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DEMOCRATIC SERVICES COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 13th April, 2016.

 

Present:  Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor J.W. Thomas (Vice-Chairman); Councillors A.G. Bennett, R.J. Bertin, Ms. B.E. Brooks, J. Drysdale,  R.L. Traherne, E. Williams and M.R. Wilson.

 

 

985            FORMER COUNCILLOR CLARKE -

 

Members stood in silence as a mark of respect for former Councillor Phil Clarke, who had recently lost his life in an accident.

 

 

986            APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor G. Roberts.

 

 

987            MINUTES -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 10th February, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

988            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

989            ICT UPDATE FOR MEMBERS (MD) -

 

The Head of Strategic ICT referred to the reference made at the last meeting regarding ICT Security and Members were asked to note that, since then, the Council had a security incident involving the Libraries Service, whereby a virus was accidentally downloaded from an infected website. This malware encrypted files and the infection was contained within the Libraries, which had to be taken off the network for two days.  All files were successfully restored from backup.  Members expressed appreciation of the efficient way in which the issue had been dealt with.

 

A Member referred to the increasing “inter-connectivity” across ICT system and questioned whether the industry should be giving thought to separating certain elements.  The Head of Strategic ICT alluded to the Council having “firewalls” in place.  He also acknowledged the need to balance robust security with flexibility for staff in terms of working remotely.  In response to a question from a member of the Committee, the Head of Strategic ICT alluded to the importance of backing up documents and to there being relatively inexpensive systems available for such.

 

A contract has been let to introduce free public access wi-fi across Barry Island beach front, which should help improve tourism and possibly the take up of the beach huts, but also to eventually allow members of the public to book the beach huts online.  It was hoped that the system would be available later this month.  Members welcomed the provision.  The possibility of similar provision in other areas would also be looked at and the Head of Strategic ICT confirmed he would be happy to discuss the issue with interested parties.

 

At Cabinet on 13th March, 2016 a reference from the last Democratic Services Committee was considered and Cabinet resolved that the Council should pursue the wider use by Elected Members of tablet computers, specifically in terms of Committee papers and for this to be referred to Cabinet and this Committee for further consideration.

 

As far as future webcasting of meetings was concerned, Cabinet on 14th March, 2016 resolved that the possibility of webcasting more meetings be explored and, again, a report will be submitted to Cabinet and this Committee shortly.  The Head of Democratic Services indicated that this might, for example, mean meetings of Full Council being webcast and, possibly, “high profile” Scrutiny Committee meetings (i.e. whether the subject under discussion was clearly of significant public interest).

 

The Head of Strategic ICT had been interviewed by the Wales Audit Office as part of the recent Corporate Assessment and ICT support for Members was one of the subjects discussed. 

 

A draft ICT Strategy and a draft Digital Strategy had been presented to Corporate Management Team outlining the Council’s aims and ambitions for the ICT Service and the use of digital technology to deliver services over the next four years.  Once finalised, both documents would be presented to Cabinet for formal adoption.  The Democratic Services Committee would also be kept updated regarding progress and would receive a presentation on them at the next meeting.

 

A number of changes had had to be made to Council systems to accommodate the requirements of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 which came into force on 1st April.  This had included bilingual out of office messages, job titles and e-mail footers as well as a review of all letter heads used by the Council, which must also be bilingual.  This might also have implications for elected Members in their correspondence and communication with constituents.

 

From 1st April, 2016, Council, Cabinet and Committee agendas were also being produced in Welsh.

 

Reference was made during discussion of this item to the Council’s App for reporting problems.  A number of Members felt there to be a case for more publicity of the product and the Head of Performance and Development confirmed that there would, indeed, be a publicity campaign in the near future.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the report be noted and the various initiatives underway, as set out, above, be welcomed.

 

Reason for decision

 

To ensure Members are made aware of any developments to their ICT service to the wider Council.

 

 

990            PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK (REF) -

 

Cabinet on 22nd February, 2016 considered a report setting out proposed changes to the Council’s Performance Management Framework (PMF) and a proposed mechanism for reviewing the Council's Scrutiny Committee names and terms of reference in light of changes to the PMF.

 

The Council had a strong performance management track record, as evidenced in previous Annual Improvement Reports (AIR) by the Wales Audit Office.  The recent AIR for 2014/15, nevertheless identified two proposals for improvement to:

  • P1 Refine performance reporting arrangements to ensure data was presented in a way that provided a balanced picture of performance and of the outcomes being achieved.
  • P2 Improved reporting so that cross-directorate/cross-service activity was considered in the context of delivery of priorities rather than completion of service-based actions.

The Council’s PMF set out the way in which performance management and measurement was undertaken across the Council.  The framework enabled the Council to regularly assess, report and scrutinise performance in order to support the continuous improvement of its activities.

 

Proposals approved by Cabinet in December 2015, as the basis for consultation with Scrutiny Committees, considered changes to the PMF in terms of the way in which the Corporate Plan's well-being outcomes would be reported and to the Council's Scrutiny Committee structure.  The comments made by Scrutiny Committees on the PMF proposals were attached at Appendix A to the report.  Whilst broadly supportive of the proposed changes, a series of queries were raised relating to the proposed reporting arrangements and names of Scrutiny Committees, including how the new arrangements could work in practice.

 

To address the issues raised concerning reporting arrangements, the report recommended that the Corporate Plan would be monitored on a quarterly basis by an overall Corporate Health Report and this would be supplemented by specific quarterly reports for each of the four well-being outcomes.  These four Quarterly Well-being Outcome and Objectives Reports would demonstrate progress against each of the individual well-being outcomes and associated objectives.  A brief position statement from the sponsoring Director would be provided for the quarter alongside a summary of achievements by objective with areas of underperformance/ key challenges highlighted, including a description of any remedial actions required to address them.

 

The report proposed that the Council would continue to produce Service Plans. However, rather than being at Directorate level, these plans would be developed at Head of Service level and would focus on the contribution made to the Council’s well-being outcomes and objectives, in addition to the way in which the service would manage its resources.

 

The existing approach to the monitoring of Service Plans would be replaced with quarterly reports against each well-being objective linked to a well-being outcome.  This would enable Members to focus on scrutinising progress towards achieving the Council’s well-being outcomes.  Services would continue to report performance data quarterly to the Council's Performance Team.  The Performance Team would then use this information to produce the more focused Well-being Outcome Reports.

 

In addition to the four well-being outcome-based Scrutiny Committees, the existing Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) would be replaced with a Committee called Corporate Resources and Performance Scrutiny Committee.

 

These proposals did not consider any changes to the composition of the Committees.  However, the proposals would not merely be a change in name of the Committee but rather they would represent a refocusing of scrutiny activity on the way in which the Council’s actions were delivered against its intended outcomes. The report acknowledged that this was a matter of significant interest to Members and, consequently, it had been agreed that a Working Group, comprising Group Leaders and Chairmen of Scrutiny Committees, be established to consider / progress the matter and inform the further report to then be submitted to Cabinet and Full Council for final approval.

 

The Working Group had now met for the first time.  Consideration was given to proposed titles and remits of Scrutiny Committees in light of changes to the PMF.  A further report on this matter was to be submitted to Cabinet and Council on 25th and 27th April respectively.  However, Members were asked to note that the titles agreed by the Working Group for consideration by Cabinet and Council were as follows: 

  • Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee
  • Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee
  • Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee
  • Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee
  • Corporate Resources and Performance Scrutiny Committee.

The Working Group would also be looking at the development of appropriate “outcome-based” Performance Indicators and formats for performance reporting (e.g. options such as dashboards and balanced scorecards).

 

A number of points were raised (by individual Members) during the discussion, including : 

  • whether a realignment of Cabinet portfolios would take place as part of this exercise
  • a suggestion that there may be a need to establish/confirm whether full ‘connectivity’ existed in terms of certain outcomes / indicators / measures / actions
  • a suggestion that the scope of the new Scrutiny Committees be added to by the inclusion of the following words:
    • Corporate Resources and Performance – add ‘Training’
    • Environment and Regeneration – add ‘Prosperity’
    • Healthy Living and Social Care – add ‘Activity’
    • Homes and Safe Communities – add ‘Diversity’
    • a suggestion that the term ‘Diversity’ should feature in the scope of all five Scrutiny Committees.

The above points would be referred to in the report to be submitted to Cabinet on 25th April, 2016 and Full Council on 27th April, 2016.  Members were also informed that the Council’s report template was being reviewed as part of the process.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the action taken to date be endorsed.

 

Reason for decision

 

To enable the views of the Committee to be submitted to Cabinet and Full Council.

 

 

991            INDEPENDENT REMUNERATION PANEL FOR WALES (IRPW) ANNUAL REPORT 2016/17 (MD) -

 

The Council's Members' Allowances Scheme currently reflected the fact that the Council had resolved to abide by the determinations of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) as set out in its Annual Report each year.  As such, there was generally no need to present a specific report to Members.  However, the Annual Report for 2016/17, whilst not proposing any increases in the basic or senior salaries, incorporated changes to the IRPW framework which it was stated "provide greater opportunities for flexibility at local level to reflect the variations in governance structures of Principal Councils".  Further details were set out below and, given the flexibility which the IRPW had introduced, specific consideration was required to be given as to whether the Council wished to vary the relevant payments or maintain the status quo.

 

The full list of the IRPW's determinations for 2016/17 were as set out in Appendix A to the report.  The full report could be viewed at http://gov.wales/irpwsub/home/publication/2016-17/irp-annual-report-2016-17/?skip=1&lang=en .

 

The IRPW was, in effect, introducing two salary levels for Executive Members (except Leaders and Deputy Leaders) and for Committee Chairmen.  This was designed to allow Councils to take account of any differences in the responsibilities that they consider might be attached to specific posts.  The IRPW stated that, having considered the responses to its draft report in which a number of Executive posts were prescribed to be paid at the higher level, the IRPW had responded to those concerns in that the revised arrangements left it to the discretion of each Council as to which salary level was paid according to local circumstances.  Nevertheless, the IRPW was of the view that, in many instances, there were indeed differences in the responsibilities attached to portfolios of Executive Members, which, in turn, it was suggested should be reflected in the level of salary paid.  The IRPW was of the view that the same principle also applied to Committee Chairmen.

 

The draft Annual Report was considered by the Democratic Services Committee on 21st October, 2015.  At that time, as far as Cabinet positions were concerned, if an Authority had a Cabinet of more than six Members (including the Leader), the IRPW was proposing that additional Cabinet  Members would only be entitled to a salary of 10% less than the other six Cabinet Members.  Since that time the IRPW had given further consideration to this aspect and the final report provided for individual Local Authorities to decide which of two bands of Senior Salary it wished to pay to each individual Cabinet Member.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council fell within Group B as far as IRPW Council sizes were concerned.  As such, Cabinet Member Senior Salaries could be

 

            Level 1 - £29,000

            Level 2 - £26,100.

 

As far as Chairmen of Committees were concerned, the IRPW continued to  take the view that the specific responsibility and workload of some Committee Chairmen was greater than others and, therefore, was introducing two levels of remuneration, viz.:

 

            Level 1 – £22,000

            Level 2 – £20,000.

 

It was for individual Authorities to decide which of its Chairmen (if remunerated) should receive a Level 1 or Level 2 payment.   

 

At the Committee on 21st October, 2016, Members were reminded that the Council’s current Members’ Allowances Scheme incorporated a total of 16 Senior Salaries, compared to the maximum of 18 which it is entitled to allocate.  The Committee also noted that the draft IRPW report referred in a number of instances to the importance/ value of the Scrutiny function.  As such, at that meeting, the Head of Democratic Service indicated he considered that it would be inappropriate to pay a lower salary to Chairmen of the five Scrutiny Committees.  That left the Planning and Licensing Committees as currently allocated a Senior Salary for the Chairmen and, again, his view was that the quasi-judicial nature of both Committees justified the payment of the existing / higher salary. 

 

At the above meeting, Members expressed concern that an independent Panel’s draft Annual Report was accompanied by (and potentially influenced by) a letter from the relevant Minister.  This was considered by the Committee to be somewhat “political” and to potentially risk compromising the independence of the Panel.  Members also expressed concern that, in proposing two differing levels of payment for Committee Chairmen, the Panel was reintroducing the concept of options for Local Authorities, as opposed to providing firm determinations. 

 

It was resolved –

 

(1)       T H A T the Committee’s concern regarding the involvement of the Minister in the process and the potential for possible compromising of the independence of the Panel be conveyed to the Welsh Government.

 

(2)       T H A T the Welsh Government also be informed of the Committee’s view that it would be desirable to remove the option of two different levels of payment for Committee Chairmen and to replace it with a firm determination."

 

In addition to the Democratic Services Committee, the Leader also responded to the draft IRPW report, expressing certain concerns and concurring with the Committee's views.  Members are asked to note that certain of the draft proposals commented on by the Leader (i.e. in relation to proposed reductions in the Senior Salary for the Deputy Leader and the Leader of the largest opposition Group) did not appear in the final report.  It could be seen, however, that the IRPW had retained the discretionary provisions of two levels of Senior Salary for both Executive Members and Committee Chairmen.

 

At a meeting of the all-Wales Member Support Network held on 5th April, 2016, attendees were asked what approach their respective Local Authorities were likely to be taking regarding the two different levels of Senior Salary provided for by the IRPW.  All present indicated either that their Democratic Services Committees had recommended (or were likely to recommend) to Full Council that the status quo should prevail or that a report was likely to be submitted to Full Council direct recommending such.

 

In light of the above, Members were asked to consider whether they felt there should be any distinction between the salaries paid to individual Cabinet Members or to Committee Chairmen or whether the previous stance taken should be reiterated and no changes be recommended to Full Council.

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the previous view of the Committee that it would have been  desirable for the IRPW to remove the option of two different levels of payment for Committee Chairmen and to replace it with a firm determination be reiterated.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee recommends to Full Council on 27th April that no changes to the current levels of Senior Salaries to Cabinet Members or Scrutiny Committee Chairmen be made.

 

Reason for decisions

 

To inform discussion at Full Council and the subsequent Members’ Allowances Scheme for 2016/17.