Agenda and minutes

Policy Development Committee - Thursday, 14th September, 2023 6.30 pm

Venue: Barum Room - Brynsworthy. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Community Services  01271 388253


No. Item




Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Bishop, Bushell, Hunt, D. Knight, Turton and Worden.


To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 6th July 2023 (attached). pdf icon PDF 263 KB


RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting held on 6th July 2023 (circulated previously) be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.


Declarations of Interest.

(Please telephone the Corporate and Community Services team to prepare a form for your signature before the meeting. Interests must be re-declared when the item is called, and Councillors must leave the room if necessary).


There were no declarations of interest announced.


Councillor Bulled arrived at the meeting.



Work programme 2023/24. pdf icon PDF 114 KB

To consider the work programme and the following scoping papers (attached).


The Committee considered the work programme together with three scoping papers (circulated previously).


The Vice Chair addressed the Committee regarding the approach for consideration of the three areas of interest identified and developed as part of the scoping papers.


The Committee discussed the dates of the forthcoming meetings and the workload that was already identified and detailed within the work programme.








Agriculture (attached). pdf icon PDF 171 KB



(a)  Agriculture


Councillor Bulled addressed the Committee as the appointed lead Member of the working group for agriculture.


She highlighted the following points to the Committee:


·       The members of the working group had agreed to focus on the uncertain state of agriculture support and its impact upon farming income.

·       To broaden the knowledge of the non-farming community and to highlight the difficult situation that farmers were currently experiencing together with the impact upon the wider community.

·       To seek greater recognition and support for the policy implications in terms of the financial and cultural health of the rural farming economy.

·       The importance of acknowledging the benefits to the wider community in food production together with environmental enhancement to support tourism and investment from other businesses in the future of North Devon.



She added that as the current proposals regarding agricultural payments to farmers were unknown; any way forward in terms of support to farmers might take some time despite the imminent future loss of income. 


She proposed that the item be considered later in the Committee’s work programme to allow Members to be fully informed of the potential situation at the point of discussion.


In response to questions, the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive advised the following:


·       North Devon Council did not have a specific policy in relation to agriculture, they did however work closely with North Devon +.

·       A large amount of the North Devon + programmes and advertising was shared via the Council’s media channels and the Communications team always ensured that all wider public information was shared.

·       Establishment of a Rural Working Group to include a wider group of Members outside of the Committee with a view to developing a rural policy for North Devon Council would require approval from both the Strategy and Resources Committee and Full Council and consideration would need to be given regarding the aspirations of such a group and where its role would sit within the wider Council priorities.

·       A corporate priority workshop was scheduled to be held in October 2023 and the potential establishment of such a rural working group would ideally need to be determined prior to that workshop.

The Head of Programme Management and Performance added that Members could look at the Terms of Reference for the Climate Action team, which had already been established to assist with the development of the Carbon Reduction Plan. This would then inform all members to determine the remit of a potential working group together with the strength of the proposal.


The Committee discussed the following:


·       That the sharing of information was key to ensure that the public were fully informed about the financial impact on the farmers with the loss of subsidies.

·       That the landscape would be impacted upon significantly and the communications had to be right.

·       That there appeared to be more emphasis on the environment as opposed to food produce.

·       That farmers could potentially lose up to 80% profit with the average farming family earning £18K a year, the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12a


Dentistry (attached). pdf icon PDF 181 KB


Councillor Patrinos, Vice Chair addressed the Committee as the appointed lead Member of the working group for dentistry.


He highlighted the following points to the Committee:


·       NHS dentists were in crisis nationally.

·       The groups focus was to look at the demand for NHS dentistry.

·       There was a webinar scheduled to be held on 18th September 2023, which a link to join had been circulated to the Committee and he had submitted 10 questions and was currently awaiting a response:


1.    How many dentists were currently working at practices in Devon?

2.    How many patients were registered with those practices?

3.    How many patients had been accepted onto waiting lists for those practices?

4.    How many dental practices were there in Devon?

5.    How many practices were not accepting new patients?

6.    How many practices were not accepting people onto their waiting lists?

7.    How many practices were accepting people onto their waiting lists?

8.    Were there any areas of Devon that were especially short of dentists?

9.    How many Accident and Emergency (A&E) patients present with health problems stemming from lack of professional dental care?

10. What should a parent whose child was in need of dental treatment but not registered with a practice do to receive dental treatment?


The Committee discussed the following:


·       That the meeting involving various stakeholders should be held within the next few months.

·       That in light of there being no orthodontist services available in the North Devon area, which had meant that some children had been unable to have their braces removed or adjusted, the Committee agreed to add orthodontistry to the review.

·       Acknowledged that private dental practices also had long waiting lists.

·       Noted that the emergency number for dental care did not work properly.

·       Questioned how many dentists had left employment in the UK and returned to Europe following BREXIT and the impact that this might have had on NHS dentistry.


In response, the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive advised that the Local Member of Parliament (MP) was currently running a petition to be presented to parliament regarding the lack of available NHS dentists in the North Devon area.



(a)  that the dentistry item be considered at the November 2023 meeting of the Committee;


(b)  that the MP be invited to attend the meeting to discuss the issues; and


(c)  that orthodontists and private dental practices also be included within the remit for the working group.



Water Quality (attached). pdf icon PDF 171 KB


Councillor Jones addressed the Committee as the appointed lead Member of the working group for water quality.


He highlighted the following points to the Committee:


·       The scope of the work was to speak to experts to support and instigate an effective centralised river water monitoring network across North Devon.

·       To establish what was already in place together with its effectiveness and the support required to deliver.

·       Looking to hold two meetings, the first meeting to be held in an informal setting to meet with stakeholders involved to establish what was currently in place together with the support that was required. The second meeting would form part of a scheduled Policy Development Committee and would call further experts with discussions around facilitation of ongoing projects.

·       Had spoken with the North Devon Biosphere who were responsible for flood monitoring and had organised a separate meeting with West Country Rivers Trust.

·       Aspirations to discuss with experts a single localised catchment to monitor testing to gain a broader understanding of the findings.


The Committee discussed the following:


·       Questioned whether the Environment Agency undertook regular testing of water quality.

·       An incident earlier in the day at Barricane Beach in Woolacombe where a storm had caused an overflow of sewage onto the beach and as a result the Council had been asked to assess the health impact.

·       Questioned the capacity of existing sewage treatment works with in parishes and their ability to cope with the impact of new builds.


In response to a question regarding holding joint meetings with Torridge District Council regarding the three scoping papers, the Clerk advised that she had been in contact with an officer at Torridge District Council and advised that they already had an established working group for water quality but they were keen to work jointly in regards to dentistry and agriculture.


The Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive advised the Committee of a couple of typographical errors within the work programme for the dates of the items due for consideration in February 2024, the correct dates were as follows:


·       Review of Fees and Charges for services 2024/25.

·       Revenue Budget 2024/25, Capital Programme & Medium Term Financial Strategy 2024-2030.

·       Treasury Management Strategy Statement 2024/25.

·       10-Year Capital Strategy 2024-2034.





a)    That the work programme together with the amendments above for 2023/24 be noted, subject to the inclusion of the following items:


                        i.         November 2023 – Dentistry.

                       ii.         December 2023 – Water quality.

                      iii.         March 2024 – Agriculture.


b)    That key stakeholders be invited to attend an informal meeting to discuss issues prior to discussions in a formal Committee setting;


c)    That the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny (External) Committee at Torridge District Council be contacted with a view to accepting their offer to hold joint meetings to consider the items in relation to dentistry and agriculture;


d)    That stakeholders be invited to attend the Committee on 14th  December 2023;


e)    That the title of the group be changed to “Monitoring water quality in North Devon”; and


f)  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12c


Performance and Financial Management Quarter 1 2023/24. pdf icon PDF 346 KB

Report by the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive to the Strategy and Resources Committee on 4th September 2023 (attached), and


(a) Minute Extract of Strategy and Resources on 4th September 2023 (to follow).


Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report by the Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive (circulated previously) regarding the Performance and Financial Management for Quarter 1 of 2023/24 together with Minute Extract of Strategy and Resources on 4th September 2023 (circulated previously).


The Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive highlighted the following:


  • The revenue budget for 2023/24 was approved at Council on 22 February 2023 at £14,766,450.
  • As at 30 June 2023, the latest forecast net budget was £14,749,450, which produced a budget surplus of £17,000. Details were shown in “Appendix A – Variations in the Revenue Budget”.
  • The original budget for 2023/24 included a forecast to achieve £250,000 worth of salary vacancy savings. The current position forecasts we will achieve £93,000 based on known vacancies to date, but it was anticipated that the budget of £250,000 will be achieved by the end of the financial year.
  • The National pay award was currently being considered by the Unions; however if the 2023-24 pay award exceeded the budgeted 4% included in the original budget then we would look to fund any shortfall from the Budget Management reserve, which currently had a balance of £814,000.
  • As at 1 April 2023 the Collection Fund reserve balance held is £1,340,177. This earmarked reserve was created to deal with the timing impacts of the Collection Fund (Business Rates), which ensured the revenue budget was not unduly affected in the year the taxes were collected. Collection Fund deficits/surpluses were reversed out to bring the revenue account back to the budgeted figure for the year; the deficits/surpluses were recovered/distributed in the following financial years. This reserve included a £912,563 balance that will be utilised in 2023/24 and 2024/25 to mitigate timing differences of business rate reliefs awarded in 2022/23 that from an accounting perspective impact over the next two financial years; thus leaving the fund reserve with a residue balance of £427,614 protection against future volatility.
  • The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) have notified the Council that they were to reduce the Rateable Value of the Museum from £146,000 to £1, this change had been back dated to 2019 and a refund in rates payable had resulted in a net positive impact to the council of £184,000. It was recommended this refund amount be contributed to the Regeneration Reserve for future projects.
  • At the 30 June 2023 total external borrowing was £3,000,000. The timing of any future borrowing was dependent on how the authority managed its treasury activity. Due to on-going higher interest rates the Council was reporting a £90,000 net increase in Interest receivable.
  • “Appendix B – Movement in reserves and Balances” detailed the movements to and from earmarked reserves in 2023/24.
  • The 2023/24 Capital Programme was detailed in “Appendix D – Capital Programme 2023/24”.
  • The Budget and Financial Framework report to Full Council on 22 February 2023 outlined the Capital Programme for the 2023/24 financial year of £21,247,098. Project underspend and further variations of £6,921,154 were approved as part of the performance and financial management  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.