Report of the Leader of the Council detailing South Kesteven District Council’s performance data for quarter three of 2020/21, for the key priorities of this Committee
The Monitoring Officer noted that the report contained the 6 performance dashboards that the Committee had worked on and developed. The dashboards were now available on the SKDC Website via the performance reporting link.
The Chairman had met with the Monitoring Officer and the Performance Lead Officer and discussed the longer-term future of performance measures and the new Corporate Plan. There was an exercise to bring the performance measures in line with the Corporate Plan. The Chairman suggested that a workshop should be arranged to review the performance measures, identify how these could be aligned with the Corporate plan and look at how the big-ticket items could be included in performance reporting. It was suggested that the workshop take place over the coming Summer when it was hoped that restrictions would have been sufficiently eased by then. Members were asked to let the Chairman and Vice-Chairman know whether they would be interested in taking part in the workshop.
ACTION POINT 7
a) A workshop to be arranged during the Summer to review the performance measures, identify how these could be aligned to the Corporate plan, look at how the big-ticket items could be included in the performance reporting, gather an understanding of what was being taken from the performance dashboards and whether there were areas that required more focus.
b) Members to let the Chairman and Vice-Chairman know whether they would like to take part in the workshop.
The Chairman referred to Appendix 6 – Complaints in the report and sought clarification on the Complaint process. The Monitoring Officer explained there was currently a three-stage complaint process, but a two-stage process was being considered. The complaint process together with the timelines could be accessed through the SKDC website. If the complaint was not satisfied it moved to two levels of review all the way up to Director level. A member of the public could also take a complaint to the Ombudsman but there were few of these as most of the complaints were dealt with satisfactorily.
Members were informed that due to the current way complaints were collated, the statistics presented were misleading. Reference was made to Street Scene and how most of the “complaints” were requests for service, such as requesting a bin collection that may have been missed. These were normally dealt with very quickly and work was being done to disaggregate the reports as the current format provided a distorted picture.
ACTION POINT 8
The Chairman asked the Monitoring Officer to arrange for the details of the 76 Street Scene complaints to be forwarded to Committee Members.
A Member referred to the previous Quarter 3 report on complaints when the Committee had been advised that a new complaints system was being developed and queried what progress had been made in developing this new system.
The Monitoring Officer noted that progress had been made and work was ongoing with the Customer Services Team. IT input would be required to help in disaggregating complaints information and collecting it in a more appropriate manner. It was also noted that the aim was to report at every stage which would provide more accurate information for Members to consider and ensure that service improvements could be achieved.
ACTION POINT 9
That the Committee receives a report on the progress of the work undertaken on a new complaints system at the next meeting.
The Vice Chairman referred to the fluctuation of rent performance and acknowledged that the downturn at the beginning of the year was due to COVID. He queried whether there was still a degree of understanding for tenants experiencing financial difficulties and how this had impacted on the projections for the year. He also queried whether the Council Tax collections and non-domestic waste collection performances were below the collection rate targets due to the impact of COVID, how this had impacted on the Council’s cashflow and what was being done to counteract any impact.
Members were informed there had been multiple dimensions over the last year which had created a volatile arrears position. The whole of the recovery process had been suspended for six months with no recovery action being taken until September 2020. This had been a local decision in line with other authorities, Courts had also been suspended and Government had intervened nationally by preventing evictions. Weekly generated finance reports identified areas where a more supportive approach could be taken through direct intervention conversations with tenants and businesses about what support and arrangements could put in place.
The converse had been an acceleration of discretionary housing payment allowances which had been fast tracked to tenants. The Government had also intervened with nearly £1m hardship fund. Eligible residents had £150 reduction in Council Tax bills for one year only. Where it had been possible to offset arrears, this had created a positive impact on the arrears position but there was no enforcement underpinning arrangements with those tenants who could not pay.
Reference was then made to the business rates and the target backdrop being incorrect due to the Government Relief given at the start of the period. This had wiped off £25m of debt by giving those business sectors specific relief. That had impacted on the collectable debit of £45m being reduced to £20m which meant that the profile was not in line with the remaining residual debt.
In context, Council Tax was behind by around £756K up to the end of Quarter 3 which meant that the Council Specific portion was down by around 10% equating to around £75K. In terms of the Business Rates, these were around £698K behind target. Projected targets for the year would probably not be reached and it was anticipated that the fluctuations would continue into the new year.
A Member referred to Appendix 4 regarding planning application decisions and noted they had to be determined within a specific timescale but there was no mention of a planning determination date in the report. He felt it should be mentioned as there could be implications should an application go to appeal.
A Member queried where the complaint figure of 7 for Environmental Health, Licensing and Neighbourhoods had come from, how these were picked up and whether they referred just to the Council or to private landlords as well. The Monitoring Officer confirmed that the figures related solely to the Council.
A Member raised concerns about the number of affordable houses that had been built in Grantham noting that only 3 out of 181 houses had been delivered. The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning noted that he shared the concerns around the affordable housing and suggested that a report on the issue of affordable housing be brought to both this Committee and Planning Committee.
ACTION POINT 10
That the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning brings a report to this Committee on the issue of the delivery of affordable housing in the District.
The Chief Executive noted that it was disappointing that the affordable housing targets were not being met and that not all private developers brought affordable housing forward on their developments. She referred to the number of permissions being granted and the developments that were in the pipeline and commented on the Barrowby Development that contained plans for affordable housing. She also noted that the Council could not control how developers delivered the 30% target of affordable housing on their sites.
Reference was also made to the regular requests from the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, for updates on the capital programme and explained that the focus for the last few months had been on compliance and not the capital programme. She assured Members that schemes were being prioritised and that a housing report would be going before Cabinet next week.
The Chairman welcomed all the valid comments and thanked everyone for their input and the Performance Report was noted.