SWT Corporate Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 7th September, 2022 6.15 pm
Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions
Contact: Sam Murrell, Email: email@example.com
Webcast: View the webcast
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillors Gwil Wren (subs Janet Lloyd), Marcus Kravis, Ian Aldridge, Norman Cavill, Simon Nicholls, Danny Weddercopp.
To approve the minutes of the previous meeting of the Committee held on Wednesday 3 August 2022
The Committee resolved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on Wednesday 3 August 2022,
(Prop Cllr Ed Firmin / Sec Cllr Whetlor)
Declarations of Interest
To receive and note any declarations of disclosable pecuniary or prejudicial or personal interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.
(The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)
Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-
The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.
For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.
We are now live webcasting most of our committee meetings and you are welcome to view and listen to the discussion. The link to each webcast will be available on the meeting webpage, but you can also access them on the Somerset West and Taunton webcasting website.
No public questions or statements were submitted to the committee.
To update the Scrutiny Committee on the progress of resolutions and recommendations from previous meetings of the Committee.
Cllr Farbahi queried the Recommendation Tracker regarding the Catapult Report. It stated there were no budgetary implications to the Catapult report, but the report itself mentioned employing three members of staff to carry out the work identified in the report and an annual cost of 50K. As such, he felt that that the report should be scrutinised by the committee, and the budget should be looked at.
Chris Hall confirmed that no staff had been employed by SWT to the roles identified by Catapult and there were no future plans to recruit. The report only listed recommendations, some of which SWT had chosen not to take forward at this time, and thus there was no budget. Some of the "no cost" recommendations may have been implemented, but there was no requirement to adopt them all.
Cllr Farbahi’s other concerns as identified in the Written Answer Tracker were going to be directly followed up with officers. If this raised further questions, the Chair advised him to bring those to a future Scrutiny meeting.
To receive items and review the Forward Plan.
No comment was made.
The committee noted the Corporate Scrutiny Forward Plan.
Executive Portfolio Holder Report for Local Government Reorganisation – Councillor Sarah Wakefield.
Update report as submitted to Full Council on Tuesday 6 September.
Cllr Sarah Wakefield gave a verbal report on her portfolio responsibilities for the Local Government Review. Her report in the agenda pack had been provided in advance of Full Council (the night before) and as such she advised on the following updates.
There was considerable pressure on teams to deliver the budgets for the new Council, taking into account the rising costs due to inflation, pay settlement, new legislation around social care, utilities and supply chain materials. A lot of staff were being deployed away from their substantive posts to cover work in advance of vesting day, and this was having an impact on their Business as Usual (BAU) roles. Such work included setting the Medium-Term Financial Plans, budget setting for the new council, delivery of the LCN consultation and also work to establish the new Taunton Town Council.
The appointment of the new CEO, Duncan Sharkey had happened, and he was due to take up his role in October. Target operating modelling was going to take place across the organisation to create a council that was fit for purpose and safe, legal and functioning on vesting day. Duncan Sharkey will be an integral part of this process to ensure that he had the teams he wants in place to deliver the aspirations of the new Council.
The Local Community Network (LCN) consultation had been launched this week, and Cllr Wakefield encouraged everyone to take part. There are face-to-face consultations due to take place, as well as virtual meetings for councillors, parishes, towns and stakeholders. The following points were made :-
· How big are the boundaries of the LCNs? The consultation covers three options with various size boundaries. These range from 10 LCNs up to 18 across Somerset. One of the options allows SCC Cllrs to cover their Division only, whilst another might mean that they have to sit on more than one LCN.
· The geographical boundaries are not set in stone and that is why the consultation is important! It is also recognised that there will be some cross boundary working between parishes with similar issues.
· LCNs will be committees of the Council so only elected SCC members can vote on the decision making as they will be responsible for the budgets.
· Initially LCNs will influence Planning and Licencing but will not determine those decisions. It is recognised that the appropriate training is required for those who sit on these committees. It could evolve however as the Unitary continues to take shape.
· Officer support will be provided to facilitate the LCNs. This is where the majority of the budget will be allocated. They will be set up and ready on vesting day but will develop as the Unitary evolves. It is yet to be determined how they will fit into the municipal calendar and how many meetings will be needed a year.
· Cllrs Lloyd and Lisgo expressed disappointment at the late notice for the consultation that had taken place in Deane House that day. Not enough time to ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Benet Allen, Portfolio Holder for Communication and Corporate Resources.
Report Author: Kerry Prisco, Management Accounting and Reporting Lead.
The General Fund Financial Performance Report was introduced by Cllr Benet Allen, and presented by Kerry Prisco.
The projected outturn financial position for the year is an overspend of £326k based on estimates made as at 30 June 2022. This is mainly due to a potential pay award pressure exceeding that budgeted, pressures on staffing costs in a challenging labour market and efficiency savings that have not yet materialised.
There are still further risks and uncertainties well documented within the report, with some that will materialise over the next few months and place further pressure on the reported outturn position e.g. pay award and insurance premiums. As reported nationally, the current economic situation is challenging, and the Council is impacted by the rising cost of utilities, fuel and cost of materials. These areas of the business have and will continue to be reviewed closely, and best estimates have been included within this forecast.
The current level of General Reserves is £6.229m which provides the ability to cover the current predicted overspend, if required, as well as sufficient resilience to mitigate the risk of any further significant overspend or additional pressures.
The Senior Management Team will manage the position carefully with the aim to come in on budget by the end of the financial year.
The Committee made the following points:-
· Cllr Lisgo asked for more clarity on paragraph 5.12 of the report which explained that the car parking income budget has been reduced and other service have had their budgets realigned. Car Parking income sits within the External Operations Directorate and has not had its budget changed in the preceding two years, despite the pressures experienced by COVID. The projected forecast was more optimistic, and this adjustment provides a more realistic figure that reflects the challenges within the service. The figure was reduced in the budget setting process for 22/23 but following analysis of the data as part of the Qtr1 process it is considered prudent to reduce it further. Car Parking income is predicting to be lower by about £302k at the end of the financial year.
· The External Operations Directorate have also looked across the whole range of services to see if this budget loss can be covered by realigning budgets in other areas or producing savings to mitigate against it. Budgets will be realigned across commercial services, building control, fleet management and other contractual services to alleviate this and reduce the pressure. As of Qtr1 each Directorate is looking within its own services to make those savings but this might broaden out as we move through the financial year.
· A request was made for a table to be produced via the Written Answer Tracker to clearly explain how the variances had been arrived at.
· Car Parking income is ring-fenced and cannot be used to bolster other services within the council. It can only be spent on car park related projects and should not be seen as an income generating "cash-cow".
· It was queried why the car parking ... view the full minutes text for item 41.
This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Benet Allen, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources and Communications.
Report Author: Malcolm Riches, Business Intelligence and Performance Manager.
The Corporate Performance Report was introduced by Cllr Benet Allen and presented by Malcolm Riches.
Comments from the committee were as follows: -
· Cllr Lisgo queried the number of complaints relating to each category and if these were broken down into relevant themes and "flavours". (Page 49) She asked if there could be a more explicit breakdown to determine the areas of the business which were experiencing pressure and that this be circulated to the Committee. Unfortunately, this can’t be discerned from the table in the existing format. Alison North agreed to provide a written response. Passed to the Written Answer Tracker for follow up.
· Cllr Farbahi queried whether the Council’s adoption of the CNCR policy was going to cause significant pressures, and would it change? There are no plans to change the CNCR policy which is a corporate priority.
There were no further questions at this stage so the Chair closed the meeting.