West Berkshire Council

Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Stephen Chard / Charlene Hurd / Rachel Craggs 

Items
No. Item

14.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 61 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meetings of the Commission held on 9 May 2017 and 16 May 2017.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meetings held on 9 May 2017 and 16 May 2017 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

15.

Declarations of Interest

To remind Members of the need to record the existence and nature of any personal, disclosable pecuniary or other registrable interests in items on the agenda, in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct.

Minutes:

Councillors Emma Webster and Richard Somner declared an interest in Agenda Item 8, and reported that, as their interest could be considered a disclosable pecuniary interest or an other registrable interest, they might be required to leave the meeting, during the course of consideration of the matter, if discussion related to matters directly associated with their respective employers. Councillor Webster worked for a retirement/care home developer and Councillor Somner worked in the health sector.

Councillor Lee Dillon declared an interest in Agenda Items 7 (a) and 7 (b) as he worked for a housing provider, and reported that, as his interest could be considered a disclosable pecuniary interest or an other registrable interest, he might be required to leave the meeting, during the course of consideration of the matter, if discussion related to matters directly associated with his employer.

16.

Actions from previous Minutes - New Model for Scrutiny pdf icon PDF 48 KB

To receive an update on the implementation of the new model for scrutiny.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Andy Day advised the Commission that the Local Government Peer Review had highlighted the need to strengthen scrutiny activity and that this had led to a review of the scrutiny model within the Council. The review considered existing policy development groups with Member involvement as an opportunity to engage scrutineers and therefore provide a platform for effective scrutiny, as well as scrutineers joining the membership of new/existing groups for the first time

A new scrutiny model was presented to Full Council on 9th May 2017 and subsequently approved.

Councillor Lee Dillon noted that quarterly meetings of the Commission might result in a substantial agenda and it was important that this should not adversely affect the quality of scrutiny conducted by the Commission.  He was keen to see that the Terms of Reference of scrutiny groups that formed part of the new model reflected the dual scrutiny role of policy development and conducting effective scrutiny.

Councillor Emma Webster stated that the new model provided a system for ‘check and balance’ as well as integrating Members and scrutiny across the Council.  

Resolved that:

1)    The report be noted.

2)    The Terms of Reference of the various scrutiny groups that formed part of the new model would be reviewed, with ‘policy development’ and scrutiny work incorporated.

 

17.

Consideration of Urgent Items

To consider any items which an Urgent Decision is required to be taken by the Executive, in exception to the requirements of the Local Authorities( Executive arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items to consider.

 

18.

Financial Performance Report 2017/18 - Month Four pdf icon PDF 60 KB

To scrutinise the latest financial performance of the Council.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 6) concerning the latest financial performance for 2017/2018 (Month Four). Melanie Ellis explained that the current financial forecast was an overspend of £949k against a net revenue budget of £117.4million. The forecast would impact the level of the Council’s reserves at year end if savings could not be made to offset the overspend.

The overspend was attributed to Adult Social Care and was the result of increased complexity of client needs and upward cost pressures in commissioning services in placements and homecare.

Members were advised that the forecasted position was before monies were allocated from the reserve fund.

Rachael Wardell added that the situation was not unique in West Berkshire and that many Adult Social Care services were experiencing similar pressures. However, the Council was unusual in the sense that the number of client cases remained broadly stable rather than climbing in line with demographic changes. This reflected the positive impact of the ‘New Ways of Working’ in adult social care.

Stephen Chard asked whether the Adult Social Care Risk Reserve was at an adequate level to cover the forecasted overspend if necessary. Melanie Ellis advised that funding was sufficient.

Councillor Ian Morrin asked whether the forecasted overspend considered winter pressures. Rachael Wardell explained that the current reported overspend was a forecast based on available intelligence and not just a projection of current spend so she was confident that it included a realistic reflection of winter pressures.. However, it would be monitored and analysed over the course of the next few months in case those pressures proved to be more demanding than currently expected.

Resolved that the report be noted.

 

19.

Key Accountable Performance 2017/18: Q1 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To scrutinise Q1 outturns against the Key Accountable Measures contained in the 2017/18 Council Performance Framework, consider topics for more detailed investigation and consider measures recommended by the Executive for further scrutiny (in the following sub items).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 7) concerning Quarter One Key Accountable Performance measures. Catalin Bogos advised that a summary of the performance position was available on page 41 of the report. Members acknowledged that Children’s Services had been rated as “Good” by Ofsted which looked atchildren in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers .

The report highlighted areas reported as ‘amber’ and detailed the remedial action and the impact of that action.

Members were advised that a number of measures had been requested by Portfolio Holders to be included as part of the performance framework going forward:

  • %of schools judged good or better by Ofsted under the new framework.
  • % of pupils achieving a good level of development at Foundation Stage.
  • % of pupils eligible for Free Schools Meals (FSM) achieving a good level of development at Foundation Stage.
  • Monitor uptake of identification & Brief Advice (IBA) training.

Catalin Bogos directed Members to the additional reports in respect of the sub topics for discussion.

Councillor Webster invited Members to ask general questions before they proceeded with the detailed review of key topics listed on the agenda.

Councillor Ian Morrin requested that extracts of the information be presented as a headline brief to enable the direct comparison between a measure’s previous position and the current reported position. Catalin Bogos agreed to consider how this could be introduced in future reports.

Councillor Lee Dillion advised that indicator ref: CBaCFS11 – ‘Number of weeks taken to conclude care proceedings (children’s social care) was agreed at the Executive meeting as ‘Red’ and that the report should be updated accordingly. Catalin Bogos agreed to complete this action.

Resolved that:

(1)          Catalin Bogos would look to introduce a summary section to aid direct comparison between the previous reported status and the current position of Key Accountable Performance Measures.

(2)          Indicator Ref CBaCFS11 would be amended to ‘Red’

(3)          The report be noted.

 

20.

Enable more affordable housing completions

To review this ‘red’ performance area to ensure that appropriate remedial action is in place (recommended by the Executive – Q4 2016/17).

Minutes:

Gary Lugg advised that a target had been set to deliver 1000 units between 2015 and 2020 – a key priority set by the Conservative Group notwithstanding the fact that this was recognised as an ambitious target.

Members were provided with an additional paper at the meeting which outlined the most up-to-date position against the affordable housing target. Members considered the following table:

Year

Net housing completions

Of which affordable[1]

2016/17

485

83

2015/16

625

158

2014/15

496

-15

2013/14

457

146

2012/13

552

182

 

 

 

Total

2215

 554

 

Members heard that the negative figure reported in 2014/2015 related to the demolition of a housing scheme and reflected the fact that replacement units did make up the full number lost. Bryan Lyttle explained that the target focused on delivery from 2015 to 2020 only and that in this period there had been 241 units introduced in West Berkshire - a shortfall of 759 units against the overall target of 1000.

Local authorities were required to demonstrate that they had a 5 year land supply for housing development in accordance with paragraph 47 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). However, there was a specific focus on the 3 year availability in respect of this target deadline. The forecasted delivery of affordable housing in the 3 year period was 444 units which resulted in an overall shortfall of 315 units against the target. However, there was a possibility that some of the 5 year forecasted units could be delivered sooner – noting that the Racecourse had outstanding permission to deliver a further 300 affordable housing units which they might choose to deliver sooner than currently planned.

Members were advised that windfall sites become available for development unexpectedly and were therefore not included as allocated land in a Council's development plan. However, where there were plans to deliver 5+ units then there would be opportunities to discuss affordable housing provision.

Gary Lugg advised that influencing the rate of delivery was challenging and that the service continued to liaise with developers to move work forward which, in turn, helped towards addressing the issue of  ‘land banking’.

Planning Officers had encountered issues around viability assessments which challenged the number of affordable housing units delivered in a scheme. Gary Lugg advised Members that Central Government were considering a national approach to the issue.

Councillor Ian Morrin asked whether there were other obstacles affecting the delivery of affordable housing units. Gary Lugg advised that the economic downturn had impacted the building sector significantly. Similarly, the costs of raw materials had increased combined with a shortage of skilled workers in/around the local area (due to financial incentives elsewhere). There were also concerns regarding the outturn from BREXIT negotiations.

Councillor Morrin asked whether the Planning Service made enquiries with developers to understand anticipated delivery. Bryan Lyttle advised that the service reviewed this information regularly and that the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) meant that they were notified when work commenced on site.

In response to questions asked by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Homelessness prevention/alleviation for people presenting as homeless

To review this ‘red’ performance area to ensure that appropriate remedial action is in place (recommended by the Executive – Q1 2017/18).  Q1 exception report contained on page 79 of this agenda pack.

Minutes:

Gary Lugg advised that the previous report used an estimated figure and resulted in a significant decrease to 50%, against a target of 75%. Members were informed that the figures provided in the current report were ‘actual’ and therefore accurately reflected the performance level.

Gary Lugg explained that the team had a 30% reduction in staffing due to long term sickness but that this situation had recently improved since the 2 members of staff returned to work.

Councillor Lee Dillion suggested asked that, where possible,the performance report should state whether figures were estimated or actual going forward. Catalin Bogos agreed to action this request going forward.

Councillor Emma Webster asked what impact the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (to be implemented from April 2018)  might have on the service. Councillor Hilary Cole advised that the value of the 2018/2019 Homelessness Reduction Act (new burdens allocation for West Berkshires) was approximately £37K and that this would not be sufficient to deliver an effective prevention measures in West Berkshire. Members were advised that Councillor Cole intended to lobby local MPs to address underfunding. Gary Lugg added that this would be the subject of a report to the Executive in due course. 

In response to questions asked by the Commission, Councillor Cole advised that an additional Housing Officer had been successfully recruited to help alleviate pressures and process cases more efficiently. A new Team Manager had recently joined the team  too – it was hoped that the Manager would bring an innovative approach to reviewing how the team operated.

Councillor Ian Morrin asked whether there was a pattern associated with the reasons why people presented as homeless.  Gary Lugg advised that the reasons were often associated with affordability of private renting and changes in their personal circumstances (job/ family).

Councillor Webster asked how many times the Council used Bed and Breakfast facilities as a means to provide emergency accommodation. Gary Lugg stated that he did not have the figures available but he would confer with colleagues and report back to the Commission. Councillor Cole explained that the Council had recently become a Registered Provider and that this would reduce the need for Bed and Breakfast as emergency housing. Rachael Wardell stated that this avoiding out of authority B&B placements was positive for the children involved because they could continue to attend their school which led to improved stability for them and, in turn, reduced the need for the council to provide funding for transport to school. 

Resolved that:

(1)       Future performance reports indicate whether the statistics were estimated or actual.

(2)       Gary Lugg to confirm the number of cases whereby Bed and Breakfast was used as a means for emergency accommodation.

Response received after the meeting:

·                     2017 to date = 36

·                     2016 = 79

22.

Timeliness of reviews for long term Adult Social Care clients pdf icon PDF 118 KB

To review this ‘red’ performance area (at Q4 – 2016/17) to ensure that appropriate remedial action is in place (recommended by the Executive – 27 July 2017). Q1 exception report contained on page 78 of this agenda pack.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 7.c) concerning the decline in the timeliness and regularity of care plan reviews for vulnerable adults. Ian Dawe advised that the Care Act (2014) introduced a statutory requirement for all Councils in England and Wales to undertake annual reviews of adults in receipt of care and support. It applied to those individuals who had received a long term service for over 12 months.

In May 2016, Adult Social Care underwent a restructure as part of the implementation of the New Ways of Working. This involved establishing a number of new teams including a separate Review Team. The learning from piloting the new approach in Adult Social Care was that it provided the essential support required to ensure planned reviews were prioritised.

Ian Dawe explained that during Q1 of 2017/2018 the team conducted analysis of the cases that were overdue a review and identified that a high proportion (43% - 88 people) of those had primary support reason (PSR) of Learning Disabilities or Mental Health. Members heard that care reviews for these individuals tended to be more complex and took longer to complete. There was clearly a need to increase the size of the team in order to manage the volume and complexity of cases.

Ian Dawe advised that, to address these pressures, two new staff members had been recruited into the team. In addition, the Care Act allowed the team to take a proportionate approach to prioritising reviews and allowed the use of a range of methods to complete them  (eg  telephon etce).

Councillor Dillion asked whether the team knew how long the remaining 25% (from the 75% target) had waited for their review to be completed. Ian Dawe explained that, in some cases, the 25% included clients in hospital and/ or those assigned to a care team. Therefore, the review team would wait for a suitable time to conduct a meaningful review. He was unable to provide exact numbers of those who did not fall within these examples but who still formed part of the 25% without an annual review. However, Ian Dawe stressed that the expectations for reviews had changed through the Care Act and that there was an acceptance around prioritisation of reviews and the use of alternative means to conduct them.

Councillor Ian Morrin asked whether statistics were available to show the prevalence of cases requiring alterations to their care plan through face to face reviews versus telephone reviews. Ian Dawe advised that the team conducted face to face reviews for more complex cases or those where changes were likely to be required.

Rachael Wardell concluded the discussion by providing a summary of the term – New Ways of Working which facilitated a balanced approach to addressing the needs of residents.

Resolved that the report be noted

 

23.

Council Tax and Business Rates Collection pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To review this ‘red’ performance area (at Q4 – 2016/17) to ensure that appropriate remedial action is in place (recommended by the Executive on 27 July 2017).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 7.d) concerning the recent decline in the collection rates of Council Tax and Business Rates. Iain Bell advised that there had been two key reasons for the decline in performance – associated with backdating single resident discount and the changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS).

Recent information that had been provided showed that 2016/17 Council Tax collection rates were back on target and it appeared that 2017/2018 collections were on target for around 98.9%.

Members heard that as at 31st March 2017 there were 2 large companies owing a significant sum of Business Rates (£700k+). Both companies were disputing their liability to pay. Since then legal advice had been sought and a Court Order obtained in relation to one case to help the Council enforce payment. The second case was a landlord/tenant dispute which had now been resolved and the balance paid by the landlord. Councillor Emma Webster asked whether the Council could expect to encounter this issue again. Iain Bell stated that the two cases had been resolved but it was not possible to predict whether new cases would arise.

Councillor Laszlo Zverko asked for an explanation relating to the proposal that the service was looking at different technological solutions to maximise efficiencies. Iain Bell stated that they were considering all options available with the aim of streamlining processes and delivering efficiencies.

Councillor Lee Dillon asked whether it was standard practice to backdate charges on accounts and whether consideration had been given to the affect this would have on residents’ financial position/ budgeting. Iain Bell advised that the process was managed sensitively and the residents received ample notification. The team discussed options for repayment with residents to ensure the process was manageable. However, Iain Bell reminded Members that it was the resident’s responsibility to inform the Council, at the earliest opportunity, if their situation changed.

Councillor Zverko asked whether the surplus from backdated collections was included in the 2017/18 budgets. Iain Bell advised that he would have to check this information with Andy Walker and report back to the Commission.

Councillor Dillon stressed his concern that the Council seemingly needed to make better use of internal systems to verify matters such as single person discount. Iain Bell advised that the team was considering all options available to maximise efficiencies.

Resolved that:

(1)  Andy Walker  confirm whether the budget surplus from backdated collections was included in the 2017/18 budget.

(2)  The report be noted.

 

24.

The timeliness of decisions on benefit claims pdf icon PDF 68 KB

To review this ‘amber’ performance area to ensure that appropriate remedial action is in place (recommended by the Executive – Q1 2017/18). Q1 exception reports contained on pages 75-77 of this agenda pack.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 7.e) concerning the timeliness of decisions for persons making benefit claims. Iain Bell advised that, despite difficulties which included staffing and data/software issues , the Council’s average processing time at the end of 2016/17 for assessing a new claim finished 0.75 of a day below the national average.  The information was verified via performance figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Iain Bell also reported that data/software issues had been alleviated by the installation of a new server in March 2017. In terms of staffing, two vacant posts had recently been filled.

Councillor Ian Morrin asked whether there were any future challenges likely to affect the rate of processing. Iain Bell explained that the full roll out of Universal Credit, in December 2017, meant that the team would be required to support new claimants in making and maintaining applications as well as assisting the DWP Assessment Centre in the assessments of new claimants. This would result in an increase in activity which attracted additional funding but was not subject to these performance measures. Iain Bell stated that the impact would be closely monitored as these changes came into effect. 

In response to questions asked by the Commission, Iain Bell advised that the team would be required to assist with completing applications and maintaining existing claims – there was no intention of monitoring the transfer of cases from the existing claim systems to Universal Credit claims. Therefore, the volume of claimants and the degree of impact was unknown.

Councillor Marigold Jaques asked what support would be available to residents wanting to make a claim. Iain Bell explained that staff would undergo training in advance and become a dedicated resource to assist applications with the process. The Council would receive funding for the first 2 hours spent assisting each claimant with their application – a national grant provided at a flat rate.

Andy Day asked whether the training was available to staff in Libraries and Family Hubs also. Iain Bell advised that training was available to Council staff, Registered Landlords and staff working at the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Councillor Morrin requested a ‘frequently asked questions’ sheet for all Members in order that they could respond to their residents questions about the Universal Credit process. Councillor Richard Somner suggested that the information could be made available to Parish Councils also – in order that they could support the distribution of key messages and advice.

In response to questions asked by the Commission, Iain Bell advised that there would be opportunities within the Universal Credit application process to identify those who did not qualify for Universal Credit but who might still be entitled to Housing Benefit  – these would be dealt with according to existing processes.

Resolved that:

(1)       Iain Bell  develop a ‘frequently asked questions’ sheet for Members around the process of Universal Credits. This needed to be provided in advance of the full roll out of Universal Credit in December 2017.

(2)  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

Delayed Transfers of Care Task Group Report pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To outline the results of the investigation into Delayed Transfers of Care and consider proposed recommendations for the Executive.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 8) concerning the output from the Delayed Transfer of Care Task Group. Councillor Quentin Webb extended his thanks to the Commission for having had the opportunity to undertake the review. He directed Members to the report which outlined the methodology used and list of interviewees invited to contribute towards the review.

Councillor Lee Dillon stated that this was an excellent piece of work notwithstanding the realisation that many of the issues highlighted via the review could not be addressed by the Council in isolation – the Task Group issued a wide range of recommendations which reflected the need to tackle national policy as well as localised challenges. 

In response to questions asked by the Commission, Rachael Wardell stated that she was involved in discussions with acute providers about bed fines. She explained that she continued to try and make the case that levying fines on local authorities was counterproductive and ultimately affected the ability to fund care for those in need which, in turn, impacted on hospital delays.

Councillor Ian Morrin questioned whether the recommendations needed to be prioritised or given timescales. It was noted that an action plan would be formulated as part of the response report produced for the Executive, the implementation of which could be monitored by the OSMC over time.

Councillors Webb and Emma Webster extended their appreciation to the Task Group, Officers and those interviewees who contributed towards the review.

RESOLVED that the recommendations be accepted and the report forwarded to the Executive for action..

 

26.

West Berkshire Council Forward Plan 14 November 2017 to 31 January 2018 pdf icon PDF 43 KB

To advise the Commission of items to be considered by West Berkshire Council from 14 November 2017 to 31 January 2018 and decide whether to review any of the proposed items prior to the meeting indicated in the Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered the West Berkshire Council Forward Plan (Agenda Item 9) for the period covering 14 November 2017 to 31 January 2018.

Councillor Tim Metcalfe asked whether ref: C3222 (Activity Team West Berkshire Fees and Charges – 2018/19) was relevant to which Andy Day advised that he would report back to Officers and request that the item was removed from the programme.

Resolved that:

(1) C3222 would be removed from the Council’s Corporate Programme.

(2) The Forward Plan be noted.

 

27.

Corporate Programme pdf icon PDF 41 KB

To advise the Commission of the Council’s Corporate Programme and its current areas of activity.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered the Council’s Corporate Programme (Agenda Item 10) and its current areas of activity.

Resolved that the Corporate Programme be noted.

 

28.

Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission Work Programme pdf icon PDF 49 KB

To receive new items and agree and prioritise the work programme of the Commission for the remainder of 2017/2018.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered its work programme for 2017/2018 and the proposed topic for scrutiny: Council Strategy Refresh 2018/2019.

The Commission accepted the recommendation to create a task group in order that  Members could contribute towards the work of the strategy refresh. The following Councillors volunteered to take part in the task group: Councillors Dillon, Somner, Collis and Morrin.

It was noted that the task group would reconvene at a later date to help inform the development of the new Council Strategy from 2019/20.

Councillor Morrin asked whether item OSMC 6 (General Data Protection Regulations – GDPR) could be meaningfully reviewed in the course of an OSMC meeting. Nick Carter advised that there was a Member Development session scheduled to introduce the topic – he suggested that the Commission postponed discussions until after the Member Development session.

Resolved that:

(1)  The Council Strategy 2018/19 refresh be added to the Commission’s work programme  and the first meeting held between 20/11/17 – 1/12/17.

 

(2)  A task group comprising Councillors Collis, Morrin, Sumner and Dillon be established to assist in refreshing the 2018/19 Council Strategy.  be established to contribute towards the work of the strategy refresh OSMC 6 ((General Data Protection Regulations – GDPR)  be postponed to allow time for Members to attend the Member Development session on this topic.

 

(3)  The work programme be noted.

 

29.

Items Called-in following the Executive on 7 September 2017

To consider any items called-in by the requisite number of Members following the previous Executive meeting.

Minutes:

No items were called-in following the last Executive meeting.

30.

Councillor Call for Action

To consider any items proposed for a Councillor Call for Action.

Minutes:

There were no Councillor Call for Action.

31.

Petitions

To consider any petitions requiring an Officer response.

Minutes:

There were no petitions to be received at the meeting.