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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 8th April, 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, G. Roberts and A.C. Williams.

 

Also present: Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson

 

 

1026   MINUTES –

 

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

 

 

1027   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

1028   SPACE PROJECT – PROGRESS REPORT (REF) –

 

As no officer was present to provide an overview of the report, this was deferred to the next Scrutiny Committee meeting.

 

 

1029   WELSH LANGUAGE STANDARDS (L) –

 

The Head of Performance and Development informed the Committee that at its meeting on 7th April 2014 Cabinet had approved the Council’s response to the consultation with the Welsh Language Commissioner in respect of proposals of Welsh Language Standards for the Council and that it would be forwarded to the Commissioner prior to the 18th April deadline for responses.

 

The Council’s response to the Welsh Language Commissioner’s Standards Investigation questionnaire was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. 

 

The Welsh Government had agreed Welsh Language Standards for certain public bodies, including Councils.  The role of the Welsh Language Commissioner was to determine how the Standards would apply to each body individually and then assess whether they were being properly implemented.

 

The Standards had been published as part of the Welsh Language Measure 2011.  Councils would receive a compliance notice from the Commissioner later on in the year based on their response to the Consultation.  Failure to comply with the Standards could mean fines and potentially reputational damage. 

 

The questionnaire was important as it would form the basis of the level of compliance that would be required by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  The questionnaire was the Council’s opportunity to identify which Standards were already being implemented, but also highlighted barriers to implementing the Standards in full. 

 

In response to a question regarding the impact the Standards would have on the Council’s tendering process and the awarding of contracts, the Head of Performance and Development advised the Committee that as this was a Welsh Government policy document, it had to be assumed that the proposals complied with European procurement regulations.  He further advised that he understood the Standards to require all communications, including tender documentation, to be bilingual in Welsh and English.  The Committee agreed that it was advisable for Legal Services to undertake a review of the Standards in relation to tenders in order that the Council complied with European and statutory requirements. 

 

The Committee sought clarification regarding the impact of the Welsh Language Standards on the Council’s current recruitment and selection policy / arrangements, in particular whether the need for individuals to speak Welsh was an infringement of the Human Rights Act.  Members were advised that the Standards would be a legal requirement in Wales, and careful consideration would need to be given to what posts had an ability to speak Welsh as an essential requirement. 

 

Referring to the Council’s response, a Committee Member felt it was relevant for the ratio between the number of Welsh and English speakers within the Vale of Glamorgan be detailed earlier on in the Council’s response.  The Committee was advised that as Cabinet had already endorsed and approved the Council’s response and would not be meeting again prior to the submission, no changes could therefore be made.  The Council would now be entering into a period of discussion with the Welsh Language Commissioner, and in the event of any issues arising would be willing to discuss specific issues relevant to the Vale of Glamorgan and it was hoped that a mutual way forward could be agreed to comply with the Standards. 

 

Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson, with permission to speak, indicated that he felt that the Standards represented a positive step forward. He made reference to the expectations of taxpayers in relation to the ability of Vale of Glamorgan staff to communicate bilingually.  In response the Head of Performance and Development indicated that although only 3% of Vale staff were able to speak Welsh it did not mean that only 3% of contacts could be conducted through the medium of Welsh since there was a full Welsh service available through C1V, the Council’s main point of telephone contact.  Current statistics illustrated that around 11% of the population in the Vale of Glamorgan were able to speak Welsh and that ideally the staff ratio should mirror this statistic.  A Linguistic Skills Strategy was in place but this needed to be reviewed, and the Committee was advised that the Council needed to encourage its staff to learn Welsh and that each department was looking at posts where Welsh speaking was an essential requirement. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Committee note the Council’s consultation response to the Welsh Language Standards questionnaire.

 

(2)       T H A T the Cabinet be requested to ask Legal Services to undertake a detailed examination of the impact of the proposed Welsh Language Standards on the Council’s tendering process and for the awarding of contracts.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To make the Committee aware of the response in regard to the proposed Standards.

 

(2)       To ensure that the level of risk and future legal liabilities are minimised.

 

 

1030   CONNECTING WITH OUR CUSTOMERS 2014-17 (MD) –

 

The Operational Manager – Customer Services, presented his report, the purpose of which was to inform the Scrutiny Committee of the revised Customer Service Strategy ("Connecting with our Customers") and implementation plan for 2014 to 2017. He alluded to the Council’s vision of being recognised and valued by residents, partners and staff as an organisation focused on delivering services that meet the needs and preferences of all customers in an efficient, cost effective way.  To achieve this vision objectives set out around four key themes were identified:

  • To learn from our customers
  • To improve access to services
  • Change how we do things
  • Develop a customer service culture.

In summarising the Strategy document the Operational Manager (Customer Services) made reference to the greater need for providing more services digitally and for a more self-service approach for customer contact whilst still maintaining traditional forms such as face to face and by telephone.  The Strategy aimed to address digital inclusion for those members of the public who wanted to communicate in this fashion.  The Council was changing the way it operated; this was exemplified by the recent fires at the Llandow waste recycling facility when the Council was able to keep almost 10,000 residents up to date since they had signed up for e-mail alerts informing them of the latest news and providing updates. 

 

Expansion in the range of communication devices and the availability of 3G, 4G and Wi Fi access meant that mobile access to the internet was increasingly becoming the norm.  Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, was emerging as an important customer contact channel.  Many customers now expected a seamless change between channels that they use to communicate with organisations, even during a single transaction, without a loss of service quality.  A digital approach would help to maintain quality services and deliver efficiency savings.   

 

A Committee Member queried the level of monitoring that takes place in relation to text messaging alerts.  In response the Committee were advised that this was a very important aspect of customer contact and of the service vision.  This issue would be looked into and reported back on. 

 

In referring to the Council’s web page and accessibility, the Committee raised an issue regarding the 'search engine' function and whether this was completely user friendly.  In response the Operational Manager (Customer Services) advised that they were trying to make it easier for customers to access information and, in particular, were looking at how customers viewed information on the Vale’s website.  The Contact Centre had a facility to feedback complaints made by customers and these were reported back to officers who could assess improvements and upgrades that can be made.  Further to this point, the Committee was advised that there was a customer rating system for telephone calls made to the Vale which included five measures which sought to understand how knowledgeable, helpful and polite C1V staff had been.  If a member of the public were to leave a negative comment in relation to the service received this would be passed on to a team leader who would respond within 30 minutes of the comment being recognised. 

 

Having discussed the above, the Committee 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress that had been made in delivering the Customer Relations Strategy 2010-13 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the approach of the digital customer service strategy to meet customer expectations, enhance customer experience and delivery operational savings be endorsed.

 

(3)       T H A T the creation of a single strategy encompassing Customer Service and Contact Channel Strategies be noted.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To ensure that customers find it easy and convenient to access services, that the customer experience of interacting with the Council is positive and that the cost of delivering services is minimised.

 

 

1031   CASHLESS CATERING UPDATE (CLSO) –

 

The report set out the progress made regarding implementation of the cashless catering system.  The Catering Manager began by advising Committee that by 28th April 2014 the five secondary schools managed by the Vale Catering Services’ would have the cashless payment system fully implemented.  The secondary schools had taken longer to implement due to the high level of staff that required the necessary training. 

 

Network issues had been highlighted towards the end of the tender process.  Schools which ran an administration network and a curriculum network were unable to integrate the cashless software due to security issues.  The cashless system needed to be run from a central location which the Vale’s ICT network team had resolved and were supporting the Catering Services to prepare each school prior to installation. 

 

Cheques and cash were still acceptable methods of payments in all schools, and pupil / staff 'fobs' were updated daily with the payment value accordingly.  Due to the large number of bounced cheques, Catering Services were keen for cheque payments to be phased out where possible.  Arrangements for handling cheques would be maintained where these continued to be required.  In circumstances where 'bounced' cheques were an issue the Catering Services had requested for the second payment to be made in cash. 

 

Payment for school meals in the 49 primary schools was now offered via online and telephone payments, 31 schools were currently offering online and telephone payments for school meals.  Similar arrangements would shortly be offered within the five secondary schools, which would include pay points for families without access to a personal computer or smart technology.

 

Nationwide Retail Systems Limited were the successful bidder and were capable of providing ongoing software updates as legislation and reporting changes within the school meals service. 

 

In summarising the current position the Catering Manager advised the Committee that although they were slightly behind the implementation schedule, actions had been put in place to fully embed the implemented systems and that technical IT support – training had been provided to staff that did not possess a high level of confidence in their IT ability.

 

A Committee Member, in reference to the progress made at Dinas Powys Primary School, was informed that the school had now signed up to the system and that it would be up and running after the Easter half term holiday. 

 

The Committee commented on the importance in tackling the stigma issue for pupils in receipt of free school meals and queried the cost differential for parents and whether 'fobs' would be available for all pupils.  In response the Catering Manager advised Members that the stigma issue behind free school meals had been addressed.  'Fobs' would be available to all pupils, including pupils that receive free school meals and all pupils would be treated in the same manner, would receive the same type of 'fob' and be credited the same amount for food.  'fobs' for free school meal pupils would be loaded with an amount of £2.25 and this would be re-balanced on a daily basis.  Each 'fob' would cost £1.98 per pupil and 'fobs' returned from pupils that had left school could be re-issued.  She went on to inform the Committee that some 'fobs' would be handled and managed by school staff in cases where children were prone to misplacing or losing such items. 

 

Pupils had been encouraged to place their 'fobs' on their key rings so that these could not be easily misplaced or forgotten.  In order to address possible issues of bullying and misidentification in regard to the use of the 'fobs', the cashless catering system included a photo ID of the pupil linked to using the 'fob' and staff could challenge on occasions where the ID did not match the pupil.

 

In response to a query from a Committee Member as to why schools were burdened with the issue of a payment system, the Catering Manager advised that the main remit of the project was to work in partnership with the schools to remove the stigma and improve the catering payment systems.  Schools also needed to be involved where parents built up any debt for their child’s school meals.

 

Finally, the Chairman of the Committee viewed the cashless catering initiative as a good news story that needed to be well publicised by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. 

 

RECOMMENDED –T H A T the current position on cashless catering and the forthcoming implementation plan be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To update Members on progress.

 

 

1032   SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS (DR) –

 

Members were apprised of progress in relation to recommendations that had been made by the Scrutiny Committee for the first quarter April to June 2013 and the fourth quarter January to March 2014, the details of which were attached at Appendices A and B to the report.

 

An Elected Member in referring to the completed action relating to Minute No. 784 in respect of Llantwit Learning Community queried whether there was a necessity not to disclose the valuation of the Eagleswell site. The Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer advised that this was a matter for Cabinet and a report would be submitted to the same in due course.

 

Having fully considered the report and the appendices, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the following actions detailed below be accepted as completed:

 

21 January 2014

Min. No. 784 – Llantwit Learning Community: Proposal to Invest in New Primary Provision (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That the School Organisation and Buildings Manager be requested to submit a report to Cabinet at the earliest opportunity regarding the reallocation of demountable classrooms accommodation from the Eagleswell Primary School site.

 

 

 

I believe that this minute should relate to the demountable and modular building accommodating Ysgol Dewi Sant not Eagleswell Primary as these are in a very poor condition.  Options regarding relocation of the Dewi Sant buildings are yet to be identified.  It is anticipated that this work will be undertaken during 2014 and provision will be made in the 2015/16 Asset Renewal budget to implement the move.

Completed

Min. No. 787 – Capital Monitoring: 1st April to 30th November 2013 (MD) – Recommended that the following recommendations be endorsed and be referred to Cabinet for approval, noting recommendation (2) was for referral to Council:

(1)   That the following changes to the 2013/14 Capital Programme be approved:

  • Virement of £35,000 from the Education Asset Renewal contingency fund for emergency works at Albert Primary School.
  • Virement of £10,000 from Bryn Hafren Boiler Replacement to fund Barry Comprehensive Boiler House Remedial Works.
  • Virements: transfer £9,000 from High Street Replace Boiler Replacement, transfer £6,000 from Gwenfo Primary School Boiler and transfer £10,000 from Romilly Primary Replace Cast Iron Gutters to fund High Street Ceiling Overboarding.
  • Virements: transfer £7,000 from slippage for Ysgol Sant Baruc Overboard Ceilings, transfer £17,000 from slippage from Pendoylan School Remodelling and transfer £16,000 from Bryn Hafren Boiler Replacement to fund Romilly Primary Ceiling Overboarding.
  • Virements: transfer £20,000 from Barry Comprehensive Main Block Roof and transfer £19,000 from Ysgol Sant Baruc Overboard Ceilings to fund Ysgol Sant Curig Rebuild Deteriorating Masonry and Emergency Overboarding.
  • Virements to reflect the changes to the Housing Improvement Plan shown in the Housing Business Plan which was reported to Cabinet on 2nd December 2013 (Minute C2113).
  • Virement of £15,000 from Emergency Contingency Works to fund the following schemes; Spawling concrete / survey and safety work £10,000, Llantwit Major Housing Lights £1,000, £12,500 Retaining Wall Laleston Close, Gibbonsdown, and New Landlords Supply 93 Glebe Street £5,000.
  • Virement of budgets from Dock Office Mechanical and Electrical £10,000 and Dock Office Ground Floor Toilet and Kitchen Refurbishment £48,000 to the Space Project Office Accommodation budget.

 

  

 

 

 

(1)   Cabinet, on 10th February 2014, approved the changes to the Capital Programme as recommended.  (Min. No. C2191 refers)

Completed

 

 

(2)   That the Cabinet be requested to recommend to Council the following changes to the 2013/14 Capital Programme:

  • Increase the 2013/14 Capital Programme for an additional £200,000 funding from Welsh Government for Ysgol Nant Talwg brought forward from 2014/15, and reduce the 2014/15 Capital Programme by £200,000 to reflect the change in funding profile.
  • Delay funding for Flood Risk Management schemes at Boverton £250,000 and Coldbrook £138,000 until 2014/15 and include these schemes in the 2014/15 Capital Budget.
  • Increase Capital Programme by £2.750 million funding approved by Welsh Government for Construction phase of Gileston to Old Mill scheme.
  • Increase the 2013/14 Capital Programme by £35,500 awarded towards the cost of the Railway Walk Cycle Scheme by Regional Transport Consortia (SEWTA).
  • Increase the 2013/14 Capital Programme £30,400 awarded by Natural Resources Wales by for the Rights of Way Improvement Programme.
  • Increase 2013/14 (£8,500) and 2014/15 (£14,000) Capital Programmes for funding Wales Coast Path Development Programme approved by Natural Resources Wales.

(2)   Cabinet, on 10th February 2014, approved the changes to the Capital Programme as recommended.

(Min. No. C2191 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 788 – Regulatory Reports – Improvement Tracking (MD) – Recommended

(3)   That the matter be referred to the Audit Committee for further consideration.

 

  

Referred to Audit Committee meeting on 28th April 2014. 

Completed

18 February 2014

Min. No. 856 – Treasury Management (S151O) – Recommended

(2)   That the proposed 2014/15 Treasury Management and Investment Strategy be endorsed and any comments forwarded to Cabinet.  Thereafter it will be referred to Council for approval including the following specific resolutions as set out in the Strategy Action Plan:

  • The Authorised Limit for External Debt be set at £174,000,000 for 2013/14, £187,000,000 for 2014/15, £205,000,000 for 2015/16 and £221,000,000 for 2016/17.
  • The Operational Boundary for External Debt be set at £156,000,000 for 2013/14, £164,000,000 for 2014/15, £181,000,000 for 2015/16 and £196,000,000 for 2016/17.
  • The Section 151 Officer be given delegated authority within the total Authorised Limit and Operational Boundary as estimated for individual years to effect movement between the separately agreed limits for borrowing and other long term liabilities.
  • An upper limit is set on its fixed interest rate exposures for 2013/14 of £147,000,000, for 2014/15 of £152,000,000, for 2015/16 of £168,000,000 and for 2016/17 of £183,000,000 of its net outstanding principal sum on its borrowings / investments.
  • An upper limit is set on its variable interest rate exposures as an absolute value for 2013/14 of +/-£154,000,000, for 2014/15 of +/- £154,000,000, for 2015/16 of +/-£151,000,000 and for 2016/17 of +/- £148,000,000 of its net outstanding principal sums on its borrowings / investments.
  • An upper limit of £30,000,000 is set for total principal sums invested for over 364 days for 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17.
  • The amount of projected borrowing that is fixed rate maturing in each period as a percentage of total projected borrowing that is fixed rate for 2014/15 be set as below: 

 

 

The matter was referred to Council by Cabinet on 24th February and subsequently approved on 5th March, 2014.

Completed

Under 12 months

12 months and within 24 months

24 months and within 5 years

5 years and within 10 years

10 years and above

Upper Limit

20%

20%

30%

 

30%

 

100%

Lower Limit

0%

0%

0%

 

0%

 

0%

 

  • The Prudential Indicators set out in paragraph 4.1 and 4.2 in this Strategy be approved.

 

(3)   That the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee in consultation with the Head of Finance be permitted to write to the Welsh Government suggesting that there was a need for a review of the application across Wales of the Capital Financing and Accounting Regulations.

Letter sent by the Chairman to the Minister on 6th March, 2014. A response is awaited.

Completed

Min. No. 858 – Capital Monitoring for the Period 1st April 2013 to 31st December 2013 (MD) – Recommended that the following recommendations be endorsed and be referred to Cabinet for approval, noting recommendation (2) was for referral to Council.

(1)       That the following changes to the 2013/14 Capital Programme be approved:

  • Redevelopment All Saints Primary - Request to vire the remaining balance of Pendoylan School Remodelling £5,000 to fund this scheme.
  • Cartref Porthceri and Southway Home Upgrade - Request to combine budgets for these schemes, the resulting budget will be £173,000.
  • Emergency Contingency Budget - Request to vire £7,000 for Parkland Walk Sewer Connection.

(2)       That the Cabinet be requested to recommend to Council the following changes to the 2013/14 Capital Programme:

  • Flying Start Grants - Holton School Ladybirds - Request to increase Capital Programme for additional £65,000 for additional grant funding allocated by WG towards the scheme.
  • Vehicle Renewal Fund - Request to carry forward £279,000 of funding for the purchase of three new vehicles for the Cleansing service.
  • Regional Transport Consortia (SEWTA) - Request to increase Capital Programme for additional £41,600 grant funding that has been awarded towards the cost of the Railway Walk Cycle Scheme.
  • Llantwit Major Crossings - Request to increase the Capital Programme by £5,000 for Section 106 funded works at Llantwit Major Crossings.

 

 

 

 

  

 

(1)   This matter was considered and approved by Cabinet on 24th February 2014.

Completed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2)   Recommendation 2 was referred to Council by Cabinet on 24th February and subsequently approved by Council on 5th March, 2014

Completed

18 March 2014

Min. No. 972 – Capital Monitoring for the Period 1st April, 2013 to 31st January, 2014 (MD) – Recommended that the following recommendations be endorsed and be referred to Cabinet for approval, noting recommendation (2) was for referral to Council:

(1)   That 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)   That 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 forwards £120k.

 

 

  

 

 

(1)   Referred to Cabinet meeting on 28th April, 2014.

Completed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

(2)   Referred to Cabinet meeting on 28th April, 2014.

Completed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Min. No. 974 – Corporate and Customer Services Draft Service Plan – Recommended

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

 

 

 

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 976 – 3rd Quarter Quarterly Performance Monitoring – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

 

 

 

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T the progress against the remaining recommendations identified as ongoing as detailed in the report be noted.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members of the progress with Scrutiny Committee recommendations.

 

(2)       To note progress in respect of those uncompleted actions.

 

 

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