Agendas, Meetings and Minutes - Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Online only

Contact: Alison Spall/Samantha Morris  Overview and Scrutiny Officers

Media

Items
No. Item

266.

Apologies and Welcome

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and advised that the meeting was being held online to comply with the regulations issued for the coronavirus pandemic which enables meetings of the County Council to take place, visible to the public, whilst they cannot take place at County Hall.

 

Apologies were received from Mr K D Daisley.

267.

Declarations of Interest and of any Party Whip

Minutes:

None.

268.

Public Participation

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……2020).  Enquiries can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address below.

Minutes:

None.

269.

Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 24 January 2020 were agreed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman.

270.

Update on Corporate and Communities in response to COVID -19 pdf icon PDF 136 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Overview and Scrutiny Board had requested that all the Overview and Scrutiny Panels look at how services had been affected as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and highlight any emerging issues that the Board needed to be aware of as well as reviewing their own work programmes in light of this.

 

The Panel received a detailed report which provided an update on areas within its remit as follows:

·         IT and digital services,

·         Communities and libraries

·         The Organisation, its employees and the Organisational Change programme.

 

The Strategic Director of Commercial and Change (C&C) advised that whilst the Council was still operating in the response stage to the pandemic, it was also now working through various elements of the recovery stage.

 

IT and Digital services

 

The Strategic Director (C&C) explained that the significant improvements to the IT infrastructure that had been taking place since 2018 had improved the resilience of the system and meant that the IT and Digital team were in a much  better place to respond to the recent unprecedented level of demand on their services. He gave an overview of some of the major recent challenges including:

 

·         With remote working, a peak of 2900 staff simultaneously using the Council’s Virtual Private Network (VPN).

·         The daily bandwidth usage of the Internet circuit rising to 60-70% at times.

·         The average weekly video call level rising to over 1,000, from a level of 30 per week prior to COVID-19.

·         The need to develop a number of specific applications to respond to various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, e.g. Here 2 Help website and App, Volunteer Redeployment app and COVID-19 testing app.

 

The Panel was informed that the resilience of the network infrastructure had been further improved in recent months due to the establishment of a secondary Internet data circuit at Wildwood to act as back up for the main circuit. In addition, a key link in the system had been upgraded from 1 to 10 gigabits per second, which had enhanced the performance of the remote working system. In response to a question from the Chairman, the Strategic Director (C&C) advised that whilst they had budgeted for some increase in the level of gigabit, the increase to 10 gigabits would involve some additional incremental costs.

 

The Cabinet Member with Responsibility (CMR) for Transformation and Commissioning paid tribute to the vital role that IT staff had carried out across these services to ensure that Council business could continue to be carried out. The rapid establishment of a number of new platforms and apps such as Here 2 Help had been crucial.  She also drew attention to the fact that that the insourcing of Babcock and Civica had been completed during lockdown as well as further implementation of Liquid Logic. Members praised the Team for managing the transfer of services back in house during lockdown and the Human Resources Team were recognised for their experience and competence in this role.

The Strategic Director (C&C) confirmed that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 270.

271.

Member Query Case Management System pdf icon PDF 188 KB

Minutes:

The Panel received a report which set out options available to manage Member queries to Service Area Managers. The Strategic Director (C&C) explained that Members currently used a variety of channels for their enquiries as there was no centralised system in place. The queries were not always logged, dependent on which channel was used and Members weren’t able to access an oversight of how a query was being progressed.

 

The report set out four different options for the Panel to consider, with the recommended Option 1 for a Member Query Case Management system being  provided in-house by the Council’s Digital Transformation Team, utilising the existing Freedom of Information request management system. The Strategic Director advised that if Members supported this option, there would be no additional cost to the Council to implement the system. It was anticipated that the necessary detailed works to set up the system could be started in September.

 

The Chairman was supportive of the proposed system, and the streamlined process that would be able to be established. He felt that such a system would significantly enhance the productivity of Councillors and enable management to gain an understanding of the levels and areas of demand. He was encouraged by the proposed timescale suggested and looked forward to a system being established.

 

It was agreed that the Panel supported Option 1, a Member Query Case Management system being provided in-house provided by the Council’s Digital Transformation Team, utilising the existing Freedom of Information request management system and that the CMR for Transformation would be advised accordingly. The Panel noted that the detailed work to take this forward would commence in September 2020.

272.

Worcestershire County Council Energy Purchasing Arrangements pdf icon PDF 136 KB

Minutes:

In December 2019, the Panel received a report which set out the Council’s approach to the procurement of its energy supply. At that meeting, it was agreed that a group of members would be set up to look into this matter in more detail. Following an update on progress in January 2020, the group’s work was paused and the work re-prioritised due to COVID-19.

 

Since starting this work, the Council had entered into a 2-year fixed price arrangement for the unmetered supply in early 2020, which had led to significant savings for the Council.

 

The report highlighted that the energy market was extremely volatile at the moment due to the pandemic. Forecast demand had decreased significantly with an impact on wholesale pricing of between 2-5% and it was difficult to predict energy prices.

 

During the discussion about the Council’s current arrangements with WME, the CMR for Adult Social Care (who was one the Council’s representatives on the WME Joint Committee), suggested there was some misunderstanding on this issue and he would welcome the opportunity to discuss further and that the  group should also talk to other members of the WME Joint Committee.

 

The Chairman confirmed that this should be an area of priority for the Panel, remain on the Panel’s work programme and be picked up again by the group to include speaking to representatives of the WME Joint Committee.

273.

Work Programme 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 133 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

Following discussion, it was confirmed that the following reports would be requested for forthcoming meetings:

 

Items for July meeting:

-       Worcestershire Councillors Divisional Funding Scheme

-       Performance and In-Year Budget monitoring

 

Items for September meeting:

-       Performance and In-Year Budget monitoring

-       Council’s Energy providers and costs

-       update on best practice regarding the process of transferring services back in house which have previously been commissioned out.