Report No: OAS/WS/19/013
[Councillor Richard Route declared a non-pecuniary interest as the Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Environment and Public Protection at Suffolk County Council].
The Committee received Report No: OAS/WS/19/013, presented by the Chair of the Committee, which asked members to consider whether they wished to be involved in a Cross Authority Task and Finish Group on Citizens Advice, led by Mid-Suffolk and Babergh District Councils. If so, it was asked to nominate the Chair and a member of the majority group from this Committee to represent West Suffolk.
In August 2019, Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee received a presentation from the Sudbury and Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice (CA) services. The Councils currently revenue fund both organisations (with some funding also going to the CA services in Ipswich and Diss). Councillors wished to have a greater understanding of the work undertaken by CA and the current funding position. Councillors were concerned about the uncertainty faced by Citizens Advice following last year’s budget processes. This attracted a lot of public and press comment. Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committees decided to examine CAB’s from the point of view of their Funding, Value and Impacts (both on the public and on council services).
Attached at Appendix 2 was their report which summarised the presentation and subsequent debate and resolutions, provides additional contextual information and invites Suffolk local authorities to join with Babergh and Mid Suffolk in a joint scrutiny exercise. Attached at Appendix 1 for the Committee’s consideration was the Cross Authority Task and Finish Group Terms of Reference, produced by Mid-Suffolk and Babergh District Councils Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The position regarding West Suffolk however was different from Mid-Suffolk and Babergh. In our area, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) had come together as West Suffolk, aligned to our Council area. Each year, they applied to the council for Community Chest funding and their application was considered alongside other funding bids. Any funding was provided subject to the CAB providing satisfactory monitoring reports to Council staff. As such, officers had no present concerns regarding the operation of the CAB in West Suffolk, and were satisfied that the CAB was delivering support to residents in line with our strategic priorities. The operation of the Council’s grant funding scheme had recently been reviewed by the Grant Review Group.
Whilst officers had no concerns regarding the operation of the CAB locally, there was the opportunity through the review to share learning amongst participating Councils, and understand how the sector could work together with the CAB’s to support each other effectively.
The Committee considered the request in detail and asked questions, to which the Chair duly responded. In particular discussions were held on the merits of sitting on the Task Group.
In response to a question raised, the Chair stated the next meeting of the Task Group would be held on Wednesday, 18 December 2019 at 1pm - 3pm at Ipswich Borough Council.
Councillor Joe Mason said he attended his first meeting of the Suffolk West Citizens Advice (SWCA), as one of the councils outside bodies representatives (Councillor Patrick Chung was also a representative). At that meeting he noted the SWCS was facing issues with recruiting volunteers. He was also concerned to hear that 67% of calls were not being answered. He felt the proposed Task Group should also look into these issues.
The Committee felt there was some merit in being on the proposed Task Group, in particular around sharing the work which had gone into the reorganisation of the Citizens Advice in West Suffolk.
At the conclusion of the discussions, it was proposed by Councillor Simon Cole, seconded by Councillor Joe Mason, and with the vote being unanimous, it was
That Councillor David Nettleton, being the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be nominated to represent West Suffolk on the Cross Authority Task and Finish Group – Citizens Advice.
It was then proposed by Councillor Terry Clements, seconded by Councillor Diane Hind, and with the vote being unanimous, it was
That Councillor Patrick Chung be nominated to represent West Suffolk on the Cross Authority Task and Finish Group – Citizens Advice.
It was then proposed by Councillor Richard Rout, seconded by Councillor Diane Hind, and with the vote being unanimous, it was
That Councillor Mike Chester be nominated as a substitute member to represent West Suffolk on the Cross Authority Task and Finish Group – Citizens Advice.