Greenwich Council

Agenda and minutes.

Venue: Committee Room 4 - Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW. View directions

Contact: Daniel Wilkinson  Email: daniel.wilkinson@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or tel: 020 8921 5102

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence from Members of the Panel.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Mark James and Mehboob Khan.

 

Apologies for lateness were given for Councillor Christine Grice.

2.

Urgent Business

The Chair to announce any items of urgent business circulated separately from the main agenda.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 37 KB

Members to declare any personal and financial interests in items on the agenda.  Attention is drawn to the Council’s Constitution; the Council’s Code of Conduct and associated advice.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That the list of Councillors’ memberships as Council appointed representatives on outside bodies, joint committees and school governing bodies be noted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Members are requested to confirm as an accurate record the Minutes of the meeting held on 21 February 2019 and 28 March 2019.

 

No motion or discussion may take place upon the Minutes except as to their accuracy, and any question on this point will be determined by a majority of the Members of the body attending who were present when the matter in question was decided.  Once confirmed, with or without amendment, the person presiding will sign the Minutes.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved -

 

That the minutes of the meetings of the Corporate Finance and Performance Scrutiny Panel held on 21 February and 28 March 2019 be agreed and signed as true and accurate records

5.

2019/20 Work Programme Schedule and Scrutiny Review pdf icon PDF 47 KB

To agree the schedule for the Panel’s work programme for 2019/20 and to note and comment on the project plan for a time limited review.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members agreed the schedule.

 

The Chair invited Helen Jakeways, who had submitted the proposal listed at Appendix 2 of the report, to address the Panel. Helen Jakeways explained why she had made the proposal. She said it was not clear whether the Council met the targets in the published Customer Standards and she queried whether the targets were measured.

 

Members discussed the proposals. It was agreed that there be a time limited review. It was requested that an open forum be held to allow service users to comment and discuss the issue. 

 

Resolved –

 

1.       That the schedule for the Corporate Finance and Performance Scrutiny Panel work programme for 2019/20 be agreed.

 

2.       That the project plan for a time limited review of Customer Service Standards be noted.

6.

Lead Member Finance and Resources Update pdf icon PDF 56 KB

To receive an update from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources presented the report. The Cabinet Member commented that it was a challenging task to balance the budget considering the pressures on services; that the Council had had to draw on reserves was indicative of the difficult financial times they were in. The Cabinet Member noted the work of the Budget Recovery Boards, and highlighted the overspends in Health and Adults Services and in Children’s Services. The Cabinet Member commented on the new staff mental health strategy.

 

The Panel asked about IT/Customer Services.

The Cabinet Member and the (acting) Director of Finance clarified that the service had been transferred from the Directorate of Finance to the Directorate of Communities and Environment, and that a new Assistant Director would be appointed with responsibility for the service. The Cabinet Member said that there was no proposal for further reorganisation of the contact centre, but the telephony system needed improving and the CRM needed to be implemented. The cost of the project was in the existing budget.

 

The Panel asked about GS Plus.

The Cabinet Member and the Senior Assistant Director of Finance / GS Plus Interim Chief Operations Officer, explained that there had been meetings with the trade unions, and there had been talks with the schools and help had been given to them with regard to procurement. For schools, the catering aspect was more complicated than the cleaning. The move from a borough-wide school catering into a number of groupings was a reflection of the academisation of schools. While a co-operative company for cleaners was possible the question would be whether it would be sustainable. After the annual report to Cabinet there would be a report to Overview and Scrutiny on GS Plus and GSS.

 

The Panel asked about Budget Recovery Boards.

The Cabinet Member and the (acting) Director of Finance confirmed that the Council would be looking to increase reserves. It was explained that there was no prescriptive formula for calculating reserves. Benchmarking across London showed that the Royal Borough of Greenwich was now below the London average. Reserves had decreased but risks were increasing.

 

The Panel asked about procurement.

The Cabinet Member and the Senior Assistant Director of Finance confirmed that the Corporate Finance and Performance Scrutiny Panel’s review had been incorporated as far as possible within the new procurement strategy. Community wealth building formed part of the social value aspect of procurement.

 

The Panel asked about Human Resources.

The Cabinet Member indicated that the procedure for using agency staff and consultants was now more robust and it was expected this would have a beneficial financial impact. Some specialists were still to be used but the aim was a reduction in dependency on agency staff and consultants.

 

In response to a question from the Panel about CIL the (acting) Director of Finance replied each Directorate would be represented on a Board for the Capital Strategy and it would have 6 sub-boards. Oversight of the matter would be the responsibility of the Audit and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Effect of Universal Credit on Performance of Advice and Benefits Service pdf icon PDF 72 KB

To note the action taken to mitigate the impact of Universal Credit on vulnerable residents in the Borough and the performance of the Advice & Benefits Service.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Training, Policy & Welfare Rights Service Manager. She highlighted that there was not much data available yet as to the effect of Universal Credit (UC).  It was noted that there had been some challenges for vulnerable claimants. She indicated that there had been an increase in the administration while there had been a reduction in funding from central government. She elaborated on the work of the UC team in raising awareness in preparation for full service. It was noted that clients were repeatedly referred, and it was explained how that was being addressed. She drew Members’ attention to Appendix 3 and the matter of safeguarding and said that the DWP were looking at it as a model to be used elsewhere.

 

In response to general questions from the Panel, the Training, Policy & Welfare Rights Service Manager Confirmed that UC had been rolled out to all cohorts now. She indicated that though the Housing Benefit caseload had reduced the Council Tax Support caseload had not done so by the same amount so they had not been able utilise admin elsewhere. She said work was done with the voluntary sector, and they were happy to brief any other groups they were not currently working with. With regard to safeguarding joint working was undertaken with other Directorates, and with external partners, but improvement was needed on some links. The CAB’s Help to Claim telephone line was free to use; they also provide a web chat service.

 

In response to questions from the Panel about assessment, the Training, Policy & Welfare Rights Service Manager explained that claimants were regularly incorrectly assessed at the entitlement stage, invariably because some element had not been included; the matter was taking a while to resolve, it was a whole new system and a different way of working for the DWP. The DWP now set the housing element which the local authorities used to do. Greenwich had a good relation with the DWP and the matter was expected to get better over time.

 

In response to questions from the Panel about the process, the Training, Policy & Welfare Rights Service Manager commented that a lot of clients struggled to understand how UC was calculated, but the DWP was trying to improve how it was explained.  If claimants did not know to claim online they were expected to either learn how to do so, or they would have to rely on family members. It was possible to make a claim via the telephone but that was not generally known. Generally advice and benefits did not get contacted by those who were able to handle well the online process.  The Assistant Director Advice and Benefits (Finance) added that claims on low wages were more difficult to administer as their situation could change each week.

 

In response to other questions from the Panel the Training, Policy & Welfare Rights Service Manager said that the relationship between claims and employment was not clear as that depended on how the DWP reported  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Contract Standing Orders - Summary of Exemptions and Variations pdf icon PDF 132 KB

To note the summary of Exemptions and Variations from Contract Standing Orders as reported to Cabinet on 20th March 2019

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was introduced by the Senior Assistant Director of Finance

 

In response to questions from the Panel, the Lead Commissioner (Learning Disabilities, Physical Disabilities, Autism & Carers) clarified what the two parts of the HASV1 variation entailed, and indicated its performance was monitored. With regard to HASV2 he confirmed the reasons for the variation.

 

Members queried whether the HASVI variation constituted value for money and whether the contract was monitored.

 

The Lead Commissioner (Learning Disabilities, Physical Disabilities, Autism & Carers) noted that the extension had been built into the contract, a 10% reduction had been obtained, there had been streamlining of the contract and overall it was cost neutral. The contract was monitored, and funding from Royal Borough of Greenwich was not being used elsewhere by the organisation.

 

The Senior Assistant Director of Finance advised the Panel that there could be multiple reasons for why a contract was varied. Officers were seeking to address the issue by adhering to a better planning process to reduce the need for variations. There would be more support for directorates from the centre on the matter.

 

Members requested further information with regard to the following exemptions and variations:

 

·        Exemption CE1 - More information was sought on provision, eg, who agreed it, what budget was it from

·        Variation HASV1 - the performance monitoring data was sought for the contract

·        Variation HASVI2 - Explanation sought for the two year timescale, what was being done differently

Action: DoF

 

Members commented that it appeared that contracts came in at a low price and were then re-evaluated later.

 

The Senior Assistant Director of Finance advised the Panel that more resources were to be put into the pre-procurement stages to ensure that specifications were right. The focus would be on contract specification and contract management.

 

The Panel requested a record for the last few years, broken down by directorate, of the number of variations and extensions

Action: DoF

 

Members queried the procurement planning process.

 

The Senior Assistant Director of Finance advised there was a currently a devolved process. Under the new Strategy there would be a procurement plan as part of the budget process, and it would be a rolling cycle and would be looked at more centrally.

 

Members to receive a briefing on the new procurement process, in particular procurement planning and its relation to budgeting

Action: DoF

 

 

Resolved –

 

1.       That the summary of Exemptions from Contract Standing Orders as reported to Cabinet on 20 March 2019 be noted.

 

2.       That the summary of Variations under Contract Standing Orders reported to Cabinet on 20 March, 2019 be noted.

 

 

 

9.

Action Monitoring pdf icon PDF 48 KB

To note that future meetings will include a report regarding monitoring of actions raised by the Panel

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That it be noted that future meetings of the Panel will include a report to monitor actions raised by the Panel.