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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 20th December, 2011.

 

Present:  Councillor E.T. Williams (Vice-Chairman in the Chair); Councillors Mrs. P. Drake, K. Hatton, G. John, Mrs. K.A. Kemp, Mrs. A.J. Moore, N. Moore, A.C. Williams and Miss. S.J.C. Williams.

 

Also present:  Councillors A.D. Hampton and G.C. Kemp.

 

 

734     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors J.F. Fraser (Chairman) and Mrs. A.J. Preston.

 

 

735     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 8th November, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

736     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

737     SOCIAL SERVICES COMMISSIONING FRAMEWORK 2011 AND THE SOCIAL SERVICES COMMISSIONING STRATEGY FOR OLDER PEOPLES SERVICES 2011 TO 2018 (REF - MIN. NO. C1517)

 

Cabinet had considered a report in respect of the above on 16th November, 2011 and referred the same to this and the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) for information.  Cabinet had approved both the aforementioned Framework and Commissioning Strategy and the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) had noted the Cabinet resolutions. 

 

The Head of Children and Young People Services was in attendance.  He indicated that, whilst he had not personally been involved to any great degree in the above, he would take any queries raised at the meeting to his colleagues.  The aforementioned Framework described the overall approach to commissioning that was being adopted, an approach which would ensure that the Council’s statutory responsibilities for the provision of social services were met and that services were shaped to respond to the needs of clients.  The Strategy identified how the social care needs of older people would be met within the resources available to the Council 2011 – 18.  The Head of Service referred to the increasing demand for social services, the limited resources available and to heightened public expectations, commenting that the timely provision of preventative measures would assist in reducing budgetary pressures.

 

Following further discussion on the above and related matters, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To have regard to the content of both the Social Services Commissioning Framework 2011 and the Social Services Commissioning Strategy for Older Peoples Services 2011 to 2018.

 

 

738     PRESSURE ON THE SOCIAL SERVICES REVENUE BUDGET 2011/12 AND BUDGET RECOVERY ACTION PLANS (REF - MIN. NO. C1520) -

 

Cabinet had, on 16th November, 2011 considered reports from the Head of Children and Family Services in respect of expenditure on children looked after by the Council, and the report from the Heads of Adult Services and Business Management and Innovation on the Community Care budget in Adult Services.  Both reports had set out the service context, the response to date and the proposed next steps.  Those reports had also been used as the basis for drafting budget recovery action plans which would be utilised to develop a framework for the Directorate's efforts to bring budgets under control as soon as possible. 

 

Cabinet had

  • noted the need for effective action in tackling the serious overspend and pressures within the Social Services budget
  • endorsed the proposals outlined in the budget recovery action plans for Children and Young People's Services and for Adult Services, including the establishment of a multi-disciplinary project team and a project board
  • requested further reports on progress made in implementing the above plans together with other options to address the issues arising as necessary
  • referred the report to this and to the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) for information.

The Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) had noted the resolutions of Cabinet.

 

The Head of Children and Young People Services acknowledged the concerns expressed, commenting that officers within Social Services were working closely with the Director of Finance, ICT and Property to address the situation.  Regular reports would be made to the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) together with up-dates being submitted to Cabinet.  During the course of subsequent discussions, the Head of Service agreed to ascertain the position in relation to any potential back claims resulting from changes arising from the Social Care Charges (Wales) Measure 2010.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the current position be noted and that this Committee receive regular updates on the situation.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To have regard to the content of both the Social Services Commissioning Framework 2011 and the Social Services Commissioning Strategy for Older Peoples Services 2011 to 2018.

 

 

739     AUDITOR GENERAL FOR WALES: IMPROVEMENT ASSESSMENT 2011 (INCLUDING CORPORATE ASSESSMENT UPDATE) (REF - MIN. NO. C1531) -

 

Cabinet had been informed of the results of the assessment of the Auditor General for Wales of the Council's arrangements to secure continuous improvement on 29th November, 2011.  Cabinet had noted the contents of the report contained within which was the following recommendation:

  • establish a transparent programme for the development of outcome focussed measures moving from reporting arrangements that focussed primarily on performance indicators and on the completion, or otherwise, of an action.

It was noted that the development of outcome focussed measures had been identified as an area for improvement in most Welsh Councils.  The Council had recently commissioned the Local Government Data Unit to work with three service areas to develop outcome focussed performance measures as a pilot to inform a Council-wide approach which could then be rolled out to all service plan areas. 

 

Appended to the report was a draft Action Plan and details of the work undertaken in addressing the proposals for improvement made in the Council's 2010 assessment.  The Head of Performance and Development informed Members that the Council had recently received from the Wales Audit Office a more comprehensive Annual Improvement Report (AIR) for 2011.  The AIR would be reported to Cabinet, Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) and Audit Committee in the New Year.

 

RECOMMENDED - THAT the position be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To have regard to the content of the report and the updated information presented at the meeting.

 

 

740     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS (REF) -

 

(a)       Cabinet - 16th November, 2011

(b)       Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) - 28th November, 2011.

(c)        Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) - 1st December, 2011.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T all of the above be deferred for consideration with the report relating to the initial revenue budget proposals later in the meeting.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow all matters pertaining to the initial revenue proposals to be considered at one time.

 

 

741     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2012/13 (REF) -

 

(a)       Cabinet - 16th November, 2011

(b)       Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) - 6th December, 2011

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T both of the above references be deferred for consideration with the report relating to the initial capital programme proposals later in the meeting.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow all matters pertaining to the initial capital programme proposals to be considered at one time.

 

 

742     INITIAL HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET PROPOSALS 2012/13 AND REVISED BUDGET 2011/12 (REF - MIN. NO. 647)

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) had, on 1st December, 2011 considered the above, noted the revised budget estimate for 2011/12, and noted and referred the initial budget proposals for 2012/13 to this Committee.  Local authorities were required to set a budget for their Housing Revenue Account (HRA) on an annual basis, the budget being such as to ensure that the HRA was not in deficit at the year end.  The Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) had requested a further report in respect of the suggested increase for rent and other services once the necessary information had been made available from the Welsh Government.  It was noted that an estimated only average rent increase of 3%, based on the latest Business Plan, had been included in the 2012/13 initial budget proposals.

 

Given that the final subsidy determination would not be received until January 2012 and that a further report would be made after that time, it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) be noted and forwarded to Cabinet and the Budget Working Party.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order that Cabinet and the Budget Working Party be informed of the comments of the Scrutiny Committees before making a final proposal on the budget.

 

 

743     2ND QUARTER PERFORMANCE AND SERVICE PLAN ACTION MONITORING -

 

(a)       Legal Services

(b)       Democratic Services

(c)        Customer Relations

(d)       Human Resources

(e)       Chief Executive

(f)         ICT 

(g)       Finance and Property

(h)        Accountancy and Resource Management

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position in relation to the second quarter performance and service plan action monitoring report in respect of each of the above be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the information submitted.

 

 

744     THE IMPACT OF THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN ON THE COUNCIL AND ITS SERVICES - UPDATE ON THE TASK AND FINISH GROUP RECOMMENDATION 10 (CX) -

 

The Head of Performance and Development was in attendance to explain the reasoning behind Management’s view as contained in the quarterly monitoring report in relation to the above recommendation “that little value would be gained by merging Scrutiny, Cabinet and other teams” as requested by the Committee in October, 2011.  He indicated that each of the services referred to had already made substantial savings and that no merit was seen in making further structural changes for the reasons set out in the report.

 

Whilst no vote was taken on the sole motion put forward (and duly seconded) in support of retaining the status quo, concerns in relation to maintaining that position were expressed.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the current arrangements for Equalities, Improvement and Democratic functions be continued.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order to maintain high standards of performance.

 

 

745     A COMPACT FOR CHANGE BETWEEN THE WELSH GOVERNMENT (WG) AND WELSH LOCAL GOVERNMENT (WLG) (CX) -

 

The Head of Performance and Development introduced the report by referring to the Simpson Report which had included as one of its main recommendations a Compact between the WG and WLG setting out how the actions to ensure collaborative working would be implemented.  He stressed the potential significance of the ramifications of the proposals and the effect on how services were run, together with the need to consider carefully the impact on the Vale and its inhabitants.  The Compact itself was divided into two sections consisting of a preamble in which the principles underpinning the Compact were set out and the Implementation Contracts which detailed the specific services the Compact would cover.  The Implementation Contracts, which included major initiatives such as the Education Consortia and Social Services Regional Commissioning, covered areas where there had already been significant progress and the Council had endorsed those specific proposals in its response to the initial Simpson Report.

 

Concerns were expressed, however, as follows:

  • Page 2 of the Compact, paragraph 3 'there may be occasions when the case for change may be less strong or broadly neutral for one partner in collaboration than another.  Relative scale of benefits should not be a reason to avoid working together where the outcome for public services would meet the criteria above'.  Whilst accepting the principle that even if the benefits for the Vale itself were, at best, neutral, collaboration would be welcomed where it was benefited, where collaboration would mean either a reduction in service quality or increasing costs for the Vale then the Vale citizens would be rightly critical. 
  • Page 2, paragraph 4 'there is a shared expectation of future collaborative working will be aligned to this footprint'.  'This footprint' referred to the 'regional footprint' that the Minister for Local Government and Communities announced in the summer and which created a Cardiff and Vale region for collaboration.  The Council's concerns with that approach had previously been expressed to the Minister and Members took the view that it was disappointed to note that the Compact formalised what the Council considered to be an ill advised and unnecessarily restrictive approach.

The Leader then addressed the Committee on the two matters of concern referred to above.  He reiterated the views expressed, indicating that whilst it was pleasing to note that the document had been substantially revised from the original draft in an effort to address the concerns previously raised, residents of the Vale should in no way be disadvantaged by the terms of the Compact and that existing successful collaborative working arrangements with local authorities other than Cardiff should be allowed to continue.

 

Following further discussion on the above, it was unanimously

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be notified of the concern expressed above in relation to Page 2, paragraph 3, that any collaborative arrangement resulting in either a reduction in service quality or an increase in cost for the Vale.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be notified of the concern expressed in relation to Page 2, paragraph 4, that any collaborative arrangements should be restricted to a 'regional footprint' comprising Cardiff and the Vale.

 

(3)       T H A T Cabinet be notified of the view that future collaborative arrangements should be on a voluntary basis or, if necessary, restricted to the area comprising the South Wales Police Authority rather than the Health Authority.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To make Cabinet aware of the unanimous views of the Committee.

 

 

746     CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SURVEY (DFICTP) -

 

The Head of Financial Services took Members through the report which contained the results of the bi-annual Customer Satisfaction Survey of ICT users within the employ of the Council.  Positive feedback had been received from those service users as evidenced in paragraphs 8 - 11 of the report and as shown in the survey itself which was appended to that report.  Whilst some Members agreed that the backup service provided was in fact satisfactory, other Members expressed a contrary view. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the report be noted and that a Customer Satisfaction Survey of Council Members be undertaken.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure Members are aware of the high satisfaction levels with the service from staff and to ascertain the views of Members.

 

 

747     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2012/13 (DFICTP) -

 

The Head of Financial Services reminded Members that the report under consideration had been prepared on the basis of the provisional Revenue Support Grant (RSG) settlement.  Notification of the final settlement had now been received.  The final settlement, which showed a 0.3% increase as opposed to the 0.2% indicative figure, still represented a significant reduction in real terms.

 

Paragraphs 7 to 27 of the report set out the position for the current year.  Appendix 1 to the report set out the necessary transfers to the original estimate for 2011/12.  A table comparing the amended original budget with the projected outturn for 2011/12 was shown in paragraph 8 which clearly illustrated the position in relation to Social Services.  Details pertaining to the situation in respect of Children Services and Adult Services were contained within paragraphs 15 and 16, the net deficit being £1.061m. and £1.935m. respectively.  The need for the Director of Social Services to take the necessary action to bring the budget back into line with the base budget was reaffirmed.

 

The next step was to produce the base budget (the cost of providing current service levels up-rated for inflation and committed growth).  Details were contained in paragraphs 28 to 42 of the report together with the relevant appendices thereto. Directors would be instructed to prepare initial revenue budgets for 2012/13 in accordance with a timetable agreed by the Director of Finance, ICT and Property on the criteria stipulated in paragraph 31.  A summary of the overall base budget for 2012/13 was appended to the report.  It was noted that in order to match expenditure to resources, savings targets as set by Cabinet would need to be built in.  A list of cost pressures totalling £7.044 was appended to the report.  The addition of inflation and committed growth brought cost pressures to a total of £11m. in the context of a 0.3% increase in funding.  It was noted that an increase in Council tax of 1% would yield approximately £0.5m. 

 

The Head of Service explained that no comments had been referred onto this Committee from either the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) or the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment).  Attention was drawn to the references from the Scrutiny Committees (Social Care and Health) and (Housing and Public Protection), consideration of which had been deferred earlier in the meeting. 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the amended budget for 2011/12 as appended to the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial revenue budget proposals for 2012/13 and the recommendations thereon from other Scrutiny Committees be noted and forwarded to Cabinet and the Budget Working Party.

 

(3)       T H A T it be noted that the Director of Social Services would take the necessary action to bring expenditure in line with base budget.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To incorporate changes in projected spending.

 

(2)       In order that Cabinet be informed of the comments of the Scrutiny Committees before making a final proposals on the budget.

 

(3)       To bring Social Services expenditure in line with the base budget.

 

 

748     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2012/13 (DFICTP) -

 

The Head of Financial Services introduced the report, drawing attention to the fact that whilst the report had been based upon the provisional settlement, the final settlement had now been announced and that there were no significant changes.  Paragraphs 3 to 8 dealt with matters pertaining to the 2011/12 capita; programme, including details as to the variances between actual and profiled spend.  As regards the capital programme for 2012/13, there was a further reduction in capital funding of 6.8%; in 2013/14 there was a further reduction of 11.5%. Details of the above were contained within and appended to the report, including both the proposed and indicative capital programmes for 2012/13.  Officers had been asked to re-bid on all uncommitted schemes.  Those schemes had then been considered by both the asset management and by the sustainable development groups.  Details as to the unsuccessful bids were also appended to the report.  Given the limited resources available, the Head of Service stressed that there was little room for manoeuvre in relation to capital spending.

 

The Head of Service explained that only the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) had submitted comments to this Committee in respect of the capital programme, consideration as to the details of which had been deferred earlier in the meeting.  During the course of subsequent discussion, Members raised several other issues in addition to that referred from the aforementioned Scrutiny Committee.  Having considered all of the matters raised, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T, having considered the reference from the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment), Cabinet and the Budget Working Party be notified that this Committee would support a full options appraisal being undertaken on the A4055 from the Biglis roundabout to Southra Park Estate, Dinas Powys.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet and the Budget Working Party be requested to consider a specific reference being included in the capital programme to the Cross Common Road bridge (which had not been bid for at this time due to its being on a candidate site) given the condition of the bridge and the need to effect improvements (as a phased programme if necessary) and the possibility of external funding being made available in the future.

 

(3)       T H A T the Head of Financial Services update the Committee on the bid for the previously agreed scheme to install traffic lights on the Barry Dock Link Road.

 

(4)       T H A T, given the desire to provide a safe learning environment and in the interests of cost effectiveness, Cabinet be requested to consider that the bid in respect of funding external repairs to Albert Road Primary School be afforded a higher priority than the Priority 4 currently awarded, a view being expressed that, if necessary, the bid relating to the installation of a Council Chamber conferencing system be dropped.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1, 2&4)          In order that Cabinet be informed of comments of the Scrutiny Committees before making a final proposal on the budget.

 

(3)       To respond to a verbal request made at the meeting.