Agenda item

South Thames Gateway Building Control Business Plan & Delivery Plan 2020-2023

Minutes:

The Director of the STGBCP sought the Committee’s agreement to the South Thames Gateway Building Control Partnership’s Business Plan and Delivery Plan for 2020-2023 (dated 01 October 2019, Version 2).

 

Following presentation of the draft Business Plan at Joint Committee on 19 September 2019 the Plan has now been circulated for comments and Members were asked to agree any revisions.

 

The Director of the STGBCP outlined key points from the report and directed Members’ attention to the Business Plan and Delivery Plan attached at appendices 1 and 2 respectively.

 

The Chair questioned if it was still the intention of the Director of the STGBCP to attend Overview Scrutiny Committee’s at the four local authorities to further explain her report to Members. 

 

The following points were made in relation to scrutiny:

 

  • The Director of the STG Building Control Partnership advised that she had only attended the Overview Scrutiny Committee at Gravesham
  • The Director (Planning & Development) added that the report was going to Chief Executive’s Briefing on 16 December 2019 and then would be submitted to the Cabinet meeting in January 2020.  It is currently planned that it would then go to Overview Scrutiny.  The Chair, in his Role as Gravesham Leader, advised it should not automatically go toe Overview Scrutiny but it should remain subject to call in. Cllr Chitty explained that she would also take the report to her Cabinet after which it could be subject to call in by the Overview Scrutiny Committee
  • The Director of Finance and Procurement, Canterbury City Council stated that the report had been approved by her internal management team; CCC had transitioned back to the Committee System governance arrangement which meant there was no scrutiny structure available

 

The Chair queried how much the STGBCP charged for their pre-application information and how STG could be promoted more, especially with all of the changes that were going to be made with building and fire regulations

 

The Director of the STGBCP explained that:

 

  • Customers could not be charged for the first hour, any time spent after the first hour was charged a set hourly rate. The usual practice was to inform the customer that they will be charged a certain amount and the amount they paid upfront  will be reflected in their submitted application cost
  • The fire regulations were very important and the intention was to encourage more of the partnerships’ senior building control surveyors to become qualified as LABC level 6 building control surveyors. Currently the partnership and one other authority in Kent has a surveyor trained at this level for fire
  • Staff at the STGBCP would need to be incentivised to go for their higher level qualification at level 6 in the future as there is a lower pass rate at this level (70%) and it requires significant work
  • The new Customer Facing Strategy looked at making it more efficient for customers to contact the STGBCP; an online chat facility was being investigated for customers to be able to contact officers more easily but funds needed to be identified for the Strategy first

 

Following some concern from the Head of Planning Services, Swale Borough Council regarding budgetary increases for the STGBCP over the forecast three year period when Council’s may be looking for overall savings during the same period.  A robust discussion was held on the benefits the Partnership brought to each authority, how much money they saved, the need to remind each authorities Members of the total money saved when compared to hiring their own building surveyors and all the associated costs.

 

The Director of the STGBCP advised that she had spoken with other local authorities that had expressed an interest in joining the Partnership however their cases would be reviewed individually and any further partners would be considered on a different basis than previously. The Assistant Director Physical and Cultural Regeneration, Medway Council suggested the idea of asking any new partners to contribute something extra to the total overhead of the Partners which would help meet costs and still be a cheaper option for future partners.

 

The Director (Planning & Development), Gravesham Borough Council assured the Chair that his Management Team was happy with the report and, subject to Cabinet approval; it could be incorporated into the Medium Term Financial Plan without a problem.

 

Following a further discussion on the need to re-educate Councillors across the four local authorities of the importance of the Partnership, it was agreed that officers would create a simple report with statistics showing how much money the Partnership had saved each of their respective Councils. The reports could then be utilised by officers in whatever way they chose to properly inform their Members of the Partnerships money saving capability.

 

Resolved that Members agreed to approve the updated version of the Business Plan, now incorporating any comments received, and refer it to the Cabinet or relevant Committee of each partner authority to approve the Final Draft Business Plan.