To consider the report of the Leader of the Council providing an update on the delivery of the activities as outlined in the Council Plan 2022-24 to build a greener, fairer, better Gloucester.
10.1 Councillor Norman introduced the report which provided an update on the progress made in delivering the activities as outlined in the Council Plan 2022-24 to build a greener, fairer, better Gloucester. She reminded Members that the Council Plan was approved unanimously by Council in January 2022, and that the Plan detailed planned projects and activities between 2022 and 2024 to achieve the ambition of improving the lives of everyone who lives in, works in and visits Gloucester.
10.2 Councillor Norman reminded Members of the three priorities in the Council Plan which set out how the council will achieve its vision, namely building greener, healthier and more inclusive communities, building a sustainable city of diverse culture and opportunity and building a socially responsible and empowering Council. She explained that the Plan set out 45 actions, split equally across these priorities and noted that delivery of these actions in the first year was encouraging. Councillor Norman referred Members to Appendix 1 of the report, which provided an update on each action.
10.3 The Chair asked whether a timeline for the draft Food Strategy was in place. Later in the meeting, the Managing Director confirmed that this strategy had been considered and approved by Cabinet.
10.4 In response to an additional query from the Chair regarding GL4, the Managing Director advised that GL4 was a community organisation based in Matson.
10.5 Councillor Wilson referred to the narrative around the plan to set up an in-house Home Improvement Agency and requested clarification as to whether progress on implementing this agency was delayed as a result of the cyber incident alone, or whether it had been delayed prior to the incident. The Housing Innovation Manager confirmed that the delays had been caused by the cyber incident, however as the recovery had progressed, the team now hoped to bring this action forward.
10.6 In response to a further query from Councillor Wilson regarding progress made on the Gloucester Digital Strategy, Councillor Norman noted that the Officers responsible for overseeing this strategy had been focusing on the recovery from the cyber incident. The Managing Director confirmed that ongoing conversations were taking place regarding a digital strategy for Gloucestershire, and Officers were deliberating on whether it might be sensible to wait for the outcome of the county-wide strategy discussions before progressing a refresh of the Gloucester Digital Strategy.
10.7 Councillor Pullen referred to the plan to deliver a quality leisure offer for residents and asked for further information as to the reasons behind the delay. Councillor Norman confirmed that this was connected to the Leisure and Culture Options Appraisal which had been approved by Cabinet back in 2022 to extend the current contract with the current provider for one year.
10.8 Councillor Pullen expressed concerns around the confirmation in the report that the reduction of the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for temporary accommodation by 20% was not expected. He asked whether the council expected to see an increase in the number of households needing temporary accommodation, and whether there were sufficient funds in the budget to support this.
10.9 Councillor Norman noted that Bed and Breakfast temporary accommodation use had improved (i.e. reduced) in 2022/23 but not by the 20% reduction as set out in the Council Plan. She explained that when the target was initially set, 20% seemed realistic however with the uncertainties around the current economic climate, this target was more challenging. The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning Strategy, Councillor Stephanie Chambers, confirmed that this was an issue high on her agenda and that she and her team were working on solutions. She noted that there was a need to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city, which was a challenge across the industry, and that she would like to see a coordinated approach with improving temporary accommodation options so that Bed and Breakfast accommodation was not needed.
10.10 In response to an additional query from Councillor Pullen regarding the budget implications, Councillor S. Chambers noted that she was not necessarily considering increasing the budget for this area but was considering a range of options.
10.11 Councillor Kubaszczyk referred to the action relating to supporting the work of the Commission to Review Race Relations and noted that he had had difficulty finding online information about the Gloucestershire Race Equality Action Group (GREAG). The Policy and Development Officer confirmed that Officers had met with representatives at a soft launch event at the Guildhall back in April 2023 and that GREAG were working towards establishing themselves. He agreed to circulate the contact details of the Chief Executive Officer to Overview and Scrutiny Members following the meeting.
10.12 In response to a suggestion from Councillor Sawyer regarding the priority to reduce the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for temporary accommodation, it was noted that this would be a good topic for a Member Development Session. It was agreed that this suggestion would be pursued with relevant Officers and the Member Development Working Group.
10.13 Councillor Hilton referred to the proposal to increase the number of Green Flag parks to 4 by 2024. He queried whether this was having an implication on Officer resource by taking their time away from smaller green space projects. Councillor Norman reflected on the benefits that the Purple Flag Scheme had brought to the city and the local Night Time Economy, and paid tribute to Councillor Hudson for his work in this area. It was agreed that follow-up enquiries would be made with the Cabinet Member for Environment regarding the Green Flag resource implications.
10.14 Councillor Durdey commented that it was good to see lots of actions with an ‘on time completion expected’ status. Referring to large construction projects taking place in the city, he queried how the council was working to make these projects energy efficient. Councillor Norman confirmed that this was reviewed on a regular basis as part of the detailed major projects dashboard. The Managing Director further explained that for projects over £100k, 10% of any contract tender evaluation must go towards social value contributions, including environmental credentials and employment/skills. He confirmed that the City Council would expect bidders to submit their proposals to help the Council reach its net zero targets. The Managing Director further advised Members that Officers alongside development partners at Reef believed that they had reached a net zero in operation solution for the Forum development.
10.15 The Managing Director advised Committee Members that following the recommendations in Peer Review report, which was considered by the Overview in Scrutiny Committee in April, twice-yearly Council Plan Update reports would replace routine Performance Monitoring Reports. Councillor Norman confirmed that Cabinet Members would still be able to monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) though the Pentana Performance Management System.
RESOLVED – That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee NOTE the report.