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Environmental Improvement Programme

Meeting: 21/03/2019 - Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee (Item 18)

18 Environmental Improvement Programme pdf icon PDF 249 KB

Report to follow

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Matter for Decision

The Officer’s report reviewed the Council’s Environmental Improvement Programme (EIP), including delivery performance, up to 2018/19; and recommends a way forward for the extended period, 2019-21.

 

Decision of Executive Councillor for Streets and Open Spaces

Agreed to:

  i.  Approve a new two year EIP, 2019-21 at current funding levels of £170,000 per annum, to be allocated as follows:

 

·  £70,000 per annum for strategic, city-wide programme developed by officers and approved by the Executive Councillor, informed by suggestions from residents and area committees; and

·  £100,000 per annum to be apportioned based on population, for Areas to allocate to Ward Councillor/ voluntary and community sector promoted projects in accordance with proposed eligibility criteria.

 

  ii.  Carry forward £170,000 of the current programme balance into 2019/20 and allocate £70,000 for strategic, city-wide programme and £100,000 (proportionate to population) for Areas to allocate to Ward Councillor/ voluntary and community sector promoted projects.

 

Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.

 

Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable.

 

Scrutiny Considerations

The Committee received a report from the Public Realm & Project Delivery Team Leader.

 

In response to the report Councillors commented that verge protection was an important issue. This could occur through Traffic Regulation Orders, bollards etc.

 

Opposition Councillors made the following comments in response to the report:

  i.  Requested a copy of the report on verge parking issues, which had been written but not circulated in 2018.

  ii.  The water fountain on Parker’s Piece was implemented as a trial to see if the supply of free water could be rolled out on a larger scale. It had not been working for some time which had a negative impact on the trial. Cambridge Water said they had offered to contribute funding to help this and other projects, but stated they got no response from council officers. This was an example of one of the delivery issues affecting Environmental Improvement Programme (EIP) projects.

  iii.  Took issue with transparency/scrutiny of the EIP process set out in the Officer’s report. Requested that funding be allocated through area committees.

  iv.  Requested that real time information about EIP projects be made available on the council website for greater transparency as part of its digital strategy, because it was hard to get details from officers outside of the scrutiny committee.

  v.  Took issue with speed of delivery of EIP projects. Referred to backlog of projects in Appendix B of the Officer’s report. If EIP projects could be funded by other sources, they could go ahead and be delivered faster.

  vi.  Took issue with top slicing £70,000 out of the EIP budget and allocating to a central pot (instead of area committees). The amount of money available for allocation by area committees was reduced. Suggested it was totally contrary to say funding was allocated to area committees then retaining some for central allocation. This was not new money and should have been allocated last year. If officers directly liaised with residents to seek ideas for central pot projects, this would side line ward councillors and lead to creeping centralisation.

 

The Public Realm & Project Delivery Team Leader said the following in response to Members’ questions:

  i.  Legislation was in place to protect grass verges. The Highways Authority was working with the City Council to implement Traffic Regulation Orders. Some enforcement action was contracted out.

  ii.  The City Council had not sought a blanket ban on verge parking like in London as they had specific legislation. Having a funding pot allowed officers to look at different options in future to protect verges such as bollards.

  iii.  Tree pits were being reviewed at a strategic level to seek economies of scale as they were expensive to implement. It was impossible to predict what was underground and could impact on a tree pit before digging started. It cost £2,000-3,000 to implement a tree pit, which was 10-20 times the cost of a tree. Where tree pits were implemented at less than expected cost (eg the recent Bateman Street ones) savings could also be generated.

  iv.  Some webpages were available on the city council website setting out EIP details. Officers were looking at ways to improve these in future.

  v.  Undertook to pass on comments about the water fountain to Senior Asset Development Officer.

  vi.  The speed of delivery for EIP projects could not be improved by increasing (officer) resources. Some EIP projects were dependent on factors outside of the council’s control. Projects were delivered as soon as possible. Officers were exploring if projects on the books were still deliverable or should be signposted to other schemes.

 vii.  There was an underspend in EIP funding due to delivery issues such as a lack of projects coming forward to use it in the south of the city.

viii.  EIP funding was not split equally across the city, it was awarded according to population size. Data had been updated recently but was not available at the time of writing the committee report.

  ix.  Verge parking mitigation measures were considered by County and City Officers. It was desirable to bring these forward expediently. A report would be presented to South Area Committee 8 April 2019.

  x.  The proposed centralised funding pot would be scrutinised. This would be a more strategic element separate to area committee allocations. It would be scrutinised in line with Local Highway Project criteria.

  xi.  £70,000 was proposed to be made available through EIP rather than the Central Fund as per the budget already agreed by Strategy & Resources Committee.

 xii.  Area Committee projects were community led and resource intensive to implement.

xiii.  Projects from the central pot would be led by officers based on ideas from residents, and signed off by the Committee Chair and Executive Councillor. These projects should be faster to deliver.

 

The Strategic Director said:

xiv.  Resources needed to be focussed on where they could be used most efficiently, as they declined. When several areas requested similar projects, it was better to deliver them in a joined up approach through the central pot rather than piecemeal.

xv.  Outcomes and beneficiaries would be clear. Projects would be assessed through a robust process.

xvi.  Some ideas for central pot projects would come through area committees. Queried if there was a way to involve ward councillors in the process that could be included in a proposal that could be brought back to committee for consideration in future.

 

Opposition Councillors said they would feel more reassured if it could be confirmed that central pot projects would be based on input from area committees. The central pot could then lead to spending efficiencies. On-line details would assist transparency.

 

xvii.  The report presented to committee aimed to establish principles of how to spend EIP funding. Further details could be worked up in future

 

The Executive Councillor said:

xviii.  She was made aware there had been set aside/carry over of underspent funding for some years. The amount of Environmental Improvement Project funding could have been cut back, but instead it had been decided to keep funding as it was and move the underspend into a central pot.

xix.  Wards would be kept up to date and involved on strategic projects eg verge parking, to avoid duplication of local project appraisals.

 

The Strategic Director said the following in response to Members’ questions:

  i.  Information about EIP was in the public domain. This occurred through a soft launch on the digital platform. Officers were checking links worked so customers had access to the information they wanted.

  ii.  The results from various surveys was that interest focussed on shared services at present (not EIP).

  iii.  EIP staff resources were currently prioritised towards project delivery, not getting details on-line.

 

Councillors requested a change to recommendation 2a. Councillor McGerty formally proposed to amend the recommendation in the Officer’s report as follows (amendment shown as bold text):

·  £70,000 per annum for strategic, city-wide programme developed by officers and approved by the Executive Councillor, informed by suggestions from residents and area committees; and

 

The Committee unanimously approved this amended recommendation.

 

The Committee resolved unanimously to endorse the recommendations as amended.

 

The Executive Councillor approved the recommendations.

 

Conflicts of Interest Declared by the Executive Councillor (and any Dispensations Granted)

No conflicts of interest were declared by the Executive Councillor.