Venue: Virtual Meeting - Web ex meeting. View directions
Including terms of reference for the committee
Stephen Bace, Lead Democratic Services Adviser, provided details of the scrutiny structure for members and the terms of reference for the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The purpose the meeting was to provide an overview for members before considering their work plan at the next meeting in July.
Members understood that scrutiny in Gloucester was well regarded with recognised scrutiny work addressing the 2007 floods, Health Scrutiny, the social and economic impact of the badger cull and flooding at the Severn Estuary.
Members noted the approach to commissioning of scrutiny task groups and the requirement to develop a one page strategy to be signed off by the relevant scrutiny committee.
A number of members had attended a joint scrutiny member induction session which focussed on Gloucestershire’s scrutiny principles. It was emphasised that narrow and deep scrutiny, focussed on where members could make a difference was often most successful.
Steve Mawson, Executive Director of Corporate Resources, provided an overview of the service areas that were under the Committee’s remit. This included Asset Management and Property Services, Communications Team, Finance, Audit, Risk and Assurance, Business Service Centre, Strategic Procurement, Policy, Performance and Governance, Human Resources, and Digital and ICT.
Members were taken through the information on the slides within their agenda pack.
Rob Ayliffe, Director of Policy, Performance and Governance, provided members with an outline of the Strategic Planning Framework. This included the Council Strategy, Commissioning Intentions (developed each year as part of MTFS development) and Service Plans.
The Committee would receive a quarterly presentation and scorecard to help members understand progress in delivering the Council Strategy. A presentation would be given to the committee each quarter to highlight some of the data for members. The content was based on the Corporate Performance Dataset and the Strategic Risk Register.
Members were provided with details on how indicators were selected for the Corporate Performance dataset. This was based on what data was available, how relevant the information was, how it related to outcomes and whether it could be benchmarked against other local authorities. Targets were then set using this benchmark information and ambition for improvement and level and level of investment. The performance team provided objective and constructive challenge on these targets.
The Committee were provided with the risk scoring matrix and the example of the risk report they would receive each quarter.
Members were informed of the three lines of assurance and details of how COSC was within the second line of defence providing oversight supporting and challenging.
It was important to balance which areas of concern the committee wished to scrutinise and which areas the service specific scrutiny committees were looking at. The committee was advised to consider whether they were focussing on the right priorities and look for why performance had changed in a particular areas and consideration of the implications of not meeting a particular target.
In response to a question it was explained that once a year the Committee would receive a broader presentation on benchmarking that members would be able to consider. On occasions members might pick up concerns from their communities and ask to see particular measures.
One member raised the usefulness of surveys to inform KPIs. In response it was explained that some areas of the organisation had better survey data than others. Survey data would feed into the development of the next Council Strategy.
Members were informed that the performance team were now using business analytics software such as Microsoft Azure to effectively hold data with other software able to display this cleanly and using interactive graphs. This had been deployed in tracking Covid and reporting children and adult social care data. A number of other services would be targeted over a two year period.
A specific briefing on the direction of travel for ICT was being produced for members, this would include details of the fundamental refresh in terms of connectivity and remote access. In addition there would be a planned roll out of a cloud base version of Office 365 including a replacement for Blackberry Work
The overall revenue outturn position for 2020/21 was an underspend of £3.153 million (or 0.67% of the total budget). This underspend would be transferred to General Reserves increasing the level of this reserve to £21.999 million.
It was acknowledged that 2020/21 financial year was like no other and officers recognised the funding provided by central Government in relation to Covid-19 spend. Details were provided in the report. The Council were able to maximise the use of the grants and the impact on the general fund was an underspend.
In relation to reserves, a detailed analysis of risks had been undertaken and the approach would be to call on them in year where needed and then allocate funds back as part of the budget setting. The earmarked reserves would be examined to see if there were any funds that could be released there.
Members would receive a financial report at every meeting where possible.
One member queried the figures in relation to earmarked reserves. It was not clear from the report all of the reserve funds. The Draft Statement of Accounts which contained a full breakdown of reserves would be circulated to members.
ACTION Steve Mawson
One member queried whether there would be any training for members on how the Council carried out procurement. This could be arranged once the procurement rules had been refreshed. There was a detailed discussion around procurement, making reference to the single use plastics task group and recommendations made on the procurement toolkit. It was explained that a Procurement Transformation Board had been set up to coordinate procurement activity across the council and would be considering the toolkit. A request was made for a detailed update on procurement and the development of the toolkit.
ACTION Steve Mawson
There was discussion around procurement encouraging local providers to bid for services and the importance of social value within procurement.
One member requested that the Committee be provided with a glossary of terms and abbreviations.
ACTION Steve Mawson/ Rob Ayliffe