Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Monday, 31st January, 2022 5.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre, St Luke's Avenue, Harrogate HG1 2AE. This meeting will be livestreamed here: https://bit.ly/HarrogateYouTube (Copy and paste the link in your browser).. View directions

Contact: Claire Wilson - Scrutiny Officer  Tel: 01423 500600 ext. 58323 Email:  claire.wilson@harrogate.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

88.

Apologies for absence and notification of substitutes:

Minutes:

Notification had been received that Councillor Paul Haslam was to act as a substitute for Councillor Bernard Bateman. Apologies were received from Councillor Robert Windass.

(5.30 pm)

89.

Declarations of interest:

Members to advise of any declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made at the meeting.

(5.31 pm)

90.

Minutes: pdf icon PDF 341 KB

Of the meeting of 17 January 2022 (copy to follow)

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 17 January 2022 were approved as a correct record.

 

(Eight Members voted for the motion and there was one abstention)

(5.32 pm)

 

91.

Exempt information:

To determine whether to exclude the press and public during the consideration of any exempt items – item 6 (part)

Minutes:

Appendices A-E of the report considered at Minute 93/21 were exempt by virtue of paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 as they contained information relating to the financial affairs of the Council and were considered commercially sensitive. Consideration of this item, however, took place in open session.

 (5.32 pm)

92.

Public arrangements- questions:

To consider any questions under Standing Order 27

Minutes:

There were none.

(5.33 pm)

93.

2021/22 January Financial and Service Plan Performance Update: pdf icon PDF 365 KB

The Service Finance Manager to submit a written report – (appendices A-E are exempt)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed the Service Finance Manager (SFM) to the meeting to present the January Financial and Service Plan Performance report to the Commission. The overall financial forecast for the year-end position was an underspend of £199k, compared to a forecast underspend at quarter two of £436k. Since quarter two there was a reduction in the forecast level of underspend of £237K. The following five items accounted for the majority of the changes:

 

·       Increased savings – £400k salary savings and £271k in relation to the pandemic

 

·       Increased income shortfalls – £234k Bracewell Homes dividend and £90k planning applications

 

·       Provision of £600k to fund potential implementation costs of Local Government Reorganisation (as supported by Management Board but subject to approval by Members as part of the final accounts process)

 

Following a question about Bracewell Homes, the Head of Finance (HoF) confirmed that there was no cost to the Council associated with Bracewell Homes and the Council benefited financially through salary recharges, interest from loan repayments and dividend payments. Bracewell Homes sold affordable housing, this included through shared ownership schemes. It was confirmed that payment of the dividend was not achievable in the 2021/22 financial year because the company’s business plan had included forecasts based on shares of properties of around 50% being sold, however smaller shares (20%-30%) had been sold. It was confirmed that the company was still profitable, a larger share of the asset was retained and rent was charged on this. Buyers could increase their share of the property further in the future.

 

The Chair referenced the Destination Marketing Organisation information at paragraph 5.8 of the report and it was noted that the data relating to attendance levels at Tourist Information Centres and museums could be updated to allow for a pre-pandemic comparison.

 

The FSM provided a further breakdown of the £53k anticipated income shortfall in Bereavement Services. Games in parks was noted as an area of good performance with anticipated increased income of £23k at year-end, this was a £15k increase from quarter two reporting.

 

Councillor Pat Marsh referenced paragraph 5.11 of the report and it was agreed to request information from Housing and Property about the potential impact to residents as a result of the reported reduction in planned maintenance, work on un-adopted roads and the Allhallowgate project. It was agreed to request further details about the £84k overspend on hostel security.

 

A significant proportion of the forecast underspend was attributed to salary savings (£1,162k) and it was noted that vacancies across the Council could impact on the delivery of services.   

 (5.33 pm - 5.58 pm)

94.

Corporate Performance Report, Quarter Three 2021/22: pdf icon PDF 800 KB

The Improvement and Development Manager to submit a written report

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed the Improvement and Development Manager (IDM) to the meeting to present the 2021/22 Quarter 3 Corporate Performance report and thanked her for the report. The IDM referred to the report which presented information about progress on delivery of the measures within the Corporate Plan. The IDM explained that there were instances where financial performance impacted on performance indicators, this included salary savings as discussed at Minute 93/21. The IDM confirmed recruitment was a challenge in the local government sector nationally and more so because of Local Government Reorganisation.

 

Following a question about complaints performance the IDM confirmed that there had been an improvement in terms of responses to stage two complaints but a reduction in performance relating to stage one complaints. A staff member had been recruited to focus on customer complaints, this included identifying opportunities to improve procedures around data collection. The aim was to improve performance in terms of response times to complaints but also to reduce the number of complaints received through the analysis of trends/themes.

 

Members considered the report and appendices and it was agreed to provide further information on the following areas:

 

·       Implement the ULEV Action Plan – requested a full list of sites for electric vehicle charge points and implementation date (Corporate Plan: Delivery Plan, page 7)

·       Number of new homes built/converted by the Council – further details about delays was requested by the Commission including those caused by utility companies (Corporate Plan: Delivery Plan, page 9)

·       Average length of stay in temporary B&B accommodation (weeks) – further information was requested about the reported average length of stay (Corporate Plan: Delivery Plan, page 10)

·       Benefit claim processing time performance indicators had been affected by resources being diverted to Test and Trace – explanation around nature of Test and Trace work undertaken by the Council (Finance, paragraph 5.8)

·       Raising standards in private rented accommodation – more details about the funding awarded to the Council (Supporting our communities, paragraph 7.4) 

 

Councillor John Mann wished to acknowledge the hard work of staff in all services across the Council, noting the difficult circumstances over recent years and at present. The Commission considered that retaining good quality staff should be a top priority for the Council and the Chair confirmed this area had been highlighted by the Commission during their scrutiny of the budget. It was confirmed that the Council’s People Strategy included themes around staff wellbeing and pay/rewards that were considered particularly important for the organisation to focus on because of the significant changes that would occur for staff as part of the forming of a new unitary authority in North Yorkshire. The Commission noted that the comments from Management Board in the report (paragraph 8.1) gave sincere thanks to all the officers involved in delivering and supporting services over a very challenging couple of years. Management Board comments also highlighted the potential challenges of LGR as a factor for recruitment and business as usual delivery.

 

Councillor Paul Haslam raised the subject of questions  ...  view the full minutes text for item 94.

95.

Forward Plan of Key Decisions: pdf icon PDF 152 KB

To consider current Forward Plan items

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer confirmed that there were currently two separate Key Decisions listed on the forward plan that related to disposal of Council owned. It was agreed to provide an update on these outside of the meeting.

 

(6.27 pm – 6.29 pm)

96.

Overview and Scrutiny Draft Work Programme 2021/22: pdf icon PDF 527 KB

The Scrutiny, Governance and Risk Manager to submit a written report

Minutes:

The Scrutiny, Governance and Risk Manager (SGRM) referred to the written report, which included details of the Commission’s Draft Work Programme for 2021/22. A special meeting held on behalf of the Council scheduled for 13 December 2021, where the Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire was due to present her annual report, had been postponed. The Commission agreed to re-arrange this to 11 April 2022.

 

The SGRM provided the following updates:

 

·       The Commission’s comments from the scrutiny of the budget had been referred to a meeting of Cabinet to be held on 2 February 2022.

·       The next meeting of the Commission was a crime and disorder meeting with representatives from North Yorkshire Police and HBC Community Safety (28 February 2022).

·       The remaining meetings of the Commission, to the end of the Civic year, were special meetings held on behalf of the Council with the Chief Constable and the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (and the Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire).

·       An update was provided on other Overview and Scrutiny work programme items:

o   There was a delay in the customer services report back due to a change in management and a focus on business grants within the service

o   The sports pitches work item would be available for a review at an appropriate time to fit in with the wider project

o   The agency workers item could be considered after March 2022

o   The next meeting of the UCI task and finish group had been arranged for 17 February 2022. A draft report would be considered at the meeting and if agreed a final draft report could be referred to the Commission, potentially on the 28 February 2022

 

The SGRM referred to paragraph 3.7 of the report and the update about an NYCC consultation relating to local bus provision. This had been the focus of a work item for the Commission in the 2021/22 year with a review taking place at a meeting of the Commission held on 16 August 2021. Following this meeting it was confirmed that this item would no longer be included in the current work programme, the Commission would be informed of any developments including engagement/consultation undertaken by NYCC, so that Members could make residents aware and participate individually. The report submitted included details of the recently published Draft Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme and a consultation survey being undertaken by NYCC on all the measures in the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). The deadline for feedback was midnight on 7 February 2022. More details and a link to the online survey were available in the documents for the meeting and on the NYCC website, the report included details of how to access alternative formats of the survey.

(6.30 pm – 6.39 pm)