Agenda and minutes

Environment & Economy Select Committee - Wednesday, 14 June 2023 6.00pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Daneshill House, Danestrete

Contact: Abbie Hamilton Email: 

No. Item




There were no apologies for absence.


Baroness Taylor of Stevenage declared an interest in Item 6 – Bus Service Scrutiny Review due to her being the Shadow Spokesperson for Transport in the House of Lords.



To note the Terms of Reference as agreed at Annual Council on 24 May 2023.


It was RESOLVED: That the Terms of References be noted.


MINUTES - 23 MARCH 2023 pdf icon PDF 268 KB

To agree as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of the Environment & Economy Select Committee on Thursday 23 March 2023.


It was RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 23 March 2023 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chair.



To receive an update from the Chair of Environment & Economy Select Committee and the Scrutiny Officer on the Cost of Living Scrutiny Review.


The Committee are invited to interview Sharon Bell MBE, Children's Service Manager – Stevenage - North Herts Quadrant Family Support Service - Hertfordshire Family Centre Service. The Chair has also invited Home-Start to attend this meeting.


The Chair updated Members on the Cost-of-Living scrutiny review where the Committee focused on three distinct areas of focus which were the impact on residents, the impact on businesses, and the impact on Stevenage Borough Council and its employees. The aim was to further inform Members around the agencies that were engaged in giving support to individuals and families, the challenges faced, and where those seeking support can find it.


The Committee had touched on general economic outlook, rising inflation, housing costs, food price inflation, and energy bills. There had been a desire to review the work done in the previous year to review what was needed for Winter 2023/24. The review had highlighted the positive work that SBC service teams, charities, and business support organisations carried out in the community.


The Chair introduced Sharon Bell MBE, Children Service Manager from Hertfordshire Family Services, to give a presentation on the work being carried out.


Sharon Bell informed Members the North Herts Family Centre worked with children from 0-5 but came across children of all ages through links with other services such as Family First who look at children 0-17. North Herts Family Centre offered different types of services including universal services, emerging needs which most of the services were being devoted to recently, parenting groups, and 1-1 support which offered more intensive direct support. The uptake of the 2-year funding available to parents was the highest in the Stevenage/North Hertfordshire area than anywhere else in the Countywhich was seen as positive that parents were accessing this.


There had been 320 referrals in the last year where the main area of focus was Routine, Guidance and Boundaries. The family support service came in equally across the town, but Family First identified the most referrals came from Bedwell. This could link to where the most proactive services were to refer children. Ms Bell informed Members there had been over £4,000 in Stevenage that had gone into supporting 274 families and 487 children. This fund was linked with Bernardo’s and was in addition to grants from other areas. North Herts Family Centre closely monitor who got the money and what it was put towards. They had identified money had mainly gone into heating, food vouchers and parcels, and cooking equipment. Some money also went into some furniture, as well as boxes to put clothes in as there was mould in wardrobes. This links to the issues in housing. Ms Bell identified the main issues that they were facing which included:


·       Housing – this was a big issue as families had issues with damp, upsizing or downsizing, as well as landlords

·       Form filling – many families struggled to access forms online and there had been a buddy system implemented to help them access this

·       Cooking – a cooking with parents’ course that had been running for many years wasn’t working. Ms Bell suggested a cooking with kids as there was not being enough done in schools.

·       Maintenance – this links back to housing,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.



To note the Environment & Economy Select Committee’s Work Programme and schedule of meetings for 2023-24.


The Chair presented the Work Programme for 2023-24. He informed Members the Committee had finished the work on the cost of living, but the findings of the review will be brought back to the Committee with a report and recommendations. This year’s main focus was the bus service as it was a pressing public issue and links to climate change. The Committee would also revisit climate change and the Chair would invite Councillor Simon Speller and CE Matt Partridge to update the Committee on what work was being done.


A few Members stated it was important the Committee had the data on climate change to track the progress being made and that this issue needed to come to the Committee frequently, as well as before the pre-election period in March. The Scrutiny Officer advised that the Lead Climate Change Officer had been developing a portal containing live data designed to track the Council’s progress and this can be introduced to the Committee. There had been a suggestion climate change came back to the Committee twice a year, which is what had been scheduled in the work programme for ongoing monitoring.


The Chair highlighted a suggestion from Councillor Loraine Rossati to look at STEM opportunities in Stevenage. A Member agreed that Stevenage had world leading organisation but didn’t have enough local residents working in them and the Council needed to look at ways to improve this.


A few Members commented on the Stevenage Climate Strategy and what the deadlines were to establish medium- and long-term goals. They asked that this should report regularly into the Executive and Environment & Economy Committee for scrutiny.


The Chair advised they would keep pushing to invite speakers to attend the Committee to take accountability. 2030 remained the goal of reaching net zero, which was recognised as challenging, and the Council would need to look at what could be achieved in the next 7 years. The actions and targets can be reviewed, and this could come back to the Committee.


It was RESOLVED: That Environment & Economy Select Committee Work Programme and schedule of meetings or 2023-24 be noted, and that the following items be included in the work programme:


·       Completion of the Cost of Living Review report and recommendations

·       Conduct a review into local Bus services as the Committee’s main review

·       Monitoring of the Climate Change

·       STEM opportunities for Young People



To receive a draft scoping document for a scrutiny review on the local bus service. As this is the first time Members have seen the scoping document they are invited to comment on it and make any amendments that are considered necessary.


The Chair introduced the draft scoping document for the bus service scrutiny review. He stated that more work needed to be done in terms of the bus service. He had been in contact with Hertfordshire County Council and Officers, as well as County Councillor Phil Bibby, who would be coming in to talk to the Committee. He also invited Arriva and the bus users’ group to attend a meeting.


A few Members suggested looking at EV buses after the zero bus project didn’t go ahead, which the Chair agreed could be built into the work stream. Another Member added that Arriva, who were operating the zero bus project, suggested that the drop in passenger journeys were the reason given as to why the scheme was dropped in Stevenage.


A Member highlighted that the UNO bus wasn’t included in the providers but was a useful link for university students in Hatfield. He suggested that comparative data should be looked at on all areas of the bus service, including running times as well as the new bus station. He also suggested the Committee could look at who should run the bus service.


The Chair suggested looking into equalities and accessibility within the bus service but was cautious of the amount of time available. A subgroup could be set up around travel and concessions, and disability access of the buses as well as the town centre from the bus station. Another Member agreed this would be good to look at as it was a big issue for bus users in terms of routes and accessibility. She also raised concerns regarding the bus ticket price caps ending.


A Member highlighted the issues with the current bus services and proposed that the review should start at looking at why the bus service was so poor and how to improve it, as this was important to many residents. Once this is established a review could then be expanded to look at the other issues, such as the expansions around Stevenage and the impact this would have on the bus service.


Another Member queried whether the bus services were similar in other towns like Stevenage. The Chair suggested bus services were equally challenging in other towns, but this review was intended to focus solely on Stevenage. Hertfordshire County Council were doing work on bus services in all areas in Hertfordshire, such as women’s safety.



To consider any Part 1 business accepted by the Chair as urgent.


There was none.



To consider the following motions –


1.  That under Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in paragraphs1 – 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.


2.  That Members consider the reasons for the following reports being in Part II and determine whether or not maintaining the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.



Not required.



To consider any Part II business accepted by the Chair as urgent.


There was none.