Top

Top

 SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 4th December, 2013.

 

Present: Councillor J.C. Bird (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Vice-Chairman); Councillors R.J. Bertin, J. Drysdale, Mrs. A.J. Moore, Ms. R.F. Probert, R.P. Thomas and E. Williams.

 

Also present: Messrs B. Fisher and A. Raybould (Tenant Working Group).

 

640     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. C.L. Curtis and Mrs. V.M. Hartrey; Mr. G. Amos and Mrs. A. Evans (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

641     MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 6th November, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

642     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

643     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2014/15 (DDS AND DVSH) -

 

The Council was required, under statute, to fix the level of Council Tax for 2014/15 by 11th March 2014 and in order to do so would have to agree a balanced Revenue Budget by the same date.  To be in a position to meet the statutory deadlines and requirements for consultation as set out within the Council’s Constitution, much of the work on quantifying the resource requirements of individual services needed to be carried out before the final Revenue Support Grant (RSG) settlement was notified to the Council.    The Council’s provisional settlement was announced on 16th October, 2013.  The Council’s Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) represented the Welsh Government’s (WG) view of the relative resources required to provide a standard level of service in each local authority in Wales and its primary use was to allocate RSG to these authorities.  For 2014/15 the Council’s provisional SSA was £214.384m.  

 

The Council had also been advised by the WG of its 2014/15 allocation in relation to RSG (£118.834m) and NNDR (£38.941m).  Together, these sums constituted the Council’s Aggregate External Finance (AEF).  This represented a cash reduction of 4.5% (£7.4m) for 2014/15 and was a larger reduction than the 4% projected in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP). 

 

The Council would also receive a sum provisionally set at £1.236m via the Outcome Agreement Grant (OAG) for 2014/15.  This grant was an unhypothecated grant (i.e. not earmarked for particular services).  It was noted that the Council was not necessarily guaranteed to receive the full amount of the OAG as it depended on the extent to which the Council met its obligations under the Outcome Agreement. 

 

There were transfers into the RSG settlement for 2014/15 as follows:

 

Council Tax Reduction Scheme Administration Subsidy - £177k. This was previously received as a direct grant from the Department for Work and Pensions.

 

It was the Council's contention that WG had not included all the required adjustments to make the AEF comparative between years and that there was an actual cash reduction to the Council of 4.9%.  As part of the consultation process on the provisional settlement, the Leader of the Council was responding to WG on this issue.  Pay and price inflation results in a much higher decrease in real terms. The September Consumer Price Index stood at 2.7%.

 

WG had provided an indicative settlement figure for 2015/16 which showed a further cash reduction of 1.63% (£2.6m).  The MTFP was based on a cash reduction of 4%.   WG had not given any indication as to the level of settlement for 2016/17, however the MTFP was based on a further 4% cash reduction.  The assumptions made in the MTFP would, therefore, be reconsidered by the Budget Working Group (BWG) as part of the final budget proposals.

 

With regard to the amended budget for 2013/14, Appendix 1 to the report set out the necessary adjustments to the original estimate for this period which were required to be made as follows (there was no overall effect on the net budget of the Council):

  • Asset Rents, International Accounting Standard (IAS) 19, Transfers and Recharges – these relate to accounting adjustments largely outside the control of Services. They reflect charges to Services for the use of capital assets, changes to inter service recharges and transfers and pensions adjustments to comply with accounting standards.  The overall impact on the Council was nil.

The following table compared the amended budget with the projected outturn for 2013/14: 

 

 

2013/14

2013/14

Variance

 

Amended

Original

Projected

 (+)Favourable

Directorate/Service

Budget

Outturn

 (-) Adverse

 

£’000

£’000

     £’000

Youth Offending Service

653

653

                       0

General Fund Housing

           1,150

         1,000

                 +150

Public Protection

2,564

2,564

                       0             

Private Housing

11,270

11,270

                       0

Grand Total

15,637

15,487

                 +150

 

The projected outturn for this Committee was a favourable variance of £150k when compared to the amended original budget.

 

The Cabinet approved the Budget Strategy for 2014/15 on 29th July 2013 and, as in previous years, required all Directors to make the following provisions:

  • Supplementary estimates would only increase the base budget if Council had given specific approval to this effect. Increases met by virement within a year would not be treated as committed growth.
  • Directors should find the cost of increments and staff changes from their base budget unless the relevant specific approval had been given for additional funding.
  • The effect of replacing grant from outside bodies that had discontinued would not be treated as committed growth. In addition, before any project or initiative that was to be met either wholly or partly by way of grant may proceed, the exit strategy must be approved.
  • Certain items of unavoidable committed growth would continue and these include the effect of interest changes and the financing cost of the Capital Programme, increases in taxes, increases in levies and precepts charged by outside bodies and changes to housing benefits net expenditure.
  • Services would be expected to identify and achieve recurrent efficiency and other savings, including (but not restricted to) those identified in the Interim Medium Term Financial Plan.
  • It was envisaged that the costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective Directorates.

Having regard to the above, it was, therefore, proposed in respect of the 2014/15 Budget Strategy that Directors be instructed to prepare initial revenue budgets for 2014/15, in accordance with a timetable agreed by the Director of Resources.  Preparation should be on the following basis:

  • Capital charges, central accommodation costs and central support costs to be estimated centrally;
  • Services to prepare baseline budgets on current service levels as set out in the 2013/14 final revenue budget report;
  • Budgets to be broken down subjectively and objectively in as much detail as deemed appropriate by the Director of Resources;
  • Budget reports to include revised estimates for 2013/14;
  • Full account to be taken of the revenue costs, other than debt charges, of new capital schemes coming into use.

As a result of the reduction in the provisional settlement, the Authority would now have to identify additional savings to those originally approved for 2014/15.  It had also been necessary to revisit the cost pressures facing services in order to build up a complete and up to date picture of the financial position of the Council.  The updated list of cost pressures for this Committee was shown in Appendix 2 to the report.  These were not shown in any order of priority.

 

When approving the Budget Strategy for 2014/15, Directors were asked to consider bringing forward the implementation of future years' savings ahead of the scheduled date.  This message was reinforced by Cabinet when approving the MTFP, where Directors were also asked to identify additional areas for savings.

 

The 2013/14 budget included approved savings targets for the years 2014/15 to 2016/17.  Directors have assessed future year savings in order to establish those that can be brought forward to supplement the 2014/15 savings.  In doing so, regard had been given to those savings which are time bound and cannot be accelerated.  Details of the approved areas for savings for 2014/15 for this Committee, together with proposals for savings to be brought forward were attached at Appendix 3 to the report.  The savings did not include the cost of potential redundancies.

 

A summary of the overall base budget for 2014/15 was attached at Appendix 4 to the report.  This had been arrived at by adjusting the 2013/14 budget for items such as inflation and unavoidable growth, but did not include identified cost pressures or savings.  These were shown as a note to the table and were further detailed in Appendices 2 and 3 respectively.  The total cost pressures for 2014/15 for the services within the remit of the Scrutiny Committee were £170k.

 

Asset Rents, IAS 19 related to accounting items outside the control of the relevant Services.  These reflected charges to Services for the use of capital assets and adjustments in respect of pensions to comply with accounting standards.

 

Recharges / Transfers – relate to changes in inter-service recharges and from the transfer of functions and responsibilities between services. 

 

Inflation - the inflation figure related to general price increases and a 1% allowance for pay awards.

 

Committed Growth – This included transfers into RSG of £177k for Council Tax Reduction Scheme Administration Subsidy. 

 

Once the base budget for 2014/15 for the Council as a whole had been established, it must then be compared to the funding available to identify the extent of any shortfall.  With a provisional AEF of £157.775m and Council Tax at a current level of £53.567m, total available funding would be £211.342m.  When compared to a base budget of £221.196m, this would result in a funding shortfall for 2014/15 of £9.854m.  This shortfall was mainly attributable to the reduction in funding from WG, an increase in pay and price inflation and the requirement to fund committed growth.

 

If all identified cost pressures were funded for the whole of the Council, this would increase the shortfall to £15.838m.  If all proposed savings were achieved for the whole of the Council, the shortfall would be reduced to £8.539m as shown in the table below.

 

Projected Budget Shortfall 2014/15

 

 

£000

Funding Available

 

Provisional AEF

157,775

Council Tax

53,567

Provisional Funding Available

211,342

 

 

Base Budget

221,196

 

 

Provisional Shortfall Against Base Budget

9,854

 

 

Assume all Cost Pressures funded

5,984

 

 

Provisional Shortfall with Cost Pressures funded

15,838

 

 

Assume all Savings Achieved

(7,299)

 

 

Provisional Projected Shortfall for 2014/15

8,539

 

This level of shortfall was unprecedented.

 

Further work would be undertaken by the BWG when formulating the final budget proposals for 2014/15, which would include a review of the use of reserves, a possible increase in Council Tax, a review of all cost pressures, possible savings and the current financial strategies, in order to achieve a balanced budget.  The BWG would also look at the impact on the 2015/16 budget.

 

It would be extremely difficult in the short term to meet all of the budget shortfall through further savings next year.  This may require consideration of the use of substantial levels of reserves in 2014/15, thus allowing a more thorough review of options for savings and their implications, alternative methods of service delivery and collaborative ventures.

 

The General Fund Reserve as at 31st March 2014 was projected to stand at £11.858m.  The 2014/15 base budget proposal included the use of £1.5m from the General Fund reserve.  Cost pressures for 2014/15 include £500k for a reduction in the use of reserves, in line with the existing financial strategy.  A further reduction of £500k was also scheduled for 2015/16.  In light of the unprecedented funding shortfall, this strategy needed to be reviewed.  At this stage, it was proposed that a use of reserves to a maximum of £3.5m could be used in 2014/15.  The Section 151 Officer believed that the minimum balance on the General Fund Reserve should be no less than £7m.

 

The use of reserves to fund recurring expenditure can only be countenanced as part of a specific strategy to achieve a balanced budget in future years.  The consequence of such actions will be to increase the level of savings required in 2015/16 onwards.

 

In terms of the role of the Cabinet Budget Working Group, this Group would be holding a series of meetings with the relevant Cabinet Members and officers to consider the budget proposals.  Any recommendations from this Group would be submitted so that the Cabinet could make its final budget proposal by no later than 24th February 2014; before making its recommendation the Cabinet Budget Working Group would consider the comments made by all the Council’s Scrutiny Committees.

 

The Cabinet’s final budget proposals would be considered by Council on 5th March 2014. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issued it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the amended budget for 2013/14 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial Revenue Budget proposals for 2014/15 including cost pressures and savings proposals be noted, subject to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) being requested to ask the Cabinet to investigate the feasibility of utilising charities / third sector organisations to assist in the procurement of furniture in respect of savings proposals V11 and V12 for 2014/15. 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of the Scrutiny Committee’s responsibility for monitoring the budget.

 

(2)       In acknowledgement of the budget proposals for 2014/15 and in order that the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) is informed of the comments of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) prior to making a final proposal on the budget.

 

 

644     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2014/15 (DDS AND DVSH) -

 

Set out at Appendix A to the report were full details of the progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th September 2013.

 

The following adjustments had been requested to the Capital Programme 2013/14 in respect of the following:

  • Housing Improvement Programme – HRA increased by £600k to fund works to void properties
  • WHQS works for sheltered housing – Funding of £150k brought forward from the Capital programme in 2014/15.

The Welsh Government (WG) had announced the provisional 2014/15 General Capital Funding on 16th October 2013.  The 2014/15 capital settlement represented a £246,000 (4.7%) increase in funding over the previous year’s allocation; however because this amount included the reinstatement of £280,000 transferred to supported borrowing for the Housing Revenue Account in 2013/14, the actual position for the Council was a reduction of £34,000 which represents a 0.61% cut.  The indicative amount provided by WG suggested that capital funding will be maintained at this level for 2015/16.  This has been reflected in the proposed Capital Programme 2014/15 to 2018/19.

 

Whilst the indicative amounts have been utilised in 2014/15 and 2015/16, for the purposes of this programme, the assumption of a 10% cut each year had been assumed in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.  In line with the financial strategy, the Council would mitigate the deteriorating situation by looking to progress only those schemes which were deemed to be a key corporate priority, whilst also seeking to gain assurance that such schemes were delivered on time and within budget.

 

Cabinet, on 13th February 2008, approved that the Director of Resources in consultation with the Cabinet Member responsible for Finance, be given delegated authority to transfer supported borrowing between General Fund and the Housing Capital budgets as appropriate.  Due to the uncertainty regarding the future of Housing Subsidy, the Authority did not intend to seek a £280,000 transfer in each year of the Capital Programme as had been previously assumed; unsupported borrowing in the Housing Revenue Account has been increased accordingly.

   

The Major Repairs Allowance (MRA), which was a grant that provided capital funding to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) for 2014/15, had not been announced by the WG.  Cabinet would be advised once the announcement was made.  However, an assumption had been made which was set out in Appendix B to the report that the grant would continue at the current allocation of £2.8m in 2014/15. 

 

In addition to funding from the WG, the Council would finance part of the Capital Programme from its own resources, e.g. Capital Receipts and Reserves.  Set out in Appendix B was the proposed 2014/15 to 2018/19 Capital Programme for services under the Committee’s remit. 

 

Analysis of Net Funding Required for the Indicative 2014/15 Capital Programme

 

GENERAL FUND

£’000     

£’000

Welsh Government Resources

 

 

Supported Borrowing

3,438

 

General Capital Grant

2,092

 

 

 

  5,530

Council Resources

 

 

Capital Receipts

2,509

 

Reserves/Leasing

6,095

 

Unsupported Borrowing

5,600

 

 

 

14,204

Net Capital Resources

 

19,734

 

HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT

£’000       

£’000       

Housing Reserves                                                       

7,387

 

Housing Capital Receipts                                                  

1,525

 

Housing Unsupported Borrowing                   

6,034

 

 

 

 

Net Capital Resources

 

  14,946

 

Capital bids were invited for return by 30th September 2013 and the number of bids received was reduced from the high volume in the previous year. This reduction reflects that the Capital Programme had been set to 2017/18 following the budget review that took place as part of the 2013/14 budget process.  Departments were requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission, and bids from each Department were forwarded to the Corporate Asset Management Group (CAMG) for evaluation.

 

The Budget Working Group had prioritised bids based upon the recommendations of the CAMG and were shown in Appendix B.  The method of prioritisation used in the Council’s Capital Investment Strategy was set out in the report for information.  Only those schemes assessed as corporate priority 1 or medium risk and above were included. 

 

In addition to bids meeting the criteria for inclusion in the Capital Programme, there had been a number of changes approved by Cabinet since the final budget proposals in February 2013 that impacted on the Capital Programme, such as, amendments to the budgets carried forward and these changes were included.  Also reflected in Appendix B were proposed changes to the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan.

 

As in the case of the consideration of the Initial Revenue Budget Proposals, similar arrangements were in place for the Scrutiny Committees to pass their recommendations to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) who would, on behalf of all the Council’s Scrutiny Committees, formally respond to Cabinet by no later than 13th December 2013.  However, Scrutiny Committees were being asked to first consider the indicative Capital Proposals as set out in Appendix B.  If a change to the initial proposals was desired, the Scrutiny Committee was required to provide a reason for this need in order to assist the Cabinet and the CBWG in their deliberation when drawing up the final proposals.  The total net capital expenditure of the proposed programme for the whole of the Council over the five years was over £102m.  

 

Managers would be asked to revisit the schemes listed in Appendix B and to confirm final cost and spend profiles prior to the final proposals being considered by Cabinet by no later than 24th February, 2014.  Cabinet’s final Capital Programme proposals would be considered by Council no later than 5th March, 2013.

 

If the schemes proposed for the whole of the Council were approved, the effects on General Fund useable capital receipts were as follows:

 

General Fund Capital Receipts

          £'000

Anticipated Balance as at 1st April 2014

7,940

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2014/15

(2,656)

Anticipated Receipts – 2014/15

885

Balance as at 31st March 2015

6,169

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2015/16

0

Anticipated Receipts – 2015/16

0

Balance as at 31st March 2016

6,169

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2016/17

(2,237)

Anticipated Receipts – 2016/17

0

Balance as at 31st March 2017

3,932

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2017/18

(0)

Anticipated Receipts – 2017/18

0

Balance as at 31st March 2018

3,932

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2018/19

(0)

Anticipated Receipts – 2018/19

0

Balance as at 31st March 2019

3,932

 

In line with the overall strategy and specific suggestions proposed by the Budget Working Group (BWG), in order to resource the Capital Programme, reserves will be utilised over the period of the Capital Programme 2014/15 to 2018/19.

 

The Project Fund would be used to fund schemes assessed on an invest to save basis, and in certain circumstances business critical schemes may also be funded from this reserve with the prior approval of the Director of Resources.  A balance of £2m would be retained as a balance on this fund.  The projected usage of this reserve, for the whole of the Council, over the period of the Capital Programme was shown below:

 

Project Fund

             £'000

Anticipated Balance as at 1st April 2014

4,217

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2014/15

(1,754)

Anticipated Receipts – 2014/15

402

Balance as at 31st March 2015

2,865

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2015/16

(450)

Anticipated Receipts – 2015/16

100

Balance as at 31st March 2016

2,515

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2016/17

(400)

Anticipated Receipts – 2016/17

60

Balance as at 31st March 2017

2,175

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2017/18

(100)

Anticipated Receipts – 2017/18

60

Balance as at 31st March 2018

2,135

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2018/19

(0)

Anticipated Receipts – 2018/19

0

Balance as at 31st March 2019

2,135

 

The above forecast balances needed to be seen in the context of significant pressures for spending which were not yet included in the Capital Programme.  These pressures included the backlog of school, highways and buildings improvements.   

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2013/14 Capital Programme be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the proposed Initial Capital Programme for 2014/15 as detailed in Appendix B to the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  In acknowledgement of the budget proposals for 2014/15.

 

 

645     INITIAL HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET PROPOSALS 2014/2015 AND REVISED BUDGET 2013/2014 (DVSH) -

 

Each local housing authority was required under Section 74 of the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act to keep a Housing Revenue Account.  Section 76 of the above Act required local authorities to set a budget for their Housing Revenue Account (HRA) on an annual basis.  The budget must be such that the Housing Revenue Account was not in deficit at the year end.  In addition, local authorities were also required during the course of the year to review their HRA expenditure and income and if, on the basis of the information available, the account was heading for a deficit, they must take steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent such deficit.  Such a deficit would be carried forward and must be made good the following financial year.  Each local authority should endeavour to have a working balance on the HRA, for any exceptional circumstances that may arise. 

 

The level of rent increases was based on the Subsidy Determination issued by the Welsh Government (WG).  This would not be known until January 2014.  An average rent increase of 3%, based on the latest Business Plan, had been included in the 2013/14 initial budget proposals.  Set out below is a summary table comparing the original budget with the proposed revised estimate.

 

 

2013/2014 Original Budget

2013/2014 Proposed Revised Estimate

Variance Favourable (-) Adverse (+)

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

Housing Revenue Account

8,452

8,129

    (323)

 

The net anticipated deficit had decreased by (£323,000) due to an increase in net income of (£324,000), because of an extra rent week in 2013/2014; recharges had decreased by (£56,000); there was a saving of (£109,000) on staff costs due to vacancies; (£32,000) reduction in Council Tax expenditure on empty properties.  In addition there was a (£25,000) saving on insurance costs.  Further savings on the budget were: the HRA Subsidy payment was expected to be (£159,000) lower than current estimates; the anticipated growth in the bad debt provision had reduced by (£85,000), based on the current bad debt level.  In addition there were further savings totalling (£4,000) on various other items in the Housing Revenue Account.  These savings had been offset by budget increases of £30,000 on the repairs budget because of changes to the Gas Servicing contract costs, the Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account (CERA) had increased by £279,000, due to demands on the Housing Improvement Programme (£186,000 slippage, £600,000 expenditure on Voids, £150,000 Sheltered scheme acceleration, offset by additional useable capital receipts utilised (£657,000)) .  There had also been an increase in the loss of rental income through increased void days due to WHQS £162,000.

 

The Budget Strategy for 2014/15 outlined that in order to establish a baseline, services should prepare revenue budget for next year based on the cost of providing the current level of service and approved policy decisions.  This meant that the cost of price increases and pay awards should be included. 

 

Due to the nature of the HRA in that it was ring fenced and any growth had to be funded from its revenue balance, no cost pressures had been formally identified.  The budget was presented in the traditional objective analysis format.  The proposed 2014/15 budget was detailed in Appendix A to the report.  The 2013/14 Summary Cost Centre Analysis was detailed in Appendix B to the report which broke down the budget over the types of expenditure.  

 

The charges for rent and other services provided by the Housing Service were reviewed annually and would be subject to a future report once the information had been received from the WG.  Detailed below is a summary of the original budget for 2013/14 with the proposed budget for 2014/15. 

 

2013/2014

Original

Budget

Inflation /

 Pay Award

Committed

Growth /

(Savings)

Estimated Rent

Increase

2014/2015

Proposed

Budget

£000

£000

£000

£000

£000

8,452

38

(4,591)

(476)

3,423

 

A provision for general inflation included an allowance of 1% for 2014/15.  A 1% increase in pay amounted to approximately £13,000.

 

The rent increase was estimated at 3% based on the latest Housing Business Plan, for 2014/2015 this equated to (£476,000).  The actual rent increase was not due for release until January 2014

 

The net saving of (£4,591,000) was due to a number of factors:

  • A decrease in Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account (CERA) to finance the Housing Improvement Programme of (£4,995,000). The amount of revenue contribution required was dictated by available revenue balances and the value of the Housing Improvement Programme.
  • A (£120,000) decrease in Central Support recharges.
  • A decrease in the expected growth in the bad debt provision of (£135,000).  The original anticipated loss of rent due to the welfare reform accommodations cap was thought to be less than originally budgeted for.
  • A decrease in insurance charges of (£24,000).
  • The above savings have been offset by an increase in staff expenditure.  A restructure was being drafted for 2014/2015, which could cost an additional £200,000, but was intended to strengthen the service in terms of dealing with anti-social behaviour, statutory compliance (e.g. fire risk assessment work, gas and electrical safety), asset management and welfare reform  and make it fit for forthcoming challenges.
  • An increase in the provision of HRA Subsidy payable to WG based on the current guidance issued of £195,000
  • An increase in Capital Financing charges of £193,000 in relation to unsupported borrowing being taken out for the first time in 2014/2015 to fund the Housing Improvement Programme.
  • A decrease in interest earned on Revenue Balances £80,000.
  • Further budget increases of £15,000.

As indicated in earlier reports considered, Scrutiny Committees were being consulted on the budget proposals with the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) being the lead Scrutiny Committee who would be required to respond to the Cabinet on the budget by no later than 13th  December 2013.  Cabinet’s final proposals on the budget would be considered by the Council on 5th March 2014.

 

The Housing Revenue Account working balance at 1st April 2014 would be £5.441m. 

 

Brief discussion touched upon the budget narrative in respect of the below budget headings as identified in Appendix A to the report.  The Committee requested that the next finance monitoring report submitted for consideration by the Scrutiny Committee contain an appropriate explanation / breakdown of the expenditure allocated against each of the budget headings:

  • General Management
  • Special Services
  • Central Support and Operational Buildings.

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the revised budget estimate for 2014/15 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Initial Housing Revenue Account budget proposals for 2014/15 be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the next financial monitoring report submitted for consideration contain a breakdown of expenditure allocated against each of the following budget headings:

  • General Management
  • Special Services
  • Central Support and Operational Buildings.

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of monitoring the budget for 2013/14.

 

(2)       In acknowledgement of the budget proposal for 2014/15.

 

(3)       To monitor that relevant / appropriate expenditure was allocated.

 

 

646     END OF YEAR PERFORMANCE REPORT 2012/13: NATIONAL STRATEGIC INDICATORS AND PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY MEASURES (DDS AND DVSH) –

 

The detailed summary of the Council’s performance against indicators relevant to the remit of the Scrutiny Committee concerned for the year ended 2012/13 were set out in Appendix 1 to the report.  Key notes on performance revealed the following: a total of four indicators were relevant to the Scrutiny Committee in the following areas: Homelessness and Housing Advice (1), Public Protection (1) and Private Sector Renewal (2).  The Committee noted that none of the indicators for the Council fell within the top quartile; with one indicator falling within the middle quartile, with a further three that fell in the bottom quartile.  All four indicators however had improved in real terms on the previous year’s performance.  The Scrutiny Committee also noted that there was no comparison to last year’s performance as no comparison was possible for indicators (three due to the definitions being amended nationally for the financial year 2012/13; one because the Council had not submitted data).  One indicator had performed better than the Welsh average and the remaining three indicators’ performance was under the Welsh average. 

 

Pages 3 and 4 of Appendix 1 provided details of the indicators which had changed quartile position from the previous year and compared performance in the Vale with the other nine authorities in the South East Wales region.

 

Corporate Management Team received a report on 20th November 2013 providing information about each performance indicator not in the top quartile and any improvement work being undertaken.  In regard to this the following bullet points gave the background to each indicator not in the top quartile and encompassed: whether indicators were seen as a useful representation of performance, whether the Council was confident that the indicators were being reported in line with the definitions across Wales, where improvements had already been made and where further improvements could be made:

  • PSR002 The average number of calendar days taken to deliver a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)
  • Performance for 2012/13 was in the bottom quartile. A significant amount of work had been undertaken to improve this PI and performance had already improved by 67% since 2008/09.
  • PSR/004 The percentage of private sector dwellings that had been vacant for more than 6 months at 1 April that were returned to occupation during the year through direct action by the local authority.

Performance for 2012/13 was in the bottom quartile. This was another indicator which was calculated differently across councils in Wales. Whilst the PI was a WG priority it was not a statutory duty for the Council.  The area of work is subject to cost pressures which will be put forward. It will mean reallocation of limited resources.

  • PPN/009 The percentage of food establishments which are ‘broadly compliant’ with food hygiene standards.

Performance for 2012/13 was in the bottom quartile. The indicator measured the performance of food establishments in the Vale and not the Council’s performance.  The Council supported food establishments in raising their food hygiene standards through providing proactive training as well as targeted training at those that fail to comply. 

 

This indicator was one where different interpretations of requirements were applied by local authorities in awarding standards. The definition of the indicator was changed for 2013/14 and now excluded establishments not assessed so performance should improve this year.

 

The councils performing well in this indicator tended to be those that generally have higher levels of deprivation, where uptake was higher. The more rural affluent councils such as the Vale have performed the worst.

  • HHA013 The percentage of all potentially homeless households for whom homelessness was prevented for at least 6 months.

Whilst performance was in the third quartile for Wales, there had been an 11% improvement in the Council’s performance since 2011/12 and performed above the Wales average for 2012/13.

 

A significant number of revolving door cases had impacted on performance, mainly due to the concentration of prison leavers revolving through the system due to short term sentencing.   There was a possibility to improve performance as a result of a potential change in legislation to remove prison leavers as a priority group in April 2015.  There was also a problem with lack of supply of suitable accommodation.

 

The current definition set for this performance indicator was very subjective. Local authorities have raised their concerns with WG and a working group was to consider revising the definition.  It was considered that this indicator was not a true comparator to identify prevention success and it was significant that there was a wide variation in the pattern of performance identified in returns across the country.

 

An analysis of the national performance data revealed that some authorities had made vast year on year improvements (e.g. Gwynedd, who improved by 40% and reported a figure of 92.5% for 2012/13) and Torfaen 0%.  It was believed that this was reflective of Authorities interpretation of the PI.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the improvement actions that were currently being undertaken with the aim of improving performance by the end of the current financial year. 

 

In referring to the contents of the report the Committee expressed a concern in regard to performance in relation to matters contained therein however, it was accepted that care should be taken when interpreting the data particularly in regard to the wider context of performance across the whole of Wales.  The Committee also acknowledged that the performance areas referred to in the report were and had been subject of further reports to the Committee previously, such reports had set out arrangements to tackle under performance e.g. DFGs, Empty Homes Strategy.  The Committee, however, would not accept the officer’s narrative to indicator PPN/009 as contained in the report.  It was the view of the Committee that it was the Council’s responsibility to ensure the effectiveness of its inspection and enforcement arrangements and to ensure that compliance was achieved by food establishments in the Vale where applicable to do so.  Officers were requested to ensure that the narrative was removed from the report.

 

Having regard to the above matters, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the performance results against statutory national performance indicators (National Strategic Indicators and Public Accountability Measures) relevant to the Scrutiny Committee for the year ended 31st March 2013 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure end of year performance results were appropriately monitored and to ensure continuous improvement of Council services.

 

 

647     QUARTER 2 PERFORMANCE 2013/14 AND ACTION MONITORING 2013/14 – DEVELOPMENT SERVICES (DDS) –

 

The Head of Public Protection commended on his performance indicators and actions for the above period and referred to progress against each area as set out in the report.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position in regard to Public Protection Quarter 2 and Action monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken in performance and action targets in Quarter 2.

 

 

648     QUARTER 2 PERFORMANCE AND ACTION MONITORING 2013/14 – HOUSING AND BUILDING SERVICES (DVSH) –

 

The Head of Housing Services commented on her performance indicators and actions for the above period and referred to progress against each as set out in the report.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position in regard to Housing and Building Services Quarter 2 and action monitoring be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken in performance and action targets in Quarter 2.

 

 

649     UPDATE ON HOUSING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMME (DVSH) –

 

The report sought to update the Committee on the overall operational performance in delivering the Council’s WHQS improvement works to the Council’s housing stock. 

 

Appendix A to the report set out performance information which continued to illustrate improvements in performance in regard to delivery times and customer satisfaction.  Officers from Property Services continued to consolidate earlier measures taken in relation to meetings with contractors to oversee performance standards and complaints management.  Separately, Tenant Liaison Officers continued to support tenants through the logistical aspects of work undertaken to their properties and, where appropriate, to provide respite support for those tenants who were unable to live in their homes whilst WHQS works were being undertaken. 

 

The Committee was encouraged by the improved performance of all contractors particularly Building Services.  The Committee also briefly referred to the level of tenant refusals to permit work to be carried out to their homes.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the current performance and the improvement in delivery times and customer satisfaction levels be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To monitor performance information pertaining to the Council’s WHQS works undertaken to its Council housing in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook