West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

Key Accountable Performance 2018/19: Q2

To scrutinise Q2 outturns against the Key Accountable Measures contained in the 2018/19 Council Performance Framework and consider topics for more detailed investigation. 

Minutes:

The Commission considered a report (Agenda Item 9) concerning quarter two, key accountable performance for 2018/19.

Catalin Bogos reported that the report gave detail on performance against the Council Strategy. It was important to note that demand was rising within certain services including Adult Social Care and Children and Family Services. Achievements for these services were listed within the report.

At the end of September 2018, four measures were rated as amber and four were rated as red. Regarding the red targets, it was unlikely that these would be achieved by the end of the year. Exception reports had been provided for each area rated as red or amber.

Councillor Lee Dillon felt that Catalin Bogos was the messenger and felt that the Leader or Deputy Leader should be present as well as Portfolio Holders to answer questions in detail. Councillor Dillon noted that the target regarding London Road Industrial Estate would have turned red since the quarter two information was released. Catalin Bogos commented that the report reflected the status of milestones and the narrative explained the position. Actions were in place to address any outstanding areas. Due to the timing of when information was available, work sometimes had to take place retrospectively.

Catalin Bogos commented that although he was the messenger for performance he was present to listen to views and obtain further information if required by Members.

Councillor Mike Johnston commented that there was less than three months to go until the end of the financial year and asked if there was a possibility that any of the red or amber targets would change to green by year end. Nick Carter stated that targets rated red would not be recovered however, those that were rated amber should be.

Councillor Gordon Lundie stated that if Portfolio Holders were invited to Commission meetings there would be a danger of recreating the Executive, where they were already held accountable for performance. Councillor Dillon stated that he did not mind where the questions were being asked as long they were being raised.

Councillor Ian Morrin stated his frustration with the system as targets rated red seemed to be staying red for a long time, particularly some Education targets around closing the gap.

Councillor Law asked if performance indicators were up to date and valid and that this was potentially an area OSMC could focus on. Nick Carter confirmed that OSMC had focused on this in the past through a task group. There was a lot of work taking place to resolve areas rated as red and Heads of Service were well informed on the issues. Red targets could be achieved in time however, it could not be confirmed when. Nick Carter reassured the Commission that red targets were not dismissed. The Head of Education was well aware of the red targets within his area around attainment and the reasons for the position however, they were particularly challenging. Nick Carter highlighted that they were long term strategic targets.

Councillor Morrin reiterated his concern about the length of time targets were staying red. Nick Carter explained that some of the Council Strategy targets were politically driven and when set initially it had been recognised that they would be challenging however, it was important to have high aspirations. If a target was not being achieved it would receive a lot of attention and focus at Corporate Board. There was a sense across the Local Authority that red targets would be subject to scrutiny.

Councillor Dillon referred to the summary sheet on page 97 of the report pack which highlighted RAG ratings for core business and priorities for improvement. ‘Communities Help Themselves’ was a priority achieving particularly well however, in Councillor Dillon’s view this was one of the weakest priorities in terms of structure. Councillor Dillon stated that the Council Strategy had priorities for improvement however some were not improving at the rate expected and he asked for Nick Carter’s view on this. Nick Carter agreed that ‘Communities Help Themselves’ was difficult to measure. There had been lengthy debates regarding whether the expectations should be that all targets should be green however, a ratio of 80% green to 20% red was seen as more realistic and if challenging targets were being set there would be an element of red ratings.

Nick Carter added that there had been discussions on whether targets around attainment had been set too high and a debate was required regarding why these targets were not being achieved. 

Councillor Dillon asked what decisions were being made around priorities for improvement. Catalin Bogos commented that it was evident from the report that improvements were being made. The issue was that education targets had been set that required the Local Authority to fall within the top 10% of the highest achieving authorities. While improvements were being made, this was also the case in other local authorities and it was therefore difficult to break into the top 10%. There was also a challenging target for affordable housing in that the Council Strategy priority was to facilitate the completion of 1000 units by 2020. Although this target was rated red, a 30% improvement had been achieved.

Ian Pearson explained that there were two targets rated as red for the Education service and as explained these required the Local Authority to be in the top 10% nationally in all indicators. No other local authority was achieving this. Regarding targets that used the wording ‘Closing the Gap’ the Department for Education used ‘Diminishing the difference’. It had been estimated that to close the gap nationally would take 125 years. Although it was important to be ambitious it was also important to be realistic on what could be achieved. Ian Pearson stated that statistics showed that West Berkshire was performing well compared to other local authorities and was in the top quartile in many indicators. It was confirmed that the previous Corporate Director for Communities had been keen on targets worded ‘Closing the Gap’.

Councillor James Cole felt that the graphics used within the report did not show the improvement being achieved. Councillor Law asked what value could be added by OSMC. Councillor Lundie felt that a discussion was required between Executive Members and OSMC to ensure ambitions for the District were realistic when targets were set. Councillor Law queried if OSMC should be scrutinising the Council Strategy and associated targets each time it was refreshed and felt that if performance was improving then this needed to be shown. Councillor Morrin suggested that arrows be added to graphics to show if improvement was being achieved. Nick Carter confirmed that a system was being explored that used dials to indicate the direction of travel and this would hopefully resolve the Commission’s concerns. 

Councillor Marigold Jaques felt that the Commission should be scrutinising particularly areas which were underperforming. Andy Day confirmed that this had been practiced in the past when members of the Education team had been asked to attend OSMC.

Councillor Dillon referred to page 136 which detailed the Adult Social Care performance indicator: ‘% of clients with Long Term Service receiving a review in the past 12 months’. Councillor Dillon noted that the target had been red in the past but had since been turned around through increased staffing. The target was failing again on staffing issues, which in Councillor Dillon’s view was within the Local Authority’s control. Catalin Bogos confirmed that the plan had been to deploy staff from other teams however, this had been hindered by annual leave and staff sickness. He agreed that it was a resourcing issue.

RESOLVED that the Commission noted the report.

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