Agenda and minutes

Our Council Scrutiny Panel
Wednesday, 14th February, 2018 6.00 pm

Venue: Training Room, Ground Floor - Civic Centre

Contact: Martin Stevens  Email: martin.stevens@wolverhampton.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Payal Bedi-Chadha, Cllr Udey Singh and Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman.

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest. 

3.

Minutes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 74 KB

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

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were confirmed as a correct record subject to the following changes in item 6

 

 

A)   The rewording of the sentence, “In the past, there had been a different process which had meant calculating the deficit and dividing this by number of properties,” to the following :-

 

“Increases in Council Tax in the past had been calculated by dividing the Council Tax requirement by the tax base.”

 

B)   The word “increase” being inserted in the line, “Now there could only be up to 1.99% [Insert - increase] without having to hold a referendum.”

 

 

 

4.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes].

Minutes:

The Chair gave an update on the work of the Specific Reserves Working Group.  They did have some concerns over the presentation of the material the working group had received and in the future, they had indicated they wanted to see the exact spend.  As an example, she cited information the group had received on Education reserves, should have had more detail.  She proposed in future there would be a more in-depth look at reserves more generally.  There had also been some separate preliminary discussions about the possibility of forming a Budget Task and Finish Group.

5.

Budget 2018-2019 - Outcome of Consultation pdf icon PDF 95 KB

[To receive a report on the outcome of the Budget Consultation].

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Resources introduced a report on the Budget Consultation.  A total of 669 people had taken part in the budget consultation survey.  All of the budget reductions for the forthcoming budget were as a result of financial transaction changes, income generation or efficiency savings, which had not resulted in any proposed changes to overall service delivery.  The Cabinet Member for Resources explained he believed this was one of the main reasons there was less interest in the budget consultation compared to last year, where waste and recycling changes featured more prominently.  A number of valuable meetings had been held, including four different community meetings spread across Wolverhampton.  A meeting had taken place with the Equality and Diversity forum, the in-house trade unions and the business community.  The meeting with the business community had been particularly well attended. There had also been a meeting with the Youth Council, which had been a very valuable and worthwhile discussion as part of the consultation process.  They had tried to keep the costs of the consultation down to a minimum and engage as many people as possible, which included the utilisation of social media. 

 

The Director of Finance referred to a document which had been tabled by the Head of Corporate Communications which outlined the approach taken to the budget consultation.  Many of the mechanisms utilised, allowed the budget consultation to reach a wider audience and at little to no cost, such as the social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter.  The Council’s Facebook account had nearly 59,000 subscribers.  Cllr Brookfield stated she was pleased to see the Equality and Diversity forum had been included.  She stated she wanted to receive the attendance list from the meeting and who had been invited to attend.  

 

A Panel Member asked why in paragraph 3.7 of the report it referred to 569 respondents, when earlier in the report it had said there had been 669.  The Cabinet Member for Resources confirmed this was an error and the figure in paragraph 3.7 should have read 669.  He asked what the Director of Finance views were on encouraging more people to take part in the consultation.  In response, the Director of Finance stated each year they were trying to do different things to promote the consultation.  They tried to spread the consultation events across the City and held the meetings in the evenings to allow people who worked during the day to attend.  She did recognise that the weather during the Autumn could be inclement and it was also dark when the meetings were taking place.  The Cabinet Member for Resources stated they had listened to feedback from the previous year and had staggered the events across different days rather than on the same weekday.  This was because some people worked a specific evening on the same day each week.  Since the venue had been changed at Bilston, due to previous feedback, the attendance figures had disappointingly reduced.   The Chair stated promoting youth engagement to a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Future Use of the Civic Centre

[To receive a presentation on the Future Use of the Civic Centre from Mr Mark Bassett (Future Space Programme Director) and Mr Tim Pritchard (Head of Corporate Landlord) with an opportunity to ask questions thereafter].   

Minutes:

The Future Space Programme Director and Service Director for Commercial Services gave a presentation on the future use of the Civic Centre.

 

The Future Space Programme Director stated essential repairs had been carried out on the Civic Centre to extend its use to more than thirty years.  There had been a significant risk to the building before the repairs, including building failure and in the mechanical and electrical systems.  The Future Space Project, with the support of the Executive and the Full Council, had been conceived to rectify these problems.  As part of the project there was an opportunity to introduce some new elements to the building, including a new Customer Service Centre.  To make a solid business case, the Council would be reducing its use of buildings which were no longer fit for purpose.  The intention was to reduce the use of twenty buildings down to four.  The business case highlighted 2000 people would be working from the Civic Centre, which was an increase of approximately 600 people, but the total number of desks at the Civic Centre would be kept at a similar number.  This was possible by enabling more modern working practice and recognising people were not always at a desk within the Civic Centre, whilst they were carrying out Council work.  Employees could also use meeting rooms and breakout areas. The business case demonstrated there would be savings of at least £500,000 per annum once the buildings were rationalised down to four. 

 

A Panel Member stated his experience of hot desking had been less than favourable.  Unless it was very well managed he found it to be a counterproductive policy leading to less effective communication within teams.  He felt it important to ensure there would be enough desks at any one time to keep up with the demand.  It was therefore important to calculate the figures correctly.  A Panel Member asked how the Council was going to judge the productivity of new ways of working, adding he felt productivity was key as it equated to service delivery for the general public.  He asked what a reasonable time would be to know if the new working practices were effective and expressed a desire for the item to come back to the Panel in the future to address the question. 

 

The Future Space Director stated there wasn’t hot desking taking place at the Civic Centre at the present time.  It was rather, a sharing of desks within teams.  Teams were allocated areas within the building.  Managers had been consulted to understand how much space was needed for each of the teams. Due to each team having their own area within a zone, effective communication was still taking place.  Some employees were out of the building on field work the majority of their time, meaning the number of desks did not need to equate to the total number of employees.  The Chair stated the Leader of the Council had asked Scrutiny to consider if Community Groups could  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.