Agenda and minutes

Venue: Herefordshire Council Offices, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0LE

Contact: Danial Webb, Statutory Scrutiny Officer 

Link: Watch this meeting on the Herefordshire Council YouTube Channel

No. Item


Apologies for absence

To receive apologies for absence.



Apologies were received from Councillors Graham Biggs, Harry Bramer, Ellie Chowns, Peter Hamblin, Bob Matthews, Ivan Powell, Peter Soddart


Named substitutes

To receive details of members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the board.


Named substitutes were:


Councillor Clare Davies for Councillor Bob Matthews

Councillor Stef Simmons for Councillor Ellie Chowns


Declarations of interest

To receive declarations of interest in respect of items on the agenda.


There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 361 KB

To receive the minutes of the meetings held on Tuesday 7 November 2023 and 21 November 2023.

Additional documents:


The minutes of the meetings of 07 and 21 November 2023 were approved unanimously by the board and signed by the chair.


Questions from members of the public pdf icon PDF 281 KB

To receive any written questions from members of the public.

Additional documents:


Public questions and responses are attached in Appendix A


Questions from members of the council

To receive any written questions from members of the council.


No questions received.


2024/25 Draft Budget - Revenue pdf icon PDF 294 KB

To seek the views of the Scrutiny Management Board on the budget proposals for 2024/25.

Additional documents:


The board agreed unanimously to scrutinise the directorate delivery plans in the sequence in which they were ordered within the appendices of the report. It was requested that a record of any actions arising would be forwarded to relevant officers ahead of the scheduled meeting on 16 January and any draft recommendations would be recorded for finalisation in that same meeting. 


Community Wellbeing Directorate Delivery Plan 2024/25


The Corporate Director for Community Wellbeing took the slides as read and gave an overview of the report. It was pointed out that the main point of focus in the budget for next year was the ongoing and increasing demand and complexity in adult social care. This was largely attributed to an ageing population and an increase in the number of individuals falling below the income threshold, who were unable to fund their own care.


The Corporate Director for Community Wellbeing specifically outlined a number of areas leading to increased demand pressure in adult social care, including: an ageing population in Herefordshire, inflation/spiralling cost of living, increased complexity of need, market availability and impact of the county hospital.


The Corporate Director for Community Wellbeing pointed out and gave an overview of the mitigations that had been put in place and how they were backed up by a series of robustly tested savings. This included the extension of the ‘shared lives scheme’ which would offer more opportunities for people to remain in a home environment for care where possible.


The Scrutiny Management Board debated the Community Wellbeing Directorate Delivery Plan 2024/25. The principal points of the discussion are summarised below.


1.     The board agreed there was a need to reinstate the local account as a means of communicating to the public how money was being spent on adult social care services, this would also provide details of performance and future plans for the service.

2.     The board highlighted the need for greater promotion and understanding of funding arrangements for adult social care. This would include improved dialogue and engagement with self-funders - especially those opting for high cost residential spaces - explaining how care was funded and what happens when individuals drop below the threshold and fall into the responsibility of the service.

3.     The board raised concerns about a proposed 10% reduction in library opening hours and suggested exploring the voluntary sector as part of the council’s library strategy. The importance of libraries as a safe space facility and point of internet access for young people and families was noted and the need to publicise and raise awareness of the temporary and proposed new location of the city library was highlighted.

4.     The board heard that it was not solely the council that was responsible for supporting the community, and that the service worked with a range of partner organisations, in particular the Integrated Care Board, which itself was looking for more support from the voluntary sector. It was noted that by collectively pooling together funding within partnerships it would be possible to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


2024/25 Capital Investment Budget pdf icon PDF 464 KB

To seek the views of Scrutiny Management Board on the capital investment budget proposals for 2024/25 onwards.

Additional documents:


Due to time constraints the committee members voted unanimously to defer this item until the scheduled meeting of Tuesday 16 January 2024.


Date of the next meeting

Tuesday 16 January 2024 2pm


Tuesday 16 January 2024 2.00pm


Appendix A - Public Questions and Responses - Scrutiny Management Board 10 January 2024





Mr Declan Hill

Scrutiny Meeting:

10 January 2024


I refer to Agenda Item 7, Appendix E (Economy & Environment Directorate Delivery Plan 2024/25), particularly page 3 which anticipates a concerning reduced income of £1.3 for Development Planning, which I assume to be the Development Management Team, one of the few departments in the Local Authority which usually brings in a small surplus to Council coffers and does not appear to account for the rise in Planning Fees which came into effect in December.

Noting the widely-known predicament that the Development Management Service has been under for much of the last five/six years, could the SMB ascertain via the Cabinet Members for Planning and Finance whether the ‘Proposed Saving’ of ‘Delete vacant permanent posts not currently occupied’ includes that of Planning Officers? This is of considerable concern to an already overstretched department which lacks resources and staff at the best of times compared to adjoining Local Planning Authorities, seeing the ever considerable turnover of staff/advertisement of posts. Could a figure be provided as to current staffing levels by Area Team/Majors?


The planning income for 2023/24 is lower than forecast.  However, due to wider economic circumstances there has been a national downturn in planning applications, particularly for larger housing schemes.  The forecast includes an allowance for the increased planning fees which are set by government.  It was anticipated that these increased fees would be introduced earlier in 2023/24.  The national delays in introducing them has meant they could only be brought in from December 2023 for the final 4 months of the financial year.  We can confirm that the savings related to ‘Delete vacant permanent posts not currently occupied’ does not include planning officers.  Like all Local Authorities we have encountered difficulties in recruiting, however we are actively recruiting to three senior planning officer posts at the moment.  The current levels of staffing in the Area and Major Teams is 17 FTEs.


The council has recently focussed on clearing the 5 week backlog of applications awaiting validation.  We are urgently exploring opportunities to seek additional capacity whilst we seek to recruit to current vacancies.  However, we do now have a permanent Service Director responsible for planning in place, and we have recently appointed a permanent Head of Planning and Building Control due to join in the next 3 months bringing stability to the team.  We have re-established a planning agent forum to help improve communications/ engagement and already have a planning improvement plan in place to help enhance the service over the coming months, which is overseen by an Improvement Board including the Leader, cabinet portfolio holder and chair of the planning committee.




Ms Reid, Hereford

Scrutiny Meeting:

10 January 2024


‘Appendix A: Savings Proposals recommended for 2024/25’ includes the Children and Young People directorate saving £2.5 million.  One way of reducing costs would be to reduce the number of Section 47 enquiries.  The Children’s Services Commissioner’s report (12/23) states:


“Section 47 enquiries continue to be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.