Agenda and minutes
Homes and Environment Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 12th September, 2018 2.00 pm
Venue: Meeting Room 1, Guildhall
Contact: Craig Stevens Scrutiny Facilitator
Webcast: View the webcast
Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Bryan Apsley, Paul Blackwell and David Maddocks, and Mr Jerry O’Keefe, Chair of the Audit Committee.
To sign as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting held on 11 July 2018
AGREED – That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 11 July 2018 be signed as a correct record.
To consider the report of the Head of Finance
The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/99/18s to assist Members in agreeing a list of potential scrutiny topic areas for the next 12 months and possibly longer term.
Presenting the report the Scrutiny Facilitator highlighted the following:
· In line with the Committee’s previous decision the Local Housing Strategy item would be dealt with as an information report following notification that there would be no significant changes to the draft document.
· Topic Selection Form in respect of HRA Environmental Improvement Schemes – proposed to remove this item from the work programme following advice in relation to the scheme provided by the Head of Housing and Economy, however following discussion the Committee agreed that the item should be scheduled on the work programme as soon as possible.
AGREED – That, subject to the aforementioned amendment, the work programme as outlined in report HF/99/18s be agreed.
To consider the report of the Environmental Enforcement Task & Finish Group
The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/97/18s) to consider the findings and recommendations of the Environmental Enforcement Task and Finish Group that was established by the Homes and Environment Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 9 May 2018.
The Chair of the Task and Finish Group presented the report.
On behalf of the Committee the Chair thanked Members and Officers involved in the task and finish group’s review for their work, sentiments that were echoed by the Leader of the Council.
In considering the report the following matters were highlighted in debate:
· Support for the recommendations of the task and finish group from both Committee and non-Committee members.
· Future report required in respect of the options for a future service model. If necessary, this could be considered by the task and finish group.
· Future service must be reactive to the needs of local area, rather than focussing on the factors highlighted in the Keep Wales Tidy report. Litter and dog fouling remained an issue in many rural areas.
· The comments of the Lead Member that as a result of significant reshaping across the department there was limited capacity to develop a new service. Consideration must also be given to how such a service would be funded given the Council’s budget constraints. The Lead Member further reported that the development of a regional approach would take approximately 18 months to progress.
· How to manage the gap in enforcement provision should the contract with Kingdom be terminated prior to the establishment of a new service. The Service Manager – Environment informed the Committee that the existing enforcement team were still authorised to deal with litter and dog fouling however the team’s current focus remained car parking enforcement. Expanding to include litter and dog fouling enforcement could present budget pressures and affect existing enforcement levels.
· Noted that the Audit Committee would review the work and recommendations of Scrutiny to consider if these provided adequate mitigation to their original concerns regarding risks to the Council, posed by this contract.
(i) That the Committee agree the report and recommendations of the Environmental Enforcement Task and Finish Group.
(ii) That the Committee recommends that the current agreement for Environmental Enforcement with Kingdom be terminated in accordance with the 3 months notice period specified within.
(iii) That the future provision of Environmental Enforcement in Wrexham be considered on a partnership, sub-regional or regional basis with other North Wales Councils.
(iv) That the Homes and Environment Scrutiny Committee consider a future report outlining how this service can be provided on the above basis.
To consider the report of the Lead Member for Place – Environment and Transport.
The Lead Member for Place – Environment and Transport submitted a report (HEP/74/18s) to update Members on the management of weeds through herbicide application on highways and open spaces in the County Borough, arising from consideration of this issue by members of the Homes and Environment Scrutiny Committee in February 2018.
The Parks, Countryside and PROW Manager presented the report referring to the reduction in use of herbicide since last year due to a targeted approach to spraying, Welsh Government guidance of August 2018 which had been shared with the relevant departmental Heads to ensure consistency of approach, the cost of alternative approaches to weed control and the need to balance any future reduction in spraying with public perception regarding weed growth.
The Lead Member confirmed that the Council was compliant with Welsh Government and HSE requirements and, referring to the training provided to relevant staff, was confident that the product being used was being applied correctly.
In discussing the report the following points were made:
· Welcomed that the Committee’s previous recommendations had been taken on board. Acknowledgement that the use of herbicide had reduced.
· The need to closely monitor any developments in respect of the use of herbicide. Suggested that an information report be issued in 6 months time.
· Noted that even organic herbicides had an element of toxicity.
· Clarification sought on how weed control considerations were aligned to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. The officer undertook to liaise with the relevant officer in this regard and to provide any feedback in the information report to Members.
· All relevant Members had responsibility as school governors to question that the contractors used in schools met the Council’s standards.
(i) That the Committee supports the present system for using the minimum amount of herbicide to control weeds on the public highway and open spaces in the County Borough.
(ii) That the Committee monitors best practice and the herbicide-free approach to weed management in other Councils and learns from their experiences.
(iii) That an information report on development regarding glyphosate and its usage be submitted in 6 months.
(iv) That the Committee consider an update report on the Councils use of glyphosates and related developments at their meeting in September 2019.
(v) That clarification be sought from the Welsh Government that their recently issued guidance with regard to the use of glyphosate had regard to the requirements of the Future Generations Act.
(vi) That assurance be sought that guidance issued to Head of Departments regarding the proper use of glyphosates had been followed.