ENVIRONMENT & ECONOMY SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
MINUTES of the meeting held on 20 September 2006 commencing at 10.00 am and finishing at 2:50 pm.
D. Mitchell and M. Bayliss (Chief Executive’s Office).
Part of meeting:
Director for Environment & Economy, R. Dix, F. Mullins, A. Pau & F. Upton (Environment & Economy).
The Scrutiny Committee considered the matters, reports and recommendations contained or referred to in the agenda for the meeting and agreed as set out below. Copies of the agenda and reports are attached to the signed Minutes.
31/06. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND TEMPORARY APPOINTMENTS
Apologies for absence and temporary appointments were received as follows:
32/06. ORDER OF BUSINESS
AGREED: to vary the order of business as indicated in these Minutes.
33/06. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Item 7 – Steventon Reservoir
Councillor Terry Joslin declared a personal interest on the grounds that he was a Thames Water Pensioner.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 19 July 2006 were approved and signed.
35/06. WASTE MANAGEMENT IN OXFORDSHIRE
(Agenda Item 6)
The Committee had before them the Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy for Oxfordshire report (EN6(a)) and the Procurement of Waste Treatment Facilities report (EN6(b)).
The Committee also were invited to question the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development with regard to how far he had progressed with implementing the Scrutiny Review Committee’s recommendations in relation to the Scrutiny Review of Energy From Waste ‘Waste not Want not" (EN6(c)), as part of the 12 month evaluation process.
Accordingly, arrangements had been made for the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, the Head of Waste Management, Mr Andrew Pau and the Waste Project Manager, Ms Frankie Upton to attend the meeting to give a presentation on the three areas. The Committee first received a presentation on the Waste Management Strategy for Oxfordshire.
Mr Pau outlined the proposals in the report, stating that over the last twelve months the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership (OWP), had worked to produce the Oxfordshire Joint Municipal Waste Strategy. The Strategy set out how the six authorities in Oxfordshire were going to work in partnership to effectively and efficiently manage waste over the next 25 years and had now been agreed by all the District Councils; and the Cabinet on 19 September 2006.
Mr Pau and Ms Upton then answered questions raised in the debate, a selection of which are outlined as follows:-
Q. Was an in-vessel composting scheme currently regarded as the only option for the disposal of household waste?
A. To avoid European Union fines in 2009, some form of in-vessel composting system had had to be put in place. This would be impossible to achieve in a plant, as upwards of 30,000 tonnes of waste would be needed to run such a scheme. When figures on how much waste the District and City Councils could provide were available, more work would be done to implement this scheme.
Q. How was it possible to estimate total waste tonnage provision when contracts for said provision expired in 2008/09? Why had these tonnage figures not been provided yet?
A. It was to be noted that no final decision had been made regarding this scheme and no further progress could be made until the figures for tonnage provision were made available. The information on tonnage was provided by the District Councils and officers had pursued them for the data.
Q. Would the policy be that waste would only be collected every other week, therefore be left by the roadside for 2 weeks before being collected? Have Health & Safety, land tax and any other issues associated with in vessel recycling been addressed?
A. The Council was committed to weekly collection and had many initiatives to encourage the public to recycle. An investigation had been carried out and found that the products manufactured from in vessel recycling were of high quality and economically viable.
Q. The target for tonnage was 30,000. Did this require every District Council to commit to the scheme?
A. 30,000 tonnes was the minimum critical amount required for the scheme to be commercially viable. Cherwell District Council had indicated it would commit to the provision of 15,000 tonnes alone, so therefore the commitment was not needed from every District.
Q. If this scheme was implemented, would it produce a glut of organic waste products on the market?
A. The Directorate was confident that the products were of sufficiently high quality and would continue to improve as technological advances were made. The market for these products was healthy and stable at the present time.
Q. Would more emphasis be placed on the waste disposal practices of bigger businesses? What had been done to address reduction of waste at its source?
A. Oxfordshire County Council had the lowest waste production per head in the Country and a lot of emphasis had been placed on a holistic approach to reduction and prevention. £400,000 had been allocated to spend on campaigning for the reduction of waste in the next 18 months. Part of this would be used to lobby at a national level to reduce packaging for products, and this would complement the work that was being done by the Council at a local level.
Q. To increase participation, wouldn’t education fare better in providing results than forced compliance?
The Council was working closely with schools and in particular
using the wild waste show, which was partly funded though the
Oxfordshire Waste Partnership and was booked out in advance. A
stronger policy on waste removal was needed to target fly tipping
and to prevent business from placing commercial waste with household
A. There was a network of sites across the County and prices might vary marginally, but locally the public would be aware of what their site charges. This was something Oxfordshire County Council had no control over but were involved in ‘trailblazing’ projects to ensure the public received a local, easily accessible and well priced system.
Q. Were there companies in Oxfordshire that supplied ‘real nappies’ and if so, where were they publicised?
A. There were companies within Oxfordshire and information on their whereabouts was available in the Yellow Pages. Mr Pau undertook to provide additional information on the scheme should Members wish.
The Committee then considered the Procurement of Waste Treatment Facilities for Oxfordshire report (EN6(b)).
Mr Pau outlined the report stating that it had been resolved that preparations should be made for the procurement of waste treatment facilities on a technology neutral basis to meet European Union Landfill Directive requirements. He further stated that the report presented the Outline Business Case (OBI) for the procurement of waste treatment facilities for Oxfordshire and sought approval from the Cabinet so that the procurement process could begin.
Pau and Ms Upton then answered questions on the report, a selection
of which are outlined below:
Assuming that the procurement process was also neutral, had there
been any bids from MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment) representatives?
Q. Was there a possibility for joint working with other Councils to produce a joint waste disposal contract? What work had been done to achieve this?
A. Consultation had occurred between various authorities but it appeared that all of them were at different stages of the process. Therefore it would be very difficult to formulate a total joint waste contract at present, although joint working could be achieved in some areas.
Councillor Belson then reported the following responses on the progress made to date on implementing the Scrutiny Review Committee’s recommendations in relation to the Scrutiny Review of Energy From Waste, as part of the 12 month evaluation process (EN6(c)).
a) to consider Combined Heat and Power as one of the most environmentally and economically sustainable options of those considered in this Review, for the future disposal of Oxfordshire’s waste;
The Council was ‘neutral’ between these technologies, provided they do the job safely, cleanly and at reasonable cost. The Council would consider all proposed tenders on their merits. This approach was also designed to encourage competition and deliver the best Value for Money.
b) whatever method of waste disposal was chosen to meet Oxfordshire’s needs and obligations, to ensure that public engagement and approval were fostered, through information and education; and that negative campaigning focussed on particular options must not be allowed to deflect political will away from selecting the most environmentally sustainable waste disposal option;
c) in entering into any agreement for the construction of new waste disposal infrastructure, to consider how to best work with partners with waste responsibilities including business/industry to maximise the cost effectiveness and sustainability benefits of any scheme;
d) in taking any decision on waste disposal options, to have regard to the experiences of other local authorities in similar positions, particularly in relation to planning.
Following debate on all three items, the Committee AGREED to:
(i) (in relation to the Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy for Oxfordshire) advise the Cabinet of its support for the procurement of an ‘in vessel composting unit’, should the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership obtain a commitment of collection of 30,000 tonnes of kitchen garden waste from District and City Councils, thus improving recycling rates and reducing residual waste, so that the 2009/10 landfill targets would be met; and
(ii) (in relation to the Procurement of Waste Treatment Facilities) endorse the urgent need to procure waste treatment facilities to meet Oxfordshire’s targets under European and Government legislation for reducing the amount of biodegradable wastes that was landfilled.
(iii) (in relation to the 12 month evaluation) to thank the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development for his presentation and update on progress with implementing the Scrutiny Review Committee’s recommendations in relation to the Scrutiny Review of Energy From Waste ‘Waste not Want not".
36/06. BUDGET SCRUTINY 06/07: DIRECTOR PRESENTATION ON KEY ISSUES
(Agenda Item 5)
This Committee had agreed to invite the Director for Environment & Economy to give a presentation on the key areas of the budget for the next financial year at its September meeting. This would allow Members to have an early identification of key issues, and was intended to assist their scrutiny of the budget at the December meeting.
The Committee received a presentation by Director for Environment & Economy, Mr Richard Dudding on Budget Scrutiny for 06/07, a copy of which is attached to the signed minutes. Mr Dudding reported that the £595,000 efficiency savings target was a presumptive figure based on meeting pressures within the Transport service. He further reported that there were 3 main areas of pressure within this budget.
He reported that the efficiency savings of approximately £1.3 million was the maximum amount obtainable without having to resort to service cuts. Oxfordshire County Council was operating as a ‘floor authority’ i.e. it was no longer setting extra funding support to cover borrowing. The Transport Capital Programme was in part supported by a Central Government grant of £1 million, of which interest payment in year one was £25,000 and £90,000 in year 2.
The Sustainable Development service had a presumptive Efficiency savings target of £262,000, with internal pressures of £610,000. On the basis of the Outline Business Case modelling, there was an extra £3 million required over and above what was in the budget.
The Members of the Committee then questioned the Director for Environment & Economy. A selection of their questions, together with his responses, are given below:
Q. It has been noticed that several road signs had been noticed which were obscured by greenery. Did this represent a cut to the service and did it constitute as a Health & Safety issue?
A. Although there had been efficiency savings, there was an additional £150,000 earmarked for a Cleaner & Greener programme, which was yet to be implemented.
Q. What was being done about the condition of the roads in Oxfordshire? Had the newly rebranded ‘Oxfordshire Highway ‘bedded down’, as roads in Oxfordshire appeared to be in poorer condition than in other authorities?
A. Reliable measurements were constantly taken for determining the condition of what the Council deemed as principle roads. The Council was maintaining a high (within the top 25%) of road maintenance in the Country for these roads, however they were in the bottom 50% for non-principle roads. Oxfordshire Highways had bedded down sufficiently and had been managing capital projects better than a year ago.
Q. Considering the efficiency savings, did this mean there would be less road maintenance for less money or the same amount of maintenance for less money?
A. The Council planned to spend £300,000 this year on various projects. This spending however would not be on schemes that made a difference that could be seen in rural and urban areas as such.
Q. Responsibility for street lighting had been taken on from Parish Councils. At what cost? Was there a possibility of reversing this, or charging the Parish Councils for this service?
A. The fact that the Council was responsible for street lighting gave them better purchasing power for services and handing back responsibilities to the Parish Councils was not a solution. Street lighting constituted 25% of the budget and the Directorate was looking at ways to reduce this cost (and therefore reducing their carbon imprint).
Q. If prosecutions were taken against fly poster offenders, could this be a potential source of income (via court imposed fines)?
A. This was more of a District Council issue and it appeared from previous experience that this was a ‘no-win’ situation with regards to fines gained from court cases.
The Committee was then asked to consider whether it would wish to set up a Task Group to identify a particular area within the Budget for the Committee to focus on.
The Committee thanked the Cabinet Members for Transport and Sustainable Development and the Director for Environment & Economy for their presentations and AGREED to nominate a task group comprising Councillors Tony Crabbe, Anne Purse and G A Reynolds to work with a dedicated finance officer to scrutinise the cost of street lighting within the context of the County Council Budget for 07/08.
37/06. TRANSPORT CAPITAL PROGRAMME 2006/09
(Agenda item 7)
This item had been placed on the agenda to enable the Committee to comment on the Transport Capital Programme prior to its consideration by the Cabinet Member for Transport on 6 October 2006. The report also allowed the Committee to comment on the motion to Council from Councillor Joslin on the Cow Lane, Didcot scheme.
Accordingly, arrangements had been made for the Head of Transport, Mr Steve Howell and the Assistant Head of Transport Mr Richard Dix to attend the meeting to give a presentation on the Programme and to answer any questions which the Committee may have wished to ask.
Mr Dix gave a presentation outlining progress on the approved programme. He stated that the total budget for Integrated Transport Schemes agreed at Cabinet on 21 March 2006 was £13.730 million. This was made up of £9.079 million from the Transport Capital Settlement, £2.911 million of developer contributions and £1.740 of on-street parking surplus. He further reported that there were two influences on the content of the Programme: The priorities of LTP2 and the level of Transport Capital funding. The schemes in LTP2 were value-for-money solutions that directly contributed to the resolution the most problems of congestion, accessibility, road safety, air quality and the street. The guideline funding for the 2006 – 2011 period was £12 million less than if funding had stayed at the level of the first LTP.
The Committee then asked questions on the Transport Capital Programme, a selection of which are outlined below:
Q. What was the criteria for the vehicle activated signs? Who bore the cost of this?
A. The Parishes had based their priorities on perceived problems. The Council was receiving £12 million less funding this year so not every project could be implemented. Only projects that met all the Council’s criteria would be carried out.
Q. How was funding organised for signage that met the criteria in full?
A. Only projects identified as meeting all the criteria would be carried out.
Q. How would the Council fund repairs to roads caused by the substantial heat damage over the summer?
A. There was no option to look at heat damage on roads unless central Government funding was allocated.
Councillor Joslin then spoke in support of his motion. He stated the proposed Cow Lane subway scheme was seen as a vital component of the strategy for improved access to Didcot and its services. The scheme had received backing from every committee it had been before since 2001 and appeared in all the Councils’ previous Capital Programmes. It was fundamentally important to note that the scheme was conceived and approved before the advent of ITS or LTP schemes.
On 6 March 2006, the Assistant Head of Transport announced that the scheme had been discontinued and that the developer funding was never eligible for the Cow Lane project because it was intended for ‘additional road capacity’. It should be noted that support for the scheme came from all three County Members, from the town Council, from the local MP and from the Environment Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Joslin felt that the Council had reneged on previous commitments and resolutions, diverted developer funding from a public project to a private one, prevented much needed improved access between two large communities and eliminated Member and town Council input to local transport issues.
Councillor Joslin therefore urged the Committee to re-instate this project.
The Cabinet Member for Transport responded that the Transport Capital Programme budget had been cut by £2 million and therefore did not allow for every project to be completed. An evaluation was done and only projects that met all the criteria for LTP2 remained in the programme and any scheme that would not have met all the Council’s criteria was stopped to allow other schemes to proceed. The Cow Lane, Didcot scheme never had enough money identified to complete the scheme.
Following debate, the Committee AGREED (by 5 votes to 1) to ask the Cabinet to reinstate the Didcot, Cow Lane subway scheme.
38/06. STEVENTON RESERVOIR
(Agenda Item 8)
This item was included on the Agenda to allow Members the opportunity to give a view on the first stage of consultation issued by Thames Water Ltd on the proposed Steventon Reservoir, prior to its consideration by the Full Cabinet on 17 October 2006. A briefing note was attached at EN8 which examined the current status of Thames Water’s proposed reservoir, the role of the County Council and what it was doing to prepare for the proposed reservoir.
Ms Fiona Mullins gave a presentation on the consultation process so far. Ms Mullins stated that on 14 September, Thames Water had made public its proposal for a package of measures for managing demand for water and increasing water supply. The main new supply option that the company proposed was to build a reservoir on a site between East Hanney and Steventon to the west of the A34. She further reported that this was a significant project and the ultimate decision would be made by the Secretary of State, with Vale Of White Horse and Oxfordshire County Council involvement as consultees. She stated that the report addressed transport, countryside and archaeological issues and that investigation of the need for water was still to be carried out. If the need was justified then the Environment Agency would conduct an independent assessment.
Councillor Lamont outlined several inaccuracies within the Thames Water Ltd report and stated that in his view, there was no need for either a task group, or for the Council to take a view on this issue, in light of the final decision being made by the Secretary Of State, who would set up a relevant body to asses the associated risks.
Councillor Greene endorsed Councillor Lamont’s view and added that Thames Water needed to investigate all options for water provision as outlined in the Scrutiny Review report undertaken by this Committee into Domestic Water Supply.
Councillor Sanders stated that this project would have a significant local and national impact and that the Council should maximise its impact on any decisions that were made.
The Committee was asked whether it would wish to carry out either of the following 2 options:
Following a vote, the Committee chose not to take forward either of the above 2 options.
The Committee AGREED to ask the Cabinet to examine closely the need for a reservoir at Steventon, including the adverse effect it would have on the County and urged them to investigate alternative methods of supplying water as outlined in the Scrutiny Review on Domestic Water.
39/06. DEVELOPER CONTRIBUTIONS SCRUTINY REVIEW
(Agenda Item 9)
At their meeting on 17 May 2006, this Committee agreed as part of their Work Programme to undertake a Scrutiny Review of `Developer Contributions and Section 106 Agreements’ and appointed Councillors Patrick Greene, Norman Bolster, Anne Purse and Terry Joslin to the Lead Member Review Group.
The Committee received a copy of the final scoping template on the Scrutiny Review of ‘Developer Contributions and Section 106 Agreements’, which had been agreed by the Scrutiny Co-ordinating Group.
The Committee received an oral update from the Lead Member Group on progress and a summary of points were as follows:-
Councillor Joslin stated that the Review Group were hoping to get a policy together to cover all aspects of Developer Funding. The Group had met with Howard Cox, who had suggested that there would be many ways of improving the system. He further reported that the Group would be meeting again in October.
The Committee noted progress to date on Developer Funding Contributions and endorsed the scoping template.
40/06. SCRUTINY WORK PROGRAMME
(Agenda Item 10)
The Committee AGREED to add all 4 of the items suggested by the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development as detailed under Minute 4/06 in EN3, to the Scrutiny Work Programme as a rolling programme.
41/06. FORWARD PLAN
(Agenda Item 11)
The Committee was asked to suggest items from the current Forward Plan on which it might wish to have an opportunity to offer advice to the Cabinet before any decision was taken.
No items were identified.
in the Chair
of signing 2006