Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber Council Offices Market Street Newbury
Contact: Stephen Chard / Jessica Bailiss
To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 9 July 2019.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 9 July 2019 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman.
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.
During the discussion of item 10 – Corporate Programme, Councillor Lee Dillon declared a personal interest by virtue of the fact that he was employed by Sovereign Housing, with whom the Council was working on a Joint Venture. He declared that his role had no involvement with the Joint Venture and therefore he determined to remain and take part in the debate.
Purpose: To consider any petitions requiring an Officer response.
There were no petitions received at the meeting.
Actions from previous Minutes
To receive an update on actions following the previous Commission meeting.
There were no actions outstanding from previous Commission meetings.
Purpose: To provide an opportunity to suggest items for the Commercialisation Group's forthcoming work programme following an update of the terms of reference.
The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 6) which responded to their request for information in respect of the progress made by the Commercialisation Group, its work programme and future direction.
Andy Sharp introduced the report which provided an assessment of the current position in respect of the work undertaken by the Commercialisation Group; an overview of the work programme for the Commercialisation Group for the period August 2018 through to May 2019 and information in respect of the future leadership, focus and direction of the Commercial Board (revised name of the group) from November 2019 onwards following consideration by Corporate Board and a light touch review of the group.
Councillor Alan Law asked for the membership of the group and its initial goals. Andy Sharp advised that previously it was chaired by Paul Anstey, Head of Public Protection and Culture, and was attended by Sarah Clarke, Head of Legal Services, and June Graves, Head of Commissioning. Attendance from other services was variable. The Group’s initial goals had been to grow some income generation initiatives within the Council through the Lion’s Lair programme and delivering training to begin to instil a culture of commercialisation. Nick Carter advised that some members of the Executive had also been on the group.
Councillor James Cole queried whether any efforts had been made to establish expertise among Councillors; Andy Sharp advised that it had not but he took on board the suggestion.
Councillor Lee Dillon asked how the Council’s traded services were reviewed and benchmarked against other authorities. Andy Sharp advised that the income generated vs the cost of delivery would be assessed in the New Year. It was difficult to benchmark because data collection was not uniform. Closer links to the Council’s Finance Team would be made to enable better understanding of existing commercial and traded arrangements across the organisation as over £7.5M of income from 54 different trading activities had been identified.
In response to a request to report back to Members, Andy Sharp confirmed he could return to present to the Commission. Nick Carter highlighted that a recent review of the Council’s governance included the Commercial Board and could clarify any queries on reporting lines.
Councillor James Cole highlighted the issue of resourcing and commented that it was futile pursuing commercial projects with no Marketing Officer. Nick Carter confirmed that the Council did have a Marketing Officer and noted that the Board had access to the Transformation Fund.
Councillor Law agreed that the dedicated resource was quite small when there were 11 potential projects. He noted that there was already a ‘red’ action included in appendix D relating to £100k of income generation and pressed the need to understand current activity. Andy Sharp offered reassurance that the refreshed terms of reference would enable the group to focus and ensure the value before embarking on projects.
Councillor Martha Vickers noted that other Councils had assets from which they could generate income and West Berkshire’s were limited. She questioned the appropriateness of trading ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
London Road Industrial Estate: Interim Task Group Report (Verbal)
Purpose: To report on the scrutiny review into the London Road Industrial Estate development.
The Commission considered a verbal update (Agenda Item 7) concerning the progress of the London Road Industrial Estate Task Group. Councillor James Cole reported that the Task Group were keeping to the terms of reference which had been set by the Commission. The Task Group had met four times and received over 1000 pages of background material. The Audit Manager was now supporting the Task Group and the Head of Legal and Strategic Support was devoting far more time than originally intended. A chronology of the key decision points had been compiled and there were some gaps still to be filled. A further meeting would be held before the New Year to clarify the evidence, ahead of witness interviews in late January. The Task Group hoped to be able to report back to the Commission in February or March 2020. There would be lessons to learn from the case and it was clear that one such lesson, the need for more robust project management, had already been identified and implemented.
Councillor Jeff Brooks agreed that the Task Group was not straying beyond its terms of reference and suggested that it may find evidence that project management was not sufficiently joined up. It had taken a couple of meetings to get going but he was sure that the Task Group would be able to provide the Council some constructive criticism.
Councillor Alan Law noted that the main area of focus was the legal advice the Council received and how the Council acted upon that advice. Councillor Cole confirmed that the Task Group had not yet identified all the answers.
Councillor Steve Masters asked whether former officers and Members could be invited to provide evidence. Councillor Cole advised that they could not be compelled to attend an interview and an invite list was being assembled. Councillor Masters further asked whether any external agencies would be interviewed. Councillor Law stated that all those interviewed should be able to provide evidence on the Council’s governance of the project.
Councillor Law stated that he was willing to be called as a witness to provide evidence to the Task Group.
Resolved that: the Commission noted the update.
Purpose: To present for the Commission's approval the terms of reference for the IT and Digital Transformation Capacity Task Group.
The Commission considered the terms of reference (Agenda Item 8) for the IT and Digital Transformation Capacity Task Group.
Councillor Lee Dillon suggested that in respect of point three, ‘resources’ be split to describe time and staffing.
Councillor Jeff Brooks expressed the view that the Task Group should also consider digital inclusion and the customer experience.
Councillors Tom Marino, Steve Masters and Peter Argyle were identified as the Members of the Task Group. Other Members would be invited to participate as required. The Task Group was scheduled to report back to the Commission in July 2020.
Resolved that: the Terms of Reference for the IT and Digital Transformation Capacity Task Group were approved.
Purpose: To consider the quarter one outturns for the core business measures which monitor performance against the 2019/20 Council Performance Framework and in particular the timeliness of reviews of clients with ASC long term service.
The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 9) concerning the Council’s Key Accountable Performance at Quarter One. Work was being undertaken to finalise the Council Strategy Delivery Plan which would feed in targets to the quarterly performance framework. One measure was showing as red against the target, namely reviews of Adult Social Care clients receiving a long term service. Additional information had been circulated which demonstrated a considerable improvement in performance as of 20 October 2019.
Councillor Alan Law stated that it was very unusual to receive a performance report which included no targets. Catalin Bogos advised that in this document, performance against core business measures were reported against targets carried forward from the previous year.
Councillor James Cole queried the need for both tables relating to empty business properties on page 61 of the agenda; Catalin Bogos explained that they were provided for clarity. Councillor Cole suggested that graphs might better display the Council’s performance than the spreadsheets and asked for more information on point 7 on page 58 which stated that 7/14 major ICT projects were behind schedule. Catalin Bogos agreed to provide more information.
Councillor Jeff Brooks expressed the view that the information provided in the report was woolly and more information was required to provide a clearer picture of the Council’s performance. Catalin Bogos advised that more detail was provided in exceptions reports for any indicators with amber or red status. The purpose of the report was to provide a rounded view and was not intended to reproduce information discussed at Corporate Programme Board. Councillor Brooks stated that he was not comfortable that there was enough rigour.
Nick Carter explained that the same targets as the previous year were being used until the major piece of work to produce the Council Strategy Delivery Plan was completed. The only indicator off track at present related to Adult Social Care reviews of clients receiving a long term service. The performance report in the main reported the Council’s business as usual activities whereas the Corporate Programme oversaw a number of transformation projects.
Councillor Lee Dillon noted that previously it had been agreed that Members of the Commission would consider targets before they were agreed by the Executive. Councillor Law agreed that indicators should be considered proactively and stated that he would like a small Task Group to be compiled to review the draft Council Strategy Delivery Plan ahead of determination by the Executive.
On the subject on Long Term Service reviews, Councillor Dillon stated that in future he would like the exception report to include a prediction of what level of performance could be expected through the mitigating actions taken, if not the original target. Catalin Bogos stated that amber was used to indicate where performance was off track but expected to meet the target by year end. He would amend the exception report template to include a prediction of how close performance could get to the target for red indicators.
Councillor Dillon suggested that information on the size ... view the full minutes text for item 21.
Purpose: To present the latest status of the Corporate Programme.
(Councillor Lee Dillon declared a personal interest in Agenda item 10 by virtue of the fact that he was employed by Sovereign Housing but his work had nothing to do with the Joint Venture. As his interest was personal and not prejudicial he was permitted to take part in the debate).
The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 10) concerning the Council’s Corporate Programme.
Councillor Lee Dillon enquired why the project to roll out Solar photovoltaic panels was only a pilot when there was a strong national evidence base. Nick Carter advised that part of the project was to assess the feasibility before rolling out more widely. In response to a further question, Nick Carter agreed to identify what resource had been allocated to the project and circulate the information.
Councillor Steve Masters asked for more information on the suggestion that solar panels could be rolled out more widely. Nick Carter advised that the Executive was looking at the Property Investment Strategy and he expected renewable energy to be part of the Council’s approach in the future. Not all of the £100m budget had been drawn down with around £63m spent to date. No decisions had yet been made on how to make best use of the remaining £37m.
Councillor Dillon asked why the Joint Venture with Sovereign was showing as red. Nick Carter advised that some sickness absence in Sovereign had caused delay but the agreement was ready to be signed by the end of the year.
Returning to the solar project, Councillor James Cole expressed surprise that it was not feasible to install panels on car parks. Nick Carter advised that while it was possible, it was restricted by cost in some cases.
Nick Carter highlighted that further information on the IT projects was included in the Corporate Programme. He agreed to provide further information on the red projects.
Councillor Law questioned the accuracy of the document when he knew the Local Plan was months behind schedule. Nick Carter advised that he reviewed the document once per month with officers and it would be corrected for the next meeting.
(1) The Corporate Programme was noted.
(2) Nick Carter would circulate information regarding the Solar PV Project.
(3) Nick Carter would circulate information on projects showing as red in the Corporate Programme.
Purpose: To advise the Commission of items to be considered by West Berkshire Council from 12 November 2019 to 29 February 2020 and decide whether to review any of the proposed items prior to the meeting indicated in the Plan.
The Commission considered the West Berkshire Forward Plan (Agenda Item 11) for the period covering 12 November 2019 to 29 February 2020.
Councillor Jeff Brooks asked whether he could see the final Economic Development Strategy ahead of its publication date on 11 December 2019. Nick Carter recommended that the request should be made to Councillor Hilary Cole as the Portfolio Holder.
Councillor Steve Masters queried the timescales for the Environment Strategy as he understood it would now be approved in February or March 2020. Jo Reeves reported that a new version of the Forward Plan would be released later in the week which reflected the updated timescales.
Resolved that the Forward Plan be noted.
Purpose: To receive new items and agree and prioritise the work programme of the Commission for the remainder of 2019/20.
The Commission considered its Work Programme for 2019/20.
The following changes to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission Work Programme were discussed and agreed:
· Line 4, last column - date to be corrected to read ‘Pre decision by Council on 3 March 2020’.
· A small Task Group would be arranged to make comments on the draft Council Strategy Delivery Plan before the decision by the Executive on 19 December 2019. Councillors Alan Law, Jeff Brooks and Garth Simpson were appointed to the Task Group.
· Councillors Steve Masters and Lee Dillon suggested items regarding the Council’s projects to address the Climate Emergency. Councillor Law requested that he be sent a request via email so he could consult the Vice-Chairman and officers before making a decision.
Resolved that the changes to the Work Programme be noted.