Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy and Resources Cabinet Panel Held on Wednesday 15 September

Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy and Resources Cabinet Panel Held on Wednesday 15 September

To:All Members of the Policy and Resources Cabinet Panel, Chief Executive, Chief Officers, SMB, All officers named for ‘actions’ / From:Legal and Member Services
Ask for:Emma Lund
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F Button, M Cowan, K F Emsall, P V Goggins, T W Hone, D E Lloyd (Chairman),

C A Mitchell (for R A C Thake), S J Pile, J M Pitman, I M Reay (for D A Ashley),

R M Roberts (Vice-Chairman), R H Smith, R G Tindall

Upon consideration of the agenda for the Policy and ResourcesCabinet Panel meeting on 15 September 2010as circulated, copy annexed, conclusions were reached and are recorded below:

Note: No conflicts of interest were declared by any member of the Panel in relation to the matters on which conclusions were reached at this meeting.


1.1 / The minutes of the meeting held on 15 July 2010 were confirmed as a correct record, subject to it being noted that the Panel had reached its recommendations in relation to the revised revenue budget and capital programme (Item 3) by vote, that the Liberal Democrat Group had abstained from this vote, and wishedtheir abstention to be recorded.
2.1 / There were no public petitions.
[Officer Contacts: Claire Cook, Assistant Director (Strategic and Specialist Services)
Chris Badger, Head of Performance Improvement and Diversity]
3.1 / The Panel received the Performance and Finance Monitor for the first quarter of the year – April to June 2010. Members heard that the report follows a new format which integrates the quarterly budget report with the performance monitor, and also includes a new focused commercial/procurement report.
3.2 / Members considered the report according to its three separate areas and the following points were highlighted:
3.3 / Budget
  • The monitoring position at end-June shows a revenue underspend of £0.923 million against the latest approved budget of £748.025 million.
  • Areas of particular concern are placement budgets in Adult Care Services and fostering placements in Children, Schools and Families.
  • Work is on track to achieve the overall efficiency target and to meet National Indicator 179.
  • There has been an improvement in the speed of payment of debts to the County Council; however, the level of debts which are 3 – 9 months overdue has deteriorated, and the reasons for this are being investigated. Members queried whether the processes for ensuring that invoices are promptly received, recorded and processed, from budget holders through to the central payment team, have been reviewed. The Director of Resources and Performance advised that this would be looked at, as well as the proportion of invoices which have no supporting purchase order.
  • Members welcomed the outcome of the review of the capital programme which has reduced variances across the capital budget and has made the budget more straightforward to monitor.
In debate Members highlighted the following:
  • Vacancies for childcare social workers have reduced significantly thanks to a number of initiatives and the improving recruitment situation;
  • There has been a decline in social care referrals which has been helped by work done by the Customer Service Centre: however, the level of Looked After Children and Children with a Child Protection Plan remains high and has not reduced, reflecting the difficulty of moving on children already within the system;
  • The Director of Children, Schools and Families is to meet with a group of judges to discuss conditions around contact arising in childcare litigation cases, as theseare having a significant impact on CSF staff workload. Members queried whether the quality of paperwork produced ahead of court cases is contributing to the overspend in childcare litigation shown in the budget, and the Director of Strategy and Partnerships undertook to look at this issue.
/ Director of Resources and Performance
Director of Strategy and Partnerships
3.4 / Commercial Report
  • Procurement is proceeding in relation to automatic meter reading, and work should be able to commence in supplying the equipment to schools within the next couple of months;
  • Mouchel continues to undergo a management reorganisation;
  • Waste disposal and energy contracts have been drawn-up to ensure that there is no penalty for reduction in volumes / usage (although any savings in respect of collection of waste would benefit the district councils rather than the County Council).
In debate Members felt that the commercial report was a comprehensive but complex document, and due to the need to retain confidentiality around commercially-sensitive information it was queried whether the report in its current format best achieves its objectives. It was therefore suggested that consideration be given to alternative ways of providing the information to Members.
3.5 / Performance Monitor
Members considered each of the priorities, and the following was particularly noted:
Priority 2 – Maximise Independent Living: Pressures on Older People and Physical Disability purchasing remain. Problems with the implementation of the new ACS IT system have been resolved. The proportion of social care clients receiving self-directed support continues to increase.
Priority 3 – Ensure a Positive Childhood: a peer review will start next week, and an Ofsted inspection will follow, although it is not known when. Initial assessments carried out within seven days has increased well – to 90% - and all backlogs have been dealt with. However, core assessments continue to lag.
Priority 4 – Secure a Good Education for All: 71% of schools inspected were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, which compares well nationally.
Priority 6 – Promote Safe Neighbourhoods:The figure for killed or seriously injured (KSI) as a result of road traffic collisions continues to fall, although there is concern that the reduction in capital funding in-year will impact on the upgrading of safety cameras, and there is a possibility that it will in future lead to fewer cameras which are used on a mobile basis. Comments on the withdrawal of funding for the Safety Camera Partnership have been made to the relevant Ministers and a response is awaited. The performance indicator for repeat incidents of domestic violence has seen a significant rise and a full evaluation is planned for later in the year.
Priority 7 – Be A Leading Council: There have been positive further improvements in reducing sickness, but concern remains at the proportion of staff with a personal development plan and those who have had reviews/appraisals (67% and 68% respectively). Disposals of vacant properties appear to be taking longer than they should, although this must be considered in the context of the current slow property market. Recruitment is taking place within the Corporate Estates team to increase resources: however, competing priorities remain, of which school expansion is currently taking precedence.
The Panel:
3.6 / recommended that Cabinet approves the allocation to Children, Schools and Families of £534,000 of Additional Area Based Grant (ABG) announced in April for the Learning and Skills Council staff transfer and the January Guarantee;
3.7 / recommended that Cabinet approves a variation to the capital programme for a proposed scheme to deal with the relocation of the Wheelchair Service at Mundells funded by a £600,000 Health Capital Grant;
3.8 / recommended that consideration be given to briefing the Chairman separately on the commercial report, with a streamlined version, or a Part II supplement for particular contract issues, being brought to the Panel;
3.9 / requested that a report on disposal of County Council properties, including options for short-term lets of buildings no longer in service, be brought to a future meeting of the Panel. / Director of Resources and Performance
[Officer Contact: Trevor Mose, Executive Assistant]
4.1 / The Panel received a report which provided a summary of the compliments and complaints received by the County Council’s departments during 2009/10; which summarised trends and organisational learning for the Council as a whole; and which reported on the findings of the local government Ombudsman. Members were invited to comment of the format of the report - which was proposed as an annual report to the Panel – and to comment on the actions taken in relation to complaints and compliments. It was noted that figures and detail for services are also considered at individual service panels: the report therefore comprised an authority-wide overview.
4.2 / In debate it was questioned whethercomplaints could be more quickly resolved if they are better handled at the initial stage, although Members heard that in many cases complainants will chose to escalate a complaint to stage 2 despite efforts to find a successful resolution at stage 1. There have also been instances of vexatious complainants.
4.3 / Members also questioned the level of the financial cost to the authority of dealing with complaints, particularly in the current financial climate;the need to maintain oversight to ensure that best use of resources is made when dealing with complaints was highlighted, as failure to deal with these efficiently could result in increased costs in terms of officer time and raised insurance premiums.
The Panel:
4.4 / noted the annual report on complaints and compliments to the County Council 2009/10;
4.5 / requested that future versions of the report refer to the minimum and maximum range of days taken to respond to complaints (point 8.4 of the report) rather than an average;
4.6 / requested that consideration be given to ways of making future versions of the report more concise.
[Officer Contact: Roger Barrett, Transformation Manager]
5.1 / The Panel received a report which provided an update for Members on the Council for the Future transformation programme. It was noted that against the £150 million target for transformation, efficiency and managerial-type savings of up to approximately £108 million have been identified and are now largely exhausted, leaving the remaining savings to be found from reductions to the size and/or quality of service provision. It was also noted that whilst the impact of the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review is not yet known, a further reduction in local government spend nationally is expected which will result in an increase to the size of the required yield from the transformation programme. This will need to be taken into account in the integrated planning assumptions.
5.2 / In relation to progress it was noted that governance arrangements are now in place and internal engagement is ongoing, with over 600 suggestions having been received through the ‘Dialogue’ staff suggestion scheme (although some suggestions have been made more than once). Engagement with the public has also begun: it was also suggested that consideration be given to particular ways of communicating with key stakeholders, in order to ensure that stakeholders are aware of the scale of the challenge which the County Council faces.
The Panel recommended to Cabinet that:
5.3 / options for significant reductions to the cost of services are brought to Cabinet;
5.4 / any significant reductions to services, once agreed by Cabinet, are accompanied by appropriate levels of support and communication: to service users, to staff, and to other service providers.
6.1 / The Panel received a report which informed Members about an agreement between Hertfordshire County Council and the University of Hertfordshire to promote joint working to the benefit of the Council. The report provided details of the agreement which has been made with the University, and included outline programmes of work which Members were invited to endorse. The Panel was also invited to suggest specific activities or areas of work which could be considered when the Partnership Board next meets in January 2011.
6.2 / In debate the joint partnership arrangement was warmly endorsed. It was noted in relation to costs, the agreement will give efficiency savings, but in the main are likely to be non-cashable.
6.3 / In considering the work programmes Members suggested that the potential to learn from the experience of the University’s bus service, Uno, should be explored further: it was noted that this would also be included within the Hertfordshire Charrette through the involvement of the Passenger Transport Unit at Stage 3. In relation to sustainability, the work around urban planning identified through the Charrette and work for the promotion and regeneration of Hatfield were also supported, and opportunities for further close working in these areas was particularly welcomed.
The Panel:
6.4 / welcomed the joint working initiative and thanked officers for their work to date in concluding the agreement and producing the programmes of work;
6.5 / endorsed the programmes of work; suggested specific areas which might be included in future work programmes, as outlined above; and welcomed the opportunity for further partnership working with the University;
6.6 / requested that an annual update on progress be brought to the Panel. / Director of Strategy and Partnerships
[Officer Contact: Neil Hayes, Head of Economic Development]
7.1 / The Panel received a report which updated Members on plans for a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Hertfordshire; the current state of the Hertfordshire economy; the Economic Participation programme and other related economic matters.
7.2 / It was noted that the proposal for a Hertfordshire LEP had now been submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government, and that this had been completed ahead of the 6 September deadline. The Panel was pleased to hear that the proposal had had the support of all the district authorities in the county, as well as academic institutions, business representatives and major businesses. In debate the lack of involvement from the voluntary and community sectors in the LEP was queried, and Members heard that the advice which has been received is that LEPs should be business-led, although it was acknowledged that guidance is currently minimal. It was also noted that whilst all ten districts had supported the Hertfordshire LEP proposal, some districts had also expressed an interest in working with colleagues on LEPs across other borders.
7.3 / John Pryor, Strategy and Intelligence Manager, updated Members on: the likely future steps in the LEP proposal process; work to determine the potential for a Hertfordshire bid to the Regional Growth Fund; the expected White Paper linked to the devolution Bill (which will cover LEPs, the transition from Regional Development Agencies to LEPs, growth incentives, planning issues and the Regional Growth Fund); the Economic Participation 2010-11 Programme; the Hertfordshire Strategic Employment Sites Study; the Employment and Skills Board; and the Regional Skills Priority Statement.
The Panel:
7.4 / noted the current position with regard to economic development issues, and agreed to continue to receive regular briefings at future Panel meetings;
7.5 / thanked officers for their work in producing the proposal for a Local Enterprise Partnership for Hertfordshire, and commended the proposal.
[Officer Contact: John Rumble, Team Leader - Sustainability]
8.1 / The Panel received a report which provided an update on work being undertaken by the County Council in relation to climate change and which updated Members on performance achieved during 2009/10.
8.2 / It was noted that performance in reducing CO2 emissions from the authority’s operations is progressing well: however, much of the reduction reported to date has been due to better data collection and the correction of errors in previous estimates of gas consumption. In relation to electricity consumption it was noted that consumption data for the authority’s main sites is now published to staff via Compass, and currently shows a mixed picture in relation to lowering consumption levels. Work is underway to make this information available publicly in due course.
8.3 / Members noted the progress against performance indicators; carbon reduction activity and performance during 2009/10; climate change adaptation activity and performance during 2009/10; significant initiatives being put in place; and partnership working on climate change.
8.4 / In debate Members queried the rise in bus emissions (up 200.4%), and also sought information as to why schools seemed to be showing the biggest reductions in energy use. In response the Panel heard that the rise in the figure for bus emissions could be explained by a change in the way in which the Department for Energy and Climate Change classifies buses: the reduction in schools’ energy use can partly be explained by good work by schools, but also by a more accurate picture of energy use being available, which will be further improved by the use of ‘smart meters’.
The Panel:
8.5 / noted the climate change activity and performance update 2009/10.

Kathryn Pettitt

Chief Legal Officer

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