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Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest made at the meeting.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on the 10 September 2019 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Note by Clerk: The issue of internal transport, including fleet hire; how it is operated; funding; facilities; accessibility; future need and the green agenda as raised at the last meeting would be added to the work programme.
The Chairman informed the Committee that the Leader of the Council had been called away unexpectedly and Councillors M Sutherland and M Sutton would be presenting the report in his absence.
The report showed that the revenue outturn showed and overspend of £1.3m compared with £650,000 at the end of the first quarter. This was largely due to children’s services and children coming into care however, adult services remained a pressure.
The County Farms investment programme showed an established disposal of 20% of the farming estate to generate approximately £20m. This would then be invested in order to modernise the estate and increase revenue.
Sundry debtors were improving with work underway with the Clinical Commissioning Groups to resolve collection issues.
Following questions from the Committee, it was established that the action to be taken to address the £4.268m overspend in Children’s Services, would be considered in detail at the next Safe and Strong Communities Select Committee as part of Phase 2 of the Transformation Programme and £8.1m investment over the next 5 years. The priority was to work with families earlier to keep children in the home. Where this was not possible foster care would be the next option. The Regional Permanency Hub would be introduced soon, again with the aim of keeping children closer to their homes so that local connections aren’t lost and return to home can happen sooner.
There was a question on the forecast figures in Children’s Services of £5.987m and then later in the report £10.916m and which was accurate. The Cabinet Member agreed to investigate and inform the Committee.
The increased overspend was reported as being due to the increase in the number of children coming into care since the start of 2019. It was felt that this was due to the Ofsted inspection, which can lead to changes in behaviour and overcautiousness.
With regard to County Farms, there was a question on the sustainability of investing in improving the estate when the only income was rent. The Committee were informed that maximising revenue was an area that was being looked at in detail. It was felt that in order to maximise value of the estate, property/land must be marketed to its full potential to maximise revenue.
A question was asked on the Nursing Care budget and if block booking of beds contradicted the support given to reduce the number of people in care homes.
Air quality outside schools was discussed and the need for Boroughs and Districts to work together. The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that a number of schools were now taking the lead on air quality within their vicinities and were able to bring partners together.
There was a question on the work being undertaken to find partners to take on the responsibility for some of the larger management estates. The Cabinet Member agreed to investigate and inform the Committee.
A Member asked what was being done to tackle the levels of sickness absence and was this a result of ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
The Cabinet Member for Finance presented the report. Kate Bullivant (Complaints, School Appeals and Access to Information Manager) and Sue Thomas (Team Leader - Customer Feedback & Complaints Team) also attended the meeting to answer questions. The report covered the complaints raised under the Corporate Complaints Procedure but did not contain information on Adult Social Care complaints which were reported to the Safe and Strong Communities Select Committee.
The robustness of the process was challenged, and Members were informed that approximately 80% of complaints were recorded, but there would always be some service users who complained directly to a department, which wouldn’t be logged as a complaint.
The Committee were interested to know how information was captured that was not received as a formal complaint, such as complaints or comments on service levels received by Members. Officers felt that this information and feedback was important and agreed to inform all members of the email address for them to log this type of information.
Concern was expressed that by withdrawing telephone helplines (such as Highways and Blue Badge), the authority was disfranchising some service users who could not use digital means of communication.
Several Members expressed concern over Highways complaints and the information they received was not timely.
Following a question on the support given to officers who deal with negativity and complaints on a daily basis, the Committee was informed that staff care was high on the agenda and staff are supported, particularly when the complaint is personal. Learning from complaints was ongoing.
Members expressed their thanks to the Complaints team for all their hard work and support they give to Members.
a) That the report be received, and the information be noted.
b) That Officers inform all members of the email address for them to log information on complaints received which are due to service levels or lack of support available.
c) The Committee formally thank the Complaints team for the support given to Members.
The Scrutiny and Support Manager presented the Work Programme. The next meeting of the Committee was due to be held on 10 December 2019. It was felt that due to the General Election being held on 12 December, the meeting should be cancelled. The items of business due at that meeting would be moved to future dates.
Following the recent death of Cllr Michael Greatorex, there was a vacancy on the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) Working Group. The Chairman of Corporate Review Committee, Councillor David Williams was moved, seconded and elected to serve on the MTFS.
The scrutiny of the LEP was discussed and it was reported that the next meeting with Stoke on Trent City Council was due to be hosted at Stoke. The Scrutiny and Support Manager was asked to make arrangements in the new year.
The work of the SEND Working Group was discussed, and the Committee were informed that the Safe and Strong Select Committee had invited the working Group to its next meeting as they were due to discuss the Children’s Transformation Programme, Phase Two. Due to the close links between to two it was felt that the Safe and Strong Communities Select Committee should be the main reporting Committee for the Working Group with Corporate Review having a watching brief.
The Executive led Working Group on the Green Agenda was due to conclude soon. Members felt that it was appropriate for the Prosperous Select Committee to consider the report prior to the recommendations being reported at Cabinet.
a) The report be received.
b) The next meeting of the Committee to be held on 12 December 2019 be cancelled.
c) Councillor David Williams be appointed to the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) Working Group
d) The Scrutiny and Support Manager make arrangements with Stoke on Trent City Council to jointly scrutinise the LEP.
e) Safe and Strong Communities Select Committee be the main reporting Committee for the SEND Working Group with Corporate Review Committee having a watching brief.
f) Prosperous Select Committee to consider the Executive led Working Group on the Green Agenda report prior to the recommendations being reported at Cabinet.