Agenda and minutes
Venue: Virtual Meeting via MS Teams
Contact: Clare Gray
Webcast: View the webcast
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on 19th November 2020 to be confirmed as a correct record.
RESOLVED: The minutes of the meeting held on 19 November 2020 were AGREED as an accurate record.
No public questions have been submitted for this meeting.
No public questions were received.
For the Chairman to update Members on Communities and Localism scrutiny activities since the last meeting.
The Chairman provided the following update:
· The public consultation on taxi licensing policy closing date had been extended from 21 December 2020 to 4 January 2021. The full draft was now available on the Council’s website. All feedback on the draft policy would be considered by the Licensing Committee and then Full Council.
· There had also been a change to the Communities & Localism Select Committee work programme to include an additional item of the new Town and Parish Council Charter.
· The recent inquiry on community grants was progressing well with meetings with a range of contributors having taken place via MS Teams.
Covid update - Verbal update from the Cabinet Member for Communities and Publlc Health
The Chairman welcomed Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities & Public Health.
During his update, the following key points were made:
· The Committee was advised that the Leader’s updates on the coronavirus pandemic were being distributed to around 200,000 email subscribers which equated to 40% of the population of Buckinghamshire. Anyone could choose to subscribe to this list to receive these updates.
· The Council’s website contained a dedicated webpage with coronavirus statistics and figures.
· Buckinghamshire Council had declared a critical incident on 30 December 2020 and the hospitals were still under pressure for capacity of beds and ICU. In response to the critical incident being declared, cells were operating across Buckinghamshire as part of the Council’s emergency planning which was being led by the Senior Management Team.
· The Chief Executive, Rachael Shimmin, co-chaired daily meetings with health partners, and Richard Barker, Corporate Director Communities, had led on the local partnership Covid vaccination programme.
· The vaccination rollout was improving in Buckinghamshire after a challenging start and there were currently 9 GP sites in the county: Chalfont, Chesham, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Winslow, Aylesbury, Buckingham, and soon Burnham.
· A mass vaccination site in Salt Hill, Slough, was now servicing residents in South Buckinghamshire which was an area that had previously been underserved. There were pharmacy sites in Marlow, Wycombe, and Aylesbury, and additional sites would be opening soon to include Buckingham and Chesham.
· Hospital sites were in place to vaccinate NHS staff and care workers. With hospital sites and pharmacy sites being rolled out, Buckinghamshire was on target to have vaccinated the top four priority groups for mid-February which was the Government’s national target. All those aged over 80 years old would have received their vaccination offer within the next two weeks and those aged over 70 years old would have received their vaccination offer in the next four weeks.
· At the time of the meeting, around 20,000 vaccinations had been carried out in Buckinghamshire and working in partnership had been key to this achievement.
· The Cabinet Member warned to be cautious of scammers and advised that the vaccination programme would never ask for payment, bank details or proof of ID.
· The business support grants had allocated £16m to Buckinghamshire businesses and it was positive that Buckinghamshire Council had been one of the fastest dispersers of capital to businesses compared to other local authorities.
· The Council would continue its Helping Hand programme which started at Christmas 2020. This was a voucher based scheme of £15 per child per week delivered to those that received free school meals and the voucher was redeemable at eight supermarkets. The benefit of the voucher was that it enabled choice rather than a prescribed box of supplies. Schools had been encouraged to sign up to this scheme and it was noted that take up of free school meals in Buckinghamshire had increased noticeably during the pandemic. The Helping Hands programme had assisted those in need by providing a range of aid such as winter clothing provision, food bank ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Committee will receive an update on culture, sport and leisure
Mr Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health
Mr Patrick Hogan, Cabinet Member for Culture
Mr Clive Harriss, Cabinet Member for Sports and Leisure
Richard Barker, Corporate Director Communities
Sophie Payne, Service Director Culture, Sports and Leisure
The Chairman welcomed Clive Harriss, Cabinet Member for Sports and Leisure, Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health and Sophie Payne, Service Director, Culture, Sports and Leisure. Patrick Hogan, Cabinet Member for Culture sent his apologies.
During the presentation, the following key points were made:
· The four country parks located in Denham, Langley, Black Park and Thorney had in previous years been visited by over one million people every year and continued to be very popular. There had been record-breaking numbers of visitors to the parks as people sought quality green spaces during the pandemic, however this increased demand had brought additional costs for waste collection and disposal, enhanced cleaning and other safety measures related to Covid. Parking on surrounding roads had also caused issues which needed to be addressed to allow traffic to flow more freely. This had been a national trend that was not unique to Buckinghamshire.
· One of the achievements for the year had been the award of six Green Flags for parks in Buckinghamshire.
· The libraries in Buckinghamshire were a mix of council and community libraries and had adapted their services in response to the pandemic. Their online services and resources had expanded which had seen a 50% increase in people using the service, and contactless request and collect and home library services were introduced. The libraries were becoming a further way for residents to access the council’s services, and membership of the libraries had increased by over 3,500.
· The service had recently won the Proud of Bucks staff award for ‘Innovation and Creativity’.
· Whilst closed during lockdown, staff at the libraries had been actively supporting the community hubs throughout Covid and had made over 2,500 telephone calls to speak to residents shielding, organized food parcels and delivered PPE around Buckinghamshire. Other activities had included supporting the vaccination programme, contact tracing, and business support grants. The Council was investing in its libraries, as seen with the refurbishment of Marlow Library.
· Buckinghamshire Archives had developed a remote service offering during the lockdown while their public access areas were closed. Part of this had included Buckinghamshire’s first Virtual History Festival which generated 15,538 views from 4,862 unique users.
· Buckinghamshire Archives had renewed its National Archives accreditation to 2022.
· As well as this, the Culture service was focusing on work with Buckinghamshire Culture in developing and launching its local Cultural Sector Recovery Programme with support from the Rothschild Foundation. Several organisations in Buckinghamshire had also received support through Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund which included Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Queens Park Arts Centre, Wycombe Arts Centre, Elgiva Theatre, Swan Theatre, Chiltern Open Air Museum and Wycombe Museum.
The key service priorities for 2021/22 were also outlined which included:-
· the Covid recovery plan
· the countywide Leisure Facilities Strategy
· completion of the Chiltern Lifestyle Centre, Amersham
· progressing the wider Capital Programme for leisure, parks and play areas
· Service Improvement Review and development of the future strategies for libraries and Buckinghamshire Archives
Members of the Committee had follow up ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The Committee will receive an update on the Town and Parish Council Charter. The charter will act as a framework (memorandum of understanding) to support partnership working and inform Buckinghamshire Council’s approach to liaison with local councils. It will set out the relationship between the new Buckinghamshire Council and the 169 town and parish councils in Buckinghamshire, including how to harness the opportunities to strengthen partnership working and improve services for residents. It sets out the joint principles and respective roles, responsibilities and expectations, and it will be a live document which will be refreshed regularly in consultation with town and parish councils.
Gareth Williams – Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health
Claire Hawkes – Service Director for Localities and Strategic Partnership
The Chairman welcomed Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health and Claire Hawkes, Service Director for Localities and Strategic Partnerships.
During their presentation, the following main points were made:
· The Localities and Strategic Partnerships Services had a focus on developing strong links and relationships with Town and Parish Councils and Buckinghamshire Council.
· A new Town and Parish Charter sought to show this ambition and outline new working arrangements to support collaborative working between the councils. The charter had been informed by best practice in relation to other unitary councils and a series of workshops with Town and Parish Councils to develop the contents. The charter had also been developed by BMKALC and a working group of Town and Parish Council Clerks to share expertise and vision on collaborative working.
· The Council’s devolution agenda had slowed down due to Covid-19. Since the Select Committee meeting in November 2020, the working group had made the final amendments to the draft charter. The charter would be published from 25 January – 24 February 2021 and open for feedback. It would be shared with Town and Parish Councils and Unitary Members for their comments. BMKALC would also provide support during the consultation period. This consultation offered the Parishes another opportunity to submit their feedback. The charter would then be finalized and shared following the consultation.
· The Cabinet Member expressed his thanks to the Parish and Town Councils involved in the working group and hoped the Parish Conference would be able to take place in the Summer.
During discussion the following key points were raised:-
· The charter was the governing framework for the Parishes and was not specific to High Wycombe. The Appendix outlined the current arrangements for engagement and representation in High Wycombe. A Member suggested the governance arrangements in High Wycombe needed further consideration with the formulation of a Town Council. Creating a High Wycombe Town Council had been considered by the Shadow Executive last year and consideration of the Community Governance Review for High Wycombe would be deferred until the completion of the Electoral Review or until such time that that the Boundary Commission consider appropriate. Comments regarding the governance arrangements in High Wycombe could be submitted in response to the charter consultation.
· Excellent work had been carried out by the High Wycombe Community Board locally during the pandemic.
· The charter was not intended to be imposed on the Parishes as it had been developed in partnership with them. The working group had been made-up of volunteers.
· Weekly communication with the Parishes had commenced when the pandemic started which had been well received. This communication would continue.
· The Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement had sent out the council’s first Town and Parish Planning Newsletter. Concerns regarding enforcement cases should be raised with the Cabinet Member.
· It was important for Parishes to have a key contact to liaise with at Buckinghamshire Council for a quick response to queries.
· It would be useful to include a Member Code of Conduct in ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The Committee will note the Work Programme.
Members discussed the item for the next meeting on 18 March. It would be a themed meeting on domestic abuse with a focus on the perpetrator programme. Representatives would attend from the Police and Crime Commissioner, Local Criminal Justice Board, Thames Valley Police, Respect, Bracknell Forest Council and Oxford City Council.
Future items would be considered depending on whether the elections took place in May 2021.
Members discussed the inquiry that had taken place to look at the effectiveness of community grants during the Covid-19 pandemic. The response from the community groups had been inspirational and highlighted the huge range of support available to those in need across Buckinghamshire. Members thanked the volunteers and organisations for continuing to offer their services.
The Chairman thanked the Inquiry Group and advised that the findings of the inquiry would be drafted into a report with recommendations for Cabinet to consider in early March 2021.
Date of Next Meeting
The date of the next meeting is Thursday 18 March 2021 at 10am.
18 March 2021 at 10am.