Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Board - Tuesday, 20th April, 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: To BeConfirmed

Contact: Julia Cleary  Email:


No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Kaur, Cllr Singh and David Pattison.


Declarations of interest


There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 339 KB

[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record.]



That the minutes of the meeting be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.


Matters arising


A Board Member referred to page 3 of the minutes and confirmed that he had not yet met with the relevant inspector for his area. The Scrutiny and Systems Manager agreed that she would follow this up with Superintendent Inglis.


A Board Member asked if there had been any feedback following the concerns he had raised in relation to the Safer Wolverhampton Partnership website. The Scrutiny and Systems Manager agreed to follow this up with the Community Safety Manager.


Economic snapshot of the Black Country and City of Wolverhampton and an insight into digital activities across the Black Country pdf icon PDF 2 MB

[To receive a presentation from Sarah Middleton, Chief Executive, Black Country Consortium Limited (BCC)]


The Board welcomed Sarah Middleton, Chief Executive, Black Country Consortium Limited and Ravi Kumar, Digital Lead, Black Country Consortium Limited.


The Chief Executive provided an overview of digital Activities in the Black Country including:


Superfast and Ultrafast Broadband

Outside In, Full Fibre and LFFN

5G and Beyond

Black Country Digital Strategy and Network

Looking ahead – future opportunities


The Chief Executive explained how the Black Country Consortium (BCC) had adopted an evidenced based approached and had been working very closely with the City of Wolverhampton Council in relation to the digital activities under discussion. There was an underpinning spatial plan along with the Economic Review Report which set out the key measures of success in the Black Country Performance Management Framework.  To help deliver the ambitions, there were 12 strategic programmes covering 3 themes:


·       People

·       Place

·       Business


There was a thematic and sectoral approach with 6 priority areas for propositional development and a spatial approach which included in depth analysis of pipeline opportunities in 11 identified spatial zones.


An overview was provided of the Black Country economy and direction of travel and the Wolverhampton economy and direction of travel. There were a few red areas such as the number of apprenticeship starts which had decreased to 8,160 in the Black County in 2019/20 (-20.8% compared to 18.0% nationally) and to 1,640 in Wolverhampton (25.5%). Data showed that Wolverhampton had a good and strong growth rate in employment data for 2020 which was very positive news to build on and the new qualifications data for the City was also showing fantastic growth about the national level.


The Board were shown a slide highlighting the impact of the pandemic on workers of the who had been furloughed.  As of February, there were around 15000 Wolverhampton employees furloughed. This highlighted the need to ensure that as employees started to return to work, that they had the full range of digital skills to allow them to succeed.


It was stated that one impact of furlough was to disguise to some extent the claimant count and that this was something that we all needed to be aware of as it showed an almost doubling of claimants and there was concern as to the impact of this on the younger generations and in February Wolverhampton had just over 3000 claimants in the 16 to 25 year old bracket. Digital was a really positive way to broaden their skill sets.


In relation to digital there had been significant investment in Broadband infrastructure including 5G and full fibre. The Board were shown a map of the west and east midlands highlighting Next Generation Access (NGA) and internet connectivity. The map showed 4 metropolitan areas including Wolverhampton, the map showed that for high internet speeds, the fibre to the cabinet connectivity across the region looked good. The City had applied for a specific programme but that was not successful which had unfortunately excluded the City from applying to the following programme but there was good news in relation to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Update on Digital pdf icon PDF 4 MB

[To receive an update from the Member Champion for Digital]


The Board welcomed Cllr Beverley Momenabadi, Digital Champion, Charlotte Johns, Director of Strategy and Heather Clarke, Digital Co-ordinator.


Cllr Momenabadi explained how the pandemic had changed the Council’s approach to digital with the sole aim being ensuring that nobody was left behind. The digital inclusion work had started prior to lockdown. In the first wave it was recognised that there was a need for digital devices and connectivity so that children didn’t miss out on their education. The Council worked closely with the Department for Education (DfE) to reduce the digital divide by distributing over 1000 4G devices and routers to schools across the City but gaps were already starting to be identified where the scheme wasn’t meeting the needs of all of our school children. In some cases, the DfE devices were taking too long to reach children in schools, many schools then gave work on paper to the children, but this was not ideal. In some other cases children did not qualify under the Government’s scheme. In some other cases the Children had the devices but not the WIFI or the connectivity to be able to use them.  Some parents also lack the digital awareness or competency to help their children with the online access and learning. Due to this the Council launched the WV online project to tackle some of these issues. The project achieved the following:


        520 digital devices distributed to children and young people during the pandemic

        60 care homes supported to request IPads to enable residents to connect with family and friends.

        195 devices lent via a network of trusted partners helping residents get online to access learning, employment support, services and reduce isolation.

        Upskilling residents to enhance digital literacy - including the launch of a family literacy training designed to improve digital literacy skills of parents to support children access remote learning

        Providing support to schools to deliver remote learning to pupils.


Master classes and CPD courses were also provided for teachers as it was recognised how important it was to not only support the children and parents but the teachers as well. There were also a number of sessions and courses for parents so ensure that they had the skills to support their children through home learning.


The WV online lending scheme was considered a great success and devices were loaned to trusted partners in the City to enable their customers and service users to access online services such as online bereavement counselling and applying for jobs. The Panel watched a video of the work done in some schools.


The board noted the dashboard that was available to show where and how many devices had been provided to schools.



Other achievements included:

        Supporting the commercial rollout of full fibre broadband to residents and businesses across the city filling the gap in connectivity in the City Centre, a former not spot. 

        5G being rolled out across the city.  A proactive approach has accelerated rollout by 6  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Work programme and future work planning

[To consider the work programme and work planning moving forwards.]


The Scrutiny and Systems Manager stated that work was underway in relation to planning some work planning meetings for the new municipal year. As yet it was unknown how meetings would be held moving forward and whether they would be face to face or virtual. The Scrutiny and Systems Manager thanked Councillors and officers for all of the work throughout the year in what had been unprecedented circumstances.