Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee
Friday, 16th July, 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:

There were no apologies for absence reported for Members.

 

An apology for absence was received from the Chief Officer Commercial and Customer.

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.

Time of Future Meetings

To consider.

Minutes:

The Committee AGREED that future meetings be held at 10.00 a.m.

5.

Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee Minutes pdf icon PDF 271 KB

To receive the Minutes of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 16th April, 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 16th April, 2021 were submitted.

 

A Member advised that, as noted in the minutes, he had still not received a response from the Director of Regeneration & Community Services and this was the third month awaiting a response to his request for information.  The Chair suggested that the Member speak directly with the Director of Regeneration & Community Services following this meeting.

 

CCTV

 

A Member requested clarity on when the progress report on CCTV would be presented to the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee.  The Chair confirmed that a progress report on CCTV was included on the Forward Work Programme for the next meeting of this Committee on 10th September, 2021.

 

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

6.

Proposed Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 386 KB

To consider the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chair of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee which presented the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Work Programme for 2021-22 (Appendix 1) and to seek approval from Committee.

 

A Member referred to climate change and although it was not a subject for this Committee, he felt that every agenda should include information regarding climate change.  The Service Manager Performance & Democratic advised Members that from September 2021 the standard report template would contain a section on decarbonisation that will then be reported into all Committees.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme 2021-22 be agreed.

7.

Workforce Strategy 2021-2026 pdf icon PDF 477 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Organisational Development.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Organisational Development which was presented to give Members of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee opportunity to scrutinise and challenge the draft Workforce Strategy 2021-2026 (Appendix 1).

 

The Head of Organisational Development spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein which included that the draft Workforce Strategy was a five year strategy focusing on the future, linking service outcomes with the workforce required to deliver those outcomes and planning for the workforce for the future. 

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the proposed draft Workforce Strategy 2021-2026 be supported to progress for endorsement at Council.

8.

End of Year 2020/21 Finance and Performance Report pdf icon PDF 412 KB

To consider the report of the Service Manager Performance and Democratic.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Service Manager Performance and Democratic which was to present to the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee the end of year position of the Finance and Performance Report for the year 2020/21 (attached at Appendix 1).

 

The Service Manager Performance & Democratic spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.

 

A Member commented that undoubtedly good work had been undertaken throughout the year, particularly during the pandemic and clearly some of the financial aspects of the report were made in good budgetary conditions.  He felt that Bridging the Gap needed to be tested properly and was mindful that Welsh Government hardship funding had enabled the Council to deliver the budget.

 

A Member referred to absenteeism and enquired if there had been any improvement during the past year of the pandemic.  The Head of Organisational Development said absenteeism had reduced as a result of homeworking.  A review was being undertaken on the figures and performance over the last year and a report would be presented to the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee in September.

 

A Member raised concerns regarding absenteeism in the Planning and Building Control sections in relation to site visits. Another Member also raised the issue of absenteeism across the Council, even though absenteeism was reducing he felt this still needed to be addressed as the Council were buying services in from Agencies in Torfaen and Cardiff regarding Planning and Building Control issues.  The Head of Organisational Development said the figures contained in the report were the end of year position from April 2020 to March 2021 and reiterated that a report reviewing sickness absence performance would be presented to this Committee in September. She acknowledged that there were absences in Building Control and service continuity plans were being developed by the Directorate. 

 

The Managing Director said there was a specific issue in that service that the Director of Regeneration & Community Services and his team were looking into, overall sickness absence figures across the Council were falling.

 

The Director of Regeneration & Community Services said that within the department there were a particular set of circumstances in Building Control and in Planning.  In relation to Building Control, the Service Manager Development and Estates had advised Members via a note of the unique set of circumstances where all four Building Control Officers were absent for different reasons and in order to maintain a service to the community, arrangements had been put in place with some neighbouring Councils in relation to plan checking, which was a reciprocal arrangement and did not affect the service to residents.  He confirmed that agency support had been secured in relation to Building Control, there were two at present and this would allow on-site inspections to be undertaken and provide a service as good as could be expected within the current circumstances.  In relation to Planning, determining planning applications was a key priority and some consultancy support had been brought in to help process the planning applications, he advised that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Policy Revision pdf icon PDF 558 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 consider a proposed change to the Authority’s Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) policy and the impact this will have on the minimum revenue provision going forward.

 

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

 

Councillor P. Baldwin left the meeting at this juncture.

 

A Member enquired regarding the cost of engaging Treasury Advisors, Link Asset Services, to conduct a review of the current MRP policy.  The Chief Officer Resources did not have the exact figure to hand but estimated that it was in the region of £2,000 to £3,000 and would be funded via the Resources service budget.

 

The Member raised concerns that this was pushing debt into the future for later administrations.   He felt that given the good settlements that this Authority had received from the Welsh Government that the Council should be doing more to mitigate cost pressures themselves.  He had concerns regarding future Authority administrations being able to use prudential borrowing in more austere budgetary conditions. The Member quoted from a previous MRP report where Members had been informed that “during the MRP reduction period up to 2022/23 the Authority would have a longer period of time to plan and implement longer term transformational savings that would contribute towards mitigating the MRP increase at the end of year five”.  He felt that this report now showed that that was a complete failure. 

 

The Chief Officer Resources did not agree with the Members comments and said they had identified and achieved a significant level of efficiencies and savings during the five year period and had been faced with additional unexpected cost pressures in addition to the MRP.

 

The Member was aware that the Chief Officer Resources was not in post at the time of the previous MRP report, but commented that Members had taken the decision to support, in the knowledge that this Council would find a way of mitigating those cost pressures coming in 2022/23, and felt that the administration had failed to do that and had to enter into another MRP agreement going forward which would put debt on to future generations to come.  The Member could not support the report and would propose an alternative recommendation following further debate. 

 

Another Member also felt this was storing up debt for future generations.  He quoted point 5.1.5. from the report - For the purpose of this report the Authority’s future capital expenditure estimates have not been included in the analysis and all options are based on the CFR position as at 31 March 2021 – and enquired if the £70 million that the Authority was borrowing and the payback of £1.4 million was not included in these calculations.  The Chief Officer Resources explained that this change in policy would not impact on the actual debt repayment made every year.  The £70m proposed loan from the Welsh Government was not included in the calculations for two reasons,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.