Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday 7 April 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

See above

 

2.

Declaration of Interests

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made at the meeting.

 

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 80 KB

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting on 25 February 2022.

 

TO FOLLOW

Minutes:

The minutes from the meeting on 25 February 2022 were agreed as a correct record.

 

There were some actions related to providing information from the last meeting. That information would be with members by the end of the following week.

 


4.

Work Plan pdf icon PDF 50 KB

Minutes:

Members discussed items for the work plan

 

A lead member meeting would be arranged in the coming weeks to consider items. Members raised the following:

 

·         A briefing on the levelling up white paper and Gloucestershire County Council’s plans in relation to this.

 

·         Review the AMPS strategy

 

One member asked that consideration be given to improving the forthcoming decision list and ensuring the link to the page was active and the information clear.

 

 

5.

Agile Working pdf icon PDF 559 KB

Review of upgrades and accommodation changes based on agile working.

Minutes:

5.1      Mandy Quayle and Charlotte Davis introduced the report on agile working. The purpose of the item was to brief members on the progress of the Worksmarter Agile Programme and plans for further delivery.

 

5.2      Gloucestershire County Council was working towards being a council that empowered and enabled its staff to work flexibility within a framework that met the business needs and promoted a health work/ life balance. This would include working face-to-face with colleagues and working remotely from home or other county council or partner buildings.

 

5.3      During the COVID-19 pandemic many staff had to adapt to working differently, although many services continued to provide face-to-face services such as social care, highways, libraries and registration services.

 

5.4      There had been benefits to more flexible working such as improved productivity in some services and environmental benefits. The vast majority of staff responding to the 2021 staff survey wanted to hold on to home, remote or flexible working. When recruiting, an increasing number of applicants expect this to be part of the employer’s offer.

 

5.5      Members were informed of the gradual return of staff into the workplace in line with the agile working principles.  Work had been undertaken to support staff and ensure they felt comfortable returning to the office. The Council’s ambition for agile was a long term plan that required changes to the council’s culture, training and development, buildings, digital and ICT capacity.  Teams would continue to assess what was working and what wasn’t going forward.

 

5.6      There was some discussion around ensuring the right ICT infrastructure, products and equipment were in place. Members noted the hybrid meeting equipment now within Shire Hall, with more to come. Members were informed of the work to design work spaces to support the agile working agenda and there were further projects such as implementation of Office 365 and network improvement work.

 

5.7      One member spoke of her support for agile working but noted the difficulty with the phone system. In response it was explained that the technology worked but that it had taken time for staff to get used to the new ways of working with that technology, for example calls coming through to the laptops.

 

5.8      A question was asked on how appraisals were undertaken remotely and how managers were keeping in contact with staff and logging those conversations. In response it was explained that evidencing how individuals were working was an area in development and it was important to ensure that there was trust with staff in terms of their productivity. The replacement for the online SAP system would allow better recording of appraisal conversations.

 

5.9      There was a discussion on how the Council was evaluating social, physical and mental wellbeing of home working. It was explained that there were online materials and targeted face to face and virtual sessions to help support staff with home working.

 

5.10    With regards to culture change, one member asked how you measure the effectiveness of that change and how members would be able  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Cyber Security pdf icon PDF 234 KB

Minutes:

6.1      Members had requested a briefing on cyber security. At the meeting members received an overview on this, noting the National Cyber Security definition of ‘cyber security’.

 

6.2      Cyber security was important with the increasing reliance on a range of technology and the expectations from the public that they could access council systems and services digitally. The council handled high volumes of sensitive and confidential information. Anti virus tools were not enough and it was vital to ensure the public could trust that information is secure.

 

6.3      Members were informed of the types of threats including cybercriminals and cyber crime for financial gain (such as malware, ransomware and phishing), hacktivism (raising profile of a cause), human error or lack of awareness, physical threats such as fire or water damage and terrorism or espionage.

 

6.4      Gloucestershire County Council was applying government guidance on the ten steps to cyber security as well as carrying out health checks, penetration tests and cyber resilience exercises. Members understood the ICO had been invited in on a voluntary basis to audit our cyber security. The Council was working with partners such as the National Cyber Security Centre and the Local Resilience Forums. Members understood that the Council was ensuring that suppliers and contractors met the required standards and that the workforce was trained. Alongside this other controls included the implementation of firewalls, and up to date software alongside business continuity plans. 

 

6.5       One member detailed that this was a high priority area and wanted assurances of ongoing improvement in cyber security. The Council had not yet achieved Cyber Essentials plus certification and he asked whether there was  a target date for achieving this. He recognised that this was not for discussion in public but would welcome private briefings on the matter. The member would be provided with the date for when the Council were aiming to achieve Cyber Essentials Plus. ACTION: Mandy Quayle. 

There was an action plan in place. This could be discussed in private. One member suggested that the Member ICT Group might be a good place to discuss Cyber Security issues.

 

 

6.6      One member asked whether the County Council had insurance cover for any potential cyber attack. A response would be provided.

ACTION                     Mandy Quayle

 

6.7      It was explained that there was a sharing of understanding and resources between the County Council and the Fire and Rescue Service but this did not automatically assume that there would be a joining of systems in future.     

 

6.8      Members discussed culture change in relation to the way staff handled information and awareness of cyber security. In response members were informed that the Council was piloting ‘Information Champions’ within the Children’s directorate. The intention was to role this out more widely.

 

6.9      One member asked, in relation to shared services with the City Council, was there any infrastructure at risk or services being affected by the recent cyber security issues?  Although officers could not go into the detail, it was explained that swift mitigation action had been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Performance Benchmarking pdf icon PDF 157 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

7.1      The Committee received a presentation providing an overview of the Council performance against comparators. This also provided context to the target setting process. The Council was placed in a ‘family’ of comparators with similar population and geographical characteristics. Performance was then ranked against others’ performance and then divided into four quartiles. Members noted that the difference between quartiles could be quite narrow. Benchmarking was only part of the picture around the Council’s performance. Benchmarking data should be used to highlight potential issues as a useful diagnostic tool. It could also identify recording issues rather than performance issue.

 

7.2      The Committee were shown a slide that demonstrated movement in quartile position.

 

7.3      The areas where the measures showed relative performance that appeared to be significant better than the Council’s peer group:

 

·         Adult Social Care - Delayed Transfers of Care (hospital discharge)

·         Economy Environment and Infrastructure – Carbon emissions, residual waste per household, unclassified roads where maintenance should be considered

·         Community safety – safe and well visits to high risk groups

 

The areas where relative performance appeared to be significantly worse than peer group:

 

·         Adult Social Care – people receiving Mental Health Services living independently, self directed support.

·         Children’s Social Care – rate of referrals and GCSE attainment for children in care.

·         Education – 2 year olds benefitting from early years education and attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers at key stage 2

 

The measures where relative performance appears significantly different than peer group:

 

·         Adult Social Care - Demand : Adults moving into residential or nursing care (per 100,000) (18-64 and Over 65’s)

 

·         Children’s Social Care  - Demand: Rate of children subject to a child protection plan which was higher than similar areas.

 

·         Children in care accommodated under Section 20 arrangements (by agreement with the parent or person with parental responsibility)

 

·         Community Safety (GFRS) - Wholetime Firefighters (unusually low proportion and a high proportion of retained firefghters)

 

 

7.4      Members noted the areas of performance that had potentially been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

7.5      Members would be circulated with the slides showing the values.

 

7.6      One member raised that the figures for carbon emissions were from 2018-19 and she did not draw any comfort from the data. It was a frustration shared by officers in terms of the time for the benchmarking data to be available. The member asked that in future presentations the source of the data and time frame should be made clearer.

 

7.7      Members asked how this data related to the corporate plan and risk register. One member explained how where performance was poor what the risk in relation to that was and whether the mitigating actions alongside that risk were improving the situation? In response it was explained that the benchmarking data would be the start of the process of developing the council strategy. This item was usually the start of the Committee’s consideration of the next year’s budget. If members identified areas of concern then it would be brought into the Council Strategy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Finance Update pdf icon PDF 150 KB

Minutes:

8.1      The Committee noted the update on the County Council’s revenue and capital outturn expenditure for 2021/22.

 

8.2      The current forecast of the year end revenue position was an underspend of £640k

against the revenue budget of £483.008 million, based on forecasts in February 2022 after utilising grants for Covid-19 expenditure. Members noted the significant overspend in children and families due to demand and cost of staffing, disability services and home to school transport. Underspends in Technical and Countywide areas offset this.

 

8.3      In relation to Capital there had been some slippage linked to delays in undertakingactions due to the pandemic.

 

8.4      One member sought clarity in relation to positive interest rate credits in Technical and Countywide. She asked why the forecast had been so low in relation to that. In response it was explained that a prudent approach was taken as to what investment was attainable so as not to create pressure. It was noted there was volatility against some budgets and these were managed through those contingencies.

 

8.5      One member requested details of what the £10m overspend related to Covid-19 in Children and Families  was and how the decision was made that it was a Covid related overspend and not other service pressure. More detail could be provided, but an assessment was made as to what factors were driving the pressure.
ACTION         Alistair Rush

 

8.6      One member was concerned about the changing forecast throughout the year and how, following the budget setting process, the forecast position had changed from an overspend to an underspend. He felt that it was odd that when the Council was looking to set its budget for the following year it was on the basis of a forecast overspend position which then changed shortly after. This created the potential for Cabinet to allocate the additional funding to its priorities.  In response it was explained that small variances at service level could equate to a much larger overall variance. Work was always taking place to provide more accurate forecasting but it was noted that in some areas of the Council, the budget was volatile and it was not until the end of the financial year that it would become clear. This was a timing issue.