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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 23rd April, 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, P.G. King, R.A. Penrose and G.H. Roberts.

 

Also present: Councillor N. Moore.

 

 

1095   APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE –  

 

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

 

 

1096   MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 19th March, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

1097   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –  

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

1098   IMPROVEMENT OBJECTIVES 2013/14 (MD) –

 

The Local Government Measure 2009 required the Council to set improvement objectives annually.  Consultation was ongoing on those for 2013/14 and Members were notified that a summary of the consultation (including any comments from the public) and the final improvement objectives would be reported to Cabinet in June 2013.

 

The Head of Performance and Development then referred to the 8 improvement objectives proposed for 2013/14 including 3 carried forward from 2012/13 which had been amended to reflect the area of focus for further improvement work in 2013/14.  These were

  • to promote sustainable practices throughout our domestic waste management services with a particular focus on promoting waste prevention, reducing landfill and increasing recycling
  • to reduce the time taken to deliver disabled facilities grants to children and young people and to adults to achieve the Welsh average performance of 2011/12 as a minimum
  • to implement effective and sustainable workforce planning for the Council.

Appendix 1 to the report outlined the proposed objectives and provided a rationale.  Members noted that the objectives falling specifically under the remit of this Committee were as follows:

  • Objective 5 – to implement effective and sustainable workforce planning for the Council
  • Objective 6 – to improve citizen engagement by ensuring residents’ views are used to inform service development and improvement and further developing opportunities / mechanisms for residents to influence decision making.

As regards Objective 5, the Head of Human Resources responded to questions by stating, inter alia, that the rationale for the actions proposed was that they related to actions contained within the workforce plan which the Council was committed to delivering in 2013/14.  Discussion then ensued in relation to the Objective 6, comments made including how the incorporation of any views expressed through improved citizen engagement in informing service delivery and improvement would be measured and whether a better first step in the process would the development of a shared LSB and Information Strategy which would outline how local partners could work together to develop citizen engagement. In response to queries in relation to improving public engagement, the Head of Performance and Development referred to the ongoing practice whereby a biennial Public Opinion Survey was undertaken by external consultants, to the pilot scheme currently underway where Customer Services staff within C1V would offer callers the opportunity to participate in a telephone poll, and to consideration being given to incorporating a similar facility on the Council’s redesigned website which it was anticipated would be in operation in the near future.   Members also requested that the word “tool” contained within the 2nd action shown in relation to Objective 6 be amended to “mechanism”.

 

Each of the other Scrutiny Committees had already considered the other Improvement Objectives.  The Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) had proposed that the final sentence of the penultimate paragraph of Objective 1 be amended to read “….reduce the Council’s risk of not achieving national targets” but had otherwise accepted those Objectives falling within its remit.  Members were informed that, in respect of Objective 3, the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) had endorsed the Objective as submitted.  As regards Objective 4, the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) had recommended that Cabinet should consider increasing the 2013/14 target since Members felt that the 1% percent increase was insufficiently ambitious.   Lifelong Learning had also commented in respect of Objective 8 that there should be an earlier identification of NEET from that proposed within the rationale, suggesting that this should occur at the end of year 9. 

 

Particular attention was paid to Objective 2 which related to the time taken to deliver disabled facilities grants.  The Objective stated that the aim was to reduce the time taken to achieve the Welsh average performance for 2011/12 as a minimum but the target proposed for 2013/14 regarding the average number of calendar days taken was, in fact, significantly higher.  The ongoing underperformance in the delivery of disabled facilities grants was deemed to be unacceptable, although it was recognised that the situation had been historically poor for a variety of reasons and was improving, that the targets set should be realistic and that there could be capacity issues.  A suggestion was made that radical solutions should be investigated in order to effect radical improvement and that the Head of Public Protection should be invited to present a report at the next meeting of this Committee.   

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to have regard to the views expressed above in relation to the proposed Improvement Objectives for those matters within this Committee’s remit (numbers 5 and 6) as shown above.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be notified that this Committee would endorse the comments made the other Scrutiny Committees.

 

(3)       T H A T Cabinet’s attention be drawn to the concerns expressed above in relation to Improvement Objective 2.

 

(4)       T H A T the Head of Public Protection be invited to present a report in relation to the concerns expressed above at the next meeting of this Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To ensure Cabinet is made aware of the views of this Committee.

 

(4)       To address the concerns expressed above and to allow consideration as to a way forward.

 

 

1099   ANNUAL EQUALITY MONITORING REPORT (MD) –  

 

The Equality Act 2010 included a new public sector equality duty (the “general duty”) as well as specific duties for Wales which included the requirement to publish an annual report by 31st March each year.  Members were informed that the Council did not have comprehensive information on all the areas that it was required to report on and the Head of Performance and Development explained that systems and processes were being developed to collect and analyse employment and equalities information to address that matter.  He added that Cabinet had already received the report and that a further report would be submitted to this Committee notifying Members of the type of information Council employees would be required to provide.  Members noted that schools were listed public authorities under the Public Sector Equality Duty specific duties in Wales and, as such, were responsible for producing their own annual equality monitoring reports.

 

Subsequent discussion focused on the desirability to include comparative data within the statistics presented, such as a breakdown of the population within the Vale for example, in order to give context to the figures.  Members recognised that the format of the report would evolve over time and congratulated the Head of Service and his team on the production of the well written and readable report.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Annual Equality Monitoring Report for 2011/12 be noted and officers commended on its production.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To comply with the requirement of the Equality Act 2010 and to recognise the efforts of officers.

 

 

1100   SAFER RECRUITMENT POLICY (MD) –  

 

The Director of Social Services, as the designated officer and lead officer in the area of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, had established the Corporate Safeguarding Steering Group (CSSG) which was an internal officer working group with representatives from all Directorates.  The CSSG had met on a number of occasions and considered the former arrangements as compared with those published by the Government which had led to the development of the Safer Recruitment Policy as appended to the report which had been agreed by Cabinet on 14th January, 2013.  In presenting the report, the Head of Human Resources referred to the key elements of the policy which included:

  • provision of consistent recruitment safeguarding arrangements throughout the Council and schools
  • all categories of workers covered (employees, agency, volunteers and contractors)
  • creation of minimum standards in respect of number, content of references and additional safeguarding checks
  • mandatory receipt and assessment of CRB / DBS disclosures prior to taking up employment
  • defined “risk assessment” process for use in exceptional circumstances where it was essential the post be filled
  • CRB / DBS Code of Practice / Data Protection requirements in administering documentation
  • training and communication.

Further details in respect of the above were contained within the report.  Attention was drawn to the fact that the application of the Safer Recruitment Policy would be audited by the Council's Audit Section who would check compliance as part of visits to schools and other establishments of the Council.  That in turn would help inform regular update reports to this Committee.  To ensure consistency of application, the CSSG had endorsed the Reference Matrix as appended to the report which identified the number of types of references required as determined by the role, responsibility and / or service. 

 

Members were also notified of forthcoming changes in that the Protection of Freedom Act 2012 had brought about a number of changes, some of which were scheduled to be implemented in 2013/14.  Those changes included:

  • amendments to the criminal records checking process including the introduction of a new system for the continuous updating and affordability of criminal records
  • issuing DBS certificate to the applicant only.

Members were notified that the CSSG would consider the above and provide a further report to Cabinet and this Committee when further details became available. 

 

RECOMMENDED –  

 

(1)       T H A T the report and the work undertaken to ensure best practice in relation to safe recruitment arrangements be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Human Resources provide a six monthly report to this Committee on the effectiveness of the Safer Recruitment Policy.

 

(3)       T H A T the changes to the administration, eligibility criteria for CRB / DBS disclosures, and other recent and future changes as contained within the report be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T the policy be endorsed and officers congratulated on the production of the policy which contained strong and unassailable standards which were to be applied in all areas of the Council.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To ensure that the Council and its schools demonstrated best practice in order to maintain robust procedures for carrying out safeguarding checks on workers with unsupervised access to children and vulnerable people.

 

(4)       To recognise the merit of the policy and the work of officers in compiling the same.

 

 

1101   UPDATE ON THE WORK OF THE CHANGE FORUM (MD) –  

 

The Head of Human Resources stated that the Change Forum, established in 2010 to help facilitate consultation with the trade unions in relation to restructuring and service change exercises, provided a monthly opportunity for senior trade union representatives to meet with the Managing Director and himself.  As such, a number of issues had been successfully progressed as indicated in paragraph 7 of the report, including

  • maintaining consultative overviews of significant change and restructuring exercises across all service areas
  • progressing re-deployment opportunities for those adversely affected by restructuring and as a result of the outcomes of job evaluation
  • providing a regular opportunity to discuss budgetary issues and pressures across the Council and the related staffing implications
  • serving as a consultation vehicle in relation to the development of the Workforce Plan.

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report and current position be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To be aware of the work of the Change Forum.

 

 

1102   SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DR) –

 

Having considered the progress to date in respect of those uncompleted recommendations made during 2011/12 to March 2013, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the following actions be deemed completed:

 

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.

The Director of Social Services attended the meeting on 19th February, 2013 to update Members of the Social Services budget programme.

Completed

20 December 2011

Min. No. 738 - Pressure on the Social Services Revenue Budget 2011/12 and Budget Recovery Action Plan (REF - Min. No. C1520) – Recommended

That the current position be noted and that this Committee receive regular updates on the situation.

Regular reports are submitted to the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health).  This Committee is updated through the monthly Revenue and Capital Monitoring Reports. 

Completed

11 September 2012

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.

Report submitted to Committee on 19th March 2013 when the position was noted.

Completed

8 February 2013

Min. No. 831 - Corporate Plan (MD) – Recommended

That the changes to the Plan be noted, that Cabinet be asked to consider including reference to the promotion of Fair Trade by the Council within the Plan and that it be noted that the Plan would be submitted to Council for consideration on 6th March, 2013.

Cabinet, on 25th February 2013, agreed that the Plan should be amended accordingly prior to its submission to Council (Min. No. C1218 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 833 - Welsh Government White Paper: A Sustainable Wales – Better Choices for a Better Future (MD) – Recommended

That the above comments be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

Cabinet, on 25th February 2013, noted the comments of the Committee (Min. No. C1224 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 835 - Capital Monitoring: 1st April to 30th November 2012 (MD) – Recommended

(2)       That Cabinet be recommended to seek Council approval to reduce the budget to £222k. (carry forward £30k. to 2013/14) for the replacement of the Mess Room at Court Road.

Cabinet, on 25th February 2013, endorsed the comments of the Committee and recommended that the aforementioned budget be reduced to £222k.  (Min. No. C1221 refers).

Completed

19 February 2013

Min. No. 882 - Revenue and Capital Monitoring for the Period 1st April, 2012 to 30th November, 2012 and Update on the Social Services Budget Programme (REF) – Recommended

(2)       That 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.

Letter dated 18th March 2013 sent to the Deputy Minister for Social Services.

Completed

(3)       That a copy of the letter be e-mailed to all Members of the Council for information.

Copy e-mailed to Members on 20th March 2013.

Completed

Min. No. 885 - Capital Monitoring Report for the Period 1st April to 31st December, 2012 (MD) – Recommended

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

Responses e-mailed to Members on 7th March 2013.

Completed

(3)       That 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).

Cabinet, on 4th March 2013, approved the Committee’s recommendations (Min. No. C1243 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 887 – Minutes –  (Urgent by reason of the need to progress the matters requiring consideration by Cabinet and Council in the current cycle) – Recommended

That 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.”

Referred to Cabinet meeting of 25th February 2013.  (See also Min. No. 831 above).

Completed

19 March 2013

Min. No. 999 - Future of the Former St. Cyres Site in Dinas Powys – Consultation Report (MD) – Recommended

(2)       That Cabinet be requested to take on board the points raised above during their further consideration as to the way forward.

[The need for an assessment to be made of the viability of the various proposals in order that a “wish list” for the development of the site could be drawn up and consideration given to the methodology for the implementation of the same.  Such work to be undertaken at the earliest opportunity]

Referred to Cabinet meeting of 8th April 2013.

Completed

(3)       That Cabinet be requested to instruct officers to approach key parties identified in the conclusions of the consultation process as appended to the report to gain a greater understanding of the viability of their plans for the site.

Referred to Cabinet meeting of 8th April 2013.

Completed

(4)       That Cabinet be requested to approve a further piece of work to assess the viability of accommodating the favoured options identified in the conclusions of the consultation report as appended to the report in a mixed development on the former St. Cyres site in Dinas Powys.

Referred to Cabinet meeting of 8th April 2013.

Completed

Min. No. 1004 - Capital Monitoring: 1st April, 2012 – 31st January, 2013 (MD) – Recommended

(2)       That the following matter be referred to Cabinet for consideration:

Data Centre – reduce the budget to nil (carry forward £450k. into 2013/14).

Referred to Cabinet meeting of 8th April 2013.

Completed

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To maintain effective tracking of the Committee’s recommendations.

 

 

1103   WELFARE REFORM (TFG) –

 

The Chairman introduced the report of the Task and Finish Group as a major piece of work undertaken in light of the sweeping Welfare Reform changes with the primary aim of mitigating the affects of the same on residents of the Vale of Glamorgan and welcomed comments from the Committee on its contents.  He formally thanked the Members and officers who had participated in the deliberations of the Task and Finish Group, referring in particular to the contribution from the Head of Financial Services throughout the process.  He indicated that he would amend his Statement as shown on page 3 of the report to that effect.

 

The Head of Financial Services briefly took Members through the covering report and drew particular attention to the fact that the report was based on the information available as at 31st March, 2013 given the fluid nature of the Welfare Reform changes.  Members considered the information contained within the report to be comprehensive, well thought out and highly informative and recommended that a copy be made available to all Members.  A Member of the Task and Finish Group stated that the content of the report well illustrated the efforts that Members and officers had put in.  That Member also referred to the concerns expressed at the Task and Finish Group in relation to the impact of the Welfare Reform changes on the most vulnerable members of society and put forward a motion that the Committee express its abhorrence to the Welfare Reform agenda.  A contrary view was put.  The motion, having been duly seconded and voted upon, was subsequently accepted.

 

RECOMMENDED –  

 

(1)       T H A T the report and recommendations of the Task and Finish Group be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration, and that Cabinet be requested to have regard to its contents and specific recommendations, as follows:

 

(i)         The Officer Working Group consider how services could be best co-ordinated to provide appropriate advice services and signposting for claimants, including hard to reach groups, in liaison with libraries, leisure, town and community councils.

 

(ii)        Communications on the implications of Welfare Reform to continue to be managed by the Officer Working Group via the communications plan, including the use of social media, C1V, local radio and the Council's website.

 

(iii)       Further road shows be used to communicate welfare reforms with affected claimants and tenants.

 

(iv)       Members and officers be updated on Welfare Reform as further developments require.

 

(v)        The Benefits Service continue to monitor data on over accommodation and liaise with social landlords (including the Council’s Housing Service) and tenants.

 

(vi)       The Officer Working Group continue to plan and respond to Welfare Reform changes as they develop.

 

(vii)      Action plans continue to be used to manage the risk and implementation of Welfare Reform and monitored by the Officer Working Group and the Corporate Risk Management Group under the corporate risk management policy until the major reforms were implemented.

 

(viii)     The Stakeholder Group continue to ensure the there was a co-ordinated approach to Welfare Reform with all LSB partners in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

(ix)       A revised Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) policy be developed for approval by Cabinet.

 

(x)        The issue of the Localised Support Services for claimants be taken forward via the Stakeholder Group with involvement of Officer Working Group and any framework agreement entered into for Localised Support Services approved by Cabinet.

 

(xi)       The Council identify and adopt best practice in the administration of Welfare Reform.

 

(xii)      Cabinet to consider designating the Social Services Department as lead department in dealing with the implications of the Discretionary Assistance Fund and the change from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payment.

 

(xiii)     Cabinet to consider designating the Housing Service as the lead department in dealing with implications of Welfare Reform on the management of the Council's own housing provision and the implications for overarching housing services.

 

(xiv)     The local housing strategy and the housing asset management plans be reviewed and considered by Cabinet in the light of the impact of Welfare Reform on the enabling function and stock profile.

 

(xv)      Any policy decisions required in relation to Welfare Reform be reported to Cabinet.

 

(xvi)     The Head of Financial Services update the Change Forum of staffing issues associated with Welfare Reform as the situation became clearer.

 

(xvii)    Staff within Resources and Benefits be kept informed of issues by the Head of Financial Services in team briefings, with the staff newsletter and the core brief.

 

(xviii)   Future staffing implications be identified by the Head of Financial Services, included in the Council’s Workforce Plan and dealt with in accordance with Council HR policies as Welfare Reform developed.

 

(xix)     As the financial year progressed, expenditure on Council tax support be included in financial monitoring reports to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).  

 

(xx)      The impact of the revised DHP policy and increased funding be monitored and reported to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection), initially on a six monthly basis.

 

(xxi)     That the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) receive a report on the impact of Welfare Reform within the Vale of Glamorgan, initially on a six monthly basis.

 

(3)       T H A T the report, updated as indicated above by the inclusion of the Chairman’s thanks to the Members and officers involved in the production of the report (in particular the Head of Financial Services), be e-mailed to all Members of the Council.

 

(4)       T H A T the Committee, whilst endorsing the report, also from the knowledge gained through the work done in developing the plan, express their abhorrence to the Welfare Reform agenda being run by the Westminster Government and the overt and insidious attacks on the living standards of the most vulnerable.

 

Reasons for the recommendations

 

(1)       To assist in identifying the impact of Welfare Reform and where possible mitigating the impacts on the Vale of Glamorgan Council and its residents.

 

(2i-v)   To ensure there is effective communication of Welfare Reform with relevant stakeholders.

 

(2vi-xv)            To ensure there continues to be effective management of Welfare Reform.

 

(2xvi-xviii)       To ensure there is effective management of the staffing implications of Welfare Reform.

 

(2xix-xxi)         To ensure there is effective scrutiny of Welfare Reform.

 

(3)       To ensure the information is readily available to all Members of the Council.

 

(4)       To record the concerns expressed.

 

 

1104   THANKS –

 

This being the final meeting of the Committee in this municipal year, the Chairman was thanked for the manner in which he had fulfilled his role.  The Chairman suitably responded and duly thanked the officers notably the role of the Democratic and Scrutiny Officers especially Lorraine Pugh.