5.1 Rob Ayliffe presented the report which provided an overview of performance at the end of Quarter 2 2022-23.
5.2 Members noted that in certain cases, risks can be made worse by external factors, despite the efforts implemented to mitigate them (as in the case of rising ICT security risk). In some cases, there was also a requirement for a period of change before the risk levels began to be affected by measures or strategies implemented.
5.3 It was questioned what other strategies were ongoing in the council that had mitigating effects on climate change (beyond just attempting to slow it down through carbon reductions etc.). The officer explained that there were a series of adaptation plans that were at various stages of implementation. This included things such as; improving buildings on the council estate to better handle extreme heat and cold, flood resilience and alleviation plans, public health campaigns over the summer and business continuity plans.
5.4 A member raised concern that even though social placements and care packages were being implemented successfully, this wasn’t resulting in an improved situation in emergency departments by freeing up hospital beds. It was explained that whilst care provision can affect the flow of patients out of hospital, it was not the only factor involved. In many cases, a discharge from hospital is reliant on other parts of the health system, rather than social care. As the government has discontinued the collection and publication of data, but we continue to track local measures in order to ensure that brokerage are enabling timely hospital discharges.
5.5 In response to a question on the impact of financial assessment delays on ‘bed-blocking’ it was explained that the delay affected the decision-making process for families who were having to decide on care provisions without knowing the full financial assessment. Officers were investigating ways to improve this process such as by moving to paperless solutions.
5.6 Another question was raised over the status of funding for the previously EU funded GEM project. It was explained that the EU GEM funding was due to end regardless of Brexit and was due to be replaced by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2024. This new fund would have a different mechanism for access but will provide the same amount of money overall.
5.7 Several members expressed concern over staffing issues, particularly within social care. Members queried whether exit interviews were being used to their full potential to understand more about the reasons behind staff turnover. It was explained that both online questionnaires and face-to-face interviews were offered to staff leaving employment. These interviews were then reviewed and key issues analysed. At the moment, the main reasons given by staff for leaving were workload and supervision. 1 in 5 leavers report ICT problems as a side frustration but not as their core reason for wanting to leave.
5.8 From an ICT perspective this was an improvement from last year where it was cited much more frequently as a core issue. The sense from reviewing these exit interviews was that staff satisfaction was improving from a period that had been very difficult. It was also explained that whilst skeleton staffing was in operation for adult social care over weekends, there was sufficient support in place. A member added they were concerned to understand that care workers were not paid for time spent travelling.
5.9 The Committee agreed to recommend the possibility of a Scrutiny Task Group to the Adult Social Care and Communities Scrutiny Committee to look at social care staff shortages and retention. This was subject to understanding whether such work was already ongoing within the Committee’s work plan.
ACTION: Democratic Services
5.10 In response to questions about staffing for buses, it was explained that the response to the immediate issue of replacing lost bus routes had been effective and that attention could then turn to long-term staff shortages.
5.11 Members raised concern over tree planting targets, noting that a significant number of those already planted died over the summer due to a lack of watering and extreme temperatures, and how this would affect future targets. It was explained that current targets only measured the planting of trees, it was therefore unknown how many trees had died. It was proposed that this should be referred to the Environment Scrutiny Committee, and the Lead Cabinet Member, for further investigation.
ACTION: Democratic Services
5.12 Noting the level of risk around child Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) assessments, it was explained that the Ombudsman complaints procedure was leading to fines being imposed on Councils both nationally and in our case for loss of education due to delays in the process. Officers were currently working to understand what staffing improvements were needed to help resolve these issues.
5.13 The risk around the implementation of the Community Infrastructure Levy had been considered at length by scrutiny recently, and it remained a significant issue for the Council. It was accepted that the only way forward was to work in close partnership with district colleagues but it was also legitimate for GCC to first understand its legal position to help support these discussions.
5.14 A member raised concern that only 34% of staff were receiving regular appraisals. It was explained that the recent staff survey reported that 85% of staff had received an annual appraisal so there was some inconsistency with reporting that was being investigated. The Committee stressed that managers needed to be encouraged to perform 100% of appraisals without fail. The officer confirmed they would take away the Committee’s comments and concerns.
5.15 Members thanked officers for the report and answers to their questions, as well as for working with the Committee on improving the accessibility of this report over the past few years. Members were very pleased with the result.