Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Wednesday 29 August 2012
1:30 p.m.
Oberhausen Room,Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor Kerr (Chair), Councillor Clark (Vice-Chair);
Councillors Brady and Davison.
B Carr, A Crawford, G Field and M Shepherd.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor C Hobson, Councillor M Saunders, Councillor P Sharrocks
Declarations of interest:

No declarations of interest were made at this point of the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The minutes of the meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel held on 30 July 2012 were taken as read and approved as a correct record.


The Chair referred to the request at the previous meeting of the Panel for comparative information from authorities of a similar size to Middlesbrough in relation to tonnages of green waste and other recyclable materials collected per month and whether targets were being met.

The Environment Services Manager advised that the information had been requested and would be submitted to a future Panel meeting.


Reference was also made to the figures provided at the previous meeting in respect of the amount of cubic metres of grass cuttings following scheduled grass cutting and the Environment Services Manager advised that he would clarify the figures provided for inclusion in the Scrutiny Panel’s Final Report on Environment Service Standards..



The Chair reminded Members that as part of the Panel’s Scrutiny Work Programme Members had indicated that they would like to look at energy reduction within the Council and to consult with other public bodies to see what steps had been taken by the different organisations in relation to energy reduction.


The Scrutiny Support Officer had contacted a number of different organisations including the Police, Teesside University, the NHS, Fabrick and the Magistrates Court, in relation to energy reduction. In accordance with the above, the Chair advised that Darren Vipond - Assistant Director of Estates and Richard Cuthbert - Environmental Co-ordinator from Teesside University were in attendance at the meeting to provide the Panel with an overview of the work undertaken by the University in relation to energy reduction.


Members were advised that the University was committed to reducing its carbon footprint and in 2005/2006 it had signed up to the Government’s Carbon Trust Higher Education Carbon Reduction Programme. Initially progress in reducing energy consumption had been slow however through education, changes in working practices and implementation of a range of initiatives in relation to the reduction of energy the University was moving in the right direction and energy consumption had been reduced.


Members were advised that the University was awarded the Carbon Trust Standard in 2010. The Standard required organisations to measure; manage and reduce carbon emissions within the workplace. The University had introduced a number of different measures to reduce carbon emissions by:-


  • replacing inefficient boilers;
  • installing automatic lighting;
  • replacing single glazed windows;
  • installing cavity wall insulation and recladding older buildings;
  • installing harmonic filters and voltage regulation to main electricity supplies;
  • installing temperature control and cooling equipment;
  • introduction of Energy Policy;
  • introduction of Carbon Management Plan;
  • undertaking staff and student energy briefings;
  • educating staff to turn off computers and implementing automatic shutdown/hibernation of computers;
  • installation of water efficient toilets and taps;
  • reducing the number of IT servers.


Reference was made to the People and Planet Green League, a student network campaigning to end poverty, defend human rights and protect the environment. The People and Planet League ranked organisations in terms of academic degree classification according to 13 different criteria designed to assess the organisations commitment to environmental management. The criteria scored were as follows;-


  • environmental policy;
  • management staff;
  • environmental auditing and management systems;
  • ethical investment;
  • carbon management;
  • ethical procurement;
  • sustainable food;
  • staff and student engagement;
  • curriculum;
  • energy sources;
  • waste and recycling;
  • carbon reduction;
  • water reduction


The University had been awarded a 2:1 classification in 2012 although it had increased its overall score from the previous year. In accordance with the above the University had introduced a number of different policies including an Environmental Sustainable Policy; a Fair Trade Policy; a General Policy; a Waste Management Policy, a Transport and Travel Policy, an Ethical Investment Policy; an Emissions and Discharge Policy and a Sustainable Procurement Policy in terms of the University’s procurement systems. Members were advised that the University always tried to use local sources for any goods or services in the first instance.


The Panel was advised that the University’s biggest advantage in reducing energy consumption was the introduction of a Monitoring and Targeting software package at a cost of £27,000 which recorded energy and water consumption throughout the University. An Officer had been appointed by the University to monitor the meters on a daily basis to look at overall usage and identify any surges in consumption to see if any equipment was being used unnecessarily. The use of the Monitoring and Targeting system also allowed the University to look at the academic timetable to integrate it with the system so that the heating for example was only turned on when rooms were in use.


Members were advised that the Government had introduced a Carbon Reduction Commitment for large energy consumers which required organisations to pay a levy per kilo of carbon emissions and the University had paid a fee of £115k for the current year. However, it was highlighted that if the University could demonstrate and prove that they had reduced carbon emissions by the end of the year they would receive the £115k back with a bonus.


Reference was made to a Government paper which required organisations to reduce their carbon footprint by 2020. It was highlighted that many of the transformers were of an age where they would soon need to be replaced and the Government had requested organisations to address this issue to avoid the potential for power cuts. The University intended to seek advice to future proof their essential equipment and buildings.

In terms of the reduction of carbon emissions up to 31 July 2012 the University had achieved a reduction of 4.9% and in terms of financial savings they had achieved a £100k saving on the University’s energy bill.


Members were advised that the University had appointed Environment Representatives from each of its 6 schools and 13 departments to act as liaison between the departments and staff in all environment related matters. It was highlighted that the main topics of discussion had been energy reduction and recycling although all environmental matters were raised. The group also had liaison with the Environment City organisation.


The Panel was advised that, in terms of the University’s Transport and Travel Policy the University had worked in partnership with the Council to improve facilities for cyclists. It was highlighted that there was a tax relief scheme in place for cyclists. In terms of trying to encourage greener travel, the University had increased car parking charges to discourage staff and students from travelling by car. The University also offered a discount on car parking charges for those who participated in car sharing arrangements or those who travelled by car a few times a week. The University had also installed 6 electric car charging ports for general use.


A Member commented on the amount of money that could be saved by organisations by employing a full time energy conservation officer and the advantages that could be gained by introducing incentives to reduce carbon emissions. The University highlighted that the organisation had received a refund of £28k from one of the water companies as a result of the use of the Monitoring and Targeting system at the University. The University had also discovered a tap which had been leaking for a considerable time through the use of the system and had saved money on water consumption. The University had also asked staff to turn computers off at the mains when the building was closed for 12 days and it had achieved energy savings of approximately £22k for that period.


The Corporate Property Officer advised Members that the Council was already carrying out many of the initiatives introduced by the University however the Council’s property portfolio was more wide spread than that of the University which made it more difficult to monitor energy consumption in real time. However Officers were able to monitor surges in the use of energy and react to them by the use of exception reports.


AGREED that the Officers from the University be thanked for the comprehensive information provided in respect of the work carried out by the University in relation to energy reduction.



The Scrutiny Support Officer presented the Panel’s Draft Final Report on the topic of the Review of Environment Service Standards.

The Panel considered the emerging themes for conclusions and recommendations to be incorporated into the Final Report, based on the suggestions circulated at the meeting. The Environment Services Manager suggested that Paragraph 19(c) of the report should make reference to the fact that a number of the missed collections were due to the severe weather conditions. The Panel also suggested minor amendments to the Conclusion detailed at (3) and suggested that a further Conclusion be included at (4).




1. Agreed service standards contribute to a customer-focussed approach, where the public and service users know what services to expect and how they will be delivered. This is especially true of environmental services, which contribute significantly to the condition of the local area. Agreed standards also enable services to be monitored, evaluated and improved.


2. Environment Service Standards need to be realistic and achievable in the context of the authority’s current difficult financial situation. The scrutiny panel recognises that there is a need to balance published service standards against the Council’s budget position and that the authority must be realistic about what can be achieved with significantly reduced resources in future. While there is a desire to maintain service standards as much as possible, continued budget reductions will inevitably impact on service provision, with difficult political decisions being needed in terms of future priorities and where service reductions can be made. Given the anticipated scale of budget reductions, it may be unrealistic to expect that services can continue to be provided at the existing level. In order to make the best use of available resources, services must continue to be delivered as cost effectively and efficiently as possible. There will be a need to engage with the public and inform them as to why particular decisions are made as, otherwise, they are likely to demand the same level of service that has always been provided.


3. The scrutiny panel considers that it is possible that some service standards will need to be reduced - such as by providing less frequent services or taking longer to provide services in response to service requests. It is acknowledged, however, that while some savings would result from service reductions, given that the major cost of providing environmental services relates to labour and vehicles, large scale savings could only result from the Council deciding to stop providing particular services, such as by not cleaning streets to the current standard. This illustrates the scale of the problem that the authority faces, especially in the light of a significant reduction in Area Care staff over the past 12 months and savings of over £1m to date. It is imperative that every step is taken to minimise reductions in service standards.


4. The panel notes that mitigating factors, such as grounds maintenance staff being used for street cleaning due to adverse weather, have meant that budget and staffing reductions are yet to fully impact on service delivery. However, Streetscene Services, especially frontline staff, are also to be congratulated for the way that service levels have generally been maintained.




1.  That Officers continue to monitor the position in respect of compliance with the published Environment Service Standards - in particular to determine the impact of the Council’s budget reductions.


2.  That the Environment Scrutiny Panel is consulted ahead of any Executive decision to reduce frontline environmental services as a result of further budget reductions and that the Executive Member for Streetscene Services and Transport is invited to attend relevant panel meetings.


3.  That, in the event of future service reductions, every effort is made to engage with the public/service users to publicise revised service arrangements and the reasons for such reductions.


AGREED as follows:-


That the suggested amendments be included in the Draft Final report and the issues outlined above form the basis of the conclusions and recommendations to be incorporated into the Panel’s Final Report on Review of Environment Service Standards prior to submission to the Overview and Scrutiny Board.


In a report of the Chair of the Environment Scrutiny Panel, Members were advised of the key matters considered and action taken arising from the meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on 21 July 2012.




The next meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Monday, 10 September 2012 at 1.30pm.

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