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Agenda item

Council Plan Performance Tracker and COVID-19 Recovery Tracker - Quarter Four 2020/21

To receive and respond to the findings of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee‘s review of the quarter four performance management and recovery information.

Subject To Call In::No - Item to Note.

Decision:

That the Council Plan Performance Tracker and COVID-19 Recovery Tracker - Quarter Four 2020/21 be NOTED.

Minutes:

20.1          The report of the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, circulated at Pages No. 17-116, asked Members to review and, if appropriate, take action on the observations of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee following its review of the Quarter Four 2020/21 Council Plan performance tracker and COVID-19 recovery tracker information.

20.2          Attention was drawn to the observations made by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, and the Council Plan performance tracker, attached to the report at Appendix 2. The COVID-19 corporate recovery plan performance tracker was attached to the report at Appendix 3.

20.3          The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee explained that this had been the Committee’s final review of year one of the Council Plan 2020-2024 and the new COVID-19 recovery plan. Similar to the position in previous quarters, the national picture regarding COVID-19 could change very quickly. When presenting the report to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Head of Corporate Services had demonstrated that, despite the ongoing response and recovery to COVID-19, there had been some notable successes during the quarter - those were highlighted within Paragraph 2.3 of the performance report and included: the new long term lease of Cleeve Hill Golf Club; the new in-house management of the five homeless properties; implementation of the new digital platform; and the new bulky waste service. Likewise, successful actions within the recovery plan included: the successful re-opening of Tewkesbury Leisure Centre and Tewkesbury Tourist Information Centre; the ongoing support to communities and businesses within the Borough; the development of a draft bid with the Department for Works and Pensions to offer a Youth Hub Service, hosted within the Growth Hub; and the implementation of a new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) - those were detailed in Paragraph 4.2 of the report. The conclusion of the Committee had been generally positive with it being recognised there was still a significant challenge to recover from COVID-19 and that certain actions may not progress as quickly as possible or, as detailed in the report, some had been deferred. Importantly, it should not be forgotten that the core services, which residents depended upon, had been delivered from the outset of the pandemic and throughout. In terms of questions raised by the Committee, the key issues included: the planning service review; trade waste; 2021 celebrations; the Borough Plan; absence management; and enviro-crimes – particularly fly-tipping. There was particular concern about the planning service review and Members had been keen that, once an action plan had been developed and approved, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee should have an active role in monitoring its delivery. As Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, he was specifically asking the Executive Committee to consider that request. The Committee had noted that other planning service reviews had not actually seen any outcomes and delivering improvement was now a critical issue as the key performance indicators relating to the processing of planning applications and the undertaking of enforcement investigations all showed a negative direction of travel compared to the previous year. In response, the Head of Development Services had advised that she was keen to engage with the Business Transformation Team to address the systems and processes. The Development Management Team had given a commitment to work with the Business Transformation Team which should be able to help with the addition of things like an application tracker - this would record when an application was received, when it was validated and who the case officer was – which should ensure applicants were kept up to date. The monitoring of the action plan would be delegated to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and that would be dealt with in the report on the review to Executive Committee. In terms of the Borough Plan, clarification had been sought as to the steps that needed to be taken to reach the adoption stage of the plan. The Head of Development Services had advised the next step was receipt of the examination in public findings and a letter was expected from the Inspector shortly - this would set out whether the Council needed to do further work, for example if the plan needed to be modified in any way, and any modifications would have to be presented to the Council for approval for consultation. In respect of fly-tipping, the Head of Community Services had confirmed that, during the year, there had been a significant increase in the number of fly-tips - this was not due to increased awareness on how to report incidents but was a direct result of the increase in actual incidents. The capacity to proactively enforce those was impacted by a combination of resources being deployed to the COVID-19 response and the Courts being closed. A positive comment from one Member of the Committee was that, despite the numbers, in his experience the actual clearance of the fly-tipping was undertaken promptly.

20.4          A Member referred to the redevelopment of Spring Gardens and the fact that the project had been deferred “until resources were available”. There was now a derelict site where Cascades had been demolished and she felt like the centre of Tewkesbury was being left behind in comparison to the Garden Town. In response, the Head of Finance and Asset Management explained that the next step in the project was estimated to cost in the region of £450,000 which, when the budget was set, was not achievable for the Council. The original intention was for the project to be put on hold for two years to get past COVID-19 and into a time when there may be more commercial certainty going forward. At the moment, Officers were looking at the potential for a levelling up fund bid and, in the meantime, there were discussions ongoing with Mace Group Ltd so the work done to date was not lost - Officers would try and bring the project forward earlier if possible. The Member expressed fear that the project would be on the backburner for a number of years and Tewkesbury Town would suffer in the meantime. In terms of the money being spent on the Garden Town versus the money required for the Spring Gardens and Oldbury Road Regeneration project, the Chair advised that it was the intention of Members to ensure something productive was done but a number of elements had conspired to hold the project up. In terms of funding, the difference was that the Spring Gardens Project required funding by the Council; whereas, the Garden Town was funded by a government provision. The Head of Finance and Asset Management confirmed that Tewkesbury Borough Council was in tier three for the levelling-up funding so it would have to put some of its own funding in and Officers were working to see how that could be taken forward.

20.5          Referring to the review of the planning service, a Member advised that the need for new systems and processes was well known and some areas had already been identified. Meanwhile, the team of committed Officers had been battling through the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home, isolation and illness and she felt that needed to be made clear as the planning team had been working really hard. Another Member welcomed the review and hoped Members could feed into it as many people had suggestions as well as frustrations to share. In response, the Head of Development Services advised the action plan and actions contained therein would ensure discussions could take place to identify anything that had been missed. She was fully aware of the issues faced by the public and Members so she hoped everything would be covered. The action plan would contain short, medium and long term actions and would be shared and consulted upon. In respect of timescales, it was not possible to provide any at this time but there would be targets within the action plan. In response to a query, the Committee was advised that the report from the planning service review would be considered by the Transform Working Group in due course but would not be made public, however, the action plan would be in the public domain and would be considered by Committee.

20.6          Referring to litter picking, a Member advised that the activity was not allowed to take place on roads with a speed limit higher than 30mph for safety reasons. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chair confirmed that the Committee had been made aware of that as well as being advised of the costs and processes needed to close a lane on a busy bypass. It had been suggested that people should be encouraged not to drop litter via a campaign and signs on the road.

20.7          A Member referred to an article he had read recently which had stated that people felt service levels within the service-led industries had deteriorated due to COVID-19 and he expressed the view that, from 19 July, the public would expect all services the Council offered to be ‘back to normal’ and the authority needed to be ready for that. Having considered the report and responses received, it was

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