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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 11th November, 2014.

 

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

 

 

590     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors K. Hatton and A.C. Williams.

 

 

591     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 15th October, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

592     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

593     AUDITOR GENERAL FOR WALES: ANNUAL IMPROVEMENT REPORT 2014 (REF) -

 

The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 3rd November, 2014 and subsequently referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for information.

 

The report sought to advise the Council’s Cabinet of the results of the assessments by the Auditor General for Wales of the Council’s arrangements to secure continuous improvement. 

 

The report in itself set out the Auditor General for Wales’ responsibilities for assessing how well Welsh Councils were planning for improvement and delivering their services. 

 

The Auditor General for Wales’ findings were set out at Appendix 1 to the report and concluded overall that the Council was making good progress in delivering improvements in its priority areas, but needed to report more clearly on the outcomes achieved.  The Head of Performance and Development indicated that on the whole, the response from the Auditor General for Wales was positive.  The Auditor General for Wales confirmed that the Council’s performance, evaluation and reporting arrangements were improving, but did not yet provide a complete and easily accessible explanation of the outcomes achieved.  The Council’s planning for improvement and its arrangements to support improvement on the whole were sound. 

 

The report made three specific proposals for improvement viz:

  • (P1) Improvement performance reporting by clearly explaining the

                - benefits arising from the achievement of objectives

                - issues arising from not achieving objectives and the action being taken to secure improvements.

  • (P2) Review target setting methods as a means of driving improvement to ensure that achieve the level of service expected by Members.
  • (P3) Improve the management of the Leisure Contract by:

                 - refining the contract management regime to ensure that it formally and systematically tested the extent to

                   which contracts would be monitored effectively paying particular attention to the Leisure Contract;

                 - undertaking a review to determine the appropriate level and skills mix of resources required to effectively

                    monitor the Leisure Contract;

                 - ensuring the standard definitions for performance indicators were being utilised and data was recorded

                    accordingly by paying particular attention to Leisure Contracts and

                 - training Members to ensure that an effective level of challenge is presented to officers.

 

In referring to one of the two areas identified for improvement viz. DFGs, a Member expressed his ongoing concern in regard to how well the Council’s scrutiny arrangements were effective and achieved desired results.  Consequently, he suggested that the Council’s scrutiny arrangements should operate in a different manner and referred to three specific areas which required revisiting viz.:

  • scrutiny arrangements should be focused and reports should be more detailed;
  • the use of Scrutiny Task and Finish Groups should be increased beyond current planned arrangements and that they should be more focused, shorten the review periods and multiple Task and Finish Groups could take place at any given period in time;
  • he felt that the current style of minutes produced of the Committee meetings were anodyne and felt that they were inadequate as they failed to relay the Committee’s feelings and concerns.  Having said this, he also wished not to be viewed as attempting to micromanage officers or the Scrutiny process.

Another Member of the Committee endorsed this view and considered the current application of benchmarking and performance target setting as not sufficiently challenging nor stretching.  He also felt there was not enough effort by the Council to embrace performance setting arrangements used within the private sector.

 

Another Member of the Committee did not agree with such sentiments and, in some respects, he blamed Members themselves as it was possible that Members on occasions were only going through the motions of scrutinising matters and they either lacked the time or inclination to read reports.  He drew a comparison between officers and Cabinet Member responsibilities and questioned why Cabinet Members were not called to give an account if there were such concerns over performance of a service.  He also referred to the advantages of having an Audit Committee and, as a way forward, he suggested that the Committee receive a presentation from the Local Government Data Unit on information available and how to interrogate such information in the context of applying data to matters under consideration by the Committee.

 

In response, the Member who initially expressed concerns felt that there needed to be greater use of external benchmarking and cited DFGs as an example.  He also did not accept that the issue was with the Cabinet or indeed their need to attend Scrutiny Committees.

 

In response, the Member who referred to the presence of Cabinet Members at Scrutiny Committees suggested that performance matters and target setting were legitimately matters for the Cabinet and suggested that the Committee invite the Leader of the Council to a meeting of the Committee to discuss the matter of performance targets and associated settings.

 

In thanking the Committee for their comments, the Chairman, in referring to targets and setting of the same, reminded Members that the performance of the Council was improving, but having said this, he also acknowledged that other Councils were also improving at the same time. 

 

At this juncture the Member who raised initial concerns regarding performance matters welcomed the suggestion of the Local Government Data Unit attending a future meeting of the Committee.  His attention then turned to page 29 of the Auditor General Wales’ report and enquired why no improvement target had been included against the stated Improvement Objectives.  In response, the Head of Performance and Development reminded the Committee of the Council’s performance framework within which quarterly monitoring reports were submitted to all Scrutiny Committees.  These monitoring reports included performance against the targets associated with Improvement Objectives, and the annual Improvement Plan gave an overall account of the Council’s performance. 

 

Being no further discussion on the matter, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the Auditor General for Wales Annual Improvement Report for 2014 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Local Government Data Unit be invited to attend a future meeting of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of the Auditor General for Wales findings.

 

(2)       To outline information available and how to access the same.

 

 

594     YOUTH EMPLOYMENT IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (REF) -

 

The above matter had been previously considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 3rd November, 2014.  At that time the Cabinet had been provided with an update of the Council’s approach to employment of apprentices across service areas and ways in which the approach could be extended through working with other authorities and/or the use of Jobs Growth Wales Scheme.

 

In terms of the options and way forward the Cabinet, as its meeting on 3rd November, 2014 had given consideration to the following options:

  • Option 1 - continue with the existing provision of Foundation Modern Apprenticeships for office-based positions (whilst recognising the associated limitations)
  • Option 2 - develop the use of Jobs Growth Wales placements on an ad hoc basis, (alongside the existing provision)
  • Option 3 - broaden into a Council-wide approach incorporating both Jobs Growth Wales placements, as well as further developing the apprenticeship programmes
  • Option 4 - partnering with Caerphilly County Borough Council to develop a ‘Passport Programme’ within the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Cabinet, at that time, had

 

'RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the issues and options as set out in the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the continued progression of exploratory discussions with Caerphilly County Borough Council (as set out in paragraphs 27 – 40 of the report) to pursue a partnership approach to the employment of apprentices be approved. 

 

T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for information.

 

T H A T a further report be brought back to a future meeting of Cabinet on the outcome of the discussions with Caerphilly County Borough Council.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1&2)  To continue to make progress in relation to meeting the objectives set out in the Corporate Plan (2013-2017) and the Corporate Workforce Plan (2013-2017).

 

(3)       To ensure that Corporate Resources (Scrutiny Committee) Members were appraised of development in relation to the use of Jobs Growth Wales placements in view of previous information requests in this area.

 

(4)       To ensure that Cabinet was kept informed of the outcome of further discussions with Caerphilly County Borough Council.’

 

The Council’s Workforce Plan identified a need to 'ensure the workforce reflects the wider community across the Vale of Glamorgan’.  Additionally, 'with an increase emphasis on localism we would need to promote employment opportunities from within the local labour market and specifically promote the Council as a potential employer for school leavers setting on their careers’. 

 

Statistics compiled at the close of financial year 2013/14 indicated that 35% of Council employees were over the age of 50 and 13% of employees were under the age of 29.  This compared to figures reported in the Corporate Workforce Plan where in 2012, 33% of Council employees were over the age of 50 and 14% of employees were under the age of 29. 

 

Taking account of the Council’s responsibility towards supporting young people into employment there were a number of options that could be considered including providing Jobs Growth Wales placements within the Council and providing further apprenticeship opportunities.  Having regard to this responsibility, it was an appropriate time to undertake a review of the Council’s approach to the employment of apprentices within the Council and would therefore help to:

  • improve opportunities to achieve a proportionately younger workforce through improved youth employment and apprenticeship opportunities
  • reduce the NEET population in the Vale of Glamorgan which in 2013 formed 3.8% of leavers for schools in Wales (reduced from 5.6% in 2009).

Any review undertaken would need to consider the wider context of matters facing the Council e.g. Reshaping Services programme, which would undoubtedly result in a significant change to the existing workforce and subsequent job losses across the Council’ services.

 

In terms of current arrangements within the Council, a range of initiatives had been progressed over recent years to increase the employment of young people and in doing so had contributed to the reduction of youth unemployment within the county’s communities.  The Council regularly provided work experience opportunities across its services helping promote the organisation as a potential employer for school leavers.  The Council had also previously established a Foundation Modern Apprenticeship (FMA) programme delivered by a local Work Place Learning Provider and had been in place for 10 years.  The programme provided office based apprenticeships across the Council and it had been highly successful in helping young people achieve ongoing sustainable employment.  In terms of current arrangements the Council was currently supporting 30 FMAs who received a work placement for 65 weeks and were initially paid £82 per week which could rise to £195 per week, dependent on length of service and age.  However, one drawback of the apprenticeship scheme was that it was currently limited to office based positions; the Council also supported a small number of craft apprenticeships within the Council’s Housing and Building Sections.  This programme had supported two apprentices every year for the last 10 years, working closely with local colleges.

 

Both of the above schemes had attracted apprentices mainly from the Vale of Glamorgan area.  The cost of both approaches was shared between the Council with the training costs being met by the Work Base Learning Provider.

 

The report also alluded to the apprenticeships currently provided through the WHQS Housing contract, with contract clauses requiring contractors to appoint one new apprenticeship for every £1m of the contract value.

 

The Head of Human Resources referred to the recent appointment of a Jobs Growth Wales Mentor within the Barry Cluster Communities First Team to co-ordinate placements and further encourage engagement for residents from this community with the scheme.

 

Finally, the Council had over recent years appointed a number of corporately funded Professional Trainees in a variety of services.  Individual services also continued to fund specific training posts, some using external funding to support this ongoing recruitment e.g. Social Worker Trainees funded by the Social Care Workforce Development Grant.

Whilst the Council had undertaken significant work over previous years in relation to recruitment of apprentices there were, however, a number of potential gaps in relation to the approach to date viz:

  • current provision mainly supported office based placements
  • current arrangements lacked strategic co-ordination (and resource management) in terms of the links between different schemes and approaches.

The report outlined opportunities that may be available to the Council under the Jobs Growth Wales Scheme.  Reference within the report was made to the advantages and disadvantages of the Council providing any placements under the above scheme, with it being identified that the success in relation to the Jobs Growth Wales Initiative within the public sector had mainly been reported where it had been used as part of a 'blended approach’ e.g. both Rhondda Cynon Taff and Caerphilly Councils used placements as part of a broader delivery package, alongside work experience placements, apprenticeships etc. to find the most suitable employment path for those individuals involved.

 

It was possible for the Council to develop such a 'blended approach’ and referred to examples where a programme of apprenticeships had been developed under the auspices of the initiative by Caerphilly Council in conjunction with partnership organisations i.e. Caerphilly Local Service Board, Gwent Police, Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Caerphilly Business Forum and the voluntary sector as well as working with private companies to provide a joined up solution to support young people into employment across the region.  Details of the scheme operating within Caerphilly County Council area which included take up, successes and financial support for the scheme was detailed in paragraphs 32 to 34 of the report.

 

The Head of Human Resources indicated that exploratory talks had been undertaken with the Passport Team at Caerphilly Council and it had been identified that there was an opportunity to further investigate the possibility of a partnership approach with that Council, to introduce and adapt the model within the context of the Vale of Glamorgan, whilst securing the existing good practices that already existed.  This would be achieved through an 'out-posted’ Passport Support Officer working within the Council but with access to wider infrastructure of Caerphilly Council’s Passport Team. 

 

Based on tentative discussions with Caerphilly Council a partnership approach would involve the diverting of part of the Council’s existing Corporate Training budget (up to £15,000) which was currently used for FMAs and related issues.  This amount from the corporate budget would be reduced by any modest contributions from the Learning and Skills Directorate to support the NEETs (and wider youth unemployment) agenda.  The contribution would be match-funded to support a seconded Passport Support Officer subject to meeting the funding requirements of WEFO/DfES.  Placements secured as part of the Passport Scheme would remain on the payroll of Caerphilly County Borough Council.  The Head of Human Resources indicated that this partnership arrangement would, therefore, require no additional funding, but would have potentially significant benefits as set out in the report.  There was now a need to fully explore the implications of such an approach (including funding issues) before commitment was sought and a further report would be submitted to the Cabinet should approval be needed to progress the matter.

 

In thanking the Head of Service for his report which was more comprehensive and detailed in terms of what the Council was doing to support employment opportunities within the county, a Member was pleased to note that the proposals would encompass NEETs and referred to Appendix 1 of the Cabinet report which related to the Programme Model and enquired of the Head of Service if Tier 1 placements would receive payment.  He considered that the proposal as an excellent opportunity to work in partnership with Caerphilly County Council however, his sole reservation was that the initiative would not be operational in the immediate future.  

 

In response, the Head of Service indicated that Tier 1 placements would be engaged in an eight week period of unpaid work, but this was during this period where placements would see appropriate training and support.  In terms of progressing the initiative, the proposals were subject to confirmation of funding arrangements which would be known by the end of November, 2014 and subject to a further Cabinet report for final approval.

 

Another Member of the Committee sought clarification in regard to the reference to 'Cross Keys College' involvement and enquired of the Head of Service if local colleges within the Vale of Glamorgan were to be used upon implementation of the initiative.  In response the Head of Service indicated that the comments attributed to Cross Keys College were only for illustrative purposes and the initiative would make use of local colleges within the Vale.  The Member also enquired of the Head of Service of the implications of WEFO support and European funding changes and any subsequent implications for the viability of the initiative.  In response the Head of Service indicated that the Council would need to take account of any such changes e.g. funding from Welsh Government and Job Growth Wales Scheme, however, in his opinion Caerphilly Council officers believed that this was a sustainable initiative and, in terms of the Council’s proposed contribution of £15,000 it was worth funding and pursuing in the short term.

 

Another Member of the Committee queried the number of craft apprentices currently employed by the Council with the Head of Service confirming that two craft apprentices are taken on each year, but drew the Members’ attention to other apprenticeships that had been created through Council initiatives i.e. WHQS.  In response the Member indicated his surprise and thought that the Council would offer more craft apprenticeships with the incumbent applications and queried how the Council attracted the right type of candidate and referred to his personal experience of recruiting suitable applicants for apprenticeships in the private sector.  He indicated that this process was a very complicated one and the Council should give consideration to overseeing such matters on an in-house basis.  He also reminded the Committee that there were no colleges currently within the Vale of Glamorgan which trained apprentices through the medium of Welsh language.

 

In response to those comments another Member of the Committee alluded to the impact of compulsory competitive tendering legislation on Councils and the subsequent impact on the availability within Councils of apprenticeships.  He felt that the report provided a more cohesive approach to training opportunities and, in his opinion, the initiative would address some of the concerns raised around the subject of apprenticeships.

 

Another Member enquired of the Head of Service how working for the Council was promoted within schools.  The Member also enquired of the gender breakdown of the current intake of Foundation Modern Apprentices (FMAs).  In response the Head of Service indicated that the Council worked closely with schools and attended job fairs promoting opportunities that existed within the Council.  However, he acknowledged that the Council needed to do more and referred to arrangements contained within the Council’s current Workforce Plan.  In regard to the gender breakdown of FMAs currently engaged within the Council, he indicated that this was likely to be 50/50.  He also confirmed that the Council currently had one female plumber engaged in its employment. 

 

Another Member of the Committee aired a note of caution in regard to the success of the initiative given the implications for the Council in regard to the Williams Report. 

 

In summing up the Chairman thanked the Members for their comments and strongly supported the recommendations within the Cabinet report and supported the view that the initiative needed to be implemented as quickly as possible. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the issues and the preferred option of Cabinet  in regard to youth employment in the Vale of Glamorgan as set out in the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To monitor progress in relation to meeting the objectives set out in the Council’s Corporate Plan (2013-2017) and the Corporate Workforce Plan (2013-2017).

 

 

595     LOCAL SERVICE BOARD UPDATE (MD) -

 

The report set out the work of the LSB since the previous report made in December 2013 and reflected the activities undertaken by the LSB to deliver the commitments of the Community Strategy commitments and to ensure there were robust arrangements in place to support effective partnership working.  This included a revised Unified Needs Assessment (UNA) and the development of a new delivery plan for 2014/18.  The report focussed primarily on 2013/14 but as this was the final year of the three year delivery plan the report reflected what had been achieved over the past previous three years.  Achievements were detailed against each of the ten priority outcomes of the Community Strategy, together with details of regional work taking place, any challenges faced and key actions which would take place during 2014/15.

 

Paragraph 8 of the report set out the key achievements detailed in the Annual Report.

 

In addition to the above matters, and in response to the request from the LSB that the delivery plan for 2014/18 should have a more defined focus, an exercise was undertaken to review the key findings of the UNA, as well as future legislation and policy direction.  It was agreed that the focus for the LSB in delivering the next stage of the Community Strategy should be on tackling poverty.  The purpose of the new delivery plan was to provide a focus to LSB activities allowing the Board to monitor progress to tackle poverty in a more detailed manner. 

 

As part of the refocussing exercise the LSB had also considered the Welsh Government Tackling Poverty Action Plan 'Building Resilient Communities’ and identified activities around the three themes of viz:

  • Preventing Property - Alignment of Families First, Flying Start and Communities First
  • Helping People into Work - focus on employment and skills
  • Mitigating Poverty - advice and support services with a focus on the impact of welfare reform.

The draft delivery plan was set out at Appendix B to the report with the plan due to be approved at the LSB meeting in November, but would be a dynamic document and regularly updated.

 

In the light of the refocussing exercise for the delivery plan, the creation of a joint Cardiff and Vale LSB and other regional developments it had been timely to review partnership structures and set out at Appendix C was the new partnership arrangements.  In summary, the Learning and Skills Partnership and Regeneration Partnerships had been disbanded as other arrangements were in place to support joint working on these areas both at a regional and a local level.  A new Improvement Opportunities Board was being established which would focus on employment and skills activities.  The Welfare Reform Group would have an increased profile as it would be critical to the delivery of some of the aspects of the new delivery plan.  Safer Vale would continue and the Children and Young People’s Partnership and would be renamed the Children and Young People’s Board with its membership subsequently to be revised.  Changes to the management of the teams working to support partnership working in the Vale had been implemented.  The Corporate Partnership Team had been disbanded, Safer Vale had moved to Housing and Building Services, the Children and Young People’s Team had moved to the Learning and Skills Directorate and the Strategy and Partnership Team remained in the Performance and Development Service, to support the LSB and provide an overview of partnership working. 

 

In regard to local arrangements, a new joint Cardiff and Vale LSB had been established and met for the first time in June 2014.  The joint LSB would be jointly chaired by the respective Leaders of the two Councils and work was ongoing to develop an appropriate work programme.  Both Cardiff and the Vale Councils would retain their own LSB and Single Integrated Plan.

 

On 7th July, 2014 the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, laid before the National Assembly for Wales the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Bill.  This legislation intended to ensure that Sustainable Development was at the centre of a strategic decision making for Welsh Government and public bodies in Wales.  The general purpose of the Act was to 'ensure that the governance arrangements of public bodies for improving the wellbeing of Wales take the needs of future generations into account’.  The Bill was expected to become law in the spring of 2015.  Details of the Bill’s proposals were set out in paragraphs 17 and 18 of the report.

 

In terms of engagement, regular surveys would still be undertaken to Vale Viewpoint, the LSB Citizens’ Panel and a range of events and engagement activities undertaken through the year to help to inform work undertaken in partnership.

 

The LSB Annual Local Service Forum would be held on 9th December, 2014 at the Barry Memorial Hall, the Forum being a half day event which would focus on the difficult financial challenges facing the public sector and the need to look at alternative models of service delivery. 

 

Training was also provided to partner organisations this year on consultation legislation to assist officers across a range of organisations to understand the importance of effective consultation. 

 

In referring to the report a Member referred to the information contained within relating to the 'monetary value of volunteering in the Vale' and secondly to the 'National Exercise Referral Scheme'.  He also referred to the case study contained within the Annual Report in respect of the Penarth Learning Community and strongly felt that the Council should put forward the project for an award including, drawing the attention of the WLGA and the LGA to what could be achieved working in partnership with a thoughtful contractor such as Leadbitter. 

 

In response, the Head of Performance and Development believed that the project had been put forward for an award, however, he gave an assurance that he would confirm this and inform the Committee accordingly. 

 

Another Member, in referring to the information relating to volunteering, expressed the view that the information, when presented in the format of number of hours, was more significant than the monetary value attributed to volunteering.  He further alluded to the point that volunteers used the opportunity as a springboard onto other activities. 

 

In response the Head of Performance and Development indicated that as the Council progressed is Reshaping Services agenda, there was likely to be greater involvement of volunteers in the future.

 

Having regard to the above it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the achievements made in delivering the Community Strategy be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the revised partnership structures detailed in the report be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the new delivery plan be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T the Head of Performance and Development be requested to ensure that the Penarth Learning Community Project is put forward to an appropriate award if already not done so and the project success be drawn to the attention of the WLGA and LGA.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To monitor progress with the Community Strategy and work undertaken by LSB and key partnerships.

 

(2)       In acknowledgement of the revised partnership arrangements in relation to the LSB.

 

(3)       To endorse the new delivery plan.

 

(4)       To ensure that the project receives appropriate publicity.

 

 

596     TREASURY MANAGEMENT (S151O) -

 

The purpose of the report was to provide a mid-year report on the Council’s Treasury Management operations for the period 1st April, 2014 to 30th September, 2014, which was a requirement of the 2011 edition of the CIPFA Treasury Management in the Public Services: Code of Practice.  Also submitted for consideration were proposals to amend the existing Treasury Management and Investment Strategy and to update the Treasury Management indicators which were included in the Strategy.

 

The Council approved the 2014/15 Treasury Management Strategy at its meeting held on 5th March, 2014.  The objective of this Strategy was to secure the best return on its investments whilst having regard to capital security within the parameters laid down.  In addition, the Council’s borrowing strategy estimated that it would borrow £15,195,500 of new external loans to support the Capital Programme for 2014/15.  Council Officers in conjunction with the treasury advisors had and would continue to monitor the prevailing interest rates and the market forecast and adopt a pragmatic approach to change in circumstances in respect of its borrowing needs.

 

Commenting on the report, the Head of Finance was pleased to report that all Treasury Management activities undertaken during the above period complied with the approved Strategy, for CIPFA Code of Practice and the relevant legislative provisions. 

 

The Head of Finance also referred to the part of the report which related to Economic Review/Interest Rate Prospects and to the information provided by the Council’s Treasury Advisors in relation to the following areas:

  • Growth / inflation
  • Revision to GDP methodology
  • Unemployment
  • UK Monetary Policy
  • Bank of England Inflation Report
  • Eurozone Inflation
  • US Federal Reserve
  • Gilt Yield
  • Market Outlook for Quarters 3 and Quarters 4 2014/15.

The Head of Finance indicated that the near-term risk was that the Bank of England Bank Rate could rise sooner than anticipated which was captured in the 'upside-risk’ range details of which were set out in the table below.  The focus was now on the rate of increase and the medium-term peak and in this respect, expectations were that rates would rise slowly and to a lower level than in the past.

 

Dec 14

Mar 15

Jun 15

Sep 15

Dec 15

Mar 16

Jun 16

Sep 16

Dec 16

Mar 17

Jun 17

Official Bank Rate

Upside risk

0.25

0.25

0.25

0.25

0.25

0.25

0.50

0.50

0.50

0.50

0.50

Arlingclose Central Case

0.50

0.50

0.50

0.75

0.75

1.00

1.00

1.25

1.25

1.50

1.50

Downside risk

0.25

0.25

0.50

0.50

0.75

0.75

1.00

1.00

 

In addition to the above matters, the Head of Finance also referred to the interim report which included a table which summarised the Treasury Management transactions undertaken by the Council during the first half of the current financial year.  All activities were in accordance with the Council’s approved strategy on Treasury Management with Paragraph 21 of the report including a table of information regarding money borrowed/repaid during this period. 

 

External interest at an average rate of 5.60% and amounting to £2,671,254 had been accrued on these loans for the first six months of 2014/15.

 

The Council had also made the following investments for the period 1st April, 2014 to 30th September, 2014 as set out below

 

Borrowing

Institution

Opening Balance

Invested

Returned

Closing Balance

 

01/04/2014

 

 

30/09/2014

 

£’000

£’000

£’000

£’000

 

 

 

 

 

UK Local Authorities

 

 

24,000

16,000

(22,000)

18,000

Debt Management Office

71,550

734,000

(736,550)

69,000

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

95,550

750,000

(758,550)

87,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interest, at an average rate of 0.284% and amounting to £145,024, had been earned from these investments for the same period. 

 

The Head of Finance, in referring to the above table of information, indicated that the Council had invested with the Debt Management Office (DMO) or UK Local Authorities.  This strategy was considered prudent considering the continuing pressure on the financial markets.

 

The Council had also appointed new Bankers - Lloyds Bank.  The new banking arrangements were likely to go 'live’ during November, 2014.  However, there would be a period of parallel running of the Co-Op Bank until all banking arrangements had been successfully transferred to Lloyds.

 

As a consequence to the change in the Council’s banking arrangements it was necessary to amend the Treasury Management and Investment Strategy 2014/15 and accordingly, it was proposed to replace the second bullet point set out in Paragraph 8.6 of the Strategy with the following narrative:

 

'The monies can be placed with the Council's Bankers even though the Bank may not meet the minimum credit rating criteria shown above. There would be no maximum on the amount deposited. Any such deposit must be withdrawn from the account and invested on the money market in the usual manner at the earliest opportunity'.

 

The Head of Finance went on to refer to the very low level of short term investments interest rates currently available, internal funds had been used to finance capital expenditure and no external loans had been borrowed to date this year.  His attention then turned to the Treasury Management Indicators which measured the Council’s exposure to Treasury Management risks using such indicators.  The Scrutiny Committee was asked to note the following indicators as at 30th September, 2014:

 

Interest Rate Exposure

  • This indicator is set to control the Authority's exposure to interest rate risk. The exposures  to fixed and variable rate interest rates, expressed as an amount of net principal borrowed were:

 

 

Limit

Actual

Met

Upper limit on fixed rate exposures

      152m

89,269

Y

Upper limit on variable rate exposures

+/- 154m

-106,650

Y

 

Fixed rate investments and borrowings are those where the rate of interest is fixed for the whole financial year.  Instruments that either mature during the financial year or have a floating interest rate are classed as variable rate.

 

Maturity Structure of Borrowing

  • This indicator is set to control the Authority's exposure to refinancing risk. The maturity date of borrowing is the earliest date on which the lender can demand repayment. The maturity structure of fixed rate borrowing as at 30th September 2014 was:

 

 

Upper Limit

Lower Limit

Actual

Met

Under 12 months

20%

0%

3.14%

Y

12 months and within 24 months

20%

0%

2.27%

Y

24 months and within five years

30%

0%

4.74%

Y

Five years and within 10 years

30%

0%

26.40%

Y

10 years and above

100%

0%

63.45%

Y

 

Principal Sums Invested for Periods Longer than 364 Days

  • This indicator is to control the Council’s exposure to the risk of incurring losses by seeking early repayment of its long term investments.  The total principal sums invested to final maturities beyond the period end were:

 

 

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

Limit on principal invested beyond year end

£30m

£30m

£30m

Actual principal invested beyond year end

0

0

0

Within limit?

Y

Y

Y

 

A Member, in referring to paragraphs 22 and 24 of the report, expressed surprise at the differentials between the average rate in relation to external interest when compared to the average rate of interest received in relation to the Council’s investments.  He also referred to discussions at a recent meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) where, at that time, discussions had taken place in regard to LED street lighting and potential savings and suggested to the Committee that the Council should be looking to utilise its reserves to fund spend to save initiatives such as the provision of LED street lighting. 

 

Discussion ensued with a number of Members of Committee supporting the principle of the establishment of such a fund.

 

A Member of the Committee queried the appointment of Lloyds Bank as the Council’s bank.  In response, the Head of Finance referred to the procurement process for the Council’s banker and indicated that the procurement exercise had received two tender returns.  Officers had undertaken the necessary financial checks with both banks having a similar financial footing.   However, given the comments he was content with submitting further information to Members on the procurement / selection process and the appointment of the Council’s bankers. 

 

The Head of Finance’s attention then turned to the matter of the use of Council reserves and the stated aim of those reserves.  Use of the Council’s General Reserve had already been factored in to the budget strategy and was projected to drop to £7m which, from a Section 151 perspective, was the minimum advisable level at present.  Other reserves were earmarked for specific purposes and were reviewed twice a year as to their level and purpose.  He alluded to certain of these which in any case could not be utilised for any other purposes as they were statutorily ring-fenced (e.g. Housing Revenue Account).  In regard to the funding of 'invest to save' bids, he indicated that the Council’s Capital Programme was already committed for four years and had little flexibility to accommodate new projects.  However, should the relevant service submit an appropriate business case, for example in respect of the example stated LED street lighting, this would receive serious consideration as a Project Fund earmarked reserve already existed with any initial investment to a scheme being repaid by the client department over a number of years from the savings realised. 

 

The Member reminded the Committee that the Council’s energy bill for street lighting was circa £1m and the delivery of an LED street lighting initiative should be considered as a priority.  

 

Having regard to the above and related matters it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Treasury Management mid-year report for the period 1st April, 2014 to 30th September, 2014 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the proposal to replace the second bullet point in Paragraph 8.6 of the current Treasury Management and Investment Strategy with the following be noted:

 

'The monies can be placed with the Council's Bankers even though the Bank may not meet the minimum credit rating criteria shown above.  There would be no maximum on the amount deposited.  Any such deposit must be withdrawn from the account and invested on the money market in the usual manner at the earliest opportunity'.

 

(3)       T H A T the latest Treasury Management Indicators be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T the Head of Finance submit further information on the procurement / selection exercise in respect of the appointment of the Council’s banker.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of the Treasury Management mid-year report as required by the CIPFA Treasury Management in the Public Services: Code of Practice.

 

(2)       To amend some of the details in respect of overnight deposits in particular circumstances.

 

(3)       In acknowledgement of the update of the Treasury Management Indicators contained in the Councils Treasury Management Strategy.

 

(4)       To provide information in respect of the related procurement exercise.

 

 

597     SCRUTINY DECISION TRACKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND WORK PROGRAMME SCHEDULE 2014/15 (QUARTER 2) (DR) -

 

The report updated Members on the progress in relation to uncompleted recommendations made by the Scrutiny for the 1st Quarter April - June 2014 (Appendix B) and the 2nd Quarter July - September 2014 (Appendix C). 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

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

 

18 February, 2014

Min. No. 857 - Revenue Monitoring for the Period 1st April 2013 to 31st December 2013 (MD) -

Recommended

(2)   That the Head of Finance be requested to raise the comments of the Scrutiny Committee regarding the use of budget underspends with the Corporate Management Team as soon as practicable.

CMT has agreed that the format of future monitoring reports be supplemented with additional information and examples of where underspends / overspends are identified and where an ongoing underspend could be used to support non-achievement of savings e.g. car park and street lighting (Visible Services) as reported to the Committee on 15th October 2014.

Completed

24 June 2014

Min. No. 117 - Disabled Facilities Grant Performance 2013-2014 Quarters 2 and 3 (Ref)

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

Report submitted to the Committee meeting on 15th October 2014.

Completed

17 July 2014

Min. No. 259 – Revenue Monitoring for the Period 1st April 2014 to 31st May 2014 (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Instead of a visit to the Alps Depot, the Committee will now receive a briefing on the matter prior to its meeting on 15th October 2014.

Completed

Min. No. 260 – Capital Monitoring Report for the Period 1st April to 31st May 2014 (MD) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Cabinet, on 11th August 2014, approved the virement (Min. No. C2428 refers).

Completed

Min. No. 262 – Welfare Reform – Progress Report (MD) – Recommended

That the contents of the report be noted and that the Scrutiny Committee receive a further progress report in six months’ time.

Added to work programme schedule.

Completed

Min. No. 265 – Scrutiny Committees’ Draft Annual Report – May 2013 to April 2014 (DR) – Recommended

(1)   That 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.

Submitted to Full Council on 29th September 2014.

Completed

Min. No. 266 – Scrutiny Decision Tracking of Recommendations and Work Programme Schedule 2014/15 (DR) – Recommended

(2)   That 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.

Uploaded to the Council’s website in September 2014.

Completed

23 July 2014

 

Min. No. 283 – Regionalising Regulatory Services Project (DDS) – Recommended

 

 

 

(1)    That the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) of 22nd July, 2014 be endorsed and referred to Cabinet for further consideration.

Cabinet, on 22nd September 2014, noted the contents of the report, which was to be considered with Agenda Item No. 14 of the agenda.

(Min. No. C2460 refers).

The matter will now be considered for ratification by a Special meeting of the Council on 12th November 2014.

Completed

(2)   That the inclusion of trade union representation on the nine work streams working groups be recommended to Cabinet for consideration.

(3)   That the Cabinet consider making use of exemplar / best practice in respect of those local authorities that had already implemented a shared service for regulatory activities i.e. the case studies identified in Appendix G of the Atkins report with particular focus on IT systems.

(4)   That a Joint Scrutiny Committee be established as soon as practicable following the three Councils agreement to create a Joint Regulatory Service.

16 September 2014

Min. No. 377 – Medium Term Financial Plan 2014/15 – 2017/18 (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That Cabinet be asked to ensure that the information outlined in Recommendation (1) is reported to Scrutiny Committees and Cabinet on a quarterly basis. 

Cabinet, on 6th October, resolved that quarterly monitoring reports be reported to Cabinet, which should include the savings achieved together with an indication of the further savings identified for each service area.

(Min. No. C2479 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 378 – Reshaping Services – A New Change Programme for the Council (REF) – Recommended

(2)   That a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in the Autumn providing the proposals for a more detailed way forward and apprising Members of comments received as a result of any initial engagement with stakeholders.

Added to work programme schedule.

Cabinet will receive an update report to its meeting on 3rd November.

Completed

(3)   That Cabinet be requested to consider developing a Communication Strategy for the Reshaping Services programme in order to educate stakeholders and encourage engagement.

Cabinet, on 6th October, resolved that the contents of the report be noted and it be highlighted that the development of a communication strategy was addressed in the 11 August 2014 Cabinet report.

(Min No. C2480 refers)

Completed

Min. No. 380 – Improvement Plan Part 2: Annual Review of Performance 2013/14 (MD) – Recommended

(1)   That the Improvement Plan for 2013/14 be endorsed, and referred to Cabinet and Council for consideration and approval.

Cabinet, on 22nd September 2014, resolved that the contents of the report be noted and referred to Council for approval.  (Min. No. C2471 refers)

The Improvement Plan was approved by Council on 29th September 2014.

Completed

(3)   That the report and the comments of this Scrutiny Committee be referred to the relevant Scrutiny Committees responsible for the service areas for Disabled Facilities Grants, NEETs, Children’s and Adult Services for their further consideration.

Referred to Scrutiny Committees

-    (Housing and Public Protection) – 8th October 2014, which noted the decisions

-    (Lifelong Learning) – 13th October 2014, noted the issues affecting performance in relation to NEETs and recommended

(2)   That Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) be informed that the Scrutiny Committee would, as identified in its work programme, continue to monitor the provision of NEETS, but would request that Cabinet give consideration to further resources being provided to support work in schools as outlined above.

-   (Social Care and Health) – 6th October 2014, noted the issues and challenges affecting the performance in respect of Children’s and Adult Services and recommended

(2)   That the views and comments of the Committee be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for consideration.

Completed

(4)    That the comments of the Scrutiny Committee as above be referred to Cabinet for their consideration.

Cabinet, on 22nd September 2014, resolved that the contents of the report be noted and referred to Council for approval.  (Min. No. C2471 refers)

Completed

 

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

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To apprise Members of progress with Scrutiny Committee recommendations.

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