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Agenda item

Programme of Portfolio Holder Attendance

Report of the Democratic Services Officer.

Minutes:

The Committee welcomed John Clarke, Leader of the Council and Michael Payne, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Resources and Reputation to discuss a range of issues relating to their areas of responsibility.  They were accompanied by the Chief Executive, John Robinson.

 

Councillor Clarke provided information on a range of issues identified by Members

 

·         Have there been any business contingency, emergency planning or business continuity strategies developed? For example to respond to drought or changes in the economic climate.

 

In total there are over fifty Local Resilience Forum plans covering Business Continuity and Emergency Planning requirements.  The Councils emergency plan received a complete re-write in January 2017, and Emergency Planning on call arrangement was revived and training delivered to all senior managers in 2017.

Flooding is one of Gedling’s greatest risks and we have specific emergency plans for dealing with flooding, this is scheduled to be reviewed in June 2018.

In the event of drought the Local Resilience Forum has plans for water supplies, which were activated recently for the Severn Trent Water shortage in June 2017.

 

During discussion the following points were made:

 

·         Members should be included in training as members of the community may look to them for assistance

·         It would be useful to have an information pack which contained relevant contact details in the event of an emergency

·         Lessons need to be learnt from the actions of the authority responsible for the Grenfell fire response

·         The first 12 – 24 hours are critical in any emergency and the need for good communications with the public was paramount

·         Members would find it useful to be informed about police incidents in their ward

·         It is vital to build relationships with other organisations and to work together to provide coordinated responses to emergencies.

 

·         In relation to building and developing relationships with partners at a local, regional, nationaland international level.  What relationships have been formed, at what level and what benefits have been derived?

 

Gedling has a large number of partners and is involved in a wide range of partnerships for many different reasons.  At a local level we are in partnership with the police, health, housing associations, local businesses and an array of voluntary and community groups.  This helps to improve people’s lives and the challenges presented by homelessness, anti-social behavior, unemployment, debt and housing growth can’t be addressed by any single organisation operating on its own.  We also provide services to other Councils for example payroll as a means of generating income in addition to operating as a landlord to a wide range of organizations, partly to generate rental income and partly to improve access to services.

At a regional level we are active within the arena of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, the main purpose of which is to ensure that the priorities of Gedling are taken into account in the allocation of funding.  Gedling secured the largest allocation (£10.8 million) for a transport scheme for the Gedling Access Road.  The Leader also sits on two Executive Boards of East Midlands Councils and the Chief Executive is the East Midlands lead for the national Syrian Resettlement programme and also is the Modern Slavery Lead for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. At a national level, the Leader is a member of the National Council for the Association of Public Service Excellence and the Deputy Leader is the Chair of the Local Government Information Unit and the Deputy Chair of the LGA Labour Group.  These high profile positions raise the profile of Gedling and provide access to best practice.

Internationally we are a partner with a number of countries to deliver the ERASMUS programme, which aims to generate additional apprenticeships and share good practice.   The authority is always looking to establish new relationships and although we are no longer involved in Twinning arrangements seek to work co-operatively with other countries.

Members were concerned the withdrawal of the County Council financial support for unaccompanied child migrants could have an adverse effect on the resettlement of Syrian refugees,  they were reassured that this would not make any difference to the number that Gedling will assist to resettle. Members expressed their disappointment that the withdrawal of County Council funding appeared to have been taken without any discussion; it needed cross party discussion with the City, districts, East Midlands Council’s and Government Ministers.

It was noted that Councillor Wheeler’s contribution to the Health and Wellbeing Board has been significant but the loss of borough representatives on the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee was a disappointment.

 

·         To enhance the building, and maintaining, of positive relationships between elected Members and employees could a target be set advocating a reply times. 

 

When a Member passes a query or a question to a service area, it is expected that the relevant officer will respond promptly. A target has never been set but is an arrangement that generally works well. However, as services are under increasing pressure and it may not always be possible to react as quickly as people would like.  If there is a constant problem Members should raise this with the relevant Director or Chief Executive.

Members commented that that if a quick response is not possible a holding email to indicate receipt of the email and a date when a response would be available would be helpful. The usefulness of a visit to the Contact Centre to enable Members to learn how it operated was suggested.

 

·         L1006 Working Days lost to sickness. What measures are being considered that may have a positive impact?  Should a target figure of nine days be considered?  What are the main reasons for absence?

 

A number of measures to address this issue are being considered and should have a positive impact.  Following discussion at SLT a report went to the last meeting of the Joint Consultative and Safety Committee in May.  This outlined some specific measures to tackle this issue including:

·         Continuation of case management meetings designed to review how long term absences are being managed.  Meetings are attended by relevant directors, service managers and HR

·         A review of monthly sickness information

·         Introduction an employee assistance programme

·         Introduction access to ‘fast track’ physiotherapy support

·         Introduction into our policy the themes of the ‘Dying to Work Charter’

·         Review of the policy to limit the period of absence

·         Review of trigger points.

Further consultation will take place with Trade Unions before approval.

The target level of ten days has been set as a performance indicator for 2017/18, but based on the year outrun 2016-17 of around 11.7 days this represents a challenge.  Absence rates were high last year due in part to a high number of long term absences.  There has been an improvement in the first two months of this year with an outrun of 11.38 days for April/May,  however  it will be necessary to replace the higher levels of absence over the last 12 months with very low levels of absence during quarters 2-4 in order to meet a target of nine days at year end.

In the last financial year the causes of the three highest rates of absence with depression/anxiety (20.6%), recovery from surgery (16.6) and muscular/skeletal problems (16.3%)

 

Councillor Payne then provided information regarding a range of questions identified prior to the meeting.

 

·                    L1057 Are there any plans to increase the target when the current target has been exceeded.

 

This performance indicator needs to be looked at in conjunction with L1052 Percentage of calls to the contact Centre answered (or call back made)  The reason for this is that customer service advisers are moved from telephones to booths in order to deal with demand.  The targets set in the Gedling Plan for 2017/18 seek to maintain current standards, which do not reflect any lack of ambition but recognition of the financial challenges facing the Council.

 

·                    LI017 Percentage of Business Rates collected: noting that the percentage collected for 2016/17 is at 98.71% and is slightly below target of 98.90%, can the Deputy Leader give the balance owed in monetary terms, and explain what measures are taken to recover it.

 

This is the second highest collection rate in Nottinghamshire District Councils.  The collection of business rates within Gedling is difficult because it has significant number of smaller businesses, whereas other districts have the advantage of collecting from large organisations.  Despite this there has been a high collection rate of 98.71%.  The target is a challenging one and at the year-end performance fell short by 0.29% or £32,000. Any balances remaining are recovered in subsequent years.  The total amount uncollected in respect of 2016/17 was £292,000 (compared to a 100% collection rate).  Business rate arrears for all previous years total £488,000.  There is still uncertainty what is happening to business rate revenue in the future.

 

·                    LI016 Percentage of Council Tax collected: noting that the percentage collected for 2016/17 is at 98.40% and is slightly below target of 98.50%, can the Deputy Leader give the balance owed in monetary terms, and explain what measures are taken to recover it.

 

This is the third highest collection rate in Nottinghamshire.  The target set is ambitious and it was missed by 0.1% or £45,000.  The 98.4% is the collection rate within the year against Council Tax that was raised; any remaining balances are collected in subsequent years using effective recovery procedures reminders, magistrates court, enforcement agencies etc. The total amount uncollected in respect of 2016/17 was £1,1300,000 (i.e. compared to 100% collection rate).  The total council tax arrears for all previous years total £3,093,000

The team that deals with this issue has lost staff but has remained very effective.  Members commented that the closure of small businesses in the borough must have affect collection rates.

 

·                    How does the council ensure it gets the best deal when negotiating developer contribution

 

Where contributions are due, discussions take place as early as possible and are negotiated in accordance with our adopted planning policies and guidance.  In reality the process does not always work as well as it should.  There are a number of factors which complicate the process for example where the Council owns the land or where there is a need to agree priorities with other departments or authorities.

 

·                    Please explain what is being done to create a stronger commercial and entrepreneurial culture?

 

Officers are working on a new approach which will redefine the way in which we work.  This has four themes, digitalisation, agile working, demand management and commercialisation.  Underpinning these themes are a set of Service Manager led working groups that will deliver change and improvement for the Council. 

A draft strategy has been produced which focusses on four key areas of activity:

1.            Strengthening the Council’s commercial culture

2.            Increasing income from Council services through trading, charging and investment

3.            Increasing external funding to the Council

4.            Increasing capital and revenue income through housing development and economy/employment growth.

This new approach has been discussed with Service Managers, income generation areas identified and income generation targets set.  Project teams are working on business cases for pet cremations, a parks and street care company and options for housing development.  A sales and marketing manager is to be recruited.  Surplus plots of land have been identifies and assessed for suitability for housing or sale.

Concern regarding the effect on some proposals could have on small business in the borough was expressed.

 

The Leader was asked about the opening of Gedling Country Park. The ward councillor expressed concern that she was not invited to the opening and had not even been made aware it was taking place. This developed into a discussion regarding how members could be informed about activities taking place in their ward and speaking to the media at events. This is an area that could be included in future work programme.

 

RESOLVED TO:

 

·                         Thank Councillor Clarke and Payne for an interesting and informative discussion; and

·                         note the information provided.

·                         Arrange a visit to the Contact Centre for interested Members.

 

Supporting documents:

 


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