Discussion with the Director of Environment, Culture and Communities concerning the latest trends, priorities and pressures in terms of departmental performance, with reference to the Performance Monitoring Reports for the fourth quarter of 2007/08.
Please bring the previously circulated Performance Monitoring Reports for the Environment and Leisure, Adult Social Care and Housing and the Education, Children’s Services and Libraries Departments to the meeting. Copies are available on request and attached to this agenda if viewed online.
The Director of Environment, Culture and Communities gave a presentation in respect of departmental performance with reference to the Performance Monitoring Reports (PMRs) for the fourth quarter of 2007/08. The presentation outlined the Department’s finances as at March 2008, highlighted variances on revenue and identified capital projects that would be carried forward. Staffing issues, changes to the Department following the Council restructure, key highlights and a forward look were also included.
The Panel was advised that 74.31% of the Capital Budget had been spent, compared to the 75% estimate in March, and it was expected that this figure would increase as the Department became better at predicting cash flow. The significant changes in the Capitalisation Highway Maintenance and Capitalisation Planned Maintenance revenue budgets had been caused by changes to the way the calculations were worked out. A total of £17 million had been added to the Capital Budget as a result of the Housing Stock Transfer and strategies to maximise this investment were being developed.
Staff vacancy rates were 8.42%. The Department was actively recruiting to fill vacant posts and had successfully recruited to a number of posts in Housing Standards, Environmental; Health, Trading Standards and at Easthampstead Park Conference Centre. Staff turnover rates for the year end stood at 13.66%, compared to 21.14% for the previous year. The total number of sickness days for the quarter was 2.30, a decrease of 97% on the previous quarter.
The fourth quarter of the 2007/08 municipal year had seen the restructuring of the Council and this had resulted in the Department losing responsibility for the Market and Corporate Health and Safety and assuming responsibility for the following areas: Housing Register, Temporary Accommodation, Housing Strategy and Enabling, Supporting People, Forestcare, Housing Benefits, Libraries, Smartcard and Energy.
Key highlights in the last quarter featured the recruitment of Chief Officers for Housing and Planning and Transport, the successful introduction of 8,000 new smartcards for the National Concessionary Fare Scheme with only a 0.25% error rate in the data transfer process, successful public relations work to ensure that residents were aware of the improvements being made to Longshot Lane Amenity Site, the installation of a new footbridge over Mill Lane, a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant of £2.5million to contribute to the restoration of South Hill Park and the allocation of an additional £100,000 to be used for the maintenance of verges along high speed roads, deep cleaning neighbourhood centres, attending to subways and improving grounds maintenance.
The following points arose from Members’ questions and comments:
· The work carried out by Pricewaterhouse Coopers on the proposed formation of a leisure trust had identified estimated savings to the Council of £85,000 or less. This had not been considered sufficient enough to forego the risk of losing control of the leisure facilities and it had been agreed that the Council would retain control of them. This decision would have an impact on future years’ budget plans.
· The Director would circulate a note outlining the reasons for the delay in signing the Punctuality Improvement agreement with First Buses.
· Bracknell Forest Homes would be asked to draw up protocols detailing how residents can raise concerns about the amenity land they own.
· The establishment of a Planning and Building Control Sub-group would provide developers with a method of giving feedback on Council services while residents submitting smaller planning applications, for example for house extensions, would be able to give feedback through questionnaires and focus groups.
· School travel plans were tailored to individual schools and a range of initiatives were used to reduce the number of children travelling to school by car including walking buses, bike weeks and walk to school weeks. The Director of Environment, Culture and Communities agreed that future PMRs would give the reduction in the number of journeys to school made by car in both percentages and actual figures.
· The mystery shoppers employed to test the quality of the Council’s leisure facilities looked at a range of indicators including the quality of the facilities, the quality of the information available online and the quality of information given over the phone. As a general rule, the indicators remained the same each year and the Department were able to use this information to plot trends. The findings were published as a report to the Executive, which had also been considered by the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Panel.
· The Council had negotiated a single contract to cover catering across all its leisure facilities however market forces meant that the contract had not been immediately beneficial in a couple of areas and this had resulted in the noted budget variance. Positive discussions had taken place with the contractor and it was hoped that the variance would be eliminated.