Meeting documents

Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee
Monday, 14th November, 2016 10.00 am

Date: Monday 14th November 2016 Time: 10.00 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentWithReport toReport of
COUNCILLOR M. CROSS (CHAIR)
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. APOLOGIES

Apologies for absence were received from:-

Councillors G. Collier, R. Jones, C. Meredith, D.J. Owens

Noted
2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

Noted
3. CORPORATE OVERVIEW SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (206K/bytes)

The Minutes of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 3rd October, 2016 were submitted.

RESOLVED that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

Agreed
4. ACTION SHEET - 3RD OCTOBER 2016
Action Sheet (52K/bytes)
Appendix (184K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the Action Sheet of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 3rd October, 2016, whereupon:-

A Member expressed concern that this was the third occasion that a representative from the Education Directorate had been unavailable to attend this Committee meeting. The Head of Policy & Performance passed on the Education Directorate's apologies and informed the Committee that there had been a clash of meetings.

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the Action Sheet be noted.

Noted
5. WELSH LANGUAGE STANDARDS
Report (124K/bytes)
Appendix A (355K/bytes)
Appendix B (202K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Policy, Partnerships and Engagement Manager which was presented to provide Members with an overview of the Welsh Language Standards and what has been done to support the organisation to ensure it meets its compliance.

The Head of Policy and Performance spoke to the report and highlighted the key points contained therein.

Councillor Barry Sutton joined the meeting at this juncture.

In response to a Member's question regarding challenge applications to the Welsh Language Commissioner, the Team Leader Policy informed Members that some concessions had been agreed and some were still in negotiation with the Commissioner.

A Member enquired regarding the timescale and potential financial penalty the Council could face for non-compliance. The Team Leader Policy commented that the Council was in full compliance of the new standards and timescales had been met.

Another Member asked if this was monitored through the website, the Team Leader explained that the Annual Report gave a comprehensive view both internally and externally.

A Member raised concerns regarding the small percentage of people who spoke Welsh in Blaenau Gwent and the value for money aspect, as the Council had taken some difficult decisions in order to make savings, such as closing public toilets, cessation of pest control and downsizing of staff, and asked if the Council could pursue this with the Auditor General for Wales.

The Head of Policy & Performance said the Council had been working closely with the Welsh Language Commissioner's office and taking a pragmatic view in relation to the budget. At this stage communication with the Auditor General for Wales would not be helpful as the majority of other local authorities were in the same position and had also found it difficult to implement and comply with these standards.

Members raised concerns regarding cost pressures and what monies the Welsh Government were contributing to prioritise the implementation of the Welsh Language Standards. Whilst they were happy to promote the welsh language they expressed concern that it would be at the detriment of other services. They said the budget for translations may be too costly for the Authority.

A Member referred to the investigation by the Commissioner's Office relating to the provision of swimming lessons through the medium of welsh, the Team Leader Policy said the investigation was still ongoing and an update would be provided to Committee in due course.

The Head of Policy & Performance clarified that her Team was leading on the implementation of the Welsh Language Standards and were liaising with colleagues in other local authorities to set parameters on the approach to mainstream it within every area of the Council.

In reply to a Member's question regarding the budget of 100,000 set aside for translation of Minutes, the Head of Policy & Performance informed Members that Standard 41 had raised concerns across all local authorities, and a request had been made for the Commissioner's Office to suspend this standard. However, this request had been denied and the deadline for implementation of this Standard was now six months behind schedule. She clarified that only Minutes and Agendas would need to be translated and not the supporting paperwork.

RESOLVED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that

  • the Leader and Executive Member Corporate Services consider writing to the Auditor General for Wales regarding the annual spend and outcome in relation to the Welsh Language Standards and register Members concerns on the small percentage of welsh speakers living in Blaenau Gwent; and
  • Councillor Keith Hayden be nominated to sit on the Task & Finish Group to develop a draft promotion strategy and further nominations be sought from other scrutiny committees.
Agreed
6. QUARTER 1 AND 2 JOINT FINANCE AND PERFORMANCE REPORT
Report (92K/bytes)
Appendix (397K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Performance Team which was presented to provide Members with the Quarterly monitoring information across all Directorates covering the period April to September 2016.

The Head of Policy & Performance spoke to the report and referred to the contents therein.

ITrent

In reply to a question raised regarding the delay in the implementation of the ITrent system, the Chief Finance Officer said Phase 1 of the payroll system had been implemented successfully, Phase 2 had been delayed due to technical difficulties and the Council is working with the company to resolve those issues, an implementation date for self serve was expected to be in quarter 3.

A Member asked if any monies could be clawed back from the Company, and the Chief Finance Officer commented that this would be taken into consideration during discussions with the company.

Social Services - Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

A Member requested a Member Briefing session on the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and what is the risk to the Council.

Communication & Engagement Officer Post

Another Member referred to the appointment of the Communication and Engagement Officer which had been created to engage with members of the public on Waste Services, to improve recycling rates across the Borough.

He said clarity was needed on the salaries and grades of new posts, and a better understanding of the impact that additional spend had on areas that had been subject to budget cuts.

The Head of Policy & Performance informed Members that the post of the Communication and Engagement Officer had been externally funded and had not impacted on the Council's budget.

Cost Pressure - Children's Services

In reply to a Member's question regarding the forecasted adverse variance of Children's Services the Chief Finance Officer explained that with the identified savings and use of the Reserves, the Council's overall adverse variance had been reduced to 0.5m this item was included in the recent Joint Budget Scrutiny Committee and that work would be undertaken with budget holders to reduce any overspends by the end of the year.

Members expressed concern that with cost pressures escalating throughout the Authority it was not realistic to keep using Reserves in this way.

Annual National Indicator Report

A Member commented about improvements made throughout the Council with regard to the national indicators.

The Corporate Performance Manager said that the information on the national data would be communicated to all Members.

Housing Benefits

In reply to a Member's question regarding the Housing Benefit / Council Tax Reduction Scheme, the Chief Finance Officer said that DWP monitored local authorities improvements and no financial penalties are issued. Action plans had been developed with the help of the DWP Performance Development Team to introduce new measures.

Attendance

A Member enquired regarding the performance information regarding the percentage of Member attendance at committees and the Head of Policy & Performance confirmed that member attendance could be discussed at the Chairs and Vice-Chairs meetings on a cross party basis.

A Member asked if a breakdown of sickness absence could be provided on each Directorate. The Chair informed the Member that a report on attendance had been discussed at the previous Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee meeting, and would also be addressed at the next Executive Committee.

Funding - Children's Services

The Chief Finance Officer commented that the 2017/2018 funding gap of 6m took account of Children's Services and the minimum living wage. The Officer informed Members that cost pressures within Adult Services was easier to predict as the service provided was more consistent, however, Children's Services was more volatile and difficult to predict as significant extra costs could be incurred and no contingency funding had been agreed with the Welsh Government. Detailed reporting regarding this was presented on a regular basis to the Social Services Scrutiny Committee.

Councillor Malcolm Dally left the meeting at this juncture.

Road Conditions

A Member raised concerns regarding the poor condition of the roads in the borough, which was a major concern for members of the public, and said additional investment was needed.

The Head of Technical Services informed Members that the investment programme had been successful as the percentage of the poor condition of all A, B & C roads had been reduced to 4.8%. However, the hand back of elements of the de trunked A465 would put additional pressure on highway maintenance budgets and discussions would be held with the Welsh Government on the settlement for public highways.

In response to a Member's question the Head of Technical Services stated that the Authority was responsible for the maintenance of public footpaths but would get clarity on the responsibility for footpaths in Tai Calon housing estates.

RESOLVED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and the information contained therein be noted.

Agreed
7. INFORMATION MANAGEMENT - UPDATE REPORT
Report (101K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Finance Officer which was presented to inform Members of recent developments relating to information management.

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report and highlighted the key points reported on by the Information Governance Forum in 2015/16.

  • The IGF Action Plan
  • Electronic Data Management (EDM)
  • Information assets and information asset owners
  • Reportable incidents to the Information Commissioner
  • Information management policy updates
  • Transfer of IT Services to the SRS
  • Freedom of information requests
  • Paperless environment

RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the information contained therein be noted.

Agreed
8. TREASURY MANAGEMENT MID-YEAR REVIEW REPORT 1ST APRIL 2016 TO 30TH SEPTEMBER 2016
Report (124K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (178K/bytes)
Appendix A (21K/bytes)
Appendix B (19K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Assistant Divisional Manager - Financial which was presented to give Members the opportunity to scrutinise the Treasury Management activities carried out by the Authority during the first half of the 2016/17 financial year.

The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report and referred to the key points contained therein.

A Member enquired regarding a breakdown of the management fee, and the Chief Finance Officer confirmed that a breakdown of the management fee would be included in the annual report at the end of the year.

Another Member referred to profits from short term loans when the Chief Finance Officer explained that the Council was charging interest on its car loan scheme.

RESOLVED to recommend that the report on the first half of the 2016/17 financial year be accepted.

Agreed
9. AGENDA ITEMS FOR THE NEXT MEETING OF THE CORPORATE OVERVIEW SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Agenda Items (69K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the list of draft agenda items for the next meeting to be held on 9th January, 2017.

RESOLVED that the following items be presented to the next Corporate Overview Committee, namely:-

  • Transforming Blaenau Gwent Programme - update on Financial Efficiencies under the Major Projects
  • Contracts Over 500,000
  • Violence Against Women Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) - Meeting Local Responsibilities of Legislation
  • Service Change - Transformation Programme
Agreed