APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors: Michael Weeks, David Levett, Alan Bardett, David Miller, Robert Inwood and Gary Grindal. An apology for absence was also received from the Chief Executive and the Head of Policy, Partnerships and Community Development.
The Chairman confirmed that Councillor David Levett had tendered his apologies and that Councillor Alan Millard would be his substitute in accordance with the agreed procedures of North Hertfordshire District Council.
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 28 January 2010 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
There was no notification of other business.
Councillor John Booth advised the Committee that the Chairman of PARC Councillor Michael Weeks was unable to attend the meeting and that he would be Chairman for this meeting. He welcomed everyone to the meeting, welcomed Fiona Timms and congratulated her on her appointment as Performance and Risk Manager with effect from 22 April 2010 and offered his best wishes to those Councillors standing for election. 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.
There was no public participation.
REFERRAL FROM THE AUDIT AND RISK SUB - COMMITTEE (24 FEBRUARY 2010) REPORT OF THE STRATEGIC DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, POLICY AND GOVERNANCE
The Chairman referred the Committee to the referral from the Audit and Risk Committee concerning the Annual Governance Statement 2008-2009, the progress against the Action Plan and specifically the Local Code of Corporate Governance.
The Committee noted that there would be no more revisions to the Code until March 2013 unless there were any further changes in the interim and following a short discussion agreed to accept the referral from the Audit and Risk Sub - Committee. RESOLVED: (1)That the referral from the Audit and Risk Sub - Committee be noted; (2)That the revisions to Section 3, paragraph 3.3 within the Local Code of Corporate Governance (Appendix C) be noted; (3)That the revised Local Code of Corporate Governance as presented at Appendix C be agreed. REASON FOR DECISION: To allow PARC be involved in the monitoring of progress against delivery of improvements against the Local Code of Corporate Governance.
CORPORATE PLAN MONITORING REPORT - QUARTER 3 AT 1 MARCH 2010 REPORT OF THE HEAD OF FINANCE, PERFORMANCE AND ASSET MANAGMENT
The Committee reviewed the report and Appendix A and during the ensuing debate discussed the notable successes as detailed in the report and at Appendix A and more importantly the lack of progress on actions as listed at Paragraph 4.2 of the report. There was considerable disappointment expressed by those present to the delays and resulting changed dates for milestones. Comment was made that members of the public perception would be nothing was happening. Of particular concern were the comments concerning delays due to officer time spent on other projects, delays with Hertfordshire County Council on the Use of Traffic Regulation Orders and Controlled Parking Zones actions and underlying problems on resolving legal issues. The Committee considered that progress on the revised Vehicle Parking Supplementary Planning Documentary was essential and must be improved as soon as possible.
In addition to the comments and concerns detailed above the Committee continued to discuss with concern inter alia Street Priority Programmes within Town Centre Developments, Sustainable Development and Member involvement with the Local Development Framework, Urban Transport Plans, Partnership Framework Agreements and the Terms of Reference, the shaping of priorities for the actions in the Corporate Action Plan, more accurate timescales, the need to allocate staff resources to meet the set timescales and specifically the allocation of legal resources even if the needs of NHDC and HCC were different. The tenor of this debate matched previous presentations to PARC on the Corporate Plan (Minutes Passim) and it was clear that those present wished to see a marked improvement to the completion of Action Plans to the set timescales and increased Member Involvement. The Chairman thanked the Committee for their valuable contributions and officers were requested to report back or provide written responses on the issues raised. RESOLVED: (1)That the progress made against the Corporate Plan for the 3rd quarter period from April 2009 to March 2010 be noted; (2)That PARC notes with disappointment the slow progress on several items in the Corporate Plan Action Plan and the implication that the resources application methodology might be flawed; (3)That the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to present a report to a future meeting of PARC that would identify ways in which resourcing and completion of actions could be improved to meet the timescales within the Corporate Plan Action Plan; (4)That the Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise be requested to provide directly to all Members of PARC a written response concerning two delayed actions: The production of a Vehicle Parking Supplementary Planning Document and Use of Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) and Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ); (5)That Councillor John Booth be requested to enter into discussions with the Chairman of The Scrutiny Committee as to the possibility of Scrutiny undertaking a review of Corporate Legal Services with particular reference to delays in the completion of certain actions in the Corporate Plan (Paragraph 4.2 to the report refers). REASON FOR DECISION: All recommendations were made in accordance with the declared policy of North Hertfordshire District Council.
BEST VALUE FUNDAMENTAL SERVICE REVIEWS - UPDATE ON SERVICE IMPROVEMENT PLANS REPORT OF THE HEAD OF FINANCE, PERFORMANCE AND ASSET MANAGEMENT
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management (HF) advised the Committee that the report provided an update on two Service Improvement Plans (SIP) (Transport and Efficiency). The HF referred the Committee to Appendix A which included the updated SIPS and detailed the progress of individual actions.
The HF reminded the Committee that the two SIPs were still not formally signed off due to outstanding actions some of which could not even be signed off at this meeting. The HF referred to the six ongoing actions in the Efficiency SIP, two of each which could be signed off as complete: Budget Setting and Business Strategy. There were three actions labelled as ongoing and three actions still to be completed. With regard to the establishment of an Improvement Panel as a sub - committee to PARC the Strategic Director of Customer Services advised that this action would be considered as part of the next review of the NHDC Constitution. The RM confirmed that she would be responsible for completion of the two remaining actions: Monitor performance compared to cost and organisational priority to focus on Value for Money and in the medium term manage performance and financial matters in a co-ordinated manner. Comment was made as to the application of internal for NHDC Officers and Councillors when the FSR had specifically considered items in the FSR to be of an external nature. The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance confirmed that internal was used to cover NHDC as opposed to external relating to the Audit Commission. With regard to the Transport SIP the HF confirmed that this document had been revised following the meeting of PARC held on 10 December 2009 (Minute 50 refers). Two objectives were completed, five objectives were complete for the purposes of the SIP, one objective had been removed from the SIP (Green Issues - encourage staff to cycle and work to and from work) as the move of council offices had been cancelled. This left 25 ongoing objectives listed at Appendix A. The Committee expressed concern that many of the Transport objectives might not be completed or would take a long time to be completed due to the involvement of HCC and the lack of allocated resources at NHDC. The Transport Policy Officer suggested that it could be more appropriate to use the Urban Transport Plans to achieve many objectives within the Transport SIP, and this would particularly apply to cycle networks. A comment was made that the list of objectives was perhaps too long and if some objectives could not be delivered it might be appropriate to reduce the list and how Value for Money was assessed and reviewed during the SIPs. In response to some of the issues raised the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance confirmed that the Corporate Business Strategy was in line with the output of the Efficiency FSR SIP. Value for Money was a constant requirement and Heads of Service would undertake a quick review of a service or part of a service and propose efficiencies. Unfortunately, a search by NHDC for comparative data on VfM had proved difficult, e.g. only three out of 15 other authorities were able to provide data on housing issues. Accordingly the Challenge Board had agreed to purchase a report on VfM from CIPFA using revenue outturns and NHDC would subsequently use this for VfM benchmarking. Although there were two SIPs reported at this meeting a Member enquired about two outstanding items from the Museums FSR SIP and the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management agreed to provide a written answer on this SIP. This Member also enquired about the status of the Best Value Performance Plan - Annual Report and the HF agreed to provide a written answer to all Members of PARC on this matter also. RESOLVED: (1)That the proposal to sign off two Efficiency Service Improvement Plan actions, one at completed status and one at complete for the purpose of the SIP status be agreed; (2)That the proposal to monitor the six remaining ongoing actions in the Efficiency Service Improvement Plan as detailed at Paragraph 4.5 to the report as part of the next update be agreed; (3)That the proposal to sign off eight Transport Service Improvement Plan actions, two with a completed status, five with a status complete for the purpose of the SIP and one with a status of no longer proceeding be agreed; (4)That the proposal to monitor the remaining 25 ongoing actions in the Transport Service Improvement Plan as part of the next update report to PARC be agreed and that a review be undertaken with the Chairman of the FSR Group to assess whether any of the actions remained appropriate; (5)That the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to present an updating report to PARC at the meeting to be held in September 2010 which would cover only those improvement activities not signed off at this meeting. (6)That the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to present a written answer to Members of PARC concerning a question on Section 4.8.2 of the original Efficiency Service Improvement Plan agreed by PARC in 2008-2009 concerning the status of the Best Value Performance Plan - Annual Report; (7)That the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management be requested to present a written answer to Members of PARC concerning a question on the status of two outstanding items from The Museums Fundamental Service Review viz. 1. Develop Plans for one gallery, museum and community venue in a town centre location and 2. Improve storage, workshop and research facility. REASON FOR DECISION: All recommendations were made in accordance with the declared policy of North Hertfordshire District Council.
CORPORATE BUSINESS PLANNING 2010 - 2015 REPORT OF THE STRATEGIC DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, POLICY AND GOVERNANCE
The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance (SDF) advised the Committee that this report would update Members annually on progress of the Corporate Business Planning Process after the setting of the Budget for 2010-2011 and proposed revisions to the process for 2011-2012.
The SDF thanked the Members who attended the Budget Workshops in July 2009 which was brought forward in the budget setting process and gave a summary of the difficulties facing the Council in setting a balanced budget for 2010-2011 and beyond. The SDF referred the Committee to Appendix A which gave the programme and additional actions set out in italic script. The Committee noted that actions no longer required were shaded grey in the timetable. The SDF proceeded to describe the proposed amendments to the Corporate Business Planning Process for 2011-2012 and confirmed that the wording of the Corporate Plan would remain largely unchanged and therefore the main activity would be on the action plans. The Committee noted that discussions had been held with Portfolio Holders and the Administration had confirmed that there would be no change to the priorities for 2011-2012 but subject to confirmation post May elections. The SDF repeated her previous statement at Minute 71 above that there would be an external consultants report on VfM commissioned by the Challenge Board. During the ensuing debate there was a discussion on the role of the Challenge Board in the Corporate Business Planning process as well as the role of Members and the Member Development Programme. It was suggested that the process could be enhanced if there was more Member involvement and it was very important Members should be advised as to what items were proposed in Efficiencies and Investments before removal. The SDF advised that there had in fact been little change and proposals by Members had been very carefully assessed and that the focus should be on the Corporate Plan which in turn could affect investment proposals. RESOLVED: (1)That the Corporate Business Planning process as detailed in the report be noted; (2)That the current progress of the Corporate Business Planning Process as presented at Appendix A be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that PARC is satisfied that the Corporate Business Planning Process was making good progress and reflected changing circumstances.
PERFORMANCE INDICATOR MONITORING - APRIL 2009 TO DECEMBER 2009 REPORT OF THE HEAD OF FINANCE, PERFORMANCE AND ASSET MANAGMENT
The Risk Manager (RM) presented the report of the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management and referred the Committee to the full list of Performance Indicators presented at Appendix A.
The RM was pleased to advise the Committee that 22 of the 41 indicators in this quarter had exceeded their target (or profiled target) and more importantly had performed better than the corresponding period last year or had remained at the optimum performance. The RM confirmed that seven performance indicators were at red status and that six had shown a decline compared to this period last year. The seventh indicator was NI 195c Improved street and environmental cleanliness (levels of litter, detritus and fly posting) which had not declined. The RM clarified the reasons for decline and what was being done by officers to return these indicators to amber and eventually green status. The RM provided more information on NI 180 - The number of changes of circumstances which affect customers HB/CTB entitlements within the year and NI 181 - Time taken to process Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit new claims and change events. The major problem remained with the Department of Works and Pensions who had found it difficult to provide local authorities with criteria for both of these National Indicators. The RM next referred the Committee to Appendix B which provided details of the National Indicator Set published by the Audit Commission to allow local authorities carry out their own analysis and examine comparison with closest neighbours and a wide set of other District Councils. This data set confirmed that NHDC had five indicators in the top quartile, seven in the second quartile, four in the third quartile and three in the bottom quartile. The Committee noted the status of the NHDC performance indicators as presented at Appendix A - specifically the actions proposed to bring the seven indicators at red into amber or green - and the comparative data at Appendix B. A comment was made as to the target set for BV 204 - Percentage of Planning Appeals and whether the target was realistic considering the comments made at Paragraph 4.3 vis a vis the appeals allowed by the Planning Inspector. It was agreed that the Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise would be requested to provide a written response on this indicator and comment on the appropriateness of the target set some 12 months ago. In conclusion the Committee requested that the Risk Manager should consider a different format for the presentation of Appendix B to provide more clarity. RESOLVED: (1)That the progress of Performance Indicators as presented at Appendix A be noted; (2)That the National Performance Indicator Quartile Comparative Data for 2008 -2009 be noted; (3)That the Strategic Director of Planning, Housing and Enterprise be requested to provide in writing to all Members of PARC a response to a question concerning BV 204 - Percentage of Planning Appeals and provide an update on the increase in the number of appeals allowed during the last reporting period. REASON FOR DECISION: All recommendations were made in accordance with the declared policy of North Hertfordshire District Council.
THE CONSULTATION STRATEGY 2010 - 2015 REPORT OF THE HEAD OF COMMUNITY AND CULTURAL SERVICES
The Head of Community and Cultural Services (HCS) advised the Committee that this was more of a progress report rather than the consultation strategy which provided a commentary for action for the period 2005-2010 and the programme for next five year tranche of 2010 - 2015. The HCS referred the Committee to Appendix A which gave the outline work programme for 2010 - 2015 and to Appendix B which gave an estimation of costs for the Corporate Consultation Strategy in 2010 - 2015.
The Committee reviewed the actual spend on Consultation in 2010 - 2015 against budget (Table 1) and the consultations undertaken in conjunction with the Corporate Team during the Strategy Period (Table 2). Of specific interest to the Committee were the concerns and issues that related to each survey type undertaken in this five year period (Table 3). Comment was made as to the differing outcomes from the District Wide Survey and The Place Survey and that the two surveys were conducted close together. The HCS stated that the questions set out in The Place Survey were provided by Central Government and NHDC had no control whereas the DWS questions were set by NHDC, were kept the same as much as possible at each survey, and The Place Survey was a postal survey and the DWS was on a face to face basis which allowed comparison between years. The Citizens Panel had been brought in-house and the membership was recruited as part of the bi-annual DWS to ensure a good representation throughout the District. The Committee were pleased to note that the 2009 Citizens Panel had achieved a high response rate and the data was used to inform business plans and deliver NHDC priorities. The HCS next referred the Committee to Table 4 which described the five types of consultation undertaken by NHDC and in discussions it was questioned whether the DWS was Value for Money but in response the Strategic Director for Customer Services confirmed that the results were used a great deal by the Portfolio Holders as a guide in making decisions. The HCS confirmed that the results of the DWS were published in Outlook, all Panel members received an individual newsletter and that there were a lot of options to promote messages in Outlook. The HCS noted the request for a report to Members on an analysis of the survey results and any actions the Council proposed post survey. The Committee next reviewed and agreed the proposals for corporate consultation spend by year over the next five years as set out at Appendix B. The Chairman on behalf of the Committee thanked the Head of Community and Cultural Services for the report and welcomed the outcomes of the next Place Survey and District Wide Survey. RESOLVED: (1)That the Corporate Consultation Strategy Plans and Budgets for 2005-2010 as presented at Appendix A be noted; (2)That the estimated costs for the Corporate Consultation Strategy for 2010 - 2015 as presented at Appendix B be approved; (3)That the Head of Community and Cultural Services be requested to undertake a formal review of the Corporate Consultation Strategy Plans following the 2011-2012 District Wide Survey to ensure that the Strategy Plans represent good value for money. REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that North Herts District Council takes note of comments raised by residents in order to allow refinement to services and ultimately provide good value for money.
CITIZENS' PANEL - 2009 KEY FINDINGS AND PROPOSED ACTION REPORT OF THE HEAD OF COMMUNITY AND CULTURAL SERVICES
The Head of Community and Cultural Services (HCS) advised the Committee that the Citizens Panel was the most valuable way in which the Authority consulted with residents and was more successful each year from its introduction 10 years previously and referred the committee to appendix 1 which gave an Executive summary of the 2009 Citizens Panel survey. The HCS confirmed that although the Citizens Panel was smaller than the DWS it allowed a greater variation in questions and more areas could be explored in greater detail.
The 2009 questionnaire included questions on: Town Centres, Parks and Open Spaces, Climate Change, Value for Money and getting involved. The HCS confirmed a response rate of 48 per cent which totalled 464 and was the highest response since the CP was organised in-house (previously 40 and 26 per cent in the last two years). The HCS advised the Committee that the full report was available on the NHDC Intranet at: http://srvinternet01/intracontent/index/chief_executive_directorate/consultation/corporate_consultation_results-1.htm The HCS referred the Committee to Table 4.2 which detailed the positives from the 2009 Citizens Panel survey and to Appendix 2 which listed the key issues that had to be addressed. The HCS advised the Committee that the Corporate Management Team wanted any issues raised by the CP to be added to the appropriate action plans which were also listed in Appendix 2 and the Committee noted that Heads of Service had identified those areas for action. The HCS concluded her report that feedback on the outcomes of the Citizens Panel would be by individual letters and via the 2010 summer edition of Outlook and on the NHDC Website. Internal feedback would be via the NHDC Intranet and the April edition of NHDC News and via Members Information Service. The Committee noted that press releases would be used to report the key findings of the consultation in the local media and the HCS advised that this information feed would increase the percentage of local residents informed about the performance of NHDC as 62 per cent of respondents in The Place Survey felt either not very well informed or not well informed on the performance of local public services. The Committee expressed satisfaction with the results of the 2009 Citizens Panel Survey and considered that this was far better Value for Money than the Place Survey and the DWS. The Committee noted greater participation in this survey than before with 57 per cent of respondents preferring the Citizens Panel as opposed to 24 per cent preferring the DWS. However, the Committee were still concerned about the discrepancies between the three surveys and whether value for money was being achieved. RESOLVED: (1)That the key findings of the 2009 Citizens Panel as set out in the Executive Summary of the Citizens Panel Report as presented at Appendix 1be noted; (2)That the proposal to incorporate actions within the relevant action plans in response to the 2009 Citizens Panel findings as detailed at Appendix 2 be agreed; (3)That the Head of Community and Cultural Services be requested to take note of the following comments raised by the Committee: a. That the Citizens Panel questionnaire should have more open questions; b. That the difference in the results of Value for Money between the Citizens Panel and The Place Survey should be investigated; c. That the differences in the results of the two surveys be investigated; d. That the results of the two surveys should inform the Corporate Business Planning Process. (4)That the proposed feedback of findings from the Citizens Panel as described at Paragraphs 4.5 and 4.6 to the report be agreed. REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that feedback and action planning are part of the consultation process and assist with future success of engagement with residents.
TARGET SETTING 2010 - 2011 REPORT OF THE HEAD OF FINANCE, PERFORMANCE AND ASSET MANAGEMENT
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management (HFS) reminded the Committee that the target setting workshop for Members had been held on 3 March 2010. At the workshop Members were invited to challenge Officers on the proposed targets for 2010-2011and the HFS referred the Committee to Appendices A to E and in particular to Appendices A, B and C where the achievement of targets could be influenced directly or indirectly by this authority.
The Committee reviewed each Appendix in turn and were in broad agreement to the final targets which represented a challenging level of service and a high level of satisfaction and noted that these targets would be aligned with the performance of other Hertfordshire Authorities and would take into account any negative impact on the return of any response that was not strongly agree. The HFS reported that BV174 Racial Incidents recorded per 100,000 population would now be recorded as individual cases only and not as a specific target and would be reported in tandem with BV175 - Racial Incidents resulting in further action which currently showed 100 per cent compliance. The HFS confirmed that the Members Workshop requested further information on NI 182 Satisfaction of Business with local authority regulation services. This return was based on the response to two survey questions: 1. I felt my business was treated fairly and I felt that the contact was helpful with six response categories and recorded as compliant or recorded as non compliant and the HFS described the method to achieve a standardised score and advised that in order to achieve an overall standardised score of 100 per cent all businesses either compliant or non-compliant would have to respond strongly agree to both of the questions. In conclusion the HFS confirmed that the delivery of all performance indicators was covered within service budgets for 2010 - 2011. RESOLVED: (1)That the proposed Performance Indicator Targets as proposed at the Members Target Setting Workshop and presented at Appendices A to E be agreed; (2)That these agreed Performance Indicator Targets (Appendices A to E) be used for Performance Management and reporting in 2010 - 2011. REASON FOR DECISION: All recommendations were made in accordance with the declared policy of North Hertfordshire District Council.
ORGANISATIONAL DEVELOPMENT REPORT OF THE STRATEGIC DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, POLICY AND GOVERNANCE
The Strategic Director for Finance, Policy and Governance (SDF) referred the Committee to Appendix A Organisational Assessment prepared by The Audit Commission, released in December 2009 and which was a compilation of findings and conclusions from two individual reviews of NHDC and the District - the Use of Resources and Managing Performance which examined how NHDC worked in Partnership, outcomes delivered for our communities and public perception through the Place Survey.
The SDF reported that NHDC were found to be performing adequately which was a score of 2 out of 4 and one of four Hertfordshire Districts at this level and the other six were classified as performing well. The SDF advised that the authority had appealed against this score, and although the report was altered substantially the score of 2 had been maintained by the AC. One major consideration for the future would be for NHDC to quantify outcomes more succinctly e.g. The opening of Royston Leisure Centre was a considerable achievement and had many inputs but what were the significant outcomes for the residents of Royston and North Hertfordshire. The SDF advised the Committee that there had been a considerable number of positive outcomes noted throughout the report as follows: NHDC had improved many of our services; NHDC had completed major projects, such as the Baldock Town Centre enhancement, (since nominated for a national design award); More urban land was used to protect our green belt; There was a very high level of satisfaction with North Herts as a place to live and our communities get on well together; NHDC had worked well with partners effectively to reduce crime by the largest amount in Hertfordshire; The NHDC staff had good skills and there had been good investment in training and development; Environmental Action days undertaken with a range of partner organisations were recognised as improving individual neighbourhoods; NHDC was effective in tackling envirocrime (graffiti, antisocial behaviour, litter) the subject of an earlier review by the Audit Commission; NHDC had achieved level 3 of the Equality Standard for Local Government. The SDF confirmed that the Assessment concluded that residents were dissatisfied with the waste and recycling service but the survey had taken place at the change to this service so the results were not unexpected. The SDF advised that work was in hand to improve with partners the improvements concerning drugs dealing and use and drunkenness within the District. Another comment raised by the AC concerned an improve explanation of the rational for priorities and the SDF confirmed that these would be explained more clearly in the Corporate Plan, Annual Review and for example Outlook. The AC also commented on: The vulnerable community and what the needs were; improvement to health inequalities, the development of a strategic needs assessment and long term planning. The Committee reviewed the AC report and noted all the comments on issues raised and the actions that would be taken in response to the report. Members expressed their disappointment at the Score of 2 and questioned why NHDC had not achieved a 3 score and more importantly the report did not indicate how NHDC should proceed to a 3 score. The discussions centred on how NHDC would achieve a 3 Score, strive for excellence, ensure that this Authority did its utmost to provide what the public requested, ensure accurate management of resources and it was suggested that the current Committee Structure at NHDC was unable to challenge strongly enough the processes and actions taken by NHDC which in turn should improve the Use of Resources and Managing Performance. RESOLVED: (1)That the findings of the Organisational Assessment undertaken by the Audit Commission and presented at Appendix A be noted; (2)That the improvement activities identified in the report at Section 4 in response to the Comprehensive Area Assessment be noted and agreed; (3)That this Committee considered that in any new Committee Structures, a mechanism was found to enable more rigorous scrutiny of performance. REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that North Herts District Council takes the appropriate actions to improve its scoring under Comprehensive Area Assessment.