Agenda and minutes

Stronger Communities and Neighbourhood Services Scrutiny Board
Tuesday 16th March 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: Online via YouTube - any member of the press and public may view the proceedings at this virtual meeting via this weblink

Contact: Democratic Services 

No. Item


Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations on interest.



Questions and Deputations


There were no questions or deputations.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 274 KB

To receive, for approval, the Minutes of the last meeting held on 20 January 2021.


The Minutes of the last (virtual) meeting held on 20 January 2021, was submitted for review and approval.


That the Minutes from the meeting held on 20 January 2021, be agreed as a correct record.



Bereavement Services Strategy Update pdf icon PDF 192 KB

The Council’s Bereavement Services Strategy covers the period from 2019 to 2029 and was the subject of previous scrutiny in 2018/19.


This report provides an update on a number of key areas of work in relation to the Strategy and the provision of services in Solihull.


In attendance: Mrs Alison McGrory (Assistant Director – Communities & Partnerships);Martyn Sargeant – (Head of Customer & Library Services); and Councillor Mrs A Rolf – Cabinet Member (Stronger & Safer Communities).

To Board received a detailed update from the Councils Head of Customer & Library Services on a number of key areas of work in relation to the Council’s current Bereavement Services Strategy (2019-29) together with the provision of (and demand for) services within Solihull.

As a result of the report, the following questions and observations were noted:

·  Eco-friendly funerals – were there any specific plans for Solihull? Officers highlighted the emerging technologies to support this aspect of the Service. These would be included within the continual development of the Service’s business plan as possibilities for the future and in longer-term strategies to ensure funeral preference trends could be met.

·  Woodland burials – what was our approach to this type of funeral and how might it contribute to new tree planting? Officers reported that Solihull had a woodland burial site (within private ownership) located near to the Borough boundary with Coventry and this was a popular funeral choice. Officers envisaged this funeral type to remain popular and future land availability was an important consideration in strategic planning over the longer-term. Members highlighted the importance of planning for alternative funeral provision, especially woodland burials, whereby new tree or shrub planting could be associated with a lasting memorial.

·  Robin Hood Crematorium – would recent upgrades be used as a benchmark for future upgrades to Woodlands Crematorium? Officers advised that the buildings and facilities at each location had variations which meant that each site would be considered on its own merits. New technologies for funerals was continual, therefore, future upgrades and layout revisions to Woodlands Crematorium would be planned around the best use of new technology and the individual constraints and considerations of that particular site at the time of upgrade.

·  Communication and information – Members acknowledged that funeral planning was a sensitive topic and welcomed initiatives that increased funeral choice and publicised the availability of those services. It was suggested that such initiatives should aim to encourage families to talk about funeral provision at an early stage and consider the environmental funeral choices available to them. Officers advised of recent work undertaken by the Competitions Market Authority (CMA), their recent report on the openness of the funeral market and some new requirements that would be taking effect over the next 12 months, or so, regarding the availability of funeral information together with the introduction of a low-cost funeral choice.

·  Competitions Market Authority (CMA) - Members asked what progress had been made towards the implementation of the CMA recommendations? Officers advised that the recommendations made towards the provision of information and pricing was more of an issue for the funeral directors themselves and less of an issue for the local authority. Options for low-cost funerals were currently being considered and it was envisaged that a proposal would be forthcoming by the end of the year for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Cabinet Portfolio Holder Update - Key Achievements for 2020/21 and Priorities for 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 372 KB

To scrutinise the delivery and progress of the Cabinet Portfolio key priorities for 2020/21 having regard to the 2020-25 Council Plan refresh and recovery from the impact and challenges of COVID-19.


To consider and comment upon the Portfolio priorities for 2021/22.


To spotlight any topics for scrutiny to support future decision making and policy development in 2021/22.


Cabinet Portfolios being presented:


·  Stronger & Safer Communities.

·  Environment & Highways.

·  Leisure, Tourism & Sport.


An indicative copy of the 2020-25 Council Plan is included within the agenda and a copy of the full text is available here

Additional documents:


In attendance: Councillor Mrs A Rolf – Cabinet Member (Stronger & Safer Communities); Councillor K Hawkins – Cabinet Member (Environment & Highways); Mrs Alison McGrory (Assistant Director – Communities & Partnerships); Alan Brown (Assistant Director – Highways & Environment) and Nick Garnett (Senior Public Health Manager - Leisure).

The Board considered three detailed briefings regarding the delivery and progress of the Cabinet Portfolio key priorities for 2020/21 together with the Portfolio priorities for 2021/22 and potential future topics of scrutiny interest for the coming years work plan.

Councillors Mrs Rolf and Hawkins attended the meeting and presented their reports and answered questions. The update for Councillor Tildesley’s Cabinet Portfolio was presented on his behalf by Mrs Alison McGrory and Mr Nick Garnett.

Having received the Portfolio presentations which highlighted a number of key points for each briefing paper, the following questions and observations were noted for each Portfolio:

Stronger & Safer Communities

·  Face-to-face customer service offer – Members welcomed that this would remain and highlighted the value of face-to-face customer service. The report highlighted that the future offer would be kept under review for those residents that needed this service the most and to meet potential changing trends in customer contact patterns arising from the pandemic. The recent launch of the new Council website was also highlighted which served as a strengthened platform for future digital services.

·  Library Services – Members perception was that library buildings were important community hubs and they were looking forward to their reopening. Officers were asked for further comments regarding the future use of those building and the effect of the increased digital offer. Officers advised of the ongoing work to support future customer service offer – as a result of the pandemic, there had been a huge shift towards digital Council services and the self-serve offer was an aspect of customer services that the Council was keen to strengthen further across all services, including libraries. The report highlighted that further work was needed to review how library buildings were being used.

·  Community action and volunteering – the Board highlighted the increases in volunteering during the pandemic. Examples of initiatives within the Smith’s Wood Ward were given. Further information was also requested regarding funding from grant sources, particularly in the longer term, to support future work. Officers advised of some recent funding allocations (circa £200k) and the imposed timescales for its use. Officers were pleased to report that most of the allocation had now been spent and was supporting community activity. An additional fund of £200k was to be made available from 1 April 2021 to support community recovery from the pandemic. Reassurances were also given that work was ongoing to secure all additional available grant funding for community groups.

·  ASB and noise nuisance issues - Members sought additional information on the proposed future work with Solihull Community Housing to better address ASB and noise nuisance issues across Solihull. Officers were asked if, as part of that work, conditions such as autism were being taken into account - residents with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.