Venue: Committee Room - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions
The minutes from the meetings held on 7 December 2022 and 4 January 2023 were agreed and signed as a correct record.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
No declarations of interest were received.
Members to review the work plan attached and discuss any additional items. There are three items in red which were requested at this month’s Lead Members meeting.
Forthcoming Executive Decision List
4.1 Members were advised that the items shown in red on the work plan were suggestions from this month’s lead member meeting.
4.2 A member suggested that it would be useful at the next meeting to invite Cllr Mark Hawthorne (Leader of the Council) and Cllr Lynden Stowe (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Change), to give an overview of plans for this next financial year. They highlighted that it was common for Lead Cabinet Members to attend other scrutiny committees and felt this should be reflected at this Committee.
4.3 There was a request for an item on Communications, particularly looking at how members were informed and updated on issues arising, and whether this was timely enough to allow them to provide support to and advocate for their communities.
4.4 It was agreed that an item on cyber security would be inappropriate to hold in public due to the sensitivities, but officers were always happy to update members in a private session.
4.5 An item was requested on recruitment and retention issues affecting the council as a whole. It was agreed this would be raised at the next lead members meeting to discuss format and associated timescales.
ACTION: Democratic services
5.1 Steve Mawson was invited to present this item in Paul Blacker’s absence. He stated that this was the latest finance monitoring position which had been considered by Cabinet in January.
5.2 A member questioned the Community Safety projected overspend, noting the report stated this was largely due to staff related costs and the member was unaware that there was a vacancy management savings target for this Directorate. It was advised that specific information would be sought but the officer suspected that normally, the Directorate would assume a general 1-2% turnover of staff during a financial year, which would allow in-year savings to be used to meet their overtime budget. What this appeared to flag was that there weren’t sufficient savings in vacancy management turnover, due to low staff turnover and/or posts being filled, to meet the overtime budget.
ACTION: Steve Mawson
5.3 The Chair of Fire Scrutiny requested this issue be covered at their next scrutiny meeting in more detail, assuming that most of this overspend was specific for the Fire Service.
ACTION: Democratic Services
5.4 It was confirmed that the Investment and Transformation Fund was a capital, self-funded scheme that the Council set aside for large transformation projects that could generate additional income or create savings for the Council in the long term. An example of this was the NHS arrangements for Quayside House, GCC provided the building to rent out and used the rent received to pay for the borrowing.
ACTION: Steve Mawson – Confirm whether a list of this financial year’s large resurfacing schemes would be published
5.5 Members noted that Public Health activity was funded by a ring-fenced grant which meant any underspend highlighted in this report would be carried forward for Public Health activities only and not used to balance overspends in another service. Quite often the service worked on an estimated demand, and where this did not come forward, officers would review why, whether anything could be done better or differently. What was harder to predict was the long-term impacts. Generally Public Health benefits did not come back to Local Government, and money spent locally reflected a very small amount in comparison to what would be needed to solve the entire problem e.g., smoking. Authorities therefore focused on, with the resource they had available, where could they make the greatest impact.
5.6 It was questioned to what extent the Public Health team looked at those areas that did directly affect council services, such as elderly residents being able to stay in their own homes. Officers confirmed there were a number of mandated services the team had to deliver but there was some opportunity to look at long-term preventative approaches e.g., investing in Children and Family Centres which looked at early intervention for family health and wellbeing. What was difficult to demonstrate though was causality and tracking whether these interventions would create a longer term saving for the Council.
5.7 The overspend in Children’s Service was raised, particularly noting the number of children in ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
6.1 Rob Ayliffe presented this report and members noted the following:
· There were no new major performance issues emerging in this quarter.
· The Council continued to exceed its targets for reducing its own carbon emissions but recognised that this was only a small part of the overall picture, the more challenging target was reducing emissions across the county and hence this remaining as an ‘amber’ performance.
· Environment, Economy and Infrastructure Directorate had good performance against road safety defect targets, but it was recognised this had not resonated with public feeling as of yet.
· There continued to be a high level of demand for Children’s Services which was causing pressure on areas such as timeliness of initial visits. This performance was directly related to demand levels and not drift and delay as had previously been seen. The quality of social work continued to improve and so did the reduction in the number of children on Child Protection Plans longer than 2 years.
· The Education Health and Care Plan assessment backlog and an increase in complaints due to the backlog was a significant national problem at the moment. Budget provision had been allocated to try and keep with demand but there was no easy solution.
· Adult’s Services showed good performance by brokerage over the winter period with low levels of delays in timely discharge from hospital.
· The target for safe and well visits by the Fire Service was not being met, although fire inspections of high-risk premises remained on track which meant the prioritisation was right.
· This performance data was now being presented in advance of Cabinet which gave members of this Committee a good opportunity for pre-scrutiny.
6.2 A member questioned why, in relation to the highways network satisfaction survey, the sample size had not been increased considering how important feedback on this area was for the Council. It was advised that even though it was a relatively small sample size, it was statistically significant enough to give officers a sense of where satisfaction lay and in comparison to its neighbours, what was missing however, was knowledge around what was driving those levels of satisfaction or not, and therefore what could constructively be drawn from the survey results. The survey was part of national benchmarking and therefore could not be shaped or changed.
ACTION: Rob Ayliffe – Request an update on Apetito from Sarah Scott
ACTION: Rob Ayliffe – Request that the delivery of Levelling Up Together grant programme be reviewed for learning opportunities.
6.3 A member raised concern regarding the delivery of the B4063 ‘cycle spine’ route, and how the strategic aim linked with its delivery. The member shared that it had to date caused chaos in their local area and felt the timescales agreed for delivery at a strategic level had left officers on the ground trying to deliver something within unrealistic timescales. In response, it was stressed that it was a key role of senior officers to explore, challenge and understand what any strategic delivery plan looked like ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
7.1 The report was taken as read and members received an additional update presentation on ICT, the detail of which has been published as an annex to the minutes.
7.2 A member queried whether there had been consideration of councillors being trained as Digital Smarties. It was advised that the level of training and activity needed for staff at the moment would not be suitable for members, but officers would take this point away and consider how it could be adapted.
7.3 In addition, there was a discussion about support for members using IT in general. Some members suggested the need to have additional training available for members who wanted to make better use of the new systems and programmes being rolled out, targeted member development training for councillors at a more basic level, and also some form of resource available for general IT queries and learning.
ACTION: Steve Mawson
7.4 In terms of the IT critical user support that was currently provided for councillors, the Committee noted that the longer-term idea was to expand this into general service management where members would raise a call and then be flagged as a critical user in the system. This would mean the workload would be shared across a wider team, but members would still be prioritised in follow up.
7.5 It was confirmed that when IT were aware of system outages, these were advertised via the Service Now dashboard. This was a programme available to all staff and members to report IT issues but could also be accessed via a webpage if the network was down. It was raised that this was a key example of information and IT support that could be better communicated with members.
7.6 Officers shared that in terms of the Council’s IT improvement journey, by May this year, they will be 80% where they wanted to be by the end of 2022. At that point, the focus would change from IT improvements to a Digital Strategy, which focused more on systems that staff were using day to day and how these could be improved. This Committee would be kept up to date on the journey and in time receive an overview item on the Digital Strategy.