street furniture. Some benches were found to be damaged and not fit for purpose. Old public bins had no facility for the disposal of cigarette butts so caused mess. Phone boxes were damaged.
· Unattractive landscaping. Weeds were growing through paving and dead plants had not been removed. Some areas of landscaping had been trodden down by ‘desire paths’. There were however areas where thoughtful landscaping of evergreen plants had made for attractive displays with easy upkeep.
· Dirty road signs and faded road markings. These were unsightly and could also be unsafe for road users.
· Leaves, cigarette butts and other detritus collecting in corners, which contributed to a feeling of uncleanliness.
· Outdated advertising posters, graffiti, and chewing gum on public walls and pavements.
It was explained that there was the potential to improve these issues through proactive education of residents, enforcement measures, and the provision of more/improved facilities (e.g. new furniture, bins, planting). To achieve this the Neighbourhood Services team required up to three new members of staff and/or more funding for equipment, facilities, etc. This had been demonstrated recently by the successful results from hiring two temporary staff members – financed by the Government’s Covid-19 ’Welcome Back’ fund – responsible for deep cleaning in the town centre. Panel members noted that any financial costs as a result of the Panel’s recommendations were subject to approval by the Cabinet.
The Neighbourhood Services Manager praised the work of the team and highlighted that officers were often required to undertake tasks at the parades which were not their direct responsibility.
The Panel discussed the above issues. It was recognised that fly tipping was an issue throughout the area but measures were being brought in to tackle the problem, such as West Sussex County Council’s ‘Let’s SCRAP Fly Tipping’ joint-working scheme. Crawley Borough Council’s Environmental Crime Officer, whose position was fixed-term and Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) funded, also undertook work to prevent fly tipping. The Panel noted that Community Wardens sorted through ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To consider the previously agreed scoping framework and, in doing so:
· Evaluate the Scrutiny Panel’s progress to date in examining all elements of the framework, and
· Decide what information, if any, is required to ensure the framework is fully met.
The scoping framework is attached as Appendix A.
The Panel discussed the scoping framework (appendix A to the agenda) and the extent to which its objectives had been met by the review so far.
It was noted that the majority of the matters listed in the framework had been considered by the Panel. Further information was requested regarding the Council’s current financial position and in response the Head of Corporate Finance stated that an all-member seminar regarding the Council’s budget was scheduled for Tuesday 19 October, at which councillors were to be provided with relevant updates. It was noted that the initial report to the Scrutiny Panel (FIN/499) also gave a range of financial information relevant to the Panel’s work.
The Panel discussed the benefits of consideration of other local authorities’ neighbourhood shopping parade policies and agreed that further comparisons would help to meet the objectives set out in the scoping framework.
· That the Commercial Asset Manager contact officers of other ‘new town’ local authorities requesting the following details: their councils’ rent rates and how they are calculated; the type and frequency of rent reviews; and the scope of repairs policies.
Date of Next Meeting
To confirm the date of the next meeting of the Panel. Proposed dates include:
Thursday 4 November
Wednesday 8 December
Thursday 9 December.
Panel members considered proposed dates for future meetings of the Panel. It was agreed that the date of the next meeting was dependent on the availability of the witnesses to be invited, which was not yet confirmed.
· That Panel members agree the date of the next meeting via email.