Agenda item

Engagement on the Council's Strategic Plan

Mrs P. Posnett CC, Lead Member for Community and Staff Relations, has been invited to attend for this item.


The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which presented the draft Strategic Plan for 2022 to 2026 for comment.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.


The Chairman welcomed the Lead Member for Communities, Mrs P Posnett CC, to the meeting for this item.


In presenting the report, the Assistant Chief Executive confirmed the following:


·       The Plan set out the Council’s ambitions and priorities for the next four years and outlined what the Authority would seek to achieve and how it intended to do that.

·       The current Plan would expire next year, and this had therefore been refreshed to take account of recent developments including the current pandemic and exit from the EU.

·       Once approved, the Plan would set the strategic aims of the County Council and so would underpin all future Council plans and strategies.  Many actions were already captured through existing plans and strategies, but these would be developed in line with the new Plan.

·       Scrutiny Committees would continue to receive performance updates against the Strategic Plan in line with current practice.


The Lead Member commented that the aims as set out in the Plan were aspirational and therefore high level and broad.  Actions would be added and developed to support this.  The consultation would provide a wealth of information from the public and partners to help shape those action and the way forward.


The Commission supported considered extracts from the minutes of the other Overview and Scrutiny Committees which had also looked at the Plan so far as it was relevant to each County Council department.  A copy of these extracts is filed with these minutes.


Arising from discussion the following points were made:


(i)              Members commented that the Plan included several aspirations that were outside the Council’s control.  It was questioned whether the Plan should just focus on its own functions and specific areas of responsibility.  Given the far-reaching nature of the Plan a member queried the Council’s control over the deliverability of some aspects.  By way of example, a member challenged the inclusion of the aim to increase the number of neighbourhood plans on the basis that this was not a County Council function (this being a function of (and therefore funded by) district councils).  Recognising that the Council often had a broader role as a partner and as an enabler and facilitator, it was suggested that the Plan should more clearly differentiate between those aspirations for which Council would have lead responsibility, and those where it would have a contributing/partnership role; specifying in the commitments section, which partners it would work with.

(ii)             A member challenged the lack of reference in the Plan to district councils.  Whist parish and town councils were specifically referred to, it was highlighted that 25% of the population of the County did not live in a parished area.  Members agreed that district councils had a stronger role to play in those areas, alongside other third sector organisations, and so should also be referenced.    

(iii)           A member commented that the Plan included some aspirations which were unattainable and therefore unrealistic, and some which were competitive or opposing.  It was suggested that the document could be proofed to challenge the realism of some aspirations and to address where conflicts arose and how these might be addressed.  It was noted that competing aims was reflective of the complex nature of the Council’s role and the breadth of services it provided.  Members acknowledged that having a Plan in place provided a framework to address those conflicts corporately. 

(iv)           A Member challenged that whilst the Plan identified what success might look like, it did not adequately quantify this or include a benchmark against which that could be measured.  Members noted that benchmarking data had not been included in the Plan itself as there was concern that this could make the Plan too long.  However, comprehensive data was collected to show performance against the aims of the current Strategic Plan, and this was presented on a quarterly basis to each of the overview and scrutiny committees each year by way of a separate performance report.  Members noted that this process would continue under the new Plan and would make clear the current position and progress being made. 

(v)            Members noted that the Outcome Boards would have responsibility for overseeing progress against the Plan and this would be regularly reported back to relevant Lead Members.  In addition to the quarterly reports to individual scrutiny committees, a comprehensive and detailed annual performance report was also produced, and this was shared with all members and presented to the Commission, the Cabinet and full Council.  The Assistant Chief Executive confirmed that such reports were published on the Council’s website and so were publicly available but undertook to consider how best to publicise this further to all members.

(vi)           Members commented that as a high-level, aspirational document the Plan was too long and that detail around the actions could be set out separately.  Alternatively, an executive summary could be provided.  A member further commented that as a public document, some of the wording could be confusing and it was suggested that the Plan be re-read with that in mind.

(vii)         A member commented that the statement included in paragraph 8.5 of the Plan (page 50) that Charnwood ‘had an issue with a high rate of local authority owned homes which were ‘non-decent’’ was incorrect and that in fact Charnwood Borough Council had a higher standard than the national average called ‘the Charnwood standard’.  Officers undertook to review the wording on this point.

(viii)        A member questioned the significant increase in children being educated at home and whether this was an unexpected impact of the pandemic.  The Assistant Chief Executive confirmed that Covid did appear to be a factor as some parents that had home schooled their children during the national and local lockdowns had chosen to continue to do so. 

(ix)           The proposed increase in electrical vehicles would ultimately be limited by access to and the availability of charging points.  A member questioned what the Council’s response to this might be.  Members noted that this could be a factor built into future considerations for land the Council directly owned or was seeking to develop.  Members noted that addressing this through the planning process could be a factor, but that this was managed by local planning authorities in line with national policy.  The Assistant Chief Executive confirmed that the Council could, however, look to see what it might do in its role as the local Highway Authority as part of that process.

(x)            The commitment to support parish and town council leaders was challenged.  A member raised concerns that their parish council clerk found it difficult to contact the County Council and had raised concerns about the length of time it took to deal with certain matters, e.g. permits to post on lamp posts.  The Assistant Chief Executive reported that the Council supported the Leicestershire and Rutland County Association for Town and Parish Councils, which in turn supported parish and town councils who were their members.  County Council officers also met with parish and town council chairs and clerks on an annual basis, and with clerks on a quarterly basis.  It was noted that parish clerks had also been provided with a dedicated email address through which they could raise issues directly with the County Council.  However, a member sought assurance regarding the response times for dealing with enquiries raised in this way, as feedback suggested that this was not always as quick as it should be.  It was suggested that this might be because of the Council’s internal, back office processes and that streamlining these could be considered as a means of improving support.

(xi)           A member reported that a few years ago a discussion had been held at the Leicestershire Safer Communities Strategy Board regarding the posting of signage and CCTV on lamp posts and that a comprehensive report had been produced in response to that, as there were concerns around safety which needed to be addressed.  It was suggested that a copy of that report be circulated after the meeting for members information.

(xii)         In response to a comment about an increase in the cost of road closure applications for remembrance events, the Assistant Chief Executive reported that officers would contact the Environment & Transport Department for clarification as it was understood that these costs had been waived following a direction by HMCLG.  Officers were further asked to provide members with details of the fees and charges information provided to parish and town councils for road closure events generally.



(a)            That officers be requested to consider the comments now made in respect of the draft Strategic Plan for 2022 – 2026, as well as those made by the other Overview and Scrutiny Committees which it supported;

(b)            That Officers be requested to provide/clarify the following:

·       Clarification of whether the cost of road closure applications for remembrance events had been waived in line with the direction of HMCLG.
[After the meeting it was confirmed that road closure application costs for remembrance events had been so waived.]

·       Details of the fees and charges information provided to parish and town councils for road closure events generally.


·       A copy of the report to the Leicestershire Safer Communities Strategy Board regarding the posting of signage and CCTV on lamp posts.

·       Details of response times to dealing with enquiries raised by parish and town council clerks through the dedicated email provided.



Supporting documents: