Performance, Audit and Review Committee Minutes

Thursday, 28th January, 2010
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor M.E. Weeks (Chairman),Councillor John Booth (Vice - Chairman), Councillor Gary Grindal, Councillor R.E. Inwood, Councillor Sal Jarvis, Councillor David Levett, Councillor Paul Marment, Councillor Deepak Sangha and Councillor Martin Stears - Handscomb.
In attendance:
Strategic Director of Customer Services
Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management
Member and Committee Services Officer
Item Description/Decision
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors: P.C.W. Burt, Paul Clark, Julian Cunningham and David Miller. An apology for absence was also received from the Chief Executive, Head of Policy, Partnerships and Community Development and the Head of Community and Cultural Services.
There were no substitutes nominated at the meeting.
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 10 December 2009 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
There was no notification of other business.
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.
The Chairman advised the Committee that Agenda Item 9 - The Urban Transport Plan had been withdrawn from the agenda and moved to the next meeting of PARC to be held on 17 March 2010.
There was no public participation.
The Strategic Director of Customer Services (SCS) presented the report of the Head of Policy, Partnerships and Community Development which outlined how it was essential that the Equality Strategy should be embedded in North Herts District Council for Members and Officers alike.

The SCS reminded the Committee that Cabinet at is meeting held on 15 July 2009 (Minute 38 (2) refers) recommended that PARC should set up a Members Working Party to monitor progress of the Corporate Equality Strategy.

During the ensuing debate the Committee were in full support of a Members Working Party but regarded the objective of monitoring the progress of the Strategy as an adequate aim but the Council should push forward and make a more challenging objective such as to achieve ‘excellence’ in equality. The Committee also proposed that the aims of the Working Party should be on action towards excellence as well as implementation and be inspirational.

The Committee also discussed membership of the Working Party and Terms of Reference. It was agreed that membership should nine Members and be politically balanced (Conservative 5, Labour 2 and Liberal Democrat 2) but not necessarily drawn exclusively from PARC to allow participation Members with expertise in Equality. It was also agreed that the Terms of Reference for the Working Party should be discussed and agreed at the first meeting especially with a view to establishing those who would be consulted in the North Herts Community. It was proposed that contact with HCC for county level networks would be appropriate.

The one issue that concerned Members was the provision of adequate resource and the SCS agreed to provide a response via the Head of Policy, Partnerships and Community Development.


(1) That PARC welcomed the proposal to establish a Member Working Party that would seek excellence in equality in North Hertfordshire;

(2) That the membership of the Working Party should be nine Members and politically balanced as follows: Conservative 5, Liberal Democrat 2, Labour 2;

(3) That the three group leaders be requested to nominate Members to the Chairman of PARC and the Head of Policy, Partnerships and Community Development as soon as possible;

(4) That the Working Party should meet at the earliest opportunity to discuss and confirm the Terms of Reference, which PARC considered should be focussed on action as well as implementation.

All recommendations were made in accordance with the declared policy of North Hertfordshire District Council.

The Strategic Director of Customer Services (SCS) advised the Committee that this exception report provided details of amendments to the Implementation Plan, remedial actions and outline revisions to timescales agreed by the Portfolio holder for Policy and Green Issues and the Project Board.

The SCS provided details of the following exceptions and remedial actions, status at June 2009 and current progress at January 2010: 1. BPI and Service Migration to the Customer Service Centre; 2. Flexibility Works; 3. Management and Leadership Development and 4.Office Accommodation.

The SCS advised the Committee of two new exceptions dated January 2010: 1. Fourth Tier Restructure and 2. Improvement Activity

The Committee reviewed each exception in turn and noted that the Management and Leadership Development exception was complete, that NHDC would not be moving to the old Letchworth Grammar School and that it would be possible to absorb the staff from Town Lodge into the District Council Offices in Gernon Road. The consequence of this would be more flexible working for some staff and shared work stations and completion in 12 months time. The fourth tier restructure was delayed due to the increased pressure of financial resource for the authority and total staff restructuring was expected to realise efficiencies of c£700,000 and all vacancies would be managed carefully. The Committee expressed concern that the Value for Money methodology was not complete, that the Service Review was not complete due to the difficulty in securing robust benchmarking data and noted that the Organisational Development Team had requested that further consideration be given to the corporate approach which would confirm a new completion date.

In response to an enquiry the SCS confirmed that the restructure proposals were expected to have no affect on achieving the policy of the Council, however a Member stated that any change in resource provision must have an affect on service provision and how could this be avoided e.g. Changes to the provision of Community Development Officers. The SCS reported that the Chief Executive was ensuring that this problem would not occur and it was expected that there would be no impediments to service delivery.

Other comment was made as to the falling public satisfaction with NHDC and the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management was able to confirm that results for December 2009 from the Citizens Panel had indicated an improvement in public satisfaction with NHDC.

Overall the Committee were able to note the progress with exception reports but considered that more effort and resource should be made available to complete as soon as possible the outstanding exceptions reports for the Organisational Development Strategy.


(1) That the information provided on the four current exception items - exceptions, remedial actions and timescale changes:
1. BPI and Service Migration to the customer Service Centre;
2. Flexibility works;
3. Management and Leadership Development;
4. Office Accommodation;
be noted;

(2) That the information provided on the two new exception items - exception, remedial actions and timescale changes:
1. fourth tier restructure;
2. Improvement Activity;
be noted;

(3) That the supporting information provided in Annexures 1 and 2 - Project Plan and Balanced Scorecard respectively be noted.

All recommendations were made in accordance with the declared policy of North Hertfordshire District Council.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management (HF) presented this updating report on eight Performance Indicators where monthly data was available at 30 November 2009 and covered the period 1 April 2009 to 30 November 2009. The HF referred the Committee to Appendix A which detailed the status of the eight indicators. The Committee noted that six were at green status, two were at amber status and seven of the eight had shown improvement during the reporting period.

The Committee noted the improvements and the HF advised that performance was slightly down on BV10 (percentage collection of NNDR) compared to the same period last year but was currently at green status for December 2009. The HF also advised that BV12 (Working days lost to sickness absence) had improved from red status at December 2009 to amber status by the date of this meeting. There had been several members of staff with fractures due to accidents during the recent severe weather conditions and this would have a short but marked affect on the status of this indicator. All long term sickness would be managed on a case by case basis.

The HF proposed to the Committee and it was agreed to bring forward by several months the annual analysis of Performance Targets and that a Member Workshop would be held on Wednesday 3 March 2010 to which all PARC Members, Heads of Service and Portfolio Holders would be invited. The workshop would look at proposed targets which would remain ‘stretching’ but achievable and in conclusion the HF advised the Committee that a schedule of targets would be presented to the Extended Management Team on 19 February in advance of the workshop.

The Chairman thanked the HF for the update and welcomed the opportunity to review performance targets several months earlier this year.


(1) That the progress of the Performance Indicators presented at Appendix A for the period 1 April 2009 to 30 November 2009 be noted;

(2) That the proposed date for a Performance Target Setting Workshop of 3 March 2010 be agreed and that the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to make the necessary arrangements;

(3) That the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to present a report on the proposed Performance Indicator Targets for 2010-2011 to the next meeting of PARC on 17 March 2010.
The item was withdrawn from the agenda and moved to the 17 March 2010 Agenda.
Published on Tuesday, 16th March, 2010
8.33 p.m.