Agenda and minutes

Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday 22nd February 2017 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Campus East, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6AE. View directions

Contact: Gurdip Paddan 01707 357349 Email: 

No. Item



To note any substitution of Members made in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 19-22.



The following substitution of Committee Members had been made in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 19-22:


Councillor G Hayes for Councillor S Roberts





To note any apologies.


Apologies were received from Councillor S Roberts.





To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 19 January 2017 (previously circulated).



The Minutes of the meeting held on 19 January 2017 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.





Report of the Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning & Governance) on the status of actions agreed at the last meeting of this Committee/Board/Panel.



Members were informed that the actions highlighted at Minute 37 of the previous meeting had been met by inclusion of reports on Salary Comparison and Apprenticeship Levy on this agenda.





Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment & Cultural Services) which provides Members with analysis of the service performance for Sopra Steria against contractual key performance indicators.


Additional documents:


Members received a report from the Executive Director – Resources, Environment and Cultural Services, which provided them with an analysis of the service performance for Sopra Steria against contractual key performance indicators.


Members asked the following questions:


Q         Does the Cabinet attend the monthly meetings that are held with Sopra Steria?


A          As these are operational meetings, Cabinet Members would not attend.  However, operational issues could be discussed at Performance Clinics which Cabinet Members do attend.


Q         Is there still an issue with staff shortages within Sopra Steria (as per paragraph 3.3)?


A          Officers would not know about staffing levels unless there was an issue with performance.  Officers were interested in the bottom line, but how Sopra Steria achieved that would be their decision.  Now that Broxbourne were using the same system and Welwyn Hatfield, there should now be a bank of staff who would be able to cover work. 


Q         Was it a contract requirement for Sopra Steria to compensate the Council for loss of interest on business rates?


A          Yes.  Payments were made monthly and at year end.




To note the contents of the report which provided details of service performance for benefits, council tax, business rates, ICT, contact centre, reception and switchboard.



Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) which provides the Committee with the performance indicator data for the services within its remit.


Additional documents:


Members received a report from the Executive Director – Resources, Environment and Cultural Services, accompanied by a presentation, which informed them of the performance indicator data for the services that fell within the remit of this Committee.


Of the seven indicators reported, two were red, three amber and two green.  Explanations for this were provided within the report.


Members suggested that there would be merit in reporting both quarterly and year to date data as this would level out any external influences that might occur in a particular period.  Officers agreed that they could include this in future reports.


It was noted that the issue with staffing levels for collection of payment for invoices had been addressed.  There was one long-serving member of staff, one new manager and a new staff member.


Members asked for more information on Firstcare, the new absence reporting system.  They were advised that the Human Resources Manager had known of the scheme for some time and it had been used by the Housing Trust since 2012.  Reports providing in-depth analysis of absence were provided by the system which would be made available to Officers.


Members enquired about the Satisfaction Survey which Serco undertook on behalf of the Council.  It was felt that this was another area where year to date data alongside quarterly results would be beneficial for Members.


Members asked whether there were actually 350 responses to the survey or if this was just the number of calls made including those not answered.


It was agreed that the report from the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee scrutiny review into the Satisfaction Survey would be circulated to Members of this Committee so that they could see the process that was followed and the questions that were asked.


One Member had been interviewed as part of the survey and he said that he thought it quite good and gave opportunities to add comments where the answer to a question was “dissatisfied”.


Members asked whether there was a way of identifying how much impact the welfare reforms had on collection of council tax.  Officers said that it was not possible to absolutely identify this as the cause, but it was fair to assume that the reforms had played some part and particularly so with the recent benefit cap.


Where customers were affected by the changes to the system, they were provided with advice and support by officers and also signposted to the CAB and Herts Money Advice.


Members asked why the target for collection of business rates had not been changed to reflect the option to pay over 12 instead of 10 months.  Officers replied that it was difficult to gauge how many businesses would take the option.  However the target had been adjusted and would be again, whilst still keeping it challenging for Sopra Steria.  It would not be wise to set the target too low.


Members asked what the monetary value was for the 2% of council tax uncollected.  Officers to circulate this information.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.



Report of Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning & Governance) on exit interviews and how staff salaries compare to other local authorities.





Members received a report from the Executive Director – Public Protection, Planning and Governance which provided information on the subscription by the Council to a national online pay benchmarking service.


It was explained that officers were in the process of uploading data on comparative roles within the Council on to the system.  It would then be possible to use the reports and analysis of the data to understand the markets and pay trends and to use the information to improve recruitment approaches.


It was not possible to compare by job title as these could vary from one authority to another, so comparisons would be made on the duties of the job.


Members commented that they were in favour of this additional tool for recruiting as they recognised that there had been problems recruiting and retaining staff in the Planning Department for example and this would provide useful information which could determine pay rates or duties within a role and could indicate that a role should be evaluated.


Comparisons could be made on similar sized authorities, authorities in the proximity or national data.


It was noted that the system could not take into account experience and that there would be an assumption made that staff would be capable of the role from Day 1.




To note the report and the subscription to the benchmarking service which would help the Council to identify issues with recruitment and retention of staff.





Report of Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning & Governance) on the Apprenticeship Levy which has been created by HM Government, as a key way to fund and encourage increased uptake in apprenticeships.



Members received a report from the Executive Director – Public Protection, Planning and Governance which provided them with information on the new Apprenticeship Levy being introduced by the government in April 2017.


Members were advised that the levy would be 0.5% of the total wage bill which would be calculated on a monthly basis.  In the case of Welwyn Hatfield this would equate to approximately £74.000.  There was also a requirement for 2.35 of the workforce (approximately 10 people) to be in apprenticeship roles, on a rolling basis.


An allowance of £15,000 would be made available to offset against the levy payable.


The report explained that apprenticeship roles could be at three levels and it was therefore possible to upskill a current employee, employ a new young apprentice or take on someone who had some skills but wished to gain training and experience in a particular area of work with a defined programme of training.


Members were very supportive of the scheme and they commented that the Council should be seen as a leader in this area.


It was noted that the Council did not currently run a graduate programme and this scheme would allow apprenticeships at graduate level.


It was noted that the scheme would be championed by Human Resources with Councillor M Perkins being the Member Champion.




To note the report and the requirement for the Council to implement the Apprenticeship scheme and pay the Apprenticeship Levy.





Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment & Cultural Services) which presents the revenue and capital budget monitoring position as at the end of December 2016 (Period 9).


Additional documents:


Members received a report from the Executive Director – Resources, Environment and Cultural Services which presented the revenue and capital budget monitoring report as at 31 December 2016 for both the HRA and General Fund services.


The report provided information on changes, either positive or adverse, to the budget figures and the components that made up these changes.


Members asked the following:


Q         Why had a sum of money been assigned to the Chief Executive’s budget and then been moved to various cost centres?


A          It had been apparent that there would be costs associated with the recent restructure and the re-integration of the Housing Trust.  However, it was not known quite where these costs would fall.  It had been deemed sensible to reserve the funds in the CEO cost centre and then to take the funds as needed.


Q         Why were some of the savings on page 54 of the report not reflected in the annual forecast?


A          These savings were for utilities and the costs for these could be volatile and likely to change.  A judgement was made not to include them in the forecast for this reason.


Q         What was meant by two contractors being procured for the Crematorium project?


A          There were two elements to this project, the building of the crematorium and the incineration process and there were therefore two companies procured.


Q         What was the current situation on the Splashlands project?


A          The procurement board had held a meeting to discuss the leisure mix which would provide more than just 10 or 12 weeks water play and would subsidise the use by customers of the splash area.  This would be taken to Cabinet for approval.


Q         What is the actual budget allocation for the project?


A          The underspend from 2016-2017 would be carried forward to 2017-2018 resulting in a capital pot of £2.2m


Q         Members asked how many services were estimated to take place at the crematorium.


A          Figures would be provided on the number of services, but it should be noted that a nett income of £400k was expected from 2018-2019 onwards.  This was thought to be a conservative estimate.


Q         Could percentages be provided for the arrears listed on page 61?


A          These would be circulated.




            To note the budget monitoring report and the information provided in respect of changes to the budget figures.





A new pro-forma which sets out the Committee’s overview work programme will be set at its first meeting of the next municipal year.


Members noted that the work programme for the Committee would be set at the first meeting of the next municipal year.





To consider


1.    Whether any Cabinet decisions should be scrutinised post-implementation (Paragraph 14.1 of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules)


2.    Whether any items which relate to areas covered by the Committee which a member of the Committee may wish to raise with a view to deciding whether an issue should be scrutinised.


The Administration and Opposition Groups each have the right within the Municipal Year to have one scrutiny topic referred to a Sub-Committee.


Where the Committee decides an issue should be scrutinised, a scrutiny Sub-Committee should be appointed to carry out the specific piece of scrutiny work (Paragraph 6.3 of the Procedure for the Operation of the Overview and Scrutiny Function).


Members were advised that the scrutiny review of Debt Collection and Enforcement Agents had been concluded and the report was due to go before Cabinet at its next meeting.


Once Cabinet had the opportunity to comment on the report, it would be circulated to this Committee for information.





To receive any request from a Councillor for a discussion on behalf of residents on an issue affecting a single council ward where local problems have arisen and other methods of resolution have been exhausted.



Councillor Brandon raised an issue regarding numerous rats in Hatfield town Centre.  Mr Fuller from the Tenants’ Panel also commented by saying that the problem had escalated and there were rats also in houses and gardens in Queensway.


Officers advised that this could not be considered under Councillor Call for Action, however, the Head of Law and Administration agreed to report the issue to Environmental Health.