Agenda and minutes

Our Council Scrutiny Panel - Wednesday, 17th March, 2021 6.30 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. 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, confirmed the list of attendees at the meeting.

 

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

 

Claire Nye

Charlotte Johns

Laura Phillips

Mark Taylor

Alison Shannon

Stephen Alexander

Laura Phillips

Stuart Malpass

Paula Moore

Kieran Simpson

Jin Takhar

David Pattison

Martin Stevens

Julia Cleary

 

Cllr Paula Brookfield – Cabinet Member for Governance

Cllr Louise Miles – Cabinet Member for Finance

3.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from the following:

 

Cllr Payal Bedi-Chadha

Cllr Milkinderpal Jaspal

 

Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman – Cabinet Member for City Assets & Housing

4.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

The were no declarations of interest recorded.

 

5.

Minutes of previous meeting ( 20.1.21) pdf icon PDF 599 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 20 January 2021 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.

Specific Reserves Working Group Minutes (9.2.21) pdf icon PDF 475 KB

[Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, to present draft minutes for comment and approval]

Minutes:

Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, presented the minutes of the meeting for information and comment,

 

The panel members voted and approved the minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 2021 as being a correct record.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to support the recommendation that the Chief Accountant present a paper on the appropriateness of reserves held by the Council to a future meeting of the Specific Reserves Working Group.

8.

S106 Planning Agreements - Update (report to follow) pdf icon PDF 1020 KB

Minutes:

Stephen Alexander, Head of City Planning and Alison Shannon, Chief Accountant, gave a joint presentation on how the Council collects S106 contributions received from developers and how the money allocated is spent on capital projects. The Head of City Planning gave a summary of S106 contributions and explained that the payments received can be used for public open space enhancement, the provision of affordable housing and transportation improvements. The funds are collected as part of major planning applications.

 

The Head of City Planning advised the panel that the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 is the key regulation which details what funds can be collected from developers. The Council can only collect money if it is necessary to make the planning application acceptable and must be directly related to the development proposed. Furthermore, it must be fairly and reasonably related in scale to the planned development. The Council is also required under national planning policy to ensure that Section 106 agreements do not threaten the financial viability of a proposed development. This would be based on the findings of a financial viability assessment. This could mean in some situations that the Council would be unable to collect the full Section 106 financial obligations that would be normally be expected from a developer.

 

The Head of City Planning explained the process when a planning application is received and advised that the Open Space Strategy and Action Plan would also need to be considered.  The strategy sets out the Council's priorities for spending on public open space and is regularly reviewed. The strategy was last reviewed in 2018 and the next review is planned for the financial year 2021 to 2022. The final draft is sent out to Councillors for consultation and is subject to final approval by Cabinet.

 

S106 contributions from developers is based on a legal agreement, which requires them to pay when a specific trigger point in the agreement has been reached. For example, an agreement may specify that a contribution must be paid when more than 80 per cent of houses on a site are occupied. The money will then be passed to the relevant spending authorities. The money can only be spent for the purpose specified in the legal S106 agreement. The agreement will detail the timescale for delivery. Approval from Cabinet Resources will be required before the contribution can be spent and once approved, the contribution will be included in the capital programme.

 

Alison Shannon, Chief Accountant, presented a table which gave a summary of the total S106 contributions spent between 2010-2011 to 2019-2020. The Chief Accountant presented details of the S106 contributions expected. The funds are monitored on a quarterly basis and are only allocated to projects when they have been received. The Chief Accountant advised that wherever possible, the Council will aim to leverage external funding to enhance the planned project. The Chief Accountant presented details of scheme improvements in the Parks and Open Spaces Committed contributions since 2010-11 and planned projects for 2021-22.

The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Portfolio Holder Statement and Question Time

Minutes:

Claire Nye, Director of Finance, introduced the presentation. The Director of Finance outlined the link between the Relighting Our City agenda, the five priorities and the Council Plan. The plans are intended to ensure that the Council has all the resources, skills, and tools it needs to be a robust and agile organisation and capable of delivering agreed policies.

 

The Director of Finance outlined the responsibilities of each Cabinet Member for each of the themes under the Our Council Programme. The Director of Finance advised that there would be a short presentation under each of the themes.

 

The Director of Finance outlined the key portfolio responsibilities of the Cabinet Member for Resources. Cllr Louise Miles, Cabinet Member for Resources gave an overview of the specific areas within her portfolio.  The Cabinet Member commented on the huge impact on the portfolio area as result of managing the COVID 19 pandemic and explained the work done to ensure continued effective financial management and governance needed to keep within budget for 2020-21 and achieve an approved balanced budget for 2021-22. The Cabinet Member commented on the range of work done to manage and effectively distribute Government grants to support businesses and residents impacted by COVID.

 

The Council experienced a major increase in the number of enquiries from residents wanting help will their council tax bills when compared to the previous year. The Cabinet Member advised the panel that the Council will continue to manage its resources carefully and monitor the ongoing impact of COVID 19 on the budget, and the medium-term financial strategy. The aim will be to ensure the Council continues to deliver services to its residents during the COVID restrictions supported by the rollout of technology services that are safe and secure.

 

The panel thanked the Cabinet Member for Resources for the presentation.

The Chair invited Cllr Paula Brookfield, Cabinet Member for Governance to present her report. The Cabinet Member outlined the key portfolio areas of responsibility, which include governance and legal services. The legal service is self-financed and also generates income by providing legal services to other authorities in the surrounding an area.

 

The Cabinet Member advised the panel that health and safety issues are monitored and will continue to be in the future. The Cabinet Member commented on the new approach to equalities which is being led by the workforce. Four equalities forums have been set up - gender, maternity and paternity, disabilities group and the LGBTQ+ groups. The work of these forums has been considered to be fundamental in providing the impetus for change going forward. The Cabinet Member commented on the governance and membership of the forums and the positive feedback received from those who have attended about the impact of the meetings.

 

The Cabinet Member commented on changes introduced to support workforce development and organisational change and how COVID 19 has provided an opportunity to make changes which might not have been considered before.

The work has highlighted and raised awareness about their adapting their skills  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Our People Plan - update on work to support employee development (report to follow) pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Minutes:

Charlotte Johns, Director of Strategy, and Laura Phillips, Deputy Director of People and Change, gave a joint presentation to update the panel on the Our People Strategy and the specific focus on the digital aspects and developments during the year.

 

The Director of Strategy gave an overview of the workforce data analysis. The Council employees c.4000 people. The Our People Strategy 2019 – 2024 has been co-produced with employees through extensive engagement sessions and surveys and built around the employee lifecycle. The strategy was approved in 2019.

 

The Director of Strategy listed the key questions and the linked issues detailed in the development of the strategy. The Director commented on the key points from the data collected during the process such as a reduction in sickness absence from 2019 and increased take up of the employee benefit scheme. The information was collated into a series of action plans aligned to the six areas of the employee lifecycle, for example, attracting the best people to the Council and creating a good first impression.

 

The Deputy Director of People and Change commented on the work being planned as part of a refresh of the strategy. The Deputy Director gave a more details about work being done to attract the best people to work for the Council. The process for recruiting managers has been improved and managers no longer have to log on multiple times and have access to applicant tracking data in real time, this is an example of a digital enhancement which has been introduced.

 

The Deputy Director commented on other changes aimed at attracting the best possible talent to help the Council to deliver its priorities and vision and also other changes introduced to support the continuation of recruitment and selection activities while working remotely using Microsoft Teams during the pandemic.

 

The Deputy Director commented on the work done to support and enhance the health and wellbeing of employees. There is a series of dedicated pages on the Council intranet website Our People Portal which highlight the support and resources available to employees. The changes were introduced in response to feedback from employees on changes they would like to see. The site also gives employees access to counselling and bereavement support. The work has been supported by regular communication with employees to raise awareness of the site and weekly video messages from the Chief Executive, highlighting key activities, and the importance of health and wellbeing.

 

In addition, work is being done to jointly develop with employees a series of pledges to health and wellbeing as part of the Council’s commitment to further improve support services available.

 

 

The Deputy Director commented on work done to better understand the diverse needs of the workforce through a series of the virtual engagement sessions. The sessions have been well attended and the feedback from employees has been positive and has led to a number of activities such as and yoga classes to encourage social interaction.

 

Kieran Simpson, EDI Advisor - LGBT Equality, gave a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Treasury Management Strategy 2021-2022 pdf icon PDF 134 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Claire Nye, Director of Finance, advise the panel the item was for information to provide an update on the treasury management strategy previously presented for comment.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to note the report.