Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Board - Monday 11th March 2024 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 Councillors J. D. Stanley, H. D. N. Rone-Clarke, and S. A. Robinson, who were substituted at the meeting by Councillors D. J. A. Forsythe, M. Marshall, and J. W. Robinson respectively.


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 declarations of party whip.


To confirm the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on 12th February 2024 pdf icon PDF 278 KB

The minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 12th February 2024 will be published in a Supplementary Papers pack.

Additional documents:


The minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 12th February 2024 were considered.


It was requested by a Member that, in relation to the minute record for item 72/23 – Libraries Unlocked – Worcestershire County Council Presentation, the following verbatim record of questions asked by Members and responses provided, be appended to the minutes record for the meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Board on 12th February 2024:


Question: “You talked about positive customer response [to Libraries Unlocked]. How did you go about getting that information? How many people were surveyed? I would also like to know how you are going to work through the detail of the future of the Libraries Unlocked as you will be aware that Alvechurch Library is under PFI arrangement and any change in the opening hours would be a cost to the County Council and [the Libraries Unlocked] will actually mean a decrease in some of the groups that are very successful and very well respected in the area”


Response:You are absolutely right about Alvechurch and whilst I cannot provide a definitive yes or no in terms of Libraries Unlocked, bearing in mind the PFI limitations of what we can do, it feels it is more likely to be a no in terms of Libraries Unlocked perspective. As part of the business case that we did to identify the 12 potential libraries going forward (for implementation of phase two of Libraries Unlocked), there was a return on investment for each library where we introduce Libraries Unlocked as there is a capital investment to introduce the new technology. We have to assess the return based around staffing reductions, then obviously taking into account increasing revenue, costs, usage, etc. [The libraries are] examined in turn to make sure that return on investment is still valid. It may well be that at Alvechurch there is no return on investment because of the PFI aspects, but we have not finalised [return on investment assessment] yet.” [Response was also provided about customer satisfaction: that a survey of Libraries Unlocked customers was undertaken in October 2022. Officers undertook to provide a response to Members about the results of this survey in a separate communication once information were retrieved.]


Question: “…My concern at the moment through is the staff, because when they go to work, they are trying to be really positive. They are superb. They are not just librarians. They are knowledge managers. And what they are finding is they get into work, and they have builders or surveyors come in working around them. I mean, it is an appalling way to treat people.”


Response: “We have run staff engagement sessions, staff awareness sessions as part of implementing libraries unlocked and so staff are aware of the situation. We have also held on to so many vacancies. We are pleased that up to this point there have been no need for any staff redundancies or anybody losing their job and we would look to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 86/23


Governance Systems Review - Implementation Progress Update pdf icon PDF 238 KB


The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services provided an update on the work that was being undertaken to implement the recommendations arising from the Governance Systems Task Group review that was completed in September 2023. It was reported that since Council approved the group’s recommendations on 20th September 2023, the Constitution Review Working Group (CRWG) had already made a number of recommendations which were approved by Members at meetings of full Council. This included approval of Cabinet Advisory Group (CAG) terms of reference, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Cross Party Working, and certain amendments to the Committee Terms of Reference and Council Procedure Rules.


The next meeting of the CRWG was due to take place on 12th March 2024. Any recommendations arising from that meeting which relate to the outcomes of the Governance Systems Task Group report would be reported for the consideration of the Overview and Scrutiny Board at its April meeting.


Members queried when guidance would be released with respect of the Cabinet Advisory Group (CAG). It was noted that this would be released in advance of the new municipal year. A Member also requested that Terms of Reference for the CAG be provided. It was explained that this was previously provided and would be recirculated to Members.


RESOLVED that the update in respect of progress with the implementation of actions arising from the Governance Systems Task Group be noted.




Local Heritage List Strategy - pre-scrutiny pdf icon PDF 561 KB

(Report to follow)


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


Additional documents:


The Principal Conservation Officer presented the Local Heritage List Strategy report. During the presentation it was highlighted that this report provided an update on progress of the Local Heritage List Strategy adopted in 2016. It was noted that there had been progress in compiling the list, however, there had been issues faced, particularly with the public engagement element of the Strategy. The report therefore asked for an updated version of the Strategy to be approved.


Members’ attention was drawn to the summary of the Local Heritage List Strategy contained within the report which included information regarding the value of heritage assets to local communities. It was noted that Bromsgrove District Plan (2017) acknowledged the importance of adopting a Local List to formally identify the locally important heritage assets within the District.


Officers reported that criteria for inclusion on the Local Heritage List had been identified, and included Age, Authenticity and Rarity, Architectural Interest, Historic Interest, and Townscape / Villagescape / Landscape Interest. Of these criteria, an asset needed to satisfy the first criterion (Age) and at least one of the other four criteria in order to be included on the List.


Historic England provided guidance in respect of Local Heritage Listings. This guidance underscored the importance of community engagement within local heritage listing process. It was explained that prior to the work on the Local Heritage lists for Beoley and Dodford, public consultation events were held to gain public feedback on the draft conservation areas for both Beoley and Dodford. At these events, the Local Heritage Lists were publicised. It was noted by Officers that public response had been limited, however, with only a handful of nominations received from the public. Officers clarified that there were around ten responses in total.


It was reported that in the original Local Heritage List Strategy, nominations for inclusion on the list were to be assessed by an assessment panel which would consider the suitability of the nominated asset against the selection criteria. However, since the original strategy had been adopted, the resource available to the Conservation Team had doubled. This enabled internal benchmarking of the proposed lists to take place. Therefore, the assessment panel’s role had become less relevant compared to the public engagement element, which continued to be considered extremely important. Due to this, it was proposed that the assessment panel be discontinued in favour of a more detailed public engagement.


A further change since the original strategy was adopted in 2016 was the increased use of the Council’s website and social media resources for promotion. Officers explained that this extra resource would be utilised to increase public engagement as part of the proposed update to the process. In addition, there would also be engagement opportunities for local Ward Councillors, Parish Councillors and building owners as part of the new process.


One area highlighted was that a degree of confusion might have been caused when the public was originally being asked to nominate buildings or structures for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 88/23


Bromsgrove Centres Action Plan Review 2024-25 - pre-scrutiny pdf icon PDF 122 KB

(Report to follow)


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


Additional documents:


The Bromsgrove Centres Manager presented the Bromsgrove Centres Action Plan Review 2024/25 for Members’ consideration. It was highlighted that the Bromsgrove Centres Strategy and Action Plan for 2023-2026 was approved by Members in January 2023. The Action Plan set out Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and success of the Strategy and Action Plan. These KPIs included budget monitoring, and actions, and responses in respect of certain projects. Outstanding actions from the previous action plan would be carried forward and continued in the 2024/25 municipal year.


Following the presentation of the report there was a detailed discussion regarding aspects of the Bromsgrove Centres Action Plan. This included the following areas:


  • Village Centres outside of Bromsgrove Town – Members reiterated that wards such as Alvechurch, Barnt Green and Rubery also had vibrant high streets. Members asked questions with respect of what initiatives had been planned in those Village Centres. Officers confirmed that initiatives such as Shopwatch scheme could be replicated in the outlying Centres. It was further stated that the Action Plan included specific actions with respect of Village Centres including Rubery, Alvechurch, Aston Fields, Catshill, Hagley and Wythall.


  • The Board agreed that it be recommended to Cabinet that the action plan be named as Bromsgrove District Centres Action Plan to emphasise that it was intended to target all wards in Bromsgrove. On being put to the vote this recommendation was carried.


  • Shopwatch Scheme and reporting of shoplifting to the Police – It was reported that the Shopwatch scheme would be launched in March / April 2024. Collaboration with Redditch Business Improvement District was embedded within the Scheme to ensure a linked approach in deterring shoplifting and anti-social behaviour in retail outlets across Bromsgrove and Redditch. The Scheme was supported by the Police, Bromsgrove and Redditch Councils, and the Community Safety Team. Some Members raised concerns that the Scheme was unlikely to be effective unless the Police increased its level of support and responsiveness that it provided to retailers. Officers responded that the Shopwatch Scheme was being launched on request of the retailers in Bromsgrove Town Centre. The Scheme would provide businesses with access to the Disc Platform, a digital reporting platform which shops and businesses could use to report shoplifting incidents. This would be important as it would allow retailers to log evidence of the incident. It was hoped that this would contribute to better response and prosecution of shoplifting.


  • Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) in Bromsgrove Town Centre – Some Members expressed disappointment that despite a TRO being in force in the Town Centre, it was ineffective due to lack of bollards blocking the entrance to the Town Centre at Church Street. This meant vehicles were still able to access the pedestrian zone outside of loading hours. The Bromsgrove Centres Manager responded that feedback was being awaited from Worcestershire County Council. It was stated that amendments to TRO would require a consultation on delivery times and other requirements with businesses.



Review of the work of North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership 2023-24 pdf icon PDF 183 KB

Additional documents:


The Community Safety Manager provided a detailed presentation updating Members on the work of the North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership (NWCSP) in Bromsgrove District. It was highlighted that Bromsgrove Council’s representation on the NWCSP consisted of the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services and Community Safety, the Council’s Chief Executive as Chair of NWCSP, and the Head of Community and Housing Services who acts as the Responsible Authority representative on the Partnership. The Community Safety Manager provided co-ordination support to NWCSP and manages the Council’s Community Safety Service


It was explained that local authorities had a statutory duty to scrutinise the work of its local Community Safety Partnership, under Section 19 of the Police and Justice Act 2006. There was also a direct role for the Council in holding the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to account through the West Mercia Police and Crime Panel (PCP).


The following information were highlighted for Members’ consideration in the presentation:


  • The NWCSP had a duty to produce a three-year rolling plan outlining how the Partnership intends to address key crime and community safety priorities, as identified through an annual strategic assessment based on research, evidence and intelligence from national, regional and local sources.
  • The current priorities of the North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership Plan 2021-24 were: Reducing Violence and Abuse, Reducing Theft and Acquisitive Crime, Reducing Anti-Social Behaviour, Damage and Nuisance, Protecting Vulnerable Communities. In addition, there were two cross cutting themes that the Partnership focused on across the four priorities, and these were Reducing the Harm caused by Drug and Alcohol Misuse and Reducing Re-Offending.
  • The North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership Plan 2021-24 was currently being reviewed. A new community safety action plan for North Worcestershire CSP for 2024 to 2027 was being developed in draft and was to be agreed by NWCSP in April / May 2024.
  • As part of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) CCTV Capital Fund, there had been significant funding allocated to develop and upgrade CCTV across the West Mercia force area. NWCSP first received an allocation of £195,000 for improvements to the area’s CCTV scheme. This funding was used across the three Local Authorities (Bromsgrove, Redditch, Wyre Forest) to modernise the CCTV infrastructure. As a result of this upgrade the whole CCTV scheme now had enhanced digital capability, improved image quality and a greater capacity to expand the scheme and/or link up to other digital systems across the region.
  • Between 2020-22, the PCC allocated an additional £130,000 of capital funding towards CCTV that was used for continued enhancement of the capability and capacity of the CCTV scheme. The funding provided improvements to technological aspects of the Monitoring Centre. It also enabled recommendation from a Council Task and Finish Group to provide redeployable cameras to be funded and they are being used to respond to emerging areas of concern across the three areas in North Worcestershire. A further £20,000 funding was provided in 2022-23 but no further allocation for CCTV capital funding for 2023-24.
  • Following  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90/23


Cost of Living Funding Proposal - pre-scrutiny pdf icon PDF 228 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 Head of Community and Housing Services presented the Cost of Living Funding proposal. In doing so, the following was highlighted:


  • In 2020-21 the Council allocated £50,000 to support the Community Hubs initiative.  Further allocations were made in 2021-22 and 2022-23 equalling a total budget of £150,000. It was confirmed that this budget was currently sat in earmarked reserves.
  • In February 2020 the budget was approved by Cabinet as a revenue bid to support the development of Worcestershire County Council (WCC) Community Hubs in Libraries initiative across the District.
  • Following a new direction of travel by WCC, this budget was never provided to the County Council.  Therefore, the £150,000 funding remained within reserves.
  • Due to the Cost of Living crisis, the report was asking for the funding to be directed to a Cost-of-Living initiative. This proposal followed a multi-agency Cost of Living Group was established with partners such as WCC, Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT) and other partners. Following discussions at this group, two surveys were carried out, in order to better understand the specific needs of local communities.
  • The findings from the surveys highlighted that the cost-of-living crisis was affecting a broad range of residents not just those who were in receipt of state benefits or on lower income. The surveys also established that financial management advice might ease pressure on residents but that this could not be the only solution. It was suggested that more information was needed to provide support to mortgage holders who were struggling with their mortgages, those who had faced food insecurity in the last six months, and those residents who had gone without essentials, such as shower or cleaning items including clothes.
  • Section 3.7 of the report included a proposal for allocating £150,000 earmarked reserve for one-off investments of a Citizen’s Advice specialist housing adviser at £52,000, voluntary sector money adviser at £32,000, and enhancing the support of the Council’s Financial Inclusion at £42,000. This would be for a 14-month period.


Following the presentation of the report, Members asked questions and discussed matters as set out below:


  • It was queried why the amount outlined in the report equated to only £126,000 rather that the full amount of £150,000. It was confirmed that the amounts contained within the report were per annum and as the trial period took place over fourteen months the outstanding amount of £24,000 would cover the final two months of the roles.
  • Members commented that there were a number of voluntary and community organisations in the district, for example foodbanks, which were already providing budgetary advice to those residents accessing their provision. This was often done alongside the main work of those voluntary organisations. Officers responded that feedback received from the Bromsgrove’s voluntary and community sector (VCS) was that a voluntary sector money adviser would greatly assist these organisations in providing budgetary advice to those residents who access these community services. The voluntary sector money adviser would be able to attend community support settings to provide specialist advice on aspects  ...  view the full minutes text for item 91/23


Impact of Heatwaves Short Sharp Review - Membership Report pdf icon PDF 186 KB


The membership of the short, sharp review was confirmed. It was agreed that the Review Group would elect a chairman at its first meeting. The terms of reference would also be agreed by the task group at its first meeting.


RESOLVED that Councillors S. Ammar, R. Bailes, B. Kumar, M. Marshall, B. McEldowney, and J. Robinson be appointed to the Impact of Heatwaves Short Sharp Review Group.




Food Bank and Community Supermarket Provision Task Group - Final Report

(Report to follow).


The Task Group’s final report will folow in a Supplementary Papers pack once it has been finalised.



This item was deferred to the next meeting.



Finance and Budget Working Group - Update


The Chairman introduced the Finance and Budget Working Group update and in doing so noted that the last meeting of the Group took place on 8th March 2024. It was reported that at the meeting Members were informed of a continued improvement in staff turnover rates, which stood at only 8.8 per cent. The Council was significantly under the national average rate of staff turnover (15.6 per cent). The Chairman reported that the Group was also updated on the outstanding statements of accounts which the Council had yet to submit to the external auditor. The other issues discussed at the meeting included the Dolphin Centre redevelopment and the key decision threshold.


With reference to the Council’s refuse fleet refurbishment, it was noted that there had been a reappraisal of costs. The Interim Executive Director explained that the company hired to undertake the refurbishment had struggled to refurbish the vehicles in time and there was now a backlog of vehicles waiting to be refurbished. It was reported that it was more viable in this context to purchase new vehicles rather than undertake refurbishment works. It was agreed that a briefing note on this subject would be submitted to the next Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting.


RESOLVED that the Finance and Budget Working Group Update be noted.




Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Update pdf icon PDF 293 KB


The Council’s Representative on the Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), Councillor B. Kumar, updated the Board on the matters discussed by HOSC on 19th February 2024. Members were provided with a written copy of the update provided by Councillor B. Kumar and the following points were highlighted for Members’ consideration.


It was reported that over 5.5 million appointments had been delivered in General Practice across Herefordshire and Worcestershire in the last year of data. This was 19 per cent more appointments per year than before the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Representative highlighted that no information was provided on how many of the appointments within last year were face-to-face and how many telephone consultations. It was noted that patient satisfaction rates with GP services in Worcestershire were low compared to neighbouring counties / metropolitan boroughs and were continuing to decline in Worcestershire.


It was highlighted that a particular issue in Worcestershire was people being unable to get GP appointments being referred to 111. It was noted that there was no data available on how many GP patients who called 111 landing in A&E. The Representative highlighted that the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Primary Care Access Recovery Plan had two main ambitions: to tackle the ‘8am rush’ and to enable patients to know on the day they contact their practice how their request will be managed.


The Representative highlighted that another issue discussed at the meeting was that pharmacists were now allowed to issue prescriptions for health matters such as high blood pressure, contraceptive pill or shingles.


During discussion of the report, a question was raised as to why in Worcestershire 40 per cent of people who live in affluent areas find it difficult to access GP appointments as compared to 51 per cent of people in deprived areas. It was noted that the reasons behind these might be due to better digital accessibility in more affluent areas as well as variance between individual GP practices that might affect the outcome.


RESOLVED that the Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee Update be noted.




Cabinet Work Programme pdf icon PDF 300 KB

Additional documents:


The Cabinet Work Programme was presented for Members’ consideration.


RESOLVED that the Cabinet Work Programme be noted.




Overview and Scrutiny Board Work Programme pdf icon PDF 113 KB


The following items were agreed to be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Board work programme:


  • Food Waste Recycling – progress update to be provided at a date to be determined in the new municipal year.
  • District Heat Network Revisions – pre-scrutiny – This report would be scrutinised before presentation to Cabinet.


It was also requested that the work programme be updated with items as discussed earlier in the meeting.


RESOLVED that the Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme be updated as per the pre-amble above.