Agendas, Meetings and Minutes - Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Venue: County Hall, Worcester

Contact: Alyson Grice/Alison Spall  Overview and Scrutiny Officers

No. Item


Apologies and Welcome


The Chairman welcomed all attendees to the Meeting.  No apologies had been received.


Declarations of Interest and of any Party Whip




Public Participation

Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Assistant Director for Legal and Governance in writing or by email indicating the nature and content of their proposed participation no later than 9.00am on the working day before the meeting (in this case 17 September 2021). Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/email address below.





Confirmation of the Minutes of the previous meeting

Previously circulated.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 12 March 2021 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Update on the Local Economy and What the Council Has Done and is Doing to Help Businesses Recover and Grow pdf icon PDF 422 KB


Attending for this item:


Cllr Marc Bayliss, Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills

John Hobbs, Director of Economy and Infrastructure

Rachel Hill, Assistant Director for Economy, Major Projects and Waste

Sue Crow, Economic Growth and Investment Manager


The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economy and Skills and senior Officers from the Directorate of Economy and Infrastructure had been invited to the meeting to provide an update on the Council’s support to businesses during the Covid pandemic.


The Cabinet Member began by reminding the Panel that his brief was different to the one covered by his predecessor (which had been Economy and Infrastructure).  As Cabinet Member, he was open to challenge and welcomed any comments and ideas from Panel Members.


In the course of the discussion, the following main points were raised:


·       The working-age population of Worcestershire (ie those aged between 16 and 64) made up 60% of the total population of the County.  However, it was noted that an increasing number of people were working beyond traditional retirement age.

·       Nearly 75% of businesses in the County were micro-businesses employing 4 or less people.  However, 50% of the workforce were employed by the 1.6% of businesses employing over 50 people.

·       The Worcestershire Covid-19 Economic Response, Recovery and Resilience Group (WCERG) comprised all local stakeholders.  The Group had developed an economic recovery framework with five key areas of focus.

·       Worcestershire’s Claimant Count rate was lower than the regional or national rate but it had almost doubled since March 2020.  In the last month the rate had started to fall and the economy seemed to be in a period of strong bounceback.

·       Young people had seen the worst impact.  They had found it most difficult to find employment and had been the first to be laid off.  The Cabinet Member referred to the ‘scarring’ impact this could have and expressed concern that this might have a lifelong impact for some young people.  The Claimant Count for 16-24 year-olds in Worcestershire was 6.8% compared with 4.3% for the overall workforce.

·       As at 30 June, 6% of the workforce were on furlough, which was slightly lower than the West Midlands and England averages.  The figure was slightly higher in Redditch at 8%.  The end of furlough this month would undoubtedly see a rise in the number of claimants.  However, there was also positive news in that as at 20 August the number of job adverts in the West Midlands was 147% above the February 2020 average level.

·       A Member suggested that a major problem for micro businesses was finding simple, no frills premises with the opportunity to buy the freehold as an investment and to give the business stability.  The Cabinet Member agreed and suggested that supporting and growing local businesses could be a more successful strategy than attracting inward investors.  He agreed that accessing cheap and cheerful premises with flexible terms was important and he was working with the district councils and the Director to develop a suitable progression pathway.

·       In response  ...  view the full minutes text for item 418.


Superfast Broadband Annual Update pdf icon PDF 2 MB


Attending for this item:


John Hobbs, Director of Economy and Infrastructure

Rachel Hill, Assistant Director for Economy, Major Projects and Waste

Ste Ashton, Senior Project Manager

Robert Stepniewski, Project Manager


The Panel received an interim update on progress of the rollout of superfast broadband and was reminded that a full annual update would be provided in Spring 2022.


In the course of the discussion, the following main points were made:


·       The rollout of superfast broadband was going through a period of transition with the Government agenda moving towards the ambition of achieving at least 85% Gigabit capable coverage by the end of 2025.  Currently, the vast majority of households were happy with superfast broadband but there would be an ongoing increase in the demand for data and there was a need to get ahead for future demand.

·       There had been a shift to centrally run procurement and, as part of this, a national Open Market Review was being undertaken by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).  The Government was heavily reliant on commercial operators to reach 75-80% of the population, with the County Council then working to fill in the gaps.

·       With reference to the Broadband Voucher scheme (part of the wider Project Gigabit programme), Worcestershire County Council was in the top 5 authorities in terms of the value of vouchers secured.  The eligibility rules of the scheme had recently been changed and this had had implications for some communities already going through the process.  Concerns had been flagged with DCMS.

·       Officers also looked at 5G and general mobile connectivity, although this was just a steering role with no public money available.

·       The Chairman acknowledged that the rollout of superfast broadband had been a huge success and noted that many residents could not have worked at home during the pandemic without it.  However, there was a percentage of the population (possibly 2-3%) who still had poor broadband speeds and he asked what was being done for these residents.

·       In response, Members were reminded about the Universal Service Obligation (USO) which aimed to deliver broadband to the hardest to reach premises.  If a household or business had speeds of less than 10 Mbps, they had the right to request improvement.  Operators may look to provide mobile or cellular access.  Although areas with poor broadband often also had poor mobile coverage, things could be done to enhance the signal.

·       The Chairman requested that a summary sheet was produced showing options and suggested action for residents with poor broadband speeds.  Councillors could then use this to support residents in navigating the system.

·       It was confirmed that, for most residents and businesses, superfast broadband would meet current demand.  However, demand would increase in the future and the move to Gigabit broadband would support this.  The aim was to be fit and ready for future demand.

·       Achieving 97% coverage was commended.  However, it was acknowledged that there remained a need to focus on the remaining 3% and what could be done to expedite  ...  view the full minutes text for item 419.


Performance and In-Year Budget Monitoring pdf icon PDF 135 KB

Additional documents:


Attending for this item:


John Hobbs, Director of Economy and Infrastructure

Steph Simcox, Deputy Chief Finance Officer

Rachel Hill, Assistant Director for Economy, Major Projects and Waste

Paul Smith, Assistant Director for Highways and Transport Operations

Dave Corbett, Management Information Analyst


The Panel was updated on performance information for Quarter 1 (April to June 2021) and financial information for Period 3.


The following main points were raised:


Performance information


·       It was confirmed that the scrutiny task group on Section 278 Development Control would start its work in October.  Membership was currently being finalised with group leaders.

·       A Member asked for further information on the data relating to potholes.  The chart indicated that 100% of potholes had been fixed (repaired and/or made safe) on time but this did not reflect his experience locally, where a particular road needed major repairs.  Another Member suggested that, if the target was being met 100% of the time, then a more challenging target was needed.  It was confirmed that the target came from the national Code of Practice but consideration would be given to including a more useful local stretch target.  The Director welcomed further evidence from local Councillors ‘on the ground’ as the service needed to know what was happening underneath the apparent high level of performance.  Members’ local experiences should be shared with Highways Liaison Officers.

·       In response to a question about what the County Council was doing to further reduce its own CO2 emissions, Members were informed that there was no magic answer.  A number of smaller projects were being worked on rather than one single action.  It was confirmed that this would include looking at the role of contractors and local businesses.

·       The Chairman requested further details on the condition of unclassified roads and the percentage which were subject to Coarse Visual Inspection (CVI).  It was agreed that details would be provided following the meeting.  Members were reminded that unclassified roads may refer to urban estate roads as well as rural roads.

·       It was confirmed that data on the number of enquiries received via the Member Portal and how many of these were repeat enquiries would be part of a corporate assessment as the portal covered more than just highways enquiries.  It was important to encourage all Members to use the portal to ensure it gave the full picture.

·       Concern was expressed that levels of recycling appeared to have stagnated.  It was confirmed that work was being done with the district councils to encourage greater levels of recycling.  Recycling would be the preferred option ahead of taking materials to the Energy from Waste plant.

·       The Chairman asked about the destination of unrecyclable material recovered at EnviroSort and whether this went to landfill or to the Energy from Waste plant.  An answer would be provided after the meeting.

·       With reference to Countryside Access, a Member asked a question about how members of the public would identify accessible routes.  An answer would be provided after the meeting.  The Chairman expressed concern about the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 420.


Work Programme 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Additional documents:


The Panel was asked to review its work programme.  In the ensuing discussion, the following main points were made:


·       It was confirmed that the final demonstration of the online gully mapping system would take place in October.

·       Concerns in relation to urban flooding could be raised at the Panel’s November meeting.

·       A Member asked when the Panel would look again at Active Travel.  It was suggested that this could be combined with a discussion on Cycleways.

·       It was suggested that it was important to keep returning to key issues in order to drive improvement.

·       A question was asked about scrutiny of the 2022/23 budget.  It was confirmed that further information was awaited from the Chief Financial Officer and the approach would be confirmed in due course.