Agenda and minutes

Our Council Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday, 30th September, 2020 6.00 pm

Venue: Via Microsoft Teams

Contact: Earl Piggott-smith  Email: earl.piggott-smith@wolverhampton.gov.uk /01902 551251

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Welcome and Introductions

[The Chair to welcome everyone to the meeting. The Scrutiny Officer will then read out a list of those invited to the meeting to confirm who is in attendance.]

Minutes:

Cllr Bhupinder Gakhal, Chair, welcomed everyone to the virtual meeting and advised it was being live streamed to the press and public. Cllr Gakhal advised that he was not expecting any exempt or restricted items on the agenda. A recording of the meeting would be available for viewing on the Council’s website at a future date

2.

Meeting procedures to be followed

 [The Chair will explain how the meeting will proceed, how questions are to be asked and any matters of meeting etiquette.]

Minutes:

Cllr Gakhal explained the protocol to be followed during the meeting for asking questions and reminded everyone that microphones should be muted and cameras off, unless they have been invited to speak. Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, invited all attendees to introduce themselves to confirm they were present at the meeting.

 

Please note that the following employees were also in attendance at the meeting:

 

Claire Nye

Julia Nock

Mark Bassett

Charlotte Johns

Laura Phillips

David Pattison

Martin Stevens

Julia Cleary

 

Cllr Louise Miles – Cabinet Member Resources was also in attendance

3.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from the following:

 

Cllr Paula Brookfield

Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman

Denise Pearce

4.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest recorded.

 

5.

Minutes of previous meeting (15 January 2020) pdf icon PDF 466 KB

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

Minutes:

Cllr Payal Bedi-Chada advised the panel that she did attend the meeting on 15.1.2020. The panel accepted the correction.

 

The panel members voted and approved the minutes of the meeting held on 15 January 2020, subject to the amendment, as being a correct record.

 

6.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes]

Minutes:

There were no matters arising from the minutes.

7.

Our Council Scrutiny Panel - update presentation (report to follow) pdf icon PDF 753 KB

[This will be a joint presentation from SEB Leads to the panel]

Minutes:

Claire Nye, Director of Finance, explained that this was going to be a joint presentation with other colleagues. The aim of the presentation on the theme of Our Money was to provide the panel with an update on work areas within its remit done in response to the Covid 19 crisis.

 

The Director of Finance briefly outlined how the Council responded at start of the crisis, a review on learning and future plans for managing the crisis during the recovery period.

 

The Director of Finance outlined the key priorities related to Our Council Scrutiny Panel and the focus on adopting good practice and having the right financial controls across the Council to enable it to respond to the crisis. An important part of this work was to continue to exercise good financial discipline only spending where there is budget and authority allowed throughout the crisis, despite the need to make decisions at speed.

 

The service was also responsible for managing the different Government grant allocations awarded to the Council and using this information to prepare a budget.

 

The Director of Finance reassured the panel that all spending decisions followed correct procedures and also new financial systems were introduced to manage service budgets and to support colleagues. A regular financial update was produced for colleagues across the Council and a financial tracking system was introduced.

 

The Director of Finance commented on the different challenges facing the service during the crisis, while also ensuring for example, the service continued to provide a normal range of transactional functions and support, for example payment to suppliers.

 

The Director of Financial detailed the financial support offered to businesses and residents during the crisis.

 

Charlotte Johns, Director of Strategy, introduced the Our Data theme part of the presentation to the panel. The Director of Strategy briefed the panel about the work of data and insight performance team and ICT service. The Director of Strategy highlighted the importance of making evidence-based decision at the heart of the Council’s response to the Covid 19 crisis.

 

The Director of Strategy advised the panel that an Insight and Performance Lead was appointed to the every Covid 19 workstream, for example, Stay Safe Be Kind Helpline, Business Grants to develop robust mechanisms needed to capture data which was used to inform future planning. The work involved developing dashboards to visualise data in an easy and accessible way to enable the Council to better understand the impact of Covid 19 on different parts of City. The analysis of evidence was also used to inform recovery plans and the development of the Relighting Our City document published on 16 September 2020.

The Director of Strategy explained the work done to better understand the impact of Covid 19 on council employees and also on residents, and from the economic view. The work was done to check that the Council was effectively responding to the impact of Covid 19 and also planning our effective recovery approach to support business as usual activities.

 

Charlotte Johns, Director  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Our Assets Programme pdf icon PDF 300 KB

[Julia Nock,Head of Assets and Mark Bassett, Project Director,to present report]

Minutes:

Julia Nock, Head of Assets, presented the headlines of a report on the work done with the Our Assets service area to respond to the issues arising from the pandemic.

 

The Head of Assets advised the panel that the work of the service is presented to the Asset Management Board for comment. The Head of Assets commented on the important role of Our Council Scrutiny Panel in reviewing draft documents and giving feedback before moving forward with proposals.

 

The Head of Assets commented on the fundamental changes to the future demand for built assets as a result of the pandemic which was expected to change the way in in which some buildings are used and in some cases some buildings will be left empty.

 

The Head of Assets added that the findings from employee survey showed support for a blend of remote and office working. In addition, the feedback showed people see the benefits of this arrangement.  The Head of Assets commented the opportunities presented by the pandemic to consider ideas for working differently and to become more efficient which will lead to changes in current policy.

 

The Head of Assets commented that the Council will pro-actively reviews and rationalise the current property portfolio to look for opportunities to save money, reduce the carbon levels and improve outcomes for our communities.  The work will be done in discussions with local partners and communities.

 

The Head of Assets outlined the outcomes for the programme.

 

The Head of Assets commented on the key drivers that will inform the review of Council assets and added that there was likely to be some form of rationalisation in the current portfolio which will then have a reduction in the levels of carbon emissions. A smaller property portfolio will have other benefits such as reduced expenditure on running cost repairs and maintenance.  The overall aim will be to have the right buildings and assets in the right place that delivers better outcomes for residents, employees, partners and local communities which works alongside our future operating model.

 

The Head of Assets outlined some of the factors that will help to maintain a more manageable property portfolio, which could in some situations mean the Council acquiring new assets with the aim of making make sure that our assets contribute to the economic recovery of the City and links to other work across the Council.

 

The Head of Assets commented on the work being done to improve the quality of data to help make more informed decisions about the management of Council assets. This will be a key workstream in the future work plans and also provide a challenge about whether we have the services in the right places.

There is a separate workstream considering the future use of the Civic Centre which involves working with health partners in discussing ideas about how assets could be used to deliver services in the future.

 

The Head of Assets commented on the disposal of assets policy and the work done to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Our Council Scrutiny Panel 2019 20 - Draft Work Programme pdf icon PDF 389 KB

[Julia Cleary, Scrutiny and Systems Manager, to present report]

Minutes:

Julia Cleary, Scrutiny and Systems Manager, presented the draft work programme and explained the new approach agreed at Scrutiny Board meeting for all panels to consider the cross-cutting theme of ‘Connected City’ and digital considerations when developing ideas for the work programme.

 

The Scrutiny and Systems Manager outlined the list of suggested topics for future meetings of the panel based on discussions with the Chair and Vice Chair of the panel and commented on the rollout of 5G and other digital infrastructure enhancements.

 

The panel were invited to comment on the draft work programme and to suggest ideas, following the guidance, of topics that could be added.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to note the report.

 

10.

Treasury Management Activity Monitoring Report 2019-20 Quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Finance introduced the report and briefed the panel about the key points in the document.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to note the report.

 

11.

Specific Reserves Working Group (9 January 2020) - Draft Minutes and update on actions pdf icon PDF 465 KB

Minutes:

The Director of Finance introduced the report and briefed the panel about the key points in the document. The Director of Finance commented on the importance of the work of group and the changes made to the reserves policy in response to recommendations made.

 

The panel queried if the minutes were still draft. The Scrutiny Officer advised the panel that the minutes are draft and will be presented the next meeting of the group to be formally approved.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to note the report.