Agenda and minutes
Venue: Online meeting
Contact: Sarah Buffrey
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies from members of the cabinet.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive declarations of interests in respect of Schedule 1, Schedule 2 or Other Interests from members of the committee in respect of items on the agenda.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 23 July 2020.
Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 23 July 2020 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairperson.
To receive questions from members of the public.
Questions received and responses given are attached as appendix 1 to the minutes.
To receive questions from councillors.
Questions received and responses given are attached as appendix 2 to the minutes.
To recommend to Council the addition of a new capital budget to ensure the swift reopening of the Hereford leisure pool that has been closed since suffering from flooding in October 2019.
The cabinet member commissioning, procurement and assets introduced the report. She noted the importance of the leisure pool to the whole community and the need to reopen as soon as possible. She also stated that this was not the right location for a pool for the longer term and alternative locations needed to be considered.
In discussion of the report cabinet members noted:
• The importance of the pool to the whole community in Hereford and to the wider county;
• The council’s insurers had confirmed that subject to work taking place they would continue to insure the pool building;
• The works to the power supply should ensure that the pumping system was more resilient in the future and would mitigate against future flood events;
• Advice had been sought from the council’s own experts and from the insurer to make sure that the works were appropriate, compliant with standards and that all due processes had been followed in costing the proposals;
• Some of the repair work would have been necessary within the next couple of years but the opportunity was being taken to bring these forward alongside works required by the flooding;
• The council would be explicitly taking account of risks arising from the increasing frequency and severity of significant weather events in future decision making.
Group leaders and representatives were invited to give the views and queries of their respective groups. Key points were noted as:
• Finding an alternative site would be challenging and would take some time, in the meantime the importance of getting the existing site re-opened was recognised;
• Regular maintenance of assets was important and the council should be mindful of what further works might need to be done on the current building in light of the amount of spend;
• The tenant was involved in the process to agree the scope of works and were picking up their costs.
In addition to the recommendation set out in the report the cabinet member commissioning, procurement and assets proposed that authority be delegated to the director for economy and place to progress procurement of the works.
The cabinet member finance and corporate services proposed an additional recommendation that a new location for the Hereford leisure pool be investigated as part of the update of the core strategy. The cabinet member commissioning, procurement and assets amended this to also include reference to the development of the leisure strategy.
Both additional recommendations were seconded by the cabinet member health and adult wellbeing.
It was agreed:
(a) To recommend to Council the addition of a new capital budget to fund un-insured regulatory and essential works required at the Hereford leisure pool to be funded by existing budgets wherever possible and, failing that, new prudential borrowing not expected to exceed £505k;
(b) that authority be delegated to the director for economy and place to procure and undertake the necessary works; and
(c) that the review of the core strategy and leisure strategy considers the location ... view the full minutes text for item 173.
This report shares the findings of a review of the performance of the council’s major contract, the Public Realms Contract, and recommends improvements for approval by Cabinet.
The cabinet member commissioning, procurement and assets introduced the item. A typographical correction to the report was noted in that the current public realm contract ended in November 2024, not 2020 as stated. The cabinet member highlighted that:
• it was good practice to review contracts, particularly when they were as large as the public realm contract;
• the reduction in the number of staff in technical services had eroded the council’s ability to rely on its own technical advice and to have constructive tension in the contract;
• taking on board the recommendations from the audit report the council would be able to achieve value for money;
• the council could always look to improve the performance of such contracts.
The chief finance officer explained that:
• a number of external partners had contributed to the review, the report presented to cabinet consolidated the feedback received;
• the advice was that the contract was a good one overall, with some fine-tuning required to improve performance as an ongoing process;
• an action plan was being drawn up to ensure that the points raised were addressed.
In discussion of the report cabinet members noted that:
• the council had received assurance that the contract was a good contract of its sort with the flexibility and scope necessary to deliver a good service and long-term relationship with the contractor;
• the council needed to be a good customer and the report highlighted how the council could improve in that regard;
• concerns had been raised by parish councils and members of the public regarding a lack of testing of value for money through regular external tendering and the report stated that works under £250k had automatically passed to Balfour Beatty in the past;
• there was a balance to be struck between economies of scale and value for money but it was felt that there should be more opportunities for local businesses to benefit from council contracts under the work to take forward progressive procurement and achieve social value;
• there was disappointment that it had taken so long to have a good review;
• the action plan would be shared with cabinet members and it would be sensible to review progress against that at an appropriate time;
• the proposed changes arising from the review were intended to be cost neutral as investments in staffing should deliver better value for money in the longer term;
• there were already some vacancies in the team and part of the response to the review would be ensuring that those recruited to these roles had the right skills and experience.
Group leaders and representatives were invited to give the views and queries of their respective groups. The review was generally welcomed and key points were noted as:
• SMART objectives should be used in the action plan;
• The contract needed to be monitored to ensure that value for money was obtained;
• Council staff should be located in council buildings to create ... view the full minutes text for item 174.
To review performance for Quarter 1 2020/21 and the budget forecast.
The cabinet member finance and corporate services introduced the report. She highlighted that the period covered ran to the end of June and that the situation had moved on since then. The impact of the coronavirus epidemic was clearly shown in relation to increased cost pressures and lost income.
Key points of the report included:
· Substantial shifts in priorities to tackle the impact of the coronavirus;
· A net projected overspend of just £4m was credible and creditable in the circumstances;
· The council was grateful for the support received from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government;
· The format had been adjusted to match that of the county plan;
· New graphics and data had been introduced which it was hoped would provide useful extra information.
The head of corporate performance set out further detail including that:
In discussion of the report cabinet members noted that the forthcoming delivery plan would add points to future performance reports, particularly in relation to the environment. Officers were commended for their efforts in responding to the coronavirus epidemic and partners such as schools were also recognised.
Group leaders and representatives were invited to give the views and queries of their respective groups. The challenges of COVID-19 and impact on the council’s finances were recognised. It was also noted that:
· In response to a query the S151 officer confirmed he was satisfied that the council had sufficient reserves to continue with its business and noted that government grants were being received on a regular basis which made the financial situation quite fluid;
· It was alarming that all the planned savings for 2021/22 were currently rated amber or red;
· Capital allocations to address phosphate levels in the county’s rivers were welcomed;
· The roll out of support packages during the coronavirus epidemic was commended;
· The council should not spend money on ideas or projects the council could not now afford during the epidemic;
· Additional measures on the environment would be welcomed.
The leader of the council noted the impact of the coronavirus and commended the way officers of the council had responded. He reported that feedback from businesses in his ward had been very positive in the way that grants had been rolled out. Herefordshire had relatively low average income levels and it was encouraging to see that the government was aware of the support needed.
It was agreed that:
(a) Cabinet reviewed performance and financial outturn for quarter 1 2020/21, as set out in appendices 1 - 9, and did not identify any additional actions to ... view the full minutes text for item 175.
To propose a refresh of the councils Performance Management Framework; setting out the councils approach to business planning, risk management and performance monitoring.
The cabinet member finance and corporate services introduced the item. She explained that a new plan on a page had been created as part of the refresh of the performance management framework which pulled together a number of items. The risk management plan identified risks at every level and how these were managed and reported. A project management approach would be taken to all aspects of the councils work and a cycle of do – monitor – review would be embedded more deeply into how the council operated on a day to day basis.
The head of corporate performance highlighted key points of the report including:
· The framework sought to improve upon and strengthen the previous version which had been adopted in 2016;
· The development of the one page plan was aligned with the new county plan;
· Staff across all directorates had been consulted to understand their experience of the previous framework and how to make it easier to share with officers, the one page plan was a response to this;
· Risk was now aligned to the solicitor to the council and the management plan contained more definitive escalation criteria that clarified where action must be taken and where it might be accepted as business as usual;
· There would be greater internal checks and balances as part of the risk process and the opportunity to add in comparisons with similar councils;
· The audit and governance committee had discussed the draft documents and their comments had been incorporated;
· Work was taking place to plan how to launch the new framework within the council including making it part of the induction process for new staff;
· Service business plans would now require self-evaluation prior to development of action plans which would include identification of meaningful ‘SMART’ actions.
The leader of the council stated that the document would help with recruitment as it gave a clear overview of the council.
Group leaders and representatives were invited to give the views and queries of their respective groups. The new document was welcomed as clear and understandable. It was noted that:
· It was suggested that PESTLE could be used as a tool alongside use of SMART targets;
· Some typographical errors were highlighted;
· Risk management was felt to be vital to the council;
· It was suggested that training on the new plan be made available for councillors as well as staff.
The chairman of the audit and governance committee commented that the new framework provided a natural transition to a more comprehensive and cohesive approach and that it was important that officers used the document as a tool rather than view it as a management overhead.
It was agreed that:
(a) The Performance Management Framework, at appendix 1, is approved;
(b) Delegation is given to the Solicitor to the Council, to update the Risk Management Plan annually; and
(c) Delegation is given to Assistant Director Corporate Support, to update the Service Business Planning Guidance annually
To approve and endorse the Corporate Parenting Strategy and Care Leavers covenant.
The cabinet member children and families introduced the report. She noted that all councillors and officers were corporate parents and that everyone would want to ensure that the children and young people in the council’s care were happy, fulfilled and had the best possible opportunities for a good quality of life. The strategy outlined how the council would work with partners to achieve this. A 16-plus champion had recently been appointed who would support this work and look to develop opportunities for children and young people with experience of care.
The head of looked after children highlighted the key points of the strategy including:
· An aim to ensure that children and young people in care had the opportunity to achieve the same or better than their peers;
· The corporate parenting panel had worked to develop the new strategy including representation from foster carers and from the children in care council;
· The key priorities broke down the main areas where the council wanted to see improvements in outcomes;
· The care leavers covenant was a new approach for the council and fitted with a national initiative which looked to improve outcomes for care leavers specifically;
· The council hoped to work with local businesses and the third sector to ask them to sign up to their own covenants saying what more they could do to improve outcomes from care leavers;
· Amendments had been made following recommendations from the children and young people scrutiny committee.
In discussion of the report cabinet members noted that:
· while it was sometimes necessary to reflect the terminology used in legislation, feedback from young people was that they did not like the term ‘LAC’ so there was an effort to use language they were more comfortable with;
· alternatives to the term ‘corporate parenting’ were discussed and would be raised with the corporate parenting panel;
· the coronavirus had forced young people in care to spend more time with their foster families, while some had found this period challenging others had found it beneficial in providing stability;
· the epidemic had also seen a reduction in the availability of foster placements and this remained a concern through the autumn and winter;
· Each of the leads for the priority areas would develop a detailed action plan which would be reported back to the corporate parenting panel.
The impact of instability in social worker assignments was discussed. It was felt that as this was something the council was struggling with it should be included more explicitly in the strategy. The cabinet member finance and corporate services proposed that recommendation (a) in the report be altered to reflect that the draft strategy would be amended to expand upon the priority to provide a safe and stable home, instead providing a safe and stable life.
Group leaders and representatives were invited to give the views and queries of their respective groups. The strategy was welcomed and key points were noted as:
· it was suggested that creative sources should have more input to young people’s lives;
· there ... view the full minutes text for item 177.
To review the Adoption and Fostering services performance report and approve related documents.
It was agreed that this item be deferred to the next meeting of the cabinet.
To approve the Talk Community strategic approach and its implementation, including the development and delivery of a comprehensive Talk Community programme and strategy.
The cabinet member health and adult wellbeing introduced the report and highlighted the key points:
· Talk community was becoming increasingly integral to the council’s business and developing its identity;
· It was recognised as a new way of working in partnership with communities and would be a launch pad for future partnerships;
· The programme provided central coordination during the emergency phase of Covid and during the winter floods;
· It was an all-ages approach which built on the strengths based model already in place in adults and communities.
The assistant director talk community programme explained that:
· The approach had been evolving over the previous 12 to 18 months and had started to become an established way of working with communities;
· It supported the council’s prevention agenda to manage demands for health and social care services;
· The appendix to the report gave an overview of where talk community hubs were and where they were looking to be established,;
· Partners in the health system and communities had endorsed the approach.
In discussion of the report and proposed approach cabinet members noted that:
· The talk community business element had started earlier in the year and focussed on how businesses could support their employees and signposting to services;
· There were many directions this approach could take, building on the volunteer networks that were active during the coronavirus epidemic and the flooding in the winter;
· The joint strategic needs assessment and data from the research team should be used to help identify priority areas and scrutiny committees were encouraged to use the data to lead policy shaping;
· The council’s data was shared with communities as part of partnership working but the approach also made use of intelligence from within communities;
· It was important to set out a timeline of key deliverables moving forward;
· The approach synchronised well with action to strengthen families and reduce the need for intervention including children being taken into care.
Group leaders and representatives were invited to give the views and queries of their respective groups. The concept was welcomed and it was noted that:
· Further work was needed to communicate the approach to more communities, this would be part of the engagement plan;
· The push to make use of existing assets as part of the strategic approach was welcomed;
· the use of wider networks of care could be explored including intergenerational activities, this would create a wider economy of care where many more organisations and individuals were involved in providing care;
· hubs already in place were well received and providing a useful service.
The chairperson of the adults and wellbeing scrutiny committee explained that overall the committee were very positive about the strategy and welcomed the application of a strengths based approach. The scrutiny committee had noted that the approach was flexible, consolidated existing offers and encouraged communities to support one another.
It was agreed that:
(a) the Talk Community strategic approach and its implementation be approved and;
(b) authority be delegated to the director for adults and communities to take all ... view the full minutes text for item 179.