Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Caroline Breheny
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest received at this point in the meeting.
The minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 7 December were submitted and approved as a correct record.
The Chief Executive submitted a report which identified the forthcoming issues to be considered by the Executive, as outlined in Appendix A to the report.
The report provided the Overview and Scrutiny Board with the opportunity to consider whether any item contained within the Executive Forward Work Programme should be considered by the Board, or referred to a Scrutiny Panel.
The Chief Executive was in attendance and provided an update to the Board in respect of the following:-
· COVID-19 update
o Vaccine / booster uptake
o Staff sickness / self-isolation
· Resident and business grant support update
· Executive update
In terms of the latest local COVID-19 data, as at 16 January 2022 the rolling seven-day rate of cases per 100k of the Middlesbrough population was as follows:
Reference was made to the COVID case rate by age group and it was advised that the highest number of cases were amongst people aged 20-39. With regard to the number of COVID patients in South Tees Hospitals it was noted that there were currently 168 inpatients, with 8 of those in critical care. In terms of vaccination rates it was advised that 76.2 per cent of Middlesbrough’s population had received their first vaccination, 69.3 per cent had received their second vaccination and 49.7 per cent had received their booster.
In terms of staff sickness and self-isolation rates it was advised that COVID-related sickness currently accounted for 44 per cent of all staff sickness and 2 per cent of staff were currently either self-isolating or shielding.
An update was provided in respect of resident and business grant support and it was advised that approximately 30 per cent of Revenues Services staff had been redirected to administer grants. The collections team had been significantly reduced and more experienced officers had been utilised to deliver grants. The service had been working at pace for 2 years; overseeing 25+ grants and variations, paying out £50m+ to approximately 3,500 businesses and 50,000 residents alongside numerous regulatory changes. In addition staff fatigue, COVID, stress-related sickness and other factors had all impacted on the service.
In terms of Council Tax collection it was advised that collection remained extremely challenging with an increasing number of residents who ‘couldn’t / wouldn’t pay’ alongside a strong reluctance to engage with the service. There was also an increased number of wards where payment problems and non-payers had worsened. Collection continued to be of the highest priority with additional staff recruited, though 50 per cent of Revenues Services staff had less than 18 months experience.
In relation to the Executive decisions taken recently it was noted that a number of reports had been considered. These included; approval of the Digital Inclusion Strategy; approval of the Corporate Crisis Policy; approval of the Elected Members Small Scheme Allocation and the Whortlton Road Industrial Estate Disposal.
A number of reports were expected to be considered by Executive in February 2022 and these included; An update on progress to date within Children’s Services; a proposal to extend existing town-wide PSPO and CCTV Provision; Demolition of Slam Nightclub; Strategic Plan Refresh; Revenue and Capital Budget Projected Outturn position as at ... view the full minutes text for item 20/61
Scrutiny Chairs Update
Adult Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel
Councillor J. Platt (Chair)
Children & Young People’s Learning Scrutiny Panel
Councillor D. McCabe (Chair)
Children & Young People’s Social Care and Scrutiny Panel
Councillor D. Davison (Chair)
Culture and Communities Scrutiny Panel
Councillor C. McIntyre (Chair)
Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel
Councillor S. Walker (Chair)
Health Scrutiny Panel
Councillor D. Coupe (Chair)
The Scrutiny Chairs/Vice Chairs provided updates in respect of the work undertaken by their respective panels since the last meeting of the Board.
The recommendations to be submitted to the Executive were:
A) That further work regarding the introduction of a one off financial incentive payment (termed “Golden Hello”) be undertaken with Human Resources, and a further report be submitted to the Leadership Management Team. Consideration to be given to the payment amount; terms and conditions; and the potential impact upon existing staff. Work to be completed by Spring/Summer 2022.
B) That exploratory work regarding the introduction of a Recruitment and Retention payment continue to be undertaken with Human Resources. Introduction of this payment would need to be in alignment with the Council’s existing policies and other similar structures within the authority (e.g. Children’s Services). Work to be completed by mid-2022.
C) That further consideration be given to the restructuring of Adult Social Care; examining the roles of Social Workers and Occupational Therapists as part of this. Exploratory work to be undertaken with regards to roles; impact on existing staff and terms and conditions; salary column grading; and clear routes for career progression. Update to be provided to the panel by Autumn/Winter 2022.
D) That consideration be given to undertaking activities which raise awareness of and promote the role of social work within Middlesbrough Council. Specific work could be carried-out with Teesside University to encourage students to remain in Middlesbrough and apply for roles at the Council following completion of their degree programmes. Online events could also be offered to provide information and Frequently Asked Questions opportunities with current Social Workers. Update to be provided to the panel by Autumn/Winter 2022.
E) That, in order to both promote the good work of Adult Social Care and the benefits of working for Middlesbrough Council, publicity be placed in as many news and media outlets as possible, e.g. ‘Love Middlesbrough’ magazine and the Council’s social media platforms. Initial work to be completed by Spring 2022, however, this should be an on-going orchestrated campaign involving the Council’s media team.
F) That, in order to raise awareness of the roles of Social Workers and Social Care Workers, an online learning module be created and implemented on Middlesbrough Learns for all Elected Members and Council staff. This could provide a route into a potential ‘refer a friend’ scheme. Work to be completed by Autumn/Winter 2022.
AGREED that the findings and recommendations of the Adult Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel be endorsed and referred to the Executive.
The Director of Finance and the Head of Financial Planning and Support were in attendance at the meeting to brief the Board on the latest Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) position, including the effects of the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement, and other changes since the last reported position, which would form the basis for the Budget Report.
The Director of Finance delivered a presentation, which covered the following topics:
· Setting the scene of the Council’s finances;
· Key points – 2022/2023 Budget;
· Last reported MTFP position as at November 2021;
· Changes since November position built into latest version of MTFP – From provisional LGFS / other;
· LGFS inflation contingencies;
· Increased reserves – rationale;
· Local Government Finance Reform;
· Capital Projects;
· Members’ general responsibilities in setting the budget;
· The timeline for budget setting;
It was indicated that the share allocated to Children’s Social Care had increased from 13 % of the total net budget in 2010/2011, to 32 % in 2020/2021; Adult Social Care had also increased from 27 % to 35% in that same period. In turn Central Services’ percentage share of the net budget had decreased from 31% to 14% since 2010/2011. The proportion of budget allocated to all of the other Council services, which included Environment and Regeneration, had seen a reduction from 29 % to 19 % of the Council’s net budget. In 2010/11 the Council’s net budget had been £133.6m and in 2021/2022 it was £116.4m. Over the last 11 years the Council had received £16m less, not accounting for inflation and a higher proportion of funding had to be spent on statutory Children’s and Adult Social Care Services.
A number of key points were made in respect of the 2022/2023 Budget as follows:-
· Proposals for spending and income for 2022/23 had been developed to support continued delivery of the Mayor’s strategic priorities
· To deliver these priorities, we needed to protect frontline services and
preserve our capacity to deliver major improvement programmes and projects
· Investment provided, including for increased employers NI costs, ongoing
Covid19 effects, Children’s Care, Adult Social Care Living Wage, car parking & crematorium income shortfalls, energy inflation, Street Wardens, and
borrowing costs for capital investment
· No service cuts or budget savings had been assumed
· The previous year’s saving target re: reducing staff mileage paid had been fully removed
· A total Council Tax rise of 2.99% (within Government referendum
limits) was proposed (comprising a 1.99% general increase, and a 1.00% Adult Social Care
precept - precept applied to Council Tax as per Government
recommendation to help to pay for the increased costs of Adult Social Care
services). The proposal was currently out to public consultation.
· A lower Council Tax increase would require service cuts and/or reduced
investment, a higher increase would mean potentially more funding available
for additional investment.
It was explained that following submission of the proposed budget report to Full Council in November, the Provisional Settlement for 2022/2023 was received from Central Government, which changed the assumptions slightly. The Settlement was welcomed and improved ... view the full minutes text for item 20/64
Any other urgent items which, in the opinion of the Chair, may be considered.
The Strategy Delivery Manager provided an update to the Board, which included the following points:
a) Failure to have a legally compliant approach to CCTV – in particular, the need to have a comprehensive central register of Council-managed CCTV, which the Council’s internal auditor had recently identified was not currently in place. Work was underway to develop this register by end December 2021.
b) Local uptake of the C19 vaccine was poor resulting in increased transmission – Middlesbrough’s vaccine uptake of those currently eligible was currently approximately 8% below the North East average, with promotion of uptake being progressed by local COVID-19 response groups.
c) Insufficient funding available to meet demand / costs associated with the Health and Social Care Bill – while the MTFP assumed the Council would be able to cover costs relating to the provisions of the bill, likely costs remained uncertain at this stage and final confirmation of future local authority funding for adult social care was still awaited, so it was therefore prudent to add this risk.
The Chair thanked the Strategy Delivery Manager for their attendance and contribution to the meeting.
AGREED that the information provided be noted, and the agreed action be undertaken.