Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee
Friday, 5th March, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: virtually via Microsoft Teams - if you would like to attend this meeting live via Microsoft Teams please contact committee.services@blaenau-gwent.gov.uk

Contact: Democratic Services  5100

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Simultaneous Translation

You are welcome to use Welsh at the meeting, a minimum notice period of 3 working days is required should you wish to do so.  A simultaneous translation will be provided if requested.

Minutes:

It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.

2.

Apologies

To receive.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors G. Collier and J. Holt.  

3.

Declarations of Interests and Dispensations

To consider any declarations of interests and dispensations made.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

4.

Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee Minutes pdf icon PDF 232 KB

To receive the Minutes of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 22nd January, 2021.

 

(Please note that the Minutes are submitted for points of accuracy only)

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee Meeting held on 22nd January, 2021 were submitted.

 

The Committee AGREED that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

5.

Treasury Management – Treasury Strategy Statement, Investment Strategy & MRP Policy Statement 2021/2022 (including Prudential Indicators) pdf icon PDF 507 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Officer Resources which was presented to give Members the opportunity to scrutinise the Treasury Strategy, Investment Strategy and Minimum Revenue Provision Policy (including prudential indicators) to be adopted for the 2021/2022 financial year, prior to formal recommendation to Council.

 

The Chief Officer Resources spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group referred to page 45 on Appendix A, regarding the MRP and capital receipts and commented that in 2018 a decision was made to stop retrospective straight line MRP, which was essentially to stop councils banking up debt for the future. However, the Council now finds itself in a position that for 2022/23 it would need to find a substantial sum.  He raised concerns that the Welsh Government had now undertaken to put in place a peer review of Performance Management systems and moving forward this could lead to searching questions regarding how local authorities manage their finances.  He felt that work needed to be undertaken ahead of the peer reviews and a separate fund was needed to take away some of the impending debt from 2022/23 onwards.

 

The Chief Officer Resources noted the Members comment.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 2; namely that the Annual Treasury Strategy Statement & Annual Investment Strategy & MRP Policy Statement for 2021/2022 financial year and the Treasury Management Prudential Indicators contained therein (Appendix A) be recommended for formal approval at Council.

6.

Capital Strategy 2021/2022 pdf icon PDF 494 KB

To consider report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Officer Resources which was presented to give Members the opportunity to consider the Capital Strategy (attached at Appendix 1) following the annual review, to be adopted for the financial year 2021/2022.

 

The Chief Officer Resources spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein and advised Members that this report was closely linked to the Treasury Management Strategy report that was previously considered.

 

A Member referred to the table at paragraph 4.2.3 on page 60 regarding the financing of the forecast capital expenditure and the large increase from 2020/21 to 2021/22.  The Chief Officer Resources explained that the expenditure that was forecast in each of the financial years reflected the current capital programme.  The increase was mainly due to the significant investment on the Council’s 21st Century schools programme, Band B investments, there was an expectation that the capital programme levels would increase for those years, but Welsh Government funding received for those projects would also increase.

 

With regard to the WG Tech Valleys investment of £100m over a 10 year period, a Member enquired how Members could scrutinise and monitor this investment.  The Chief Officer Resources said that any allocation of the £100m made to the Council would be reported via the Council’s Capital Programme and Capital Monitoring reports that were presented on a quarterly basis to the Joint Budget Scrutiny Committee.  She suggested that the Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services could offer further information on this and also the Tech Valleys Board was also involved with the Welsh Government in an advisory capacity on how best to invest that money within Blaenau Gwent.

 

The Member felt it was important to monitor the investment to see what projects it was used for.  The Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services said that progress on Tech Valleys projects was reported to the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee, some projects would then appear in the Capital programme such as Lime Avenue Business Park, which would not necessarily have Tech Valleys funding as a headline attached to them.

 

The Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services would provide the Member with more detailed information regarding any allocations outside of the meeting.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the Capital Strategy for the 2021/22 financial year (attached as appendix 1) be recommended for adoption at Council.

7.

Public Space CCTV System Annual Monitoring Report 2020 pdf icon PDF 427 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources, the Head of Community Services and the Interim Chief Officer Commercial.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Officer Resources (SIRO CCTV), Head of Community Services and the Interim Chief Officer Commercial which was to present the Council’s draft Public Space CCTV Annual Monitoring Report 2020 covering the period 1 September 2019 – 31 December 2020.

 

The Chief Officer Resources spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein, the Interim Chief Officer Commercial and the Head of Community Services would supplement and respond to questions where necessary.

 

A Member raised concerns with regards to proportionality, stating that there were no cameras in Nantyglo and he felt that cameras needed to be more equally distributed.  The 2020/21 revenue budget set aside for CCTV was £84,000 and he felt this was insufficient.  The Member also raised concerns in relation to confidentiality and Health & Safety issues with officers homeworking and dealing with CCTV enquiries.  The Member knew of other Members with similar concerns and proposed that a cross party group be established to review these issues in more detail and to increase the CCTV budget as he felt the current system was not fit for purpose. 

 

The Interim Chief Officer Commercial said that in relation to homeworking, under the current regulations Officers needed to work from home wherever possible.  Appropriate arrangements had been put in place and only those officers who had undertaken the relevant training were allowed to view the CCTV footage.  She assured Members that the arrangements put in place during the pandemic had followed the proper protocol.  In relation to evidence gathering and location of cameras, current locations were based upon police statistics, however, during recent Member engagement, Members had commented on wider look evidence to give a richer picture and as part of the Forward Work Programme for CCTV could look at how to bring in wider evidence gathering.  With regard to the CCTV budget the Officer acknowledged that previous budget setting processes had reduced the CCTV budget.

 

The Member asked for clarification regarding Officers operating the CCTV system from home.  The Interim Chief Officer Commercial clarified that the system was not located in an Officer’s home, the system was in a Council building with restricted access and only the appropriate Officers who had undertaken the relevant training had clearance to view the CCTV footage.  However, during the pandemic, there were some cases where Officers had to use laptops and on occasion may have to attend the Council building to download extra footage, this was all undertaken within current protocol arrangements.

 

The Member referred to damaged vehicles in his Ward and reiterated that all areas of the Borough should have coverage.  He felt it should be a monitored 24 hour system to help police catch offenders in the act.  The Interim Chief Officer Commercial said that the move to this system had been in partnership with police colleagues, this was a live recording system but not 24/7 monitoring.  Regarding the wider evidence base, work with Members could be undertaken to get that wider evidence base  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Use of Consultants pdf icon PDF 495 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Officer Resources which was presented to provide Members with the information requested, relating to expenditure incurred during 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 on the use of consultants to support, supplement and complement the work of Officers across the Council.

 

The Chief Officer Resources spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.

 

The Chair advised Members that a report on the Use of Consultants for 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 had been presented and accepted at each Scrutiny Committee and recommended that the report be accepted at this Committee.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group requested further information regarding AMEO Professional Services Ltd.  The Chief Officer Resources said that AMEO were consultants brought in for support during the initial review of third party payments. The consultants had helped to develop a structure and framework to review contracts that were already in place and identify those contracts that could be renegotiated to potentially achieve savings or better value for money.  As a result of the work undertaken, this had helped to achieve targets on third party spend as part of the Bridging the Gap proposals. 

 

The Leader of the Labour Group referred to software upgrades by Northgate Public Services.  The Chief Officer Resources explained that Northgate was one of the Council’s primary providers of financial software packages, one of those software packages was used to administer the Revenues and Benefits service which periodically needed software upgrades.  If the software developed any issues they had the expertise to correct those issues and ensure that the software was operating as effectively as possible. Occasionally it was necessary for companies to undertake general maintenance, monitoring and upgrades to the systems.

 

A Member referred to Midland Software Limited and enquired if this was linked to the iTrent system.  The Chief Officer Resources confirmed that it was linked to the Organisational Development’s iTrent system and any upgrades or developments to the system would need to be undertaken by the consultants.

 

A Member commented that the report on the Use of Consultants had been considered by all portfolios and this report provided a good example of how the use of consultants could lead to saving money.  He felt there were several instances where the use of consultants could be beneficial.

 

The Leader of the Labour group agreed with the Member’s comments and added that the previous administration had used PriceWaterhouse Coopers consultants to look at the whole Authority, which had led to significant savings towards some difficult budget settings.  He felt this was the right and proper way to use consultants.

 

The Chair commented that there were occasions when the use of consultants was beneficial due to their expertise and this report highlighted the savings that could be achieved by the Authority.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the report on the Use of Consultants be noted.

9.

Forward Work Programme: 16th April 2021 pdf icon PDF 393 KB

To receive the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chair of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee which presented to Members the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme for the meeting on 16th April 2021 for discussion and agreement.

 

A Member expressed his disappointment that the report on the new organisational ways of working was not included on the agenda for today.

 

It was noted that the Interim Chief Officer Commercial had advised Members that the Workforce Strategy report was currently going through a consultation process with professional networks and may be delayed until the April meeting of the Committee.

 

A Member requested a report be prepared on the Track, Trace and Protect system to include the numbers of people involved and results of cases to show progress made.   The Interim Chief Officer Commercial would prepare the report for a future meeting.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the Forward Work Programme for the meeting on the 16th April, 2021 be agreed and a report on the Track, Trace and Protect system to include the numbers of people involved and results of cases to show progress made be prepared for a future meeting.