DEMOCRATIC SERVICES COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th April, 2018.

 

Present:  Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor S.J. Griffiths (Vice-Chairman); Councillors G.D.D. Carroll, O. Griffiths, K.F. McCaffer, N. Moore, M.J.G. Morgan, L.O. Rowlands, N.C. Thomas and E. Williams.

 

 

855     MINUTES -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th October, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

856     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

857     MEMBER INDUCTION / MEMBER DEVELOPMENT 2017-18 (HDS) -

 

As previously reported, the initial Member Induction Programme for newly-elected and returning Councillors following the local government elections in May, included various "Mandatory" elements of the Programme, together with the requirement on relevant Members as identified to attend.

 

Member training and development was required by the Local Government Act 2000, Local Government Measure (Wales) 2011 and the Council's Member Development Strategy. Both the initial Member Induction Programme and the ongoing Member Development Programme, in addition to their obvious importance for Members generally, were being, and would continue to be, delivered against the background of the following Well-being Goals within the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales): 

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales. 

The Council as an organisation views its Member Induction and ongoing Member Development Programme as extremely important for Members.

 

The initial Member Induction and Development Programme incorporated 26 training topics (including 2 topics having been identified as relevant to Members since the initial Programme began in May 2017 - on "Rules of Debate" and "Treasury Management"); a total of 45 sessions had taken place.  Of those, 14 (31%) had been day time sessions (between 09.00 and 16.00). and 31 (69%) had been evening sessions (16.00 - 21.00).

 

12 of the scheduled 26 training topics were labelled as mandatory, equating to 46% of the Programme.  To maximise attendance and being sympathetic to Members’ personal commitments, mop-up sessions were arranged on a 1:1 or small group basis.  100% attendance had been achieved on all 12 Mandatory topics.

 

Feedback had been sought from Members, following each session, using the online survey tool Survey Monkey.  Feedback to date had been largely positive and would be analysed to inform future development and delivery needs.

 

22 (85%) of the topics had been facilitated by Vale of Glamorgan Officers, with 4 (15%) being delivered by external facilitators.

 

Further statistical information was contained in Appendix A to the report.

 

The ongoing Programme would continue to largely be delivered in-house and would comprise a mix of delivery methods, which would include access to e-learning (for example, utilising the All-Wales Academy training material, now hosted on the National Health Service portal).  The E-learning resources were now available on MemberNet under the “Member Development Training Sessions and Resource Material” webpage.  The "How To Guides" developed pre and post-induction Programme were also available via Member desktops as a resource tool, including important links to websites i.e. WLGA - Academy Wales Training resources.

 

On 20th April 2018, the WLGA was delivering a Focus Group for members newly-elected in May 2017. The aim of the event was to gauge experiences of the support and development provided by the Council to Members, from the time of deciding to stand for office up to the present.  Feedback from the event would be taken into account in planning/ delivering future support and for Members and might also be used to inform national Member Support initiatives.

 

In addition to any reports to the Democratic Services Committee and Cabinet as appropriate, the Council's (Officer) Insight Board would be kept updated regarding the ongoing Member Development Programme.

 

Reference was made during the discussion on this item to the availability of information for members in terms of the senior officer structure and associated responsibilities of officers.  Although information had been supplied to Members, the Head of Democratic Services undertook to review / update the information.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the Committee’s appreciation of the work undertaken by the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Section in relation to Member Induction and the Member Development programme and associated activities be placed on record and the staff be informed accordingly.

 

Reason for decision

 

To ensure Members are aware of how this Training/Development will assist them in their elected role and wider running of the Council and to acknowledge the work undertaken and the efforts of staff..

 

 

858     MEMBER PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT INTERVIEWS (HDS) -

 

The Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 contained a requirement that Local Authorities had in place a facility whereby Members were offered the opportunity to have their training and development needs reviewed on an annual basis.  This requirement was accompanied by a provision that an opportunity existed for Members to have a pre-planned interview with a 'suitable qualified person'. 

 

All Members had been afforded the opportunity of an interview.  To date, a total of 25 interviews had been undertaken by the Head of Democratic Services.  This figure includes all Members in receipt of a Senior Salary.  The process would assist in informing the content and delivery of the Council's ongoing Member Development programme.

 

RESOLVED - That the outcome of the Member Personal Development interviews undertaken be taken into account in delivery of the ongoing Member Development Programme.

 

Reason for decision

 

To inform the Council's Member Development Programme.

 

 

859     INDEPENDENT REMUNERATION PANEL FOR WALES (IRPW) ANNUAL REPORT 2018/19 (HDS) -

 

The draft IRPW Annual Report 2018/19 was reported to the Committee on 18th October, 2017.  As indicated at the time, the IRPW consulted on the draft Annual Report and any responses submitted from consultees were then considered prior to the production of the final Annual Report in February 2018.

 

The full draft Annual Report was available at [http://gov.wales/irpwsub/home/publication-reports/58592459/?skip=1&lang=en

 

For ease of reference, the IRPW's determinations were attached as Appendix A to the report.  The following draft Panel determination previously reported had, indeed, been included in the final Annual Report: 

  • an increase of £200 in the Basic Salary to £13,600.  No increase for Senior Salaries, but all postholders would be entitled to the increase in the Basic Salary element (Determination 1). 

The Panel in its draft Annual report expressed the view that "there are still major issues to be addressed with Community and Town Councils" which it would be raising with individual Councils and their representative organisations.  However, as a start to this process Town and Community Councils had been grouped according to level of income or expenditure.  Mandatory payments to senior Members in those Councils in the highest group were now in place. (Determination 45); Determinations 44, 46, 51 and 52 (which related to Town and Community Councils) also included different provisions to those previously applying.

 

The Council's Members' Allowances Scheme (as contained in the Constitution) reflected the fact that the Council had resolved to abide by the determinations of the IRPW as set out in its Annual Report each year. 

 

All Members had been informed of the IRPW's determination that an increase of £200 be made in the Basic Salary to £13,600.  Members had been asked to indicate by 20th April, 2018 whether they wished to forego any, or all, of the increase. 

 

RESOLVED - That the IRPW determinations be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To apprise Members.

 

 

860     ANNUAL REPORT OF THE HEAD OF DEMOCRATIC SERVICES (HDS) -

 

The Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 ("the Measure") required the Council to appoint a Democratic Services Committee.  The Measure also required the Council to designate one of its officers to the statutory post of "Head of Democratic Services" and provide that officer with sufficient resources to discharge these statutory functions. 

 

The purpose of the report was to provide the Committee with an outline of the staff resources existing within Democratic Services and a summary of the wide range of duties undertaken, ongoing developments and plans for the future. 

 

The Democratic Services division as a whole comprised three distinct sections: 

  • Scrutiny and Committee Services
  • Freedom of Information / Records Management / Land Charges
  • Registration Service. 

As previously, the report, by its very nature and its linkage with the requirements of the Measure, covered the work undertaken by the Scrutiny and Committee Services section. 

 

The functions of the Head of Democratic Services were set out in the Measure and related particularly (but not exclusively) to the provision of advice and support to non-executive Members.  The Operational Manager (Democratic Services) was the Council's Head of Democratic Services.  The Welsh Government Guidance associated with the Measure specifically provided for the Head of Democratic Services to perform other roles apart from the new statutory functions.  This recognised the fact that the creation of a new post would have been an unacceptable burden on the budget of most, if not all, Councils at a time of economic pressures.

 

This was the last time the current Operational Manager (Democratic Services), Jeff Wyatt would be submitting an Annual Report as he was retiring from work on 1st June, 2018.  The recruitment process for the post was underway and it was envisaged that interviews would take place towards the end of April.  The job description continued to include being the Council's designated Head of Democratic Services.

 

Staff Structure

 

For the reasons set out below, and taking into account the extremely difficult (and ongoing) economic pressures facing the Council generally and the need for the Division to continue to identify / deliver / contribute to further savings, the current structure was considered to be appropriate.

 

In addition to the Head of Democratic Services, the section comprised a Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, two Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officers, one Scrutiny Support Officer, one Assistant Democratic Services Officer, two WP / Administrative Support officers and two Administrative Assistants.

 

The above team dealt with a wide range of activities, which included but were not limited to:  Maintaining and developing the Council’s decision-making processes to include the preparation of agendas, reports and minutes, facilitating accountability and transparency; Managing and providing Scrutiny and Committee Services support to the Council and its various committees; a range of support to Elected Members, including advice on the Council's Constitution and Members' Code of Conduct, Member Development and Members' Services, Maintaining the Register of Members' Interests; Overseeing appeals relating to school admissions and school permanent exclusions; Developing  and updating the content of MemberNet; Managing the Council's committee room bookings; Corporate responsibility for  all Council inbound and outward bound mail (Royal Mail and Whistl (formerly TNT) contract) and the provision of administrative support for processing activities relating to TransAct, Council Tax, Housing Benefits and C1V.

 

The following was a summary of work undertaken in the last twelve months and ongoing work / initiatives in which the section was actively engaged.  The Democratic Services Committee would continue to be kept fully informed on progress of these, and other, initiatives. 

 

Wales Audit Office: Scrutiny Improvement Study

 

Previous reports to the Committee had covered progress on delivering the Action Plan drawn up by officers in response to the above Study.  The Committee in February 2016 agreed that, whilst some components of the Action Plan, by their very nature, were ongoing, the Action Plan itself had been completed.  Subsequently, rather than duplicate reporting, it was agreed that the Annual Report would cover any matters emanating from the (completed) Action Plan.  Any such matters were covered elsewhere in this report.

 

An Annual Report on the work undertaken by all Scrutiny Committees was reported to all Scrutiny Committees and Full Council each year.

 

Wales Audit Office Review: "Overview and Scrutiny - Fit For The Future"

 

More recently, the WAO had been undertaking a review designed to explore with Councils how ‘fit for the future’ their scrutiny functions are.  This included considering how they were responding to current challenges, including the Well-being of Future Generations Act (WFG Act), in relation to their scrutiny activity, as well as how Councils were beginning to undertake scrutiny of Public Service Boards.  The review examined how well-placed Councils were to respond to future challenges, including continued pressure on public finances and the possible move towards more regional working between Local Authorities.

 

The WAO was also assessing the progress Councils had made in addressing the recommendations of its earlier National Improvement Study "Good Scrutiny? Good Question".  It would also follow up on any proposals for improvement relevant to scrutiny issued in any subsequent local reports including those issued to Councils as part of its 2016-17 thematic reviews of Savings Planning and Governance Arrangements for Determining Significant Service Changes.

 

In late 2017 / early 2018, the WAO undertook document reviews, interviewed a number of key officers and ran focus groups with key Councillors to understand their views on the Council's current scrutiny arrangements and, in particular. how the Council intended to respond to the challenges identified above.

 

A number of Scrutiny Committee meetings were observed.  Once the WAO findings were reported, the intention was that they would consider how they could best work with other scrutiny stakeholders to share learning, for example through regional seminars.

 

New Performance Management Framework

 

Following the introduction of a new outcome-based model of corporate performance and the changes to the scope and remits of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees that were introduced in 2016, work continued through the Working Group of Members and senior officers to further embed this work.  New style performance reports had been introduced and the Council’s annual self-assessment presented on an outcome basis for the first time. This new approach assisted in showing progress towards achieving the Council’s four Well-being Outcomes and corporate actions contained in the Corporate Plan. The opportunity had also been taken to refresh the Council’s approach to Risk Management to develop a deeper level of sophistication in the way risks were evaluated, reported and managed in accordance with the Well-being of Future Generations Act. 

 

Council Constitution

 

The Council Constitution remained under review and reports to Council were submitted when changes were deemed necessary.

 

Webcasting

 

Live webcasting of the Planning Committee and Full Council took place.

 

Public Speaking at Planning Committee and Scrutiny Committee

 

The arrangements for public speaking at meetings of the Council's Planning Committee had been in place since February 2015 and were working well, with public involvement at the vast majority of meetings.  The process provided an opportunity for increased public engagement in the planning application process.

 

As far as Scrutiny Committees were concerned, the arrangements for public speaking were introduced at the beginning of 2016.  Again, the process was designed to enhance / increase opportunities for public participation in the Council's democratic processes.  Officers from Democratic Services and the Communications Unit would continue to look at ways of increasing the level of public engagement in the Scrutiny process.

 

People who registered to speak were surveyed in order to enable the Council to ascertain public perception of / satisfaction levels with the public speaking arrangements and consider whether any refinements should be made.  Officers would keep this aspect under review.

 

Member Development

 

A significant amount of work had been undertaken by the Democratic Services Team (supported by colleagues) in this area and a separate update report was included elsewhere on the agenda.

 

Member ICT Provision / Digital Strategy

 

The agenda for each meeting of the Committee included a standing item on Member ICT matters.

 

Reshaping Services Agenda

 

An officer from the Section continued to be involved in project managing the Town and Community Council and Voluntary Sector project of the Reshaping Services Programme and acted as the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Working Group co-ordinator.  During the year, a revised Compact with the Voluntary Sector had been adopted and an annual work programme drafted to help focus and monitor activity in this area.  Update reports on this project were reported to the Community Liaison Committee at each meeting and reports provided to the Voluntary Sector.  The Community Liaison Committee had recently agreed the representation for the Reshaping Services Programme, the project team and also for the evaluation panel which supported funding decision-making for the new Strong Communities Grant Fund that was launched during the year.

 

Ongoing discussions continued with individual Councils as required and six Community Asset Transfer applications were currently at various stages of the process.

 

Shared Regulatory Service, Central South Consortium and Cardiff Capital Region: Scrutiny Arrangements

 

As far as Shared Regulatory Services was concerned, discussions had taken place with officers of the other two Constituent Local Authorities.  However, as previously reported, progress on considering, developing and / or agreeing joint scrutiny options had been limited.  As such, and following a review of the existing governance / scrutiny arrangements across the constituent Local Authorities, it had been determined that there would not be any benefit in terms of governance of there being a Joint Scrutiny Committee.  Indeed, it was likely (given arrangements currently in place) that this would, in effect, result in duplication and additional work. for officers.

 

As far as the Central South Consortium was concerned, the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee continued to hold the Consortium to account, with invitations being extended throughout the year for officer attendance at Committees.  The Managing Director of the Central South Consortium also attended each Scrutiny Committee in the South East Wales Consortium on an annual basis, in January / February each year.  

 

The Central South Consortium had also established a pattern of regular group meetings with Chairs of Scrutiny Committees and the Democratic Services Officers in each of the Local Authorities in order to consider proposals to deepen the Consortium's relationship with the scrutiny function on a regional level to consider regional performance and share best practice and information. 

 

In terms of the Cardiff Capital Region, a report was submitted to the Joint Committee on 20th November 2017 titled "Governance Arrangements for Cardiff Capital Region Joint Scrutiny Committee".  This paper put forward a proposal along with a drafted Terms of Reference for the establishment of a Joint Scrutiny Committee between the 10 Local Authorities involved with the City Deal.

 

Following this meeting, Bridgend Council was asked to put a proposal together to determine the costs and needs of supporting such a Committee, which was then presented to the Joint Committee.  This was subsequently agreed and funding had been allocated from the City Deal budget for the first year.  Officers from the 10 constituent Local Authorities are meeting shortly to commence initial discussions on how a Joint Scrutiny Committee can be progressed. 

 

The Year Ahead

 

The Council's Member Development Programme would be an ongoing process.  The outcome of the Member Personal Development Interview process would inform the content of the Programme. 

 

A Member Satisfaction Survey in respect of the Council's Scrutiny arrangements would be undertaken.  Members would also be surveyed in respect of their use of (and satisfaction levels regarding) the ICT equipment provided to all Members following the 2017 election.

 

As alluded to above, there would also be a new designated Head of Democratic Services in post.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the Committee place on record its appreciation of the work undertaken over many years by Jeff Wyatt, the Council’s designated Head of Democratic Services, who was attending his last meeting of the Committee prior to retirement.

 

Reason for decision

 

To keep Members informed and to acknowledge the work undertaken by Jeff Wyatt, the Council’s designated Head of Democratic Services.

 

 

861     ICT UPDATE FOR MEMBERS (MD) –

 

The Committee’s terms of reference included responsibility for overseeing the Council's approach to Member Development.  As part of its role, the Committee had agreed that a Members’ ICT update be a standing item on the agenda for each meeting.

 

A period of ten months had passed since Elected Members were provided with ICT equipment and associated training, which was designed to enable them to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently over the forthcoming five years.

 

The Operational Manager (ICT) advised the Committee that ICT staff had seen very little demand for support, with 106 tickets being logged by the ICT Service Desk for Members in the period between 1st July, 2017 and 31st March, 2018.  For perspective, this volume represented 1% of all tickets logged by the ICT Service desk during the same reporting period.

 

The main issue experienced by Members was related to account passwords on both mobile phone and tablet devices (55% of tickets raised,) which in turn meant that Members could not log onto ICT systems and resources.  This issue had since been resolved in the main.  This had been facilitated by a change in policy.  The number of tickets logged for Members by the ICT Service Desk related to password issues was now minimal.

 

There had been requests from Members for technical support for other issues related to such things as hardware failure or damage, and a small number of requests for further training, but generally demand in these areas had been also been relatively low.

 

Although ICT equipment was specified and provided to Members to allow them to carry out their duties as Elected Members, some Members had chosen to use some, or all, of the kit provided on a rather limited basis.  This had not caused any issues from a technical perspective and Members were aware of information management and Data Protection requirements and implications from policy and legislative perspectives. 

 

A discussion ensued regarding the Council’s current approach to the use (by Members and staff) of social media and the current restrictions on such.  The Operational Manager (ICT) advised the Committee that arrangements were currently under review as part of the Council’s wider “Digital Strategy”.

 

It was intended to carry out a Members’ ICT Satisfaction Survey in Quarter 2 of 2018/19, as this period would allow Members to provide feedback on a whole year of ICT support.  This would also provide a more accurate indication of the extent, and type of usage by Members.  The results of this survey would be presented back to this Committee after the summer recess.

 

The Council’s Wide Area Network (WAN) would be upgraded in 2018/19 as part of a Capital Programme of works.  This was the network that connected all of the Council buildings, including libraries, care homes, schools, etc.  The current WAN was based on radio / wireless technology.  The new WAN would be based on fibre technology which would provide greater resilience, availability and performance going forward.

 

As part of this project, all schools in the Vale would see an upgrade in their internet speed and a change in the way their web filtering was provided.  This was being funded by Welsh Government as part of the second round of their Learning in Digital Wales (LiDW 2) initiative.

 

The Council’s Print Strategy tender exercise had been completed, with the incumbent supplier (Xerox) successfully being named as preferred supplier pending the completion of the contract.  The Print Strategy aimed to reduce current print volumes by 40% over the life of the contract, which would run for three years, with the option of extending the contract at that point by another one or two years.

 

New Multi-Function Devices would be delivered and configured in June 2018, at which point the old printers would be removed.  There would be a small period of ‘dual-running’ to ensure a smooth transition.  A communications plan was in place to communicate this change to staff and Members and training was also being arranged.

 

In January 2018, the Council successfully retained its annual Public Services Network (PSN) accreditation.  This accreditation was related to ICT systems and hardware, data and physical security, which entitled the Council to access services as provided by the Cabinet Office and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and also allowed the Council to communicate securely with other PSN accredited public sector organisations.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the content of the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To ensure Members were made aware of any developments to their ICT Service to the wider Council.