Agenda and minutes

Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Thursday 23rd November 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.



Co-opted member R.Read had replaced J.Corson.



To note any apologies.


Apologies for absence were received from J.Corson, Tenants’ Panel representative.



To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 13 September 2017 (previously circulated).



The Minutes of the meeting held on 13 September 2017 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.




The status of actions agreed at the Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 13 September 2017 in the report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) was noted.



Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) which provides Members with an analysis of the service performance for Sopra Steria.

Additional documents:


Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) provided Members with the analysis of the service performance for Sopra Steria against contractual key performance indicators and service level targets for benefits, council tax, business rates, Information Communication Technology (ICT), contact centre, reception and switchboard. 


Members noted that performance had been good since the commencement of the partnership despite the period of economic uncertainty the Council had experienced, together with the welfare reform changes which had impacted on performance.  


Members raised concerns regarding the comparator data reported in Appendix B - Recovery Action and Cases to Enforcement Agents.  Confusion was expressed regarding the cumulative number of cases for the year against the cumulative amount collected for the year.


The concerns raised by Members were that, based on the figures in the report, the value of the debt referred to the Enforcement Agency seemed very low (with the average debt of around £80) and that not many cases appeared to have been referred in the three month period (10).  It seemed excessive to involve the Enforcement Agents for such a small value when it was likely that the debtors would be unable to repay what they owed to the Council and would also be vulnerable.  For those vulnerable individuals, the involvement of the Enforcement Agents together with the fees would exacerbate the situation for those already in vulnerable situation.  Officers explained that the timing of court hearing resulted in a difference between the numbers of cases passed to the Enforcement Agents in the first two quarters. Officers also said that accounts below £50.00 are not generally passed to the Enforcement Agents.


Members asked for clarification on the Enforcement Agent data.


A Sub-Committee was previously set up to look at the use of Enforcement Agents and that the Members of the Sub-Committee, who were present at the meeting, stated that they had been satisfied with the policy which had been agreed by Cabinet.  The Group had considered that the policy had been right at the time and that it was the right thing to refer the cases to the Enforcement Agents should money be owed to the Council.  The Council were happy with the policy at this time.  However the reported figures were of concern.


Officers explained that the Enforcement Agency was only used when all avenues had been explored and the Council was still unable to recover the debt.


Following further discussion on the level of debt referred to the Enforcement Agents, the Chairman explained that this was very much work in progress.  It was suggested that Members may find a follow-up workshop meeting helpful.  The session would be open to all Members of this Committee.  The workshop would be held in the New Year.  An aged debtors’ report, which provided details of the ages of the debts maybe a useful document for Members to consider at a future meeting.  The meeting would also provide Members of the Committee with an opportunity to understand the debt recovery process operated by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.



Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) which provides information on the performance indicators for the services that fall within the remit of this Committee.

Additional documents:


Members received a report from the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) which provided information on the performance indicators data for the services within the Committee’s remit.  Members were asked to note that, for clarity, service comments had also been included to explain the performance shown, along with any further action needed.


Members raised queries and made comments on the following.


Performance Indicator 5 - The number of employee working days lost due to sickness absence, per full-time equivalent member of staff


Long term sickness was often associated with more serious medical conditions, whereas short term sickness could be indicative of stress and work pressures.  That care should be taken not exert undue pressure on those who were on long term sick leave to return to work too early.  Employees should be encouraged to return to work when they felt they were able to do so and the facility to return on reduced hours and light duties be offered.  A phased return to work was often beneficial to those returning from a period of long term sickness and it was considered to help mental health.


The Human Resources Manager reported that a new sickness policy had been recently introduced where the emphasis was on a ‘can do’ approach.  The Council had a sickness absence reporting mechanism in place and worked very closely with occupational health, who were very much involved, particularly when an employee reported stress or anxiety as a reason for being off work or had mentioned their concerns to their manager.  Referrals to occupational health were speedier when stress or anxiety were the reasons for absence.  An employee assistance programme was already in place. 


The Human Resources Manager confirmed that the Council was proactive in dealing with those cases of long term sickness.  The Council was also looking at trends and trigger points for managers to address.  On occasion, where a member of staff was infectious but well enough to work, they were able to work from home.  On these occasions managers monitored performance and output.  Where a person was not able to work from home, for example, a front facing post but were considered to be infectious, they would be asked to work in the back office duties.


Members stated that they considered information pertaining to the two types of sickness absence should be separated out and the information be made clear.  Members suggested two Performance Indicators for sickness absence, one for long term and one for short term sickness levels, including commentary on how the Council were encouraging the employees back to work and what action was being taken to address the trends or patterns in sickness absence or potential causes of sick leave e.g. free flu injections.


Members acknowledged that whilst certain bonuses would be effective in encouraging staff in to work when they did not feel one hundred percent but improved as the day wore on, such as a fitness bonus supported by ACAS and found to be very effective or discretionary bonuses  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.



Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) which presents the Revenue, Capital & HRA budget monitoring position as at the end of September 2017 (quarter 2) for the financial year 2017/18.

Additional documents:


Report of the Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services) which presented the Revenue, Capital and Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget monitoring position as at the end of September 2017 (Quarter 2) for the financial year 2017/18.


Members noted that the reports had been presented and discussed at the Cabinet meeting on the 7 November 2017 and were attached to the summary report presented to the Committee. The Cabinet reports analysed the reasons for changes between the current budget and projected outturn. 


The Executive Director informed that a briefing note, containing the key points of the Autumn Statement announced yesterday would be circulated to Members of the Committee separately to the meeting.


In response to questions from Members regarding the adverse variance on dwelling rents, Officers confirmed that the budget process was now more robust and the profile was on stream and would be carried through into the budget for 2018/19.


Members noted that less Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) had been taken up which had resulted in a reduction of the target revenue.


The Executive Director, responding to comments, reminded Members that the decision to sell the Council’s share in Salisbury Square, Hatfield had been taken by the Cabinet previously. 


The Cabinet Member explained that each property was taken on its own merit and when opportunities to sell a property or land to the Council’s advantage or benefit it was taken. 


Members asked that resources be made available to provide play facilities for young people at King George V playing fields and any such requests should be directed to Executive Director (Resources, Environment and Cultural Services). 




That the final outturn reports for the period ended September 2017 be noted.



The pro-forma which sets out the Committee’s overview work programme has been updated since the last meeting to enable forward planning of items to be considered to take place.  Items which the Committee agrees it would like to consider will be scheduled into the work programme.



The work programme for 2017/18 be noted.


The Chairman with the agreement of Members announced that the next meeting of the Committee on 18 January 2018 would commence at 7.00pm due to the budget items on the agenda.