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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 24th June, 2014.

 

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

 

 

111            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors H.C. Hamilton and H.J.W. James.

 

 

112            APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN –

 

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

 

 

113            MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 8th April, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

114            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

115            SPACE PROJECT – PROGRESS REPORT (REF) –

 

The above matter had been previously considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 24th March 2014 and was deferred from the last meeting of the Scrutiny Committee. 

 

Cabinet had previously endorsed phase one of the Space Project on 25 February 2013, to relocate approximately 94 Children and Young People Services staff and associated facilities from Haydock House to the Docks Office and in so doing, vacate and dispose of Haydock House.

 

The remaining moves to be undertaken under Phase One of the project were dependent on the completion of building works. Moves of staff within the Docks were currently planned to be completed in March, with Children and Young People Services move to take place in late March/early April prior to the Haydock House sale completion.

 

Costs were originally estimated at £353,898 for phase one of the Space Project, as reported and approved by Cabinet in February 2013.  A sum of £362,000 was originally set aside as part of the 2013/14 Capital Programme.

 

Cabinet on 10th February 2014 approved the merging of the Dock Office mechanical and electrical works and ground floor toilet and kitchen refurbishment scheme totalling £58k into the Space Project scheme, to allow for ease of delivery.  The revised 2013/14 approved budget now stood at £420,000.

 

In February 2013, Cabinet approved for the Space Project team to investigate the vacation and end of lease for Provincial House to generate savings, as part of Phase Two of the project.

 

The report outlined that further investigation would be undertaken as Phase One of the Space Project came to a close in April 2014.  This would look into the potential relocation of staff and facilities from Provincial House.  Alternative locations for the Open Learning Centre currently based on the ground floor of the building were already being considered.

 

A further report would be presented to Cabinet on Phase Two of the Space Project in due course.

 

Brief discussion centred on the feasibility of retaining Haydock House as opposed to disposing of the building for a capital receipt against the opportunity to rent out the property in future years.  In response the Head of Finance indicated that the cost of maintaining the building was cost prohibitive but acknowledged the sentiments behind the question.  In regard to the capital receipt for the sale of the property the Head of Finance indicated that the best market figure had been achieved given the condition of the building. 

 

Reference was also made to current car parking arrangements at the Dock Offices and Civic Offices and whether or not information was available in regard to the Council’s car sharing scheme and the bike purchase scheme.  In response the Head of Human Resources indicated that he was unable to provide a response to that question, however he agreed that he would send relevant information out to the Committee Members following the meeting.  Linking the staff car parking situation at the Dock Offices and Civic Offices it was suggested in an attempt to alleviate car parking congestion at both sites, a review be undertaken by officers on the basis of car parking spaces being allocated on the premise of Council business need. 

 

The Chairman, in referring to the Space Project alterations made at the Dock Offices, suggested that the Committee visit the building to inspect the work undertaken prior to the next meeting of the Committee. 

 

Having regard to the above it was 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Head of Human Resources submit a further report in respect of car parking arrangements for staff at the Civic Offices and the Dock Offices buildings.

 

(2)       T H A T a site visit by the Committee be undertaken of the Dock Offices to assess the work undertaken of the building under the auspices of the Space Project.  The site visit to be undertaken on the date of the next Committee and in advance of the meeting taking place. 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To assess staff car parking arrangements at the Dock Offices and Civic Offices, Barry.

 

(2)       To assess how well the Space Project had worked.

 

 

116            CORPORATE SAFEGUARDING (REF) –

 

The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 7th April 2014, with the matter being referred by the Cabinet to the Scrutiny Committee for information.

 

In 2011, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) and Estyn published a report following their joint investigation into the handling and management of allegations of professional abuse and the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire County Council.  Concerns were raised about the quality of corporate working to safeguard and protect children by the local authority.

 

Following that report, a Corporate Safeguarding Working Group was established in the Authority to learn lessons from the Pembrokeshire report and to ensure that arrangements for protecting children and young people in the Vale were robust.  The Group produced an action plan to improve safeguarding across the Council and was attached at Appendix A to the report.

 

The Corporate Safeguarding Group continued to monitor the safeguarding arrangements within the Local Authority, including recruitment within the Council and schools.  The Monitoring of the Safer Recruitment Policy in respect of new and existing employees was undertaken by Transact and Human Resources on a scheduled basis and by Internal Audit as part of their ongoing audit programme.

 

Members recalled that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 resulted in a number of significant changes to the Disclosure and Barring Service.

 

  • The Update Service had been implemented, which enabled an individual to pay an annual subscription to the DBS so that the prospective employer could undertake an online check to identify if there had been any changes to the person's disclosure certificate since the date of issue.  Where no changes had been identified, the existing disclosure could be accepted for determination.  However, if a change was identified or where the DBS check was at a lower level than the check required in the new position, a new DBS application would need to be undertaken. 
  • From September 2013, the DBS disclosure certificate was now issued to the applicant only.
  • There was now a filtering process which excluded lesser criminal convictions from the DBS disclosure certificate.

The Corporate Safeguarding Group had considered the latest changes to the DBS arrangements in detail and these had been incorporated within revised draft policy and supporting guidance.  The DBS policy and guidance would be referred to the Cabinet for approval following ongoing consultation with relevant stakeholders.

 

In response to questions raised by the Committee in regard to matters cited in paragraph 11 of the original Cabinet report in relation to improvements needed to be made, particularly in regard to some schools to achieve complete compliance with the requirements of the policy, and secondly associated to paragraph 17 of the report regarding the potential vulnerability of staff employed by the Council to false allegations being made against them and the course of action taken by the Council in such matters.  The Operational Managers for Safeguarding and Performance and Human Resources responded by indicating that in regard to schools, the Council was reliant upon School Governors following the Council’s Safer Recruitment arrangements.  However DBS checks were undertaken in such instances but reminded Members that there was no requirement upon schools to undertake DBS renewals.  The position with regard to Welsh Government was that the Regulations required no DBS to be in place at the point of the employee commencing work with the Council.  This was the current position, however, the Welsh Government was currently undertaking consultation on this particular point.  Members were provided an assurance that potential employees, including foster carers, would not be engaged under the Council’s Safer Recruitment Policy until a DBS had been received. 

 

In response to the second question, the Operational Manager for Safeguarding and Performance outlined the risk assessment arrangements that would be followed where an allegation had been made against an employee of the Council.  This mechanism covered employees engaged in schools and in her experience she always considered where possible the lowest impact on the individual whilst an investigation was underway.  However, where more serious allegations arose i.e. under the auspices of gross misconduct, the course of action would be to consider suspension of the individual in line with the Vale of Glamorgan policy and procedure.  The Head of Human Resources who was also in attendance, confirmed that the approach taken by the Council in terms of disciplinary matters would be to initially undertake a risk assessment which would usually be a senior officer of the Council e.g. the Director of the service and himself, following consideration of the allegation relevant action would be taken and confirmed that suspension was not the automatic default taken by the Council in such circumstances. 

 

Having regard to the above it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the work that had been undertaken to improve corporate arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children and young people and changes to the administration of the Disclosure and Barring Service be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement that the matter had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee for information.

 

 

117            DISABLED FACILITIES GRANT PERFORMANCE 2013-2014 QUARTERS 2 AND 3 (REF) –

 

The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting on 7th April 2014 and had subsequently been referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for information.

 

Since 2008, the Council had acknowledged the time to deliver a DFG, from the first point of contact when clients requested an adaptation through to the delivery of the works, had to be improved.  Officer time and financial resources had been invested in the service to secure improvements and this had been reflected in the Council’s subsequent improvement in performance.

 

On 15th July, 2013, Cabinet was presented with a further report on delivery improvements for DFGs to improve the grant delivery time. Cabinet resolved that a detailed report on Disabled Facilities Grants be brought to Cabinet on a quarterly basis (Minute No. C1415). 

 

The quarterly report for the DFG service performance for Quarter 2, 2013-14 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report, and the quarterly report for the DFG service performance for Quarter 3 2013-14 was provided in Appendix 2 attached to the report.

 

In outlining the report the Head of Public Protection indicated that whilst all targets had been met the predicted decrease in performance for children was down to two specific DFG applications which exceeded 700 days in their delivery from first point of contact to completion.   Contained within the original Cabinet report were two cases which outlined the circumstances in relation to the management of both cases.  To address the delays as outlined in both cases, officers from Public Protection and Social Services had been working together to implement the following improvements:

 

  • Requests for assistance with adaptations for children have now been prioritised and were being forwarded to the DFG Team Occupational Therapist (OT) without delay
  • Since November 2013 a permanent OT had been employed directly by the Public Protection division who would be working with the agency OT, also employed by Public Protection division, to ensure that waiting times for an OT assessment were reduced from 3 months to 7 weeks as at the end of February 2014
  • The Social Services OT service had amended their method by which clients were recorded for assessment.  This had resulted in a separate database being created for clients requesting assistance to adapt their homes.  This enabled the Public Protection OT to clearly identify their case load, it also enabled the DFG service to review its processes.
  • During 2013 it had become apparent that significant cancellation rates after the OT assessment had been completed and DFG applicants were means tested had occurred.  To improve customer service and reduce the resource need on the OT service, from January 2014 all new enquiries for adaptations from residents in the private sector were visited first by the DFG Liaison Officer.  Clients who did not wish to proceed due to the means test process now withdrew earlier in the process and did not have a DFG OT assessment.  However, should the client still like advice of an OT, this service is completed by the Social Service’s OT team outside of the DFG process.

The above improvements in the first two months of operation had seen 30% of enquiries withdrawn at this early stage helping to address the time clients waited for an OT assessment and to further reduce the DFG process delivery time.

 

In addition to the above points, the Head of Public Protection also indicated that in terms of a lessons learned exercise that a specialist list of contractors had now been identified to assist applicants to procure a contractor to undertake the DFG works.  It was hoped that this preferred list of contractors would help speed up the process in completing DFG related improvements.  He also referred to the attached appendices to the original Cabinet report in relation to the resource based accountability dashboard, and related graphs which evidenced performance was improving and the overall target for the forthcoming year would be 250 days from contact to completion of the DFG process.  In addition the target for DFG delivery to Children and Young People for would 350 days from 510 days.

 

In response to the comments made by the Head of Public Protection the Committee indicated that whilst they were delighted with the client 100% satisfaction rates, they expressed concern with overall performance particularly, in regard to the two cases cited in the Cabinet report.  Discussion ensued with various comments being made ranging from the appropriateness of procuring additional OT support to improve performance, acknowledgement of the improved arrangements to speed up the DFG process, concern that as the economy improved that this would have an impact on the availability of builders to undertake DFG related work; whether architects were a cause for delay in the process of completing DFGs; concern that the Council’s current arrangements in terms of OT support for the DFG process now required additional funding to procure additional OT support within the Public Protection team, which appeared to run contrary to corporate working and that further work was required to identify best practice / innovation undertaken by other Councils in Wales. 

 

In an attempt to address some of the concerns raised by Members, the Head of Public Protection indicated that in the past the Council had previously engaged agency staff to undertake OT DFG assessments, however, this had proved counter-productive as the Council was unable to guarantee continuity in terms of the same OT being available to consider amendments later in the process.  Officers were also working to identify ways to reduce waiting times by separating DFG applications from manual handling applications.  Separately, the Council’s Internal Audit team had identified issues of OT turnover which had exacerbated waiting times.  He reassured the Committee that there was no need to engage agency OTs for the stated reasons above.  He was also looking to increase the resilience of the DFG service through staff employed in the Public Housing team.  He acknowledged that staff turnover in OTs had been an issue however steps had been taken to address the matter.  He reiterated the identification of specialist contractors who were now on a select list and would be engaged through a framework contract where the contractors would be required to perform in accordance with the framework agreement and in a timely and cost effective way.  It would also assist in the production of completion paperwork to ensure that DFGs were signed off and completed without undue delay.  In terms of performance to date, he indicated for the year ending 2013/14 the number of days to deliver a DFG from first point of contact to completion was 284 days.  He hoped in the next financial year to deliver further improvements to this performance and alluded to 250 days as the proposed target.  As for architects’ involvement in the DFG process, these had been a concern in the past, particularly in relation to large DFG grants.  However, he reminded the Committee that the Council adopted the DFG Handbook Guidance which set out what work was permitted under the auspices of a DFG.  In summing up, he indicated that the additional revenue and capital funding made available during the year had allowed the Council to catch up on its DFG waiting list.  There was also a need to ensure that appropriate levels of funding are in place in future years to maintain year on year improvements in DFG grants delivery performance. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee setting out what direct action the Scrutiny Committee could pursue to address performance in relation to DFGs and whether it was appropriate for such action to be undertaken through the auspices of a Task and Finish Group.  (The Chairman indicated that he would be raising this matter at the next Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group meeting.)

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Adult Services and Locality Manager be requested to submit a further report to the Scrutiny Committee setting out the Occupational Therapist assessment process and the length of time expected to undertake an assessment.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To assist with the most appropriate way of investigating the issue of the length of time taken by the Council to undertake DFGs.

 

(2)       To provide a full explanation of the Council’s Occupational Therapist process in regard to DFG applications.

 

 

118            SICKNESS ABSENCE REPORT – APRIL 2013 TO MARCH 2014 (REF) –

 

The Cabinet at its meeting on 16th June 2014 had considered the above report and subsequently resolved that the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee for further consideration.

 

The report set out the sickness absence figures for the full financial year 2013/1 4 and covered both corporate employees and those employed directly by schools. The outturn figures had been measured against the agreed targets for the financial year.

 

The report also included details of comparative sickness absence figures for the previous year, 2012/13, to assist performance monitoring of sickness absence over the two years.

 

The overall average sickness absence rate (per FTE employee) and percentage of working time lost per FTE over each financial year were set out in the table below:

 

2012/13

2013/14

Target

Average days/shifts lost (per FTE)

8.70

8.75

8.90

Percentage of time lost (per FTE)

3.3%*

3.3%*

           

 

The total figures for 2013/14 indicated a slight increase on last year's total absence figures, from 8.70 to 8.75 days per full-time equivalent employee (FTE). This represented an increase in absence of 0.05 days lost per FTE employee, however, overall absence levels had come in under the target of 8.90 days/shifts per FTE.

 

There had been a decrease in the absence levels for corporate employees (from 10.24 in 2012/13 to 9.85 days) compared with a small increase in absence levels within schools (from 7.05 to 7.60 days).

 

A summary of the absence within each Directorate is set out below.  A further breakdown of absence in each Service area was set out in Appendix A to the report. 

 

          2012/13

          2013/14

Directorate

Average days / shifts lost per FTE

% of lost time by FTE

Average days / shifts lost per FTE

% of lost time by FTE

Target (for each  year)

Corporate and Customer Services

7.57

2.9%

6.84

2.6%

8.48

Social Services

13.71

5.3%

11.72

4.5%

10.92

Development Services

5.51

2.1%

5.14

2.0%

5.31

Visible and Housing Services

12.24

4.7%

12.95

4.9%

11.47

Resources

5.23

2.0%

6.15

2.3%

7.2

Learning and Skills

9.87

3.8%

8.94

3.4%

6.66

Totals - excluding Schools

10.24

3.9%

9.85

3.8%

8.9

Schools

7.05

2.7%

7.6

2.9%

Totals - including Schools

8.7

3.3%*

8.75

3.3%*

8.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A detailed breakdown of the reasons for sickness absence was set out in Appendix B to the report. The top four reasons for absence continued to be stress (24.38%), operation and recovery (19.81%), viral infections (16.26%) and musculoskeletal disorders (13.31%).

 

A range of supportive interventions were available and applied throughout the Council irrespective of whether the sickness absence was short or long term.  These included occupational health, employee counselling service and funded / part funded treatments, assessments and investigatory interventions.

 

Sickness flagging reports were produced for all managers across all Services on a monthly basis and Personnel Officers continued to work closely with managers using these to illustrate employee absence patterns and trigger any necessary action / intervention as appropriate.  The Head of Human Resources also had a dedicated monthly review of the top 50 ongoing absence management cases.

 

A critical step in absence management was the return to work interview.  There continued to be an ongoing emphasis placed on conducting and completing the combined Return to Work (RTW) Interviews and Sickness Notification forms.  These provided the framework for discussions between the manager and employee to consider reasons for the absence, explore any underlying issues or trends and moreover to identify any adaptations or supportive interventions where appropriate to promote and sustain the employees' return to work.

 

Absence levels within the Council were comparable with the levels identified in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Absence Management Report (2013).  This report found that an average of 3.8% of working time was lost through sickness absence which exceeds the 3.3% lost time within the Council.

 

The Committee sought further clarification in regard to the information contained in Appendix B to the report and requested that future reports contain a breakdown of the information relating to stress related absences to indicate work related stress or personal / home related stress absenteeism.  Members expressed a view that it would be also useful if information could be provided on the number of days lost and the total time lost; the definition for absence reason used in regard to operations and recovery should be reclassified as they considered this not to be an ailment and it was recommended to officers that absences which fell under this area be broken down into separate categories.

 

Discussion ensued with reference being made to long term absences and the use of occupational therapists to speed up the recovery of staff.  Reference was made to stress related absences and the Committee enquired what mechanism was in place once a 'Fit For Work Note' had been received from an employee. 

 

In referring to the comments raised by the Committee, the Head of Human Resources indicated that further work had been undertaken by his officers to provide additional information in regard to operation causes.  In terms of the process addressing employees who were not fit for work due to stress related absences, he indicated that the individual would be instantly referred to the Council’s occupational health service and generally, in terms of long term absence cases, a case management approach by the HR division was used. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report on sickness absence outturns submitted for the period 2013/14 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To maintain continued focus on the management of sickness absence throughout all services of the Council.

 

 

119            SICKNESS ABSENCE REPORT RELATING TO VISIBLE SERVICES FOR THE PERIOD APRIL 2013 – MARCH 2014 (DVSH AND HHR) –

 

The report had been submitted in response to the Scrutiny Committee’s previous request made at its meeting on 21st January 2014, for additional information in relation to sickness and associated issues within Visible Services division, namely:

 

  • The identification of types of illness;
  • Details of any work-related illness resulting in an insurance claim being made against the Council;
  • Information in relation to health and safety training arrangements for employees; and
  • The practicality of introducing mechanised processes to mitigate the risk to employees working in the Service area.

For the period 2012/13 there was an average of 245.38 FTE staff employed within Visible Services.

 

Based on the same period for the previous year (April 2012 - March 2013), there had been an increase in absence for the service from 14.49 to 15.03 days / shifts lost per FTE, an increase of 0.54 days per FTE.

 

During the course of the financial year 2013/14 there was a total of 3686.94 days absence within the Service.  A little over 22% of all absence was short-term (817.94 days lost), accounting for 3.33 days/shifts lost per FTE and almost 78% was due to long-term absence (2869.00 days lost) which represents 11.69 days lost per FTE.

 

The figures above may include a number of staff who may have taken more than one period of absence during the financial year.

 

Appendix A demonstrated the age profile of employees within Visible Services. Currently there were 122 staff who were 50 years of age and over and 131 members of staff under 50 years of age. 

 

Nearly 56% of days were lost by staff under the age of 50 (short term = 552.74 days lost; long term = 1509 days lost), and 44% of days were lost by staff who were 50 and over (short term = 265.20 days lost; long term = 1,360 days lost).  This was shown in Appendix B.

 

The main reason given for absence is 'Operations and Recovery' which accounted for 30.1% of the absence in the Service.  This was followed closely by 'Other Musculoskeletal' (22.4%) and 'Stress' which accounted for 20.5%.  This was shown in Appendix C to the report.

 

The absence reason of 'Operations and Recovery' was broken down into 65.70 short-term days lost (0.27 days per FTE) and 1,044 long-term days lost (4.25 days per FTE) over the financial year 2013/14.

 

There were no sickness absence cases in the reporting period that involved an insurance claim by any employees within the Service against the Council.

 

Industrial injury absences during 2013/14 amounted to 30 days lost; one being long term of 23 days and two being short term (3 and 4 days).  On each occasion Health and Safety had been involved and appropriate action taken.

 

Health and Safety (H&S) training arrangements remained available to manage 'Other Musculoskeletal', 'Stress' and to reduce the potential of industrial injury claims.  The Director of Visible Services and Housing indicated that he met with the trade union secretaries and the Principal Health and Safety Officer every month to review all health and safety incidents, for the previous month, and any days lost as a consequence.  The actions taken by managers in such cases was considered and reviewed by all parties and individual service managers were able to be called to this meeting if it was felt that any interventions detailed were insufficient to achieve the improvements necessary.  

 

Job specific induction training was provided by service areas.  Certain Health and Safety training was provided in-house e.g. manual handling (MH).  This was offered to all relevant employees (via line managers) in the form of a half day object handling course.  The practical element of these courses was tailored to ensure they were job specific i.e. Waste, Parks, Highways etc.  In addition to the MH training, particularly in Waste, competency assessments had been introduced.  This enabled supervisors following training to observe tasks being undertaken by staff to ensure they were completed safely and in line with the requirements of the MH Passport Scheme and hence meeting the Manual Handling Operations Regulations.  MH training was refreshed, on average, every two years.  Courses were held to meet the needs of any new starters, including agenda staff, or anybody requiring additional support e.g. as identified in a competency assessment.

 

Other training provided in-house included: toolbox talks on Hand-arm Vibration (HAV) and Work at Height.  All other Health and Safety training was bought in either by line managers or via Corporate Training e.g. Stress Awareness and Stress Management Training.  This included the completion of stress risk assessments.

 

The Council also undertook regular health surveillance on relevant staff in order to manage certain health risks e.g. Noise (hearing tests), HAV (questionnaires), Asbestos (questionnaire and medical), respiratory (questionnaire and test) etc.

 

Mechanised processes were introduced via the risk assessment process.  Risk assessments were in place for the various activities that employees undertook.  The control measures were linked to the Hierarchy of Control i.e. Eliminate, Substitute, Engineering controls, Administrative Controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Engineering controls included the use of mechanised processes and there were a number of examples of such within Visible Services e.g. a Hiab on vehicles in Highways to assist with loading / unloading, kerb lifting, laying paving slabs etc.; attachments to tractors to mechanise hedge cutting in Parks; hydraulic drum lifter in Fleet to lift oil drums (this was identified following MH training).  Work was currently taking place to look at the practicalities of introducing a mechanical drain lifter.  The risk assessment process involved the active engagement of employees to provide the opportunity for them to give feedback on any Health and Safety issues they may be experiencing.

 

In addition to the report which was agendaed, the Director of Visible and Housing Services tabled supplementary information which showed that during the same period a total of 142 staff with an average headcount of 253 employees incurred a period of sickness absence.  The information also contained a number of employees who may have taken more than one period of sickness absence during the same period.  The supplementary information also contained three charts which covered the frequency of absence / instances of sickness absence by age profile, the number of days / shifts lost by age profile and the length of absence according to reason and age. 

 

The Committee, in referring to the tabled supplementary information, advised that caution was required to be exercised when carrying out age profiling analysis which could be viewed as age discriminatory.  Whilst the Committee accepted the spirit of the report and placed no criticism on the officers who had compiled it, there was a need to be careful.  The Chairman, in referring to this point, reminded the Committee that the purpose of the report was to tackle prejudices and where possible to identify where working practices could be replaced by mechanised processes to reduce musculoskeletal injuries and referred to working practices in Cardiff Council’s Visible Services.  The Head of Human Resources also, in acknowledging the point raised by Members, acknowledged the notion that there was an assumption related to higher sickness absences with older employees.  Clearly from the supplementary information tabled, this was not the case. 

 

In referring to the report the Director of Visible Services and Housing indicated that a number of factors had been taken into consideration when compiling the supplementary information.  Such information related to the type of job and the relationship of the injury i.e. musculoskeletal.  Also in “drilling down†the reasons for stress these tended to be related to social / economic issues and a multitude of problems at home which had not been reflected in the tabled information.  In terms of the management of sickness absence within the Division, he had a good working relationship with the trade unions and reiterated that he met with them on a regular basis.  He referred to personal knowledge of employees who had a good sickness record but due to unforeseen circumstances required an operation with a long period of recovery.  He felt that one of the biggest problems in tackling sickness absence was getting staff back into the workplace after long term absences which became a  barrier in itself.  Where possible phased returns to work were always supported to ensure that employees returned to work as quickly as possible.  He also pointed out that a cost benefit analysis was undertaken on each case of sickness absence and where appropriate the Council paid for MRI scans and physiotherapy sessions to speed up returns from absence. 

 

The Committee expressed the view that it was important for all managers to give constant attention where sickness absence arose.  Some Committee Members from their own personal observations, suggested that employees, despite being provided with appropriate training, still undertook operations incorrectly e.g. food waste collections and reference was made to the preferred use of black bags as opposed to the provision of wheelie bins.

 

In reference to a question regarding the engagement of agency staff and training, the Director confirmed that job specific induction training was offered to these individuals before they commenced job related activities.  He also referred to weekly spot checks being undertaken of working practices to ensure that, particularly refuse collection, were undertaken safely.  There was no evidence that refuse collections and the use of wheelie bins was safer than the current black bag collection system. 

 

Having regard to the above it was 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the sickness and associated information in respect of Visible Services for the financial year period April 2013 to March 2014 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T sickness absence in the service area continue to be analysed, monitored and measures implemented to reduce the level of sickness absence and that a further report be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee analysing job related absences.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To support and improve the wellbeing of the Council’s workforce.

 

 

120            REVENUE MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2014 TO 30TH APRIL 2014 (MD) –

 

Council, on 5th March 2014, approved the Revenue and Housing Revenue Account Budgets for 2014/15.  Reports monitoring expenditure would be submitted to the Committee on a regular basis.  The forecast at present was for the Council to have a balanced Revenue Budget and Housing Revenue Account Budget. 

 

As far as the Education budget was concerned it was projected to balance at the end of the year.  Any savings identified during the year would be available to redirect into the School Investment Strategy or other reserves.  This was the position after making a contribution to the capital Investment reserve of £435,000.  The report also detailed for Members’ information matters relating to the schools delegated budget which was also expected to balance as any over / underspend would be carried forward by schools.  In regard to Education it was projecting a transfer of £145,000 to reserves as part of the Voluntary Early Retirement and Redundancy scheme.  All other services were anticipated to outturn within budget. 

 

Social Services was currently forecasting a balanced budget.  However, in addition to increased demand for services, there was pressure on the Directorate to achieve its savings targets for 2014/15 onwards.  There continued to be pressure on Children and Young People’s Services and in particular to Children’s Placements budgets.  Pressures also continued in regard to Adult Services and in particular Community Care Packages budget.  Members noted that from 1st April 2014 the Welsh Government had approved an increase in the weekly cap for charging for non-residential services from £50 to £55 per week. 

 

It was also currently projected that all services under the headings of Visible Services and Housing Services and Development Services would outturn within target at the year end.

 

The General Policy budget that fell under the Managing Director was also currently projected to outturn within the budget at the year end.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the Council’s 2014/15 Revenue Budget be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the virement of £400,000 from the Private Housing budget to the Public Protection budget, due to an internal restructure, be endorsed and that the matter be referred to the Cabinet for approval.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To monitor the projected revenue outturn for 2014/15.

 

(2)       To align budgets with new organisational structure.

 

 

121            CAPITAL MONITORING REPORT FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 30TH APRIL 2014 (MD) –

 

The report for April 2014 showed no variances within the budget.  Profiled expenditure had been requested from Project Managers and would be updated in the next report.  Members were asked to note that Appendix 1 to the report did not include requests for unspent committed expenditure to be slipped from 2013/14 into 2014/15 financial year.  A request for such slippage would be included in the Closing Down report presented to a future Cabinet meeting.  For all schemes were it became evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent, relevant officers would be required to provide an explanation of the shortfall to the earliest available Cabinet meeting. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2014/15 Capital Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the use of unsupported borrowing for the 21st Century School Programme be noted and the request for unsupported borrowing in the amount of £923,252 in 2014/15, £1,187,038 in 2015/16 and £527,573 in 2016/17 be referred to Cabinet and thereafter to Council for approval.

 

Reasons for Recommendations

 

(1)       To monitor progress in regard to the Council’s Capital Programme.

 

(2)       To allow the schemes to receive funding from the Welsh Government.

 

 

122            ANNUAL TURNOVER REPORT – APRIL 2013 TO MARCH 2014 (MD) –

 

The report had been submitted in response to a request from the Committee for an analysis of employee turnover in the Council for consideration alongside the Council’s Workforce Plan. 

 

In 2013/14 the overall turnover rate within the Council was 8.64%.  This compared favourably with the turnover rate of 10.28% in 2012/13.  The Head of Human Resources referred to the Corporate turnover which had reduced from 13.98% of the corporate headcount in 2012/13 to 9.30% in 2013/14.  Turnover in Schools had increased however from 6.66% of the schools’ headcount to 8.00% in 2013/14. 

 

The report set out in paragraph 8 a table of information which set out the comparison of employee turnover rate for 2012/13 and 2013/14. 

 

In referring to the report the Head of Human Resources referred to the reasons for turnover and admitted that the main difference between 2012/13 and 2013/14 was the transfer of Leisure Centre staff to Parkwood Leisure Ltd in August 2012.  The transfer of employees out of the Council through a TUPE arrangement was not featured in 2013/14 which explained the overall difference in turnover rates between the two years.  However, he indicated that excluding TUPE, the overall turnover of employees in the Council had remained relatively constant over the two year period, with only a small increase of 7% from 435 leavers in 2012/13 to 468 leavers in 2013/14.  Resignations from the Council had increased from 4.77% to 5.26% since 2012/13.  This was an area where exit interviews would continue to play a part in determining the reasons why people chose to leave employment with the Council.  Further work on exit interviews would be developed and presented in a report to future meetings. 

 

As for the number of redundancies, this had reduced from 0.65% to 0.26% of the overall Council headcount.  He informed Members that the Council’s positive approach to managing change, which helped to mitigate, avoid and reduce the incidents of compulsory redundancies, was an important tool to the Council.  In regard to dismissals, these had increased from 0.79% to 1.29% (from 43 to 70 employees) with the dismissal reasons being conduct / performance, ill health and end of temporary contracts.  End of temporary contracts had accounted for 44 of the 70 dismissals.

 

Paragraph 14 set out more detailed breakdown of reasons for leaving the Council’s employment.

 

Further information was also provided in regard to turnover by occupational groups.  In regard to senior managers, the number had remained consistent in 2013/14 with the number of leavers from the Professional occupational group reducing slightly from 35 people in 2012/13 to 27 in 2013/14.  The difference between the number of Technicians and Support Staff leaving in 2012/13 and 2013/14 leaving the Council may be explained by the number of employees transferring out under TUPE arrangements as referred to above.  In reference to Schools, the number of Teachers leaving employment had increased from 5.19% to 8.49% (of all teachers) and the number of Support Staff leaving had increased from 8.82% to 9.69% (of all Support Staff).  A breakdown was also provided of the number of employees leaving and their occupational profile which was set out in paragraph 19 table of information.

 

The Head of Human Resources also referred to turnover by Directorate which he indicated had increased (including Schools) except in Learning and Skills, Social Services and Development Services where the number of leavers had decreased from 2012/13 to 2013/14.  A table showing the turnover rate of each Directorate was set out in paragraph 23 of the report.  He also referred to turnover in 'hotspot' areas and one of the main reasons identified were in Theme V of the Workforce Plan 2013-2017 was the recruitment and retention of employees in key occupational groups.  Overall the turnover in areas that had been identified as 'hotspots' had been relatively slow in comparison with 2012/13.  He considered this to be an obvious consequence of the economic recession, it was also the case that salaries for many of the 'hotspot' positions was improved as a result of the job evaluation exercise.  He also reminded Members to be aware of the need to be attentive to recruitment and retention issues in these key areas, which would continue to be monitored on an ongoing basis and he felt that the situation may change as the economic outlook improved.  As for turnover by age profile, the Head of Human Resources indicated that over both reporting periods the highest proportion of leavers were aged 60-65 years which was expected as employees neared retirement ages.  The second highest number of leavers were those aged 20-24 years (19.6% overall 20-24 years employed in the Council), followed by those 16-19 year olds (16.3% of all 16-19 year olds), and 25-29 year olds (14.9% of all 25-29 year olds) which represented a reduction in the number of leavers from the previous reporting period.  However, he reminded the Committee that an important theme within the Workforce Plan was the need to ensure effective responses to recruitment issues and Members would be aware of the Council’s challenge to increase the numbers of younger workers relative to the wider workforce.  This included the Council’s approach to graduate and apprenticeship recruitment and an increased focus on succession planning and staff engagement strategies. Paragraph 31 of the report set out the breakdown of employees by age profile.

 

In summing up, the Head of Human Resources then referred to the turnover of employees in a wider comparison and indicated to compare the turnover rates of the Council in context, the CIPD Resourcing and talent Planning Survey (2013) reported that the overall turnover rate across all sectors in the UK was 11.9%, while the turnover rate for the public sector was 9.4%.  Similarly, XpertHR Labour Turnover Rates survey (2013) reported that their survey suggested that the overall turnover rate within the UK was 8.9%.  He also referred to workforce planning feedback ('Measuring Up – Workforce 2012-13' published by the Local Government Data Unit and Welsh Local Government Association), the average turnover rate in local authorities in Wales was 9.11% in 2012/13.  The turnover rate for the Council was below all of these comparisons with an overall turnover of 8.64%.

 

Also for the Committee’s information the Head of Human Resources tabled a number of graphs in relation to the report agendaed.

 

The Committee expressed their thanks to the Head of Human Resources for his very comprehensive report.  The Committee considered it would be useful in future reports if further information could be ascertained in regard to the reasons why employees left the employment of the Council which would require further analysis of exit interviews.  The Committee also requested that short term temporary contracts should be removed from the data as this was likely to skew turnover information.  The Chairman, in thanking the Head of Service for his report, suggested that the information in relation to school employees’ turnover would be of interest to the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) and it was suggested that the report be forwarded on this particular aspect to that Committee for consideration.

 

Having regard to the above, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position in relation to Council employee turnover be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) drawing their attention to employee turnover information in relation to School staff.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To monitor the turnover of employees engaged by the Council.

 

(2)       To ensure that the Scrutiny Committee was aware of employee turnover rates within Schools.

 

 

 123           MATTER WHICH THE CHAIRMAN HAD DECIDED WAS URGENT –

 

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

 

           

124       EXIT FROM HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT SUBSIDY SYSTEM (HBMCS) (REF) -

Urgent by reason of the need to advise the meeting of the Council of the Scrutiny Committee’s views

 

Cabinet on 16th June, 2014 was updated on the proposed arrangements for exiting the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system.

 

The Welsh Government had been in discussions with HM Treasury since 2010 with a view to agreeing a financial settlement that would enable the eleven stock retaining Councils to exit from the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy (HRAS) system.

 

The principle for Local Authorities buying themselves out the system was that 'every stock retaining authority should be better off than the current position'. This included not only the financial benefits from exiting HRAS but also the benefits of becoming self-financing.

 

Welsh Government announced in June 2013 that an agreement had been reached with HM Treasury, which together with the introduction of new self-financing arrangements was expected to generate revenue savings for the eleven Councils each year. This would allow Councils to increase their investment in their existing stock and, where possible, support the delivery of additional housing supply.

 

A consultation paper, on the Self Financing of Council Housing in Wales was distributed to the 11 stock retaining local authorities prior to a meeting that was held on the 16th of May 2014.  Officer and Member representatives were asked to consider a number of questions posed by Welsh Government relating to the exit from the HRAS. In attendance for the Vale of Glamorgan Council were the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Services and Community Safety, the Head of Housing and Building Services and the Housing Accountant

 

Each stock retaining local authority had now been asked by Welsh Government to formally respond by 19th July, 2014 to the 6 questions set out within this report (a) - (f) above confirming if the Council accepts the WLGA Coordinating Committee's recommendations. 

 

The following detailed the Vale of Glamorgan Council's proposed response in respect of the 6 questions posed by Welsh Government.

 

(a)       Do you agree with the proposal to distribute the settlement value based on negative subsidy amounts?  (Option 1 - attached as appendix 1)

 

This is acceptable.

 

(b)       Do you agree with the proposal to distribute the borrowing cap based upon option 3 (see appendix 2) to allow for new build commitments whilst also providing potential headroom for new build to every local authority?

 

The preferred option for the Vale of Glamorgan Council was option 2 as this gave additional borrowing capacity in terms of new build.  However, all 11 local authorities were compromising in order that the overall borrowing cap was not exceeded, tight timescales were met and that new build requests were in some part acceded to, therefore, option 3 was acceptable to the Vale of Glamorgan Council in terms of this.

 

(c)        Do you agree that the Welsh Government should retain a small proportion of the borrowing headroom as a contingency? (Proposed at £5M)

 

This was rejected as the borrowing cap was a local authority borrowing cap and should be used as such.

 

(d)       What are your views on how Welsh Government allocate any unallocated borrowing headroom now or in the future?

 

Unallocated borrowing headroom should be distributed between the 7 local authorities that had not initially included new build within their business plans.

 

(e)       Do you agree that the borrowing cap should be reviewed every three years with the 1st review in 2018/19?

 

It should be recognised that major capital projects were complex in terms of delivery. Business plans were long term planning documents.  The rational in reviewing borrowing cap usage in such a short period of time may lead to uncertainty in relation to long term strategic planning.

 

(f)        What action should the Welsh Government take on a Council who has not delivered on their ability to utilise their borrowing cap?

 

It was not felt that employing sanctions in terms of not using the allocated cap would be of any benefit in this process.  Experience tells us from delivering Social Housing Grant schemes that a myriad of things can impact on an organisation’s ability to always deliver.  Flexibility in the borrowing cap allocation should only be sought between Councils through trading arrangements.

 

The Welsh Government considered that Borrowing Cap Option 3 was the preferred option. Option 3 in terms of the Vale of Glamorgan's Housing Business Plan would give the Authority headroom to consider new build council housing (see Appendix 2 attached to the report). Based on existing financial assumptions the additional borrowing had been modelled and was affordable.

 

The final decision on the borrowing cap distribution would be subject to agreement by the Minister for Housing and Regeneration. Option 3 would be  supported by the following process:

 

Each Council would be allocated an 'indicative allocation' of the borrowing headroom as set out in option 3. 

 

Each Council would need to advise the Welsh Government by end of October 2014 on whether they would take up their “indicative allocation†for new build by March 2018.

 

If a Council wished to take up their “indicative allocationâ€, the Council would need to submit proposals to the Welsh Government by end of October 2014 that set out how and when they could utilise this for new build and whether this together with their allocation for WHQS and % share for new build was "affordable" within the business plan.

 

At this time the Council had no information on whether the additional borrowing headroom could be used for regeneration projects on council estates.

 

The Cabinet having considered the report, including the available options open to the Council,

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report and the attached appendices be endorsed and Cabinet’s views on the process proposed and the responses to the questions posed by Welsh Government contained within paragraph 12 (a) to (f) be referred to Full Council.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Housing and Building Services submit regular reports to Cabinet and Council as necessary on the progress in exiting the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system.

 

(3)       T H A T the urgent decision procedure be used if necessary as set out in article 13.09 of the Council's Constitution in view of the need to submit a response to Welsh Government by 19 July, 2014.

 

(4)       T H A T the report be submitted as an urgent reference to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) on 18 June, 2014. The report and any comments from Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) then be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) on 24 June, 2014. The report and any further comments from Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) then be submitted to Full Council on 25 June, 2014.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       In order for the exit from the subsidy system to be achieved by March 2015 all eleven stock retaining local authorities need to come to an agreement on the Treasury settlement 'offer' and the mechanisms by which the borrowing cap would be distributed.  The changes in how the Housing Revenue Account operates have implications for the Housing Business Plan, this is outside the current policy framework, therefore the decision associated with these changes must be agreed at Full Council.

 

(2)       In terms of progress Cabinet will need to be informed.  Full Council would need to agree the voluntary agreement to allow the Vale of Glamorgan Council to exit from the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system by March 2015.

 

(3)       The urgent decision procedure was invoked due to the timescales set down by Welsh Government and the availability of a Council meeting prior to this date

 

(4)       To allow Members to fully consider the report, before being submitted to Full Council.

 

--------------------

 

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) considered the matter, including the above Cabinet resolutions, at its meeting held on 18th June, 2014.  The Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) during consideration of the item were advised that the wording of the paragraph beneath (d) (in bold type) above should read:

 

'Unallocated borrowing headroom should be distributed between the local authorities using the formula explicit within Option 2 (Appendix 2) which is based on need and affordability.’

 

The Scrutiny Committee subsequently

 

'RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Council do not lose sight of its own existing stock, including the upgrades that are overdue and that the development of new-builds should not distract from that.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the resolutions of Cabinet.'

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) received a briefing on the issue prior to its meeting convening on 24th June, 2014.

 

Having considered the issues contained in the original Cabinet report dated 16th June, 2014 including its subsequent resolutions and the recommendation of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) as referred to above, the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources)

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T both the resolutions taken by the Cabinet and the recommendations of Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

Having regard to the resolutions of Cabinet and recommendation of Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

 

 

 

 

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