Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny - Resources - Tuesday, 25th January, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, The Burys, Godalming. View directions

Contact: Georgina Hall  01483 523224

Items
No. Item

14.

Apologies for Absence and Substitutes

To receive apologies for absence and note any substitutions

 

Members who are unable to attend this meeting must submit apologies by the end of Tuesday 18 January to enable a substitute to be arranged, if applicable.

 

Minutes:

Councillor George Hesse had decided to leave the committee.  Apologies were received from Councillor Joan Heagin, Councillor Peter Nicholson and Councillor George Wilson. 

 

15.

Minutes

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 23 November 2021 and published on the Council’s website.

 

Minutes:

The minutes for the meeting on 23 November 2021 were agreed to be an accurate record.

 

16.

Declarations of Interests

To receive Members’ declarations of interests in relation to any items included on the agenda for this meeting, in accordance with Waverley’s Code of Local Government Conduct.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

17.

Questions from Members of the Public

The Chairman to respond to any written questions received from members of the public in accordance with Procedure Rule 10.

 

The deadline for receipt of written questions is 5pm on Tuesday 18 January 2022.

Minutes:

There were no questions from members of the public.

 

18.

Questions from Members

The Chairman to respond to any questions received from Members in accordance with Procedure Rule 11.

 

The deadline for receipt of written questions is 5pm on Tuesday 18 January 2022.

Minutes:

There were no questions from Members, but Councillor Seaborne wished to speak on item eight.

 

19.

Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 205 KB

The Policy Overview & Scrutiny Committee is responsible for managing its work programme.

 

The Scrutiny Officer will lead this agenda item.

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer reported that there was an update on part one of the Work Programme.  They had received replies from Surrey Heartlands CCG and Surrey County Council.  The Scrutiny Officer reported that he had sat in on a discussion that Surrey Heartlands had with the Planning team and it seemed like this committee had helped to move the process along and it did seem that the CCG were taking the question of CIL bids seriously and had bought new software to help identify opportunities to bid for CIL funding.  In response to a request from the Committee, the Scrutiny Officer agreed to circulate the responses that had been received from the CCG and Surrey County Council.  Where responses had not yet been received the Scrutiny Officer asked whether anyone had suggestions for contacts.

 

The Scrutiny Officer also reported on part three that there had been a new recurring item added on hybrid working.

 

On part four on the task and finish groups, the Scrutiny Officer reported that the ONS working group on housing allocations should be finished in time for the March meeting cycle at which point they would not have any more ongoing task and finish groups.  He therefore invited ideas for further task and finish groups which the Committee might want to explore.  The Chairman stated that they would discuss the possibility of a working group on the housing revenue account.

 

20.

General Budget 2022-23 and Medium-Term Financial Plan 2022/23 - 2025/26 pdf icon PDF 496 KB

Recommendation

 

That the Policy O&S Committee consider the draft General Fund Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2022/23 and pass comments and observations to the Executive.

 

 

The Head of Finance and Property will lead this agenda item.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The item was introduced by the Financial Services Manager.  She stated that the Committee had in front of them the general fund budget 22/23 and the medium-term financial plan for the general fund.  She took them through the key items in the report.  She stated that the report set out the medium-term financial plan for the next four years building in key assumptions that they had made around the reversal of the Covid-19 impact, inflation on contracts and pay and she stated that the other key item was the fair funding review that they were expecting in the next financial year.  She stated that it also built in some known changes that they would be having over the next year and beyond to government funding for 22/23.  She stated that the first annex, took them through four years assumptions and detailed the forecast budget shortfall over the next four years which was a total of £5.2 million.  She stated it also detailed the measures proposed to help meet some of the budget shortfall and included some targets for services which had been scrutinized and which would be closely monitored throughout the period of the MTFP.

 

She stated that Annex 2 set out the specific 22/23 budget year with details of the movements on this budget in Annex 3. Then Annex 4 covered the fees and charges.  The capital programme and proposed funding were Annex 5 which was the key item around the revenue contribution to that capital programme which impacted the general fund revenue summary and then the report detailed a lot of the changes through the annexes but also the risks to the budget foreseen at that stage.

 

There was a question on inflation.  It was stated that the officers had given the Committee some additional papers which gave some indication of inflation and looking at those and comparing them to Annex 3 some of the Committee were confused as to what the analysis was.  The analysis on page 43 gave an inflation level of £905,000 and indicated inflation increments and elsewhere they had figures for the National Insurance impact with contracts of £380,000 and utilities and staffing at £529,000.  Councillors wanted to know what the contributory factors to inflation were and to have greater degree of detail on the contracts and the individual areas such as the leisure centre and the refuse contract.

 

The Committee also wanted to see more breakdown regarding car parks revenues as they were not able to follow them year by year.  Councillors were interested in the fact that the full year increase for next year for car parks was £730,000 and noted that it was about a 14% increase over the pre-Covid levels which was quite a steep increase.  The Committee did not think that was particularly clearly drawn out when they were taking those decisions or ratifying them earlier in the year.

 

There was a question on the figure for car parks recovery because there was a £730,000 increase due to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Housing Revenue Account Business Plan Budget Paper 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 330 KB

Recommendation

 

That the Policy O&S Committee consider the draft Housing Revenue Account Business Plan – Revenue Budget and Capital programme 2022/23 and pass comments and observations to the Executive.

 

 

The Head of Finance and Property will lead this agenda item.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was stated that the housing revenue account was a new addition to the Committee’s remit.  The item was introduced by the Head of Housing Operations.  Officers were looking to resolve the challenges that the housing service was currently facing but it was also a budget that looked to the long term.  Officers had a housing revenue account 30-year business plan and they were in a period where they were paying the interest.  A few years ago the Council had four years of rent reduction.  Officers were assuming they were going have a rent rise with above inflation which would have significant impact on the business plan and in addition to that the Covid pandemic resulted in lost income.  The Council continued to have contractual issues where staff focus was on dealing with the contract issues rather than improving services and bringing efficiencies.  Additional pressures had arisen from inflation and the decarbonisation agenda.  Eight hundred properties had been built before 1945, and therefore it would be challenging to bring these properties up to the desired standard.  There were other challenges with new building standards, especially around health and safety, and making the senior living schemes safe would involve significant expenditure over the next couple of years.  

 

The report recognised that because of the changing environment the Council needed to do a strategic review.  On the rent rise, the report put forward the argument that the Council’s tenants had generally managed to cope with the last year's rent rise but some individuals had struggled.  Therefore, a hardship fund was proposed to help those people.  He stated that the rent increase needed to be seen in context of the 30-year plan and consider the effect the rent rise had on future rent streams.  The 4.1% increase would enable the Council to deliver services and it equated to £1.61 per week average across all the Council’s tenancies. The Landlord Services Advisory Board and the Tenants Panel had been consulted on the rent rise and they understood the need for it but wanted to ensure that the additional money was invested in Waverley Homes and the building of new homes and that the Council delivered value for money.

 

Councillor Seaborne spoke on this item as Chairman of the former Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  He sought clarification on the accuracy of the figures in Annex Three and Four and asked that they be corrected as appropriate prior to Council consideration.

 

Councillor Seaborne expressed disappointment that the forecast out-turns for 2021 and 2022 were not available.  They were shown the out turns but not the original budget figures.  He felt that this would enable members to make a judgment on the council's recent performance and ability to deliver a capital programme.  The 2021/22 anticipated out turn for the HRA development capital programme was £2.4 million whilst the budget approved in February 21 was for £18.3 million so there was a large underspend.  It was acknowledged that this had been influenced by the Covid pandemic.  He  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Capital Strategy pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Policy O&S Committee consider the draft Capital Strategy 2022/27 incorporating Treasury Management Strategy and Asset Investment Strategy and pass comments and observations to the Executive.

 

 

The Head of Finance and Property will lead this agenda item.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance and Property presented the item which set out a proposed Treasury Management Strategy for dealing with banking the Council’s money, market investments and its borrowing policy; and the policy which governed its treasury management activity.  The Capital Strategy was an overarching governance document which set out how the Council governed its capital spend.  The Asset Investment Strategy was a much more detailed governance document in respect of how Waverley dealt with asset investment. 

 

The Government had carried out a full-scale review based on its concerns around local authorities’ foreign asset investment.  The National Audit Office had looked into a number of authorities surrounding Waverley.  The National Audit Office went into a period of consultation on the Strategy Management Code and the Capital Code or effectively prudential code for capital.  They concluded the revision of both of those codes in late December 2021.  In February 2021 the Council carried forward its existing Capital and Property Investment Strategies and the Treasury Management Strategy with updated indicators pending the outcome of the long-term review.  Therefore, the three documents contained in the report were brand new.  The Council was not able to do anything primarily for yield and the Government would not lend the Council money for that purpose.  The Government stated that local authorities must focus their investment on service delivery i.e. strategic functions such as housing regeneration schemes, market failure areas where there was employment at stake and refinancing of existing positions.  It was noted that the treasury management investment was now a corporate matter which had to be complied with.

 

Cranleigh Leisure Centre was in the core programme and had been considered by the Council recently.  This was a £20 -22 million scheme which split over two years in terms of cash flow.  There were some mixed-use developments in each of those years totalling just short of £20 million.  The Burys Project was the other key project costing around £30 million, which was £15 million a year for two years.   There was a question around whether the Council was allowed to invest in Cranleigh Leisure Centre if that would generate income.  It was explained that the Council was restricted in terms of speculative income.  It was able to invest in schemes which generated income as long as it was service related and a leisure centre met this criteria.

 

Councillors sought clarification that the second recommendation to Council was not open ended and would come back to Council for consideration each year.  Officers advised that if the Council was minded to keep the risk element of the proposal under review, then an annual review would be appropriate.

 

It was stated that the HRA accounts would still see the interest cost attributed to their debt.

 

With regards to the recommendation in para 3.1.1, the Committee RECOMMENDED the approval of the 5-year Capital Strategy for 2022/2027, incorporating the Treasury Management Strategy, Prudential Indicators and Asset Investment Strategy by Full Council.

The Committee RECOMMENDED that the proposed delegation in para 3.1.2  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Service Plans 2022-25 pdf icon PDF 125 KB

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider the Service Plans for 2022-25 relevant to their remit and make any observations or comments to the Executive.

 

The Policy and Performance Officer will introduce this agenda item.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received service plans for Business Transformation, Finance and Property and Policy and Governance, each presented by the relevant Head of Service.

 

The service plans were similar to those proposed last year however, officers would highlight any areas of major change and the key areas of focus going forward.

 

The Head of Business Transformation stated that the main changes were around the new post- Covid working environment which had not yet reached a “new normal” due to the Omicron variant.   Office redesign, booking systems and marketing space on the second floor of the Burys were other items his service had been working on.  

 

Cyber activity was a critical issue and therefore the Council was investing in ways to prevent it happening.  The work around channel shift also presented a significant risk.

 

Business transformation reviews were underway and there had been focus on recruitment in engineering and in other technical areas and re-advertisement of roles was becoming more frequent. 

 

Progress was measured through individual’s appraisals and through the quarterly performance monitoring.

 

The Head of Finance and Property advised that a transformation project in the revenues and benefits service was nearly complete.  Part of the process was implementing a self-service portal on the Civica software that was used to manage both of those services workloads which was important for business transformation.  All key governance controls around reporting and data management had been consolidated into one team.  The Council currently had an arrangement with Reigate and Banstead in respect of debt recovery and this function would be coming back in-house in April 2022.  The current Adelante system would be replaced with Civica pay over the next financial year which would bring new functionality and cost reduction.

 

The Head of Policy and Governance stated that there were three key changes from the previous year's plan, firstly the reference in the previous year's plan that related to a general discussion across Surrey about local government structures had been replaced in the current plan with a more specific objective related to the Guilford - Waverley collaboration.  Secondly the current plan continued to focus on customer service and performance improvement and finally the plan reflected the increased importance of promoting staff and counsellor well-being.  Business as usual functions such as the provision of legal advice, committee administration, HR support, change management, employee relations, internal and external communications and maintaining the electoral register would continue.  The Service had also supported the Guildford-Waverley collaboration focusing on the inter authority agreement in the coming year.  The service had also supported the Where Work Happens project looking at how managers lead in a hybrid environment, how performance is managed in a hybrid environment and how to maintain a team spirit.  He further noted that the constitution review would continue to take place.

 

There was further discussion of Councillors not wanting to go paperless.

 

RESOLVED

The Committee THANKED officers for producing and presenting extensive service plans.

The Committee RECOMMENDED the following clause was appended to the text of action with the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Annual Complaints Information pdf icon PDF 190 KB

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Policy Overview and Scrutiny Committee considers the information in this report and passes any comments and recommendations to the Executive.

 

The Corporate Complaints Officer will lead this agenda item.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Corporate Complaints Officer introduced her annual report which provided a summary of the complaints that had been received in the previous year,  performance in responding to those and lessons learned where appropriate. The report covered the number of complaints closed at each level and the percentages for each service.  64% of all complaints in 2020-21 were closed at level one compared with 75% the previous year.  Housing Operations received the highest number of complaints in total with 106, however that was a slight decrease from the previous year.  The largest number of complaints concerning housing operations were to do with the responsive repair service and property maintenance. 

 

The Council aimed to respond to level one complaints within 10 working days and level two complaints within 15 working days.  84% of all complaints were closed within target time scales in 2020-21 and there was still some work to do to improve performance in that area.

 

In 2021, 68 of complaints were not upheld,10 were partly upheld and 22 were upheld.

 

The Council followed the guidance given by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.  This would often result in an apology being issued and in a small number of cases financial compensation would be paid.

 

The most important part of dealing with complaints was to look at where things had gone wrong in the way services had been delivered and take swift action to put those right. 

 

Some of the Committee thought that the reduction in complaints closed at level 1 in 2021 compared with the previous year represented a drop in performance. The Corporate Complaints Officer stated that it depended on the service in question.  They had received more planning complaints, which would progress to level two more than any other service areas, partly because it was an expression of concern that the Council had failed to take the complainant’s point of view into account concerning a particular planning application.  She stated that most local authorities had a high volume of planning complaints.

 

The Council had moved to using a more sophisticated database.  When a level two complaint was closed, any actions to be taken were raised with the appropriate head of service.

 

It was noted that some of the issues being experienced with Housing Operations arose from problems with contractors and many sectors were finding it difficult to recruit skilled people. 

 

            RESOLVED

 

            The Committee NOTED the report.

25.

Ombudsman Report pdf icon PDF 154 KB

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Policy Overview and Scrutiny Committee notes the information in this report and passes any comments or recommendations to the Executive.

 

 

The Corporate Complaints Officer will lead this agenda item.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Corporate Complaints Manager presented the annual report setting out the complaints that had been made about Council services to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsmen in 2021.  An annual report from the Local Government Ombudsman had been received, setting out feedback on complaints that had been received. The report also contained the Ombudsman's annual letter as an annex.   She noted that the Ombudsman had increasingly taken a more selective approach in that and they only investigated complaints in depth where they felt that there was some good evidence that there had been injustice to the complainant.  For the last four years the numbers had been reasonably stable.  Part two of the report concerned complaints about Waverley’s landlord and leasehold services and those were looked at by the Housing Ombudsman's Service.  She stated that in 2021 the Housing Ombudsman closed investigations in four complaints and in each case, they were ordered by the housing ombudsman to pay compensation.

 

The Committee was concerned that the letter had been sent in July and two committees had passed since then.  The Committee requested that if the usual agreement was for the Policy Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the report, then it should be reported to the first available committee after the letter becomes available, which would normally be the summer meeting. 

 

RESOLVED

The Committee RESOLVED to scrutinise the Ombudsman’s Report at the first Committee meeting after it becomes available.

 

26.

Exclusion of Press and Public

To consider the following recommendation of the motion of the Chairman:

 

Recommendation

 

That pursuant to Procedure Rule 20 and in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during the items, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information (as defined by Section 100I of the Act) of the description specified in the appropriate paragraph(s) of the revised Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act (to be specified at the meeting).

Minutes:

On the recommendation of the Chairman, the Committee RESOLVED that pursuant to Procedure Rule 20 and in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items on the grounds that it was likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during the items, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information (as defined by Section 100I of the Act) of the description specified in the appropriate paragraph(s) of the revised Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act (to be specified at the meeting) namely:

 

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)

 

The live streaming was then switched off for the Committee to go into Exempt session.