Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Guildhall
Contact: Suzanne Price Scrutiny Facilitator
Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Trevor Bates, Sonia Benbow-Jones and Barrie Warburton.
The Chair welcomed Councillor Paul Blackwell to the meeting following his recent period of absence.
To sign as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 December 2018
AGREED – That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 December 2018 be signed as a correct record.
To consider the report of the Head of Finance
The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/04/19s) to assist the Committee in considering and agreeing its work programme.
The Scrutiny Facilitator reported that the work programme had been updated to reflect changes previously agreed.
Members noted that the Chair and Vice-Chair would work with officers regarding the scheduling of items for the March meeting.
AGREED – That the work programme as outlined in report HF/04/19s be agreed.
To consider the report of the Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health & Safety and Governance
The Lead Member for Organisation – Finance, Performance, Health & Safety and Governance submitted a report (CLF/01/19s) to provide the Committee with a summary update on progress against the Council Plan as at quarter two 2018/19. The report was first considered by Executive Board in December 2018 and related to performance between 1 April and 31 September 2018.
Presenting the report the officer highlighted areas of both good performance and underperformance and asked the Committee to consider if there were any areas of concern which had not already been identified by other Committee work programmes for challenge.
Members asked questions of the officer and debated the report, referring to the following matters in particular:
· Noted that town centre voids had increased during this period. The Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee had considered several reports during the past twelve months relating to both Council Plan objectives E1 and E2.
· Educational attainment on leaving secondary school remained a concern for the Committee. Noted that this issue had already been highlighted on the work programme of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee. The local authority and GwE were working with the Welsh Government regarding future key performance indicators which would provide stakeholders with assurance of improvement.
· The percentage of assessments completed for children within statutory timescales had progressed however still required further improvement. Noted that quarter 3 data, reported to the Safeguarding, Communities and Well-being Scrutiny Committee, had highlighted performance for this indicator of 86% against a target of 90.80%.
· Reassurance was sought regarding the level of resource and outstanding vacancies in the intervention team.
· The low number of new units of affordable housing developed reflected the difficulty in small scale development in the private sector.
· Clarification sought whether the 3 units developed this quarter were ex-Council owned properties brought back into Council stock.
· Level of Employee Engagement – concern was expressed that the target was too low, just representing two thirds of the Council staffing level.
· Clarification sought whether there were any additional initiatives planned to encourage staff engagement levels. The officer agreed to take this matter back for consideration.
In conclusion, the Committee were reassured that issues raised were being addressed by each of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees as part of their work programme planning. In addition, it was noted that the performance information was submitted twice per year to the Executive Board. It was therefore suggested that this Committee receive this performance report on an annual basis and the Scrutiny Co-ordinating Group be asked to consider the Quarter 2 performance report following its publication to the Executive Board.
(i) That the information included in the report be noted.
(ii) That the Committee receive the annual Council performance information on an annual basis and the Scrutiny Co-ordinating Group be asked to consider the Quarter 2 performance report following its publication to the Executive Board.
(iii) That the recruitment to posts in Children’s Services’ Assessment and Intervention Team be noted and and the officer seek ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
To consider the report of the Lead Member for Organisation – Planning and Corporate Services
The Lead Member for Organisation – Planning and Corporate Services submitted a report (HCC/01/19s) to provide the Customers, Performance, Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee with the half yearly Workforce Monitoring Information report for the period of 1 April 2018 to 30 September 2018 as agreed and set out in Appendix 1.
Members considered the report and made reference to the following matters in debate:
· Concern was expressed regarding the use of agency workers to cover annual leave. The Lead Member commented that certain jobs required appropriate cover to be in place. Members were directed to the explanations provided in the report from Department Heads. In addition, Members were advised that the Council’s Leave of Absence Policy provided managers with guidance regarding the amount of leave that was considered reasonable for approval.
· Noted that some departments had recruitment difficulties which had resulted in an increase in the use of agency workers covering vacancies. The officer reported that the Department had a plan in place and recruitment campaigns aimed to improve the marketing of such posts.
· Noted that improved data collection processes had resulted in fewer instances of sickness absence recorded without a reason.
· Noted that certain categories of absence, such as stress, anxiety and depression had increased during the reporting period. Reported that this may have arisen owing to more accurate reporting and opportunities for staff to be aware of and to raise such issues, such as the Health and Well being events held throughout the year.
· Noted that guidance for Managers had been developed in order to assist with accurate recording of sickness reasons.
· Information was requested regarding the level of referrals to occupational health and referral to appointment timeframes.
· Suggested that mental health awareness be included in the Council’s induction programme. The officer commented that this could be considered, but it was difficult to overly standardise the induction programme owing to the diversity of jobs within the Council and the current induction topics were already extensive and provided signposts to other resources.
· Noted that the matrix used by the Council to record reasons for sickness absence was also used by many organisations in both the public and private sector.
· Noted that the cost of sickness to the Council was difficult to measure as departments did not always employ alternative cover.
· Requested that the overall cost for absences be provided to Committee members.
· Noted that all departments were striving to achieve a trend of reduction in their levels of sickness absence.
· Noted that the Wales national average in respect of days lost to absence was increasing slightly whilst Wrexham Council’s figures were slightly decreasing, however there was still room for improvement.
· Noted that some local authorities were moving away from using the Bradford Factor as a formula to measure absences. Members requested information on reasons for this change and any resultant change in reported absence levels.
· Noted that the Care First employee assistance programme data contained in the report related to both school and non-school employees. ... view the full minutes text for item 41.