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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 17th July, 2014.

 

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

 

 

255     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors H.C. Hamilton, K. Hatton, H.J.W. James and A.C. Williams.

 

 

256     MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 24th June, 2014 be approved as a correct record subject to an amendment to the minute relating to the Space Project – Progress Report to include that a review to be undertaken by officers on the basis of car parking spaces being allocated on the assessment of Council business and personal need and that recommendation (1) and the reason therefor be amended to read as follows:

 

(1)       T H A T the Head of Human Resources provide Members with relevant information on both the car sharing and bike purchase scheme along with existing car parking arrangements for staff based on business and personal need at the Civic Offices and the Dock Offices buildings.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

(1)       To assess car sharing, bike purchase provision and car parking arrangements for staff at the Dock Offices and Civic Offices, Barry.

 

 

257     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

258     SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES: COMMISSIONING STRATEGY 2014-2017 (REF) –

 

The above matter had been previously considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 30th June, 2014 and was referred to the Scrutiny Committee for information purposes only. 

 

The Services Commissioning Strategy for Adults with Learning Disability had been developed by Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Learning Disabilities Service in partnership with service users, carers and the third and independent Sectors. This document, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, provided the Council with strategic commissioning priorities that would enable it to improve, plan and develop services for adults with a Learning Disability in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

The Strategy took into account the Welsh Government's 'Learning Disability Strategy - Section 7 Guidance', which set out the service principles and responses that local authorities should adopt across a range of issues affecting adults and older people with learning disabilities. In 2007, in the 'Statement on Policy and Practice for Adults with a Learning Disability’, it confirmed  a vision for the future of Learning Disabilities services based on a recognition that all people with a learning disability were full citizens, equal in status and value to other citizens of the same age .

 

It was estimated that, for the period 2013 - 2026, there would be a sustained growth in the need for social care for adults with Learning Disabilities, ranging from 1.0% to 7.9% per year and with an overall average rate of 4.2%.

 

The proposed Services Commissioning Strategy for People with Learning Disabilities 2014 to 2017 identified how the Council would respond to rising demand and changing expectations on the part of adults with learning disabilities and their families within the resources available to the Council.  Production of the strategy had been used as an opportunity to further the Council’s overall programme for improving and modernising the social care services it provided.

 

The strategy contained an analysis of demand, supply and service gaps together with a commissioning plan which set out the operational tasks needed to ensure that commissioning priorities were achieved.  The strategy would assist the Council in working in partnership with Cardiff Council and the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to commission jointly services that delivered high quality care and support and that were based on people’s needs and preferences. There was a commitment to explore opportunities for working even more collaboratively in the future, with the intention of producing a joint strategy for the period beyond 2017. The Council would also work in partnership with relevant Health Boards to deliver the recommendations of 'Transforming Care in Wales for People with Learning Disability and Challenging Behaviour' (2012).

 

The strategy set out five priorities for the Vale of Glamorgan Council when commissioning services –

 

1.            People with a Learning Disability were supported to maximise their independence.

2.            People with Learning Disabilities were supported to play an active role in society and engage in meaningful day time activities and employment or volunteering.

3.            People with a Learning Disability were valued and included within their own communities.

4.            People with Learning Disabilities were enabled to stay healthy and feel safe.

5.            People with Learning Disability were supported to become lifelong learners.

 

Cabinet, at that time, recommended

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)             T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

(2)          T H A T the Services Commissioning Strategy 2014 to 2017 for Adults with Learning Disabilities, as attached at Appendix 1 to the report, be approved.

 

(3)          T H A T the report be referred to Scrutiny Committees (Corporate Resources and Social Care and Health) for information.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)          To provide Cabinet with an opportunity to consider the way in which the Social Services Directorate is responding to changes in the pattern of demand for services and in the expectations of service users.

 

(2)          To ensure that service commissioning arrangements for people with learning disabilities are grounded in an agreed social care service model and enable the Council to provide effective care and support within the resources available.

 

(3)          To ensure that the Scrutiny Committees are able to exercise effective oversight of this key area of activity.

 

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

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Services for People With Learning Disabilities Commissioning Strategy 2014-2017 for adults with learning disabilities be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the contents of the Cabinet report.

 

 

259     REVENUE MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2014 TO 31ST MAY 2014 (MD) –

 

The Education Budget was projected to balance at the year end.  Schools delegated budgets were expected to balance as any under / overspend would be carried forward by schools.  The Education service itself was projecting a transfer of £145,000 to reserves as part of the Voluntary Early Retirement and Redundancy scheme.  Other services which fell under the remit of Education were anticipated to outturn within budget.

 

Social Services remained on course forecasting a balanced budget.  In addition to increased demand for services, there was pressure on the Directorate to achieve its savings targets towards 2014/15 onwards.  Children and Young People’s Services currently had a major issues concerning pressure on the Children’s Placements budget.  Any increase in the number of children becoming looked after by the Council over the year could have a significant impact on the service.  The Joint Budget for Residential Placements for Looked After Children was set this year at £3.335m.  Currently the projected outturn was for a balanced budget.  In regard to Adult Services, the major issue concerned the ongoing pressure on Community Care Packages budget.  This budget was as reported previously extremely volatile and could be affected by outside influences.  Whilst the budget was currently showing a breakeven position, there would be further pressure on this budget throughout the coming year.  The annual deferred income budget for 2014/15 had been set at £725,000 and £107,000 had been received as at 31st May 2014 which was slightly behind the current budget profile of £121,000. 

 

In regard to Visible and Housing Services budget, this was currently projected that both services would outturn within target at year end.  In particular, Highways Maintenance and Engineering Design and Procurement showed currently an adverse variance of £40,000 to the profiled budget.  The original budget for 2014/15 took account of the £165,000 savings required for the current financial year.  There was also still further financial savings from previous years that had not yet been made and were putting pressure on the budget.  The savings still to be made were in regard to street lighting (£150,000) and car parking (£340,000).  The Head of Finance indicated that reports would shortly be brought before the Cabinet by the Director of Visible Services and Housing that set out the proposals for both of these savings.  These savings were consequently unlikely to be achieved in full and the service would be required to take action to avoid any overspend. 

 

As for the Waste Management budget, there was currently an adverse variance of £83,000 relating to main reasons i.e. the bulk of the savings in waste management for the current financial year were related to the more efficient use of the vehicle fleet.  However, due to the slight delay in the implementation of the Vehicle telemetry software, some of the proposed savings had slipped by a few months.  This software was now in place and reports would shortly be obtained on vehicle utility so that decisions could be taken on vehicles that were under-utilised to enable savings to be made.  There had also been an increase in the cost of the treatment of dry co-mingled recycling due to a new contract being in place from April 2014.  There were however potential savings later in the financial year relating to the cost or disposal of residual waste, which would aid the current budgetary position.  The original budget for 2014/15 took account of the £1,020,000 savings required for the financial year.  The budget would be monitored closely to ensure that savings that were not achieved were found elsewhere within the budget.

 

There was currently an adverse variance of £41,000 in regard to Grounds Maintenance to the profiled budget.  There had also been some slippage in savings relating to transport, however every effort would be made to ensure that the savings were made elsewhere in the department.  The original budget for 2014/15 took account of the £40,000 savings required for the current financial year.  Again the budget would be monitored closely to ensure these efficiency savings were achieved.

 

The General Fund Housing and the Public Sector Housing (HRA) were currently a favourable variance of £73,000 and £33,000 respectively. 

 

Development Services were currently projected overall to outturn within target at the year end with favourable variances identified against Public Protection, Planning and Transportation, Leisure and Economic Development, details of which were set out in paragraphs 19 to 23 of the report.

 

Matters which fell under the Managing Director (General Policy) were currently projected to outturn within the budget at the year end. 

 

The Head of Finance in concluding indicated that further work was indeed proposed to provide additional information relating to budget variances during the course of the year and such information would be submitted to the relevant Scrutiny Committees in due course and the Cabinet on how savings would be addressed including the nature of relevant information to be contained in future reports.

 

A Member of the Committee enquired as to whether it was possible to amend the budget profile during the year to take account of any adjustments.  In response, the Head of Finance indicated that profiling the budget was difficult due to the nature of its unpredictability, but he indicated that it was feasible to adjust any budget profile during the year.

 

Reference was made to the vehicle telemetry roll out by a Member of the Committee and enquired as to when this would be fully implemented to ensure savings / efficiencies were fully realised.  In response, the Head of Finance indicated that the telemetry software had been rolled out across the Council’s fleet and in terms of management data, this was currently being collected to assess the data to ensure that information was accurate and was provided in a timely way.  The Committee stressed the importance of management oversight of the use of the telemetry equipment, software and management data to ensure that it was appropriately implemented to maximise savings.  The Committee felt that it was also useful if a site meeting could be arranged to provide a demonstration to Committee Members in terms of understanding what data was being collected and how it was being used.

 

Brief discussion also touched upon the cost of co-mingling recycling for schools which a Member considered was prohibitive. 

 

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 Scrutiny Committee undertake a visit to the Council’s Alps Depot, Wenvoe for the purpose of assessing the introduction of the vehicle telemetry system / software in the Council’s vehicle fleet.

  

Reasons for recommendations

 

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

 

(2)       To ensure that the vehicle telemetry system was assessed to ensure efficiency savings were maximised.

 

 

260     CAPITAL MONITORING REPORT FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MAY 2014 (MD) –

 

The report for May 2014 showed no variances within the budget.  As reported to the last meeting of the Committee the profiled expenditure had been requested from Project Managers and would be updated in the next report.  Members were advised that Appendix 1 to the report did not include requests for unspent committed expenditure to be slipped from 2013/14 into 2014/15 and, as indicated in the last report, any requests for slippage would be included in the Closing Down report presented to a future Cabinet meeting.

 

For all schemes were it was evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year, the relevant officers were required to provide an explanation for the shortfall and this should be taken to the earliest available Cabinet. 

 

In respect of Learning and Development Directorate – Llanfair School Extension – Emergency powers had been used to approve the inclusion of a further £41,000 of S106 monies into the capital Programme for a classroom extension at the school. 

 

In regard to Visible and Housing Services – Cowbridge Bowls Club – a report to Cabinet on 9th September 2013 (Minute No. C2016 refers) agreed that the playing surface of the Bowling Club be replaced subject to a financial contribution of £12,000 being received from the Club in part payment for the works.  This payment had now been received and the balance of the works would be funded from the Visible Services Asset Renewal Budget.  This contribution was set out in Appendix 1 as part of the Park and Ground Maintenance Asset Renewal budget. 

 

In relation to Development Services – S106 Schemes – Emergency powers had been used to approve the inclusion of S106 monies into the Capital Programme as follows:

 

            Various Play Areas                                            £39,000

            Windsor Road Jct with Pill Street Penarth         £10,000

            Dochdwy Road Bus Shelter                               £15,000

            Hensol / Pendoylan Traffic Calming                   £22,000

 

Matters relating to Barry Island Regeneration – Cabinet would be requested to vire £64,000 from the Visible Services Asset Renewal budget to the Barry Island Regeneration Scheme.  Welsh Government had provided £3.3m of grant funding for the scheme in 2013/14.  Work on site was delayed due to severe weather conditions through the winter months and would continue into 2014/15.  The Welsh Government could only provide the grant for 2013/14 expenditure.  It was agreed with Welsh Government that other works, already identified to be funded from Council monies, could be claimed against the grant thus releasing Council funding in 2014/15 which could be used for the completion of the works.  Work had been brought forward from 2014/15 Visible Services Asset Renewal Programme and undertaken during 2013/14 and was claimed against the grant in 2013/14.  This therefore released funding for 2014/15 to be transferred to the above scheme to allow the completion of works.  This virement had been set out in Appendix 1 to the report.  As for the Renewal Area – Cabinet on 24th February 2014 had previously agreed that the Renewal Area Grant, once approved by the Welsh Government, could automatically be included in the 2014/15 Capital Programme.  Notification had since been received from Welsh Government that the allocation for 2014/15 would be £677,981.  This sum had therefore been included in Appendix 1 to the report.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

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

 

(2)       T H A T the virement of £64,000 from the Visible Services Asset Renewal budget to the Barry Island Regeneration Scheme be noted and the matter be referred to the Cabinet for approval.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

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

 

(2)       To update the Capital Programme.

 

 

261     CLOSURE OF ACCOUNTS 2013/14 (MD) –

 

The Head of Finance advised that the report provided a detailed account of the provisional financial position of the Council for 2013/14.  The Council had agreed the Authority’s budget (Minute No. 943 refers) on 6th March 2013 which represented estimated net expenditure for the Council of £218.734m.  Total expenditure was to be financed by the Revenue Support Grant (£125.547m), National Non-Domestic Rates contribution (£38.832m), an additional grant for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (£0.788m) and Council Taxpayers (£53.567m).  The Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) for the year was £219.212m.

 

Revenue estimates had been amended and approved by Cabinet during the financial year, however they were at the same overall net level as the original estimate £218.734m (after use of General Reserves of £1.5m).  The actual expenditure against this for 2013/14 was £214.601m, which was £4.133m below the amended revenue estimate.

 

Appendix 1 amended the revised estimates to take account of the following adjustments.  There was no overall effect on the Authority.

 

Asset Rents – this charge could vary each year due to an increase / decrease in the valuation of assets.  The movements needed to be incorporated into the accounts.

 

IAS 19 Retirement Benefits – the purpose of this standard was to ensure that the operating costs of providing retirement benefits to employees were recognised in the accounting period in which they were earned by the employees.  Figures provided by the actuary differ from that estimated and the movements required to be incorporated into the accounts.

 

Recharges – these related to movements in charges between internal Council services.

 

Carbon Reduction Commitment Scheme – the scheme required the Authority to report on carbon dioxide emissions associated with the use of electricity and gas within its buildings.  Payment was then made to the Environment Agency to cover the charge in respect of those emissions.  The original estimate to cover the estimated cost was included in Policy; however it had not been redistributed to the relevant service.

 

The report also provided the Committee with the table below which compared the amended estimates and the actual expenditure for the Authority:

 

 

Service

Amended Revenue Estimate

Total Provisional Actual

Variance Favourable  () Adverse

 

       £’000

          £’000

             £’000

Learning and Skills

 

 

 

Education and Schools

94,959

94,959

0

Libraries

2,729

2,727

2

Lifelong Learning

203

205

(2)

Youth Services

1,112

1,109

3

Catering

1,780

1,777

3

 

 

 

 

Social Services

 

 

 

Children and Young People

15,083

15,138

(55)

Adult Services

36,967

36,911

56

Business Mgt & Innovation

298

294

4

YOS

707

707

0

 

 

 

 

Visible Services and Housing

 

 

 

Environment and Visible Services

18,813

18,758

55

Parks and Ground Maintenance

3,582

3,625

(43)

Building Services

70

78

(8)

General Fund Housing

1,182

982

200

 

 

 

 

Development Services

 

 

 

Public Protection

2,689

2,665

24

Private Housing

11,287

11,281

6

Planning and Transportation

5,506

5,448

58

Leisure

4,174

4,239

(65)

Economic Development

996

1,016

(20)

 

 

 

 

Managing Director

 

 

 

Resources

501

494

7

Corporate and Customer Services

378

378

0

General Policy

17,218

14,602

2,616

 

 

 

 

Total Net Budget

220,234

217,393

2,841

Council Tax Surplus

0

(2,792)

2,792

Use of Reserves

(1,500)

0

(1,500)

GRAND TOTAL

218,734

214,601

4,133

 

 

The main reasons for the variances were detailed in paragraphs 8 to 88 of the report.

 

The Head of Finance also indicated that as previously reported to Cabinet on 24th February 2014, the Single Status Reserve had been identified as being no longer required, other than a small sum for contingencies.  Accordingly, the reserves of £2.162m had been disaggregated and it was proposed that the monies were used to fund the areas shown below.  The Council had already invested in waterfront areas e.g. through the Barry Island Regeneration Scheme and therefore funding was now required to ensure that these works could be maintained.  A report had been presented to Cabinet on potential improvements to Jenner Park, Barry and these proposals needed to be supported by the necessary finance.  The remaining balance had been utilised for schools as there was an ongoing need to fund works on ageing school buildings. 

 

Provisions

  • Barry and Penarth Sea and Water Front                         £900,000
  • Jenner Park, Barry Improvements                                   £350,000

Reserves

  • School Investment Strategy                                              £912,000

 

The Head of Finance also indicated that with regard to Jenner Park, Barry, in addition to the £350,000 referred to above, a sum of £445,000 had been transferred from the Visible Services Reserve to a provision to fund the Jenner Park, Barry improvements which therefore totalled £795,000. 

 

Funds no longer required as reserves may be transferred to the General Fund to be used for other purposes.  He also indicated that there had been transfers into reserves for reimbursements from services for works where the initial cost was funded from that specific reserve e.g. Computer Renewal Fund, Project Fund, Vehicle Repairs and Renewals, Schools rationalisation Fund and the Energy Management Fund. 

 

In referring to Appendix 4 to the report the Head of Finance indicated this was a schedule showing the Council’s Reserves as at 31st March 2014.  These reserves had been reviewed and were currently considered adequate for reported uses.

 

He also indicated that revenue and spending previously report meant that the General Reserve would increase from £9.828m to £13.961m.  When the budget was set for 2014/15, future years’ savings targets had meant that £2.5m of General Reserve were allocated for use in 2014/15, with a further assumed use of £4m in 2015/15 and 2016/17.  The underspend on the revised Capital Programme in 2013/14 was £4.7m.  In referring to the table at paragraph 98 of the report it was shown how the Capital Programme had been financed in 2013/14. 

 

As for General Capital Funding, the Head of Finance indicated that this expenditure in the year was sufficient to cover the General Capital Funding provided by the Welsh Government.  Where schemes originally planned to be financed from General Capital Funding had underspent, other schemes, planned to be funded from capital receipts or reserves, had been substituted in their place. 

 

In regard to Capital Receipts, the existing capital receipts balance as at 31st March 2014 was £14.78m, all related to the General Fund.  The sum of £2.5m was received from the sale of assets and mortgage repayments during 2013/14 as follows:

 

·                Sale of Council houses                                              £   158,000*

·                Sale of Land and Buildings                                        £2,279,000

·                Mortgage repayments on Council house sales          £     33,000

·                Mortgage repayments on private homes                  £     36,000

 

*    These receipts were gross and normally the Council only treated 25% as 'usable' to finance Housing Revenue Account capital expenditure, as the Subsidy Determination assumed that 75% was used to 'reduce loan debt'.

 

As a result of the capital underspend in 2013/14, an allocation of £5.549m was requested as slippage into 2014/15 and £60,000 into 2015/16.  This would fund the completion of schemes as set out in Appendix 5 to the report.  Of this expenditure, the sum of £1.126m would be funded from capital receipts and £4.483m would be provided from revenue, reserves or external sources.

 

The Council’s Major Repairs Allowance (MRA) for 2013/14 was £2.8m.  Works totalling £17.83m were spent on major improvements to the Council housing stock, £2.8m of which was funded from the MRA, £1.15m from Housing capital receipts and £13.6m from Housing Revenue and Reserves as well as £280,000 of supported borrowing.  A reduced MRA of £2.76m had recently been awarded to the Council for 2014/15.

 

In concluding, the Head of Finance indicated that given anticipated ongoing cuts in capital funding for future years, it was vital that funding uncommitted capital expenditure be retained for future use on prioritised schemes.  As such, Directorates had once again been informed that whilst committed capital schemes would be allowed slippage, those which were not contractually committed could not be funded.  This enabled some of the underspend on the Programme to be retained and ploughed back into funding the future Capital Programme.

 

In response to a question from the Committee in regard to how a favourable variance had been accrued in respect of the lease of Dyffryn Gardens to the National Trust in the amount of £135,000 the Head of Service indicated that the variance was not activity based but to do with how the contract was structured.  In regard to a question from the Committee in regard to the provision of bad debts, particularly in respect of the Housing Revenue Account, the Head of Finance indicated that there was a provision for bad debts across all service headings and an age profile was undertaken in terms of debt management with the Council vigorous in pursuing its debt cases. 

 

Having considered the above and related issues it was

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the closure of accounts for 2013/14 and related information be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the financial measures taken and proposed.

 

 

262     WELFARE REFORM – PROGRESS REPORT (MD) –

 

The report sought to update the Scrutiny Committee on the work currently undertaken by the Council in regard to the implementation of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Agenda since last reported to the Committee in November 2013.

 

The Head of Finance indicated that the Officer Working Group had met in May 2014 to review work associated with the above reforms across the Council.  The Welfare Reform External Stakeholder Group continued to meet bi-monthly where local organisations could meet to discuss the implications of the reforms and to consider opportunities for joint working.  The Head of Finance also indicated that the Council’s external website had been updated with the latest welfare reforms on its dedicated pages.  Council Tax and Benefits specific web pages were also being updated to reflect the latest information available on the individual services and how Welfare Reform has affected them.  However he indicated that at present there were no new welfare reform changes taking place and neither had there been any publicised for the near future.  An update of the impact of previous changes was set out below:

 

Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS)

 

Funding from Welsh Government had been allocated to fill the 10% shortfall in Council Tax Reduction for 2014/15.  Also Welsh Government had announced that this would continue for 2015/16 and 2016/17.

 

Council Tax Reduction Scheme expenditure and budget were as follows:

 

·                2013/14 CTRS Budget £9,437,000           Expenditure £9,117,454

·                2014/15 CTRS Budget £9,742,000           Expenditure £9,234,895

 

Council Tax collection in-year had been maintained

 

·                2011/12          97.3%

·                2012/13          97.6%

·                2013/14          97.5%

 

Social Size Criteria (Bedroom Tax)

 

The social size criteria only affected working age claimants where they were under-occupying their home.  There would be a reduction in housing benefit of 14% for under-occupation of one spare bedroom and 25% for under-occupation of two or more spare bedrooms.

 

Number of people who have had Housing Benefit reduced:

 

 April 2013

June 2014

1102

944

 

There had been a reduction of 158 people in the number of people affected.

 

Housing Benefit Reduction in June 2014

 

14% reduction

795

25% reduction

149

Total affected

944

 

Benefit Cap

 

Since July 2013 (the introduction of the benefit cap), 54 people had been affected by the cap.  As at 27th June 2014 the number of cases affected was 41 (a reduction of 13 claims).

 

If the household’s benefit entitlement was larger than the benefit cap, the level of Housing Benefit payments would be reduced by the amount that is larger than the capped level.  This would only affect working age claimants where the amount of benefit would be capped at £500 per week for a couple or lone parent with children.

 

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

 

The DHP allocation from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for 2014/15 was £244,982 and the Authority itself had allocated a further £219,000.

 

As at 27th June 2014 a total of £110,383.89 DHPs had been awarded.

 

DHP applications for 2014/15

 

Received

Granted

Refused

Waiting further information

Awaiting to be processed

324

163

67

30

64

 

The DHP allocation from DWP for 2013/14 was £219,639.  Total DHP expenditure for the year was £224,291 the shortfall of £4,650 was funded by the Authority. 

 

DHP applications for 2013/14

 

Received

Granted

Refused

1091

506

585

 

Out of the 506 successful awards the following areas were granted DHP:

 

Impact on

Number

      £

Benefit cap

    3

    2,226

Bedroom Tax

312

118,831

Local Housing Allowance restriction

  52

  26,364

Other

139

  76,870

Total

506

224,291

 

 

 

Purpose of DHP

Number of awards

To help secure and move to alternative accommodation i.e. rent deposit

   8

To help with short-term rent costs to secure moves

147

To help with short-term rent costs while the claimants seeks employment

102

To help with on-going rental costs for disabled people

  24

To help with on-going rent costs

225

Total

506

 

Universal Credit

 

This summer, Universal Credit would be rolled out to other areas in the North West of England for single Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants.  DWP have stated that Universal Credit will start to make an impact on housing benefit cases in 2015/16 and managed migration of housing benefit claims for working age customer will commence in 2017.  However, local authorities would still need to continue to make provision for payment of housing costs into 2017 and supported accommodation cases will remain until at least 2018. Also payment of housing costs for pension age claimants will remain with the local authority for the foreseeable future. 

 

Council Housing

 

As at 30th June there were 588 Council tenants affected by the extra bedroom subsidy compared to 625 at the time of the last report.  The reduction was attributed to tenants downsizing, change of circumstances, tenants vacating properties and the impact of the changes to the Council’s allocation policy.

 

The Council’s dedicated Money Advisors continued to ensure information was provided to all tenants and as a result of the Authority’s Prevention First approach rent arrears for this group were well controlled and managed. The Money Advisors not only assisted in direct issues relating to payment of rent but had been able to maximise tenant income through a range of measures which included charitable donations, foodbank vouchers and Dwr Cymru Water assist scheme to name a few.

 

Arrears had decreased from £43,487(pre introduction of the bedroom subsidy) to £40,753 as of 30th June.  Of the 568 affected, 52% continued to have clear rent accounts, 15% of cases arrears were reducing with 33% under intensive management where arrears were still unstable and in some cases worsening.

 

Significantly, however, the Department had not evicted any tenant where arrears were attributable to the Housing Benefit changes.  Future mitigation measures included an increase in the supply of smaller units of accommodation with 20 one and two bedroom units on the site of the former Marine Hotel on Barry Island being provided this year. The development, in partnership with Newydd Housing Association, had been funded following a successful Council bid to the Welsh Government.

 

Social Services

 

Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) had just started to be implemented for new cases of Disability Living Allowance or where a review was requested by clients in the working age group.  Under PIPs claims could go up, down or stay the same.  The impact of this in terms of outcomes for the clients was still to be measured. 

 

Similarly, applications for support through the Discretionary Assistance Fund were at an early stage and its success or otherwise would be monitored and reported.

 

The Council also continued to monitor any increase in debt outstanding as people had less to money to pay their bills but with no noticeable change as yet.

 

The Committee, in thanking officers involved with welfare reform changes, considered that it was important to publicise the fact that the Council had not evicted any tenant where arrears were attributable to the Housing Benefit changes.  In addition, the Committee felt that it should be kept informed of any potential evictions as soon as they become apparent to officers and these be reported to the Scrutiny Committee as soon as practicable. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted and that the Scrutiny Committee receive a further progress report in six months’ time.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To monitor the impact of the Welfare Reform Agenda.

 

 

263     CORPORATE AND CUSTOMER SERVICES END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT 2013/14 AND TARGET SETTING 2014/15 (MD) –

 

The Head of Performance and Development, in referring to the report, highlighted to the Committee that the Division to which the report related no longer existed following a recent restructuring exercise, with Corporate and Customer Services subsumed into the Directorate of Resources.  Consequently, 2014/15 was last year of such a service plan. 

 

In addition to the above, the Head of Service reported the following:

 

·                The Department had completed 54% of service plan actions at year end, with a further 8% on track for a later completion date.  There was a total of 52 actions in the plan; 28 were completed, 4 were on track, 19 had slipped and 1 had yet to start.

·                The Department had completed 47% of its actions against the Corporate Plan that were included in the 2013/14 service plan and a further 20% of actions were on track for a later completion date.  Of the 15 actions within the service plan, 7 were completed, 3 were on track and 5 had slipped.

·                60% of Improvement Objective actions were completed.  Of the 5 actions within the service plan, 3 had been completed and 2 had slipped.

·                There were no Outcome Agreement actions in the 2013/14 plan as the Outcome Agreement had not been agreed until 1st April 2014.

·                Of the 27 performance indicators in the plan, 8 (29%) did not have targets set for 2013/14.  11(41%) met or exceeded target at end of year, 1 (4%) was within 10% of target and 5(19%) missed the target by more than 10%.  Data was unavailable for 2 (7%) indicators. 

 

In terms of notable performance, funding of £1.2m had been secured from successful achievement of the Outcome Agreement 2010-13 with the Welsh Government.  The Council’s new website had been ranked by Sitemorse as number 2 in Wales.  A new Charter with Town and Community Councils had been agreed which had led to improved working relationships, particularly between the Council and Town and Community Councils.  Customer feedback software implemented during Quarter 1 was being more effectively used by services to inform future improvements.  Social media as a channel for handling customer queries continued to be developed and the number of followers on Twitter and Facebook continued to increase (Facebook: 5,210 and Twitter: 8,543).  There had also been a high take-up of the Council’s Vale Connect subscription service which enabled customers to receive e-mail updates on subject matter of choice and currently had 10,000 individual subscribers and 18,000 topics of subscription.  In September 2013, post call customer feedback surveys were introduced for Contact OneVale.  During the period to the end of March 2014 over 5,000 surveys had been completed with an average satisfaction rating for services delivered at 95%.

 

The Head of Service’s attention then turned to slippage and referred to the development of self-service options to be made available through the Council’s website (CC01/A006 [CP/CL3]) had been held in abeyance while awaiting the final implementation of the new Content Management System and approval of Customer Service and Channel Strategies.  The Connecting with our Customers Strategy had now been approved and the associated action plan had begun to be implemented.

 

In addition to the above, a new process for the use of hate crime helpline and complaints system was being finalised (CC04/A036 [CP/CL9]).  This however had been delayed due to a change in personnel.  A training programme was also being developed to raise awareness within the Council of public sector equality duties, and British Sign Language and deaf awareness.  Reference was also made to the Corporate Consultation Officer who was currently filling another post which had caused a number of consultation actions to slip into 2014/15.  Additionally, an LSB Information and Engagement Strategy had been agreed and an action plan was being implemented in order to co-ordinate consultation across partners (CC07/A047 [CPCL1]).  Communication and consultation methods were also currently being reviewed with the LSB partners to ensure all available engagement tools were being fully utilised.  A separate consultation calendar was being developed and an informal network of officers involved in consultation across partners organisations was being formed to share good practice.  Lastly, the Vale Public Opinion Survey would take place in the summer of 2014.  The report also referred to proposed service performance indicators and targets for 2014/15 which also included end of year performance data, details of which were set out in Appendices 1 and 2 of the report. 

 

In referring to the report the Committee made reference to annual performance indicator CC01/M002b – Average number of weekly unique visits to the Council’s Welsh language website with discussion centering on the difficulties in translating the quite considerable number of English website pages on the Council’s existing website into Welsh.  The Head of Service referred to the number of visits to the Welsh language part of the Council’s external website which was currently low.  He considered that it was necessary to review the English content of the external website and referred to Monmouthshire Council website as only hosting 350 pages.  Once the English website pages were reviewed and subsequently reduced, this would then enable an adequate parallel Welsh language external website to be provided.  Various remarks were made by Members of the Committee in regard to the fact that the number of Welsh speakers who resided within the Vale of Glamorgan were low and therefore this could result in the number of low hits to the external Welsh language part of the website.  In addition, the Committee supported a review of the English content of the external website and suggested that the Head of Service look at best practice, particularly in England, which could be used as a sensible benchmark for basing the Council’s English pages on.  Once the review had been completed it was requested that the Head of Service submit a further report to the Scrutiny Committee for further consideration.  The Head of Service also reminded the Committee of the Council’s statutory requirement to meet the Standards set by the Welsh Language Commissioner which would shortly be announced.  The Committee, taking this point on board, considered that it would be prudent to await the announcement of the Welsh Language Standards which would then be taken into account of any future review.  The Committee also felt that it was important that any report took account of any commonality issues in terms of hits across the external website for English and Welsh pages.  The Committee also made reference to the current search engine within the existing website and considered it not to be particularly user friendly and the Head of Service in response indicated that he would look at this particular matter and investigate if better search engines were available for use. 

 

The Head of Service was also asked to quantify and assess the accessing of information from the Council’s website through the use of smart phones, tablets, etc. and it was considered that it would be useful if data could be made available to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration.  In response, the Head of Service indicated that the development of the Council’s website had been pursued under the Customer Relations Strategy and he referred to the development of certain software applications ('apps') which could be used by users to access the Council’s website. 

 

Having regard to the above, it was

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Head of Performance and Development undertake a review of the English language provision on the Council’s external website with a view to reducing the number of web pages in the first instance to enable further website development of the Welsh language provision so that it mirrored the English provision.  The report was also to include the availability of additional search engine information for the Council’s website and the available data illustrating the use of access to the Council’s website by the use of smart phones and tablets and any information regarding the development of software applications to access the Council website. 

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that the Council’s external website in both and English and Welsh was both fit for purpose and with the express intention of overseeing any future development of the Council’s website.

 

 

264     RESOURCES END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT 2013/14 AND TARGET SETTING 2014/15 (MD) –

 

In referring to the report the Head of Finance reported the following matters:

 

·                The Department had completed 80% of Service Plan actions at end of year, with a further 3% on track for a later completion date.  Details were available under each objective and there were a total of 71 Actions in the Plan; 58 were completed, 2 were on track, 10 had slipped and 1 had not yet started.

·                The Department had completed 80% of the actions against the Corporate Plan that were included in the 2013/14 Service Plan.  Of the Actions within the Service Plan, 7 were completed and 1 had slipped.

·                There was one Improvement Objective action in the Service Plan which had now been completed.

·                There were no Outcome Agreement actions from 2013/14 Plan, as the Outcome Agreement was not signed until 1st April, 2014.

·                Of the 23 Performance Indicators in the Plan, 2 (9%) did not have targets set for 2013/14.  18 (78%) met or exceeded targets at end of year, 2 (9%) were within 10% of the target and 1 (4%) missed the target by more than 10%.

 

He also referred to notable performance during the quarter.  The Service had achieved Public Service Network (PSN) Accreditation in compliance with information security standards.  Wireless networks had been successfully installed in all schools and a free public-access wi-fi to all other main Council buildings that were accessed by the public.  He indicated that the Council remained committed to ensure that its customers could access Council services conveniently.  During the year, 95.1% of all payments in the Vale were made by electronic means, the third highest percentage in Wales.  The average was 88.4%.  He also indicated that the Directorate would continue to radically view how it work and the way in which services were delivered in order to make the most effective use of limited resources.  During 2013/14 the Directorate exceeded its Outcome Agreement target for procurement savings of £1.8 million for the year.  However, more work was required to be done in order to make further savings over the next three years whilst continuing to deliver on an ambitious improvement programme.

 

He also made reference to a significant volume of organisational change which had been successfully managed in consultation with the Trade Unions with successful efforts made to mitigate the adverse implications for staff.  This had impacted positively in a number of areas; staff turnover figures had improved from 10.28% (2012/13) to 8.64% (2013/14) and sickness absence levels across the Council (8.75 days per employee for 2013/14) continued to be lower than public sector national comparators.

 

A draft protocol to increase public engagement and participation in the Council’s scrutiny process had been endorsed by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group (RS05/A038 (C|P/CL6)).  This would now be progressed via the Constitution Working Party and the Council as appropriate.

 

His attention then turned to the proposed Service Performance Indicators and targets for 2014/15 and indicated that a review of performance indicators had taken place to ensure that the Council  collected indicators which effectively monitor Service Plan objectives and outcomes.  New indicators and deletions had been proposed to enable services to better demonstrate achievement of Service Objectives and outcomes.  He referred to Appendix 2 of the report which outlined proposed service targets for 2014/15 be Service Plan area.  Some targets had been set in accordance with previously agreed targets in statutory Council documents such as the Improvement Plan and the Outcome Agreement.  Where relevant, this was indicated in the comment box.

 

The target setting report also included end of year performance data and in a small number of instances, this may differ from the year end data in Appendix 1.  This was because reports for Appendix 1 were produced through the Ffynnon system and therefore had to be finalised before the end of the contract at the end of May.  Therefore, where data had been updated or verified since that date this had been updated in Appendix 2 but not in Appendix 1 of the report. 

 

The Head of Finance, in referring to the one Annual Performance Indicator that had missed its target i.e. RS04/M012A - percentage reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the non-domestic public buildings, related to all Council buildings including schools and all Council buildings had been assessed.  He indicated that the target had not been met for a number of reasons, e.g. the recent mild winter.  In addition, it was difficult to enforce the implementation of energy efficiency initiatives within schools as they had delegated budgets.  However, there were a number of projects relating to energy efficiencies which were currently being undertaken by the Council to provide CO2 emission savings.  He stressed the importance of raising awareness of schools and encourage the same to undertake energy saving initiatives in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions.  He also latterly made reference to auto-meter tracking which was undertaken by officers and agreed to circulate information via e-mail to the Committee Members on the various initiatives the Council was undertaking in its efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from its buildings. 

 

Discussion ensued regarding the difficulties schools encountered in implementing the various energy efficiency schemes which tended to be prohibitive as schools did not have the upfront capital to invest in such initiatives and there was some discussion by the Committee as to whether schools were charged and admin fee by the Council’s Central Education Service to oversee management of that facility.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the service performance results and remedial actions to be taken to address service underperformance as detailed in paragraphs 5 - 14 and within Appendix 1 of the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013/2017 and in the Improvement Plan Part 1 2013/14 be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the proposed service targets for 2014/15 as set out in Appendix 2 of the report be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T the Head of Finance submit a further report to the Scrutiny Committee in respect of energy savings initiatives schemes and how these schemes could be further enhanced, the report to also include in broad terms how the Council could improve the take-up of energy efficiency schemes by schools with the report to include any educational aspect energy efficiency schemes may have to improve awareness of school children in the county.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the Council is effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.

 

(2)       To enable Council to demonstrate achievement of its objectives and identify service areas for improvement work.

 

(3)       To ensure challenging targets are set against the Council’s measures for improvement, reflecting Council’s commitment to continuously improve services whilst mindful of significant financial and service demand pressures over the coming year.

 

(4)       To apprise the Scrutiny Committee of the current energy efficiency schemes where they could be improved/enhanced to identify potential areas where energy efficiency schemes could be taken up by schools and to improve educational awareness of pupils in regard to energy efficiency.

 

 

265     SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT – MAY 2013 TO APRIL 2014 (DR) –

 

In accordance of Section 6.03d of Article 6 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Constitution Scrutiny Committees were required to report annually to Full Council on their workings and make recommendations for future work programmes and amended working methods as appropriate.  The Constitution also provided that Scrutiny Committee's Work Programmes for the municipal year be included in the Committees' Annual Report.

 

The Annual Report included details of the work of all the Scrutiny Committees for 2013/14, together with details of the Forward Work Programme, which would include:

 

·                performance monitoring

·                revenue and capital expenditure monitoring

·                Improvement Plan

·                budget proposals annual reporting

·                Service Planning annual reporting

·                Decision-tracking of the Committee recommendations

·                receiving progress reports on various issues

·                any other matters that the Committee considers appropriate.

 

The discussion centred on the editorial content of the draft Annual Report with a number of Members suggesting an amendment to the same, particularly in regard to the section under the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) relating to disabled facilities grants.  The Chairman, in referring to the comments made by Members, suggested that any suggested editorial amendments be submitted to officers.

 

RECOMMENDED – 

 

(1)       T H A T the draft Annual Report for the period May 2013 to April 2014 be approved, subject to any further minor amendments being agreed in consultation with the Chairman and it be submitted to Full Council in September 2014.

 

(2)       T H A T Members of the Committee submit any editorial amendments, including grammatical / typographical errors, to the relevant officer who would liaise with the Chairman to agree any editorial changes / minor amendments.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To approve the draft Scrutiny Committees' Annual Report to allow it to be submitted to Full Council in September 2014.

 

(2)       To allow minor editorial/typographical/grammatical amendments to be made to the draft Annual Report by officers in liaison with the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee prior to the matter being submitted to Full Council in September 2014.

 

 

266     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND WORK PROGRAMME SCHEDULE 2014/15 (DR) –

 

Appendices A and B to the report provided Members with progress in relation to recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee for the financial year 2013/14 (Appendix A) and the first quarter April to June 2014 (Appendix B).  The Scrutiny Committee was also asked to confirm its Work Programme which was attached at Appendix C for 2014/15.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the recommendations deemed as completed on Appendices A and B to the report be agreed.

 

21 January 2014

Min. No. 785 - Sickness Absence Report - April to September 2013 (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That the Head of Human Resources be requested to submit a further report in respect of Visible Services and related to health and safety training arrangements for employees, the practicality of introducing mechanised processes to mitigate risk of employees working in the service area, an age profile of employees and the percentage of sickness absence cases where it involved an insurance claim or litigation against the Council. 

A comprehensive joint report of the Director of Housing and Visible Services and the Head of HR was considered by the Committee at the meeting held on 24th June, 2014.

Completed

 

18 February 2014

Min No. 860 - Sustainable Development Progress Report (MD) - Recommended

(3)   That the Head of Performance and Development submit a further report in regard to the progress of the Council’s Space Project.

Cabinet reference considered by the Committee on 24th June, 2014.

Completed

18 March 2014

Min No. 977 - Task and Finish Activities for 2014/15 (HDS) – Recommended

(3)   That 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 Councilâ€.

On 30th April 2014 the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group agreed

(1)   That the No. 1 Priority for Task and Finish Review work for 2014/15 be:

An Examination of the Potential Contribution Assistive Technology Can Provide in the Development of a Dementia Supportive Community in the Vale of Glamorgan Through Enabling People to Live Independently.

(2)   That the Group receive a report to each future meeting on progress on the above Review in order to assist consideration of further prioritisation of topics as appropriate.

(Min. No. (d) refers)

Completed

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

Referred to Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) on 1st April where it was agreed and referred to the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group on 30th April, 2014.  (See comments above.)

Completed

8 April 2014

Min. No. 1028 - Space Project - Progress Report (REF) - Recommended

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

Reported to Scrutiny Committee meeting on 24th June 2014.

Completed

Min. No. 1029 – Welsh Language Standards (L) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Cabinet, on 16th June 2014, resolved that the Head of Legal Services be requested 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, and to submit an update report on the findings to a future meeting of the Cabinet.

(Min. No. C2334 refers)

Completed

24 June 2014

Min. No. 115 - Space Project - Progress Report (REF) - Recommended

(2)   That 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. 

Site visit arranged to take place on the date of the next meeting (17th July) and prior to the meeting convening.

Completed

Min. No. 119 – Sickness Absence Report Relating to Visible Services for the Period April 2013 – March 2014 (DVSH and HHR) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

A comprehensive joint report of the Director of Housing and Visible Services and the Head of HR was considered by the Committee at the meeting held on 24th June, 2014.

Completed

Min. No. 120 – Revenue Monitoring for the Period 1st April 2014 to 30th April 2014 (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Cabinet, on 14th July 2014 resolved

(1)   That the position with regard to the Council’s 2014/15 Revenue Budget be noted.

(2)   That the virement of £400,000 from the Private Housing budget to the Public Protection budget, due to an internal restructure, be approved.

(Min. No. C2390 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 121 – Capital Monitoring Report for the Period 1st April to 30th April 2014 (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Cabinet, on 14 July 2014, resolved

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

(2)   That the use of unsupported borrowing for the 21st Century School Programme be noted.

(3)   That a further report be presented back to cabinet to further consider the details of the scheme to receive funding from the Welsh Government.

(Min. No. C2391 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 122 – Annual Turnover Report – April 2013 to March 2014 (MD) – Recommended

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

To be considered either at the meeting of Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) in July or September, 2014.

Completed

 

(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme as set out in Appendix C to the report be approved and be made available on the Council’s website.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To maintain effective tracking of Committee recommendations.

 

(2)       To agree the Scrutiny Work Programme for 2014/15 and to make available information to the public.

 

 

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