Agenda and minutes

Overview & Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 17th July, 2019 9.30 am

Venue: Council Chamber - Council Offices. View directions

Contact: Matthew Stembrowicz  Email:

No. Item


To Receive Apologies for Absence


None received.






Public Questions & Statements

To receive questions / statements from the public, if any


None received.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 267 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 12th June 2019.


The minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 12th June 2019 were agreed as an accurate record and signed by the Chairman.




Items of Urgent Business

To determine any other items of business which the Chairman decides should be considered as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.


None received.


Declarations of Interest

Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests that they may have in any of the following items on the agenda. The Code of Conduct for Members requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest.


None declared.


Petitions From Members of the Public

To consider any petitions received from members of the public.


None received.


Consideration of Any Matter Referred to the Committee by a Member

To consider any requests made by non-executive Members of the Council, and notified to the Monitoring Officer with seven clear working days’ notice, to include an item on the agenda of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.




Responses of the Council or the Cabinet to the Committee's Reports or Recommendations

To consider any responses of the Council or the Cabinet to the Committee’s reports or recommendations













This report provides the six monthly update for Members on a range of enforcement related issues arising from the work of the Enforcement Board and Combined Enforcement Team, both over the past six months but also an assessment of progress made since the Board’s inception over 5 years ago.


The Council has a far wider range of regulatory and enforcement powers and it should be noted that this report deals only with those covered by the Enforcement Board the Combined Enforcement Team.


With the recent changes to the Member cohort, following the May election, the opportunity has been taken to give a more historical overview of enforcement issues, to help bring new Members up to date on this area of work.




The Enforcement Board continues to make significant progress towards its objectives of dealing with difficult and long-standing enforcement cases and bringing long term empty properties back into use, across all areas of the District, with both social and economic benefits to the community, and financial benefits to the Council.


As well as the above, the combined Enforcement Team has achieved considerable success in reducing the backlog on the planning enforcement caseload and ensuring that property level Council Tax enforcement is taken forward at the earliest opportunity.





Reasons for



1.    That Cabinet notes the continued progress of the Enforcement Board and the Combined Enforcement Team


1.    To ensure appropriate governance of the Board’s activities

2.    To show the progress of Combined Enforcement Team cases and contribution to the work of the Enforcement Board


Cabinet Members

Cllr Karen Ward (Planning)

Cllr Nigel Lloyd (Environmental Health)

Cllr Eric Seward (Revenues and Benefits)

Ward(s) affected


All Wards

Contact Officer, telephone number and email: Nick Baker, Corporate Director 01263 516221




The Chairman invited the Head of Paid Service (NB) to introduce the report. He outlined the background to the establishment of the Enforcement Board in 2013 and the subsequent formation of the Combined Enforcement Team. He explained that the Board was set up to tackle difficult, often longstanding enforcement issues, mainly related to property and then in 2016 the Combined Enforcement Team (CTE) was established to bring a consistency of approach and efficiencies in the way the Council dealt with empty homes, council tax completions and planning enforcement. He said that the report before Members covered complex cases and those dealt with by the CTE. There were several longstanding cases although a number of these had been progressed or completed in recent weeks.


The Head of Paid Service reminded Members that the previous Overview & Scrutiny Committee had recommended to Cabinet that enforcement update reports should be presented quarterly rather than six monthly. He said that a considerable amount of work had been undertaken to improve the layout of the accompanying matrix that detailed the enforcement cases and suggested that Members may wish to reconsider the timing of reports to ensure that the committee’s work programme was not overloaded.


The Head of Paid Service concluded by saying that the CTE tried to visit as many long term empty properties as possible throughout the year but that there would always be a ‘churn’ of about 400 properties. He said that the information in the matrix was confidential and that Members should always take advice from officers before speaking on any of the cases.


Questions and Discussion


1.    The Chairman, Cllr N Dixon, asked whether there were any issues or specific cases that required the support of the Committee. The Head of Paid Service replied that there were not. Key cases were highlighted and individual cases were dealt with through council policies. Serious cases would be reported up to Members. Cllr Dixon then asked whether there were any barriers in terms of process that the Committee could assist with. The Head of Paid Service replied that an understanding by Members that some of the more complex cases could take a long time to resolve would be appreciated.


2.    Cllr L Shires asked if it was possible to have a timeframe for cases to help Members manage expectations. The Head of Paid Service replied that it varied hugely. Often contact would begin with a letter followed by a formal notice. There was a wide range of options before officers, each with a different timeline. Using a compulsory purchase order was the last resort and before that it could take 1 year to 18 months, allowing for a compliance period and then an appeal period. He then highlighted two high profile cases that the Board was dealing with – both having gone on for several years with considerable cost implications. He concluded by saying that a third of cases had very long term issues, the rest were ‘churned’ over in about a year. The Chairman  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Debt Recovery 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 293 KB



This is an annual report detailing the council’s collection performance and debt management arrangements for 2018/19

The report includes:


§   A summary of debts written off in each debt area showing the reasons for write-off andvalues.

§   Collection performance for Council Tax and Non- Domestic Rates.

§   Level of arrearsoutstanding

§   Level of provision for bad and doubtfuldebts




1)      To approve the annual report giving details of the Council’s write-offsin accordancewith theCouncil’s DebtWrite-Off Policy and performance in relation to revenuescollection.

2)      To approve the updated Debt Write Off Policy (shown in Appendix2)

3)      To approve the updated Benefit Overpayment Policy and the use of High Court Enforcement Agents if considered necessary (shown in Appendix4)

Cabinet member(s): All


Eric Seaward All

Contact Officer, telephone number, and e-mail:

Sean Knight 01263 516347


Additional documents:


The Revenues Manager outlined the Annual Debt Recovery report for 2018/19. He explained that it included a summary of debts written off in each debt area showing the reasons for write-offs and values, collection performance for council tax and non-domestic rates, level of arrears outstanding and the level of provision for bad and doubtful debts. He went onto say that writing off debts was a necessary function of any organisation that collected money. The Council was committed to ensuring that debt write-offs were kept to a minimum by taking reasonable steps to collect any outstanding monies. When the process failed to recover some or all of the debt then they were considered for write-off. These cases were very much the exception.


Cllr E Seward, Portfolio Holder for Finance added that in terms of recovery of debt, most local authorities did not resort to imprisonment and NNDC did not intend to go down this route either, except in circumstances where the debtor was able to pay but refused to. 


Questions and Discussion


1.    Cllr J Toye referred to Table 3 ‘Housing Benefit overpayments‘ and queried the 211% outstanding against debit at year end, specifically the 12 invoices over £10,000. The Revenues Manager explained that housing benefit was particularly challenging as claimant’s circumstances could change leading to a change in payments. Last year there were several large debts that had accrued spread over three service areas: finance, revenues and housing benefit. In response to the specific issue raised, he said that there were several large cases involving income or capital and sometimes pensions which did distort the overall collection of housing benefit. In response to a further question from Cllr Toye as to whether any mechanism could be put in place to avoid this, the Revenues Manager replied that there were tools that could be used to assist and in the last year the Council had used software to access HMRC records and were able to establish quickly that claimants income had changed in about 80 cases. However, it should be noted that some cases were very old and write-offs may have to be considered.


2.    Cllr T Adams referred to housing benefit and asked whether it was possible to monitor how frequently council error was the cause of overpayment. The Revenues Manager said that 31st March was the collection rate report date. He acknowledged that there were things that could be changed or improved but said that collection rates were very good and that a payment plan was put in place so that overpayments could be repaid over a reasonable period and the needs of the customer were always taken into consideration.


3.    Cllr Adams agreed that the collection rate was very impressive. He sought assurance that that the team was well resourced enough to maintain this high level of performance. The Revenues Manager replied that three members of staff had recently been lost to other service areas which placed additional strain on the rest of the team. However, it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Overview & Scrutiny Annual Report 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 245 KB







Options considered:

The report aims to provide Council with a better understanding of the role of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, provide insight into the work of the Committee in the year 2018/19, and to highlight some of the key issues it has considered.






The Committee fulfilled its remit and had a very active year. There were some changes in membership during the year, including a change of Chairman. With a new Administration in place it is likely that 2019/20 will bring fresh challenges for the Committee, including input into the development of a new corporate plan. The Committee also welcomes ten newly elected Members following the May 2019 election.






Reasons for



1.    It is recommended that Council notes the report and affirms the work of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.


To inform Council of the work of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee in 2018/19.


Cabinet Member(s):


Ward(s) affected:




Contact Officer, telephone number and email:

Matthew Stembrowicz

Democratic Services & Governance Officer (Scrutiny)

Email: Tel: 01263 516047



The Chairman asked the Democratic Services & Governance Officer (Scrutiny) to introduce the report. He explained that this was the Annual report of the Committee and covered the period from May 2018 to May 2019.


It was proposed by Cllr N Pearce and seconded by Cllr L Shires.




Note the Overview & Scrutiny Committee Annual Report 2018/19.



The Cabinet Work Programme pdf icon PDF 222 KB

To note the upcoming Cabinet Work Programme


The Democratic Services Manager outlined the Cabinet Work Programme and drew Members attention to any changes.




To note the Cabinet Work Programme.


Overview & Scrutiny Work Programme and Update pdf icon PDF 247 KB

To receive an update from the Scrutiny Officer on progress made with topics on its agreed work programme, training updates and to receive any further information which Members may have requested at a previous meeting

Additional documents:


The Democratic Services and Governance Officer (Scrutiny) updated the Committee on actions from previous meetings. Regarding the Sheringham Primary School Parking Task & Finish Group, he said that he had contacted the Road Safety Team based at Norfolk County Council and they had agreed to put together information on funding requirements for a ‘bike, walk, scoot’ scheme. He said that the Road Safety team was about to undergo a restructure but it shouldn’t affect the implementation of the Task & Finish group’s preferred scheme.


In response to a previous query regarding the ‘Better Broadband’ project, the Democratic Services and Governance Officer (Scrutiny) said that the level of delivery had already been exceeded across Norfolk and that the Council’s financial contribution of £1m towards the scheme would be drawn down in quarter 4.


Cllr J Rest, Chairman of Governance, Risk & Audit Committee, informed Members that there were ongoing issues with the Council’s external auditors which was delaying the publication of the final statement of accounts. The committee was due to meet next week and a further update on the situation would be provided to Members as soon as possible. The Head of Legal, Democratic Services & Benefits added that this was a problem across all of the Norfolk local authorities.


Exclusion of the Press and Public

To pass the following resolution, if necessary:

“That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph _ of Part I of Schedule 12A (as amended) to the Act.”


To Consider Any Exempt Matters Arising From Consideration of the Public Business of the Agenda