Agenda and draft minutes

Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee
Wednesday, 12th January, 2022 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Room 6 - Civic Centre, High Street, Uxbridge UB8 1UW. View directions

Contact: Liz Penny  Email: epenny@hillingdon.gov.uk or Tel: 01895 250185

Items
No. Item

51.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Raymond Graham with Councillor Steve Tuckwell substituting.

52.

Declarations of Interest in matters coming before this meeting

Minutes:

None.

53.

To receive the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 123 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 24 November 2021 be agreed as an accurate record.

54.

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

Minutes:

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

55.

Review: Draft Final Report - Performance Monitoring and Reporting in Hllingdon Council pdf icon PDF 63 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Further to its review of Performance Monitoring and Reporting in Hillingdon Council, the draft final report was considered by the Committee. At the request of Members, it was agreed that recommendation 1b) be amended to omit the work ‘regular’. The revised recommendation would read ‘...Select Committees also be presented with high-level quarterly performance updates…’ It was further agreed that the word ‘considering’ in recommendation 2) be replaced with ‘including’. The revised recommendation would read ‘…including the use of manager briefings, toolkits or other online internal information.’ Finally, at the request of Members, it was agreed that recommendation 1a) be separated into two parts for the purposes of clarity:

 

1a)i)  That service heads / directors, in conjunction with respective Cabinet Members, be requested to review the current use of data within their areas during 2022 – either for reporting purposes or to identify performance issues;

 

1a)ii)  That service heads / directors consider regular monthly or quarterly performance updates to Cabinet Members.

 

In response to their requests for clarification, Members heard that, once the recommendations were implemented, all data provided to Select Committees would be made publicly available on the Council’s website via the meeting minutes.

 

With regards to recommendation 3), the Committee was advised that the usual process for procuring any new system would involve the Business Performance Team putting together a business case and working in collaboration with both IT and Corporate Procurement.

 

RESOLVED That the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee:

 

1.    Agreed the draft final report and recommendations in principle, subject to the agreed amendments to recommendations 1 and 2, and endorsed its submission to Cabinet for due consideration; and

 

2.    Delegated any minor drafting changes required prior to the report’s submission to Cabinet to the Democratic Services Officer, in consultation with the Chairman and Opposition Lead as required.

56.

2022/23 Budget Proposals for Services within the Remit of the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Iain Watters, Head of Finance – Financial Planning, Capital, Treasury & Systems, introduced the 2022/23 budget proposals report for services within the remit of the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee.

 

Members were informed that, following consideration by Cabinet on 16 December 2021, the budget proposals were now out for public consultation and were being presented to the relevant Select Committees in January 2022.

 

In terms of the Budget Strategy, the Committee heard that funding levels were based on the outputs set out in the Chancellor’s spending review in October 2021. Based on a 1% per annum increase in the Social Care Precept and a 1.8% per annum uplift in core Council tax, funding available to support service expenditure in the Borough was projected to grow by £32,034k to £270,279k between 2021/22 and 2026/7. However, it was noted that, over the same period, there would be increased demand on services (partly related to the Covid-19 pandemic), additional inflationary pressures and a need to support capital investment which would add some £66m to the Council’s costs. In light of this, there would be a gap of approximately £34m to bridge over a 5-year period. Members heard that work to date had identified some £30m of savings to balance the budget leaving a gap of £4,735k to be identified in later MTFF cycles. There was no reliance on General Balances to bridge the gap.

 

The Committee was informed that Covid-19 had had a significant impact on the budget; pandemic related costs over and above planned service expenditure had totalled over £32m in 2020/21 and approximately £19m in 2021/22. These additional costs had been funding through external Government support to date; however, it was recognised that the pandemic would continue to impact on services in the future and it was not expected that further funding would be forthcoming.

 

It was confirmed that General Balances were set to stay within the recommended range at £26m over the five-year MTFF period. The draft budget outlined £383m of proposed capital expenditure over the MTFF period including substantial investment in local infrastructure, delivery of additional high needs school places, redevelopment of the Civic Centre and £25m for the carbon reduction agenda. Members heard that the peak level of borrowing in the MTFF period would be £311m; this had been factored in to the budget plans.

 

The Committee was advised that a significant inflationary increase was expected between 2021/22 and 2022/23 which would particularly impact on the services under the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee since the centralised energy and fuel budgets sat within its remit. In terms of savings, £10,381k of savings proposals had been incorporated into the draft budget for 2022/23, with £1.9m falling within the remit of the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee.

 

Members enquired how the inflationary increases set out in Table 2 had been calculated as these were not consistent. Members also noted that the figure for fuel inflation seemed low. It was confirmed that different levels of inflation had been applied  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56.

57.

Website Performance and Improvement pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Minutes:

Sarah Hollingworth, Transformation Lead, introduced the report advising Members that the website was a key part of the Council’s digital strategy. There was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to increase functionality and the website had two key purposes –to provide information and advice and to handle simple transactions for residents 24/7.

The Committee was advised that a lot of time and energy had been invested in changing the platform to GOSS and migrating information into the new framework. Whilst undertaking this exercise, the content had also been refreshed. It was acknowledged that local authorities were generally good at using their websites to convey statutory information, but this was not necessarily what residents wanted or needed. The revised website was more straightforward and had been aligned to the type of queries residents generally raised. For transactions, ideally the information captured would go directly through to the relevant back-office team who would process the request; however, this required a number of different systems to link up behind the scenes.

Members heard that the aim was to ensure residents had their needs met 24/7, not solely when the telephone lines were open. A more data led approach to decision making was being taken. Analysis of the type of contacts residents made to the Contact Centre enabled officers to rephrase the information on the website thereby reducing the need for people to call in; an example of this was in relation to housing repairs whereby it was found that a large proportion of calls did not result in a repair being made as the request was not the Council’s responsibility. Information on the website had been updated to set out tenant / Council responsibilities more clearly.

Councillors were informed that My Account had been part of the first wave of changes. The functionality had been created in the GOSS system and linked to Hillingdon First cards. Members heard that previously residents had needed to log in to their accounts to raise a request online but were now able to raise one without logging in. However, it was noted that residents could not track their requests if they did not submit them via their accounts.

It was confirmed that changes were now being made to make it easier for residents to navigate the website. The aim was to make the website more efficient and interactive - chat bots were to be trialled for Waste Services to answer residents’ questions quickly. A recent project in Housing reviewing the customer pathway identified that the Council received a large number of contacts from people checking that their rent payments been received. Officers were considering ways to present this information back to the resident via the website thereby reducing waiting times and anxiety.

The Committee was informed that work was underway to link the information typed in by a resident directly to the back-office databases thereby facilitating a more streamlined process which would enable efficiencies and savings around business administration. It was felt that staff  ...  view the full minutes text for item 57.

58.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members requested further information regarding item ref. 110 on the Cabinet’s Forward Plan in relation to Lift Refurbishment and Upgrade at Fairlie House and The Gouldings, Uxbridge. It was believed that refurbishments had recently been undertaken and Members were keen to understand why these were being done again. It was agreed that Democratic Services would speak to Gary Penticost to request additional information on this.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That additional information re. item 110 on the Forward Plan be requested by Democratic Services; and

 

2.    That the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee noted the Cabinet Forward Plan.

59.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 55 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In response to Members’ requests for clarification it was confirmed that all Select Committees’ budget response comments would be received by the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee at its next meeting on 2 February 2022.

 

RESOLVED: That the Corporate, Finance and Property Select Committee considered the report and agreed any amendments.