Agenda and minutes

Venue: Herefordshire Council Offices, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0LE

Contact: Danial Webb, Statutory Scrutiny Officer 

Link: Watch this meeting on the Herefordshire Council YouTube Channel


No. Item


Apologies for absence

To receive apologies for absence.



Apologies for absence had been received from Councillor Bob Matthews.



Named substitutes

To receive details of members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the board.


Councillor Clare Davies was present as the named substitute for Councillor Bob Matthews.  Councillor Jenny Bartlett was unable to attend in person but participated in the meeting via remote attendance.



Declarations of interest

To receive declarations of interests from members of the board in respect of items on the agenda.


No declarations of interest were made.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 433 KB

To receive the minutes of the meetings held on 10 January 2024 and 16 January 2024.

Additional documents:


The minutes of the meetings held on 10 January 2024 and 16 January 2024 were received.




That the minutes of the meetings held on 10 January 2024 and 16 January 2024 be confirmed as a correct record and be signed by the Chairperson.




Questions from members of the public

To receive any written questions from members of the public.


No questions had been received from members of the public.



Questions from councillors

To receive any written questions from councillors.


No questions had been received from councillors.



Hoople Ltd pdf icon PDF 205 KB

This report provides Scrutiny Management Board with a presentation which sets out the arrangements between Herefordshire Council and Hoople Ltd.


Additional documents:


The board received a presentation from the Chief Executive Officer of Hoople Ltd (link to the presentation) which included the slides: Contents; A brief history of Hoople; Teckal Status; Services to Herefordshire Council; and Governance and value for money.


The Chief Executive Officer responded to questions from board members, the principal points included:


a.           Hoople Ltd acted as a recruitment agency, would work with other agencies to identify candidates for specific roles if requested to do so, and operated a bank of temporary workers, including care professionals. 


b.           There was a building maintenance team but the company did not undertake road repairs.


c.           It was clarified that no profit was made on the income from the shareholders but the full running costs were allocated across all service areas.


d.           It was noted that the Board of Directors comprised representatives from the shareholders, Herefordshire Council (2), Wye Valley NHS Trust (1) and Lincolnshire County Council (1).


e.           It was reported that the annual turnover for the current year was expected to be circa £24m; turnover in 2011 had been circa £12m.


f.             With attention drawn to the Corporate Services Savings detailed in 2024/25 Budget Setting (link to the agenda for Council, 9 February 2024) which identified a saving of £2.142m in relation to ‘Reduction in Hoople SLA contract value and workforce service reviews’, it was reported that: part of the savings was predicated on revised figures for inflation; invest to save opportunities were being explored to develop other income streams; the company was looking to streamline services and, where services could be automated, reallocate posts of other areas of activity; and redundancies were not expected at this stage, although there may be reductions through natural wastage during the course of the year.


The Director of Resources and Assurance commented on the intention of Hoople Ltd to do things differently and provided the example of the digital transformation of elements of the revenues and benefits service; this would provide users with the option to manage interactions online and would free up staff to focus on other matters, such as administering schemes to support people experiencing financial hardship.  It was noted that progress on the delivery of savings and impacts on performance would be reported to Cabinet.


g.           It was confirmed that Hoople Ltd met minimum wage requirements but not the recommended ‘Real’ Living Wage. 


A board member commented that the Employment Panel had discussed support for the Real Living Wage by the council as a whole and suggested that this should be considered by Hoople Ltd.


The Chief Executive Officer said that pay issues were discussed on a regular basis but the company was also mindful of the need to keep costs down; it was noted that Hoople Ltd employees received a modest bonus. 


h.           It was confirmed that gender pay gap reports were produced for the company (link to the gender pay gap reports for Hoople Ltd).


i.             The Director of Resources and Assurance said that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.



Herefordshire Council Plan Task and Finish Group Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 205 KB

To agree terms of reference for a task and finish group to:

·         appraise the draft 2024-28 Herefordshire Council Plan;

·         consider impact of changed and new corporate priorities w.r.t. 2020-2024 County Plan, and any continuity issues;

·         Consider the balance of proposed corporate priorities w.r.t. identified strategic needs and opportunities for the county

·         Consider whether the success measures suggested for the Delivery Plan 2024-2025 align to Herefordshire Council Plan priorities and ambitions.


Additional documents:


The Chairperson explained that an item on ‘Delivery Plan 2023-2024 and 2024-2028 County Plan’ had been considered on 21 November 2023 (minute 30 of 2023/24 refers) and the resolutions of the board included: ‘That a Task and Finish Group be convened to provide views and recommendations on the draft County Plan as it continues to develop, with terms of reference to be drafted for approval by the board.’; and ‘That Cabinet consider rescheduling the governance process for the County Plan to enable a level of meaningful consultation to take place with the public and with scrutiny, and that the target date for the plan to go to Full Council be revised to become 8 March 2024.’


In response to a question about the current timetable, the Director of Strategy and Performance advised that the consultation had been extended into February 2024, and the ‘Herefordshire Council Plan 2024-2028’ (formerly known as Corporate Plan – County Plan) was due to be considered by Cabinet in April 2024 and by Council in May 2024.


The Statutory Scrutiny Officer suggested that the board itself could set up a working group to expedite the scrutiny activity on the draft Herefordshire Council Plan and the Delivery Plan, with the findings to be reported to the next scheduled meeting of the board.  This suggestion was discussed and supported by board members.




That a working group be convened to consider the draft Herefordshire Council Plan 2024-2028 and the Delivery Plan, with the findings to be reported to the next scheduled meeting of the Scrutiny Management Board.



Financial Strategy work programme

To consider the Financial Strategy work programme.


*Papers to follow*



The Chairperson advised the board that issues had been raised about the draft terms of reference for this item, consequently no report had been published for this meeting.  Board members were invited to reflect on the scrutiny of the budget during 2023/24 to inform the development of the financial strategy work.


The principal points of the discussion included:


i.             A board member said that there was a need to consider issues around accountability for savings and the management of the budget, especially in view of the level of overspend in the Children and Young People directorate in 2023/24. 

The Chairperson noted that an overspend had been forecast from Quarter 1 and there was a need to understand why the additional costs were not known sufficiently early enough to inform budget setting.


ii.            A board member considered that there was a need to undertake financial scrutiny activity throughout the year, so that any emerging issues could be identified and management actions could be challenged if necessary.  Comments were also made about the implications of overspending for longer term plans.


The Statutory Scrutiny Officer said that the board could look forward in terms of deployment of funding and could look backwards in terms of quarterly reports. 


The Chairperson commented on timing issues with the public publication of budget reports, with Quarter 1 published in September and Quarter 2 in November, and the need to explore how there could be an appropriate level of scrutiny input, whilst being mindful of the separation of executive and scrutiny functions.


iii.          A board member questioned whether there was capacity for the Cabinet Member Finance and Corporate Services to provide the board with assurance and feedback on progress, particularly in relation to the Children and Young People directorate.


iv.          In response to a comment about the level of funding allocated to looked after children and care leavers in comparison to other cohorts, the Chairperson suggested that any areas of concern should be referred to the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee.


v.           There was a discussion about the need for the timing for the development of the delivery plan and the budget to be more closely aligned. 


A board member noted the Financial Scrutiny Practice Guide identified ‘Reviewing the integration between financial and service planning’ as one of the four fundamental areas where effective scrutiny could add value (link to the Financial Scrutiny Practice Guide).


vi.          A board member suggested that balance sheets should be made available.


vii.         The Vice-Chairperson commented on: the need to explore the potential of real-time corporate dashboards; and the need for responses to be provided to actions identified by the board.  The Chairperson added that quick turnaround of requests for additional information was essential given the compressed timescales for budget scrutiny.


viii.       The Chairperson identified other areas for consideration, including: improvements for timely and meaningful public, parish / town council, and stakeholder consultation on priorities; the delivery of the capital programme in order to support communities, the delivery of services,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 60.



Work programme

To consider the work programme for the board.


*Papers to follow*


This item was deferred until the next scheduled meeting.



Date of the next meeting

Date of next meeting:

Tuesday 14 May 2024 2.00 pm


Proposed dates for 2024/25:

Tuesday 16 July 2024 2.00 pm

Tuesday 10 September 2024 2.00 pm

Tuesday 12 November 2024 2.00 pm

Tuesday 14 January 2025 2.00 pm

Friday 24 January 2025 10.00 am

Tuesday 11 March 2025 2.00 pm


The date of the next scheduled meeting was confirmed as Tuesday 14 May 2024, 2.00 pm.  Proposed dates for 2024/25 were noted.