Agenda and draft minutes

Resources and Performance Select Committee - Friday, 17 September 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber, Woodhatch Place

Contact: Kunwar Khan, Scrutiny Officer 

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Items
No. Item

26/21

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:

    None received.

     

    John Robini was absent.

27/21

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETINGS: 18 MARCH 2021 pdf icon PDF 270 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To agree the minutes of the Resources and Performance Select Committee meetings held on 18 March 2021 as true and accurate records of proceedings.

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    Minutes:

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

28/21

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

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    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:

    None received.

29/21

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS

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

     

    NOTES:

     

    1.    The deadline for Members’ questions is 12:00pm four working days before the meeting (13 September 2021).

     

    2.    The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting (10 September 2021).

     

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

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    None received.

30/21

CABINET MEMBER PRIORITIES UPDATE - TIM OLIVER pdf icon PDF 250 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To receive an update from the Leader of the Council on their priorities and recent work undertaken.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Steve Bax, Deputy Cabinet Member to the Leader

    Leigh Whitehouse, Executive Director of Resources

     

    Steve Bax deputised for Tim Oliver, the Leader of the Council, for this item, as the Leader was not available to attend this meeting.

     

    The aspects of the Leader’s portfolio that came under the Select Committee’s remit were equality, diversity and inclusion, and communications.

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    The Deputy Cabinet Member to the Leader introduced the report, mentioning the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy that had been approved by Cabinet in February 2021. A Trans at Work policy was being developed by the Human Resources (HR) team, which included processes to prevent and tackle discrimination in the workplace. As part of the development of this policy, the Council was working with Stonewall, an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights organisation, and was hoping to become a more attractive employer to LGBT people.

     

    2.    The Deputy Cabinet Member continued to explain that the Council was looking to improve accessibility for disabled staff and residents, including making adjustments for disabled staff and changing the Surrey County Council website to make it more accessible for people whose first language was not English.

     

    3.    The Deputy Cabinet Member outlined the statistics for representation of groups with protected characteristics within the Council’s workforce, as follows:

    a.    The proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff in the Council was roughly equal to the proportion of BAME people in the Surrey population as a whole (10% and 9% respectively), which was in line with the Council’s notion that the workforce should broadly be representative of the communities it represented.

    b.    Despite this, less than 1% of employees in senior management roles were BAME, and, according to staff surveys, BAME staff were less likely to have a good experience working for Surrey than non-BAME staff.

    c.     The proportion of women in the Council’s workforce exceeded the proportion of women in the Surrey population as a whole.

    d.    A high proportion of the Council’s staff were aged 50-59. Younger employees were likely to have a better experience of working for the Council, while those over 60 were likely to have a worse experience.

     

    4.    High levels of non-disclosure of protected characteristic information amongst the Council’s workforce affected the accuracy of data, representing a challenge for the Council, particularly with regards to data on disabilities, religion, and sexual orientation. The communications team was trying to encourage staff to declare protected characteristics, and the HR team was also exploring data around recruitment and whether the Council was attracting staff with protected characteristics.

     

    5.    Moving onto communications, the other aspect of the Leader’s portfolio that came under the Select Committee’s remit, the Deputy Cabinet Member stated that the communications team consisted of 25 full-time posts, and the budget for the team, excluding staff salaries, was approximately £250,000.

     

    6.    A Member highlighted the statistic that the Deputy Cabinet Member had given, that only 1% of senior management roles were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30/21

31/21

CABINET MEMBER PRIORITIES UPDATE - BECKY RUSH pdf icon PDF 32 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To receive an update from the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources on their priorities and recent work undertaken.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Becky Rush, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources and Deputy Leader

    Leigh Whitehouse, Executive Director of Resources

     

    The aspects of the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources’ portfolio that came under the Select Committee’s remit were finance, the Orbis partnership, HR&OD, IT and digital, procurement, and legal and democratic services.

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    A Member asked what the main challenges were regarding the setting of the 2022/23 budget, and how confident the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources was that these challenges could be addressed. The Cabinet Member replied that at the moment the Council was in the early stages of putting together the first view of the budget, which currently estimated a budget gap of £47.1m; however, this figure was prone to change on a daily basis. This figure represented part of the £200m gap in the Council’s finances forecast over the medium term in the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).

     

    2.    The Cabinet Member continued to explain that the main areas of challenge were adult social care (ASC) and children’s social care, in particular, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Regarding ASC, there had been an increase in the number of people requiring care following the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as an increase in provider costs, and therefore ASC generated 60% of the budget gap for the 2022/23 financial year. Regarding children’s social care, there was significant pent-up demand for these services following the pandemic, including an increase in the number of looked after children and looked after children assessments, leading to an increase in the cost of placements and an increase in the number of external placements. The Council was looking to address the overspend in the field of SEND, which represented 22% of the 2022/23 budget gap. Directorates were currently working to address budget pressures by identifying efficiencies, and had expressed confidence that they would be able to address the gap. The Council would be using a new ‘twin-track’ approach, working across directorates, to tackle the £200m gap.

     

    3.    The Executive Director of Resources added that another challenge was that the government would usually give local councils a multi-year indication of resources, but for the last few years, including the current year, indications from government had been shorter term and had not been released until December (soon before the final setting of the budget). The Council was expecting a spending review to be released at the end of October, but in the meantime the Council was basing its budgeting on its best estimate of the results of the government’s spending review; it was expected that the review would result in negative changes to the Council’s funding from central government.

     

    4.    A Member noted that the government had recently announced an increase in national insurance contributions, the money raised from which would be used to fund the NHS and social care systems nationally, and asked for witnesses’ thoughts on this and how this would affect the Council’s budget generally. The Executive Director  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31/21

32/21

CABINET MEMBER PRIORITIES UPDATE - MARK NUTI pdf icon PDF 150 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To receive an update from the Cabinet Member for Communities on their priorities and recent work undertaken.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Mark Nuti, Cabinet Member for Communities

    Marie Snelling, Executive Director of Customer and Communities

     

    The aspect of the Cabinet Member for Communities’ portfolio that came under the Select Committee’s remit was customer services.

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    The Cabinet Member praised the work of the customer services team throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, during which they had acted as the first point of contact for residents.

     

    2.    A Member asked what the key issues were in customer services at the moment. The Cabinet Member responded that a key priority was to keep response times as short as possible. Pre-pandemic, the average response time was 20 seconds, but this had not been possible in the last few months due to the pressures of Covid-19 and, more recently, the pressures of school admissions. The service was trying to recruit more staff to tackle this issue. At the height of the pandemic, the average response time increased to 20 minutes, which had now been reduced to four minutes. However, the 20-second response time was still the target, and the Cabinet Member expressed the belief that this would be reached once new staff were in-post by October 2021.

     

    3.    The Cabinet Member stated that the service’s aim was to ensure customers always received the best quality interaction at the point of contact, and in order to achieve this the service was being streamlined, one aspect of which was making online systems available wherever possible. The majority of queries and problems reported could be addressed quickly through automated online systems, which were now in place for a number of services.

     

    4.    The Cabinet Member continued to explain that the Dakota building, from which the customer services team was now based, was a bright, airy and calm workspace. Approximately 40% of the team were working from the office and 60% were choosing to work from home; internal surveys had suggested that staff were happy with this working arrangement. The service had not suffered from the fact that more staff were working at home; if anything, the service had improved recently.

     

    5.    The Executive Director of Customer and Communities praised the attitude and efficiency of staff throughout the pandemic. The team had recently been nominated for two national awards. In fact, the four-minute response time was good when compared to some other local authorities. Also, it could be advantageous at times for teams to work together in person, particularly when handling complex or potentially traumatic calls, as support from colleagues was important in these situations.

     

    6.    The Executive Director welcomed Members to come to visit the customer services offices in the Dakota building in person.

     

    7.    A Member noted that only 40% of the customer services team were currently working in the office, even though, as the Executive Director had just highlighted, it could be advantageous for the team to work in the office together. How did the service balance that? The Executive Director responded that sub-teams were coordinated to try to ensure  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32/21

33/21

BUDGET TASK GROUP MEMBERSHIP pdf icon PDF 138 KB

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    Purpose of the item: To agree the membership of the reformed Budget Task Group.

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    Minutes:

    The new membership of the Budget Task Group was agreed.

34/21

RECOMMENDATIONS TRACKER AND FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME pdf icon PDF 94 KB

35/21

DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING

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    The next meeting of the Resources and Performance Select Committee will be held on 17 December 2021 at 10:00am.

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    Minutes:

    The next meeting of the Resources and Performance Select Committee would be held on 17 December 2021.