Venue: County Hall Worcester
Contact: Alison Spall/Samantha Morris Overview and Scrutiny Officers
Apologies and Welcome
Declarations of Interest and of any Party Whip
Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Head of Legal and Democratic Services 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 12 March 2019). 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 22 January 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
The Panel received a report from the Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development (H of HR&OD) which provided an update on the County Council’s recent Workforce initiatives. He provided an overview of the key issues as follows:
· A new operating model for the HR&OD Team was being embedded, which had seen a move away from Directorate based resources to a centralised Team with the introduction of new standardised, streamlined and simplified processes and policies.
· In the last 12 months there had been an emphasis on the performance and productivity of the workforce, in addition to workforce initiatives that could directly achieve in year savings. The key areas of focus were: performance review compliance, attendance management at work, the Voluntary Redundancy Scheme, agency spend reduction, Christmas Annual Leave Purchase Scheme, social work recruitment, apprenticeships and the Social Work Academy.
· The Panel was informed that the performance data from previous years had shown low levels of compliance (on average 60%), combined with higher than average performance rating distribution, which had raised concerns regarding their accuracy and consistency. Added to that, the sickness absence rate had been rising against the national trend, resulting in lost productivity. The H of HR&OD advised that this situation had improved significantly in the last year, with compliance rates currently on average at 90% and expected to be 100% by the year end. The absence management figures were also now showing a downward trend.
· Between 2017 and 2020, the County Council was required to register an average of 2.3% of its total workforce on new apprenticeships, which was approximately 74 per year. An Apprenticeship Levy was required to be paid by the Council calculated on 0.5% of the total pay bill. The Levy was paid into a digital account and could be drawn down to pay for apprenticeship training for a limited period. The H of HR&OD advised that the Council had recently obtained Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) Employer Provider status, which meant that it could deliver a range of apprenticeships and retain the full amount of levy for each apprenticeship programme.
· Future workforce priorities for 2019 included the establishment of a wholly owned company, Worcestershire Children First and the associated work around the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE). The Panel was assured that there was also a focus on staff who were not transferring to the new company.
· The County Council’s Organisational Redesign Project involved a significant input from Human Resources. This Project was focussed on the function and form required to deliver Worcestershire County Council’s (WCC) services effectively and the skills and capabilities required to support this delivery. The Panel was informed that over 120 staff volunteers were working in groups to contribute and support the development of this Project.
· The key statistics for the full time equivalent (FTE) profile, sickness, turnover rate and agency spend were provided for the end of Quarter 3 2018/19.
· A new Managing Performance Policy was launched in September 2018, with ... view the full minutes text for item 250.
The Assistant Director of Families, Communities and Partnerships provided an update on the Libraries Transformation Programme. She advised that the Consultation launched in October 2018 had closed on 28 February 2019 and 1,947 responses had been received, which were currently being analysed in detail. Drop-in sessions had been held at all 23 libraries, facilitated by Libraries Officers and the Cabinet Member with Responsibility (CMR) for Communities had attended every event. Some of the key themes were as follows:
· A staff presence was felt to be important and was valued
· The fully volunteered model was not supported
· Concern was expressed about the Open Plus model, especially around safeguarding
· General concern was expressed about the reduction of a service which was really valued.
The Panel was reminded that one of the aspects of the Consultation was to seek views on the methodology used to define need. The Needs Assessment would therefore be refreshed as a result of the findings, which might have an impact on the rankings compared to those originally given. In terms of social isolation, for instance, the Assistant Director confirmed that there would be a review of the isolation ranking to ensure that access to public transport was considered.
Members were informed that Place Partnership Limited had been instructed to carry out a strategic asset review of library premises to identify what options there were for savings to be made. Stakeholder meetings were also being held to ensure everyone was kept informed of developments.
In terms of going forward, full proposals would be presented to the Cabinet in June. In drafting those proposals, the Assistant Director advised she would be mindful of some clear messages that had come to the fore during the Consultation ie:
· Whenever possible, frontline service should be protected
· Use of current library properties should be prioritised, whilst looking at ways in which the buildings might be able to be used differently to increase income
· Wherever possible, management efficiencies be obtained from back office services
· There could be implications for the front-line service, such as Open Plus.
The CMR thanked all the staff who had been involved in the drop-in sessions. She was pleased to report that the £200k of savings for 2018/19 were on track, with a further £600k of savings to be achieved over the next two years. She confirmed that liaison work would continue with District Councils regarding the importance of library locations.
The Assistant Director advised that the Department had been invited to take part in a Local Government Authority (LGA) Peer Review of the Library Service. She welcomed this opportunity, which would test out proposals ahead of the Cabinet meeting in June. The Chairman commented that the Panel would be happy to be involved as appropriate. The Assistant Director advised that when she had further information she would liaise with the Chairman.
Councillors Morris and Raine had carried out a site visit to Yate Library the previous week, to look at their Open Access Library Scheme. They advised that it had ... view the full minutes text for item 251.
The Panel received details on performance and financial information for services relating to Corporate and Communities, specifically:
· Performance Information for Quarter 3 (October to December 2018)
· Financial Information on Revenue and Capital Budget monitoring for period 10 month ending 31 January 2019.
Members were informed that they would receive information of this nature on a quarterly basis. The Director of Commercial and Commissioning advised that this was a first attempt at producing performance information for Scrutiny Panels and that it demonstrated the Corporate and Communities indicators were generally moving in the right direction. The Panel was invited to comment on the scope of the PI’s and how they might wish to use them to support their scrutiny work in future.
A number of points were raised:
· A Member queried how these Performance indicators (PI’s) connected to those contained within the Balanced Scorecard and why the four parameters of the Scorecard were not reflected in this information. The Director advised that the PI’s presented to the Panel were in the main different to those in the Balanced Scorecard and had a different purpose, which related purely to the remit of this Panel. He added that it was hoped to make the data increasingly useful and interactive in the future.
· The Chairman suggested that a guide on how to use the Balanced Scorecard would be helpful for Members. The Director agreed to arrange this.
· A Member commented on the pleasing performance of the Media Team reflected in the PI’s. He added that he would appreciate some further detailed information on these PI’s as it would be helpful to see progress going forward. Further detailed information would be provided.
· In terms of the PI’s on contract monitoring, a Member commented that it was difficult to identify individual contract performance, to ensure accountability for public money. The Director explained that they were trying to aggregate contracts together, whilst also getting an insight into spend. He agreed that transparency was important and that the management of contracts was key, with spend data already in a good place.
· In response to a question, the Director advised that not all activity had a target, for instance ‘Agency Spend’ and hence this was shown blank in the table.
The Panel received an update on the development of Commissioning and Procurement activities within the last 6 months and proposals in the pipeline:
· The establishment of a strategic Corporate and Commissioning Board with its overarching policies. A review of complex exemptions to the procurement code had been carried out.
· The introduction of a category management approach, providing a holistic view as to how the market would best respond. Trained commercial staff were crucial to the effectiveness of this process with 5 CIPS qualified procurement staff currently in post and a further 9 being trained.
· A Central Buying Team would be developed to ensure control, competition and compliance were applied and obtained. A catalogue was being introduced for the purchasing of low value items with single options generally offered. This system was IT based and would improve efficiency for users.
· A new Procurement Strategy was being developed, the timeframe of which was provided for the Panel. The Director advised that the Procurement Team weren’t currently able to discriminate, for instance to secure social value or support local small businesses. This was an area which the Panel’s views would be sought in late Spring.
· A challenging target for savings was in place for next year to measure the success of all the new initiatives and measurable outcomes were currently being worked on.
The following main points were raised:
· The Director was asked whether there was any scope for offering a centralised procurement approach to include District Councils. The Panel was advised that this was something that could be offered and that areas of overlap were currently being considered. Members supported this approach and felt that this was long overdue.
· A Member queried whether suppliers would be asked to make a financial contribution to be included in the catalogue if they wished to be a preferred supplier and perhaps be assured of quick payment in return. The Director commented that the County Council currently paid suppliers very early, but a decision for the future might be whether there was any differentiation in payment dates.
· The issue of partnership working was raised, in particular, whether there was scope to increase social value through the Council’s commissioning process. The Director referred to civic crowd funding initiatives in other areas, involving businesses and local communities which had proved very successful. This was something he would be keen to explore in the future.
· The potential for much more effective community provision through s106 monies at District Council level was highlighted.
· Concern was expressed regarding the lack of coherent procurement spending at Parish level, given the budgets involved.
· It was confirmed that work was ongoing in respect of reducing the number of cost centres which had halved and would reduce further.
The Panel received details of their current work programme for review.
After discussion, the following actions were agreed:
Workforce - Harassment
· This item to be added to the Work Programme with a report being brought to the September 2019 Panel.
· Details of the outcomes of the Staff survey and Trade Union survey should be included with this report.
The Panel agreed that it would wish to look at the current direction of travel of Place Partnership, savings being made, asset utilisation etc.
Worcester Woods Countryside Centre
It was suggested that a possible Task Group should be considered to investigate long-term revenue generation for the Worcester Wood Countryside Centre. The Chairman suggested that the Traded Income session which followed the Panel meeting may be able to consider this issue but if not, the item would be added to the Work Programme.
Commissioning and Commercial update
An update was requested for the September 2019 meeting.
Liberata and Councillor IT
It was confirmed these items would be brought to the May 2019 Panel meeting, as shown on the Work Programme.