Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub-Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday, 7th June, 2010
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Michael Paterson (Chairman), Councillor J.M. Cunningham (Vice-Chairman), Mrs A.G. Ashley, Councillor A. Bardett,Councillor S.K. Jarvis, Councillor Sal Jarvis and Councillor David Kearns.
In attendance:
John Robinson - Strategic Director of Customer Services
Andy Cavanagh - Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management
Tim Neill - Accountancy Manager
Fiona Timms - Performance and Risk Manager
Amanda Phillips - Customer Services Manager
Brendan O'Sullivan - Scrutiny Officer
Nigel Schofield - Committee and Member services Officer
Also Present:
Councillor Lawrence Oliver
Councillor John Booth
Item Description/Decision
PART I
1 APPOINTMENT OF CHAIRMAN AND VICE-CHAIRMAN
RESOLVED: That Councillor Michael Paterson be appointed as Chairman of the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub - Committee for the Civic Year 2010 - 2011 and that Councillor Julian Cunningham be appointed as Vice - Chairman of the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub - Committee for the Civic Year 2010 - 2011.
2 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
There were no apologies for absence.
3 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
The Chairman confirmed that there were no other items of business.
4 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Chairman welcomed Councillors and Officers to this inaugural meeting of the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub - Committee.

The Chairman reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest should be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
5 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
The Chairman confirmed that there was no public participation.
6 COMMENTS, COMPLIMENTS AND COMPLAINTS FULL REPORT - 1 APRIL 2009 TO 31 MARCH 2010
The Customer Services Manager (CSM) presented the report of the Strategic Director of Customer Services and advised the Committee that the report covered the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 for the 3Cs and provided a summary of the highs and lows in the previous 12 months.

The CSM confirmed that the 3Cs procedure remained compliant with the ISO Standard 10002/2004, that there had been over 750,000 contacts by email, letter, telephone or personal visits in the previous 12 months with a 20 per cent reduction in complaints and 30 per cent increase in compliments. There had been 607 formal complaints of which 25 went forward to the Stage 2 process, five of these complainants contacted the Local Government Ombudsman who did not find against NHDC in any of the cases, which was the sixth consecutive year in which there had been no case of mal administration. The CSM advised that all complaints were treated very seriously and reviewed by a senior manager. The Committee noted that 17 per cent of complaints (104)were about staff conduct of which 14 were justified and the CSM advised that there would always be retraining and education. In these instances and as appropriate. The majority of compliments related to the Museums Service and in particular to a very popular Dr Who exhibition at Hitchin Museum in the summer of 2009. Other areas that received a high level of compliments were Careline and Leisure Services.

The CSM stated that unfortunately the speed of response time for replies to customer complaints had slipped over the reporting year and that every effort was being made to increase the number of complaints responded to within 10 working days. The CSM confirmed that an action plan to improve response times had been agreed by the Corporate Management Team. Analysis showed that some replies took a lot longer due to the complexity of the complaint to include cases where a legal input was required. The 28 day target to provide information to the Ombudsman (for investigate cases) had been missed by 0.3 days and the CSM reported that the Ombudsman had not challenged NHDC on this issue.

The Chairman thanked the CSM for the informative updating and complimented the CSC on excellent figures, re-accreditation to the ISO standard, that the Ombudsman had not found any cases of maladministration. In response to an enquiry the CSM confirmed that there were set definitions of the 3Cs but if a customer raised an issue as a complaint then NHDC would accept it as a complaint. With regard to waste collection the Strategic Director for Customer Services advised that customers were very quick to complain for example about missed bins. Also, there could be a difference of opinion regarding complaints for example on the cleanliness of leisure centres especially swimming pools and changing rooms. The Committee advised that there were very rigorous inspection reports at such public centres and noted that if there was a continued complaint the CSM would review all complaints to see if there was a trend but with small numbers this was difficult.

In response to a question the CSM confirmed that in 2009-2010 a total of 93 per cent of complaints registered were found to be ‘no fault’ after a thorough investigation with seven per cent of complaints being justified.

RESOLVED:

(1)That the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub-Committee welcomed and applauded the confirmation that the Local Government Ombudsman had not found any cases of maladministration at North Hertfordshire District Council in the previous 12 months and for several years prior;

(2)That the good performance in the management of the 3Cs for the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 be noted;

(3)That the reduction in complaints to NHDC in the previous 12 months be welcomed and noted;

(4)That the increase in compliments to NHDC in the previous 12 months be welcomed and noted;

(5)That the successful re-accreditation to British Standard ISO 10002/2004 for complaint handling be welcomed and noted.

REASON FOR DECISION:
To allow corporate consideration of the 3Cs received by NHDC and allow issues raised formally by customers to be reviewed, the positive action taken by NHDC be reviewed and to meet the requirements of ISO 10002/2004.
7 PERFORMANCE INDICATOR MONITORING REPORT - APRIL 2009 - MARCH 2010
The Performance and Risk Manager (PRM) presented the report of the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management which covered the progress against the agreed statutory and NHDC performance indicators for the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010.

The PRM advised the Committee that there had been a marked improvement from 2008-2009 where 40 per cent of the indicators were at red or amber whereas for 2009-2010 the total for red and amber stood at 33 per cent. The Committee noted that in 2009-2010 30 indicators had improved levels of performance compared to 22 in 2008-2009, in 2008-2009 38 per cent showed deterioration compared to 30 per cent in 2009-2010 and 27 indicators had performed better than last year or remained at optimum performance. The PRM referred the Committee to the table at Paragraph 4.4 where indicators not included in the data set were listed and reasons given and the PRM confirmed that Appendix A the Covalent report did not include these performance indicators.

The PRM reported that there had been a significant improvement in the number of days lost to sickness and the SCS in response to an enquiry confirmed that there was a significant effect of long term sickness on these data. Long term absences were dealt with by referrals to Occupational Health with regular case reviews. Short term sickness has also improved with absent management techniques and it was noted that many staff do not have any absence or just one day or two days during the year. A Member also suggested that if it was possible that the target figure of days lost could be reduced and the PRM proposed that this could be considered when targets were set for 2011- 2012.

The PRM gave a summary of performance on the following indicators: BV9, BV10, NI191, LI 6, NI 156, NI 157a, NI157b and NI157c and referred the Committee to the table at Paragraph 4.11 which listed nine indicators at a red or amber status (BV174, LI15, LI19, Bv200b, BV204, LI26, NI15, NI182 and NI195d), why the performance had fallen and what action was being done to rectify the poor performance.

The Committee reviewed the Performance Indicators Management Report as presented at Appendix A. Comment was made as to the excellent 42 per cent of staff who took no sick leave, that the number of swim visits had fallen below target and the SCS advised that there had been a long term and steady decline in casual swimming. The PRM confirmed that the events listed under Indicator BV175 were all classified as a racial incident and had been addressed. The PRM agreed to provide the definition of long term sickness to Members and confirmed that Officers had not received any indication of any additional National Indicators that might be removed.

The Chairman thanked the Performance and Risk Manager for the positive report on the Performance Indicators and the Committee noted the Proposed Changes to the NHDC set of Corporate Performance Indicators following the 2010 budget as presented at Appendix C.

RESOLVED:

(1)That the progress of performance indicators for the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 be noted;

(2)That the changes to the National Indicator Set as announced in the 2010 Budget be noted;

(3)That the proposed changes to the NHDC set of Corporate Performance Indicators as presented at Appendix C be agreed.

REASON FOR DECISION:
The recommendations made at Paragraph 9 to the report enabled this Sub Committee to review the performance of NHDC in relation to its performance targets.
8 THE CORPORATE PLAN MONITORING REPORT FOR 2009 - 2010
The Performance and Risk Manager (PRM) presented the report of the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management which was the fourth and final Corporate Plan monitoring report for the year 2009-2010 and referred the Committee to Appendix A which detailed progress on Corporate Plan actions and was produced directly from Covalent (NHDC Performance and Risk Management Software).

The PRM summarised the status of sub actions within the Corporate Plan at 31 March 2010 and the Committee noted that 25 were completed by original due date, nine completed after original due date, one action was on target, eight were carried forward into the 2010/2011 Corporate Plan and three were not completed and not carried forward (CP003.004 - Cross Planning Brief; CP014.002 - East of England Planning Review; and CP014.003 - Joint meeting with Stevenage BC).

The PRM next described the completed actions with reference to the three NHDC priorities and the actions carried forward to the 2010-2011 Corporate Plan.

The Committee reviewed each action as listed in Appendix A and in response to an enquiry on actions marked at red status and how would the Administration react to the non completion of targets the PRM advised that this issue would be addressed in a report to this Committee on 15 September 2010. Comment was also made on the changing dates for CP005.001.002 and 003 and the PRM explained that these actions related to removing obstacles from the highway and in town centres had been brought forward to those shown at Appendix A. A Member also queried how this authority encouraged the creation of local businesses (CP008) and what progress had been made.

Overall the Committee were pleased with the presentation of the Corporate Plan using Covalent and completion of sub actions. It was suggested that SMART targets would be beneficial. However, in the general debate it was proposed and agreed that Cabinet should de facto monitor progress of the actions within the Corporate Plan and that the Finance and Performance Sub - Committee should scrutinise such progress or lack of progress.

RESOLVED:

(1)That the progress of the Corporate Plan Action Plan and year end position at 31 March 2010 be noted;

(2)That the actions carried forward onto the 2010-2011 Corporate Plan as detailed at Paragraph 6 to the report be noted;

(3)That the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub-Committee agreed to continue with scrutiny of the NHDC Corporate Plan for 2010-2011.

RECOMMENDED TO THE SCRUTINY AND OVERVIEW COMMITTEE:

(1)That the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub-Committee would continue to scrutinise the NHDC Corporate Plan for 2010 - 2011;

(2)That Cabinet should monitor the progress of the Corporate Plan for 2010 - 2011.

REASON FOR DECISION:
To assist the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub-Committee in its role to scrutinise the performance of the NHDC in relation to its policy objectives.


9 REVENUE BUDGET OUTTURN FOR 2009 - 2010
The Accountancy Manager (AM) presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance which was to be presented to Cabinet on 15 June and that the Finance and Performance Sub - Committee were invited to comment.

The Committee noted that the purpose of the report was to update Cabinet on the summary position on income and expenditure at the end of the financial period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010, the position of the council’s earmarked reserves at 31 March 2001 and any transfers to reserves, the projected General Fund balance at 31 March 2011, update on any requests for 2009-2010 carry forwards and inform on the outturn of the Treasury Management activities.

The AM summarised the progress and details of the items listed above and confirmed that the Annual Statement of Accounts for 2009-2010 (still to be audited) would be presented to the Audit and Risk Committee on 29 June 2010.

Whilst the Committee were able to note and accept the information that was to be presented to Cabinet on the Revenue Outturn for 2009-2010 there were several items raised by the Committee: The AM confirmed that any unused earmarked reserves e.g. East of England Plan would be placed in the General Fund; the AM advised that there was always a spread of risks on the placement of deposits in the open market; the AM confirmed that it was very difficult to calculate what interest had been lost or gained as for example cash was spread over many investments and the length of deposit might be able to provide an answer.

The Committee discussed the issues of risk and that it was necessary to have a good review of risk particularly regarding investments and when reviewing the treasury management activity as presented at Appendix C and following a short discussion on investments income and interest paid requested that all Members should receive a copy of the Treasury Management Strategy.

RESOLVED:

(1)That the contents of the Revenue Outturn Report for 2009-2010 for consideration by Cabinet be noted;

(2)That the recommendations made in the report and to be considered by Cabinet at its meeting to be held on 15 June 2010 be noted.

(3)That the Accountancy Manager be requested to provide all members of the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub-Committee and substitutes with a copy of the NHDC Treasury Management Strategy;

REASON FOR DECISION:
To ensure scrutiny of the Council’s treasury management activities for 2009-2010.

10 CAPITAL PROGRAMME OUTTURN FOR 2009 - 2010
The Accountancy Manager (AM) presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance which was the report to be presented to Cabinet on 15 June 2010 and was an update on the final Capital Programme Outturn for 2009-2010, available capital funding resources, approval of capital receipts and to gain approval of changes to individual scheme expenditure for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 onwards.

The AM provided a summary of the Capital Programme Outturn by priorities and by service as detailed at Appendix A and described the full programme as presented at Appendix B which showed the revised costs of schemes and the provisional programme for 2010-2011 to 2013 -2014.

The Committee noted the outturn expenditure for 2009-2010 was £4.291M which was a reduction of £125K over the forecast for the third quarter. This reduction was largely due to slippage and the AM referred the Committee to Table 2 which detailed Scheme Slippage in 2009-2010. The AM next referred the Committee to Table 3 which detailed the Changes to Overall Cost of Capital Schemes in 2009-2010 which showed a total increase of +£189K which included savings of £100K.

The AM confirmed that there was only one major contingent liability of £518K relating to the development of Churchgate which would be reduced by a contribution of £200K once Simons had received planning permission.

During the presentation Members considered that certain aspects of the report were difficult to understand without more information and that the Capital Outturn was affected by shortfalls in one year matched by overspend in the next. A Member queried the value of prudential borrowing and the AM confirmed that this would be a loss to the General Fund should this borrowing procedure not meet projections.

The AM advised that the scheme slippage of £832K from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011 had been more than offset by a revision in the estimated timetable for the completion of the Museum Development Scheme with corresponding movement of spend into 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 and an anticipated income of £1.260M from third party contributions and £2.240M from capital receipts.
The Chairman thanked the Accountancy Manager for the report and clarification on issues raised by the Committee.

RESOLVED:

(1)That the contents of the Capital Outturn Report for 2009-2010 for consideration by Cabinet be noted;

(2)That the recommendations made in the report and to be considered by Cabinet at its meeting to be held on 15 June 2010 be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION:
To enable a proper scrutiny of the NHDC Capital Programme and that the programme is fully funded.

11 ALLOCATION OF HOUSING AND PLANNING DELIVERY GRANT
The Chairman advised the Sub - Committee that this item had been withdrawn from the agenda to allow the Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise more time to prepare a comprehensive report which would now be presented to the meeting of Cabinet scheduled for 27 July 2010.
Published on Thursday, 24th June, 2010
9.57 p.m.