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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 11th September, 2012.

 

Present:  Councillor M.R. Wilson (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. P. Drake (Vice-Chairman); Councillors J.C. Bird, K.J. Geary, H.C. Hamilton, K. Hatton, H.J.W. James, P. King and R.A. Penrose.

 

 

324     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor G. Roberts.

 

 

325     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 24th July, 2012 be accepted as a correct record.

 

 

326     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

327     SICKNESS ABSENCE REPORT FULL YEAR APRIL 2011 – MARCH 2012 (REF) –

 

Cabinet had, on 30th July 2012, accepted the above report and referred the same to this Committee for consideration.  Cabinet had also resolved that the absence targets for the previous financial year be applied to the current financial year.

 

The Head of Human Resources introduced the report by drawing attention to the fact that whilst the annual target had been set at 9 the actual absence level had outturned at 8.74 which represented a 5% reduction over the previous year.  Since the introduction of the Management of Attendance Policy in 2007 the Council had achieved a 48% reduction in sickness absence.  The need to keep the position under constant review was fully recognised.  He confirmed that a report showing the Welsh figures would be brought to a subsequent meeting in order to compare the Council’s performance and, in response to the suggestion that it would be useful to have a comparison between the public and private sector, undertook to give consideration to obtaining such data.  The need was recognised, however, to obtain data from comparable organisations within the public and private sectors. 

 

The Head of Human Resources had proposed that the same targets as last year be retained given the current climate of ongoing change.  Whilst views were expressed at the meeting that the targets should be reduced, Members agreed that such discussions should take place when the Committee was in receipt of the Welsh average figures and the comparative statistics from the private sector. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report and the outturn as provided in Appendix A to that report and referred to this Committee by Cabinet be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Welsh average figures and comparative data with the private sector be submitted to this Committee for consideration when further consideration would be given as to whether the absence targets for the previous financial year should be applied in the current financial year.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To monitor / review sickness absence information in line with Corporate objectives.

 

(2)       To maintain realistic targets and, where possible, improve the Council’s current attendance rates of staff.

 

 

328     QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE REPORTS (MD) –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the following reports be noted:

 

-         Customer Relations

-         Chief Executive

-         Human Resources

-         Legal Services

-         Democratic Services

-         ICT

-         Accountancy and Resource Management

-         Finance and Property

-         Sickness and Leavers (New Corporate Structure).

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To have regard to the information presented.

 

 

329     ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE REPORTING OF CORPORATE SICKNESS AND LEAVERS FIGURES (MD) –

 

The Operational Manager - Corporate Policy and Communications presented the above matter in order to explain the changes to reporting arrangements for sickness and leavers figures. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the changes to the reporting of Sickness and Leavers indicators be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that the corporate sickness and leavers information is scrutinised effectively and that comparable data is made available to the Scrutiny Committee for each quarter in 2012/13.

 

 

330     STAFF SURVEY 2012 ACTION PLAN (MD) –

 

The draft Action Plan was appended to the report and designed to address issues revealed by the recent employee survey.  The Staff Survey 2011/12 Results Summary was also appended to the report.  The key issues that had arisen from the survey included:

 

·         insufficient access in certain areas of the Council to sufficient information to enable staff to carry out their roles effectively

·         the need to ensure consistency across the organisation regarding staff opinion on the learning and development opportunities available to them

·         the need to ensure consistency across the organisation regarding staff experiences of the PDR / TDR process

·         the view of a large minority who felt they were not adequately consulted about changes in the organisation

·         the view of a significant minority that they did not feel they received recognition for doing good work.

 

Attention was drawn to the results summary as appended to the report and particular reference made to the consistently poor response in relation to “staff consulted about changes to work”.  The Operational Manager (Corporate Policy and Communications) informed Members that training courses were being arranged for managers in relation to managing change successfully, commenting further that the holding of team meetings was the obvious way to engage in positive dialogue with staff.  She indicated that Chief Officers received annual appraisals and that staff also undertook PDRs / TDRs on an annual basis.  Attention was also draw to the particularly positive responses in respect of Social Services across the board.  Members thanked management and staff within Social Services and, indeed, recognised the contribution of all members of staff who had engaged in the process.  As regards the action plan which was also appended to the report, the Operational Manager stated that all the currently blank columns would be completed within the next 3 months, and that she would submit a progress report to this Committee prior to the end of the year.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Action Plan as appended to the report to address the issues revealed by the recent employee survey be endorsed and the Plan referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

(2)       T H A T the actions contained within the Plan be incorporated into and monitored in line with existing departmental Service Plans.

 

(3)       T H A T the Operational Manager (Corporate Policy and Communications) submit a progress report prior to the end of 2012.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To ensure that appropriate action is taken in response to the views of Council staff.

 

(3)       To inform Members.

 

 

331     IMPROVEMENT PLAN 2012 / 13 (MD) –

 

The Operational Manager – Corporate Policy and Communications indicated that this represented the Committee’s final opportunity to amend targets in the current year should it be deemed appropriate, reminding Members that targets should not be set at a rate which indicated that the Council was not attempting to improve unless there were sound business reasons.  Those areas which primarily covered the remit of this Committee within the Plan were contained within pages 12 to 14 and pages 52 to 55.  Whilst no adverse comments were received in respect of pages 12 to 14, the Chairman indicated two areas of concern on page 52, namely the percentage of undisputed invoices paid within 30 days and the time taken to process Housing Benefit and Council Tax new claims and change events.  The Head of Financial Services indicated that in respect of the former, performance had improved in the current year and was currently above target.  As regards the second area of concern, the Head of Financial Services indicated that the issue of staff vacancies within the section was currently being addressed and that there had been an increased uptake in the number of claimants, commenting that the Council’s processing was good compared to other Authorities.  The Chairman then drew attention to two areas of concern on page 54 relating to Building and Vehicle Services.  The Head of Financial Services indicated that he was aware that there had been a re-prioritisation of resources to deal with non urgent repairs and that there was a slight increase in the time taken to undertake urgent repairs.  The Chairman stated that certain targets might need to be revisited and that a progress report would be presented to the Committee in due course.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Improvement Plan for 2012/13 be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that actions are taken to improve the performance of the Council.

 

 

332     CORPORATE ASSET MANAGEMENT PLAN (CAMP) 2012 / 13 (MD) –

 

The Operational Manager – Property explained that the CAMP had been prepared to satisfy objectives within the Improvement Plan.  Since the last CAMP had been produced, the Council had been audited by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) and had reorganised its Directorate structure.  The opportunity had therefore been taken to update and refresh the Plan to reflect the recommendations of the WAO report and to produce an action plan to ensure all improvement objectives were met.  Discussion ensued on various aspects of the CAMP itself, a copy of which had been despatched under separate cover to Members prior to the meeting.  Amongst the issues discussed were:

 

·         Access.  In response to a question, the Operational Manager – Property confirmed that an Access Officer was employed within her section.  A budget was allocated to address access issues annually and buildings had been prioritised for improvement.  She further confirmed that she was working through that list and that, in respect of the Council Chamber, design proposals were currently being prepared which would then be shared with the Managing Director and the Leader and that a new microphone system would be introduced.  The Operational Manager accepted the suggestion at the meeting that page 6 of the CAMP should be amended to reflect the importance of access.  The suggestion was also made that consideration should be given to including in the list showing membership of the Asset Management Group on page 60  “Access Officer” to evidence the fact that matters pertaining to access, and the equality of access, were fully considered.  The Operational Manager indicated that she felt that to be unnecessary since the role of Access Officer fell under her remit.

 

·         Property Condition Surveys.  The Operational Manager explained that condition surveys dated back to pre 2000 and that a rolling programme of condition surveys was now in place.  Whereas previously condition surveys had been undertaken by external consultants, they would now be done in-house and would take approximately four years. 

 

Reference was made at this juncture to the Council’s housing stock and the Operational Manager confirmed that the Housing Business Plan as approved by the Council in late 2011 meant that the Welsh Quality Housing Standard would be achieved and that the £80m. investment programme would ensure the delivery of the same.  In response to a question, the Operational Manager confirmed that within her section there were chartered surveyors fully qualified to undertake the condition survey.  She also confirmed that approximately 60% of buildings had already been surveyed and that the Council was just over halfway into the programme.

 

·         Updating Information.  In respect of page 2 of the report the Operational Manager undertook to replace the figures from the 2001 census with those of the 2011 census.  She accepted also that, on page 30, the reference to the appointment of a management contractor for Leisure Centres required updating. 

 

Other issues raised included matters pertaining to the disabled toilets within the Civic Offices; the Operational Manager would ascertain the position and notify all Members of the Committee.  On page 14 of the CAMP reference was made to the Local Service Board Asset Management Group and the Operational Manager agreed that she would provide an electronic link to access the minutes of the same to all Members.  Reference was also made to the work at Cadoxton House.  Members considered that Cadoxton House was an excellent example of good joint delivery of asset management and agreed to undertake a site visit.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the adoption of the new Corporate Asset Management Plan 2012 – 2013 and the appendices contained therein be supported.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider the comments of this Committee as indicated above and, if deemed appropriate, amend the Corporate Asset Management Plan accordingly.

 

(3)       T H A T the Corporate Asset Management Plan be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

(4)       T H A T the Committee undertake a site visit to Cadoxton House prior to the end of 2012.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To satisfy the following objectives:

 

·         Objective 7 of the Improvement Objectives 2012/13 to maximise use of our property resources and to assist with satisfying Objective 3 to increase energy efficiency by promoting sustainable practices in our business in order to reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.

·         Objective H of the previous Corporate Asset Management Plan 2010 to review the Plan on an annual basis.

 

(2&3)  To inform Cabinet of the Committee's views since the adoption of the Corporate Asset Management Plan is an executive function.

 

(4)       To view the collaborative working arrangements underway at Cadoxton House at first hand.

 

 

333     REVENUE MONITORING: 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY 2012 (MD) –

 

The Head of Financial Services took Members through the report.  The projected outturn for the 2012/13 Revenue Budget was for a balanced budget as was the case in relation to the Housing Revenue Account.  Particular reference was contained within paragraphs 6 to 9 of the situation within Social Services and Members noted that a progress report on the Social Services Budget Programme would be presented to Cabinet on a monthly basis.  In response to a question, the Head of Financial Services indicated that the projection of a balanced Social Services budget by the end of the year was based on the information to date and that the situation would continue to be closely monitored.

 

There was also pressure on the Economic Development budget from the Lifelong Learning Education and Training Services in that the receipts from the Government Work Programme were not achieving the targets to date.  The matter was currently under review and Members questioned the level of control / pressure the Council could exert in this instance.  Members subsequently decided that a report in relation to the level of control and available options to the Council should be submitted to the next meeting.

 

Reference was also made in the course of subsequent discussion to a matter which had been raised at the last meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) when Members had been informed that the costs in relation to the delay in signing the Partnership Agreement with Parkwood would be met from central budgets but no detail to that effect had been provided in the report.  A question was asked whether there would be costs in respect of the delay in the transfer of Dyffryn House and how details in respect of those costs would be reported to this Committee.  The Head of Financial Services undertook to ascertain the situation in relation to Dyffryn and to e-mail that information to all Members of the Committee. 

 

Attention was also drawn to the situation in respect of the funding of demountables at Llancarfan and Gwenfo, further reference in respect of which is minuted under the Capital Monitoring report. 

 

The Head of Financial Services also indicated that a change was proposed to the way in which budget monitoring reports were presented to Members.  The practice whereby regular monitoring reports were submitted to Cabinet and to each of the Scrutiny Committees would be changed.  It was proposed in the future that since scrutiny and overview was a key function of the Scrutiny Committees, regular budget monitoring reports would be taken only to those Committees.  Corporate Resources would be the lead Committee and any issues or concerns arising from that Committee would then be referred to Cabinet.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the Council’s 2012/13 Revenue Budget be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a report be submitted to the next meeting in respect of the position in relation to the pressure on the Economic Development budget.

 

(3)       T H A T the new budget monitoring arrangements be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To be aware of the projected revenue outturn 2012/13.

 

(2)       To assess the options available.

 

(3)       To be aware of the new budget monitoring arrangements.

 

 

334     CAPITAL MONITORING: 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY 2012 (MD) –

 

Appendix 1 to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st July, 2012.  The Head of Financial Services drew particular attention to the following schemes:

 

·        Llancarfan and Gwenfo Demountables – the initial budget allocated to the aforementioned scheme was insufficient to replace all units as originally planned.  Reference was drawn to a discussion which had been held at the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) in respect of the same when an explanation had been given that estimates had been drawn up which did not reflect current prices.  The Head of Financial Services agreed to ascertain the basis on which the estimates had been drawn up and to circulate that information to all Members of both Scrutiny Committees (Corporate Resources) and (Lifelong Learning). 

·        Penarth Leisure Centre Central Heating Plant – Salix Finance had offered the Council a loan to fund the upgrade of the central heating plant at the Centre to the sum of £146k.; the loan was repayable by the Leisure Client department.  In response to a question as to the benefit of that arrangement to the Council, the Head of Financial Services agreed to ascertain the same and e-mail that information to all Members of the Committee.  In addition, he would also notify Members of the repayment period of the loan.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the Council’s 2012/13 Capital Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T, as indicated above, the Head of Financial Services provide clarification regarding the Llancarfan and Gwenfo demountables and the basis for the original estimates together with clarification as to the benefits to the Council in relation to the Salix loan and the length of the repayment period.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To be aware of the progress on the Capital Programme.

 

(2)       For clarification.

 

 

335     CHAIRMAN’S ANNOUNCEMENT –

 

The Chairman referred to two recently held successful events within the Vale of Glamorgan, namely the National Eisteddfod and the Vale of Glamorgan Show and, on behalf of the Committee, thanked all Council officers involved.