Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Board - Monday 11th September 2023 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Parkside Suite - Parkside. View directions

Contact: Joanne Gresham 

No. Item


Apologies for Absence and Named Substitutes


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor H. D. N. Rone-Clarke with Councillor D. G. Stewart attending the meeting as his substitute.


Declarations of Interest and Whipping Arrangements

To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.


There were no declarations of interest nor any whipping arrangements.


To confirm the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on 10th July 2023

The minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 10th July 2023 will be published in a Supplementary Papers pack.


The Chairman announced that the minutes of the meeting had been received in insufficient time for Members to read. It was therefore decided by the Board to postpone the consideration of the minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting of 10th July 2023 to the next meeting.


Grass Verge Maintenance - pre-scrutiny pdf icon PDF 216 KB

(Report to follow).


This report will follow in a Supplementary Papers pack once the report has been published for consideration of the Cabinet.



The Environmental Services Manager presented a report on Grass Verge Maintenance for Members’ consideration.


The report highlighted the Motion proposed at Full Council on 20th July 2022 to change the approach to management of verges, the Motion was detailed as follows: -


“This Council changes its grass verge grass cutting and mowing regime to allow wildflowers to remain in bloom during the height of the season when bees, butterflies and general small wildlife rely on the pollen from wildflowers to flourish. This will not be a one size fits all approach. Council will work with local residents and Councillors to find an approach that worked for each community.”


It was proposed that to meet the requirements of this Full Council motion, a cyclical mowing regime would be maintained on approximately 70 per cent of highway verges and open spaces with up to 30 per cent of grass areas potentially left to grow naturally during May, June and July to support wildlife that relied on pollen from wildflowers.


It was stated that capital investment would be required in terms of purchasing new flail mowers to support the cutting of longer vegetation at the end of the flowering season. However, following discussions between the Portfolio Holder and the Environmental Services Manager, an addendum to the report was agreed. The addendum detailed the potential to reduce the Capital funding requirement in the 2023/24 financial year. This was by deferring a final decision on the purchase of a second flail mower until the end of the 2024/25 grass cutting season. This meant that the additional capital investment that was requested for 2023/24 financial year would reduce from £62,100 to £32,100. A decision on whether a second flail deck mower was needed would then be made in the 2024/25 financial year.


It was highlighted that the capital investment detailed would support a reduction in the existing mowing fleet at an estimated saving of £34,000 on the Capital replacement budget over the next three years.


Revenue investment would also be required to support the delivery of the grass cutting programme with total additional revenue expenditure of £28,000 over the current and next three financial years. This would involve a short-term administrative role to support the Place Team in identifying appropriate locations across the District and consulting with local residents, Parish Councils, and the County Council in order to ensure that identified locations for naturalised verges were supported and would not impact on visibility on the public highway.


This administrative support was proposed for a four-month period in the first two cutting years. Additionally, the support of an Ecologist to assess the environmental impact of naturalised verges was required in 2024-25 and 2026-27 of the revenue investment. The Ecologist would document what plant species and wildlife being supported by the initiative and provide independent evidence as to whether grass verge naturalisation measures were having positive impact on wildlife. This would also support communications with residents on the issue.


The Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Climate  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29/23


NewStarts Community Shop pdf icon PDF 172 KB

(Report to follow).


The Board to consider the options with regard to investigating this topic.



The Chairman introduced this item and commented that all Members were concerned about the provision and effectiveness of community shops. It was suggested by the Chairman that this item be deferred to the next meeting and that the Board look at the provision of community shops and food banks across the District rather than concentrating specifically on NewStarts.


Other Members concurred with the need to widen the scope to examine community shop provision in the District as a whole. It was highlighted that Alvechurch, for example, followed a different food bank / community shop model than Bromsgrove, and it was important for the report to set out full details of the existing provision across the District. Additionally, it was highlighted that the report consider how provision differed, or should differ, based on different demographics and different locations in the District.


RESOLVED that this item be deferred and that a report into the community shop provision across the District, which includes case studies of the different models of operation for the community shops and supermarkets, be presented at the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board.



Governance Systems Task Group - Final Report pdf icon PDF 940 KB

(Report to follow).


This report will follow in a Supplementary Papers pack once it has been finalised.


Additional documents:


The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board presented the Governance Systems Task Group final report for the consideration of Members. In doing so it was highlighted that the Governance Systems Task Group had been established as a result of a Motion agreed at a Full Council meeting held on 24th May 2023. The membership of the Task Group consisted of five Members from all parties across the Council. The timelines of the Task Group had been adhered to and the recommendations presented were to be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Board and by Cabinet at its meeting on 13th September 2023. There was then an opportunity for all members to consider the report and the recommendations at an Extraordinary meeting of the Council on 20th September 2023.


In considering the report some Members raised concerns regarding the length of time the proposed change in governance structure to a hybrid Leader and Cabinet model would be in place. Members felt that any changes should be in pace for at least a four year period. Officers explained that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) could be put in place as part of any agreed changes in respect of the hybrid Cabinet and Leader model as recommended within the report. The MoU would be introduced between all political group leaders to maintain these working arrangements for at least the next four years.  


Councillor R. Hunter suggested that an additional recommendation be made in order for the Task Group to consider further evidence from a local authority within the West Midlands that currently operated a committee system.  It was noted that there were at least two Councils within Warwickshire of a similar size and geographical location to Bromsgrove District Council. Councillor Hunter stated that it would be useful to better understand how these Councils worked under the committee system and how successful this system had been. Furthermore, it was noted that as a result of the local elections held in May 2023 Bromsgrove District Council was currently under ‘No Overall Control’ and that this needed to be considered when looking at the governance structure of the Council for the future.


Some Members raised concerns regarding the costs involved in implementing a committee system and whether this provided value for money for residents of the District.


Furthermore, it was noted by some Members that an additional recommendation could cause delays that would impact on any implementation measures that needed to be undertaken if any change of governance structure was agreed. This would particularly delay the large amount of work Officers across the Council would have to carry out in order to prepare for any change to the structure prior to implementation in May 2024.


It was noted that any further recommendation was not designed to disrupt the investigation but merely be an opportunity to look at all possible evidence. Members suggested that a monitoring system could potentially be put in place in order to understand the success of any future governance  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31/23


Finance and Budget Working Group - Update


There were no updates to report at this meeting concerning the Finance and Budget Working Group.



Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Update


Councillor B. Kumar was nominated as the Council’s representative on the Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) for the municipal year 2023/24.


The Deputy Leader of the Council was invited to comment as Council’s representative on the HOSC last year and confirmed that meetings took place monthly during worktime hours and were preceded by a pre-meeting to discuss the agendas and questions for each meeting.


On being put to the vote it was:


RESOLVED that Councillor B. Kumar be appointed as the Council’s representative on the Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for the 2023/24 municipal year.


Cabinet Work Programme pdf icon PDF 369 KB


The Cabinet Work Programme for the period 1st October 2023 to 31st January 2024 was presented for Members’ consideration.


In relation to the Cabinet Work Programme, it was requested by Councillor Hunter that an update report on the Council’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) progress and projects be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Board Work Programme. As the item specifically on this matter was not currently on the Cabinet Work Programme, Members were advised that a specific report would be brought for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board at a later date in the municipal year.


During consideration of the Cabinet Work Programme, Members requested that a column be added to the Cabinet Work Programme document which would give a description of the item on the Programme. It was stated that this would greatly assist, particularly the new Members, with understanding the substance of items on the Cabinet Work Programme and would help determine if it was a subject that Overview and Scrutiny would wish to pre-scrutinise. The Interim Director of Finance confirmed that this would be actioned by Officers following the meeting.


RESOLVED that the Cabinet Work Programme be noted.


Overview and Scrutiny Board Work Programme pdf icon PDF 206 KB


It was requested that the following items be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Board Work Programme for the next meeting on 16th October 2023:


·       Agile Working Presentation

·       Future of Libraries within the District (Council Motion of 19th July 2023).


The Chairman commented in relation to the Agile Working Presentation item that an invitation would be sent to all Councillors asking to attend the 16th October 2023 meeting of the Board for this presentation.


As discussed earlier in the meeting under NewStarts Community Shop item (Minute 30/23), it was agreed that a new report on the community shops provision in the District be presented to the 16th October 2023 meeting.


During consideration of this item, it was queried when the minutes of the Bromsgrove Partnership would be made available to Members of the Board as requested in previous municipal year. It was responded that this would be followed up with Members outside the meeting. Additionally, it was requested that the Board receive a report on the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) at one of its future meetings.


RESOLVED that the Overview and Scrutiny Board Work Programme be updated as per the preamble above.