Agenda and minutes
Venue: Muriel Matters House, Breeds Place, Hastings, East Sussex, TN34 3UY
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Items No. Item
Apologies for Absence
Apologies received for Cllrs: Barnett, Battley, Charman (substituted by Roberts)
Declarations of Interest
Item 4 – performance monitoring Q1 report
Personal - freedom leisure member
Item 4 – performance monitoring Q1 report
Personal – Hastings Housing Company Director
Councillors thanked officers for the answers to the questions asked at the last Overview and Scrutiny meeting.
RESOLVED – that the minutes of the meeting held on 11th July 2019 be approved by the Chair as a true record.
With the agreement of the chair this item was moved down the agenda to item 5
Councillors asked questions of the present officers about the report
Question: The improvement of street cleanliness is 4% compared to its 5% target what exactly does this mean
Answer: It is a percentage of tests failed so a lower percentage is less tests failed and therefore better.
Question: The length of time to process housing benefit applications is too long at 17 days, the private rented sector won’t hold a property for two weeks how can we improve this?
Answer: The council would like to process these faster. The council is in the upper quartile of the country for average days to process an application. It is a complicated process that requires co-operation of many different people. The council has aspirations to get this faster, but it should be noted that very few councils have it lower than 10 days.
Councillors passed on their appreciation of the planning team at achieving 100% on targets on major applications and exceeding targets of minor applications. The Director of Operational Services commented that whilst he would pass on the comments it should be noted that the planning team continue to be hit with sickness and absence so the performance may not continue into the future. It was also commented that note 7 of the report mentions the possible future performance loss.
Councillors commented that there is a lot of strain on staff at the moment causing sickness, this causes more strain on the remaining staff and this causes a vicious cycle. The also commented that the first focus should be protecting staff in their jobs.
Question: Is Hastings Borough Council’s sickness in line with other authorities?
Answer: Need to look at sickness stats across the organisation. There has been significant amount of work looking at trends but there is a difficult winter ahead. In the crudest terms £1.5m is 50 staff posts and a number of posts are externally funded. This will cause stress and worry on staff and affect their work and personal lives. It is expected that the sickness and absence figures will get worse in the next two quarters.
Councillor Rogers commented that she meets with the Director of Corporate Services and Governance on a regular basis as well as the Executive Manager of People, Customer and Business Support. They are looking at where the sickness is, which departments and are doing lots of work with occupational health and mental health. It has to have an effect on staff, but proud of the support and help that is there and available.
Question: Is the low number of homelessness cases prevented due to staffing issues?
Answer: Now that there are some additional staff in the role Hastings Borough Council expects the numbers to increase in the next three quarters
Question: Has the council collected more council tax? Can we improve on the number of days to process?
Answer: Universal Credits (UC) has affected the time ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
With the agreement of the chair this item was moved up the agenda
The Assistant Director Financial Services & Revenues introduced the item. He commented that there is a new financial management code coming in, so to coincide with that the decision was made to improve and extend the financial information given to overview and scrutiny. This information is similar to the information that is given to Cabinet Agenda Planning (CAP) and Cabinet. He went on to comment that from recent reviewing and work done by the finance team there has been an update to the deficit analysis. There are savings expected however the temporary accommodations costs have increased.
Councillors thanked the Assistant Director Financial Services & Revenues for the report. Councillors asked if due to the current financial climate, will pensions be a larger liability on the council? The Assistant Director Financial Services & Revenues answered that pensions are a large expense for the council and the large £41m is not all bared by the council, it is valued and from that valuation the amount the council pays is calculated. This will be paid in April next year and contributions will cover the actual deficit over a 20 year period. He also commented that a recent court judgement (the McLeod Judgement December 2018) pensions are currently under government wide review.
Councillors commented that the report is much easier to understand than previous ones but with the council’s plain English and readability guidelines can the report be improved in the future to make it more accessible for everyone. They also asked if the terms positive variance and ERP could be defined for clarity.
The Assistant Director Financial Services & Revenues answered that the council is aiming for the report to be simpler in the future. He also answered that positive variance is an underspend on additional income, and ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is the council’s finance and HR system that they are in the process of being fully operational..
Councillors asked that with the forecasted deficit of £1.9m looking more like £1.5m how long can this be maintained with reserves, how robust is the council?
The Assistant Director Financial Services & Revenues answered that the £1.9m has reduced as a result of savings so the actual deficit figure is closer to £1.5m. The council is currently still using the transitional reserves and not the actual reserves. If the £1.5 million savings are made this year then the transitional reserves will be available for next year only.. The actual reserves can be used but this will diminish money to do projects identified by the council. The main intention of the council is to have a sustainable budget.
The Director of Operational Services commented that management agree with finance on this point and the council will not have a forward going role if the reserves are all used and it is critical that this doesn’t happen.
1. To accept the contents of the report, and the actions within the conclusion and ... view the full minutes text for item 23.
Confirm date and group for S106
Councillors agreed that this item would be discussed at a later date.
Councillors thanked officers and colleagues for their input and assistance on the project scoping hat has been going ahead for the scrutiny work programmes.
Councillors were reminded that the next Scrutiny Steering Group meeting is to be held on the 25th of September.
Councillors commented that there will soon be a group meeting for all female councillors to discuss Hastings Borough Council policy and how it fit female councillors. It was commented that similar groups could be set up to discuss disability inclusion, childcare and full time working arrangements.
Councillors also commented that they would consider splitting quarterly scrutiny meetings into two parts and having the chair and vice chair alternate meetings. This would prevent meetings going on too long in the future, but would mean more meetings.