Agenda and minutes

Finance and Resources Overview and Scrutiny
Tuesday, 7th November, 2017 7.30 pm

Venue: Conference Room 2 - The Forum. View directions

Items
No. Item

59.

Minutes

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting

Minutes:

The minutes of the Finance and Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 5 September 2017 were agreed by the Members present and signed by the Chairman.

60.

Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Chapman and Clark.

61.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest

 

A member with a disclosable pecuniary interest or a personal interest in a matter who attends a meeting of the authority at which the matter is considered -

 

(i)            must disclose the interest at the start of the meeting or when the interest becomes apparent

 

and, if the interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest, or a personal interest which is also prejudicial

 

(ii)           may not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter (and must withdraw to the public seating area) unless they have been granted a dispensation.

 

A member who discloses at a meeting a disclosable pecuniary interest which is not registered in the Members’ Register of Interests, or is not the subject of a pending notification, must notify the Monitoring Officer of the interest within 28 days of the disclosure.

 

Disclosable pecuniary interests, personal and prejudicial interests are defined in Part 2 of the Code of Conduct For Members

 

[If a member is in any doubt as to whether they have an interest which should be declared they should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer before the start of the meeting]

 

Minutes:

None.

 

62.

Public Participation

An opportunity for members of the public to make statements or ask questions in accordance with the rules as to public participation

Minutes:

None.

63.

Consideration of any matter referred to the committee in relation to call-in

Minutes:

None.

 

64.

Action points from the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 68 KB

To follow.

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the item; he referred to the Action Point (AP) number 4 – ‘D Skinner to confirm if Housing intended to fill the vacancies in Housing Cleaning Service & Supporting People’ and invited an update from D Skinner. 

 

D Skinner said that at part of the ongoing budget challenge, Housing had been asked to review their position again with regard the current level of vacancy. This will therefore be answered during Budget Setting.

 

Cllr Taylor asked, given how crucial Housing was to DBC, particularly on edge of London, whether the comparable turnover with neighbouring districts was monitored  to see whether DBC experience the same level of turnover as neighbouring Boroughs; he said would be useful to know what our neighbours are doing.

 

M Rawdon confirmed that DBC do not currently monitor against neighbouring authorities. R Smyth added that DBC did monitor nationally and confirmed that Dacorum’s turnover is below the public sector average.

 

Action: Chair concluded that the AP should remain open until Housing have reviewed the situation and provided an answer, stressing the importance of reaching a conclusion to this point.

65.

Budget Monitoring Quarter 2 pdf icon PDF 204 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair introduced Item 7.

 

Cllr Elliot introduced the second quarter of this financial year report and highlighted an underachievement of investment income due to base rate cuts; he hoped this would rectify itself over the next year next year as in light of Bank of England base rates.  Cllr Elliot reported that investment property income continued to increase.  He also advised that Parking income had increased, adding that this was not from parking fines, but from people using DBC car parks.

 

Cllr Tindall raised concern regarding the numbers in Item 5.1 of the report (pg 7 of the Agenda pack); He said it stated £102k over budget, but went on to state a pressure of £120k and a pressure of £44k; Cllr Tindall that either means a pressure of £164k; or a pressure of £76k, but it is not £102k as stated.

 

D Skinner responded, saying that what was identified through the narrative of the main items, did not always add up exactly to the sub totals in bold within item 5.1.  He said that the £120k was the relevant item and £44k was in the reserve approved draw down’s which would not be reported, as the assumption would be that draw down would be happening.  He said that £120k was balanced against £102k, and there are then a number of minor items that would offset it, so the £120k was the main pressure within the employees’ budget.

 

Cllr Tindall referred to there being over 300 budget lines; he said that a small variance over 300 lines, 300 small variances could add up to quite a considerable amount of money. D Skinner said it was a balance to try and strike; when preparing the report for the Committee, the aim was to draw Members’ attention to the major items.  He said where there was a recurring theme, in terms of minor items that were accumulatively adding through, these would then be reported on as a corporate figure rather than on individual line items. 

 

Cllr Tindall highlighted other examples of inconsistencies within this part of the report. He said that there were a considerable number of other examples like these, and asked the Chair if perhaps they can looked at. The Chair asked Councillor Tindall to send him a list, also copying to J Doyle.  The Chair advised they would ensure they are picked up prior to the next meeting.

 

Action Point: Cllr Tindall to provide list of inconsistencies within item 7 of agenda to Cllr Douris, for officers to address

 

D Skinner drew the Members’ attention to a topic which had arisen on a number of occasions; this was the ‘under-achievement of income on commercial waste’. He offered his apologies to the Committee as an officer from the Waste Service was currently unavailable to attend the meeting.  D Skinner had discussed this with Craig Thorpe, and felt he had provided the best answer. D Skinner said that the under-achievement of income was £90k; this was in the context  ...  view the full minutes text for item 65.

66.

Q2 Performance Report - Finance & Resources pdf icon PDF 356 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the report, and invited the officer to offer any comments on it. D Skinner apologised for the missing sheet and explained its stated purpose was to provide Committee with analysis of quarterly performance and risk management within Finance & Resources for the quarter to September 2017. He said one of the main points to note was that when the CSU was brought back in-house, the reporting line changed from him to R Smyth; This meant that performance measures were now being reported under R Smyth and the report will go to Cllr Harden. 

 

The Chair asked Cllr Elliot if he had anything to add, which he did not. 

 

Cllr Silwal commented on (pg 30 of the Agenda pack); and asked why it was taking so long to decide the Housing Benefit Claim; he asked if it is due to the new Universal Credit system. C Baker responded saying that it was disappointing as DBC had reduced the target down to 20 days from 22 or 23 days in previous years.  He said that Performance was around 30 days; He said the key problem, similar to Building Control, was a lot of gaps in staffing at present and difficulties in filling those vacancies.  He said that two or three people had left, and they had been unable to replace them; in addition they also need to manage remaining employee’s leave requirements throughout the summer.  Although they had tried using agency staff, it was difficult to find individuals with the required skills. As a result, DBC had not had the capacity to deal with the claims. 

 

Cllr Silwal asked if problems related to Universal Credit were caused by staffing issues.  C Baker said Universal Credit was an odd situation. He said that DBC were halfway through rolling out this new process, and there were single people who were out of work at the moment that needed to claim Universal Credit but, he said, virtually everybody else who needs help with their housing costs still need to claim Housing Benefit.  He said the roll-out of the wider Universal Credit for everybody had started this month.  He said it was not expected to have an impact in Dacorum, with Hemel Hempstead, Tring, Berkhamsted would not be affected until Summer/Autumn next year.  C Baker said that it may have had impact in the wider job market for people with Housing Benefit skills, as there has been a reduction in the pool of skilled staff available to do the work. 

 

The Chair raised an issue with C Baker, who had said that DBC had reduced the target.  The Chair said according to the previous year’s figures, the target was 20 days - he was concerned that there had been an increase of almost 50% of the average time taken between the corresponding period last year to this year.  The Chair said he accepted the recruitment aspect of the problem, but he was concerned about what appears to be a trend. 

 

C Baker accepted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 66.

67.

Q2 Performance Report - Legal Governance & Democratic Services pdf icon PDF 93 KB

To Follow.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair referred to Item 9, the Quarter 2 Performance Report for Legal Governance and Democratic Services, which will be introduced by Cllr Harden.

 

Cllr Harden highlighted the impressive work behind the scenes carried out by the legal team; he said this was represented in the report on a number of cases they have been successfully involved.  Cllr Harden also highlighted the strenuous work being carried out by Members’ Services at this time of year regarding the update of annual canvass.  Cllr Harden advised he reported to Members at Full Council the non-requirement of returning forms with no change. He highlighted that that 17,000 forms were manually processed; that meant actually scanned by Officers, of which 11,000 have no change – he emphasised that was 11,000 forms coming back to the DBC that did not need to. 

 

The Chair asked if DBC was doing as much possible to encourage people to update their information or validate their information on line, because there are other places within Hertfordshire, where the interaction electronically is as much as 98%.  He said that DBC seemed to struggle with this.

 

Cllr Harden said that that he had asked whether the front page of the form could be adapted to highlight that if there was no change, there was no need to do anything, but there was a lot of information that has to be presented on that front page and unfortunately this could not be made any bolder.  Cllr Harden said he had asked J Doyle to look at the potential to try and adapt something via the Electoral Commission, however there were very clear regulations surrounding this matter. He said that if there were Local Authorities in Hertfordshire that were having a better success rate, it is likely that DBC was already in consultation with them.

 

The Chair asked J Doyle for further comment. J Doyle said that in respect of the returns and recording of residents on the Electoral Register, DBC was equivalent with all the authorities in Hertfordshire. He explained that the front page of the form is almost set in Statute; therefore DBC could not change it too much. J Doyle said that DBC had tried to use advertising campaigns, bus tickets, cinema tickets, till tickets. He said DBC had tried to encourage the target audience to enrol on the Electoral Register electronically.  J Doyle stated that there are other authorities in Hertfordshire experimenting with other ways of doing this and he had been in contact with them to share and learn lessons. DBC had also been in contact with the Electoral Commission to establish the extent of any possible changes to the form to encourage more electronic updates.  He said he and R Smyth had conversations regarding how DBC could integrate with other in house IT systems to try and increase the electronic registration element.

 

Cllr Collins said that for some generations, doing things electronically was an obvious thing to do, however she said that DBC had to recognise  ...  view the full minutes text for item 67.

68.

Q2 Performance Report - Performance, People & Innovation pdf icon PDF 317 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair introduced Item 10, the Performance and Risk Report and invited Cllr Harden to present it.

 

Cllr Harden said Members were concerned at the last meeting about how the complaint process had produced ‘reds’ within the performance and they asked R Smyth if it would be red next time.  Cllr Harden congratulated the team as the performance data at both Stage 1 and Stage targets were within target.  The Chair invited questions on this report.

 

Cllr Mclean referred to Page 61, point 2.1 of the Agenda pack, noting the sickness absence figures.  He stated the figures were disappointing and asked for clarification over what period the 318.75 days had been calculated and received confirmation that the figures were over the last quarter.  He asked what this figure is as a percentage. M Rawdon said that the target is 8 days per FTE; he would need to work out as a percentage.

 

Action Point: M Rawdon to calculate 318.75 days of Sickness Absence as a percentage.

 

Cllr McLean also asked for an explanation of the intended robust management process; he expressed concern that sick people could, and should, not be forced back to work. M Rawdon explained the Sickness Absence Scrutiny Group looked at every sickness case over the previous month to ensure DBC was acting in line with its procedures; this also enabled them to identify any trends or triggers.  This meant if there was a concerning trend, this can be quickly addressed; he said that over the last year, it had reduced the sickness, however the figures had risen over the last few months.  M Rawdon said that other initiatives were also being looked at to try and reduce sickness.

 

Cllr Harden said that over recent years the HR team have put in a great deal of work to try and resolve the issues.  He wanted to reassure the Committee that as Portfolio holder, he also received a breakdown of what the issues or conditions were, and that this information was then reviewed with Officers at Portfolio meetings.  He also highlighted that DBC had introduced a wellbeing programme, as well as mental health first aiders to provide support for mental health issues. This was to try and address stress or anxiety before it becomes a sickness issue.  Cllr Harden said the positive steps that the team had taken were extremely encouraging.

 

Cllr Mclean said this was to be applauded.  He asked if any particular trigger had been identified, e.g., the move to The Forum; he asked if it had worsened since then. He said that with increased emphasis on work from home, he wondered if some staff missed the camaraderie and support of working together. He also acknowledged the other people may prefer more flexible working.

 

M Rawdon said that in terms of The Forum, this had been reviewed and there was no difference in the sickness figures; indeed it had actually improved over the last 9 to 10 months.  M Rawdon said that the purpose of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 68.

69.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 225 KB

Minutes:

The Chair asked for comments on the future work programme.

 

Cllr Harden said the next meeting would be Joint Budget Scrutiny.  Beyond this, he stated the future programme for F&R OSC was usually just quarterly updates.  Cllr Harden advised the Committee that they could ask any department to come and provide further information about a particular subject. He highlighted that the next Housing OSC had Anti-Social Behaviour attending, to provide an overview of what they do and answers any questions.  Cllr Harden stated that R Smyth and the team were happy to facilitate this for the Committee. Cllr Harden explained how useful this format is.

 

The Chair said it is useful and that he was grateful to Cllr Harden for mentioning this. He said that prior to this meeting, but too late for inclusion, he had raised it with D Skinner that the construction of these meetings follows a relatively predictable format.  The Chair stated he would like to think that the Committee would identify a particular pertinent topic that could be focused on and explored in some level of detail.

 

Cllr Harden wanted to remind the Committee that were two forthcoming joint OSCs, one in December and one in February.  Cllr Harden said this is an excellent opportunity between the two joint Scrutinies identify what could go in next year’s budget. 

 

The Chair said that looking at the work programme, the January meeting is almost vacant, so that would be a good opportunity for the Committee and Officers to review this to consider if any further items could be added. He asked if everybody agreed with that course of action and all agreed.