Venue: County Hall, Worcester
Contact: Samantha Morris Scrutiny Co-ordinator
Apologies and Welcome
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.
Apologies were received from Cllr Richard Morris, Cllr Shirley Webb, Tim Reid (Co-opted Church Representative for Education matters) and Mark Hughes (Parent Governor Representative for Education matters (Primary)).
In addition Cllr Graham Ballinger (Wyre Forest District Council) had also given apologies.
Declaration of Interest and of any Party Whip
Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Assistant Director for Legal and Governance in writing or by e-mail indicating the nature and content of their proposed participation no later than 9.00am on the working day before the meeting (in this case 29 September 2021). Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address below.
Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 21 July 2021 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
In attendance for this discussion:
Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (WLEP)
Mark Stansfeld, Chairman
Gary Woodman, Chief Executive
Luke Willetts, Director of Operations
Steph Simcox, S151 Officer
Lucy Hodgson (Worcester City)
The Board had before them an annual update on the achievements of the WLEP over the last 12 months and an outline of the strategic objectives for 2021/22.
The Chairman of the WLEP gave a brief introduction to the Report highlighting that:
· It was important for all partners to work together to make things happen
· The WLEP were driving a co-ordinated economic response
· Covid-19 had been a challenge but delivery had continued
· The Worcestershire 5G testbed programme had been successfully completed
· The WLEP had a clear Strategy for Growth(2020-2040) which had recently been launched and would serve as a long-term economic strategy for the county. It had four key strategic objectives for Worcestershire’s economy:
v Improving Worcestershire’s strategic connectivity and infrastructure (physical, digital and energy)
v Stimulating investment in research & development and innovation to create a dynamic Worcestershire business environment
v Supporting a creative future-fit Worcestershire workforce (acknowledging that the skills agenda was a challenge); and
v Revitalising our city and town centres
· It was agreed that the Board would be sent the link to the Strategy.
During the discussion, the following main points were made:
· The WLEP Board was diverse and had a good relationship with the County Council, the membership was constantly reviewed to ensure diversity, inclusivity and representation of the local economy. The Chairman of the WLEP commented that the culture of the Board was very important and an open and transparent Board created and open and transparent culture.
· Building relationships with new Councillors appointed following the May 2021 elections was ongoing and Councillor feedback was welcomed.
· A Member referred to the WLEP’s Local Growth Fund (LGF) allocation of £71.725m from Government for 2020/21 and questioned how much funding in total the WLEP had managed to secure since its inception in 2014. The S151 Finance Officer advised that it was very difficult to give a precise amount as the WLEP worked in partnership but probably at least double the growth fund. The Chairman of the WLEP stressed the importance of keeping an outward focus on opportunities for funding. A briefing for the Board was requested on the financial impact of the WLEP.
· A Member asked about the progress on the objectives set by the Worcestershire SEP to be achieved by 2025 and was advised that all objectives would be achieved. The objectives were to:
§ Create 25,000 jobs
§ Increase Gross Value Added (GVA) by £2.9billion; and
§ Contribute towards the delivery of 21,500 new homes
· In response to a question about what the challenges were relating to jobs in Worcestershire. The Board was advised that Worcestershire was below the average salary level and there was a shortage of skilled and advanced manufacturing jobs. Skills overall, was a big issue that needed a government focus.
· It was noted that a school level, the focus ... view the full minutes text for item 1205.
The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Corporate Services and Communication and the Strategic Director for Commercial and Change were invited to update the Board on the progress made against the recommendations from the Council’s Energy Purchasing Scrutiny Report (Scrutiny Report).
At its meeting on 4 February 2021, the Cabinet considered the Scrutiny Report and resolved that the response of the Cabinet Member with Responsibility be adopted as the way forward.
The Director introduced the Report, noting that progress had been made against the majority of the recommendations within the gift of the County Council (as detailed in the Agenda Report).
The CMR highlighted that he was the Lead Member of the Task Group at the time of the Scrutiny and now found himself in the unusual position of Cabinet Member with Responsibility. He went on to say that although the energy market was unstable at the moment, as West Mercia Energy didn’t actively trade, it didn’t have the same risk as some energy companies had, however there was still risk which was being closely monitored. The trading position for the year was very good and was estimated to be within £1,000k of the budgeted position. The Accounts when finalised would be shared with the Board.
During the discussion, the following main points were made:
· It was noted that good progress had been made against the recommendations, although a couple of recommendations related specifically to WME rather than the County Council.
· A Member sought clarification on the progress against Recommendation 8 (succession planning). The Director explained that the Procurement Team was being restructured to bring it in line with modern practice of category management, which would ensure that there was a team of specialists operating in a broad area rather than one person with specialist expertise. It was important that succession planning was replicated for all areas of Council spend.
· It was confirmed that WME purchased energy for the Councils street lighting via a dynamic purchasing system on a fixed contract for a couple of years (due to end next year).
· It was confirmed that all of the Council’s energy purchasing was green.
It was agreed that:
· The Board would be provided with a further update on the outstanding recommendations in due course.
· The Corporate and Communications Overview and Scrutiny Panel would continue to monitor the progress of the recommendations unless, due to capacity issues it needed to be referred back to the Board.
The Board was asked to re-consider the Scrutiny Proposal for ‘Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)’ to ensure its current relevance, prior to the Task Group being re-commenced in the Autumn.
At its meeting on 10 December 2019, the Board approved the setting up of a Task Group. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this work was paused before the first meeting of the Task Group.
Accordingly, in July 2021, the Board agreed that the Scrutiny Task Group should be re-started in the Autumn 2021. As a first step, it was agreed that the scope would be reviewed to ensure it was still relevant.
The proposal was discussed and it was agreed that:
· Cllr Kyle Daisley would be the Lead Member of the Task Group
· The terms of reference would be amended slightly and would read: “To investigate access to and the availability of, appropriate mental health services for children and adolescents”
· The Voluntary and Community sector organisations would be added as possible interviewees
· Cllr Mike Rouse would be added to the list of Members interested in joining the Task Group.
The Board was asked to consider the feedback provided by Scrutiny Chairmen following the discussion of performance information for Quarter 1 (April to June 2021) and in-year budget monitoring information relating to Quarter 1 for 2021/22.
Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Panel
· The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) year-end position at Period 3 was a forecast overspend of £5.7m. The forecast deficit on the DSG for the end of 2021/22 was £15.7m and for 2022/23, £19.7m. The Council was lobbying for Government action on this situation.
· For the High Needs Block allocation, owing to some extra Government funding, the variance on overspend had been slightly reduced.
Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Panel
· The forecast variance showed a £36k overspend.
· Members were reminded that some of the Directorate’s savings targets had been delayed from last financial year.
· The Capital Programme was forecast to spend broadly in line with budget with a small movement into 2022/23.
· The Chairman also gave a brief update on the performance data reviewed by the Panel.
Corporate and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel
As at Q1, the year end forecast for
· COACH was to broadly breakeven with a few minor variances within areas; and for
· Communities was a marginal overspend with minor variances.
The Chairman of this Panel suggested that for future meetings, Performance and In-Year Budget monitoring would appear first on the Agenda.
As the Chief Financial Officer was in attendance, the Board took the opportunity to discuss more generally the government grants that had been available through Covid.
Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Panel (Cllr Alastair Adams)
A visit to the Energy from Waste Facility at Hartlebury on 2 November at 10am had been arranged for Panel Members.
Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) (Cllr Brandon Clayton)
At its recent meeting, HOSC discussed:
· Mental Health Services in Worcestershire
· Hospital at Home (Athelon Ward) – proposed consultation
· Update on Maternity Services
Due to its workload, the HOSC was having an additional meeting on 18 October to discuss:
· Strategy in respect of Community Ambulance Stations
· Primary care (GP) access
Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Panel (Cllr Kyle Daisley)
· The Panel was pleased to note the positive feedback to Worcestershire Children First from Ofsted letter and had thanked the Chief Executive and WCF colleagues for their work on the Family Front Door which had led to this.
· Home to School transport had been identified as an area which may require further Scrutiny. 2 Members of the Panel were carrying out some initial research before this could be determined and would report back to the Panel in due course.
· Permanent exclusion and alternative provision were being added to the Panel’s Work Programme.
The Chairman of the Board provided a brief update on a recent meeting with the Leader and Chief Executive about the role of Scrutiny including attendance of Cabinet Members at Scrutiny meetings, policy development and timely reports. The Leader and Chief Exec would attend OSPB on an annual basis.
Following Cllr Rouse’s suggestion, it was agreed that the following would be added to the OSPB’s Work Programme:
· The levelling up agenda and the impact on Worcestershire (including the Towns funding allocated to Worcester and Redditch); and
· Safety of Parks and open spaces (Crime and Disorder).