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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 15th October, 2014.

 

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

 

Also present: Councillor Mrs. M. Kelly Owen; Councillors Mrs. A.J. Moore and N. Moore (Agenda Item 4 only); Mr. B. Cotter (EDGE Public Solutions).

 

 

521      APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors H.C. Hamilton and G. Roberts.

 

 

522      MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 16th September, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

523      DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

Councillor M.R. Wilson - Agenda Item No. 4 (Employee of Cardiff and Vale College - Dispensation to speak).

 

 

524      TRANSPORT SAVINGS PROGRAMME UPDATE (REF) -

 

Cabinet, on 8th September, 2014, were provided an update on the work being undertaken to review the Council’s current transport arrangements.  Cabinet had also been requested to determine what actions and resource profile was required for the introduction of a comprehensive transport savings programme.  The Cabinet, in accepting the report’s recommendations, had also referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for consideration as the Lead Committee for the service area and separately to the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) for information.

 

The Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) considered this matter at its meeting held on 7th October, 2014 and subsequently recommended to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) the following:

 

'RECOMMENDED - T H A T the above comments of the Scrutiny Committee be relayed to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) in time for its meeting on 15th October, 2014. 

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the contents of the report and the comments made at the meeting.'

 

The report was considered in conjunction with tabled item Agenda Item No. 9.

 

The catalyst for the review of vehicle transport had been highlighted in the Council’s 2012/13 Medium Term Financial Plan, subsequently, in December 2013, a diagnostic project review of transport arrangements had been commissioned by the Corporate Management Team in order to identify what process improvements and significant cashable savings in relation to the Council’s transport operations.  The project had been sponsored by the Director of Visible Services and Housing and project managed by the Senior Business Improvement Partner.  Following a competitive tendering process, EDGE Public Solutions had been selected to perform the diagnostic review supported by a member of the Council’s Business Improvement Team.

 

The resulting document entitled 'Vale of Glamorgan Transport Review’ was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and provided a detailed assessment of the current transport arrangements and scope for improvement across the service areas culminating in a series of recommendations for improvement. 

 

The Review recommended that increased use of available technologies in the garage in order to improve both customer and management information.  The report also highlighted the need for a fully integrated Fleet Management Information Technology System if a co-ordinated approach to Fleet Management was to be achieved. 

 

The Review had also recommended proposed that a review of the current operating process and competences for Fleet Management and Administration was made available within the report in order to ensure that both administrators and managers were able to efficiently prioritise and manage workloads.  An overarching criticism of current transport arrangements related to the review of the option that service managers acted in isolation regarding transport arrangements with varying degrees of co-ordination and communication between departments when arranging similar transport provision.  The Review concluded that no single team or service was able to achieve an holistic view of transport decisions being made across the authority and in order to achieve such an approach recommended that a central Integrated Transport Unit (ITU) be set up in order to transform the current management of transport arrangements, positively change their relationship between client and provider and effectively adjust levels of autonomy and control.  The review document also provided the Committee with details of both an assessment of the existing transport related savings plans and a high level road map for savings and processing improvements.  In general the review had been complementary of the staff and services currently provided by the Council and an assessment of the management of individual services relating to transport was found to range from adequate to excellent.  However, concern was expressed in the report relating to the fragmentation of current transport arrangements within the Authority. 

 

The creation of the diagnostic review and the accompanying resource profile had provided the Council with a documented series of objectives regarding information management.  The Council would also require a co-ordinated and timely approach to the implementation of the accepted recommendations if it was to achieve the savings and service improvements identified within the required time periods. 

 

The Committee welcomed Mr. Brian Cotter of EDGE Public Solutions ('EDGE') who provided the Committee with a comprehensive presentation on the findings of the review of the Council’s transport arrangements commissioned by the Director of Visible Services and Housing.  It provided the Committee with details of the high level findings and recommendations in regard to the Council’s Fleet, Social Services vehicles, Education vehicles, Community/Bus Service transport, staff travel arrangements and the management and tendering arrangements in relation to the Council’s supported transport arrangements provided by buses and taxis.  Mr. Cotter also referred to matters relating to the establishment of Integrated Transport Unit Regional, Collaboration and savings potential.  Following the presentation, a question and answer session took place in respect of the following matters:

 

  • The need to standardise the Council’s Fleet. 
  • Consideration should be given to greater contract hire. 
  • Matters in relation to the Alps Garage Workshop and stock control identified by the review raised questions regarding management competency levels.
  • The review had identified vehicles standing idle when there could be a dual use.
  • How crucial was the establishment of an Integrated Transport Unit (ITU) in effecting savings identified by the review.

In response, the Director set out the context for appointing EDGE as they had been identified by the Welsh Government as exemplar given their recent work with Neath/Port Talbot Council.  He sought to provide the Scrutiny Committee with an assurance that the matters raised by the review would be taken on board by the Steering Group and acknowledged also that there were weaknesses with current management arrangements.  However, he invited Mr. Cotter to comment on the current arrangements of the Council when compared against reviews undertaken at other Councils by EDGE.  Mr. Cotter referred to recent work at other Councils and indicated that the Council was in a far better starting position.  He referred to the number of examples where the Council’s current arrangements were adequate when compared to other Councils where he felt costs were out of control.  He acknowledged that there were some management issues as identified by the review, but with the right support the outlook for the Council was good.  The Director in referring to the review findings and to some of the points raised by the Committee, also acknowledged that the Council lacked certain specialist knowledge around reverse tendering exercises and this would require further work to develop staff expertise in this area.  He would also consider looking at private sector involvement with a view to challenging current arrangements.

 

Discussion ensued with a number of points being made by the Committee regarding the associated benefits of establishing an ITU.

 

The Director of Visible Services and Housing advised that the Transport Savings Steering Group whilst recognising the potential value for a central Integrated Transport Unit, expressed concern at the cost which was deemed prohibitive in establishing such a unit albeit the Group had agreed to a number of recommendations from the Review and recognised the benefits of co-ordinating several aspects of transport management and considered the potential transfer of additional learning needs post 16 and Social Services Transport Management and administration functions to the existing transport function within Development Services.  Further work was now required to quantify whether such a proposal was viable.

 

The Director also took the opportunity to advise Members of the Committee that prior to the transport review being undertaken, £690,000 worth of savings had already been identified by service managers for the financial years 2014/15 and 2015/16.  The recommendations provided by EDGE identified an estimated £900,000 of additional savings.   

 

Discussion ensued with the Committee welcoming the findings of the Review.  A number of points were made by the Committee regarding the establishment of an ITU, linked to spend to save initiatives.  Points were also raised relating to collaboration opportunities with public / private sector, the practical application of certain aspects of the Review findings, raising awareness of public to allow better access to rural transport services and revenue streams in relation to existing policy charging arrangements.

The Director gave an assurance that Members would continue to receive regular reports to the Scrutiny Committee on Fleet Management for their consideration. 

 

Having considered the report and related matters it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the recommendations of Cabinet be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider requesting quarterly reports from the Transport Savings Steering Group that outline initiatives introduced, how they are progressing and the saving achieved against those anticipated.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To ensure appropriate monitoring arrangements were in place to ensure that savings proposals were actioned, monitored and achieved.

 

 

525      DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS ANNUAL REPORT 2013-14 (REF) -

 

Cabinet on 22nd September 2014 was informed of the Council's performance delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during 2013-14 and the challenges for 2014 -15. 

 

Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) funded the adaptation of privately owned homes to help the resident remain living at their home as independently as possible for as long as possible.

 

Cabinet and Scrutiny Committees had continually monitored the performance of the DFG Service.  Performance of the DFG service continued to improve during 2013-14. During 2013-14 the average time to deliver a DFG was 284 days. This was 62 days less than 2012-13, constituting an improvement of 18% on that year's performance.

 

The overall target performance for the year 2013-14 was achieved and exceeded.  The local performance targets for stages within the DFG process were achieved for the enquiry to approval stage and the stage relating to approval to completion of the works.  However, the target for the time taken from first enquiry to an Occupational Therapist (OT) recommendation being received was not met.  While additional OT resources were put in place by the DFG service, the OT service had a number of staff on maternity leave.  Therefore, the additional staffing resources funded by the DFG service merely served to support existing resources in the OT service. Furthermore, due to the demands on the OT service from priority cases, the OT service was unable to progress the necessary work on the DFG lists, in the way that was anticipated.

 

A detailed breakdown of the DFG service's performance at 2013/14 year-end was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The key challenges for the service during 2014-15 remained unchanged i.e. reduce the delivery time for DFGs and maintain the improvement.  Key to achieving further improvement would be the introduction of the contractors Framework and further reduction in the time clients needed to wait for an OT assessment. 

 

As of April 2014, the time a client had to wait for an OT assessment for a DFG was 12 weeks.  If the Council was to further improve performance in the delivery of DFGs, this waiting time needed to be reduced to at least five weeks.  Based on existing resources, a target of 75 days had been set for 2014-15, which equated to a 10-12 week wait for assessment.  This target had been set with regard being given to existing resources. 

 

The OT within the DFG service could not assess all the DFG cases; input into the service was required from the OT service.  The OT service prioritised by urgency and allocated in date order.  As a result, the OT service was currently dealing with requests for assessments that were older than the requests currently being assessed for a DFG.  Until this backlog is cleared the OT service would not be able to allocate cases from the DFG waiting list. The Occupational Therapy Team had secured additional funding from other government sources and despite continued difficulties appointing to short term vacancies, and the covering of maternity leave it was nevertheless anticipated that the team would be back to full establishment by the end of the calendar year.

 

In addition, the Welsh Data Unit was working with local authorities to develop benchmarking data for private sector housing.  The collection of this benchmarking data was being piloted for DFG grants completed during 2013/14.  When this data become available to review, it would help the Council to understand in more detail its DFG performance compared to other local authorities and help identify further areas of improvement.  This data would also assist in ensuring an even playing field when the average delivery times for DFGs were compared nationally, and how the authority was ranked.  There was a concern some local authorities were not measuring like for like performance as a result of a different interpretation of the National Performance Indicator's guidance.  When the benchmarking data was available, a further report would be presented to Cabinet to detail comparisons and differences and any further actions required to improve the service.

 

Cabinet had subsequently

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report on performance for delivering Disabled Facilities Grant during 2013-14 attached at Appendix 1 to the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the challenges facing the delivery of Disabled Facilities Grants during 2014-15 be noted and a further update report be presented to Cabinet by the end of the year and thereafter quarterly.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be forwarded to the Scrutiny Committees (Housing and Public Protection, Social Care and Health and Corporate Resources) for information.

 

It was reported that the average time to deliver a DFG was currently 216 days, which was just 9 days off the top quartile figures for the all-Wales average as published for last year.

 

The Chairman and Members of the Committee welcomed the progress but noted that the Council was still ranked 18th in Wale and questioned whether it was realistic to expect the Council to reach the top quartile figure next year. 

 

The Committee continued to express concern regarding the current performance of Children’s DFGs with the Committee asking officers if parents’ comments had been obtained in relation to those child referrals which had been cancelled.  The same point was also made in regard to the families of those applicants who had passed away.  The Head of Public Protection indicated that in regard to DFGs for children there were no delays, however, he acknowledged parents expectations were sometimes a problem causing delay and needed to be addressed earlier in the process and the published DFG Guidance document should help to address such issues.

 

The Committee enquired of officers what additional support they required to effect improved performance, the Committee being aware of issues with staff resources.  In response, officers indicated that staffing resources was now less of a problem and additional funding was always welcomed but they were aware of the financial challenges facing the whole of the Council.

 

A Member of the Committee referred to the Annual Improvement report recently considered by the Council’s Audit Committee and read out the narrative contained in paragraph 44 of the same document which related to the Council’s performance in regard to DFGs, which he considered was worrying.  He further reminded the Committee that the WAO would be revisiting the matter as part of their Regulatory Plan for 2014/15.  In acknowledging the Council’s performance had improved on previous years, so had other Councils and he was concerned that on this basis the Council would remain in the bottom quartile for performance.

 

Discussion ensued regarding DFG performance in comparison to private sector housing when compared to DFGs undertaken in the Council Housing Stock.  In response the Head of Public Protection indicated that in some instances DFGs were delivered quicker in Council housing stock as there was no need for the Council to go through the mandatory DFG process.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T Cabinet be requested to review the current spend and resourcing of the function in comparison with other local authorities in Wales, particularly in the light of the recent report and comments of the Wales Audit Office in its report to the Council’s Audit Committee.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ascertain if adequate funding / resources were in place to ensure the Council’s performance improved when compared against other Councils in Wales.

 

 

526      DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS AND THE CONTRIBUTION OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSESSMENTS (DSS) –

 

The Scrutiny Committee was apprised of the contribution made by the Council’s Occupational Therapists (OT) to the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) process.  The report provided the Committee with information regarding the steps taken when undertaking OT assessments and the planned improvements to the current arrangements.

 

At the beginning of August 2014, there were no children on the waiting list for DFG assessment by an OT.  This had been achieved as part of the overall plan for reducing waiting times.  All potential DFG cases were now managed through a designated waiting list that focused entirely on requests for a DFG assessment.  When demand was high for OT services within Social Services, which could result in a delay, the OT employed through the Council’s Public Protection division would accept these cases as a priority. 

 

For both children and adult cases, the DFG process involved a functional assessment by an OT.  This assessment took account of the service user’s medical condition, physical abilities and the probable future progression of their condition.  The OT would ask the service user to complete tasks and demonstrate how they were managing with daily living activities, such as using stairs, bathing and meal preparation.  The OT had a duty of care to ensure that the recommendations made from the assessment would be safe and suitable for the applicant.  This may require further discussion and / or a demonstration of equipment / adaptations and could be time consuming, particularly when the applicant required an adaptation or appliance which the OT considered was unsuitable.   A process of negotiation was often required with all relevant parties to ensure that a safe and suitable adaptation was provided.  To secure accurate information about the service user, the OT would need to contact other health or social care professionals to get further advice before recommendations could be made.  This could also take time, especially if other services then had to review or reassess the applicant concerned.

 

One recurring example of where a delay may occur due an applicant’s expectations is when a request is made for a walk-in bath.  To an OT with previous experience and knowledge of the baths available, a walk-in bath was rarely the most suitable provision following assessment of the applicant’s physical ability and prognosis.  This usually required further investigation and contact with health professionals to identify a suitable alternative.  In addition, negotiation with the applicant about more suitable adaptation options would need to take place and this may include arranging visits to look at previously completed schemes.  Set out for the benefit of the Committee at Appendix 1 were two case study examples which highlighted the negotiation process with the applicant and a further multi-disciplinary assessment. 

 

In order to inform decisions about how further reductions in the waiting time for DFGs could be achieved, a business process re-engineering review would be undertaken in October 2014.  Initially this would focus on the OT part of the process.

 

Members of the Committee, in referring to the previous report considered earlier which alluded to reasons for OT staff resourcing issues, enquired if community nurses could be utilised to undertake OT assessments.  In response the Team Manager for Occupational Therapists indicated that there was a national shortage of OTs, but the situation at the Council had improved with staff returning from maternity leave.  In regard to utilising community nurses, she considered that this was unlikely given that they lacked sufficient knowledge to carry out assessments.  She also indicated that the Council’s overall performance in regard to OT assessments had improved from 12 weeks in April 2014 to the current 7 weeks.

 

A Member of the Committee, in referring to the case studies appended to the report, and in particular to the second example, expressed concern at the delays between stages of the assessment and asked the officer if this was typical. In response the Team Manager of Occupational Therapists indicated this particular case had been challenging and highlighted the issues experienced by OTs when carrying out assessments.  This particular example had been exacerbated by the necessity of obtaining agreement with the parents regarding suitable visiting times, which had led to delays. 

 

The Head of Adult Services and Locality Manager welcomed the opportunity of discussing the matter with the Scrutiny Committee and indicated that the process as referred to in the report could be challenging and complex on occasions.  He was pleased that he was able with co-operation of colleagues within the Public Protection division to deliver year on year performance improvements.  However, he was alarmed at the Wales Audit report findings as previously reported to the Audit Committee was of concern given that Council officers had liaised closely when setting current performance targets.  He also indicated that there had been moderate increases in resources which had brought about improvements and he also reaffirmed that there were no children waiting on the current waiting list for DFGs.  He also referred to paragraph 11 of the report and reiterated some of the points contained therein regarding issues faced delivering DFGs.  He also re-emphasised the importance of the review which would be undertaken by the Council’s Business Improvement Team into the Council’s current DFG processes. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the process and performance for delivering Disabled Facilities Grants be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow the Committee to have oversight of a key Council service.

 

 

527        REVENUE MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2014 TO 31ST AUGUST 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 budget was forecast to overspend by the year end by £700,000.  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 was currently anticipating to outturn £200,000 under budget at year end.   There continued to be pressure on the Children’s Placement budget.  The Joint Budget for Residential Placements for Looked After Children was projecting to underspend by the year end.  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.  The budget was currently anticipated to overspend by £900,000 by the year end.  The annual deferred income budget for 2014/15 had been set at £725,000 and at 31st August 2014 income received was on target.  The year end projection had been amended from £150,000 as reported previously, to £100,000 under recovery. 

 

In regard to Visible and Housing Services budget, Highways Maintenance and Engineering Design and Procurement were currently projecting an adverse variance of £86,000 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.  There was also significant pressure on the pothole budget which anticipated to overspend by £327,000.  However, there were underspends anticipated within the service which could be used to partially offset these underspends.  The Cabinet had also recently approved a virement of £350,000 budget from General Policy to assist with the projected overspend.

 

As for the Waste Management budget, there was currently an adverse variance of £49,000 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.  The implementation of the Vehicle telemetry 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 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. 

 

There was currently an adverse variance of £77,000 in regard to Grounds Maintenance to the profiled budget due to the  management of areas such as Rhoose Point.  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 General Fund Housing was currently forecasting a favourable variance of £250,000 on the General Fund Housing Budget.  Public Sector Housing (HRA) would underspend by the year end.   

 

Development Services were currently projecting the following:

  • Public Protection – an adverse variance of £23,000 to the profiled budget due to lower than expected income
  • Private Sector Housing / Community Safety – an adverse variance due to temporary employment of Occupational Therapists
  • Planning and Transportation – a favourable variance of £144,000 due to higher than anticipated income
  • Leisure – a favourable variance of £54,000 mainly due to vacant posts
  • Economic Development – a favourable variance of £35,000 due to higher than expected income.

Matters which fell under the Managing Director (General Policy) projected a favourable variance of £815,000 as at the year end. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the Council’s 2014/15 Revenue Budget be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To monitor the projected revenue outturn for 2014/15.

 

 

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

 

Appendix 1 to the report set out the details of the financial progress on the above Programme as at 31st August 2014.  For all schemes where 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 meeting of the Cabinet. 

 

In addition to the above, Appendix 2 provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000 and where a budget shown in Appendix 1 was more than £100,000, but is made up of several schemes that individually were less than £100,000, these schemes were not included in Appendix 2.

 

Of those schemes reported these related to Development Service Services and related to the following:

  • S106 Paget Road to Penarth Portway Woodland Path – following the completion of the required consultation process it had been agreed that up to £40,000 of the Penarth Heights S106 monies could be used to re-establish the footpath link between Paget Road and Penarth Marina.  Cabinet had been requested to approve the inclusion of this scheme in its Capital Programme.
  • Barry Island Light Art Commission – the Arts Council of Wales had approved a grant in the amount of £50,000 for an artist designed lighting scheme in the ceiling of Eastern Shelter, Barry Island.  Cabinet would also be requested to approve the inclusion of this scheme in its Capital Programme.

In regard to variances between actual spend to date and profiled spend to date, the following was reported:

  • Disabled Facilities Grants – there was a variance between profiled budget and actual spend due to the profiled budget being based on historical patterns of spend, however, changes to processes within the service in 2014/15 had led to a more consistent pattern of approvals and spend throughout the financial year.
  • Local Road Network Improvements – this scheme had been subject to delay during the current financial year, however £200,000 had been committed during September and a full spend was still projected in the current financial year.
  • WHQS Works – there was likely to be a variance in the WHQS expenditure as the extent of the works required in a property was not known until the works commenced.  In addition, less had been spent than was projected for Rewire schemes, Kitchen Replacements, Bathroom works and schemes in Non Traditional Properties.  More had been spent than was projected for Central Heating works and General Improvement schemes, the total budget accordingly was unaffected.  The allocation of the WHQS budget would be reviewed as part of the forthcoming Housing Business Plan. 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the inclusion of the undermentioned schemes be endorsed and referred to the Cabinet for approval:

  • S106 Paget Road to Penarth Portway Woodland Path – increase the Capital Programme by £40,000 funded by Penarth Heights S106 monies
  • Barry Island Light Art Commission – increase the Capital Programme by £50,000 Grant Funding from Arts Council Wales to fund this scheme.

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow schemes to proceed in the current or future financial years. 

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