Agenda and minutes

Resources Select Committee
Tuesday, 4th December, 2018 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Room 2, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping. View directions

Contact: Vivienne Messenger, Democratic Services  email:

No. Item


Substitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.


It was reported that Councillor D Stocker was substituting for Councillor N Bedford.


Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 127 KB



To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 16 October 2018.


Matters Arising


To consider any maters arising from the minutes of the last meeting.






That the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 16 October 2018 be agreed.


Matters Arising


(i)            Provisional Revenue Outturn 2017-18 (Note 17 – 16.10.18)


Regarding Councillor N Bedford’s recycling income question (Note 6 – 09.07.18), the Assistant Director (Accountancy), P Maddock, asked that he be contacted directly for this information.


(ii)           Quarterly Financial Monitoring Quarter 1 (Note 20 – 16.10.18)


Councillor J H Whitehouse queried if Essex County Council had paid the recycling credit income for the first quarter yet, to which P Maddock replied that this was still an issue. Councillor G Mohindra (Portfolio Holder (Business Support Services) and ECC Cabinet Member (Economic Development) advised that he would speak with his ECC Cabinet colleague for Environment and Waste, Councillor S Walsh, to see what progress had been made.


P Maddock reported to Councillor A Lion that he was currently revising the budget to mitigate the impact the Local Plan would have on the Council’s other revenues. The next medium term financial strategy would be updated for January 2019 and reported to Cabinet in February.


(iii)       Financial Issues Paper 2019/20 (Note 21 – 16.10.18)


Councillor A Lion was informed that corporate fraud would be reported in the quarter 3 monitoring report. P Maddock would be happy to report back on right to buy income as this would not be set in the budget. Furthermore, there was currently no parking enforcement on the Council’s housing estates.


Councillor A Patel was advised that P Maddock was still awaiting a response on indemnity insurance. This had been in relation to any business rates’ appeals that might go against the Council.


(iv)       Technology Strategy Update (Note 22 – 16.10.18)


Councillor A Lion reported that he would be meeting with the Service Director (Customer Services), R Pavey, regarding his previous enquiry on whether members would be included in the satisfaction survey. Other issues he would ask to be looked at would include the services members received from the ICT Help Desk and R Pavey and S Tautz, Democratic Services Manager, would be assessing ‘paperless’ agendas.


Councillor I Hadley’s enquiry on the ICT Service Level Agreement to inform people promptly of any problems, would be followed up by P Maginnis, Service Director (Business Support Services).


(v)       Fees and Charges (Note 23 – 16.10.18)


P Maddock would reply to Councillor Bedford on whether HMO (houses of multiple occupancy) licences were for a set period.



To declare interests in any items on the agenda.


In considering whether to declare a pecuniary or a non-pecuniary interest under the Code of Conduct, Overview & Scrutiny members are asked pay particular attention to paragraph 9 of the Code in addition to the more familiar requirements.


This requires the declaration of a non-pecuniary interest in any matter before an OS Committee which relates to a decision of or action by another Committee or Sub Committee of the Council, a Joint Committee or Joint Sub Committee in which the Council is involved and of which the Councillor is also a member.


Paragraph 9 does not refer to Cabinet decisions or attendance at an OS meeting purely for the purpose of answering questions or providing information on such a matter.


Pursuant to the Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor G Mohindra (Portfolio Holder (Business Support Services), declared a non-pecuniary interest in any item that was relevant to Essex County Council as he was the ECC Cabinet Member (Economic Development).


Terms of Reference and Work Programme pdf icon PDF 52 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the Terms of Reference of the Committee. This is attached along with an ongoing work programme. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents.

Additional documents:


(i)         Terms of Reference


The Committee noted the Terms of Reference. The Chairman, Councillor A Patel, asked if the Service Directorate Business Plan 2019/20 could be incorporated into the Select Committee’s Terms of Reference for the next municipal year. He was advised to contact S Tautz directly on this matter.


(ii)        Work Programme


The relevant items for this meeting included the Corporate Plan Performance Reports (quarters 1 and 2), sickness absence report, the quarterly Financial Monitoring Report, a general update on the General Fund CSB, DDF and ITS and an update on shared services working.


Change in order of agenda


The Select Committee agreed that the item, Corporate Plan 2018-2023 - Performance Report Quarters 1 & 2 2018-19, would be dealt with after Shared Services Working.


Sickness Absence pdf icon PDF 129 KB

To consider the report (attached).

Additional documents:


The Service Director (Business Support), P Maginnis, reported on the Council’s absence figures for quarters 1 and 2, 2018/2019. This included the total number of days lost since 2016/17, the number of employees who had met the trigger level, those who had taken more than 4 weeks absence and the absence reasons.


The Council no longer had a performance indicator for sickness absence, therefore, no target had been set for his year. During quarter 1, 5.4% of employees had met the trigger levels or above, 24.5% had sickness absence but had not met the triggers and 70.1% had no absence. During quarter 2, 5.2% of employees had met the trigger levels or above, 22.6% had sickness absence but had not met the trigger levels and 72.2% had no absence. Under the Council’s Managing Absence Policy there were trigger levels for initiating management action in cases of excessive sickness absence and managers were expected to deal with employees who met the triggers in accordance with the policy.


The last figures published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) for 2016 showed that the average number of days taken as sickness absence in local government was an average of 9.9 days. This compared with 6.3 days across all sectors, 8.5 days in public services and 5.2 days in private sector services. The average number of days lost per employee could not be provided for quarters 1 and 2 owing to the on-going development of the HR payroll system. Average figures by directorate had also not been provided because of the difficulty of staff moving to their new service directorates as the Council’s restructure progressed. It was intended that these figures would be given in future reports. Comparison data detailed the actual number of days lost to sickness absence over the last two years.


Members were asked for their views on future sickness absence reports.


Councillor J H Whitehouse remarked that as this report was for noting it was purely information and not to be scrutinised. This could be published in the Council Bulletin instead. Councillor G Mohindra replied that sickness absence had originally been reviewed by this Committee because of the high scrutiny level of such absence, but if sickness absence had improved and the report was of no value, then members should determine of they still required this information.


Councillor D Dorrell commented that trends were important and what had happened over the last two or three years. Therefore, he would prefer the long term picture rather than the last few months. Councillor M Owen asked for a trend to show any increase of sickness. Councillor G Mohindra advised that sickness absence was also reported at the Joint Consultative Committee, which met on a quarterly basis. Councillor A Lion commented that there was more value in a trend only analysis and to set trigger points, which when reached, should be reported to the Committee, but otherwise he questioned the value of this report. The Chairman, Councillor A Patel said  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


Quarterly Financial Monitoring pdf icon PDF 170 KB

To consider the report (attached).

Additional documents:


The Assistant Director (Accountancy) reported on the second Quarterly Financial Monitoring report, which provided a comparison between the original estimate for the period ended 30 September 2018 and the actual expenditure or income. The reports covered the key areas of income and expenditure from 1 April 2018 to 30 September 2018. They were aligned to the new service directorates responsible for delivering the services to which the budgets related and the budgets themselves were the original estimate. However, the salaries monitoring data, which represented a large proportion of the Councils’ expenditure, was not presented under the new service directorates due to its complexity.


The report outlined the following points:


·                Revenue budgets (Annex 1 – 9) showed that the salaries schedule (Annex 1) had an underspend of £140,000 or 1.1%. The trend was indicating there would be a decrease over the rest of the year.


·                Development Control income at month 6 was well above expectations. Fees and charges were £139,000 higher than the budget to date and other pre-assessment charges were £23,000 higher than expected. This was due to the ongoing progress of the Local Plan where a number of larger schemes had come through this year.


·                Building Control income was £13,000 higher than the budgeted figure at the end of the second quarter.


·                Bed and breakfast expenditure had increased from 19 cases to 21 in such accommodation, which was relatively low. This was a cost to the Council’s general fund and so needed to be monitored closely. Although there were several initiatives in place to stem the use of bed and breakfast accommodation, any actual effect that those initiatives were having was difficult to measure.


·                The waste contract expenditure had fallen behind due to late invoicing and the leisure management contract showed a reduction in income due to some unexpected pension related expenditure. Therefore, the full expected saving would now be achieved later than expected.


·                The proposals for 75% of Business Rates to be retained within the local government sector would take effect from the financial year 2020/21. However, the proportions retained by each local government tier were likely to change. A bid was submitted to Central Government by all Essex authorities, except Thurrock, to become a 75% retention pilot for 2019/20, but the outcome due on 6 December had been delayed.


Councillor G Mohindra asked about use of the Council’s pods for the homeless, to which P Maddock replied that expenditure would decrease once the pod project was completed. It was unlikely all six pods at Norway House would be in operation this financial year. P Maddock would try and clarify this with the Service Director (Housing and Property), P Pledger.


Councillor G Mohindra commented on the low expenditure on disabled adaptations and if this was not spent, whether it should be reallocated. P Maddock replied that spend in this area should be going up, but was due to a backlog caused by the combination of staffing issues and tendering for two new contractors to assist in the increasing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.


General update on the General Fund CSB, DDF and ITS pdf icon PDF 154 KB

To consider the report (attached).

Additional documents:


The Assistant Director (Accountancy) reported on the first draft of the Continuing Services Budget (CSB), District Development Fund (DDF) and Invest to Save (ITS) Schedules for 2019/20.


The report outlined the following points:


·                The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) had identified that savings of £600,000 were required over the forecast period of 2020/21 and 2021/22 – £300,000 in each year, over and above those previously identified on the growth/savings lists. Savings of £2,500,000 (£1,700,000 General Fund, £800,000 HRA), or as additional income from the implementation of the People Strategy (spread over three years beginning in 2018/19), was also needed.


·                Savings through the implementation of the People Strategy to meet the General Fund target of £437,000 might not be achieved by 31 March 2018 and therefore, some savings originally expected in 2018/19 would fall into 2019/20. There was also a very challenging General Fund target in 2019/20 of £1,058,000. However, additional income of at least £300,000 should be generated through the parking tariff changes that Cabinet had agreed, which were due to commence by March 2019.


·                Income from the Shopping Park was showing as a lower figure than previously given in the lists, as additional income was accounted for in 2017/18. Therefore, this formed part of the opening CSB figure rather than in year growth, and overall the total CSB was unchanged.


·                The lists themselves represented bids for growth for 2019/20 and would be submitted to Cabinet and Council during February when if successful would form part of the 2019/20 budget.


·                The DDF was now in balance for 2018/19 mainly due to slippage on the Local Plan budget and a number of other movements. If there were no further significant bids, this should stay solvent over the forecast period.


·                The Invest to Save fund’s remaining balance at the end of 2017/18 had been fully allocated. Any further bid would require replenishment from the General Fund, which was currently not allowed for in the MTFS.


·                The current position of the CSB growth/savings, DDF and ITS expenditure was detailed in this report, and work was ongoing on these lists.


·                Emphasis in this budget cycle would again need to be on CSB savings rather than growth. There would inevitably be significant financial challenges ahead.


The Finance and Performance Management Cabinet Committee (FPMCC) would be considering the detailed budget at its meeting on 24 January 2019. This was an opportunity for members of the Resources Select Committee to attend this meeting.


A member training course on Treasury Management had been organised for the evening of 22 January 2019 with an external trainer. Members would find this a useful course to attend, as it would be looking at processes and investing etc. Although the members training course on Risk Management had been cancelled, it was expected to be rescheduled for February / March 2019.


Councillor A Lion commented that the January ‘budget’ meeting of the FPMCC had been poorly attended by members from this Select Committee in previous years.


Councillor G Mohindra commented that he thought  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.


Shared Services Working

To receive a verbal update, if available.


The Service Director (Business Services), P Maginnis, provided a brief update on the Council’s shared services with other authorities.


The Council already had shared services working in HR with Braintree District and Colchester Borough councils. A joint purchase of the iTrent system would result in a shared payroll system, which was due to commence from 1 June 2019. This would allow Payroll to finalise the end of year salaries and produce the P60s etc.


Councillor A Lion advised that negotiations with another authority were ongoing to provide shared legal services.


Corporate Plan 2018-2023 - Performance Report Quarters 1 & 2 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 205 KB

To consider the report (attached).


For information: the previous regular performance reports covering the annual Corporate Plan Key Action Plan, Key Performance Indicators and Transformation Highlight Report have now been superseded by this single integrated performance report.

Additional documents:


The Corporate Plan 2018-2023 was the authority’s key strategic planning document. A corporate specification (previously called the Key Action Plan) for each year was being delivered through operational objectives, which in turn were linked to annual Service business plans. The previous regular performance reports that had covered the annual Corporate Plan Key Action Plan, Key Performance Indicators and Transformation Highlight Report had now been superseded by this single integrated performance report.


The success of the Corporate Plan was being assessed through the achievement of a set of benefits, each measured through one or more performance indicators. This provided the Council with the opportunity to focus on what could be achieved for its customers – on how specific improvements would be addressed, opportunities exploited and better outcomes delivered. The Corporate Plan when viewed as a set of benefits maps had one map for each of the ten corporate aims. A benefit was a measurable improvement from an outcome that was perceived as an advantage, and contributed to an organisational objective(s). All benefits from individual corporate objectives connected back to four key benefits, which were:


      K1 Improved customer value – recognising what customers’ value about our services and placing them as the heart of everything we do;

      K2 Increased efficiency – focussing on our speed of delivery and getting things right first time;

      K3 Increased agility – reducing red tape, simplifying how we work through joined up services; and

      K4 Increased savings and income – delivery of resource savings and income generation, to keep Council Tax low.


The Chairman, Councillor A Patel, was concerned that data given in the Performance Report did not make sense, and/or was unclear. He asked the Committee for its feedback so that the Transformation Team could be apprised of the difficulties members had encountered in understanding this report.


P Maddock explained that under aim 2, Adults and children were supported in times of need, operational objective 2.1.3, Ensure applicant compliance, that this objective was to ensure people were receiving the right housing benefit. The onus was on the claimant to inform the Council of any change. Now officers were systematically checking individual claimants to ensure that their claims were correct.


Councillor G Mohindra asked if artificial intelligence (AI) was being used by officers. Some people did make honest errors when filling out forms. Councillor I Hadley added that AI was useful in profiling. P Maginnis replied that there was software that looked at duplicate invoices and information was checked to meet the National Fraud initiatives. However, she would ask ICT about the use of AI, and if this could provide a quicker and cheaper option to current work practices.


Councillor G Mohindra queried the interim benchmark of 50%, was this good or bad, and where was this figure now. Councillor A Patel said that the figure given was for the end of September 2018. However, if this Committee’s meetings were brought forward to October in the meeting cycle for the overview and scrutiny  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.


Reports to be made to the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

To consider which reports are ready to be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its next meeting.


It was noted that the Chairman would report on the following items:


·                Corporate Plan 2018-2023 – Performance Report Quarters 1 and 2 2018/19 – to report recommendations made.


·                Sickness Absence Report – to receive a summarised version on a six monthly basis, and to show a trend-only analysis.


Future Meetings

To note the future meetings of this Select Committee will be held at 7.30pm on:


·                12 February 2019; and

·                2 April 2019.


It was noted that the next meetings of the Resources Select Committee would

be held at 7.30pm on:


·                12 February 2019; and


·                2 April 2019.