Agenda, decisions and minutes

Virtual Live Streamed Meeting (At present, members of the public are not able to attend), Corporate Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 7th June, 2021 1.00 pm

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Venue: Virtual Meeting

Contact: Ann Holmes 

Items
No. Item

1.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declaration of interest by any Member or Officer in respect of any item of business.

Minutes:

No declaration of interest was received.

2.

Minutes of the Previous Meetings pdf icon PDF 324 KB

To present the minutes of the previous virtual meetings of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee held on the following dates –

 

·         26 March, 2021 (call-in)

·         23 April, 2021

·         18 May, 2021 (election of Chair/Vice-Chair)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meetings of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee held on 26 March, 2021 (call-in), 23 April, 2021 and 14 May, 2021 (election of Chair and Vice-Chair) were presented and were confirmed as correct.

 

Arising thereon – the Chair sought a progress update with regard to creating a Community Resilience Handbook which it was agreed at the Committee’s April meeting would be a useful resource in bringing together the lessons learnt and good practices fostered in responding to the Covid 19 pandemic from a community perspective.

 

The Chief Executive confirmed that whilst work in the background to create a handbook of the kind has begun she was not able to give a timescale for its completion. The handbook will be produced as soon as is practicably possible and as dealing with the continuing pandemic will allow.

3.

Monitoring Performance: Corporate Scorecard Quarter 4 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To present the report of the Head of Profession (HR) and Transformation.

Minutes:

The report of the Head of Profession (Human Resources) and Transformation incorporating the final scorecard report for 2020/21 was presented for the Committee’s consideration. The scorecard portrays the position of the Council against its operational objectives as outlined and agreed earlier in the year.

 

Councillor Dafydd Rhys Thomas, Portfolio Member for Corporate Business introduced the report highlighting that the Quarter 4 Scorecard brings to a close one of the most difficult periods in the life of this Council. During Quarter 4, Wales continued to be in a national lockdown and the Island saw its highest number of positive Covid 19 cases as well as an outbreak on Holy Island. As a result of a multi-agency response and intervention, the situation was successfully managed swiftly, avoiding further community spread to other areas of Anglesey. It is within this context that the Quarter 4 report has been prepared and is a key tool in monitoring the success of the Council’s normal business as usual activities.

 

Referring to specific areas of performance, the Portfolio Member for Corporate Business confirmed that the Coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the normal delivery of services by the Council and as such the financial performance does not reflect what would happen in a normal year. The underspend of £4.197m is welcomed and strengthens the Council’s financial position but the situation could change especially as the demand for services is expected to increase following the pandemic. In those areas where performance has declined or is under target, Covid19 has been a significant contributing factor as shown in the report. Conversely, the pandemic and the national work at home edict have led to a marked improvement in the staff absence level with 6.68 days lost to absence per FTE in the year against a target of 9.75 days lost per FTE. Reduced contact with others has resulted in a short-term sickness level of only 1.94 days lost to absence per FTE throughout the year. The use of technology has been key although the number of online payments for the green waste collection service was disappointing. The Council’s phone lines came under particular pressure for a period at that time and lessons have been learnt from the experience with a view to improving the process next year. Despite its having been a most difficult year, performance on the whole has held up well and thanks are due to all the Council’s staff who have ensured the continuation of the Council’s business while adapting to different ways of working and in many cases undertaking roles that did not exist before the pandemic.

 

The Head of Profession (HR) and Transformation agreed that although it had been a most challenging year, staff had responded well to the changed circumstances but that Covid-19 remains a challenge going forward.

 

In the ensuing discussion, the following points were raised –

 

           The timeline for the re-opening of Cyswllt Môn, the Council’s customer facing area   for members of the public to manage issues that cannot  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Finance Scrutiny Panel Progress Report

The Chair of the Finance Scrutiny Panel to provide an oral report.

Minutes:

 

Councillor Dafydd Roberts, Chair of the Finance Scrutiny Panel provided a verbal report of the matters discussed at the Finance Scrutiny Panel’s 3 June, 2021 meeting as follows –

 

           Revenue Budget 2020/21 Quarter 4 update

 

The Panel having received a verbal presentation by the Director of Resources (Function)/ Section 151 Officer noted the £4m end of year underspend and the reasons for it including reduced demand for some services in lockdown and Welsh Government financial support for both increased costs and loss of income due to the pandemic. The schools’ financial situation and increased balances were noted as was the underspend on central education costs because of the enforced closure of schools for much of the year. The Panel heard that 3 schools are now in deficit compared to 11 last year.

 

The Panel noted also that services had underspent to the tune of £3m; those services were outlined and why they had underspent was explained. The need to review the children’s services out of county budget was recognised because of the extra funding provided in the past two years and the reduced demand for out of county placements as the Authority’s own foster service provision has increased. The funding side of the Council’s business was discussed including the Council Tax, Council Tax Premium, Non-domestic rates and Revenue Support Grant where the income was £133k short of the budget .This was attributable in the main to 200 second home properties switching from Council Tax to business rates and the Council having to reimburse the difference.  Despite this the number of second homes paying the premium has remained constant indicating that the number of properties coming into the second and empty homes category is equivalent to those switching. In agreeing that the Panel would scrutinise the response to the consultation on increasing the Council Tax premium, it was noted that it is becoming increasingly challenging for young people to  buy a property  and that some form of scheme to help them is required. The Panel also noted the few areas of over expenditure within the Council.

 

The Panel in considering future financial prospects noted the uncertainty around future funding settlements and the level of demand for some of the Council’s services as it comes out of the pandemic which it recognised as risks. The importance therefore of maintaining a healthy level of balances to meet future potential demand pressures and/or reduced funding was noted. Concluding its scrutiny of the Qtr.4 revenue side of the budget the Panel recommended the following for the Committee’s attention –

 

           To note the Authority’s financial performance at the end of Quarter 4 2020/21

           To acknowledge the uncertainty in respect of the 2022/23 funding settlement and the possibility of increased demand for services recognising the importance therefore of maintaining a prudent level of reserves.

           To scrutinise the response to the consultation on increasing the Council Tax premium in due course.

           Capital Budget Quarter 4 2020/21 update

 

The Panel having received a verbal  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Impact of Covid on Homelessness Services pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To present the report of the Head of Housing Services.

Minutes:

 

The report of the Head of Service (Housing) setting out how the Service responded to homelessness during the pandemic was presented for the Committee’s consideration. The report summarised the matters dealt with in terms of the number of households/individuals presenting as homeless during this time; the challenges in identifying and providing emergency accommodation; the physical and mental health issues experienced by many of those seeking help and the importance of partnership working in responding to the crisis.

 

The Housing Services Manager (Strategy, Commissioning and Policy) reported that the paper presents an overview of the challenges faced by the Housing Service in responding rapidly to the pandemic by providing safe accommodation to protect homeless people and reduce the community transmission of the virus. The Homelessness Service as with many other services, had to be provided in a different way with all activity conducted over the phone or on digital platforms with support being provided remotely and through the service’s support providers. The period has provided new opportunities to engage with individuals whom the service has been trying to support as well as with principal partners with all organisations pulling  together to ensure sufficient capacity. Providing enough units to meet the need provided a challenge due to the significant increase in the number of people seeking help; the increase flow of people seeking support has since continued with the service already having dealt with 100 such applications. One of the biggest challenges is being able to move those housed in emergency accommodation into permanent housing; a shortage of opportunities to move on as well as high rents means that the Authority is supporting individuals for longer periods. The Team has also seen an increase in the number of people presenting with complex issues including mental health issues, substance misuse and domestic violence. Other people have presented in a very vulnerable state with provision being made for food, tenancy starter packs, basic furniture and packs to assist if there is a need to self-isolate due to Covid.

 

In response to questions by the Committee, the Housing Services Manager (Strategy, Commissioning and Policy) further clarified –

 

           That the Covid 19 pandemic has exacerbated the homelessness situation in that extended lockdown periods have had an effect on family relationships and have contributed to family breakdown; they have led to increased instances of domestic abuse and have resulted in an increased number of  young people seeking support. While these are issues that the Housing Service is used to dealing with, the Covid 19 crisis has contributed to an increase in the scale of the challenges faced.

           That there is a perception that rough sleeping is something that affects larger towns and cities rather than rural areas and also a misapprehension that the Local Authority can solve the problem and compel individuals off the street; the Authority seeks to persuade individuals who are sleeping rough to move away from the streets into accommodation and other services which can also provide support and continues to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Forward Work Programme pdf icon PDF 735 KB

To present the report of the Scrutiny Manager.

Minutes:

 

The Committee’s forward work programme to November, 2021 was presented for consideration.

 

It was resolved –

 

·        To agree the current version of the forward work programme for 2021/22.

·        To note the progress thus far in implementing the forward work programme.