Agenda and minutes

Finance and Corporate Services Select Committee - Wednesday, 6th September, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Civic Centre. View directions

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Kaushik Banerjee, with Councillor Adam Bennett substituting. Apologies for absence were also received from Councillor Gursharan Mand, with Councillor Kamal Kaur substituting.


Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting


There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 228 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 18 July 2023 be approved as an accurate record.


To confirm that the items of business marked as Part I will be considered in Public and that the items marked as Part II will be considered in Private


It was confirmed that all items of business were in Part I and would be considered in public.


Annual Complaints and Service Monitoring Update Report pdf icon PDF 886 KB


Members heard from officers the highlights of the annual complaints and service monitoring data. There had been substantial growth in the volume of informal complaints, from 4,473 to 5,176. This represented an increase of 703 informal complaints, which was attributed to two main service areas – namely, waste and repairs. With regards to waste, this was mainly related to a change of crews covering the routes and there had been some teething issues, resulting in a fair number of reports of missed bin collections. There were also quite a few repair issues, largely concerning the time taken to complete repairs and the time taken to fix appointments with service users.

At Stage 1, there were 816 complaints in 2022/23, up from 802 complaints in 2021/22. At Stage 2, there were 121 complaints in 2022/23, up from 101 complaints in 2021/22. In relation to the Ombudsman investigation for 2022/23, there were 46 complaints, down from 75 complaints the previous year in 2021/22. Officers explained the main reason for this was due to the Ombudsman, during the COVID-19 period, holding back some investigations which caught up in that year, leading to slightly higher figures for complaints in 2021-22.


Members also heard from officers that there had been a slight reduction in the number of compliments. In 2021/22, 349 compliments were received, but in 2022/23, only 245 compliments were received. The primary reason for the decline in compliments was the introduction of wildflowers in 2021-22 that attracted a vast number of compliments from both Councillors and residents writing to compliment the appearance of the wildflowers and to keep it going.

In respect of Members’ Enquiries (MEs) for 2022/23, the figure was 7,805. The Members’ Enquiries for 2021/22 was 9,769. To the members’ enquiries for 2022/23, 1,023 service requests also needed to be added to the equation because on the 01 January 2023, the recording of members’ enquiries through the GOSS system was introduced, from which two different terms were devised. A Members’ Enquiry was defined as one where a ’clear question had been asked that now required investigation by Council Officers, or the supply of information from a Council department’.  Service requests were defined as ‘one-off actions that did not require action by an officer and not investigative activities or supply of information’. In effect, this meant although the figures were by and large the same, the difference lay in the different definitions that had been introduced into it.


Attention was drawn by Members to concerns around the number of complaints not being responded to within 10 days within the Directorate of Place. Members were reassured that Hillingdon Council offered shorter timeframes for responses to complaints than their neighbouring Local Authorities. Officers cited other Council’s targets for responding to complaints at Stages 1 and 2. Harrow Council’s Stage 1 target was 15 working days and 20 working days at Stage 2. Ealing Council took 20 working days to respond to complaints at Stage 1 and 20 working days at stage 2. Hounslow  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.


Mid-Year Budget Update pdf icon PDF 335 KB


In relation to the Mid-Year Budget and the Council's revenue monitoring position, an underspend of £23,000 was forecasted, with the services within the remit of the Committee underspending by £900,000 owing to £600,000 within the Finance portfolio. This was driven by a reduction in the Council's energy requirement. A further underspend of £300,000 within Corporate Services had been driven by several minor staffing underspends and additional income across the portfolio. Within those Services, there were £1.6 million worth of savings to be delivered in 2023-24 but the majority of this was recorded as either banks or in progress.


The £595k savings which were recorded at Amber included £356k being driven by the business service review, where a zero-based review had been undertaken and a new operational model was currently in discussion. A further £171k related to additional income which was being reported at Amber whilst officers monitored the impacts of the uplifts on demand and the recovery from the pandemic on the income streams for the Council.


In terms of the medium-term financial forecast in February 2023, officers noted the council saving requirement 2027-28 was estimated to be £55.4 million, with the single largest driving force behind this being the exceptionally high inflation that had been observed at both a global and national level. This added £60 million to the budget gap. Within the remit of the Committee £5 million of that amount was driven by energy and fuel with other areas including workforce and contracted inflation.


Service pressures were forecasted to add £23 million which was predominantly from the impact of demographic growth across the Borough. £90k of that amount rested within the remit of the Committee, which related to the Council looking towards boosting cyber security.


Officers noted corporate items added just under £12 million of the budget gap, with £6.5 million of that amount being driven by the Council's borrowing requirement for the capital program, which was an element that sat within the remit of the Committee. The remaining balance was predominantly TfL concessionary fares, which related to the recovery from the pandemic due to travel numbers for the over 65s.


Officers were to continue working on assessing the budget gap, with inflation remaining stubbornly high and demand pressures linked to the cost-of-living crisis impacting on the Council. In addition, officers were to explore ways to reduce the Council's expenditure, looking towards driving efficiency gains whilst protecting frontline services and using the Council's transformation process to formulate budget proposals that would be presented back to the Committee in January 2024.


The government settlement had not been reopened so there was no offer of additional grant funding to compensate the Council for the additional inflation that the Council had to pay out over the last few years. The government settlement currently ran at the end of 2024-25, so from 2025-26 onwards it was still unclear as to how much funding the Council would be likely to receive. This was a position across all local authorities nationally and was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.


Staff Skills, Learning and Development pdf icon PDF 183 KB


Officers reported on the highlights from the Staff Skills, Learning and Development report.


Talent was a key pillar to the Council’s HR strategy which helped to deliver services to residents. Considerations to identify what the current talent was and what talent was needed for the future was significant to inform of talent development offerings to employees. Talent development offerings to employees was key for future talent needs and to adjust skill shortages. It was also a key retention technique to impact on employees’ longevity in the role and with the Council.


Officers had recently relaunched an induction program which featured a face-to-face session and had visibility of the CEO and Corporate Directors so that the senior management of the Council could be visibly seen. There was online mandatory training as well as service specific induction to equip new team members with the tools to perform their roles.


Throughout an employee's time at the London Borough of Hillingdon, there was also Performance Management around giving employees aims and objectives in order to identify the training needs of employees and meet the needs of job roles going forward.


The Council’s Early Careers offering was fast becoming a highlight of the Talent team. There was a wide range of apprenticeships offered to both new and existing employees. A feature of apprenticeships included looking at management and leadership training to ensure that managers had the skills needed for the present and future.


Talent was pivotal for the purpose of identifying who the top talent was and succession plans for critical roles. Effective talent development also enabled the workforce and leadership to be diverse, which demonstrated a link to improved performance decision making and effectiveness.


Learning Zone was a learning management system (LMS) that tracked learning and also offered a suite of free online courses to employees that could be completed at any time on any device.


The Council’s talent offering needed to be inclusive for everyone to have the opportunity to grow in their role. It also needed to be diverse to be able to meet needs.


Officers expressed they would continue to work with Early Careers to support vulnerable people into paid employment.


Members asked officers to what extent staff training was in-house and the extent to which training was external through procuring other providers that offered watching online videos and tests. Officers responded that the system of courses on the Learning Zone were generic courses that usually did not offer a test at the end. However, when looking into upgrading the training system, officers noted they were currently exploring more bespoke courses. It was important to acknowledge that there were many different ways and resources from which people learnt but officers would look into upgrading the functionality of the current Learning Zone system, noting Member feedback.


Members noted secondments were a great way to develop staff and wondered how this was used within the Council. It was confirmed that many internal secondments were used and proved beneficial. Officers had broached the possibility  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.


Procurement Review - Recommendations (no report)


The Chairman introduced the Draft Final Conclusions and Recommendations for consideration by Members.


Members raised it was difficult to engage with the final draft conclusions and recommendations, considering the late notice upon which the document was received by the Committee.


The Chairman acknowledged this and confirmed that the full, finalised report was due to appear at the next Committee meeting on 19 October 2023.


Members proposed submitting written feedback on the final draft conclusions and recommendations to the Chairman and Democratic Services team for detailed observations and comments.


The deadline for written submissions was agreed for 23 September 2023.


RESOLVED: That the draft recommendations be noted and that written feedback be sent to Democratic Services for feedback and review.


Policy Review Discussion and Guidance pdf icon PDF 314 KB


With regards to Policy Review Discussion and Guidance, HR Staffing Recruitment and Retention as well as Customer Service were noted with interest by Members for future discussion and review.

In respect of the Customer Service proposal for future review, Members wished to concentrate focus on how new technologies encouraged a user-friendly experience, and how customer services could be improved for residents.


Some Members agreed and added that tailoring technology to residents to improve user experience was a significantly beneficial topic that could be worth delving into for a more in-depth investigation.


A further information report within the remit of the Committee regarding First Aid Awareness and Training was also suggested by Members. This would be with a view to finding out if this would be a suitable major review topic.


Committee Rooms were public focused rooms. However, beyond the first aid sign that was present in Committee Rooms to contact security in the event that a sick or injured person required first aid care, there were no first aid kits nor any defibrillators. Greater first aid awareness coupled with training opportunities offered to both staff and Councillors in their public facing roles could be assessed to explore whether there was adequate first aid training available. The offering of first aid training to staff and Councillors could be extended to a wider pool of people to enrol and become better equipped on life-saving and essential first aid tools.


The Chairman observed that first aid training and a clearer understanding of medical conditions would be beneficial and posed the question to officers about what first aid training was currently offered.


Members were informed that in terms of first aid training, there was a requirement imposed from a health and safety perspective that meant there needed to be a certain number of first aiders within the Council building. In addition, there were certain roles that automatically required first aid training by virtue of it being mandatory within their own role. However, upon reflection, greater significance of the need to offer life-saving skills to many more staff, as previously advocated in a campaign by St John Ambulance, was noted.


Though not physical first aid, officers were particularly excellent when it came to offering mental health first aid training, where many staff were put on courses to better equip themselves with the understanding of the mental health element of first aid training that would be extremely beneficial for use in public facing roles.


Officers were asked to investigate the delivery of first aid awareness and training for the Committee’s attention at the next meeting to get some scoping around the topic area for further exploration, with focus including equipment, responsibility, and training.


The Democratic Services Officer clarified if the Committee was happy with the 4 recommendations listed under no.1 to no.9, with no.3 taken as developing a short list for future topics for further consideration. This was agreed.


Members referred to page 58 of the Guidance on Undertaking Policy Reviews and made comments that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.


Cabinet Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 237 KB

Additional documents:


Members considered the Forward Plan.


RESOLVED: That the Finance and Corporate Services Select Committee noted the Cabinet Forward Plan.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 141 KB

Additional documents:


The Chairman noted that the draft Final Review report would be considered at the October Select Committee meeting. An item of First Aid would be added to the Work Programme for October.


RESOLVED: That the Finance and Corporate Services Select Committee:

1.    Considered the Work Programme report; and


2.    Added an item on First Aid to the Work Programme for October 2023