Agendas, Meetings and Minutes - Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Venue: County Hall Worcester

Contact: Alison Spall/Samantha Morris  Overview and Scrutiny Officers

No. Item


Apologies and Welcome


Apologies were received from Councillors Ms C M Stalker and Ms K J May.


Declarations of Interest and of any Party Whip




Public Participation

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 9 December 2019).  Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address below.


In line with the rules of public participation, the Panel was informed that Mr Christopher Hand had submitted a request to take part in this meeting in relation to the item on the Libraries Strategy. This request had been approved and Mr Hand was invited to address the Panel for 3 minutes, during which he set out his views on the draft Strategy, in particular with regard to the impact on the professional library staff.




Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting


The Minutes of the Meeting held on 5 November 2019 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Libraries Strategy pdf icon PDF 167 KB

Additional documents:


The Panel received a report which set out details of the draft Libraries Strategy which was to be considered by Cabinet on 20 December 2019. The report provided the background to the libraries remodelling process, including the extensive public consultation process that had been undertaken.


The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Communities (CMR) advised that considerable progress had been made in modernising Worcestershire’s library services in recent years. It was stressed that the Transformation Programme had never been about seeking to close libraries, but instead it had focused on how the Council’s statutory function could be fulfilled in a challenging financial environment, whilst also ensuring value for money. The CMR provided a brief overview of the draft Strategy, including the five strategic ambitions which set out the vision for the libraries service for the next five years. The Panel was assured that all 21 of the libraries in the County formed part of the statutory offer. 


The Assistant Director reminded the Panel of the journey that had been taken to arrive at this stage. The modernisation programme, which had resulted in efficiency savings of £3.9m since 2011/12 had been achieved as a result of a range of transformational approaches, including a comprehensive property remodelling programme, staff and management restructures and investment in self-service technology.


With the findings of the Worcestershire Libraries Needs Assessment in 2018 and a set of recommendations for going forward, the Cabinet had agreed to launch a wide-ranging public consultation exercise, which was then completed by the Spring 2019.  A Local Government Association Peer Review was also completed in May 2019 and the Cabinet had consolidated all of the feedback and learning that had been obtained in order to shape a medium to long term Strategy, which would then underpin all future delivery changes. In the meantime, savings had continued to be delivered.


It was recognised that Panel had played an active and constructive role in the above process, including taking part in a number of site visits to libraries outside of the County.  These visits had proved beneficial to inform the Scrutiny process by expanding Members learning of different service models including how they operated in practice. One of the issues that had been highlighted was the significant investment which would be involved in operating an open library, because of the high cost of security monitoring systems. 


The Service Manager - Libraries and Culture outlined the detail of the five strategic ambitions, as follows:


  • A Library service for everyone, with initiatives to raise awareness and widen community engagement including an extended digital offer and working with external partners. The Assistant Director highlighted that the implementation of the strategy would need Corporate support and involvement to ensure that it was successful.
  • Libraries First, putting libraries at the heart of the delivery of Council and community services. Libraries would become the front door to Council services and provide new opportunities for services to be delivered.
  • Resilient, Independent and Connected Communities, using the libraries brand to deliver  ...  view the full minutes text for item 255.


Statutory and Corporate Complaints and Compliments system pdf icon PDF 86 KB

Additional documents:


At the September Panel meeting, the Panel had requested that a detailed report be produced covering the Council’s statutory and corporate complaints and compliments system. The Director presented a report which set out background information about the complaints process, detailed information for each area and the key issues and hotspots to be aware of, including:


·         Since the removal of Stage 3 of the Corporate representations process earlier this year, there had not been an increase in the % of complaints received by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO).

·         Fewer statutory Children’s and Adults Social Care complaints had been received this year to date, compared with 2018/19, with Children’s complaints having reduced by more than 50%. Corporate complaints had risen in the same period.

·         The Economy and Infrastructure Directorate continued to receive the most complaints. The Stage 1 response rate had improved in the year to date, however there was also an increase in the number of complaints fully or partly upheld. The Panel was informed that the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) regularly carried out a peer challenge on the Stage 1 responses.

·         Fewer complaints were progressing to a Stage 2 investigation, but those that were, were taking a longer time to be responded to.

·         The implications of an LGO maladministration or injustice ruling could be significant, with substantial financial awards issued to complainants.


The Consumer Relations Officer (CRO) provided further detailed information including:


·           The way in which the Team was organised, including the use of external investigators.

·           The different arrangements in place for the statutory children’s and adults complaints and also the corporate complaints system and the variances for deadlines by which complaints needed to be acknowledged and each stage completed.

·           The procedure carried out by the Investigation Officers, which culminated with a report to the relevant Director or the Chief Executive of Worcestershire Childrens’ First (WCF).  He advised that if the Director or Chief Executive did not agree with the report’s findings, they had to set out their explanation as to why this was the case. For WCF, Stage 3 then involved an Independent Review Panel, whilst for Adults Social Care, the level of risk determined whether the complaint was then reviewed internally or externally.


Members raised a number of questions and comments about the service, with a summary set out below:


·         In response to a Member’s question, the CRO advised that complaints and compliments could be submitted by post, via comment cards/leaflets, or on line, but that all were received in the central Consumer Relations Unit.

·         A Member requested that a schematic diagram of the complaints procedure be provided, so that the flow of the processes could be more easily understood.

·         In response to a query as to whether learning points gained from customer feedback were taken into account for future training needs, the Director confirmed that in such cases SLT received recommendations for actions going forward.

·         Further information was requested about the time limits that were in place and how performance was measured against these.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 256.


Worcestershire County Council Energy Purchasing Arrangements pdf icon PDF 114 KB


The Panel received a report which provided an update on developments relating to the Council’s energy purchasing arrangements. The Director explained the background to the current arrangement.


The Council had purchased its energy from West Mercia Energy (WME) since 2012, with the current level of purchasing at approximately £6m of electricity and gas each year. WME was a Joint Committee entity owned in equal shares by Shropshire Council, (the host authority for administration) Telford and Wrekin council, Herefordshire Council and Worcestershire County Council. WME operated as a Public Buying Organisation and purchased energy requirements through a trading desk with its contracted supplier, currently Total. Their buying strategy was ‘low risk hedging’ meaning that energy was purchased in small volumes of relatively low value to the total energy portfolio. Each year WME set an annual price per unit of energy for which the Council was charged. This was a fixed price which gave the Council budget assurance throughout the year.


It was highlighted that WME had a number of customers which all currently paid less for their energy units than the four owning authorities. The owning authorities received a share of the surplus from trading activities, however, this surplus has been reducing over the years and currently stood at £150k pa.


It was noted that the climate change levy figure should read £0.0043/kwh (paragraph 11 of the report).


The Chairman suggested that due to the complexity of this issue, more detailed information was needed.  It was therefore agreed that Cllrs Kent, Raine and Morris would carry out this work and report back to the Panel at its meeting in March 2020.


A Member requested that when the work was carried out, the timescales for the Council’s commitment to WME and the details of any opt-out clause should be looked at.


Performance Monitoring - Quarter 2 pdf icon PDF 76 KB

Additional documents:


The Panel received details on performance information (PI) for services relating to Corporate and Communities for Quarter 2 (July to September 2019).


The Director provided an overview of the performance data, indicating that it continued to be an improving picture for the vast majority of the PI’s. Members were pleased to be able to see improvements in areas which they had recently scrutinised in detail.


A Member requested that the sickness rates be split into long-term and short-term sickness for future reports to allow Members to gain a more detailed view.


Work Programme 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Additional documents:


The Panel received details of their current work programme for review.


It was agreed that a report on the ‘Progress Monitoring of the Organisational Change Programme’ be brought to the March Panel.


In respect of the January Panel meeting and the Budget to be considered, it was agreed that a copy of an email sent with guidance on the Budget process would be circulated to all Panel members, along with a link to the on-line budget book.


It was agreed that the follow up actions on the Complaints data would be reported to either the January or March Panel.