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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 19th February, 2013.

 

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.G. King, R.A. Penrose and G.H. Roberts.

 

 

880     INTRODUCTION –  

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to welcome Members and Officers from Neath/Port Talbot County Borough Council and Officers from the Wales Audit Office who would be observing the Committee meeting as part of the WAO Scrutiny Study - Process of Scrutiny Committees in Local Authorities.  With Committee agreement the Chairman advised that at the close of the meeting Members would also receive feedback from the observers. 

 

 

881     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –  

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

882     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2012 TO 30TH NOVEMBER, 2012 AND UPDATE ON THE SOCIAL SERVICES BUDGET PROGRAMME (REF) –  

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) had referred the report in respect of the progress made on the Social Services Budget Programme to the Scrutiny Committee for information in order for Members to be made aware of the progress made to date on the Social Services Budget Programme.

 

The Director of Social Services presented the report which outlined that the Directorate was currently required to find savings totalling £8.5 million by the end of 2015/16.  Progress had however, been made in identifying these savings with the table below providing the current position

 

Year

Savings Required

£000

Savings Identified

£000

In Year (Surplus)/Shortfall

£000

Cumulative (Surplus)/Shortfall

£000

2012/13

1,430

1,833

(403)

(403)

2013/14

2,150

2,040

110

(293)

2014/15

2,150

675

1,475

1,182

2015/16

2,757

25

2,732

3,914

TOTAL

8,487

4,573

3,914

 

 

The Director advised that the Social Services Directorate was committed to achieving a balanced budget however, it was noted that the Initial Revenue Budget Proposals for 2013/14 predicted a worsening financial position for the Council and included increased savings and targets for the Directorate.  All Directors had been requested to formulate additional options for savings and additional income etc over the next four years.

 

The Director then referred to specific issues for the Directorate e.g. the introduction of the £50 cap by Welsh Government, changes to case law which meant 16 and 17 year olds if homeless would be entitled to accommodation and the increasing demands on the service with regard to the elderly population within the Vale of Glamorgan area.

 

In response to a question as to the estimated cost of the £50 cap, the Director advised that the overall figure was in the region of £1.7 million in lost income, although Welsh Government had reimbursed the Council for some of those costs.  Given the significant implications for the Vale, a Business Case had been presented to Welsh Government in October 2012.  The Council Leader and Deputy Leader, together with the Director of Social Services, had also made representations to Welsh Government and a response was awaited.  It was suggested by Members that the Scrutiny Chairman should also write on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee to Welsh Government, expressing the Committee’s concerns in respect of this matter and outlining the significant financial implications the £50 cap had for the Vale.  In particular, it was agreed that Welsh Government should be urged to provide an indication of its plans for the future as to whether the cap would remain at the level currently set.

 

Members also referred to the reference on page 3 of the report (paragraph 4) which referred to the shortfall of £3.9m to be identified for the year 2013/14 and for 2015/16.  The Directorate had been requested to identify savings for January 2013 and this had been addressed in the budget savings review shortly to be presented to full Council in March 2013.

 

Whilst considering the budget position and the future potential changes required to the service, Members were keen to learn whether the management resources to undertake the challenges were in place and whether the necessary expertise was available to address such a transformation of the Directorate.  The Director referred to the recent legislation in respect of sustainable social services and wellbeing and the current momentum for further significant remodelling of Social Services within the Vale.  He stated that the Council was in a positive position and referred in particular to the partnerships that had been established with Cardiff Council and the Local Health Board to date.  Although advising that service remodelling would not be easy, particularly with regard to change capacity issues and the scale of the challenges to be faced, he stated that the Council had done much of the groundwork in developing commissioning strategies which would establish a good framework to assist the process together with the regional collaboration work that was ongoing. 

 

In response to a query with regard to care home fees, Members were informed that the tool kit produced by the Council helped to ensure that a fair price is paid for care and the dialogue that existed between providers and the Council had been productive to date.   

 

Having fully considered the reference it was

 

RECOMMENDED –  

 

(1)       T H A T the Social Services Budget Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee Chairman, on behalf of the Committee, write to the Welsh Government making representations as indicated above regarding the challenge facing the Council in relation to the £50 cap.

 

(3)       T H A T a copy of the letter referred to in recommendation 2 above be e-mailed to all Members of the Council for information.

 

(4)       T H A T the Committee notes with caution the scale of challenge and risks associated with the budget for the Directorate of Social Services.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the information contained in the report.

 

(2)       To inform Welsh Government of the concerns of the Scrutiny Committee.

 

(3)       To inform Members.

 

(4)       In recognition of the challenges ahead.

 

 

883     FLEET PROCUREMENT DELAYS 2011/12 (DVSH) –

 

The report had been presented in response to concerns made by the Committee at its meeting on 16th October, 2012 with regard to the delays in the delivery of new vehicles included in the vehicle renewals programme.

 

The report outlined the reasons for the delays and the measures that had been put in place to reduce similar problems in future years.  The Operational Manager for Assets presented the report advising that the vehicle renewals programme was a schedule of vehicle replacements based on time and use.  The programme was aimed at ensuring all vehicles were replaced at the optimum time, balancing reliability of vehicles in service with their ongoing costs.  The life of the vehicle was set at the time of delivery and this could vary from a period of between 5 and 12 years.  Due to the variation and the fact that vehicles in the fleet were of various ages, there were always a number of vehicles requiring replacement each year.  The capital costs of the programme varied e.g. the value of the programme for 2011/12 had been £1.25 million and for 2012/13 £1.614 million.

 

Prior to 31st January, 2011 vehicles had been purchased from the All Wales Commercial Vehicle Framework Agreement but this had expired at the end of January 2011.  Since then vehicles had been purchased by the Fleet Manager directly from manufacturers or their local dealerships which had caused delays in the procurement process due to the increased administration.  The report also highlighted that a number of larger manufacturers had increased their lead times for delivery from 12 weeks to 44 weeks due to the current economic climate. 

 

In 2011 Value Wales with the assistance of Yorkshire Procurement Organisation had introduced a profile framework which was an alternative to the All Wales Commercial Vehicles Framework Agreement.  However, the newly introduced framework failed to match the criteria required by Fleet Managers in Wales which resulted in the Framework being suspended and re-launched in 2012.  As a result of Framework savings this had had a knock-on effect on procurement timescales. 

 

It was noted that during 2011/12, Fleet Management procured 38 new vehicles and 18 had been delivered outside the required timescales.  The reasons behind the late delivery were reported as follows:

 

·         8 vehicles had been rejected on delivery due to local dealer supplying vehicles with incorrect towing specification.

·         5 vehicles delivery had been suspended whilst incorrect towing specification issues were resolved.

·         3 special build 4x4 vehicles for Highways & Parks, the delivery times had been extended by the manufacturers / dealer.

·         1 refuse vehicle where a "banksman" and camera system were incorrectly fitted on delivery.

·         1 sweeper vehicle had developed electrical faults on delivery.

 

The value of these vehicles had resulted in an underspend of £762,000 in 2011/12 and this has slipped into the 2012/13 budget.

 

In response to queries raised by Members the Fleet Manager who was also present at the meeting advised that although problems had occurred with the Framework agreements, overall they had worked.  In noting that the Council both leased and purchased vehicles in line with service requirements Members queried Best Value in the process and were advised that various steps were undertaken by the Department e.g. all discounts offered were considered and deals that could be made when vehicles were purchased from new. In the current economic climate manufacturers were offering various discounts to purchase new vehicles which generally outweighed the cost of buying second hand.  The Fleet Manager reiterated that the problems that had been envisaged the previous year had been in relation to the fact that the manufacturer had ordered the wrong specifications. Members queried whether the Council should consider looking differently at the way it purchased vehicles, and whether it could be done more efficiently or smarter to ensure vehicles were fit for purpose.  In response the Fleet Manager confirmed that the Council did not automatically replace a vehicle, they looked at each vehicle in turn, undertaking regular checks at the yard and on a monthly basis reviewing the apparatus and addressing matters of concern. 

The Operational Manager also advised that there were options that could be considered for the future and referred in particular to considering maximising vehicles on routes.

 

Following a request for a further report on the progress of the trial of the tracker system that was currently in operation and a review of the Council’s policy on Fleet management  the Chairman stated that the issue of Fleet procurement could also be considered as a potential item for a future Task and Finish when the work programme was to be considered.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the issue of Fleet management be either recommended for a Task and Finish review or a further report on the issues identified above be requested when the Committee considers its work programme for 2013/14.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of Members' concerns raised at the meeting.

 

 

884     REVENUE MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2012 TO 31ST DECEMBER, 2012 (MD) –  

 

The report outlined the progress of revenue expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st December, 2012.  The projected outturn for the 2012/13 Revenue Budget was shown in comparison with the amended Revenue Budget at Appendix 1 to report.  The forecast was for the Council to underspend in the sum of £105,000 and for an estimated balanced budget on the Housing Revenue Account.

 

The report highlighted the issues for the Directorates as below:

 

Directorate of Learning and Skills

 

School Improvement - there was a projected overspend of £11,000 made up of an overspend of £42,000 due to an amended approach to funding the WJEC subscription which had been originally proposed as a saving and also £11,000 additional costs for subscription and licences paid on behalf of schools.  This had however been off-set by a reduction of projected costs on the Joint Education Service of £10,000 and additional income generated in the year together with vacancy savings within the service of £32,000.

 

Under Access and Inclusion - Additional Learning Needs, the service was projecting an overspend of £237,000 due to an overspend against the budget of Children's Placements in independent schools of £270,000 which would partly be off-set by addition recoupment income of £64,000.  It was noted that the ALN Service was an extremely volatile budget and various options to off-set any potential overspend were being investigated.

 

The Strategic Planning Service was projecting an underspend of £58,000 due to the vacant Director post and savings against the pensions budget of £32,000, £12,000 against Directorate office supplies and advertising budgets, £15,000 in education finance due to additional grant funding and employee savings and £76,000 underspend in ICT and Data due to in year vacancy savings.  It was noted that additional income had also been generated and new arrangements for funding school tests

 

Favourable variances were shown for the Library service and Youth Service but an adverse variance of 8k for Lifelong Learning.  It was noted that the Catering Service was currently identifying a £2,000 favourable variance but that this could be affected by external factors and the requirement to meet WG nutritional standards.

 

Directorate of Social Services

 

The current forecast for Social Services at the year end remained as an underspend of £403,000, as a result of savings identified for the year and anticipated to be achieved being £403,000 in excess of the actual savings required for the year which had been set as part of the Social Services Budget Programme.

 

The report, however, highlighted that whilst this was an achievement for the Directorate it had been noted that this was only a short term gain as the total savings target for the whole of the budget programme over the four year period had not yet been finalised.

 

Directorate of Visible Services and Housing

 

Highways Maintenance & Engineering Design & Procurement - There was currently a £44k favourable variance to the revised profiled budget mainly due to increased levels of income being achieved by the Highways Section.  

 

Waste Management – A £3k favourable variance to the revised profiled budget was reported as mainly due to a continuing decrease in the level of waste taken to landfill, therefore saving on costly disposal.

 

Grounds Maintenance - The £40k adverse variance to the revised profiled budget was mainly due to an overspend on new machinery as new legislation had come in to force for Hand Arm Vibration.  Members were advised that the current favourable variance of £128k for support services would be held for any cost pressures within Visible Services that may arise throughout the financial year.  With regard to Building Services it was  currently anticipated that this area would breakeven at year end

 

General Fund Housing - The Housing Services General Fund Account was currently showing a favourable variance of £11k on supplies and services and under Public Sector Housing (HRA),  the Housing Revenue Account was predicted to outturn on target.  The current favourable variance of £134k against the profiled budget  was made up of an adverse variance on the housing repairs demand led responsive maintenance service of £65k and offset by favourable variances on Salaries (£40k), Income (£28k), Premises Costs (£21k), Transport (£9k) and other Supplies and Services (£101k).

 

Directorate of Development Services

 

Public Protection and Private Sector Housing - Both areas were predicted to outturn on target.

 

Planning and Transportation – The current favourable variance of £231k reported was  predominately due to income from planning fees for major schemes now being in advance of the profiled estimate.  It was anticipated that the year end outturn would be a favourable variance of £59k, which would be used to fund overspends elsewhere in the division.

 

Leisure – The  £167k adverse variance to the revised profiled budget, was primarily due to overspending in the leisure centres. Part of this variance would be offset by savings from within Planning and Transportation.

 

Economic Development – The current £37k adverse variance to the revised profiled budget was primarily attributable to the Employment and Training Services, as a result of the Government Work Programme receipts having not reached the profiled income targets to date.   This service is currently under review to enable a return to within budget in 2013/14.  It was anticipated that the outturn at year end would be an adverse variance of £36k.

 

Managing Director

 

An estimated underspending of £250k from within the Policy budget would be used to offset the overspending on the Leisure Service.

 

Members in noting some of the service areas were reporting underspends requested that future reports contain more detail in relation to the issues affecting adverse or favourable variances.  It was also requested that with regard to the underspends highlighted as staff vacancies in the Social Services Directorate and in view of the challenges and issues facing the Department that Members be advised as soon as possible of any issues for the Directorate in respect of service delivery.

 

Having fully considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

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

 

(2)       T H A T future reports to the Committee contain more detail in relation to favourable and adverse variances.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To advise Members.

 

 

885     CAPITAL MONITORING REPORT FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST DECEMBER, 2012 (MD) –

 

The report provided Members with an update of the progress on the 2012/13 Capital Programme for the period 1st April 2012 to 31st December 2012.  The Head of Service for Accountancy and Resource Management in presenting the report referred to various schemes, as detailed in the report, where the relevant officers had been required to provide explanations where it was evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year.

 

In considering the report Members referred to the Extra Care / Elderly Mental Infirm (EMI) feasibility scheme under the Directorate of Social Services and queried the reasons for the delay, particularly in view of the fact that a £50,000 allocation had been regularly reported to Committee over the past few years.  It was agreed that the information together with confirmation of whether work on the Older People's Accommodation Strategy had commenced be e-mailed to Members following the meeting.

 

In response to a query regarding the Leisure Centre Refurbishment and the loan repayable to Salix Finance, from revenue, Members queried the contractual arrangements in terms of the energy agreement and were advised by the Head of Service that the contractual arrangements were for a 50 : 50 split between the Council and Parkwood in relation to future savings resulting from reductions in energy usage.

 

Following consideration of Appendix 1 the issue of a grease duct safety programme was raised with it being noted that this referred to catering activities and the requirement to comply with School Catering Standards. With regard to a query in relation to Pencoedtre Park refurbishment detailed at Appendix 2, it was noted that this should have also been reflected in Appendix 1 of the report with the request for further detail on the underspend to be emailed to Members. The Committee also requested to receive further information in respect of the roof renewals expenditure as to the detail for the additional works that had been required and the resulting overspend.

 

Having fully considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the responses to the queries outlined above be e-mailed to Members prior to the next meeting of the Committee.

 

(2)       T H A T recommendations (1-7) contained within the report be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the following recommendations, as detailed within the report, be referred to Cabinet for consideration and Council for approval:

 

·         Castleland Renewal Area - reduce the current budget to £1.26m (carry forward £445k to 2013/14). 

·         Carbon Management Fund - reduce the budget to £168k (carry forward £75k into 2013/14).

·         Council Chamber Access Improvements - reduce the budget to nil (carry forward £250k into 2013/14).

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To inform Members.

 

(2)       It being noted that other Scrutiny Committees had already been requested to forward the recommendations within their remit to Cabinet and Council.

 

(3)       To obtain approval.

 

 

886     MATTER WHICH THE CHAIRMAN HAD DECIDED WAS URGENT –  

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the following matter which the Chairman had decided was urgent for the reason given beneath the minute heading be considered.

 

 

887     MINUTES –  

(Urgent by reason of the need to progress the matters requiring consideration by Cabinet and Council in the current cycle)

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 8th February, 2013 be approved as a correct record subject to it being noted that under minute No. 831 - Corporate Plan – “during the discussion it was suggested that in the future a review of the partnerships involved be undertaken with particular reference to how they relate to the Corporate Plan.”

 

 

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