Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Board - Wednesday 15th November, 2023 4.30 pm

Venue: Mandela Room

Contact: Scott Bonner 

No. Item


Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of interest received at this point in the meeting.


The Chair welcomed Councillor Jackie Young to the Overview and Scrutiny Board following her being elected to Council.  


Minutes - Overview and Scrutiny Board - 18 October 2023 pdf icon PDF 236 KB


The minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 18 October 2023 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Chair thanked the Vice Chair for taking the Chair in his absence at the last meeting.


Executive Member Update - Finance and Governance


The Chair welcomed the Executive Member for Finance and Governance and invited her to present her information. The Executive Member advised the Board that while she was elected in 2023, she had previously held similar portfolio responsibilities between 2003 and 2015.


The Executive Member outlined her personal targets for her portfolio, with the main target being the avoidance of issuing a Section 114 Notice. The Council’s ability to issue a Section 114 Notice was found in the Local Government Finance Act 1988 with reasons including the current year’s expenditure exceeding available resources or the inability for the Council to set a balanced budget. It was clarified there was no procedure in law for the Council to declare itself bankrupt.


A Section 114 Notice was not a silver bullet solution to budgetary problems, and it should be avoided. Issuing a Section 114 Notice would also remove significant amounts of autonomy from the Council. The Council was duty bound to perform its statutory duties but there was no requirement to perform those duties in a particular way. If a Section 114 was issued the Council would only retain minimal levels of expenditure to meet statutory duties and it would need to create a financial recovery plan. If the Council issued a Section 114 Notice the Government would set the Council’s budget, which for other authorities, had resulted in cuts to services and the sale of assets.


The Executive Member highlighted a comment made by the Chief Executive of the Local Government Information Unit. They stated while government commissioners could turn a Council’s finances around the cure could be brutal. It was valued by the community but non-statutory that would likely be cut first, such as community centres, libraries, and cultural related services. Such cuts would also likely be made to preventive services.


The cost of government commissioners was £1100 per day, per person plus expenses which would be borne by the Council. In some cases where Section 114 Notices had been issued the government had allowed Councils to raise their Council Tax levels above prescribed limits. Examples included Croydon that had raised its Council Tax levels to 15%.


At this point, the Executive Member invited questions from the Board.


As the Street Wardens were funded from a separate grant, a Member queried if commissioners could cut this service, if they were brought in. It was clarified that while the Street Wardens were funded by grant for this financial year, they would need to be put in scope of the general budget next financial year. It was also clarified that Street Wardens were not a statutory service. The Member also queried if a grant was ring fenced could this be cut. This was unlikely as doing so would serve no financial advantage. However, if grants were not being used for specific purposes this would need to be classed as growth in the budget.


A Member queried if preventative services had a significant budget. This was confirmed but also that any cuts to those  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23/33


Executive Forward Work Programme pdf icon PDF 264 KB

Additional documents:


The Chief Executive submitted a report which identified the forthcoming issues to be considered by the Executive, as outlined in Appendix A to the report. The report provided the Overview and Scrutiny Board with the opportunity to consider whether any item contained within the Executive Forward Work Programme should be considered by the Board or referred to a scrutiny panel.


A Member queried whether the Board would get chance to consider the Asset Review as it had long-term implications for the Council. The Chair clarified this would be considered as part of the Budget Proposals when they were presented to OSB at its meeting on 20 December.


AGREED that:


·         That the Asset Review be referenced as part of OSB’s consideration of the budget proposals;

·         The information, as presented, be noted.


Scrutiny Chairs Update

·        Adult Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel - Councillor J. Walker (Chair)

·        Children & Young People’s Scrutiny Panel - Councillor E. Clynch (Chair)

·        Environment Scrutiny Panel - Councillor J. Ryles (Chair)

·        Health Scrutiny Panel - Councillor J. Banks (Chair)

·        Regeneration Scrutiny Panel - Councillor I. Blades (Chair)


The Chair of OSB invited individual Scrutiny Panel Chairs to provide their updates:


Adult Social Care and Services

The Chair of the Panel apologised for her absence from recent meetings and thanked the Panel’s Vice Chair for assuming the role of Chair in her absence. Members were advised the Panel would no longer be reviewing hospital discharge and would instead be reviewing preventative services. This review would examine helping people remain in their own homes as Middlesbrough had previously relied on care home provision. Allowing people to remain in their own homes was better both for individuals and the Council.


Children’s and Young People Scrutiny Panel

The Panel had received information from South Tees Safeguarding and would be looking closely at school attendance as the main topic for the Panel.



The Chair of OSB presented the update in the Chair of the Panel’s absence. The Panel had met on 13 November during which officers from Environment Services had provided further information around recycling, including the amounts and types of recycling collected. At the meeting the Vice Chair of the Panel provided an update regarding the Crustacean Deaths Collaborative Working Group and the Panel agreed its Terms of Reference for its review. The Panel’s next meeting was scheduled for 11 December.



The Panel’s next meeting was the 20 November at which Professor Tim Thompson would be attending as guest speaker in relation to the Panel’s review into free dental care. In addition, representatives from Health Watch would be attending to provide information about local population views on accessing NHS dentistry as well as the impact of Covid-19.



The Panel met on 1 November and received an update from the Planning Advisory Service in relation to planning capacity in Middlesbrough. The Planning Advisory Service was part of the Local Government Association that aimed to help implement changes in the Planning system. An issue for Middlesbrough was the possibility of receiving a Designation on Planning which could be viewed as a failure. This would be known during the first week in January. About 10 Councils per year were designated, and when this happened Councils had two weeks to respond. The Panel also received a verbal update on the Local Plan with the Panel’s next meeting being on the 6 December.


A Member queried if the Designation was due to the speed applications were being processed. It was clarified the Council was complying with government standards and timescales for all application types other than large applications. For large applications the Council was slightly under the required target. In the event the Planning Service was put into special measures the Council would continue to process applications, but any resulting fees would be claimed by the government.


AGREED that the information presented be noted.




Any other urgent items which, in the opinion of the Chair, may be considered.