Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Commission - Wednesday, 9 November 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Sparkenhoe Committee Room, County Hall, Glenfield

Contact: Mrs J Twomey (Tel: 0116 305 2583)  Email:

No. Item


A webcast of the meeting can be viewed here.


Minutes of the previous meeting. pdf icon PDF 246 KB


The minutes of the meeting held on 7th September 2022 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.



Question Time. pdf icon PDF 256 KB


The following question, received under Standing Order 34, was put to the Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission.


Question asked by Mr Phil Sheppard


In Leicestershire’s planning for Investment Zones, please remember that land is a finite resource and that land satisfies non-financial needs such as food security and human well-being.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone.


I would recommend that Investment Zones are based more on redevelopment than development, therefore going beyond regeneration to include areas which are not dilapidated but have become sub-optimal in terms of land and energy efficiency, functionality and aesthetics.  Existing built-up areas can be optimised and green land can remain for the services it provides.


My question therefore is: what criteria will the Commission and the County Council take on which land they will discuss with the Government in respect of Investment Zones?”


Reply by the Chairman


In submitting expressions of interest in Investment Zones, the County Council followed the Government’s guidance.




Questions asked by members under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).


The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).



Urgent Items.


There were no urgent items for consideration.



Declarations of interest.


The Chairman invited members who wished to do so to declare any interest in respect of items on the agenda for the meeting.


Mr T. J. Richardson CC and Mr J. Morgan declared an Other Registerable Interest in agenda item 8 (Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) Annual Update) as they were both Members of the LLEP Board.



Declarations of the Party Whip in accordance with Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 16.


There were no declarations of the party whip.



Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 35.


The Chief Executive reported that no petitions had been received under Standing Order 35.



Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Annual Update. pdf icon PDF 452 KB

Ms Sue Tilley, the Head of the LLEP, and Mr Andy Reed, the Chair of the LLEP Board, will be attending to present this item.  Mr. P. Bedford CC, the County Council’s representative on the LLEP Board, has also been invited to attend for this item.


Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report of the Interim Head of the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) which provided a summary of the LLEP’s activity over the past 12 months.  The Interim Head, with the Co-Chair of the LLEP Board also provided a presentation as part of this item on the LLEP Annual Report (April 2021 to March 2022) and the LLEP Delivery Plan (April 2022 – March 2023).  A copy of the report and presentation slides are filed with these minutes.


The Chairman welcomed Sue Tilley, the Interim Head of the LLEP, and Andy Reed, Co-Chair of the LLEP Board, to the meeting.


Arising from discussion, the following points were raised:


(i)          Small businesses in more rural communities were struggling and the cutting of bus services posed a new and difficult challenge.  It also did not support the LLEP’s Strategic aim of ‘sustainability’.  It was noted that the LLEP had and would continue to work in partnership with local authorities and private bus companies to ensure areas remained connected and continued to attract inward investment.  However, funding public transport had always been a difficult balance.  Whilst necessary to support economic growth, a lack of demand simply made some services unviable.  As financial pressure on the County Council and bus companies grew this would become even more of a challenge. 

(ii)         The growth of logistics at East Midlands Airport meant significant focus had been given to connecting that site with areas of the County where employees lived, acknowledging that a 9 to 5 service would no longer be suitable.

(iii)       A key challenge would be adjusting the economic development offer to accommodate the change in peoples working patterns with many now working from home.  Some businesses were still adapting and so whilst alternative economic models would be needed, these would take time to develop.  It was noted that many businesses were still adjusting to a new normal and so it was not yet clear what support they would need in the future.  

(iv)      Two areas of work for the future would be addressing digital poverty and digital exclusion.  As many services were now delivered online and people worked in a more remote, hybrid way, digital skills and access became increasingly important. 

(v)        The LLEP sought to ensure a fair geographical spread in the work that it carried out and did a lot to support micro-businesses which were based in Leicester City and in towns and rural areas.  It made sense to target work where there were existing business clusters and to utilise the innovation of the three universities in the area, as this was where most growth would likely be generated.  However, this did not mean that work was not taking place elsewhere to support smaller business across the County.  It was recognised that such work might not be on such a large scale and might not therefore be as well publicised.

(vi)       The LLEP sought to improve its reach through several forms of media noting that not everyone had good digital skills.  However, it had to be recognised that the LLEP supported businesses and so much of its contact was business to business, meaning digital forms of communication such as email and social media were very effective.  However, it was acknowledged that alternative coverage was still needed and the LLEP still therefore made good use of newspapers and the telephone. 

(vii)      A Member questioned whether there was any evidence to suggest the UK was less productive than countries such as France and Germany because of its increased hybrid working approach following the pandemic.  It was proposed that some  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.


Place Marketing, Leicester and Leicestershire. pdf icon PDF 432 KB

Mr Mike Denby, Director of Inward Investment and Place Marketing for Leicester and Leicestershire, will be attending for this item.


Additional documents:


The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which provides an update on the work of the Place Marketing Team for Leicester and Leicestershire.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.

The Chairman welcomed Mr Mike Denby, Director of Inward Investment and Place Marketing for Leicester and Leicestershire, to the meeting.


Arising from discussion, the following points were made:


(i)             Enquiries received by the Place Marketing Team (PMT) were largely data driven and much investment made as a result.  However, proactive steps were also taken to seek out and attract new investment into the area.  This included building relationships with existing businesses and developers and identifying clusters of businesses to understand where opportunities with their supply chain might exist, promoting opportunities wherever possible.

(ii)            It was clear a lot of work was taking place, but there was a need to capture more data in a more coordinated way across the County to demonstrate how effective this work was.  It had been recognised that good data was being obtained across some service areas across some districts, but this varied.  Work to adopt a more consistent approach across all local authority areas was therefore being undertaken.  This would enable performance to be measured more effectively, links with other organisations to be captured (e.g. referrals by the PMT to the Job Centre), and show what activity was working where, and how best to target this in the future.


(iii)          A Member commented that, from their personal experience, the MIPIM real estate market event held in Cannes was not a constructive place to do business but was a very expensive event and a waste of officers’ time.  The Member commented that it was concerning to see a number of public sector organisations still attending the annual event which in their view was a fundamental waste of public money. 

Mr Denby explained his experience of attending MIPIM as a public sector employee and provided assurance that the event was regarded as useful to build contacts directly with a number of senior representatives across the sector.  Members noted that the total cost of attending was in the region of up to £2,000 (including flights and accommodation and entry to the property show).  He provided assurance that spend was kept to a minimum as it was recognised that this was public sector money.  Members noted that whilst the Leader had attended MIPIM previously at the request of local private businesses, since then the County Council’s attendance had been through one officer from Strategic Property Services.  The Assistant Chief Executive confirmed that the benefits of attending were reviewed each year.

(iv)          Members noted that the PMT had been established some years ago following a review of the previous outsourced arrangements.  It had been identified that a more strategic approach was needed and that this could best be delivered in house by the City and County Councils working together.  The PMT had developed over time and had been working well in delivering at that strategic level.  Its work balanced with the tactical support delivered directly to businesses by other organisations.  It was also now looking to take advantage of some further strategic opportunities, such as acting as a pilot Destination Development Partnership, which if chosen by Government would be very good for the area.

(v)           Whilst the creation of new jobs in the County was welcomed, Members questioned whether in practice businesses had been able to fill those positions given current recruitment pressures and if so, whether these had been filled locally.  It was suggested that people travelling  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


Medium Term Financial Strategy Monitoring (Period 6) and Council Assets. pdf icon PDF 406 KB

Mr L. Breckon CC, the Lead Member for Resources, has been invited to attend for this item.


Additional documents:


The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided an update on the 2022/23 revenue budget and capital programme monitoring position as at the end of period 6 (end of September) and an update on the approach to reviewing the County Council’s property assets.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’ is filed with these minutes.


The Chairman welcomed Mr L. Breckon CC, Cabinet Lead Member for Resources, to the meeting for this item.


Arising from discussion, the following points were made:


(i)       The situation looked very depressing as a result of the rise in inflation and the continued increase in demand and costs, particularly regarding Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) services.  It was recognised that SEND was the single biggest issue facing the Council with the High Needs Block (HNB) cumulative deficit currently at £39m, with demand still rising.  

(ii)      Whilst it was recognised that this was a national issue, some Members commented that SEND services had become dysfunctional and were simply no longer working.  This was demonstrated by the rising number of complaints received by the Council and by Members individually.  The County had previously had one of the best records for SEND, but the position had deteriorated significantly in recent years and Members questioned why and what was being done to address this.

(iii)      Members noted that following the reforms introduced by the Care Act in 2014 it quickly became apparent that demand would increase but no additional Government funding would be provided to support this.  A Member commented that the Children and Family Services Department had done its best, but that it had been very difficult given the vast rise in demand for Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) which could not have been foreseen up to that point.  This was a national issue, but Leicestershire had also seen a 30% higher rise than other areas.  Pressure on staff recruitment and retention also impacted the ability of the service to respond as quickly as it would like to that rise in demand. 

(iv)     The latest Green Paper did not look to change the position any time soon.  It was suggested therefore that the Council had to try and address the continued pressures itself through improved local systems and practices. The Director reported that the Council had applied for grant funding of £1m to support the Council’s Transforming SEND and Inclusion in Leicestershire programme.  It had also brought in external strategic partners, Newton Europe, to help bring forward this programme.  The total investment into improving the Council’s SEND services was in the region of £9m. 

(v)      The Director confirmed that the SEND funding for the Authority was roughly mid-tier in terms of spend per capita, so it was thought that more could be done to ensure the overall budget was targeted more effectively.  The Leicestershire SEND Programme would work to deliver this.

(vi)     Members noted that the Children and Family Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee had recently received a report on the programme at its meeting in September, and progress updates would be received regularly throughout next year.  It was suggested that a copy of that report be circulated to Scrutiny Commission Members for information.

(vii)     A Member commented that a number of children were placed with independent providers which was more expensive and questioned what was being done to reduce this.  It was noted that the Council was seeking to increase its own local provision which would be significantly cheaper.  Funding for a new special school in Quorn was being sought but this would only provide limited spaces and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.


North and Eastern Melton Mowbray Distributor Road - Cost Implications. pdf icon PDF 430 KB

The Leader, Mr N. J. Rushton CC, the Lead Member for Resources, Mr L. Breckon CC and the Lead Member for Highways and Transport, Mr O. O’shea CC have been invited to attend for this item.


Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report of the Director of Environment and Transport which provided an update on the progress of the North and Eastern Melton Mowbray Distributor Road (NE MMDR) scheme, including cost implications.  The report sought the Commissions’ views prior to the Cabinet making a decision on whether to progress to delivery of the scheme on 16th December 2022.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 11’ is filed with these minutes.


In presenting the report the Director of Environment and Transport and the Director of Corporate Resources highlighted the following key points:


·       Transport benefits and reasons for delivering the scheme remained.  The key consideration on whether to continue to peruse the scheme would therefore be the cost of delivery which had increased significantly.

·       The construction industry had been hit hard by the rise in inflation.  The cost of materials in some cases had increased by more than 17%.

·       The schemes forecasted outturn costs had gone up from an initial estimate of £85.3m with a £5m contingency, to an estimated £116.1m.  Taking into account Treasury Guidance and therefore allowing for a contingency of plus 10% would take the costs up further to £127m.  These costs had been tested extensively both internally and externally in the market.

·       Some funding had been secured from the Department of Transport (£49.5m), the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (£4m) and through developer contributions (£14m index linked).  Some income had also been generated from land.  This left the remaining funding which would need to be met by the County Council at £51m (up from £23m in 2021). 

·       Borrowing would be required to meet these increased costs at a cost to the Council in the region of £4m a year for 40 years.

·       There were essentially no good options as all were technically unaffordable for the County Council making an already difficult financial position considerably worse given current pressures.


The Chairman sought the views of each Member of the Commission.  The following points were made:


(i)             Members noted that from a transport perspective, it was a good scheme that would benefit Melton, neighbouring areas and the wider County.  The Chairman of the Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee confirmed that when it considered the matter the overwhelming view had been to proceed with Option 1 (i.e. to proceed as planned with the scheme).

(ii)            It was important to recognise some of the wider implications of not progressing with the scheme, such as the loss of seven years’ work and investment in developing the project, improved air quality in the town centre, a new primary school, 1,500 new homes, and 30ha of employment land.  Also, the Melton Local Plan would likely fail as would the Statement of Common Ground which would have a much bigger knock-on effect for all district council local plans.

(iii)          As the County Highways Authority regard had to be taken of the consequential impacts of district council local plans failing and the costs that would give rise to for the County Council as a result of unplanned development.

(iv)          Borrowing would be a significant change in approach for the Council, the previous Lead Member for Resources having been against this for many years.  It was acknowledged that additional income would be generated in council tax from the houses to be built, but the demand for services that the Council provided would also increase.  It was further highlighted that the cost of borrowing would also require savings to be made elsewhere which would impact other County Council services. 

(v)           It was important for the Council to retain credibility and to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.


East Midlands Shared Service Annual Performance Update. pdf icon PDF 794 KB

The Lead Member for Resources, Mr L. Breckon CC, has been invited to attend for this item.


Additional documents:


The Commission received a report of the Director of Corporate Resources, the purpose of which was to provide an update on the performance of East Midlands Shared Services in 2021/22.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 12’ is filed with these minutes.


The Chairman thanked Mr Breckon CC, Lead Member for Resources, for attending for this item.


Arising from questions and discussion the following points were made:


(i)             In response to concerns raised regarding the functionality issues outlined in the report, Members noted that an extensive procurement process had been undertaken to ensure the system provided all that was needed for both the County Council and its partner, Nottingham City Council.  However, as the system was implemented, and detailed testing undertaken, some functionality gaps were identified.  For example, the system did not cater for some of the more complex, technical cases with regard to pension payments.

(ii)            Members were assured that a stabilisation project had been put in place to address the gaps identified over the next 12 to 18 months.  In the meantime, system work arounds had been adopted. 

(iii)          It was suggested that the Committee could not properly evaluate the success of service based on the information provided and that a comparison between the cost and benefits of providing these services in house compared to them being outsourced would be beneficial. 

(iv)          It was noted that the system upgrade would have been required however the service was to be delivered.  Outsourcing the service had been considered prior to the procurement of the new system.  However, it would not be beneficial to conduct such a review during the system change.  The Director provided assurance that opportunities to improve, automate and outsource were considered at regular intervals as a matter of standard practice.

(v)           Members noted that as a joint service with Nottingham City Council EMSS did have to account to a joint committee involving representatives from both organisations on a quarterly basis.

(vi)          It was emphasised that the system had not worked as effectively as expected for 0.2% of employees (i.e. a total of 268).  That meant that for 99.8% of people the system had worked well.  Given the size of the system changes introduced the Lead Member for Resources suggested that this should be regarded as a success.  Added reassurance was provided that those officers that had been affected had not suffered financially, as their position had been rectified immediately with same day payments having been made. 

(vii)         In response to questions about whether the system now delivered and met the Council’s requirements, the Director confirmed that all issues had been addressed in terms of work arounds being temporarily put in place to ensure staff would be paid accurately and on time.  Whilst this was taking extra effort in the background, a plan was in place to gradually back out of those processes as system upgrades were introduced.

(viii)       In response to a number of questions regarding legal issues that arose out of the procurement, the Assistant Head of Law advised that ultimately an agreement had been reached with the software provider.  This agreement contained confidentiality provisions.  However, these did not apply to the extent to which disclosure was required to comply with governmental accountability implications.  It was therefore permissible for limited information to be provided to the Commission as follows:

·       There had been a significant procurement of software that covered a number of different modules (finance, procurement, HR and payroll) from a large organisation following a public procurement exercise.   One of the reasons the new software had been required was because the previous software  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.


Annual Delivery Report and Performance Compendium 2022. pdf icon PDF 356 KB

Additional documents:


The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which presented the draft Annual Delivery Report and Performance Compendium for 2022 which set out the Council’s progress and performance over the past year.  The views of the Scrutiny Commission were sought on the Report and Compendium prior to its submission to the Cabinet and Full Council on 25 November and 7 December respectively.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 13’ is filed with these minutes.


Arising from discussion, the following points were made:


(i)             The Commission welcomed the new, more streamlined approach to the Delivery Report, focusing on key delivery items underpinning progress on the Council’s Strategic Plan Outcomes.   It was suggested that, once finalised, a link to the report should be circulated to all Members to aid wider communication.

(ii)            The good work that had been carried out this year across the Council and with partner agencies to support delivery of the outcomes was noted.  A member commented, however, that it was not clear how progress was measured in some areas.  It was suggested that it would be useful to include a few more metric results in the Delivery Report in future to evidence this.

(iii)          It was disappointing to see that the Council continued to be the lowest funded county and third lowest funded authority, with considerable differentials between the lowest funded and those even in the middle of the funding table.   It was suggested that the Council’s low funded position was now impacting delivery, council tax rates and services across a range of areas, including service improvement in areas such as SEND discussed earlier in the meeting.

(iv)          The significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on residents, communities and services was noted.  This had affected outcomes and performance across a range of areas over the last 18 months. Whilst it was recognised that some service outcomes had started to move back towards previous levels pre-Covid-19, some continued to be adversely affected.

(v)           It was confirmed that the annual performance benchmarking analysis had resulted in a Performance Improvement Action Plan which had been put together with service departments and fed into annual service planning processes.



(a)  That the draft Annual Delivery Report and Performance Compendium for 2022 which set out the Council’s progress and performance over the past year be noted;

(b)  That once approved by full Council a link to the final report be circulated to all members for information and further communication.




Date of next meeting.

The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled to take place on 30th January 2023 at 10.00am





It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would be held on 30th January 2023 at 10.00 am.