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To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 6 October 2022.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 6 October 2022 be approved as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of Interest and Party Whip
Members are asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary or affected interests and the nature of that interest, including the existence and nature of the party whip, in respect of any matter to be considered at this meeting.
Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.
Any Member with an Affected Interest in a matter must disclose the interest to the meeting. There is no requirement to withdraw from the meeting when the interest is only an affected interest, but the Monitoring Officer should be notified of the interest, if not previously notified of it, within 28 days of the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest made. There were no indications that members would be participating while under the party whip.
Urgent Items of Business
Any other items which, pursuant to Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, the Chairman decides are urgent.
There were no items of urgent business.
To receive submissions from members of the public which have been submitted in advance in accordance with the Council’s Public Participation Scheme for Overview and Scrutiny.
No submissions had been made by members of the public under the Council’s Public Participation Scheme for Overview and Scrutiny.
The Commission has invited guests to address the meeting before considering key issues and discussing how to prepare for the upcoming budget proposal consultation.
· Sue Halliwell, Chief Executive will set out strategic priorities in which the budget is framed.
· Councillor Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance will provide an introduction and context setting of the budget.
· Stuart McKellar, Executive director: Resources will provide an update on strategy and policy and budget monitoring as presented to the executive in October. (Please note, a presentation updating the current position will follow as this can’t be provided ahead of the Government announcement on 31 October.)
· Budget monitoring – 2022/23 End of Year projections from July 2022 actuals
· Strategy and policy – Revenue budget update
· Budget Planning and Monitoring - Cash Budget Book 2022-23
The commission invited Sue Halliwell, Chief Executive, Councillor Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance and Stuart McKellar, Executive Director: Resources to address the meeting and present the strategic context in which the budget was set. The following points were made:
· The challenging external financial context was highlighted, noting that the difficulty was being experienced by all local authorities at the current time.
· The Council had strong and robust financial management processes in place which helped it maintain a strong financial position despite these pressures.
· The final settlement would not be received until Christmas 2022 therefore time scales to prepare the budget would be tight for readjustment and recalculations to be made.
· The Council were waiting for fair funding to be resolved which will give greater control for local authorities.
· Approximately 70% of spend goes towards supporting residents.
· A major item of expenditure was staff salaries with a two percent rise planned for, but the agreed four percent increase had resulted in an additional £2m cost.
· An overspend of around £1.1 million was predicted which included drawing down £1.5 million from inflation reserves to meet the pay award. This overspend was unusual for the Council and highlighted the pressures being faced.
· Factors to consider in 2023 included changes to government policy. Possible reforms to social care would have a significant financial cost. It was hoped there would be further clarity around the issue within central government around levelling up.
· It was anticipated that there would be an update on public spending on 17 November 2022. It was anticipated that Local Government Finance settlement would be available before Christmas 2022. It was predicted that it would be unlikely that there would be any changes around the fair funding review or business retention scheme. Therefore, the Council were working on the assumptions that the grants would remain broadly similar.
· An additional key factor in the budget was whether the Council would be given the ability to increase council tax by 2%.
· The council predicted a challenging £16.4m budget gap over the next few years. Reserves in place helped manage a transition to a more sustainable position which enabled delivery the services to continue.
The following questions were asked:
· A query was raised about the effect of increasing interest rates on reserves and whether a windfall from this could be used to help residents. The Executive Director: Resources, explained that the Council was not in a borrowing position. Although higher interest rates were slightly favourable the impact had already been included in the financial monitoring and had helped to manage the position, ensuring the council was closer to balancing rather than significantly overspending.
· A question was raised about whether vacancies were being left open to save budgets to which the Executive Director: Resources explained that there wasn’t a moratorium on filling posts. However, managers were asked if there were alternative ways to share workloads within vacant posts.
· A comment was made about a point in the budget monitoring report which stated there was ... view the full minutes text for item 37.
The Commission has invited Councillor Leake, Chair of the Employment Committee to address the Commission and provide a briefing on:
· The Council's Workforce Management including recruitment and retention strategies
· The use of consultants and agency workers
do a presentation to the Commission on the council’s workforce management strategy, including recruitment and retention strategies, agency spend and use of consultants. The following points were made:
· Recruitment and retention, specifically in social care and children’s services, had always been challenging
· A short summary report highlighted some problems that have arisen through using agency workers which included ensuring correct and accurate data for agency spend. This had arisen due to individuals and agencies not willing to take part in the single matrix arrangement. This was addressed through various safeguards resulting in more accurate information about agency worker spend.
· A top-level indication for the financial year highlighted the biggest department spend was with the people directorate at 72%. A recent project had looked at addressing this spend via a review of the terms and pay conditions for social care. Further scrutiny through CMT had indicated the desire to stabilise the workforce with permanency however this will continue to be a challenge due to local market capacity. It was noted that there would always be a need for a level of engagement with agency staff to fill a skills gap that the organisation can’t provide. To ensure successful delivery within social care a stable workforce was essential.
· The Council recognised that the single agency arrangements through Matrix provided benefits through contracts having agreed rates of pay for each role across the council with one point of contact. This speeded up a process of engaging agency workers.
· There were no agency fees to pay if an agency worker transferred to permanent employment after being in post for 12 weeks or more.
· Temporary to permanent employment changes were seen as a benefit and there were 3 individuals who made this transition in a six-month period.
· A recruitment and retention blueprint was produced which highlighted problems and challenges around significant spend with agencies or issues with recruitment and retention arrangements. This was used to address the problems in children’s and social care and was used to look at other problem areas. In addition, this exercise looked at neighbouring authorities’ arrangements in this area.
· The recruitment and retention scheme introduced includes new career pathways for social care.
· Apprenticeship routes were a key driver to ensure the best value from the apprenticeship levy was achieved. Additionally, apprenticeship routes could be utilised in areas where there was a shortage of people. The council engaged with an apprenticeship scheme linked with the University of Brighton which was used to fill posts in challenging areas and identified savings with agency spend.
· The successful step up to social work program was operated on behalf of all Berkshire authorities. Retention was an issue as individuals who had been trained often moved to other areas where there were greater financial incentives. It was hoped that the learning and development and career pathways would address this.
· Within adult social care the council looked to engage with health partners to provide secondment opportunities, ... view the full minutes text for item 38.
Overview and Scrutiny Panel Chairs to provide verbal updates on the work programme and highlight any proposed changes such as scope, scheduling or duration.
To consider the draft Adult Safeguarding scope prepared by the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Panel.
Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Panel
The blue badge review would go ahead and would be reported on in more detail after an initial meeting 22 November 2022.Suggestions for future work were being put together for the new panel who would be in place after the elections next May.
Additional points regarding the adult safeguarding review scope included:
· A case study would be taking place.
· Due to a possible impact regarding the equality impact assessment, there would be a separate meeting on this.
The Commission agreed the Adult Safeguarding review scope.
Education, Skills and Growth Overview and Scrutiny Panel
An initial meeting around future reviews took place with suggestions for priorities going forward. These would be finalised in a formal meeting later. A point that arose from this was to monitor recommendations from reviews and recommendations from CIL were raised at the parish liaison meeting on 16 November 2022.
The SEND report was complete and had been considered by the Executive. A high profile was generated by this review with Councillor Mrs Birch being interviewed by Radio Berkshire. The first set of recommendations from this were due to be reviewed around February 2023.
The Child Criminal Exploitation review was underway with a successful first meeting which had led to the planning of how this review would be developed further. There were five meetings in place with the final one scheduled for 1 December 2022 where the recommendations would be made.
Environment and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel
Two meetings had been held which were very successful in gathering evidence around the effectiveness of enforcement strategies across the different areas. Further data around the number of fines being issued by highways and transport would be collated and presented at the meeting on 24 November 2022.
Additionally, a meeting was planned, open to all members where the Head of Public Protection Service, would be presenting information about the fluidity of the public protection strategies.
The Panel were proposing to consider two further reviews in Q4 which would be Resident Social Landlords (RSLs) and burial choices.