Agenda and minutes

Corporate Review Committee
Friday, 8th March, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford

Contact: Tina Gould 


No. Item


Minutes of the meeting held on 24 January 2019 pdf icon PDF 114 KB

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RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 24 January were confirmed and signed by the Chairman.


Declarations of Interest

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Councillor Parry declared a personal interest in item 5 as his wife is an employee of the County Council.


Equality and Diversity Training

Presentation by Diane Dunlevey, Equality and Diversity Manager, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue

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The Chairman welcomed Diane Dunlevey, Equality and Diversity Manager at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue to the meeting.


Diane Dunlevey gave details of the Equality Act 2010 which came into force in April 2011.  The Act simplified, strengthened and harmonised the previous legislation to provide Britain with new discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society. 


The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 introduced the Public Sector Equality Duty which required public authorities to publish equality objectives, at least every four years (from 6 April 2012), and information to demonstrate their compliance with the public sector equality duty (from 31 January 2012) this can sit within our overarching documents.  To demonstrate “due regard” public authorities must demonstrate:


·         that they are eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act;


·         that they are advancing equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and that they


·         are fostering good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. 


The forerunner to the Equality Act was the MacPherson Report following the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence that showed that there was institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police Force. 


Local authorities must therefore be able to demonstrate that in delivering our responsibilities we can ensure that all partnership and commissioning bodies are also subject to the Duty even if they are not publicly funded.


The Gender Pay Gap must be published by the end of the month and recognises that women do not have the equal opportunity to reach the higher echelons of organisations.  The current gender pay gap in local authorities is 7 per cent, whereas the NHS gender pay gap is 24 per cent.  Next year the government will bring in the Black and Minority Ethnic Pay Gap.


Positive action is a legal ability to attract under representative groups within the organisation, work place or community served.  There is no legal requirement to undertake positive action, however it is in a Council’s interest to have positive action in place.  Ms Dunlevey concluded by stating that all public servants and elected representatives had a responsibility regarding equality and diversity.  She offered to speak to other local authorities and the Leader responded that he would make this offer known to Leaders of Borough and District Councils.


Members considered that it might be helpful for individual Councillors to receive unconscious bias training when they are elected as County Councillors, as this focussed on identifying prejudices that individuals held so that this can be addressed.  Members’ attention was also draw to the inequalities of female prisoners specifically the findings of the Howard League regarding female prisoners.


Note by Clerk: Link to the Howard League report on Women in the Penal System:


The Leader of the Opposition stated that she had undertaken some research on gender bias by contacting all women Members to ask what their personal experiences were and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.


Staffordshire County Council People Strategy pdf icon PDF 126 KB

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The Leader introduced the Council’s first People Strategy and invited Members to scrutinise the Strategy, identify any areas for follow up and make any recommendations to the Cabinet. 


Members asked what the Council was doing to recruit and retain social workers.  The Head of OD and Interim Head of HR responded that a targeted recruitment campaign had been very successful and had closed the vacancies that the Council had and reduced its demand for agency staff.  Going forward the Council was trying to understand the reasons why staff were leaving certain areas and creating skills gaps e.g. children’s social work.  The Leader added that there had been a period of uncertainty in Children and Families.  In the West Midlands there was a shortage of children’s social workers and this had led to Councils offering incentives to recruit staff.  He referred to the recent positive Ofsted inspection.


Members asked how the Council was going to improve its absence and stress related absence levels by 8%. Members referred to the reference to agile and flexible working on page 16 of the Strategy and stated that this could lead to employees feeling more under stress as they could feel as though they were constantly ‘on call’ and asked what was being done to avoid staff suffering from stress. The Head of OD and interim Head of HR stated that there had been an increase in long term absences.  The current absence policy was out of date and had been aimed at reducing the challenge at the time of writing, short term absences. The policy was being reviewed.   The Thinkwell Service had been introduced, and Mindkind; part of the Council’s Mental Health Strategy. This latter Strategy was aimed at raising staffs’ awareness of their own and colleagues’ mental health and had led to a number of staff being trained as mental health first aiders.  Members expressed concern that if staff were off work with stress-related illness it placed additional pressure on staff who were trying to cover their jobs (or jobs that had been deleted from the establishment) and that pressure could get worse rather than better.  The Mindkind initiative was welcomed.  The Council was higher than our benchmark local authorities regarding absence.  The Council’s average absence is 10.61 days (per year) so 8 per cent represented a target reduction of less than one day per year.  The Council was looking to close the gap within a year and by the second year the Council would compare favourably with other benchmark local authorities.


The Leader of the Opposition stated that she endorsed the approach and the Plan on the Page on page 14 and was pleased to see the ambitious and aspirational Strategy.  Members stated that they would like to see more performance management targets so that progress could be seen over time.  It was important to value our employees as the ones who deliver for our communities.


Members regarded the People Strategy to be a generic strategy.  Members stated that they would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.


Integrated Performance Report - Quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Report of the Leader of the Council

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The Leader of the Council summarised the Integrated and Performance report. He was pleased to report that the first patients had moved into Amber Wood, a purpose-built specialist dementia Centre of Excellence in Burton and recommended that Members visit.  Highlights from Quarter 3 were detailed in the report and the Leader invited Members’ questions.  The Cabinet Member for Finance detailed the latest revenue forecast outturn detailed on page 36 of the report. He reported that the Council had been able to deliver a balanced budget for the next financial year and closed the forecasted shortfall of £35m.  Efficiency savings continued to be made and spending controls remained in place.


Health and Care


A Member raised concerns regarding an experience of an elderly vulnerable person that demonstrated the lack of communication between health partners in the north and south of the county and the reliance that the Council had on partners to deliver and what sanctions were in place when they failed to deliver.  The matter had been brought to the attention of the Director of Health and Care. The Member was advised to take up discussions with the Chairman of the Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee.


Members drew the Leader’s attention to the funding risk associated with the NHS reducing the amount of money to fund community care. The CCG were currently consulting on the closure of nearly 200 community hospital rehabilitation beds in north Staffordshire on the basis that care at home will be better for patients. There was concern that there would not be the care needed to support patients on discharge.  Members asked if the Council would be bearing some of the financial responsibility for funding community care for patients discharged home including care for six weeks post discharge which is normally funded by the NHS and specifically the CCGs.  The Leader offered to obtain a written response to this question.


Members stated that they were pleased to see that Nexxus Care had been in place and had resolved difficulties following the collapse of Allied Healthcare and asked if scrutiny of Nexxus Care could be added to their Work Programme at an appropriate time to consider what we have achieved, and lessons learned.  


The Leader added that staff were to be congratulated on their response to the Council’s financial situation and in particular to their response to the  emergency created by the collapse of Allied Healthcare.


Families and Communities


Members asked why schools’ pensions costs showed a saving of £0.5m and were informed this was because of academisation.


Members raised concerns regarding the high level of vacancies for social work staff, particularly in safeguarding and case management teams (paragraph 30) and asked if this was being addressed.  The Leader drew attention to increase in the numbers of children coming into care and the need for additional agency staff to bring down the individual workloads of social work staff.


Members raised the issue regarding the savings that had been made regarding the reduction in sleepover arrangements at a Lichfield  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 362 KB

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RESOLVED: That the Work Programme be accepted with the following additions:


·         The Leader of the Opposition’s report on Gender Issues

·         The Learning and Development Commissioning Plan

·         Scrutiny of Nexxus Care

·         Outcomes of the joint scrutiny of the local area SEND inspection of Staffordshire.


The focus of the next meeting will be on Assets and Property in preparation for more detailed scrutiny of the Property Strategy in June.


The Leader of the Opposition requested that her PA be informed if a date reserved for call in was to be used for a main Committee meeting, so they could be added to her personal diary.


Exclusion of the Public

The Chairman to move:-


“That the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business which involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the paragraphs of Schedule 12A (as amended) of Local Government Act 1972 indicated below”.




(All reports in this section are exempt)

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