Agenda and minutes

Our Council Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday, 25th November, 2020 6.00 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams Meeting

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

Charlotte Johns

Michelle Howell

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 Payal Bedi-Chadha

 

Cllr Paula Brookfield – Cabinet Member Governance

 

4.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest recorded.

5.

Minutes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 483 KB

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

Minutes:

The panel members voted and approved the minutes of the meeting held on 30 September 2020, 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.

Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021-2022 to 2023-2024 pdf icon PDF 380 KB

[Alison Shannon, Chief Accountant, to present report]

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Michelle Howell, Finance Business Partner, presented the report and referred the panel to recommendations asking for comments on the draft budget and medium-term financial strategy and also the budget relevant to the remit of the panel and how that budget is aligned to the priorities of the Council. The comments will be included in a report to Scrutiny Board for their consideration after they have been approved by the Chair and Vice Chair as part of the response to the annual budget scrutiny.

 

The Finance Business Partner gave an overview of the Council's financial position as detailed in Section 2 of the report and advised the panel that the Council has a legal requirement to set a balanced budget and that the 2020-2021 budget was set without the use of the General Reserves.

 

The Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2020-2021 to 2023-2024 was presented to Full Council for approval on 4 March 2020. The Council was able to set a balanced budget for 2020-2021 without the use of General Reserves. However, it was projected that the Council would be faced with finding further estimated budget reductions totalling £15.5 million in 2021-2022 rising to around £20 million over the medium term to 2023-2024.

The Finance Business Partner advised the panel that the budget was prepared prior to the Covid-19 pandemic which has had a significant international, national and regional impact. The panel were advised that work has been ongoing across the Council since March 2020 to review corporate resources assumptions, growth and inflation in line with the Five-Year Financial Strategy to support the budget strategy for 2021-2022.

The Finance Business Partner advised the panel that an updated Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy was published in November 2020 and is attached as an appendix to the main report. The report includes details of the projected financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and the next steps that will be taken in order to address the financial pressures faced by the Council over the medium term.  The panel were reassured that the Council has a strong track record over many years of managing its finances and outlined the work being done to balance the budget and also respond to the financial impact of the pandemic.

The Finance Business Partner commented that based on current projections of the cost implications of Covid-19 in 2020-2021 there will be a £324,000 cost pressure. This figure does not take account of the impact on the second national lockdown and future Government announcements on its response to the pandemic.

The Finance Business Partner commented on the challenges going forward when considering the impact of Covid 19. The Council is assuming that Government will provide sufficient grant funding to cover the cost of Covid-19 related cost pressures. Assuming this is the case, the budget deficit is estimated to be in the region of £4.5 million in 2021-2022, rising to £19.6 million over the medium-term period. A range of options will be considered to bridge the gap needed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Harnessing the power of digital for the future and agile working (report to follow) pdf icon PDF 488 KB

[Charlotte Johns, Director of Strategy, to present report]

Minutes:

Councillor Miles, Cabinet Member for Resources, introduced the presentation and gave a definition the term ‘agile working’. The presentation will give more details about agile working in the Council in the future.

The Cabinet Member advised the panel the Civic Centre is the Council’s headquarters where the majority of Council employees are based and will continue to be based. The working environment has changed as result of pandemic restrictions and it is expected that home working will be part of future flexible and agile work plans for immediate future. The Cabinet Member commented on the challenges of home working under lockdown conditions and explained that the Council has developed new working practices in the past few months in response the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Charlotte Johns, Director of Strategy, commented on the key questions that she would like the panel members to consider during the presentation. The overall context of the presentation was to brief the panel about the work being done to harness the power of digital connectivity for the Council in the broadest sense.

The Director of Strategy presentation covered two main areas, lessons learnt from the use of agile working and harnessing the power of digital in the government mandated lockdown and then looking longer-term on how the Council should take forward the use of agile working and technology to inform its policies going forward. The Director of Strategy listed three areas of work, citizens and businesses, employee and the environment with specific examples of agile working and the use of digital technology during the pandemic.

The Director of Strategy commented on the work done to ensure a rapid mobilisation of agile working. The Council had done preparation in advance of the formal lockdown to deliver mobile working technology. A number of test days were used make sure the organisation was ready for the change to home working. In addition, there was a rapid rollout of new systems such as Microsoft Teams to support home working.  At the start of the 2020 it was reported that 300 people were using Microsoft Teams, that figure has now increased to over 3,700 people. ICT has collaborated with employees and Councillors to help develop these systems.

 

The Director of Strategy commented on work done to make sure that people had the right devices and equipment to enable them to work from home, while also recognising the difficulties faced by some employees during the lockdown. The Director of Strategy commented that using new developments in technology has enabled the Council to quickly introduce the Stay Safe Be Kind telephone service to ensure that vulnerable residents were supported during the first national lockdown.

 

The Director of Strategy reassured the panel that the safety and security of the Council’s ICT systems is a priority and the work done has led to the award of Cyber Essentials plus certification. The award gives external accreditation and assurance about the security and resilience of current ICT systems. The service is continuing to roll out key  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Our Council Scrutiny Panel 2019 20 - Draft Work Programme pdf icon PDF 548 KB

 [Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, to present report]

Minutes:

Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, presented the draft work programme and invited panel members to comment.

 

The panel queried the timing of the annual scrutiny planning event. The Scrutiny Officer advised the panel that no decision made about format and timing of the scrutiny planning event. There are discussions about presenting a review on the annual report of work done by scrutiny panel members. There is a plan to present a report to outline work done across panels linked to the connected city theme, which was agreed as a priority issues earlier in the year. Julia Cleary, Scrutiny and Systems Manager, commented on the need to assess the impact of scrutiny on the work of the Council and including this information as part of the annual review.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to note the report.

10.

Treasury Management Activity Monitoring Report 2020-21 Quarter 1 pdf icon PDF 133 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.

Treasury Management Activity Monitoring – Mid Year Review 2020-2021 pdf icon PDF 158 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.