Councillor Crispin Raikes, Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee advised that as well as a Commercial workshop, they had also had a valuable Environment Strategy workshop prior to their last meeting. He noted that Councillors Paul Maxwell and Gerard Tucker were both members of the county-wide Environment Strategy Task and Finish Group and he was pleased to note that SSDC were at a similar point in the compilation of their Strategy to neighbouring Councils. He drew Members attention to the Scrutiny Specialist’s email of 5th September asking for topics for future scrutiny by the Committee.
Councillor Gerard Tucker noted that as part of the Environment Strategy workshop a point had been made that environmental considerations for planning applications should be included in the Local Plan. He said this would be helpful to be included in the Environment Strategy aims and planning policy. He congratulated the Lead Specialist for Strategic Planning and her team for their work in producing the Strategy.
In response to a question, the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee said he would check what questions were asked of the District Executive on the Commercial Strategy report.
Subsequent to the meeting, the following was minuted (Minute 41) in the Scrutiny Committee minutes of 3rd September 2019:-
During discussion the Director (Commercial Services & Income Generation), Portfolio Holder (Economy & Income Generation), Section 151 Officer, and the Commercial Property, Land & Development Manager responded to points of detail. Some of the queries and comments raised by members included.
- Regarding the assessment groups (IAG and DAG) – members asked that as the current Monitoring Officer and S.151 Officer were due to leave around the end of the year, if there would be any gap in expertise.
- Members sought reassurance that the S.151 Officer was happy with the level of funding proposed and the proposed increase in delegated powers
- If the Opium project was not fully operational by October – what will the financial implications be?
- Given changes on the High Streets nationally, and that Marks and Spencer has announced store closures etc. – what assurances were there regarding the stability/security of the income stream from the investment in the Yeovil store?
- Members sought reassurance that there is a mix of rental types and dates of leases were staggered, and hence multiple investments were not due to expire at similar times.
- Members asked if all expenditure associated with any predicted void periods are taken account of in financial projections.
- Regarding Elleston, members asked if there was intention for the company to go out to market seeking contracts and tenders and to potential diversify in the future.
- Members queried when all the investment properties/projects had been purchased and finalised, if the costs associated with running the Commercial Services and Income Generation Team would reduce?
- Members asked if there was any intention to work with other local authorities to manage assets and property investments.
Answers to all the comments raised were provided by the officers, and members were satisfied to support the recommendations as detailed in the agenda report.
The report of the Scrutiny Committee was noted.