Agenda and minutes

Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 4th February, 2020 10.30 am

Venue: Witham Room - South Kesteven House, St. Peter's Hill, Grantham. NG31 6PZ. View directions

Contact: Email:  01476 406080

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    There were no apologies for absence.


Disclosure of interests

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    Members are asked to disclose any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.


    No interests were disclosed.


Action notes of the meetings held on 19 November and 27 November 2019 pdf icon PDF 186 KB

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    Additional documents:


    The action notes of the previous two meetings were agreed as a correct record.


Update from previous meeting

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    The Scrutiny Officer confirmed that the following information requested at the meeting held on 19 November 2019 had been circulated to the Committee electronically:


    ·         Figures stating the number of prosecutions made regarding fly tipping in the current financial year

    ·         Information outlining how food hygiene ratings were measured

    ·         Figures for the number of households in bands 4 and 5 of the Housing Register and Housing Register figures for 2018 to allow comparison to be made


Finance Update Report - Quarter 3 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 301 KB

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    Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance.


    The Cabinet Member for Finance introduced his report giving an update on the forecast 2019/20 outturn positions for Revenue, Savings and Income Generation and Capital. At the last meeting of the Committee the quarter 2 forecast overspend position had been reported at £388k; the quarter 3 figure forecast a positive reduction in the outturn position to £182k. The Cabinet Member directed the Committee’s attention to the other areas for noting within the report, including the significant variances in the General Fund and Housing Revenue Account budgets and their corresponding Capital Programmes.


    The Committee were asked if they had any questions relating to the report or the appended documents.


    The Committee discussed the significant budget variances and referred specifically to the General Fund Revenue Account variances relating to the budgeted procurement and transformation savings. A number of Members expressed concern that it had not been anticipated during the 2019/20 budget setting process that the budgeted savings could not be achieved. Members sought reassurance that the 2020/21 budgeted savings were realistic and asked what lessons had been learned.


    The Committee were assured that significant work had been undertaken throughout the 2020/21 budget setting process to ensure that targets were realistic and achievable. The Cabinet Member for Finance stressed the importance of adhering to the final budget, when approved, and confirmed that any in-year budget framework amendments would be referred to Council or Cabinet as stipulated by the financial thresholds within the Financial Regulations recently approved at Council.


    One Member asked if project plans were in place for the budgeted procurement and transformation savings and if these were monitored, particularly in relation to financial risk. Officers confirmed that both of these areas were underpinned by project plans and had reported quarterly progress to the Committee, where arising issues with the potential to prevent the achievement of these targets had been explained. A risk ratio analysis was undertaken during the budget setting process and Officers confirmed that the unmet procurement and transformation savings were not material enough to affect the overall budget framework.


    The Committee requested further detail regarding the significant variances in relation to the transformation and procurement budgeted savings to understand why they had not been met. The Director of Finance explained that an absence of information regarding existing contracts and the lack of a dedicated resource had created challenges to achieving the budgeted savings for procurement. In September 2019 a Procurement Officer had been appointed with a clear focus on supporting procurement activity across the Council. The continuation of this work in the 2020/21 period would support the achievement of the budgeted savings.


    The Strategic Director, Transformation and Change gave further information on the budgeted transformation savings for the automation project and why these had not been met. The work undertaken with Ernst and Young had included the Revenues and Benefits, Housing and Planning service areas. The programme of work had changed significantly since the work had begun, as the way information was received by the Council had changed in some  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54.


Quarter 3 Performance pdf icon PDF 205 KB

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    Report of the Leader of the Council.

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    The Strategic Director, Transformation and Change introduced the Leader of the Council’s report regarding performance reporting for quarter 3 of 2019/20. An update was given for the performance dashboard progression; seven dashboards had now been produced for key service areas, showing performance against targets, trends and benchmarking information, where available. Some of the dashboards were automated and others required a level of manual input.


    A number of action points were requested to feed into the continued development of the performance dashboards moving forward. Members were particularly keen to have as much comparable data as possible to give context to the information provided. It was also requested that the information provided be taken further to feedback on the outcomes of the performance reporting and any relevant actions that had been implemented at service level. The Committee were informed that the Performance Leads were working directly with service areas to ensure that any actions required were put into place. 


    Action Points


    Ø  The number of affordable homes built to be included within the house build performance dashboard.

    Ø  Numerical figures (and written explanations where appropriate) to be included alongside percentages to provide increased clarity.

    Ø  More legacy data to be included where possible to allow year on year comparisons to be made.

    Ø  National averages to be included where possible.

    Ø  Further categorisation of types of planning applications to be included on the planning process performance dashboard.

    Ø  Follow-up information to be provided on the actions implemented within service areas as a result of the performance dashboard reporting.


    A concern was raised regarding the amount of time it took the Council to deal with land searches. The current timeframe was causing a delay to property and land transactions and a Member asked whether this was having an impact on economic development and growth because of the time taken to provide the information needed to complete a purchase.


    Action Point


    Ø  The Interim Strategic Director, Growth to provide a response to the Committee on the current position and actions put in place to improve the time taken to deal with land search enquiries.


    Members thanked officers for the work that had been put into the development of the new performance reporting dashboards. The Committee asked when the information would be available for the public to view. Officers confirmed that the dashboards appended to the report were currently available to the public as part of the agenda pack; further work would be undertaken before live dashboards were shared.


ICT Infrastructure Transformation pdf icon PDF 203 KB

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    Report of the Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations.

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    The Strategic Director, Transformation and Change introduced the report of the Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations. There had been a review undertaken relating to the server and storage infrastructure currently supporting all of the Council’s software. A number of weaknesses had been identified with regards to the age and reliability of the current provision. Reference was also made to greyware which had the potential to cause additional risks.


    An investment needed to be made to ensure that the ICT infrastructure could efficiently support requirements as service needs changed over time. A project was currently underway to ensure that the existing ICT infrastructure was compliant with standards by the end of the 2019/20 period. The remediation works were being focussed on the central infrastructure of the server room to make the provision sustainable. Upskilling was also planned for members of the IT team to allow them to manage the improved infrastructure when in place.


    The Committee were asked if they had any questions arising from the report or the appended Remediation Action Plan.


    ·         Members enquired as to the financial implications of the remediation works and what the next steps would be. Officers confirmed that the project had been funded through the ICT reserve. Once the works had been completed, the hardware would be reviewed for replacement on a rolling 4 to 5 year programme. Other aspects of the ICT provision would also be reviewed with a view to modernising as necessary moving forward.

    ·         One member of the Committee asked if the Council were considering using cloud services to update its storage of information. It was confirmed that this had been examined but was not currently considered to be a cost effective option.

    ·         Officers were asked for further clarification on the timing of the remediation works and if the project was currently working within the anticipated timeframes. The works were started six weeks prior and each milestone had been reached to date.

    ·         Members asked whether the staffing levels within the ICT department were sufficient to meet demand. It was explained that vacancies were being reviewed. There was potential for further positions to be identified and recruited to following this review to allow the department to provide an efficient ICT service.

    ·         The Committee asked if the emerging ICT Strategy referenced in the report would be linked to the Corporate Strategy. Officers confirmed that as the Corporate Strategy underpinned the overall aims of the organisation, the ICT Strategy would be developed in line with this. The Strategy would be considered by the Committee at a future meeting.


    The Committee noted the positive progress of the ICT infrastructure works and thanked Officers for the update on the progress of the project.




    ·         That a broader update on Transformation be considered at a future meeting of the Committee, with financial information to be included.


Asset Management Strategy pdf icon PDF 191 KB

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    Report of the Leader of the Council.

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    The Interim Strategic Director, Growth presented the Leader of the Council’s report on the Asset Management Strategy, which linked to the Corporate Strategy and set out a clear vision for the Council’s General Fund assets. The Committee were reminded that the Strategy was intended to be a high-level guidance document, and as such, did not include an inventory of the Council’s assets and their associated management plans.


    The Committee were invited to ask any questions arising from the report or the ‘Asset Management Strategy 2020’ document.


    ·       One Member asked how often the assets identified in the asset structure table at 3.1 of the Strategy were valued. It was confirmed that this was reviewed via an ongoing five year process.

    ·       Officers were asked how decisions were reached regarding the disposal of assets and how these decisions were authorised. It was explained that any decisions regarding the disposal of assets were carefully aligned with the Asset Management Strategy and would follow the usual governance processes for decision making, as set out in the Council’s Constitution. There was also an estate group with neighbouring districts that met on an annual basis to discuss options for reducing costs by sharing spaces with other public sector partners, as an alternative to disposal.

    ·       The Committee asked where the Asset Management Strategy sat hierarchically in relation to the Corporate Strategy and why additional strategies were needed. The Corporate Strategy was confirmed as the overarching document which identified the Council’s key themes and priorities. However, it was noted that this Strategy could not incorporate all of the Council’s activities and therefore other strategies were needed to give more specific guidance to standardise procedures in some areas. Members commented that they would like to see an introductory page within strategies to explain how they support the Corporate Priorities.


    Action Point


    Ø  Officers to consider including an explanation detailing how strategies support and relate to the Council’s Corporate Strategy when reviewing existing and developing new strategies moving forward.


    ·       One Member commented that the draft Strategy addressed the management of assets from a primarily financial viewpoint and wished to note that the value of assets to members of the community also needed to be considered when making decisions.




    ·       The Committee concluded that the draft Asset Management Strategy and been considered sufficiently and welcomed the principle of the Strategy.


Member Working Group for Leisure pdf icon PDF 90 KB

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    To confirm the formation of, and seek volunteers for, a Member Working Group for Leisure. The purpose and scope of the Working Group are set out in the draft Terms of Reference.


    The Deputy Leader of the Council introduced his item relating to the review of the leisure provision across the district. He informed the Committee that visits to all of the leisure centres would be carried out and that the input of local Councillors would be welcomed when considering the options for the specific leisure sites.


    A Member Working Group for Leisure was being formed to help shape and develop the overall leisure review process, to allow a small group of Members to track progress and feed back to the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committees as needed. Although the Terms of Reference stated that two Members of the Committee would be required, there were four members of the Committee who volunteered and the Deputy Leader agreed to amend the requirement to allow all four Members to join the Working Group. The Committee also suggested that it would be beneficial for a representative from the Finance Department be invited to join the group.


    Action Point


    Ø  Councillors Whittington, Dilks, Morgan and Adams to join the Member Working Group for Leisure.

    Ø  An officer from the Finance Department to be invited to the meetings of the Member Working Group for Leisure to provide financial advice as needed.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 93 KB

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    Members to review the Committee’s work programme.


    The Chair requested that the ‘town centre and car parking review’ item on the Work Programme be considered alongside the ‘Grantham Town Centre’ item at the April meeting of the Committee. The Scrutiny Officer would consult with the Strategic Director, Commercial and Operations regarding work already being undertaken in these areas to identify if the Committee could add value by considering these items further.


    One Member suggested an item relating to Member initiatives that could raise money and how these could be considered outside of the usual governance process. The Chair asked that the discussion point be defined more clearly with the Scrutiny Officer to clarify the potential for this the be considered by the Committee.


Any other business, which the Chairman, by reason of special circumstances, decides is urgent

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    There was no urgent business to discuss.


Close of the meeting

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    The meeting closed at 12:48.