Agenda and draft minutes

Resources and Performance Select Committee - Thursday, 21 January 2021 10.00 am

Venue: REMOTE MEETING

Contact: Kunwar Khan, Scrutiny Officer 

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Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

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    Purpose of the item: To receive any apologies for absence and substitutions.

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    Minutes:

    Apologies were received from Ayesha Azad.

2.

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETINGS: 18 DECEMBER 2020 pdf icon PDF 253 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To agree the minutes of the Resources and Performance Select Committee held on 18 December 2020 as a true and accurate record of proceedings.

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    Minutes:

    The minutes were agreed as a true record of the meeting.

3.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

    Purpose of the item: All Members present are required to declare, at this point in the meeting or as soon as possible thereafter:

     

          I.        Any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or

     

        II.        Other interests arising under the Code of Conduct in respect of any item(s) of business being considered at this meeting.

     

    NOTES:

     

    ·         Members are reminded that they must not participate in any item where they have a disclosable pecuniary interest.

     

    ·         As well as an interest of the Member, this includes any interest, of which the Member is aware, that relates to the Member’s spouse or civil partner (or any person with whom the Member is living as a spouse or civil partner).

     

    ·         Members with a significant personal interest may participate in the discussion and vote on that matter unless that interest could be reasonably regarded as prejudicial.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Rachael Lake declared a personal interest as a family member is an employee of Surrey County Council.

4.

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS

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    Purpose of the item: To receive any questions or petitions.

     

    NOTES:

     

    1.    Due to the Covid-19 pandemic all questions and petitions received will be responded to in writing and will be contained within the minutes of the meeting.

     

    2.    The deadline for Members’ questions is 12:00pm four working days before the meeting (15 January 2021).

     

    3.    The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting (14 January 2021).

     

    4.    The deadline for petitions was 14 days before the meeting, and no petitions have been received.

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    Minutes:

    None received.

5.

FINAL 2021/22 BUDGET pdf icon PDF 275 KB

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    Purpose of the item: For the Select Committee to review and comment on the final 2021/22 budget – report to follow.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Anna D’Alessandro, Director of Corporate Finance

    Mel Few, Cabinet Member for Resources

    Mark Hak-Sanders, Strategic Finance Business Partner

    Nicola Kilvington, Director of Insight, Analytics and Intelligence

    Becky Rush, Deputy Cabinet Member for Resources

    Rachel Wigley, Director of Financial Insight

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    The Chairman reminded the Select Committee that it had reviewed the draft budget in December 2020 and the comments, conclusions and recommendations of all four select committees would be presented to the Cabinet at their meeting later in January 2021. There was one recommendation from this Select Committee, which concerned working with each district and borough council to agree assumptions about the collection fund and receipts of council tax and business rates to ensure the Council’s 2021/22 budget was based on robust figures.

     

    2.    The Chairman noted that these final proposals being presented to the Select Committee highlighted the changes from the December 2020 figures, how the budget gap of £18.3m was to be closed, and provided further information requested from the December 2020 meeting.

     

    3.    The Director of Financial Insight shared slides and explained that the budget, which stood at circa £1bn, was now balanced and did not require any contribution from reserves. At the draft budget stage, there had been a circa £18m gap, which had been closed following the provisional settlement from central government. Moreover, the directorate position had improved by £3.3m since the draft budget, and two additional reserve contributions of £9m and £4.9m respectively had been made in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and Covid-19. The council was expecting the government to confirm details on collection fund losses soon; it was expected that central government would underwrite a 75% share of irrecoverable collection fund losses.

     

    4.    The Director of Corporate Finance described Surrey County Council’s close relationship with the district and borough councils within Surrey. The Director of Corporate Finance and Director of Financial Insight attended regular Treasurer meetings with district and borough councils’ Chief Financial Officers and collected information on collection rates from district and borough councils on a monthly basis, which was then sent to the Cabinet Members. Collection assumptions had been reviewed regularly throughout 2020/21. The Council had received a directive from central government allowing it to spread 2020/21 collection fund losses over the next three years. The Council currently had a £21m collection fund deficit (before the impact of grant-funded retail and nursery reliefs of £19.2m), which had decreased from £37m over the course of the development of the 2021/22 budget. The numbers could continue to change until the final budget, when Surrey County Council would receive confirmation from district and borough councils. The most up-to-date estimate for the 2021/22 collection fund deficit was £12.8m (again, before the impact of grant funded retail and nursery reliefs of £19.2m).

     

    5.    The Director of Corporate Finance explained that Central Income and Expenditure was different from a corporate resources budget; it was central and not allocated to individual service areas. In 2021/22 the Central  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 938 KB

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    Purpose of the item: For the Select Committee to review and comment on the 2021/22 Treasury Management Strategy (TMS) – report to follow.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Anna D’Alessandro, Director of Corporate Finance

    Mel Few, Cabinet Member for Resources

    Mark Hak-Sanders, Strategic Finance Business Partner

    Becky Rush, Deputy Cabinet Member for Resources

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    The Strategic Finance Business Partner stated that the purpose of the Treasury Management Strategy (TMS) was to set a strategy for the prudent management of surplus cash and for managing borrowing costs. The Council consulted treasury advisor Arlingclose for advice on the external economic background and on the strategy. The Strategic Finance Business Partner explained that the strategy and fundamental approach in the 2021/22 TMS remained generally unchanged since the 2020/21 version. The aim was to maximise the Council’s use of its available cash to avoid borrowing. Given low interest rates at present, using the Council’s available cash instead of borrowing was currently more cost-effective than investing cash. Borrowing in the short term entailed an average 0.5% interest rate at the moment, whereas longer term borrowing through the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) averaged a 1.5% interest rate. The Council currently held its surplus cash in money market funds, which were completely liquid. Moreover, the 2021/22 TMS proposed to remove the £150m limit on money market fund investment, in order to avoid having to hold any excess funds in the Council’s current account on the rare occasions that that amount was exceeded. The limit on any one money market fund was £25m, in order to spread the risk of the investment over a number of parties.

     

    2.    The Strategic Finance Business Partner continued to explain that the Council had changed its approach to minimum revenue provision (MRP) in response to advice from its external auditors, Grant Thornton. Currently, Halsey Garton (the company owned by Surrey County Council through which the Council invested in property) owed debts to the Council on a long-term maturity basis. The proposed change was that, if any investment property fell below its carrying value in terms of the outstanding debt owed by Halsey Garton, Halsey Garton would start to make a principle payment immediately on that loan, thereby giving Surrey County Council the cash it would need to repay the external debt.

     

    3.    The Strategic Finance Business Partner informed the Select Committee that the other change set out in the 2021/22 TMS was an increase in planned borrowing over the course of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), increasing the proportion of borrowing costs against net revenue budget from 6% by 2024/25 in the 2020/21 TMS, to 8% by 2025/26 in the latest TMS. This figure was in line with other counties; the average proportion of borrowing cost was 7% and the range was 4-10%. In terms of the £0.2bn increase in borrowing, the majority of that figure represented borrowing that would generate income, such as investment in Extra Care Housing and Independent Living schemes, which would result in rental income and efficiencies, offsetting borrowing costs. Finally, the risk profile had been reduced in 2021/22 compared to 2020/21. The Council had the option  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

CABINET MEMBER PRIORITIES UPDATES

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    Purpose of the item: To share details of Cabinet Members’ priority areas of work including strategy and policy developments and provide an overview of the budget position and performance of services within their portfolios.

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7a

CABINET MEMBER FOR CORPORATE SUPPORT UPDATE pdf icon PDF 307 KB

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    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Zully Grant Duff, Cabinet Member for Corporate Support

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked the Cabinet Member what the role of the County Council was in the new Tech 4 You service model. He raised concern that there had been several high-profile failures of this sort of model; what were the failsafes to ensure that the technology did not overlook people who needed help? He also asked whether Tech 4 You would be offered in addition to providing human contact, which was important. The Cabinet Member responded that the Tech 4 You project involved piloting tried and tested technology that was already in wide commercial use in a number of residential and supported living settings. The role of the project was to enable residents to live longer, more independent lives by understanding their individual needs. Surrey County Council was leading on the design of the service and monitoring the project to ensure its safety, while Mole Valley District Council would pilot the service. The pilot would begin in late January 2021 in the Mole Valley area and would last for a number of months, and then the service would be modified as needed based on the pilot. The pilot would be scrutinised by the Adults and Health Select Committee.

     

    2.    A Member noted that there was a national Test and Trace service covering the whole of Surrey, as well as a local Test and Trace service covering Elmbridge, Epsom, Runnymede and Spelthorne boroughs. How would the Council overcome the issues that had been experienced with the national Test and Trace service, ensuring the whole of Surrey had a functional system? The Cabinet Member replied that when the Test and Trace success rates for the local and national services in Surrey were combined, the success rate stood at 85%. Surrey County Council was working in partnership with district and borough councils and using local knowledge to maximise chances of successful contact. Recently, there had been a significant increase in infection rates across Surrey, which had increased the caseload; there had been six new staff members recruited in Surrey County Council customer services to tackle this. At the end of January 2021, Woking and Surrey Heath would join the local Test and Trace system, and the remaining districts and boroughs would join the local system by mid-February 2021.

     

    3.    Regarding agile working arrangements within the Council, a Member commented that, according to the results of the travel survey recently conducted amongst staff whose administrative base had been relocated to Woodhatch Place, many staff intended to travel to the new office by car, the new journey entailed an increase in average journey time compared to the journey time to staff’s previous administrative base, and most staff anticipated that they would travel into Woodhatch Place to work two days a week. Based on this, what was the total number of parking spaces at Woodhatch Place, how many staff would have Woodhatch Place designated as their administrative base, and would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7a

7b

DEPUTY CABINET MEMBER FOR RESOURCES UPDATE pdf icon PDF 215 KB

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    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Becky Rush, Deputy Cabinet Member for Resources

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked which risks in the 2020/21 budget were currently RAG (red, amber, green) rated red and whether some risks that had previously been red had now been rated black. How did this affect the position with regards to risks at year-end? The Deputy Cabinet Member replied that a £3.2m deficit was currently forecast for the end of the 2020/21 financial year. There had been little change in the forecast delivery of efficiencies in the last few months. Black rated (undeliverable) efficiencies stood at £4.6m at month 8 of 2020/21, and red rated (at risk) efficiencies stood at £5.5m. The majority of these risks were related to efficiencies in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). All efficiencies were regularly reviewed within the transformation programme, and as well as this a review was being conducted on the effect of the current Covid-19 lockdown.

     

    2.    A Member requested to see the year-on-year level of Adult Social Care debts. The Deputy Cabinet Member stated that a full report was being compiled for the Adults and Health Select Committee and once the information was available, she would share it with the Resources and Performance Select Committee.

     

    Chris Townsend left the meeting at 11:54am.

     

    3.    A Member requested that the monthly deep dives reported back to the Transformation Board also be reported to the Resources and Performance Select Committee on a monthly basis. The Deputy Cabinet Member agreed to share this information with the Select Committee monthly.

     

    4.    A Member asked what the modernisation review was, as mentioned in the report. The Deputy Cabinet Member responded that this was a monthly meeting with procurement, whereby discussions took place about how improvements could be made to procurement processes. The new Digital Business and Insights (DB&I) project would provide a new procurement programme. Also discussed at the modernisation review were a renewed emphasis on business partnering, changes due to Britain’s exit from the European Union, and increased focus on climate change.

     

    5.    A Member enquired what the key risks in the Resources portfolio were and what issues the Deputy Cabinet Member would address once she became Cabinet Member for Resources from 26 January 2021 onwards. The Deputy Cabinet Member said that she was working closely with the current Cabinet Member for Resources and the finance team to ensure a smooth handover. The main budgetary risks included SEND and waste, as well as the agile office programme, agile IT, the relocation of the County Hall to Woodhatch Place and staff retention. Project governance, risk management, interim workplace solutions and regular communications led by the Executive Director of Resources mitigated these risks. Moreover, Covid-19 had impacted services, leading to staff sickness and redeployment, for example. Reprioritisation of the transformation programme and of critical functions within teams helped mitigate this risk. The focus at present was on delivery of the budget at 2020/21 year-end. The Deputy Cabinet Member commended the abilities of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7b

8.

EQUALITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION pdf icon PDF 168 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To present a draft action plan to radically improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) for Surrey residents and Surrey County Council staff, and a draft refreshed EDI policy statement.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Jackie Foglietta, Director of HR&OD

    Zully Grant Duff, Cabinet Member for Corporate Support

    Nicola Kilvington, Director of Insight, Analytics and Intelligence

    Katie Stewart, Executive Director of Environment, Transport and Infrastructure

    Adam Whittaker, Strategic Lead – Policy and Strategy

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    The Executive Director of Environment, Transport and Infrastructure explained that the new draft action plan on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) covered both the Council’s workforce and Surrey residents. The draft action plan aimed to be radical in its approach. Staff feedback on EDI had been collected in autumn 2019 and it indicated both some key areas of good practice across the organisation and some areas where the EDI agenda was not prioritised or where staff did not feel sufficiently supported. While the Council was not necessarily organisationally biased, it still had much to do in order to be seen as an organisation that took EDI seriously. The Covid-19 pandemic had also affected communities differently and evidenced the need for support for certain communities. Recently, the government had announced that they would be reviewing the national EDI agenda, and the Council wished to reflect this national agenda, while taking into account the views of the Select Committee.

     

    2.    Noting that a speech made recently by the Minister for Women and Equalities had implied that the EDI agenda should look beyond the legally protected characteristics, a Member asked for witnesses’ comments on the minister’s views. The Executive Director replied that, while it was too early to know the full implications of the minister’s speech, the Council did share the desire to make a significant improvement in EDI and the minister’s evidence-based approach was encouraging. The Council recognised that inequality went beyond the protected characteristics but that there was still a need to focus on protected characteristics. The Council’s Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) were designed to capture protected characteristics as well as other inequalities. However, there was currently no sign that central government would make changes to the Council’s legal duties.

     

    3.    A Member enquired what support Members might need in order to be equipped to provide collective leadership and champion EDI. Moreover, how would the whole of the Surrey community be engaged in EDI? The Executive Director responded that Members were key to the EDI plan and were seen as crucial representatives within the community. Locality profiles had been developed, which could help Members to understand the makeup of their division. Members could facilitate in reaching communities, and promote and celebrate diversity, by promoting LGBT+ history month or black history month, for example. The Director of Insight, Analytics and Intelligence agreed to send locality profiles to Members and added that the Community Impact Assessment (CIA) measured engagement with residents with protected characteristics, as well as other groups such as carers. The Select Committee requested that the Director of Insight, Analytics and Intelligence provide a briefing note on the CIA. Furthermore, there were communities transformation programmes such as Your Fund Surrey, and these  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

TASK GROUP UPDATES pdf icon PDF 593 KB

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    Purpose of the item:

    To provide updates to the Select Committee on the following Task Groups:

    a)    Final report of the Customer Experience Task Group

    b)    Notes of the 13 January 2021 meeting of the County Hall Move and Agile Programme Task Group – notes to follow

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Select Committee agreed the recommendations of the Customer Experience Task Group.

     

    The Select Committee noted the notes of the recent County Hall Move and Agile Programme Task Group meeting.

10.

FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME AND RECOMMENDATION TRACKER pdf icon PDF 95 KB

11.

DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING

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    The next meeting of the Resources and Performance Select Committee will be held on 18 March 2021 at 10:00am.

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    Minutes:

    The next meeting of the Resources and Performance Select Committee would be held on 18 March 2021.