Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Monday, 7th November, 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

53.

Apologies for absence and notification of substitutes:

Minutes:

Notification had been received that Councillor Philip Broadbank was to act as a substitute for Councillor Pat Marsh. Apologies had been received from Councillor Sue Lumby and Councillor Nigel Middlemass.

(5.31 pm)

54.

Declarations of interest:

Members to advise of any declarations of interest

Minutes:

The were no declarations of interest made at the meeting.

 (5.31 pm)

55.

Minutes: pdf icon PDF 241 KB

Of the meeting of 17 October 2022

Minutes:

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

 

(Eight Members voted for the motion and there were two abstentions)

(5.31 pm)

56.

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 item considered at Minute 58/22 were considered 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. The appendices were not referred to and therefore consideration of this item took place in open session.

 (5.32 pm)

57.

Public arrangements- questions:

To consider any questions under Standing Order 27

Minutes:

There were no public questions under Standing Order 27. The Chair explained that members of the public could contact Democratic Services via the Harrogate Borough Council website and submit a question to be answered at a future meeting of the Commission.

(5.33 pm)

58.

2022/23 October Financial & Service Plan Performance Update: pdf icon PDF 340 KB

The Head of Finance, the Service Finance Manager and the Improvement and Development Manager to submit a joint written report

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed the Head of Finance (HoF) and the Service Finance Manager to the meeting to present the October Financial and Service Plan Performance report to the Commission. This was the second quarterly update of the year and the overall financial forecast for the year-end position was an overspend of just over £2.5million. The forecast was based, for the most part, on actual figures to the end of August 2022. The overspend would be met through use of the Budget Transition Fund and the working balance. It was confirmed that Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) was working with the other councils, as part of the re-organisation, to develop a budget for 2023/24, for the new unitary council. The current and forecast positions would be taken into account as part of that process.

 

The specific main variances that made up the forecast overspend were in Table 1 at paragraph 5.2 of the main report. The well-publicised increases in utility and fuel prices were the largest variance, the estimated extra cost in 2022/23 was £1.7million. It was noted that for electricity the council had a contract where prices were fixed for 12 months, and this was below the recently elevated price cap. There could be a reduction in gas costs of around £600k as a result of the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme, but the council was awaiting further guidance and clarification about this from the Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation.

 

Another significant variance of £1.1 million was as a result of the 2022/23 pay award. When the 2021/22 outturn report was considered by Management Board it was expected that the pay award was likely to be agreed at a level higher than the budgeted 2.5% (it was anticipated it might be in the order of 4%), the actual increase of £1,925 on every spinal column point represented an average increase of circa 6.7%. It was confirmed that the cost pressures would be partially offset by salary savings due to vacancies and it was anticipated that the savings from vacancies was likely to increase further by year-end. Members considered the reported staff turnover rate of 16% and the impact on remaining staff due to vacancies across the council, it was noted that members of the public and Councillors should be mindful of this. The hard work and commitment of staff was noted, with a request for the officers attending to pass thanks to their teams and more widely. Members noted that the Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development had recently approved the use of New Burden funding to provide temporary staffing resource, this was to reduce a backlog and provide resilience in the local taxation team.

 

Members considered the off-street car parking income shortfall and the deterioration of £215k since quarter one reporting. It was confirmed that the car parks most affected were the multi-storey car parks in Harrogate town centre (Victoria and Jubilee). It was noted that the view from the Head of Service was that Local  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.

59.

Corporate Performance Report, Q2 2022/23: pdf icon PDF 745 KB

The Improvement and Development Manager to submit a written report

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Improvement and Development Manager (IDM) had submitted the Corporate Performance Update for the second quarter of 2022/23, including two appendices the Delivery Plan and Corporate Health Report which contained information on performance indicators. The IDM introduced the report explaining that performance was considered good in the context of cost of living increases, fuel and energy price rises. Council staff were also dealing with increased workloads due to Local Government Reorganisation with the formation of a new unitary council in less than six months. The reporting period also covered the summer months where there had been challenges associated with very hot weather.

 

The IDM highlighted some areas of good performance within the report, including:

 

              Harrogate Convention Centre (HCC) indicators on track

              Economic Growth Strategy approved

              Better than target recycling rates

              Progress on the roll-out of EV changers

              Valley Gardens development strategy

              Low levels of staff absence due to sickness

 

Areas where performances was below target included:

 

              Length of stay in B&Bs

              Time to re-let council properties

              Debt recovery

 

The below target performance relating to debt recovery was attributed to time taken for pre-action responses. It was agreed to circulate more narrative information about debt-recovery performance to Members, if available. There was also some concern relating to the timelines for nursery modernisation, Ripon renewal and energy efficiency works on council homes.

 

In response to a query about the large number of allocation refusals (social housing) it was agreed to request some more detailed information from the Head of Service and circulate to Members.

 

Following a question from Councillor Tom Watson it was agreed to provide an update about any costs to the council associated with the positioning of new larger bins.

 

The Chair referred to Members’ questions generally and explained that, in order for fuller responses to be given within the public meeting setting, Members were always encouraged to submit their questions in advance of the meetings.

 

Councillor Michael Harrison asked about how the new unitary council was incorporating the corporate priorities of each of the councils and it was confirmed that work was underway to develop a Council Plan for the new North Yorkshire Council that took into account existing or ongoing priorities. It was confirmed that approval of the new Council Plan would be before Members of North Yorkshire County Council in February 2023. It was confirmed that there would be a particular focus on live-monitoring of corporate performance in the initial period of the new council, this was in order to be able to put any necessary mitigations in place quickly.

 

Members considered complaint performance and it was noted that the actual volumes of complaints were considered low. It was noted that there were 40 stage one complaints and 18 of these had missed the target response time of ten days. The IDM gave a breakdown of these per service:

 

              Environmental services – 12

              Housing – 3

              Planning – 1

              Safer Communities – 1  ...  view the full minutes text for item 59.

60.

Forward Plan of Key Decisions: pdf icon PDF 267 KB

To consider current Forward Plan items

Minutes:

The Chair noted that the new format for presenting Key Decisions at meetings of the Commission was beneficial, as it only included decisions not yet taken. Members could contact the named officers for more information about any of the Key Decisions included on the Forward Plan.

(6.19 pm - 6.20 pm)

61.

Overview and Scrutiny Commission Draft Work Programme Report 2022/23: pdf icon PDF 326 KB

The Scrutiny Officer to submit a written report

Minutes:

At the start of the 2022/23 meeting cycle the Commission had agreed to focus on LGR and supporting the transition of Harrogate Borough Council into the new unitary authority. This meant items that had previously been included on the work programme would not be pursued, including a potential review of sports pitches in the area. The Chair noted that the council had undertaken significant work to develop a Playing Pitch Strategy (PPS), and the Cabinet Member for Planning had recently approved the PPS. The document was available on the council website with the papers for the Cabinet Member for Planning meeting held on 31 October 2022. Following attendance by the Chair at a meeting with the Cabinet Member and officers it had been agreed that a presentation focussed on the PPS would be included as part of forthcoming Planning Update Training which all Members were invited to attend. There were two opportunities to attend the virtual training sessions on the 22 November and 1 December.

 

The Chair referred to the table at paragraph 3.2 of the report, this had information about the schedule of Overview and Scrutiny Commission meetings. It was agreed that the meeting scheduled for 5 December 2022 would be cancelled and an additional meeting would be scheduled for 6 February 2023. Management Board would attend the meeting on 6 February which would be focussed on LGR matters.

 (6.20 pm - 6.25 pm)

62.

Feedback from other Committees and External Bodies:

To allow for any updates:

 

·       Scrutiny of Health Committee 4 November 2022

Minutes:

Councillor Nigel Middlemass had attended the North Yorkshire County Council Scrutiny of Health Committee, the meeting had originally been scheduled for 9 September 2022 but was re-arranged and took place on 4 November 2022. Councillor Middlemass was not in attendance but had sent the following report from the meeting:

 

                Most of the meeting related to the structural change to an Integrated Care System. The overall aim was to have a more joined up approach to all health issues. However because this only came into effect in July 2022 the discussion was fairly general and included procedural information and issues that would have to be addressed to make it work. At the next meeting, to be held on16 December, there would be more detailed consideration particularly focusing on primary care and GPs.

                Staffing, which remained a focus, however North Yorkshire had a better ratio of doctors to population than most parts of the country. There was also increased training facilities for doctors and nurses despite a national trend the other way.

                Care Quality Commission reviews of hospitals and other facilities in North Yorkshire, where concerns were expressed these did not include facilities in the Harrogate area.

                The Scrutiny of Health Committee intended to start an investigation into support for people with autism.

 

It was confirmed that Councillor Tom Watson would attend the next meeting of the Scrutiny of Health Committee, to be held on 16 December 2022, as Councillor Nigel Middlemass was unable to attend.

(6.25 pm - 6.28 pm)