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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th March, 2014.

 

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

 

 

969     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th February, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

970     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

971     REVENUE MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2013 TO 31ST JANUARY, 2014 (MD) -

 

The projected outturn for 2013/14 Revenue Budget was forecasting a favourable variance of £1.815 million.  The forecast was for an estimated balanced budget on the Housing Revenue Account.  Details were contained within the report of the financial position under the following headings and summarised as below:

 

Directorate of Learning and Skills

 

Overall the Education Budget was projected to balance as at the end of March 2014

 

·         Schools

 

The delegated budget relating to schools was expected to balance. 

 

·         School Improvement and Inclusion

 

It was anticipated that this budget would outturn on target.

 

·         Service Strategy and Regulation

 

It was predicted that this budget would outturn with a favourable variance of £22,000.

 

·         Strategic Planning and Resources

 

This budget was anticipated to outturn with an adverse variance of £22,000


·         Education

 

Education was projected to transfer £121,000 to reserves as part of the Voluntary Early Retirement and Redundancy Scheme. 

 

·         Libraries

 

There was currently a £66,000 favourable variance.

 

·         Youth Service

 

This budget was anticipated to outturn on target

 

·         Lifelong Learning

 

There was currently a £40,000 favourable variance against the profiled budget and it was predicted that it would outturn on target by the end of the year.

 

·         Catering

 

There was currently an £8,000 favourable variance against the profiled budget and it was predicted that it would outturn on target by the end of the year.

 

Social Services

 

It was currently projected that Services under this Committee would outturn within target at the end of the year.

 

·         Children and Young People’s Services

 

It was currently anticipated that there would be a £221,000 overspend by the end of the year. The major issue was the need to manage continued pressure on the children’s placements budget.  The current projected outturn for the jointly funded Residential Placements budget for Looked After Children was an overspend of £498,000.  Any overspend at year end would be funded in proportion to the original contributions made to the joint budget i.e. £448,000 (90%) Social Services and £50,000 (10%) Education.  In addition to the joint budget, a high cost placement provision of £1.46m was established as part of the budget setting process for 2013/14.  To date, £145,000 of the provision had been committed, which was in addition to expenditure incurred within the joint budget.  There were potential underspends elsewhere in Children's Services of around £195,000 which could be used to offset this position.  The increase in expenditure on the joint residential budget had resulted in a reduction in expenditure of £40,000 on alternative means of provision and accommodation costs required for the current cohort of children.  In addition, other areas of underspend are £50,000 on the legal expenses budget, £90,000 additional adoption income and £15,000 on administrative staff.  The Business Management and Innovation division was anticipated to underspend and any variance apportioned to the service areas, therefore £32,000 of the underspend would be allocated to Children's Services. 

 

·         Adult Services

 

The current forecast at the end of the year was an overspend of £645,000. The major issue was the continuing pressure on Community Care Packages, the Division's most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which were not entirely within the Council's direct control. Actions, therefore, were still needed to be taken to review all processes and to address the shortfall.   There were potential underspends elsewhere in Adult Services of around £493,000 which could be used to offset the position.  These areas were £230,000 following the closure of Bryneithin, £222,000 on staffing and £41,000 on Premises.  With the levels of savings required for 2014/15 and 2015/16, budgets were being re-examined during 2013/14 with a view to their possible realignment as part of the consideration of new models of service delivery . Future savings were planned for these areas and some positions and premises costs were lower than expected as a result of the commencement of some of these plans ahead of schedule.  The Business Management and Innovation division was anticipated to underspend and any variance is apportioned to the service areas, therefore £80,000 of the underspend would be allocated to Adult Services.  This would result in an anticipated overspend of £72,000.

 

·         Business Management and Innovation

 

There currently showed a balanced budget with a current underspend of £112,000.  The majority of this budget is recharged to Children's and Adult Services and is, therefore, showing a breakeven position at year end.

 

It was indicated that areas of savings have been identified this year which were £293,000 over the required target.  This savings could be used to offset the overspends identified above and a balanced budget was currently projected for year end.  An issue that may affect the service between now and the end of the financial year is the impact of winter pressures.  This could not be quantified but would be closely monitored and reported to future meetings.

 

Visible Services and Housing

 

It was currently projected that services under this service area would outturn at £200,000 underspent by the end of the year.

 

·         Highways Maintenance and Engineering Design and Procurement

 

There was currently a £87,000 adverse variance to the profiled budget.

 

·         Waste Management

 

There was currently a £140,000 favourable variance to the profiled budget.

 

·         Grounds Maintenance

 

This service showed a £22,000 favourable variance to the profiled budget.

 

·         Support

 

There was currently a nil variance to the profiled budget.

 

·         General Fund Housing

 

The Housing General Fund was currently showing a favourable variance of £282,000.

 

·         Housing Public Sector Housing (HRA)

 

The Housing Revenue Account was currently showing a favourable variance of £300,000.

 

Development Services

 

It was currently projected that this service area would outturn on target at the end of the year.

 

·         Public Protection

 

There was currently a favourable variance of £87,000.

 

·         Planning and Transportation

 

This service currently showed a favourable variance of £5,000.

 

·         Leisure

 

This was projected to outturn with a favourable variance of £16,000.

 

·         Economic Development

 

There was currently a favourable variance of £13,000 to the profiled budget.

 

Managing Director

 

·         General Policy

 

This was projected to outturn with a favourable variance of £1.615 million.

 

·         All Other Services

 

These were anticipated to outturn on budget.

 

In reference to the estimated £115,000 overspend on further educational transport the Committee sought further clarification as to the reason behind the considerable overspend.  In reply, the Head of Financial Services informed the Committee that the main reason for the overspend related to the provision of college transportation and that he would seek clarification and respond accordingly.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the authority’s 2013/14 Revenue Budget be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Members are aware of the projected revenue outturn for 2013/14.

 

 

972     CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2013 TO 31ST JANUARY, 2014 (MD) -

 

Details as to the financial progress on the Capital Programme up to 31st January, 2014 were appended to the report.  The Head of Financial Services referred to paragraphs 6 - 20 of the report which contained explanations from the relevant officers of those schemes where it was evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year. 

 

In noting the £107,000 savings in relation to the demolition of St. Cyres Comprehensive School, the Committee was informed that this money would be rolled into the School Improvement Programme.

 

A Member of the Committee made reference to the Vehicle Replacement Programme and queried why the amount that was to be carried forward to 2014/15 was different to the figure previously presented at the last Scrutiny Committee meeting.  The Head of Financial Services indicated that the difference related to further changes made to the original proposals in respect of the Vehicle Replacement Programme and this had included additional slippage monies that had been identified due to ongoing service reconfiguration. 

 

It was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the following recommendations be endorsed and be referred to Cabinet for approval, noting recommendation (2) was for referral to Council:

 

(1)       T H A T the following changes to the 2013/14 Capital Programme

 

·           Various Schools Legionella Control Works - Request to vire £8,000 from Romilly Dry Rot Eradication.

·           Hen Goleg Lift and Kitchen Works - Request to vire funding totalling £19,569 as follows; (Castle Avenue External Structural Works £8,367, Rondell House Boiler Replacement £4,212,. Demolition of Bryneithin £5,000, Day care re-configuration - Rondell House - £1,990).

·           WHQS - Rewires - Request to vire £1240k from WHQS Roof Renewals.

·           Voids - Non WHQS Works - Request to vire £475k from the WHQS Non Traditional Properties scheme.

·           WHQS - Bathrooms -Request to vire £900k from WHQS Non Traditional properties £525k, WHQS - Roof Renewals £60k and WHQS - Kitchen Replacements £315k. 

·           Emergency Contingency Budget - Request to vire £190,225 from the Housing Improvement Programme Emergency Contingency Budget to fund a number of schemes as set out in paragraph 16.

·           Dock Offices - external repairs - Request to vire £2,812 from Dock Offices - Replace Defective Rainwater and Waste Pipes scheme.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet recommend to Council the following changes to the 2013/14 Capital Programme:

·           Penarth Learning Community - Request to increase the budget by £902k in 2013/14 to be funded from increased Welsh Government grant brought forward from 2014/15.

·           Penarth Learning Community - Request to revise the funding of the Penarth Learning Community scheme in 2013/14 by increasing the Welsh Government  funding by £8m and reducing the Council and S106 funding in year by £8m.

·           Llancarfan Demountable  - Request to carry forward £5,465

·           High Street Primary Boiler Renewal - Request to carry forward £1,022

·           Gwenfo Boiler Renewal - Request to carry forward £690

·           Fairfield Boiler Renewal - Request to carry forward £2,694

·           Woodlands ATC Demolition - Request to carry forward £45k of funding

·           Rondell House Boiler Replacement - Request to carry forward £788

·           Vehicle Replacement Programme - Request to carry forward £369k to 2014/15 Capital Programme

·           Skatepark at Paget Road - Request to carry forward £31,965

·           Barry Regeneration Partnership Project Development Fund - Request to carry forward £120k

·           Barry Regeneration Partnership Project Development Fund  - Routes into Enterprise - Request to carry forward £5k

·           Data Centre at the Civic Offices - Request to carry forward £420k

·           Security Software Data Loss Prevention - Request to carry forward £120k.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To allow schemes to proceed in the current or future financial years.

 

 

973     IMPROVEMENT PLAN PART 1 (IMPROVEMENT OBJECTIVES 2014/15) (MD) -

 

The Committee’s views were sought on the proposed improvement objectives for 2014/15 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report which also included the rationale for each improvement objective.

 

The Corporate Plan was a key means of the Council complying with the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009, which required that the Council set improvement objectives annually and demonstrate continuous improvement. 

 

The Corporate Plan 2013-2017 was approved by Cabinet on 25th February, 2013 following extensive consultation with key stakeholders and partners.  The Plan set out a four-year vision for the Council, structured around 8 priority outcomes which reflected the priority outcomes in the Community Strategy of 2011 - 2021.  The outcomes were also reflected in Service Plans for 2014/15 and had informed the development of service outcomes and objectives. 

 

Eight improvement objectives were proposed for 2014/15, including four carried forward from 2013/14, which had been amended to reflect the areas of focus for further improvement work in 2014/15. 

 

The proposed objectives for 2014/15 were outlined under Appendix 1 to the report and provided a rationale for each objective.  The measures to be undertaken to make a difference were identified including the lead officer at Chief Officer level the responsibility for ensuring achievement of key outcomes. 

 

Challenging targets had been set against all measures for improvement, reflecting the Council’s commitment to continuously improve the services it provides to citizens of the Vale.  At the same time the Council was also mindful of significant financial and service demand pressures over the coming year and key targets and milestones for proposed improvement objectives had been set within the context.  This meant that in some areas for example, it would be an achievement to maintain existing levels of service performance whilst also absorbing reductions in funding, managing increasing service demand or both.  Such issues needed to be taken into account during internal challenge of proposed improvement objectives and targets.

 

Improvement objectives would be revised to reflect relevant Cabinet amendments and would be considered by Council in June 2014. 

 

In referring to Objective 6, the requirement to reduce the time taken to deliver Disabled Facilities Grants to children and young people and to adults, a Committee Member alluded to previous performance figures presented on the subject of DFGs which appeared to portray a more positive picture than figures recently reported.  In reply to this query, the Head of Performance and Development advised the Committee that he would investigate further with colleagues in Development Services and would report back fully in due course.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T Members endorse the proposed improvement objectives for 2014/15.

 

Reasons for recommendation

 

(1)       To ensure the Council identifies key annual improvement priorities for 2014/15 in line with requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.

 

(2)       To ensure the improvement objectives focus specifically on those areas where there is a need for improvement, reflecting the work being undertaken across the Council to improve the quality of life for Vale residents.

 

(3)       To enable the Council to more easily demonstrate achievement of priorities.

 

 

974     CORPORATE AND CUSTOMER SERVICES DRAFT SERVICE PLAN -

 

The Head of Performance and Development presented the draft Service Plan for 2014/2018.  In alluding to the functions of Corporate and Customer Services, he indicated that they would be subsumed into the Resources Directorate if the recommendations of the recent Cabinet report were implemented.  In referring to the Service Plan he indicated that there were two service outcomes:

 

Outcome 1 - our customers can access services conveniently

 

Outcome 2 - residents are confident in services delivered, are engaged with their local community and are proud to live in the Vale.

 

Actions within the Service Plans would inform Team Plans and ultimately would feed into personal objectives for individual members of staff via the Performance Development Review system.  The clear lines of responsibility, outcomes and targets at all levels would be monitored as part of the Council’s performance monitoring arrangements.  In alluding to the substantial savings to be made as part of the future restructure of the Service, the Head of Performance and Development advised Members that the objectives set out within the Service Plan would be made more challenging as a result, but that he was confident they could be delivered. 

 

In response to the Chairman’s query regarding the AVAYA telephony platform the Head of Strategic ICT advised the Committee Members the current contract still had approximately 12 months to run and that ICT staff support had been put in place which negated the need for third party input. 

 

Further to this query the Chairman of the Committee sought clarification regarding the level of Twitter users within the Vale.  In response, the Head of Strategic ICT advised Members that it was currently difficult to monitor the level of Twitter users as the current system was only able to recognise individuals who had accessed Twitter in the vicinity of the Vale but that these may not be people who actually resided within the County. 

 

The Committee, after querying the Vale Connect Subscription Service for customers to receive e-mails on subject matters of choice were advised that the Operational Manager for Customer Relations would be invited to a future meeting in order to provide Members with an overview of the service.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the Service Plan for 2014-18 for Corporate and Customer Services be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report regarding the Vale Connect Subscription Service be presented by the Operational Manager (Customer Relations).

 

Reason for recommendation

 

(1)       In exercising effective scrutiny of Service Plans for the service area.

 

(2)       To apprise the Scrutiny Committee of the Vale Connect Subscription Service

 

 

975     RESOURCES DRAFT SERVICE PLAN -

 

Individual officers were in attendance to take Members through the various services which comprised the Resources Directorate.

 

The Head of Financial Services drew Members’ attention to the service overview as shown on page 3 of the Plan which illustrated the range of services within the Directorate and reminded Members that the Finance Divisions remit concentrated on financial management and the support to the other Directorates in the delivery of budgetary savings.  The Property Division along with updating the Carbon Management Plan would be supporting the School Improvement programme. 

 

The Head of Human Resources referred Members to page 17 of the Service Plan and in particular to Objective 2 - to ensure that Council services are supported by the appropriate deployment of skills, flexible and engaged employees.  He alluded to the risks to the delivery of the objectives and to the Directorate’s achievements in 2013/14. 

 

The Head of Legal Services referred Members to page 30 of the Service Plan and outlined that comprehensive legal support was provided to Council departments, and monitoring officer advice and guidance generally.  Legal Services were also working with Democratic Services in order to renew the Council’s Constitution.  Also Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for the Council is planned for 2014/15.

 

The Head of Democratic Services advised the Committee that current, and ongoing, priorities included, in particular, improving opportunities for public engagement / participation in areas such as Scrutiny Committees and the Planning Committee.  This was linked directly to the provisions of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011, which required Councils to actively develop public engagement in the democratic process.

 

The Head of Strategic ICT referred to continuing investment in ICT in order to maintain standard levels of services and avoid obsolete systems and equipment used within the Council.  The ICT server rooms within the Civic Offices would be improved with the creation of purpose built facilities out of six existing offices.  The safe processing of personal, sensitive data would continue to be a challenge for the Council and a full-time Information Security Officer had been appointed to help maintain the security and minimise the risk of a breach of the Data Protection Act. 

 

After thanking the Officers for their attendance, Members

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Resources Service Plan for the period 2014/2018 be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In exercising effective scrutiny of the Service Plans for the service area.

 

 

976      3RD QUARTER QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING -

 

Officers were in attendance during consideration of the PIs relating to matters which fell within their respective remits. 

 

(i)         Corporate and Customer Services Quarterly Performance -

 

Overall the Department was well on track to achieve the objectives contributing to its service outcomes, with 71% of actions currently either completed or on track.  Overall the contribution to the Corporate Plan was being positively actioned with 80% of Corporate Plan actions on track for completion.  Of the 15 actions within the Service Plan, 1 was completed, 11 actions were on track, 2 actions had slipped and 1 had not been started.

 

60% of the improvement objectives were either completed or on track and of the 5 actions within the Service Plan, 2 had been completed, 1 was on track and 2 had slipped.

 

 

(ii)        ICT -

 

The Head of Strategic ICT in response to a query regarding the percentage of ICT priorities 1 to 4 service desk calls resolved within agreed timescales indicated that a new ICT system to allow staff members to automatically log calls themselves would be progressed during the next financial year which should help to speed up the process considerably.  The Hardware Refresh Project had also impacted upon the decline in performance of this Performance Indicator with staff resources being subsequently affected.

 

 

(iii)       Finance and Property -

 

In referring to the slipped action in relation to the reduction of carbon emissions the Head of Financial Services, advised the Committee that this had proved to be more time-consuming than envisaged and that the current planning arrangements were to achieve a 3% reduction across the Council with delegated responsibility within each Directorate allocated to building managers. 

 

 

(iv)       Human Resources -

 

The Head of Human Resources, when queried about the relatively high turnover of staff and the retention of suitably qualified experienced staff members within the Council advised the Committee that close monitoring of this did take place. Some staff had left for voluntary reasons while a certain number had left on a non-voluntary basis. He agreed to conduct a detailed analysis of the reasons as why staff had left the employment of the authority and whether there was any subsequent skills gap left resulting from the level of staff turnover.  Further to this point, he indicated that the Council figure was below the Wales average for both sickness and turnover.

 

Having considered the above the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the service performance results and actions identified to be taken to address service performance be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a report from the Head of Human Resources be presented to Committee in relation to the reasons why staff have left the employment of the Authority.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That the Scrutiny Committee note the position with regard to the 2013/14 Quarter 3 Performance.

 

(2)       That the Committee be apprised of the issues in relation to work force planning and staff turnover.

 

977     TASK AND FINISH ACTIVITIES FOR 2014/15 (HDS) -

 

The Committee was updated on Scrutiny Reviews being undertaken and were requested to agree a process to consider topics for review in 2014/15.

 

The Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group at its meeting on 27th February, 2013 gave consideration to a report for prioritising Task and Finish activities for the current Municipal Year.  The Group subsequently agreed  its priorities for 2013/14 as follows:

 

Priority 1 - Traffic Management - Impact of traffic flows within the County, including reference to sustainable travel

 

Priority 2 - To be agreed following completion of priority 1.

 

As in previous years each Scrutiny Committee was required to recommend items to be put forward for review to the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group to prioritise.  In order to assist the process Committees were asked to limit the number of such items to 2 per Committee.

 

It was suggested that Committees consider items that had been highlighted resulting from a number of surveys and questionnaires that had already been undertaken with the public by the authority.

 

In considering possible topics the Committee discussed the rationale and the criteria behind such Task and Finish Group activities and highlighted the timescales for such reviews are limited to 3 months.  The Committee was made aware that, notwithstanding the financial pressures and need for the Division to effect savings, it had been possible to put in place limited additional support to support Task and Finish Group activities.  However, the Head of Democratic Services asked Members to note that a significant amount of officer time was already being allocated to supporting the work of School Performance Panels. 

 

Opportunity had been afforded to Members in order to put forward ideas and suggestions.  At this point, an Elected Member put forward the idea of a detailed examination of the Fleet Management arrangements within the Vale as a possible topic area.  The rationale behind such a review would be to look at the Vehicle Replacement Policy within the Vale, to highlight the relative advantages of hiring vehicles over purchasing, the location of the repair and depot facilities, the issue of vehicle refuelling and the use of hybrid vehicles, the opportunity to assess the vehicle arrangement policies of major companies and the possibility of creating national programmes with other local authorities of vehicle renewal and also the advantages of standardisation of vehicles and the sharing of repair and maintenance facilities.

 

During detailed discussion of this proposal, the Committee were advised that a Fleet Management Review was currently being undertaken and that the scope of the Task and Finish Group would; therefore need to be carefully considered.  The Committee also saw the advantage in a joint proposal with the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) in order to conduct a joint Task and Finish Group Review of this subject matter.

 

Having considered all the options available, it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the update on Scrutiny Reviews be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the process for considering Reviews for 2014/15 as contained within the report and as previously endorsed by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group be agreed.

 

(3)       T H A T the Review to be submitted for consideration on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) be as follows:

 

"A detailed assessment of the Fleet Management arrangements within the Council".

 

(4)       T H A T the topic review be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) for consideration as a joint Task and Finish Group activity.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-4)    In recognition of the role of Scrutiny and to facilitate Scrutiny Committee work programmes as outlined in the Council’s Constitution

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