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Apologies were submitted on behalf of Cllrs Laura McGregor, Carol Siarkiewicz and Keith Ireland, Managing Director.
Declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest.
That the minutes of the meeting held on 16 June 2015 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
[To consider any matters arising from the minutes]
Minute 9 - A marketing strategy for the City Council
Cllr Andrew Wynne referred to the panels request for a briefing paper outlining the range of work being done as part of the wider efforts to market the city and encourage more businesses to move to Wolverhampton. He indicated that the focus on the councils ‘unique selling point’ should not be lost and requested that the briefing paper be circulated to the Panel.
Charlotte Johns, Head of Transformation advised that Ian Fegan, Head of Communications is working with partners to progress city marketing and the ‘City of Wolverhampton’ corporate brand , she advised that marketing the city cuts across most areas of council business. Deb Breedon, Scrutiny Officer advised that scrutiny of city marketing and engagement with business falls under the remit of the Stronger City Economy scrutiny panel.
That a briefing paper be sent to panel members outlining the work being done to improve city marketing and engagement with the business and retail community.
[Claire Nye, Chief Accountant, to present report on update on budget planning including the Financial Plan]
Mark Taylor, Director of Finance provided the ‘Budget Update and Review’ report and gave an overview of the ‘City of Wolverhampton Council’s Financial Plan’.
The Director of Finance explained that the financial plan is a strategic document to set the scene for the next financial year and the medium term, as usual regular reports on the budget and the medium term financial strategy will be presented to Cabinet and scrutiny throughout the year. The first update was considered by Cabinet 23 June 2015.
In response to a question from Cllr Alan Bolshaw relating to the percentage of repayments on HRA borrowing the Director of Finance advised that the financial plan (page 19) highlights that interest costs account for approximately one-tenth of the total revenue expenditure. He advised that the housing budget is exposed to interest rate movements which are monitored daily but that there is a need to repay the borrowing to maintain the decent homes position and to replace houses. He acknowledged that there will be a need to revisit the cycle of replacement later in the forecast and debt curve 2014/15 – 2043/44 as there most probably will be an impact to assets, but that it is not possible to forecast how or when.
Cllr Alan Bolshaw asked a further question relating to the impact of Governments ‘Right to Buy’ announcement and the impact on the councils Housing Budget. The Director of Finance advised that the Right to Buy (RTB) sales is one of the many unknown factors where an assumption has to be made over the course of thirty years. He acknowledged that during 2014 the RTB sales had been higher and clarified that there had been a need to review the HRA business plan and as a result a freeze was implemented on Wolverhampton Homes (WH) management fees for five years. Scrutiny members agreed that there is a need to monitor the situation going forward.
In response to a question from Cllr Milkinder Jaspal relating to equality implications resulting from savings proposals the Director of Finance advised that the Council assesses the equalities implications of each individual savings proposal as well as the cumulative impact of all savings. He advised that having due regard to the equality requirements is at the forefront of budget and policy development, but that having due regard to those implications does not protect everyone from the impact of cuts. He informed the panel that if equality analysis is not carried out the savings proposal cannot be progressed.
In response to a question from Councillor Wendy Thompson relating to the amount of interest paid on borrowing the Director of Finance advised that the full account detail had been considered by Cabinet 22 July 2015 but that the figure of loan interest was in the region of £20 million, half of that figure would be Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and half of that general fund. He advised that final borrowing figures relating to equal pay were ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
[Charlotte Johns, Head of Transformation, to present update report including the Organisational Development Strategy]
Charlotte Johns, Head of Transformation provided a report relating to the councils approach to Organisational Development, including the Organisational Development (OD) Strategy and the Whistleblowing policy.
The Head of Transformation responded to questions about the strategy, including the Learning and Development plan. Cllr Alan Bolshaw asked for more information relating to the take up of employee volunteering scheme, and the Head of Transformation agreed to send figures out to the panel.
The panel asked if training is provided in house, and the Head of Transformation clarified that there is a mixed economy for training provision.
Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman welcomed the OD Strategy and acknowledged the enormous amount of work that had been carried out to get to this stage. The Head of Transformation clarified that this is the 2015-16 OD Strategy on which the Organisational Development Team (ODT) will be structured and she confirmed that there will be regular OD Strategy updates, regular review and re-alignment.
The Head of Transformation confirmed to Panel that the recent launch of the revised appraisal process is a core part of the changes set out. Panel welcomed the core behaviours and the work that had been carried out to develop a fresh approach.
Cllr Andrew Wynne was particularly impressed by the core priorities and the mnemonic PRIDE:
P – Put customers first
R – Raise the profile in the City
I – Inspire trust and confidence
D – Demonstrate a can-do attitude
E – Encourage teamwork
Cllr Andrew Wynne felt this will encourage employees to build a good culture, to be proud we are part of the City Council; which will permeate through the authority.
Cllr Andrew Wynne referred to the Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure document and asked for more information about recorded reported cases.
The Director of Finance advised that Audit committee is the vehicle to consider information pertaining to whistleblowing and numbers of cases reported, he did suggest that numbers of reported cases are low.
In response to a question from the Chair, the Director of Finance advised that information about whistleblowing is available on the intranet for all employees and that there have been recent promotions about the whistleblowing policy. Cllr Rita Potter advised that there is no requirement to have a whistleblowing policy but that it is good practice to do so.
Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman welcomed the core value of systems thinking and in response to further questions from Cllr Sweetman, the Head of Transformation clarified that whistleblowing is available from day one of employment and that whistleblowing could flag up any issues, including sexual harassment, but that any such incident would have to cross over into the correct process i.e. grievance/disciplinary. In a further question Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman asked for clarity of position for councillors if an employee approached a councillor to confide in them but did not want to put forward a complaint personally or through a union or other organisation. The Director of Finance confirmed that under such circumstances the councillor should advise the employee ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Termination of meeting
The meeting terminated at 7.01pm