Top

Top

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 13th November, 2012.

 

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

 

 

530     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor H.J.W. James.

 

 

531     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 16th October, 2012 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

532     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

533     STAFF SURVEY 2012 UPDATED ACTION PLAN (MD) –

 

As requested as a previous meeting, the Head of Performance and Development- referred Members to the update of the Action Plan, as outlined below:

 

Action

Start

Date

Finish

Date

Progress

Undertake a review of training opportunities and programmes, including training for staff working outside office environments.

Oct 2012

Apr 2015

2012/13 TDRS programme is now underway. There has

been 100% compliance from Waste Management so far.

 

Council has now obtained funds to train staff in basic skills (ICT, literacy, numeracy). These courses are being targeted at staff working outside office

environments.  A series of roadshows is being used to promote these opportunities.

 

Training and development for staff disadvantaged by JE is

also being used to target staff working outside office

environments (for example HGV driver training now on offer).

 

Council has now signed

up to Employers Pledge.

Investigate training

practices throughout

the Council and

identify how to deliver

best practice as part

of the review.

Sep 2012

Apr 2013

Corporate training review currently underway as part of

Social Services Change Plan. Once completed this will be expanded to an assessment of all service areas.

Review previous staff

suggestion schemes

(Innovation Awards

and Savings Challenge) and implement a scheme building on the learning from previous schemes.

Sep 2012

Apr 2013

Previous schemes have been reviewed. It is not timely to implement another suggestion scheme. Instead

improvements to Core Brief and Staff Net will be used to incorporate the successful elements of the previous schemes into a new interactive Core Brief that will allow a dialogue between staff and senior offices.

Review approach to

team meetings of non-office based staff. Indentify and resolve reasons for lack of meetings.

Sep 2012

Apr 2013

To be addressed as part of ongoing review of employee engagement.  A report to CMT outlining next steps is currently being drafted.

Ensure that staff

(especially those

without access to a

PC) receive information through team meetings.

Sep 2012

Apr 2013

To be addressed as part of ongoing review of employee engagement.

 

A report to CMT outlining next steps is currently being drafted.

Review the effectiveness of the

PDRS process and

particularly in relation

to its use with non-office

based staff.

Oct 2012

Sep 2013

A series of focus groups with staff addressing the effectiveness of the current PDRS process.  The results of this will inform the review.

 

The possibility of enhancing the quality control procedures

currently in place in order to improve staff experience of the PDRS process is being investigated.

Investigate what staff

consider to be ‘recognition’ of good

work and develop an

approach to rewarding good work appropriately.

Oct 2012

Mar 2013

To be addressed as part of ongoing review of employee engagement.  A report to CMT outlining next steps is

currently being drafted.

 

A series of focus groups with staff addressing the PDRS process is being planned.

 

In relation to the actions proposed to address the matter of staff feeling undervalued, a view was expressed that the proposals were not robust and required further more imaginative thinking.  Further comments were made in relation to the need for a more holistic approach being taken as regards communication across the Council from the top down, the need for a co-ordinated training programme and the need to develop a robust internal communication strategy.  The Head of Performance and Development drew attention to the review of employee engagement included in the Action Plan and said that this would include internal communication.  As also indicated in the Action Plan, a training review was underway.  He would submit a progress report on those matters in 6 months.

 

Reference was also made in the ensuing discussions to concerns recently expressed by trade representatives at the Joint Consultative Forum (JCF) in relation to the figures quoted in the results summary which had been reported to this Committee in September.  Other areas of concern at the JCF included the fact that teachers had been excluded for participating in the survey and the way in which the survey had been conducted.  A suggestion was made that the “soundness” of the survey should be tested and an assessment made as to the merit of undertaking a similar survey with teachers. Members were notified that the Chairman of the JCF was to take up all areas of concern with the relevant officers.  The Head of Performance and Development said that the survey had been agreed by the Corporate Management Team and effectively communicated to Council staff generally, but that it was felt that teachers should not be included since their concerns were different in many ways from other staff.  He agreed to refer the above issues to the Corporate Management Team.

 

A proposal was also made that, prior to the next survey being undertaken, a copy be forwarded to this Committee for consideration.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the updated Action Plan as appended to the report be endorsed and the Plan referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

(2)       T H A T the actions contained in the Plan be incorporated into, and monitored in line with, existing departmental service plans.

 

(3)       T H A T the Head of Performance and Development submit a progress report to this Committee in 6 months.

 

(4)       T H A T Cabinet be asked to consider the proposal that a draft of the survey be submitted to this Committee for consideration.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

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

 

(3)       To monitor progress.

 

(4)       To ensure the content of the survey was fit for purpose.

 

 

534     THE IMPACT OF THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN ON THE COUNCIL AND ITS SERVICES – UPDATE ON PROGRESS OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TASK AND FINISH GROUP (MD) –

 

The Head of Financial Services referred to the following outstanding recommendations of the Budget Task and Finish Group which had been accepted by Cabinet some 2 years previously, commenting that most of those recommendations had now been completed or been overtaken by events.  He sought the Committee’s view on the current status of those recommendations and asked that, where any were deemed to remain outstanding, the appropriate Director be requested to submit a report to this Committee.  He stated that this represented the final update report from the Managing Director.

 

Members then considered the following and, in brief, progress was noted as set out below:

 

[View table]

 

During the course of discussion on the above matters, additional issues were raised as summarised below:

  • a report on an holistic approach to Carbon Management Reduction to be added to the Work Programme given, for example, the desirability if feasible of “investing to save” in respect of the wider installation of LED street lighting across the Vale
  • further information to be provided in respect of current collaborative working and proposals for the future given the emphasis placed on the same by the Welsh Government
  • ways in which to address the resource issues identified in paragraph 9 of the report.

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the progress on the above recommendations as indicated above be accepted and that, where requested, the relevant Directors/Heads of Service submit reports to this Committee.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the information presented and to the need for further reports to be submitted.

 

 

535     WINDOWS 7 DESKTOP ROLL OUT (MD) –

 

The Head of Strategic ICT updated Members in respect of the above.  The Council had now entered into an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft for the supply of the appropriate software and had entered into a new contract for the supply of desktop hardware.  The ICT Strategy had proposed a Corporate Technology refresh of the desktop estate as one of its major recommendations.  A number of pcs had already been installed with Windows 7 to carry out compatibility testing; that testing phase had now been completed as had the first phase of the roll out of 80 desktop pcs and laptops.  The next 12 months would see the replacement of 600 desktops and, additional to Windows7, all new pcs would be upgraded to use Microsoft Office 2010. Members were informed that a comprehensive training programme would accompany the roll out to ensure that staff were able to use the functionality of the new software utilising ICT trainers and some e-learning facilities provided by Microsoft.  In addition, a site would be established on StaffNet to assist with the training and deal with frequently asked questions.

 

In response to questions, the Head of Service confirmed that efforts were being made to raise staff awareness of the advantages of the more updated technology.  He was hopeful that a new mobile device and guest network would be in place by Christmas 2012 and that Members would be able to use their own devices in the Civic Offices in a secure environment.  He notified Members of a presentation taking place on 22nd November on mobile device management.  He indicated that the redundant computers were generally either recycled or passed to schools if appropriate.  A further question was then asked in relation to ICT in schools.  The Head of Service confirmed that he was aware of difficulties in certain areas, that he supported only the wide area networking for schools and that direct support to schools was provided through an ICT team within Education.  At this juncture reference was made to one of the recommendations of the Budget Task and Finish Group when the merits of having 2 separate ICT teams had been questioned.  Members were informed that matter was subject to ongoing discussions between the recently appointed Chief Learning and Skills Officer and the Managing Director.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To be aware of the arrangements made.

 

 

536     SCRUTINY COMMITTEE WORK PROGRAMME (DR) –

 

Confirmation of the Committee’s Work Programme for the remainder of the current municipal year was requested prior to its publication.  The Work Programme was already publicised on the Council’s website to inform Members and the public of future items up for consideration.  The Local Government (Wales) Measure also required that the forward Work Programme was widely publicised and, in order to meet the principles within the Measure relating to wider public/partner engagement and greater Member involvement in the embryonic stages of work programme development, consideration would need to be given to drawing up an appropriate engagement/communication strategy which would address those issues.

 

The Council was also engaged in a Wales Audit Office (WAO) Scrutiny Improvement Study and the issues referred to above underpinned the Study.  The self evaluation process, led by the Head of Democratic Services in liaison with the Managing Director, was currently underway and would give careful consideration as to how those matters would be addressed in terms of the Council’s overall capacity and ability to improve in those and other areas identified by the WAO.  Officers were currently looking to give greater prominence on the Council’s website to

  • the scrutiny function
  • assisting the public and other stakeholders to engage in the process
  • work with the media and social networking sites to widen engagement.

Attention was drawn to the quarterly decision tracking reports which were submitted to Committee and which informed updates to the Work Programme.  Members were also reminded that the content of a Work Programme was subject to change dependent upon prevailing circumstances and had agreed earlier in the meeting that matters such as the rationalisation of services within the Directorate of Development Services and Carbon Management Reduction should be added to the Work Programme.  Members noted that there were no outstanding reports awaited for pre-Cabinet scrutiny.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the work programme as set out at Appendix 1 to the report as amended above be endorsed for publication.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To confirm the Committee’s work programme for the remainder of the municipal year.

 

 

537     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DR) –

 

Having considered the progress to date in respect of those uncompleted recommendations made during 2011/12 and July to September 2012, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)    T H A T the following actions detailed as completed in the report be accepted.

 

11 October 2011

Min. No. 515 – The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Council and its Services – Update on Progress of the Recommendations of the task and Finish Group (DFICTP) – Recommended

(2)   That further reports be submitted to this Committee in respect of the following:

the saving to be achieved in respect of the reconfiguration of staffing structures in residential care and the reorganisation of day care services (Rec. 7).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Budget Programme Update on Residential Care Services for Older People was considered in October (Minute No. 442).

Completed

24 July 2012

Min. No. 207 - Quarterly Service Plan Action Monitoring and End of Year 2011/12 Performance Report – Recommended

(ii)   Chief Executive

That the Arts Development Officer be requested to update Members of the Committee on the current position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arts Development Officer requested to provide the required information by e-mail on 8th August, 2012.

Completed

Min. No. 208 - Welsh Government Consultation On The Promoting Local Democracy White Paper – Recommended that the above comments be referred to Cabinet for consideration in tandem with the report contained at Agenda Item No. 18(a).

 

 

 

Cabinet endorsed the recommendation of this Committee on 30th July 2012 (Min. No. C1804 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 212 - Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report (DLPPHS) –

Recommended that the contents of the Annual Report for the period May 2011 – April 2012 be approved, subject to any further minor amendments being agreed in consultation with the Chairman, and presented to Full Council in September, 2012.

 

 

 

Presented to Full Council on 26th September 2012.

Completed

Min. No. 213 - Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations (DLPPHS) – Recommended

(2)   That the relevant Cabinet Member be asked to progress the item “Provision of Bottled Water”.

 

 

 

Cabinet Member requested to progress the matter by e-mail on 9th August 2012.

Completed

11 September 2012

Min. No. 330 - Staff Survey 2012 Action Plan (MD) – Recommended

(1)   That 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.

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

 

 

(1)   Cabinet, on 1st October, inter alia noted the Action Plan (Min. No. C1832 refers).

Completed

 

 

(3)   Report considered earlier in the meeting.

Completed

 

Min. No. 332 - Corporate Asset Management Plan (Camp) 2012 / 13 (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That 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)   That the Corporate Asset Management Plan be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

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

 

 

 

(2&3)   Cabinet, on 1st October, inter alia supported the adoption of the CAMP and the appendices contained therein (Min. No. C1833 refers)

Completed

 

 

 

 

(4)   Site visit organised for 16th October, 2012.

Completed

Min. No. 334 - Capital Monitoring: 1st April To 31st July 2012 (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That, 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.

 

 

 

Information sent by e-mail on 26th September, 2012.

Completed

 

(2)   T H AT it be noted that the following matters remained ongoing:

 

13 September 2011

Min. No. 370 - Revenue Monitoring: 1st April - 31st July, 2011 (DFICTP) – Recommended

(3)   That, should the Director of Social Services not achieve a projected balanced budget by the end of the calendar year, a further report be submitted to this Committee.

 

 

 

Report to be submitted to this Committee

Ongoing

20 December 2011

Min. No. 738 - Pressure on the Social Services Revenue Budget 2011/12 and Budget Recovery Action Plans (REF - Min. No. C1520) – Recommended that the current position be noted and that this Committee receive regular updates on the situation.

 

 

 

 

Regular updates to be reported to this Committee

Ongoing

11 September 2012

 

Min. No. 327 - Sickness Absence Report Full Year April 2011 – March 2012 (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

 

 

 

Ongoing

Min. No. 333 - Revenue Monitoring: 1st April To 31st July 2012 (MD) – Recommended

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

 

 

 

To be reported in December.

Ongoing

 

(3)    T H A T the Head of Human Resources be requested to expedite the submission of the report requested above in relation to sickness absence.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)   To maintain effective tracking of the Committee’s recommendations.

 

 

538     INTERIM REPORT OF THE TASK AND FINISH GROUP ON WELFARE REFORM (HFS) –

 

The Task and Finish Group had met on four occasions to date. Given that the last meeting of the Group had only very recently taken place, the report detailed the progress made at the first three meetings as summarised below:

  • the scope and terms of reference of the Group
  • the Risk Analysis in relation to Welfare Reform which had been broken down into specific areas, a copy of which was appended to the report.  Members considered that the changes occurring in April 2013 for which the Council had direct responsibility for delivering had the highest priority ranking.  Those changes included the delivery of the Council Tax Support Scheme and the changes to the housing benefit relating to up-rating of the local housing allowance, the benefit cap and the benefit reduction for over accommodated tenants
  • a communications plan, also appended to the report, which covered claimants potentially affected, staff, services and other partner organisations.  In addition, the Group had considered that a briefing for all Members of the Council would be useful and that had taken place on 26th September
  • two sessions were held at the Local Service Board Forum seminar on 5th October which provided general information on the welfare reforms and to allow consideration of some of the more detailed implications for claimants and how LSB partners would be affected and how organisations could work together.  The Group would invite stakeholders to attend future meeting(s)
  • the Action Plan, attached at Appendix C to the report, had been agreed.  As with the Risk Analysis, the Plan had been broken down into the key themes of welfare reform and was being further developed Staff were being kept informed as were the trade unions. A report on future staffing implications would be submitted to the Group in due course
  • an update of the current position with the Council Tax Support Scheme, the Group being notified that there would be an All Wales Council Tax Scheme but that there would be a small number of areas where councils would have discretion as amplified in paragraphs 8 and 9 of the report.  The main issue was that of funding as the expectation was that all liable persons would be required to contribute to their council tax bill
  • all councils in Wales could now access financial modelling software which would help identify the impact of the change and would assist the Council in budgeting for the scheme.  The Group had put forward a proposal to procure the necessary software which Cabinet had recently agreed
  • an update on the current position with the benefit changes.  Information had been shared on potentially over accommodated tenants with the Council’s housing service and with social landlords to enable them to identify the tenants affected and the scale of change.  The Head of Financial Services indicated that discretionary housing payments might help alleviate individual problems and that the policy would need to be reviewed
  • a questionnaire aimed at identifying the provision of money and debt advice across the Council, LSB partners and the Third Sector had been approved for despatch given that it was essential that the extra resources required be targeted appropriately.

Members were notified that regular progress reports would made to the Committee in addition to the budget implications once known.  The Head of Financial Services drew attention to the fact that much uncertainty remained but that work was ongoing in those areas where real progress could be achieved.  The Head of Service was agreeable to a suggestion that all Members receive an updated briefing on similar lines to that delivered to Members in September 2012.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the actions of the Task and Finish Group in agreeing the Risk Analysis, Communications Plan and Action Plane be endorsed.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To ensure that Members are updated.

 

 

539     TREASURY MANAGEMENT (S151O) –

 

The Section 151 Officer took Members through the mid year report which was   required under the CIPFA Treasury Management in the Public Services: Code of Practice.  By way of background, he explained that the Council had approved the 2012/13 Treasury Management Strategy in March 2012 and assured Members that all treasury management activity undertaken during the period in question complied with the approved strategy, the CIPFA Code of Practice and the relevant legislative provisions. The Council’s investment strategy was to secure the best return on its investments whilst having regard to capital security. The Council’s borrowing strategy estimated that it would borrow £5,995,000 of new external loans to support the capital programme for 2012-13.  He confirmed that Officers together with treasury advisers would continue to monitor prevailing interest rates and market forecasts and adopt a pragmatic approach to borrowing.

 

He indicated that the details in paragraphs 10 to 16 of the report under the heading of “economic review / interest rate prospects” had been provided by the Council’s treasury advisers and covered the period to September 2012.  Reference was made therein to the European situation as well as the fact that the U.K. recession continued into quarter two.  The August Inflation Report showed that the Bank of England expected little economic growth in the current year and a gradual recovery in 2013.  Further more, the recent downward trend in the CPI inflation rate allied with the apparent synchronised global downturn led by the Eurozone had pushed market expectations for a rise in interest rates out to at least 2014. The latest central forecast from the Council’s treasury management advisers were shown in paragraph 16 of the report, the risks to forecast remaining heavily to the downside.

 

Under the heading of “Interim Report” summaries were shown of the treasury management transactions undertaken by the Council during the first half of the current financial year.  Paragraph 17 contained tables illustrating the monies borrowed / repaid during the period together with the investments made.  Members noted that external interest at an average rate of 5.62% (amounting to £2,803,462) had been accrued on those loans in the period and interest, at an average rate of 0.25% (amounting to £125,917) had been earned from investments.  Members were also informed that the position in relation to the Debt Management Strategy would be reviewed following the announcement of a new Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) certainty rate from 1st November.

 

As regards Treasury Management Indicators by which the Council measured its exposure to treasury management risks, details of the following indicators as at 20th September 2012 were set out in paragraph 22 of the report:

  • Interest Rate Exposure
  • Maturity Structure of Borrowing
  • Principal sums invested for periods longer than 364 days.

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Treasury Management mid year report for the period 1st April to 30th September be noted together with the latest Treasury Management Indicators and referred to Cabinet.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To present the report as required by the aforementioned Code of Practice together with an update of the Treasury Management Indicators.

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook