SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)
Minutes of an extraordinary meeting held on 1st October, 2013.
Present: Councillor M.R. Wilson (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. P. Drake (Vice-Chairman); Councillors K.J. Geary, H.C. Hamilton, P.G. King, R.A. Penrose and G. Roberts.
Also in attendance: Inspector S. Parry (South Wales Police) and Mr. A. Bottomly (Quadrant).
441 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillors K .Hatton and H.J.W. James.
442 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
No declarations were received.
443 COLLABORATIVE WORKING CCTV PROPOSAL (REF) –
The above matter had been previously considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 17th June 2013. At that Cabinet meeting consideration was given to the proposal currently being developed for working with Bridgend County Borough Council in respect of future CCTV monitoring arrangements. The project which was one under consideration as part of the Memorandum of Understanding with Bridgend County Borough Council was to investigate the feasibility of a joint CCTV monitoring service. The project would exclude the strategic management of CCTV which would remain within the remit of this Council and overseen by the Vale of Glamorgan Community Safety Partnership. The Cabinet, having given consideration to the benefits of the project subsequently resolved
"(1) That the contents of the report be noted.
(2) That the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for consideration and that the Committee provides comments back to Cabinet.
(3) That a visit to Bridgend County Borough Council’s CCTV monitoring facility be arranged for Cabinet and Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).
(4) That the business case for the provision of CCTV monitoring services be further developed and reported back to Cabinet in due course, together with consultation reports.
(5) That Audit be requested to carry out an independent review of the business case for collaboration of the CCTV service, particularly in relation to likely savings and the potential impact on level of service.
Reasons for decisions
(1) To ensure that members were provided with an update regarding collaborative working proposals for the CCTV monitoring service.
(2) To ensure that due consideration is given to all aspects of the proposal.
(3) To provide Members with an opportunity to visit the proposed location for CCTV monitoring.
(4&5) To ensure that a robust business case underpins any future arrangements for this service."
Members of the Scrutiny Committee had undertaken a visit to Bridgend County Borough Council’s CCTV monitoring facility on 30th September 2013.
In accordance with resolution (2) of the above Cabinet minute, the Scrutiny Committee gave consideration to the said matter. The Operational Manager for Customer Relations informed the Scrutiny Committee that an analysis of both services offered at each existing location indicated that Bridgend Council’s control centre provided a broader range of services offering emergency out of hours telephone contact, lone worker, lift monitoring and bollard management. This contrasted with the control centre in Barry which was entirely focused on CCTV monitoring and interaction with South Wales Police.
He informed the Scrutiny Committee of the benefits of the project which were as follows:
· Service and Efficiency Savings: The pattern of activity created a natural inefficiency in monitoring operations which could only be part resolved by the use of in fill tasks. This inefficiency would be used to absorb some of the additional monitoring activity and allow for the combined staffing resource to be reduced. This was anticipated to deliver income/ savings totalling £75,000 per annum for both authorities based on current combined operational costs.
· Improved productivity through monitoring of wider geographic area;
· Improved monitoring of single cross authority incidents;
· Improved monitoring of cross authority criminal and community safety activity.
· Operational Flexibility: Monitoring activity over a wider geographic area would allow for greater flexibility to direct monitoring resources to priority incidents, irrespective of local authority boundaries.
· Business Continuity and Technical Resilience: Neither operation currently had a business continuity solution in the event that existing premises became inaccessible. The proposed solution provided for a business continuity workstation to be maintained at Contact OneVale to be used in the event that the Bridgend control room became inaccessible.
· Improved Access for South Wales Police: South Wales Police currently must attend separate control rooms to access CCTV recording for evidence. This solution would allow for evidence for each authority to be produced at the main control room or from the business continuity workstation in Barry. In addition, South Wales Police would have access to 2 RIPA suites with the ability to view images across the combined CCTV network. There was an additional benefit of enhancing the service provided to South Wales Police through a single co-ordinated service.
· Sustainability: The integration of monitoring activities for both local authority areas would help maintain an efficient and sustainable service. The combined operation may provide Bridgend Council with additional opportunities to work with, and provide monitoring services for, other neighbouring authorities.
The Operational Manager also informed the Scrutiny Committee that work building on the above was currently progressing with a formal procurement exercise to be undertaken shortly. He further indicated that a project team was also established to deal with the technical integration of the service and subject to the above matters being satisfactory and the project mandate being met, it was anticipated that staff would transfer with TUPE rights to Bridgend County Borough Council in 2014.
At this juncture in the proceedings a number of questions were raised with discussion ensuing on the following matters:
· The cost for the Council relating to the project and the breakeven period when the capital costs would be recouped? The Operational Manager responded by indicating that the Cost of the project would be split two thirds Vale of Glamorgan and one third Bridgend County Borough Council. In respect of the financial benefits, these would be accrued at the end of the project with the break even period anticipated between 3 and 4 years.
· The Scrutiny Committee enquired if there were any improvements to staff working conditions? The Operational Manager indicated that the Bridgend service was a stand alone facility and accommodated in a better secured area. Similar equipment was provided to ensure comfort for staff with the monitoring boards similar but had the potential to be upgraded in the future; the facility was a standard configuration for CCTV provision.
· Benefits of the project to South Wales Police? Inspector Parry indicated that the configuration of the CCTV service was on a similar footing as the Basic Command Unit (Central). He indicated that cutbacks had impacted on the availability of CCTV within the Vale of Glamorgan and the configuration of the Council’s CCTV service with Bridgend would allow for 24 hour coverage across the Vale of Glamorgan. He indicated that Bridgend had retained their 24 hour staffing of their CCTV service with the project, if implemented, providing improved capability for the Police in respect of crime prevention.
· The Scrutiny Committee was unaware that the Council’s CCTV service had a reduction in service operation? In response the Operational Manager for Customer Relations indicated that the 2012/13 budget had seen a reduction in the operational hours of the Council’s CCTV service to 111 per week which had been analysed and assessed on historical data. He further confirmed that the business case for joint working with Bridgend was to maintain a service of 111 hours per week for the Vale of Glamorgan area. The project proposals relating to the Vale of Glamorgan area was not to operate a 24 hour service 7 days a week. However, there was the potential to include within the project scope to provide a 24 hour service 7 days a week.
· In the event of a 24 hour, 7 days a week service being provided to cover the Vale of Glamorgan area, would this impact on efficiency savings? The Operational Manager indicated that the current business case had been based and negotiated on historical CCTV coverage data in the Vale of Glamorgan i.e. 111 hours per week.
· What was the level of service currently provided at Bridgend and its surrounding area? Inspector Parry indicated that Bridged County Borough Council operated 24 hours 7 days a week (168 hours). Bridgend staff monitored CCTV cameras in real time however should the Vale of Glamorgan enter into joint service provision Bridgend staff would monitor Police radios covering the Vale of Glamorgan and could alert the Police when incidents occurred. The Operational Manager indicated that currently the Vale service allowed for cameras to run and record but not monitored.
· What was the level of training to be provided to staff to familiarise themselves with the topography of the Vale of Glamorgan? The Operational Manager indicated that on the initiation of the joint service there would be a six month transitional period to allow staff to be provided knowledge training.
· What was the exact cost of the service to be provided jointly with Bridgend County Borough Council? In response the Operational Manager indicated that there was still work required on the contractual details and the final business case. He indicated that subject to project acceptance Vale of Glamorgan staff would transfer with their existing terms and conditions for the first six months of engagement, thereafter it was anticipated that Bridgend County Borough Council would undertake a review with a view to restructuring the service.
· Was the Operational Manager confident that the current staff structure could be reduced by three Full Time Equivalent posts? In response the Operational Manager confirmed that based on historical information and operational modelling the structure could be reduced. He also informed the Scrutiny Committee that staff transferring to Bridgend would have their travelling expenses reimbursed.
· Would fibre optic capability be used to link cameras in the Vale of Glamorgan with the Bridged facility? The Operational Manager indicated that the technical specifications for the provision of the project were subject to a tendering exercise.
· What was the technical contingency arrangement for the project? The Operational Manager indicated that the technical resilience of the project would be built into the contract tender specifications. The Scrutiny Committee indicated at this point that they would need to see the costs associated with such contingency arrangements.
· Was the cost of redundancies included in the project business case? The Operational Manager indicated that these costs were variable but worst case scenario had been assumed in the business case.
At this juncture general discussion took place with the Chairman expressing concern that the Bridgend service had experienced problems in respect of technical capability used i.e. microwave links and Mr. Bottomly (Quadrant Technical Expert) indicated that the technical process would take account of the various technical requirements of the joint service and server capacity would not be affected by the transfer of services between the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend. He further indicated that infrastructure links would be a licensed link and would be reliable. Various comments were also made by Members of Scrutiny Committee in regard to the future service which, in their opinion, should be provided on a 24 hour basis 7 days a week as opposed to reducing staff numbers. The Scrutiny Committee considered that the benefit of providing a 24 hour service 7 days a week would outweigh any savings for the Council. It also felt that staff were not being fully integrated into the new service. The Scrutiny Committee considered that whilst they understood that the main driver for the joint project was to deliver efficiencies under the collaboration umbrella, the net beneficiaries of the joint service would be the Police and the retail sector but felt that the Council was shouldering the financial pain. The point in respect of the service being provided 24 hours 7 days a week in the future to the benefit of the tax payer in the Vale of Glamorgan was reiterated. Reference was also made to linking Cowbridge to the existing network which was also an important consideration. In response the Operational Manager indicated that the feasibility of providing a 24 hour service 7 days a week could be examined and there was the potential for further efficiency savings to be identified as part of the project which had not yet been accounted for e.g. business maintenance contracts.
In response to the point made in regard to linking Cowbridge to the CCTV network, the Head of Public Protection indicated that there were no additional funds from the Community Safety Partnership to expand the current CCTV network and there would be a need for at least three additional cameras to be provided in Cowbridge.
The Chairman acknowledged the Police requirements to monitor CCTV cameras 24 hours a day 7 days a week but, in his view, there needed to be a balance particularly when considering issues relating to public perception, if indeed the joint service was approved, which undoubtedly would be seen as a negative step by the tax payers of the Vale of Glamorgan. In response Inspector Parry indicated that he did not foresee any major difficulties with the transfer of the Vale service to Bridgend, however his biggest concern would be the lack of personal contact, particularly in respect of PCSOs operating in the Vale of Glamorgan and, in particular their ability to access the CCTV facility. He alluded to the feasibility of the provision of a remote viewing facility at Council offices or indeed the local Police station. He further indicated that the Police were also looking at options in regard to the use / capability of smart phones to access information but this was not part of the current proposals.
In summing up the Scrutiny Committee agreed that they required a further report on the project as soon as detailed costings were available in respect of the procurement exercise and before any final decision was taken by the Cabinet on the matter. The Scrutiny Committee also considered that there was also a need for Cabinet to look at "future proofing" the equipment to be used for the Council’s CCTV provision.
(1) T H A T a further report be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee on the detailed costings relating to the procurement exercise in relation to collaborative working CCTV proposal prior to the final decision being taken by the Cabinet on the matter.
(2) T H A T Cabinet be requested that they ensure that the equipment used for the provision of the Council’s CCTV facility is appropriately "future proofed".
(3) T H A T the staff at both the Councils’ CCTV facilities be thanked.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To allow the Scrutiny Committee to consider the financial costings in relation to the project.
(2) To ensure that the contract specification for the procurement exercise was fit for purpose in relation to the project.
(3) In acknowledgement of the recent visits made to both facilities.
444 DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS DELIVERY IMPROVEMENTS (REF) –
The above matter had been subject to consideration by the Scrutiny Committee on previous occasions at meetings held on 23rd April and 4th June 2013.
When the matter was last discussed the Scrutiny Committee had subsequently recommended to Cabinet the following:
"(1) That the Cabinet be advised of the concerns of the Committee in that the report had not addressed the concerns raised at the last meeting on 23rd April 2013 in particular the concerns regarding the waiting list and the urgent need for more innovative solutions to the problems to bring down the number of days via a step change reduction in the number of days.
(2) That a further report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee on the issues referred to above, the delays involved and the stages of the processes in the delivery of Disabled Facilities Grants for children and adults.
(3) That .....
(4) That .....
Reasons for recommendations
(1) That the Committee’s concerns are forwarded to Cabinet and radical solutions to reduce the number of days explored.
(2) In order to consider the matter further.
At the Cabinet meeting held on 15th July 2013 the Cabinet was advised of the changes made in the processing of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) to improve its delivery time and to agree further changes planned for 2013/14.
At that time the Cabinet was also informed that since 2008 the Council had acknowledged the time to deliver a DFG, from the first point of contact when a client requested an adaptation through to the delivery of works, had to be improved. Officer time and financial resources had been invested into the service to secure improvements and this had been reflected in the Council’s performance improving over the last few years, details of which were considered by the Cabinet at the time. In addition at that time, the Cabinet had also noted that the Welsh Government had acknowledged the Council’s improvement in the delivery of DFGs as published in the Welsh Government’s document "Local Authority Service Performance 2011-12". Cited in the above publication was reference to the Council’s improvement which had seen three years of decreases in completion times and the Council had also seen the largest increase in delivery improvement. This improvement had also been reflected in the Council’s position in the delivery time of DFGs compared to other authorities in the period 2009/10 (22nd) to 2011/12 (17th).
The Cabinet report had also made reference over the previous six years of efforts by officers and Elected Members to tackle the problem and to improve the Council’s delivery time for DFGs. The report also referred to an action plan that had been developed which would ensure nobody was on the occupational therapist waiting list for more than two weeks and this in itself would make significant improvements to the Council’s delivery time of DFGs.
Tabled for the benefit of the Scrutiny Committee were case studies and hard copies of the presentation to be received by the Scrutiny Committee. Also available for consideration by the Committee was the original Cabinet report which contained the action plan for 2013/14 and a comparison of the Council’s actions measured against Merthyr Tydfil Council’s best practice advice.
The Scrutiny Committee received a comprehensive presentation on the Council’s private sector housing disabled facilities grants service which was presented by the Principal Housing and Pollution Officer. The presentation covered the following topics:
· who could apply
· what happens if the disabled resident has to move out for health reasons or passes away
· in the Vale who to contact
· what works would a DFG fund
· does the Council have to give a DFG
· how will the grant be calculated
· what are the stages of a DFG
· DFG performance indicator
· issues in assessment stage
· application stage – means test
· application stage – survey
· application stage – scheduling and plans
· application stage – asbestos survey
· application stage – tendering
· completing works.
In making reference to the information presented, the Principal Officer indicated that it was important to note that each stage had been broken down into steps. In addition, times as indicated were based on averages with the current times being based on grants completed in the last six months. In conclusion the Principal Officer indicated that the Disabled Facilities Grants Team and the Occupational Therapy Team had worked together to reduce the number of days taken to provide an adaptation to service users’ homes. This reflected the improvements taken place to date. Work was also continuing to reduce delivery time, with processes amended and additional staff employed to reduce the time taken further. In addition, engaging with the disabled residents and their families / carers was an important aspect of the service. Many of the cases were complex, requiring multi-agency involvement and this was shown with the different times taken for the process.
The Scrutiny Committee, in thanking the Principal Officer for the presentation, enquired of the current performance target for children and young persons. In response the Head of Public Protection indicated that the previous year’s data was used as the basis of the current year’s target. Having said that, he indicated that the current work and the resource investment should see further improvements for future year performance targets.
In addition to the above point, the Scrutiny Committee raised the following questions in respect of the following:
· What was the frequency and number of small types of DFG e.g. a grant request that didn’t require the involvement of an occupational therapist? In response it was indicated that minor works under £1,000 would still be required to be assessed by an occupational therapist.
· What is the time to undertake an assessment for a minor DFG? In response it was indicated that the waiting time for such an assessment by an occupational therapist was two months, with a further month for completion of the works. The Council was currently looking at the feasibility of utilising other providers to assist in speeding up the delivery of minor work DFGs e.g. Bristol City Council utilised their Care and Repair Service.
· Who undertook a means test? In response the Council had an advisor who would undertake the means test which was usually undertaken 13 days from receipt of the application.
· How do we advertise the DFG service for minor works? In response the Head of Adult Services indicated that the service was advertised through the Community Resource Service with referrals made via the Council’s C1V facility. The Head of Service also alluded to the capability of the Vale Care and Repair Service to be utilised to undertake DFG type work given their available resources.
· Are the current performance indicators fit for purpose? In response the Principal Officer indicated that the Welsh Government’s Wales Technical Panel was currently reviewing the existing performance indicators, particularly in regard to DFGs.
· Were officers examining the use of in-house contractors to undertake minor works by the provision of a dedicated team? In response the Head of Public Protection indicated that the Council’s DSO was on the list of tenderers in regard to minor DFG works.
In summing up, the Scrutiny Committee acknowledged that there had been significant effort by the service in reducing the overall number of days to complete a DFG to 170 days. The Chairman, in referring to the excellent presentation, thanked all the staff involved with the DFG process and in particular the work undertaken by officers collaborating with Merthyr Tydfil Council, which was a sector leading authority for DFGs.
(1) T H A T the work undertaken to date by officers to improve the delivery of DFGs be endorsed and that staff involved in the process be thanked for their efforts.
(2) T H A T the action plan considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 15th July 2013 be endorsed.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In acknowledgement of progress made to date.
(2) In acknowledgement of the proposed next steps for the improvement in the delivery times for DFGs.