Agenda Item No. 5
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Democratic Services Committee: 26th July 2017
Report of the Head of Democratic Services
Annual Report of Head of Democratic Services
Purpose of the Report
- To outline for Members the resources available to support the Democratic Services function (as provided for under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011) and a summary of how the resource is utilised.
That the report be noted.
Reason for the Recommendation
To keep Members informed.
- Members will be aware of the requirement under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 ("the Measure") for the Council to appoint a Democratic Services Committee. The Measure also requires 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 this report is 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.
Relevant Issues and Options
- The Democratic Services division as a whole comprises three distinct sections:
- Scrutiny and Committee Services
- Freedom of Information / Records Management / Land Charges
- Registration Service.
- As previously, this report, by its very nature and its linkage with the requirements of the Measure, covers the work undertaken by the Scrutiny and Committee Services section.
- The functions of the Head of Democratic Services are set out in the Measure and relate particularly (but not exclusively) to the provision of advice and support to non-executive Members. The Committee, at its first meeting in July 2012 agreed the designation of myself as the Council's Head of Democratic Services. The Welsh Government Guidance associated with the Measure specifically provides for the Head of Democratic Services to perform other roles apart from the new statutory functions. This recognises 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.
- 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 is considered to be appropriate.
- In addition to myself, as Head of Democratic Services, the section comprises 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 deals with a wide range of activities, which include, but are 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 current structure resulted from a review in 2013 of the (limited) resources available within the section and, indeed, the Council as a whole. That review took into account the departure in May 2013 of a former long-serving member of the team. At the time, funding was also still in place for a separate administrative post (a post which had been held vacant for some time). It was agreed that the funding attached to both of those posts could be utilised to create two new posts. Whilst these are on a lower grade than the previous postholder, it was felt that the revised structure would provide the section with increased flexibility to deal with the demands placed upon the team (and this has proved to be the case).
- In November 2016, a new member of staff joined the team as Scrutiny Support Officer (the previous postholder having been promoted within the team). That officer has already become a valued member of the team.
- The following is a summary of work undertaken in the last twelve months and ongoing work / initiatives in which the section is actively engaged. The Democratic Services Committee will continue to be kept fully informed on progress of these, and other, initiatives.
Wales Audit Office: Scrutiny Improvement Study
- Previous reports to the Committee have 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, are ongoing, the Action Plan itself had been completed. As such, rather than an update to every meeting, it was agreed that the next update report be in six months' time, with the report summarising achievements following implementation of the Plan. 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 are covered elsewhere in this report.
- An Annual Report on the work undertaken by all Scrutiny Committees is reported to all Scrutiny Committees and Full Council each year.
Protocol re Scrutiny and Cabinet Roles and Responsibilities
- The Action Plan alluded to in paragraph 12 above included the drawing up of a Protocol designed to encompass a number of elements of the Wales Audit Office recommendations, including:
- the overall roles / responsibilities of Scrutiny and Cabinet Members (and, indeed, officers),
- the general arrangements in place governing the Scrutiny process,
- the need for correlation of internal (i.e. Council, Cabinet and Scrutiny) Work Programmes and correlation between those and external regulators' Work Programmes.
- The Protocol is available on the Council's website at
http://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/Documents/_Committee%20Reports/Scrutiny%20information/Protocols/Scrutiny-and-Cabinet-Roles-and-Responsibilities.pdf and on MemberNet and covers:
- Principles of Effective Scrutiny
- Role of the Scrutiny Committees
- Holding the Cabinet to Account
- Relationship Between Cabinet and Scrutiny
- Work Programmes and Agendas
- Ethos of a Scrutiny Committee Meeting
- Attendance by Cabinet Members at Scrutiny Committee Meetings
- Attendance by Officers at Scrutiny Committee Meetings
- Responses of Cabinet Members to Questions from Scrutiny Committees
- "Call-In" of a Cabinet Decision
- Recommendations made by Scrutiny Committees
- Meetings Between Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Cabinet Members
- Public Speaking at Scrutiny Committee Meetings.
New Performance Management Framework
- In December 2015, Cabinet approved proposals for changes to the Council's Performance Management Framework (PMF) as the basis for consultation with Scrutiny Committees. A subsequent report in February 2016 provided Cabinet with a summary of the views of the five Scrutiny Committees. On Cabinet's recommendation, a Working Group, comprising Group Leaders, Chairmen of Scrutiny Committees and senior corporate officers was established to develop and progress the arrangements to support the revised PMF. That work included the development of performance monitoring reports to demonstrate progress towards achieving the Council's four Well-being Outcomes and corporate actions contained in the new Corporate Plan.
- In 2013-14, staff of the Wales Audit Office began a four-year cycle of corporate assessments of Local Authorities in Wales. The purpose of the corporate assessment was to provide a position statement of the Council's capacity and capability to deliver continuous improvement. As part of the assessment, the Wales Audit Office has considered the Council's track record of performance and outcomes as well as an examination of the key arrangements that are necessary to underpin improvements in services and functions.
- Between the end of 2015 and the start of 2016, staff from the Wales Audit Office conducted their assessment and sought to answer the following question: "Is the Council capable of delivering its priorities and improved outcomes for citizens?" The findings of the Wales Audit Office assessment were extremely positive.
- The Council Constitution remains under review and reports to Council are submitted when changes are deemed necessary.
- Live webcasting of the Planning Committee and Full Council commenced in December 2014 and December 2016 respectively.
Public Speaking at Planning Committee and Scrutiny Committee
- The arrangements for public speaking at meetings of the Council's Planning Committee have been in place since February 2015 and are working well, with public involvement at the vast majority of meetings. The process provides an opportunity for increased public engagement in the planning application process.
- As far as Scrutiny Committees are concerned, the arrangements for public speaking were introduced at the beginning of 2016. Again, the process is designed to enhance / increase opportunities for public participation in the Council's democratic processes. It is acknowledged that there is a need to increase the promotion of the process through publicity and officers from Democratic Services and the Communications Unit will work on this aspect. For example, relevant links on the Council's website have been made more prominent and the process highlighted to Members during Scrutiny development sessions.
- During 2016/17, 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 will be looking at this aspect and will keep Members informed of developments.
- A significant amount of work has been undertaken by the Democratic Services Team (supported by colleagues) in this area and a full report is included elsewhere on the agenda.
Member ICT Provision / Digital Strategy
- As with Member Induction and Development, a full report (highlighting the work undertaken (by officers from ICT and Democratic Services) is included elsewhere on the agenda.
Reshaping Services Agenda
- An officer from the Section continues to be involved in project managing the Town and Community Council and Voluntary Sector project of the Reshaping Services Programme and acts as the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Working Group co-ordinator. Update reports on this project are reported to the Community Liaison Committee at each meeting and reports provided to the Voluntary Sector. The Community Liaison Committee has recently agreed to extend the Town and Community Councils' representative's term of office until October 2017 for consistency purposes until a new representative can be appointed.
- Ongoing discussions continue with individual Councils as required and six Community Asset Transfer applications are currently at various stages of the process.
Task and Finish Review Work
- In October 2016, the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee received an update report outlining progress that had been made around a Task and Finish Group review of the potential contribution Assistive Technology could provide in the development of a dementia-supported community in the Vale of Glamorgan to enable people to live independently.
- The previous Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) had agreed an action plan which contained 15 priorities. Following consideration of the update report, Members of the Committee were pleased that the progress made against each action indicated that the majority were either complete or had become part of ongoing business. The Committee noted that staffing arrangements were subject to ongoing review and the number of people receiving Telecare had grown for users of both Tele V and Tele V+.
- In addition, the service had purchased equipment to support people with dementia. This included bespoke decoration and two reminiscence pods for use at Rondel House day service. Tablet computers were also made available for the care homes managed by the Council and the older people's day service, to support communication and provide additional activities.
- During February 2017, the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee received an update report outlining progress that had been made around the Traffic Management Task and Finish Review Implementation Plan. The Committee was advised that all improvement actions contained within the Plan had been progressed through a variety of funding sources. It was agreed that the majority of the actions to be duplicated within the adopted Local Transport Plan, and a further update report be submitted in February 2018.
- With regard to Task and Finish work, the Council is in the process of agreeing a suite of measures to monitor progress against the new Corporate Plan wellbeing Outcomes which will be considered by Cabinet shortly. This work is being informed by the Member Working Group and Task and Finish discussions will commence thereafter.
School Performance Panels
- In addition to the existing support for the Council's Scrutiny function, the Committee is asked to note, and acknowledge, the ongoing work in terms of School Performance Panels. Staff within the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Section continue to devote resources to arranging / facilitating, undertaking research and supporting Panel Members in these exercises.
- As previously reported, the broad purpose of the Panels is to enable the school identified to demonstrate through the democratic process its ambition, capacity and commitment to rapid and sustained progress and to identify any barriers being faced which could be resolved by the actions of the Council.
- The Panels' objectives are to establish that up-to-date and authoritative plans are in place to address any concerns identified, that the school has arrangements in place to monitor the impact of the plans and to amend them as appropriate and to establish what progress has been made and what further progress is required.
- During the course of 2016/17, Panels had been initiated for two schools;
- Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School - 12th July, 2016 and 9th December, 2016
- Fairfield Primary School - 22nd June, 2016.
- Subsequently, sufficient progress had been reported for Fairfield Primary School and so the school has been removed from Local Authority monitoring.
- With regard to Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School, following a Panel visit on 9th December, 2016, and following disappointing results in GCSE English, it was determined that insufficient progress had been made. Consequently, results for August 2017 will be eagerly anticipated and a further follow-up visit may be arranged for the Autumn term
- It should also be noted that, during the previous year, Barry Comprehensive School and St. Richard Gwyn R/C High School had been visited. Following strong performance by both schools, during 2016/17, they were removed from Local Authority monitoring.
- An important element to come out of the programme of Progress Panel visits is a "Lessons Learnt" exercise. From this, the Council has been able to assess specific challenges facing the schools and has been able to identify and report on any innovative or good practices. Findings from the first review were reported to the former Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) at its meeting held on 7th September, 2015, and a further update was provided to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee on 3rd October, 2016. Further updates will be scheduled when appropriate.
Shared Regulatory Service and Central South Consortium: Scrutiny Arrangements
- As far as the Shared Regulatory Services is concerned, discussions have taken place with officers of the other two Constituent Local Authorities. However, progress on considering, developing and / or agreeing joint scrutiny options has been limited and needs to be progressed.
- As far as the Central South Consortium is concerned, the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee will continue 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 has also agreed to attend each Scrutiny Committee in the South East Wales Consortium on an annual basis, in January / February each year. The Estyn report on the Consortium has also been reported to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee and a representative from the Consortium was in attendance.
- The Central South Consortium has 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. The Managing Director is keen to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the scrutiny of aspects of the work of the Consortium, in addition to the engagement with the Scrutiny Committees in each of the Local Authorities. A report is to be prepared in respect of the working groups suggested approach to the Joint Board and to all five Scrutiny Committees in the Consortium.
The Year Ahead
- 2017/18 will again be a busy year. The remainder of the current Member Development Programme will be delivered. Towards the latter part of the calendar year, all Members will be afforded the opportunity of a Personal Development Review Interview.(as provided for within the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011). All members are encouraged to take up the opportunity and there will be an expectation of all Members in receipt of a Senior Salary to do so. The outcome of this process will be fundamental in informing the ongoing Member Development Programme.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- As set out above.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- There are no direct implications arising from this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- The Council is required to comply with the relevant provisions of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 with regard to the provision of Democratic Services and support for such.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- There are no direct implications arising from this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- Arrangements for webcasting and public speaking are linked to the Council's commitment to increasing the level of public participation in, and accessibility to, the Council's decision-making processes.
- The Measure makes arrangements for changes to the political structure of local government in Wales and the way in which local government operates.
Policy Framework and Budget
- The terms of reference of the Democratic Services Committee include "to have regard to Welsh Ministerial guidance when exercising its functions".
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- No consultation has been necessary.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Corporate Performance and Resources
Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011
Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services, tel: 01446 709408
Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services