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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 4th June, 2013.

 

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

 

Also present:  Councillors P.J. Clarke, C.P.J. Elmore, G. John and E. Williams.

 

 

            APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T Councillor Mrs. P. Drake be appointed Vice-Chairman for the current municipal year.

 

 

            MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 23rd April, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

            LLANTWIT MAJOR COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL SCHEME (CS) -

 

The Cabinet Member for Children's Services , Councillor C.P.J. Elmore, presented the report which informed Members of the outcome of work carried out to assess the feasibility of bringing forward the Llantwit Major Comprehensive School Scheme.

 

In line with Welsh Government requirements the Vale's 21st Century School Strategic Outline Programme had been submitted to Welsh Government in December 2010.  At that time the Welsh Government was providing a 70% grant towards local authority school investment schemes.  However, following a written statement in July 2011 the Welsh Government's contributions were to be reduced to 50% and local authorities across Wales had been invited to review and prepare revised forward outlook programmes for school capital investments.  A revised Band A programme was submitted by the Vale on 16th November 2011. 

 

The submission of the revised Band A programme had been successful and in December 2011 a conditional offer had been received from the Welsh Government for £10.48 million of Welsh Government grant support towards the total cost of £20.96 million which would transform and enhance various schools in Llantwit Major and Barry.

 

The reduction in grant funding as well as the extension of Band A of the 21st Century Schools Programme from a 3 year band commencing in 2012/13 to a 6 year band commencing in 2014/15 required a major revision to the Llantwit Learning Community scheme included in the original Strategic Outline Programme.  The scheme was reduced to the rebuild of Llantwit Major Comprehensive School in two phases extended over 5 years: 2015/16 - 2019/20.

 

At the Cabinet Meeting of 15th October 2012 (Cabinet Minute C1856 refers), members were advised that a feasibility study would be carried out to establish whether it would be possible to deliver the Llantwit scheme in one phase instead of the two phased approach as well as investigating the possibility of bringing forward aspects of the scheme.

 

Following discussion with Welsh Government officials it was established that although the Band A funding envelope was fixed it would be feasible to bring grant funding forward.  This required the re-profiling of the Band A Programme as well as establishing whether the Council's match funding could be brought forward in the Council's Capital Programme. The re-profiled Band A programme had now been approved by Welsh Government.  In referring to Appendix  A to the report the School Organisation and Access Manager advised that the revised strategic outline would be further revised drawing together the two phases.  In response to a query regarding school rationalisation in the area he also advised that the Council would be looking at options for new places if required and addressing any shortcomings. 

 

A member also queried whether the Leisure Centre would be reviewed in light of the new scheme in particular as to renovation and upgrading.  The Cabinet Member stated that investment had already been made into the leisure centre but that his particular preference would be for the development to join with the school to develop a Llantwit Major Learning community similar to the Penarth Learning Community.  He took the opportunity to also reassure Members that any schemes that did come forward would be presented to Members for their consideration.

 

Members, having considered that the report was a good news story

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the measures taken to ensure the rebuild of Llantwit Major Comprehensive School be completed in advance of the original timescale of 2019/20 be noted and welcomed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the fact that Welsh Government 21st Century Schools grant funding and the Council's match funding had been brought forward to fund the rebuild of Llantwit Major Comprehensive School in one phase starting in 2015/16 with completion earmarked for 2017/18.

 

 

            DELIVERY OF CHILDREN'S DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS (DDS) -

 

At the last meeting the Committee had requested that a report in relation to the concerns expressed regarding the ongoing underperformance in the delivery of disabled facilities grants be presented to this meeting. However,

Members considered that the report before them did not reflect the minutes of the last meeting or the concerns that had been raised previously. 

 

The Principal Housing and Pollution Officer in referring to the report stated that following the implementation of Wales Audit findings to monitor the stages of DFGs (Disabled Facilities Grants) during quarter 3 of 2012/13 it had been noted the time taken for occupational therapy to assess a child for a DFG was increasing significantly in comparison to adults as detailed in the table below.  This table detailed the time taken from first contact with the Council to the DFG team receiving the Occupational Therapist assessment of need across each quarter during 2012/13.

 

 

2012/13

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

ALL

85

126

115

115

ADULTS

71

92

89

98

CHILDREN

177

303

256

267

 

Although noting that performance had improved year on year from 2009/10, 2012/13 Members considered that the report did not address suggestions for  radical measures that needed to be put in place in order to reduce the figures further.  The target level for Performance Indicator PSR009A of 510 days was in their view not suitable and that further staffing arrangements should be considered.

 

In response the officer advised that for Children's Services 9 cases were noted at the time the report had been written. These cases had now been allocated and fast-tracked through the DFG system following the decision that all applications for children were to be dealt with as soon as they were received.

 

In explaining certain issues contained within the report the officer also advised that Children's Disabled Facilities Grants were often more complex although the Planning Department did recognise the need for the urgency required in respect of such applications in order to avoid delays. These would be addressed on a case by case basis.

 

Reference was made to the fact that the Public Protection Department was financing an OT to support the OT Team with a closing date for applications for the post due shortly. The officer was hopeful that the appointment could be made within the next couple of months.  An additional OT had also been funded on a temporary basis to address the backlog for adults.  With regard to the PIs Members were made aware that an immediate improvement would not be seen as reports were presented on a quarterly basis and it would take 12 months for the impact to take effect.  Furthermore although the appointment of extra staff would see an improvement in the PI there was currently 260 days already in the system for current cases which the authority could not do much about.

 

With regard to why one vacancy had been subject to a long delay the officer advised that this had been due to the Social Services team being restructured, some maternity issues within the Occupational team and discussions ongoing with the Health Authority for a rotational scheme to be established. In response to a query regarding as to the point at which a DFG process commences, the officer advised that it was when the first contact was made with the local authority was made and the client is waiting for an assessment.

 

Some Members in referring to the vacancy factor were aware that a number of reasons would contribute to delays but were still of the view that radical measures needed to be considered to address the backlog. Members also felt that other local authorities seemed to be responding more favourably to such applications and suggested that collaborative working may be a way forward.  All agreed that the filling of vacancies should be seen as a priority.

 

Following suggestions that contracts and frameworks could be streamlined the officer advised that she was currently looking into these aspects but that there were obstacles such as VAT, ownership of the grant and implications on the Council's RSG and capital funding settlement from Welsh Government. 

 

Having considered the report and the concerns raised above Members also agreed that a further report to identify all the issues and delays should be presented to the Committee following which it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T Cabinet be advised of the concerns of the Committee in that the report had not addressed the concerns raised at the last meeting on 23rd April 2013, in particular the concerns regarding the waiting list and the urgent need for more innovative solutions to the problems to bring down the number of days via a step change reduction in the number of days.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee on the issues referred to above, the delays involved and the stages of the processes in the delivery of Disabled Facilities Grants for children and adults.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be noted and referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

(4)       T H A T the report and the minutes of the meeting be referred to the Scrutiny Committees (Housing and Public Protection and Social Care and Health) for information and to advise of the concerns that had been raised.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That the Committee's concerns are forwarded to Cabinet and radical solutions to reduce the number of days explored.

 

(2)       In order to consider the matter further.

 

(3)       To refer the report to Cabinet for consideration.

 

(4)       In order that the views of the Committee are forwarded together with the report to the Scrutiny Committees (Housing and Public Protection and Social Care and Health) for information / consideration.

 

 

            TASK AND FINISH ACTIVITIES FOR 2013/14 (HDS) -

 

The Scrutiny Committee was requested to consider task and finish activities for 2013/14 with topics of any suggestions to be forwarded to the Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group for consideration.

 

The Democratic and Scrutiny Officer advised that the Welfare Task and Finish Group review which had been completed in April 2013 had been the Priority 1 for the previous year and traffic management and traffic flows in the county including reference to sustainable travel had been agreed as Priority 2.  However, as the Welfare Reform Review had not been completed until April 2013 the Priority 2 review was to be re-considered with all the suggestions for 2013/14 when received.

 

The Committee, having taken into account the consultation projects that had already been undertaken in 2011/12 and 2012/13 by the Council and in recognition of a number of issues that had been highlighted via the Corporate Plan subsequently  

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the process for considering reviews in 2013/14 as contained in the report and as previously endorsed by the Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice Chairmen Group be agreed.

 

(2)       T H A T the following two topics as joint priorities for reviews for 2013/14 be put forward for consideration to the Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice Chairmen Group :- 

 

·               Traffic management, the impact of traffic flows within the county, including reference to sustainable travel and public transport

·               and Fleet management.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2) In recognition of the consultation projects, Corporate Plan actions and the process for considering reviews as detailed within the report.

 


            WELSH LANGUAGE SCHEME ANNUAL MONITORING REPORT 2012-13 (MD) -

 

The Operational Manager for Corporate Policy and Communications presented the report by advising that its purpose was to apprise Members of the details of the Annual Report and the update to the Welsh Language Commissioner on the achievement of actions within the Welsh Language Scheme.  It was noted that the one previous annual report had been submitted on the current Welsh Language Scheme and was available for information on the Council's website.  The report for 2013 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report which included areas the Council had improved.

 

The report highlighted there was a statutory requirement on the Council to publish and implement the Welsh Language Scheme under the Welsh Language Act 1993.  The Welsh Language Scheme would be replaced in time with the Welsh Language Standards under the Welsh Language Wales Measure 2011.

 

During consideration of the report, Members were informed that the Welsh Web Translator had recently left the Council and that officers were currently   recruiting for that position.  Members thought that collaborative working with other local authorities was a possible way forward but the officer advised that the Welsh Government had been undertaking research into providing a collaborative approach across Wales but this had recently been put on hold.  Officers had also tried to establish a collaborative approach with officers in neighbouring authorities but this had not been successful to date.  Members then suggested that an approach would be for elected members in authorities to discuss the issue and if possible develop arrangements and that this view should be expressed to Cabinet.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the report and the Appendix be referred to Cabinet for consideration prior to the submission of the Annual Monitoring Report to the Welsh Language Commissioner by 30th June, 2013.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider engaging in conversations with neighbouring authorities regarding collaborative working in relation to Welsh Language translation.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In order to provide the required information to the Welsh Language Commissioner.

 

(2)       In order to pursue a collaborative approach by Elected Members.

 

 

            RECRUITMENT (REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION - COUNCILLOR P.J. CLARKE) -

 

Councillor P.J. Clarke had submitted the following Request for Consideration of Matter to the Scrutiny Committee

 

"Subject:  Recruitment.  There is an advertisement on the Vale of Glamorgan website indicating a vacancy in Corporate Policy and Communications. There must be accumulated money to finance such recruitment.  During times of austerity and a 4.8% increase in community charge, should the council not consider returning the funds to the taxpayer instead.  Furthermore there will be more cuts in the future, the unnecessary recruitment of permanent staff at this time could have financial consequences for the future." 

 

The report that had been prepared highlighted that the request referred to two posts that had been recently advertised, those of the Intern (Equalities) and Intern (Arts).  The Operational Manager advised that the Intern (Equalities) post was required to support the Equalities Team in respect of new legislation requirements and the new Welsh Language Standards that were expected to be published shortly.  The post was graded at Grade 'E' (£16,830 - £19,126 p.a.) which was a temporary position of two years. 

 

With regard to the Intern (Arts) post this was required to provide resilience in the Arts Central Gallery in Barry and for arts development work.  The post was similarly graded at Grade E, was also temporary and would last for two years. 

 

The nature of both posts was in direct alignment with the Department's Workforce Plan which had been incorporated in the Council's Workforce Plan for 2013 - 17.  The Department's Plan specified that with ever-dwindling resources there would be more of an emphasis on creating Intern posts.  These Interns would take on expert roles and undergo training and development on the job with senior staff taking on a greater role of supervision and direction.  The advantages would be that this would enable the Council to develop the necessary expertise whilst still economising by avoiding the need to appoint to higher graded jobs.  At the same time it also afforded the opportunity for talented people to embark on a career in local government, thereby strengthening the public service.

 

Councillor Clarke advised that he had completed the request following queries from members of the public who had raised concerns as to the necessity for the two positions in the current economic climate.  With regard to the Intern (Arts) the Operational Manager advised that as the gallery had become more and more popular and with larger and more expensive exhibitions insurance cover required regular invigilation of exhibitions.  However, with the appointment of an intern one of their roles would be to recruit and manage volunteers to act as invigilators which would be far more cost effective than paying increased insurance premiums. It was also noted that in the absence of the Arts Development Officer the gallery would have to close which would not be acceptable.

 

Some Members of the Committee considered that in light of the economic situation they would always envisage that officers would be expected to consider any appointments in great detail and in line with the Council's Work Force Plan.  It was also noted the posts would be temporary which would mean that the Council would not be tied in, in the long term.  It was further noted that the Welsh Language Scheme was a statutory duty which the Council had to comply with.  However, it was suggested that there may be a possibility for the Council to apply for grant funding for such positions in particular with regard to the intern for arts from Jobs Growth Wales and officers were therefore requested to pursue this prior to any appointment.

 

A Member of the Committee, who had also been a Member of the Finance Task and Finish Group, advised that he was confident that all officers were fully aware of the need to ensure that any position that was advertised was deemed to be essential and cost effective in view of the efficiency savings that departments were required to make. The Chairman although thanking Councillor Clarke for bringing the issue to Committee for consideration, in recognition of the possible funding opportunities that could be pursued with Jobs Growth Wales advised that in the future if any Member had any concerns regarding job adverts that they contact the relevant officer to discuss the matter fully.

 

Following the discussion it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report be noted and Jobs Growth Wales be contacted regarding any funding opportunities that could be made available to the Council.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members and pursue any funding opportunities that may be available.

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