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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 6th February, 2012.

 

Present:  Councillor Miss. S.J.C. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J.W. Thomas (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. S.M. Bagstaff, Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, Mrs. K.A. Kemp, N. Moore, C.L. Osborne, Mrs. M. Randall and Mrs. S.I. Sharpe.

 

 

849     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor S.C. Egan.

 

 

850     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 16th January, 2012 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

851     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

852     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2011 TO 31ST DECEMBER 2011 (DSS) -

 

Members were informed that there was a projected overspend for Children and Young People’s Services of £1.25m. and for Adult Services an overspend of £2.32m.  For Children’s Services this was mainly attributable to Children’s Placements having had an increased number of high cost placements and the increased payments to Foster Carers due to the introduction of the National Minimum Allowance for Foster Carers by the Welsh Government which had come into force from April 2011.  With regard to Adult Services it was noted that the position had improved from the previous months as a result of savings being made from the continuing negotiations relating to the Learning Disabilities Supporting Housing contracts and the receipt of increased income relating to Community Care packages. However, the Welsh Government First Steps Improvement Package initiative introduced a £50 per week charge cap for non residential services which has contributed to the spend.  Although it was projected that the Social Services budget could overspend by £3.57m. in the year, provisions had been made to offset the position to the value of £675k. which would result in a net overspend of £2.9m.  Committee was advised that the Director of Social Services was taking immediate action to curtail overspending and a Budget Action recovery Plan had been presented to Cabinet.  This was currently being refined so that it would constitute a viable plan to bring spending back to the base budget. 

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed the Social Services Budget Programme update which had been issued to Members during January 2012.  It was noted that the Programme Board would continue to meet on a regular basis and regular updates to the Council’s Corporate Management Team, the Cabinet and Elected Members. 

 

Appendix 3 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st December 2011.  In considering the Capital Programme Members made reference to the feasibility study for a new extra care site.  It was noted that no additional money would be made available from the Welsh Government for such a facility and the Council would either have to finance the build itself or work in partnership.  Officers were aware that a housing association was currently looking to expand provision and discussions were ongoing.

 

In response to a query regarding the Theatre Royal proposals, Members were informed that the scheme was moving ahead.  The property had been purchased by Hafod Housing Association with the intention to be onsite by April 2012.  It was a 19 month contract with works hoping to be completed at the end of 2013. 

 

Having considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2011/12 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Director of Social Services continues to take the necessary action to bring expenditure in line with the base budget.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To apprise Members.

 

(2)       To bring Social Services expenditure in line with the base budget.

 

 

853     WELSH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION - SHARED PURPOSE - SHARED DELIVERY (CX) -

 

The Welsh Government had issued a consultation document “Shared Purpose - Shared Delivery” which was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and had requested responses by 30th March 2012.  The new guidance is intended to integrate local service planning, streamline partnership working and strengthen the strategic role and accountability of the Local Service Board (LSB).  The guidance would replace existing statutory guidance deriving from a number of pieces of legislation: Community Strategies (Local Government (Wales) Measures 2009); Children and Young People’s Plans (Children Act 2004, Children and Families Measure 2010); and Health and Social Care and Well-being Strategies (NHS Wales Act 2006). 

 

It was the view of the Welsh Government that the LSBs should:

  • Agree strategic priorities for multi-agency working to support the agenda set out in the Programme for Government and respond to clearly evidenced local needs.
  • Achieve improvements by ensuring appropriate systems are in place and that managers and frontline staff across agencies are working together effectively and that agreed priorities are reflected in individual organisations' corporate plans.
  • Ensure partnership and delivery structures are fit for purpose and accountable.
  • Challenge where there is underperformance or coasting and implement changes that reflect evidenced best practice to improve outcomes for the local population.
  • Review and report annually on progress; to the public, Welsh Government, democratically elected Members, and LSB member organisations.

The consultation document detailed what needed to be included in a single integrated plan in terms of a long term vision, analysis of local need, a 3-5 year action plan, an information strategy and an engagement strategy.  The plan should also include information about LSB governance, performance management and scrutiny.  In referring to the section on scrutiny, reference was made to the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 which provided new powers to local authority scrutiny committees to scrutinise other public service providers in their area - in addition to Council services.  Guidance on the Measure was due shortly.  In the absence of this guidance, Members and officers both felt that it was difficult to fully respond to proposals regarding the scrutiny of partnerships. 

 

Although welcoming the report as a positive document, the Chairman was concerned about the lack of detail and felt that it was important to receive clarity for the Council to determine how scrutiny should be structured in the future.  Members also requested that copies of all partner agencies’ responses be made available to all Members and that Cabinet be advised of the Committee’s initial views.

 

Following consideration of the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the “Shared Purpose - Shared Delivery” report be noted and the guidance awaited.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To apprise Members of the Welsh Government proposals and note that  further guidance was awaited.

 

 

854     REVISED SERVICE PLANS (CX) -

 

The report referred to the findings of the Auditor General for Wales in respect of an assessment on the Council’s performance.  Under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 the Auditor General had a duty to make two assessments of all improvement authorities in Wales namely a Corporate Assessment and a Performance Assessment.  Attached at Appendix 2 to the report was the Council’s 2011 Improvement Assessment letter which referred to one recommendation for improvement as detailed below:

 

-         Establish a transparent programme for the development of outcome focused measures moving from reporting arrangements that focus primarily on performance indicators and on the completion, or otherwise, of an action.

 

The development of outcome focused measures had been identified as an area for improvement in most Welsh Councils and represented a significant challenge in the current financial climate.  Members were informed that the Council had recently commissioned the Local Government Data Unit to work with three service areas to develop outcome focused performance measures as a pilot.  The service areas involved were Visible Services, Public Protection and Customer Relations, the purpose of which was to revise the current service plan format to enable services to improve how they measured and provide evidence of their contribution to the priority outcomes identified in the Council’s Corporate Plan.   It was noted that revised draft service plans for the three pilot areas would be reported to the relevant Scrutiny Committees during March 2012 with the approach rolled out Council-wide thereafter.

 

In considering the report Members concurred that that the new format appeared to be more relevant than the previous arrangements and requested sight of the new template for information.  It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the Auditor General for Wales’ recommendation as outlined in the 2011 Improvement Assessment letter.

 

 

855     SICKNESS ABSENCE UPDATE (DSS AND DFICTP) -

 

The report provided the Committee with sickness information in relation to the Social Services Directorate for the period April to September 2011 and the progress made in delivering and responding to sickness absence management arrangements within the Directorate.

 

Members were pleased to note that, compared to the previous year, there had been an overall decrease in the level of absence of 1.3% within the Directorate.  Although aware that the next quarter’s figures could be more challenging in view of the pressures (e.g. winter months) the signs to date were positive.  The Director referred to the continued commitment of the staff.  He described attendance monitoring and adherence to the policy requirements as a high priority and it remained a standing agenda item at Directorate, Management and Service Team meetings.  He also reassured Members that he would continue to review how the Management of Attendance Policy was being applied within the service areas and to investigate measures that may assist in accelerating further reductions in absence levels.  The Chairman on behalf of the Committee thanked the officer for the positive report and recognised the commitment by all staff within the directorate to achieving the improvements.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report and the reduced levels of sickness absence in the Directorate be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee continues to receive further summary reports in relation to the matter.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To ensure effective scrutiny of the Management of Attendance Policy within the Directorate.

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