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 22 February 2022 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 Executive Member for Environment, Finance and Governance, Cllr Barrie Cooper, was in attendance to update the Board on his aims and aspirations, progress made to date and to highlight any emerging issues relating to his portfolio. The Director of Legal and Governance Services and Head of Financial Planning and Support were also in attendance.
The Executive Member advised that when he previously attended the Board he had focused on the Environmental aspects of his portfolio. At today’s meeting the focus would be on the Finance and Governance elements.
The Board was advised that as the Executive Member for Finance and Governance he had responsibility for ensuring that the Council operates efficiently, openly and fairly. The main areas covered in his portfolio were detailed in Appendix 1 of the report and in addition a number of outside body appointments fell to the portfolio holder including Chair of the Pension Board. It was highlighted that it would not be possible to talk in detail about all aspects but a flavour of the work undertaken would be provided.
In terms of Human Resources it was advised that regular meetings were held with the Head of HR and his aim as Executive Member was to make Middlesbrough a smarter, faster and safer place to be employed. It was highlighted that Middlesbrough Council had been awarded the Better Health at Work award and been accredited with maintaining excellence alongside a recommendation from assessors that ambassador status be obtained. In February 2022 a matter was put forward for consideration and the subject was for special leave provision to allow parents who suffer a miscarriage to be provided with up to three days paid leave. The loss of a pregnancy could be extremely distressing and the Council wanted to support its staff through that difficult time. It was noted that this would eventually be enshrined in law as a first reading of a new bill had taken place in Parliament on 10 December 2021 and the second reading on 18 March 2022. Middlesbrough Council had shown its support early and enhanced our reputation as an employer of choice.
Reference was made to legal services and it was highlighted that Middlesbrough Council had many legal obligations, for instance ensuring that the Council delivered a balanced budget, ensuring that activities such as CCTV surveillance was lawful and that due regard was given to human rights and data protection rights. As Executive Member it was advised that his aim was to do the best he could for Middlesbrough residents, as long as it was legal, reasonable and possible. In consultation with the Monitoring Officer and agreement with full Council he had responsibility for ensuring the constitution was kept up to date, the last update being January 2022.
With regard to ICT services it was advised that the team were extremely helpful in ensuring digital services were delivered and the Council’s digital strategy also fell within his portfolio. In terms of procurement it was noted that there was a duty ... view the full minutes text for item 20/78
The Chief Executive was in attendance and provided an update to the Board in respect of the following:-
· LMT ‘hot topics’
· School exclusions
· Executive decisions update
In terms of LMT ‘hot topics’ it was advised that the key issues for consideration were reoccupation and the move to Fountains Court; values and staff engagement including the embedding of the values in the political makeup of the Council; the strategic workplan and priority actions for 2022/23; locality working and strengthening the strategic element as well as expanding the scheme into Hemlington; health and safety and in particular violent incidents towards staff; the town centre and school exclusions.
Reference was made to school exclusions and data was presented in relation to the number of permanent exclusions that had taken place to date in Middlesbrough for 2021/2022 when compared to the numbers for the previous two years. It was advised that at the end of quarter three there had already been 43 permanent exclusions, which equalled the total number of exclusions for 2020/21 and there were a number of months still to go. It was acknowledged that potentially those numbers were slightly skewed owing to Covid, however, the figures remained much higher than the local authority would want them to be.
In terms of temporary exclusions the figures over the last three years had been fairly consistent and fairly high. Comparative data with the local authority’s statistical neighbours was provided, which showed that in 2018/19 the rate of permanent exclusions for Middlesbrough’s statistical neighbours was at 0.46 and Middlesbrough’s rate was at 0.5. In 2019/20 (the latest data available) those rate amongst our statistical neighbours were halved and went down to 0.21, Middlesbrough’s decreased but not by as much. Therefore from being in line with our statistical neighbours Middlesbrough was now 50 per cent above.
Reference was made to fixed term exclusions and it was noted that in 2018/19 Middlesbrough’s rate at 46.63 was double that of its statistical neighbour’s rate of 19.66. In 2019/20 Middlesbrough’s statistical neighbour rate had dropped to 11.95 but our rate was 32.83. Almost 200 per cent more than our statistical neighbour’s rate. In Middlesbrough children were far more likely to be temporarily or permanently excluded from school and as the authority with responsibility for education it was an issue that needed to be addressed.
In terms of the Council response it was advised that there had been the implementation of a new Outreach and Inclusion Model in January 2022, supporting children to remain in school through early intervention and support. However, the question remained as to whether it was the case that behaviour of children in Middlesbrough was much worse than elsewhere in the country or if there was a lower level of tolerance and support. Ongoing and tailored challenge, support and training was provided to schools. In addition a new special ‘wrap around’ project had recently commenced with two secondary schools, which involved the Police and Social Care / Early Help partners. The most recent figures also ... view the full minutes text for item 20/79
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. Davison (Vice 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.
Town Centre Update
The Director of Regeneration will be in attendance to update the Board on Town Centre Developments.
The Director of Regeneration was in attendance to provide the Board with an update in respect of progress made to date in relation to town centre development. In terms of context it was highlighted that nationally the retail sector was shrinking dramatically and people’s shopping habits had changed forever, as a result of Covid. In addition changes to working patterns and the introduction of hybrid contracts had exposed Middlesbrough’s town centre retail offer but Middlesbrough was surviving.
It was noted that Middlesbrough had a higher than average town centre vacancy rate and was dominated by retail offer. The town centre was lacking in leisure venues and often people had poor perceptions of the town centre owing to crime and anti-social behaviour. However, the funding secured through the Future High Streets Fund and the Towns Fund provided a stimulant for change. The Council’s acquisitions of key premises within the town centre had also helped to ensure that the Council retained influence over the future development of these sites and makeup of the town centre offer. Feedback provided by Government Advisors had emphasised the need for the town to move on from an over reliance on the retail sector and for leisure provision to be expanded. It was emphasised that there was a need to move away from thinking about the ‘Town Centre’ and instead for everyone’s focus to be placed on the ‘Centre of Town’.
In response to the factors highlighted above it was noted that Middlesbrough’s strategy was to build a new economy based on multiple, diverse uses which would drive business, employment, living and leisure into central Middlesbrough. It was advised that this approach would deliver mutually-sustaining zones and clusters of activity which would create a new critical mass and give a new purpose to the economy. It was highlighted that this would include:-
· Living: building residential communities in central Middlesbrough
· Skills and Learning; integrating educational services and institutions
· Working; Bringing Employment and Commercial uses to the centre
· Health / Public Services: Bringing together public services in central areas
· Culture and Leisure; Providing entertainment and spaces for people to enjoy
· Retain: Maintaining a strong retail component in the high street
In terms of key areas of development updates were provided in respect of the following projects; Captain Cook Square; the Cleveland Centre; Teesside University; House of Fraser; Church House; Exchange Square, the Railway Station; CNE; Centre Square; Zetland and Middlehaven.
The Chair thanked the Director of Regeneration for his presentation and contribution to the meeting.