Agenda and minutes

Stronger Council Select Committee - Thursday, 21st July, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: Adrian Hendry (01992 56 4243)  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Webcasting Introduction

This meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to activate their microphones before speaking. The Chairman will read the following announcement:

 

“The Chairman would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties).

 

If you are seated in the lower public seating area it is likely that the recording cameras will capture your image and this will result in the possibility that your image will become part of the broadcast.

 

This may infringe your human and data protection rights and if you wish to avoid this you should move to the upper public gallery.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its  meetings.

 

 

2.

Substitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)

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

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Minutes:

The Committee noted that Councillor R Balcombe would substitute for Councillor S Heather for the duration of this meeting.

 

 

3.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

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Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made pursuant to the Member’s Code of Conduct.

 

 

4.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 152 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 28 April 2022.

 

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Minutes:

Resolved:

 

That the notes of the meeting held 28 April 2022 were agreed as a correct record.

 

 

5.

Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 69 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference and work programme for the select committee. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents. 

 

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Minutes:

The Select Committee noted their terms of reference and work programme.

 

The Chairman proposed that the Committee consider the participation of officers on Zoom at the various meeting, as the Council gets back to holding more normal meetings after the Pandemic. The Committee would especially like to look at officers appearing on Zoom at Planning meetings as the sound quality deterred complete participation. This was agreed by the Committee.

 

Councillor S Kane reminded the meeting that there was a project at present, looking at the sound system and acoustics in the Council Chamber.

 

ACTION:         To put a form of wording in the work programme to capture the action needed to progress this.

 

 

6.

People Strategy pdf icon PDF 152 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

P Maginnis (Service Director- Corporate Services) introduced the People Strategy report, updating the meeting on the new strategy which runs until March 2023. The new Strategy was in draft and being reviewed at present.

 

She went on to provide some highlights from this detailed report.

 

Councillor Brookes asked about the vacancies that the Council was were experiencing at present and were we experiencing higher levels of turnover for this time of year. She was told that we were not; turnover was comparable with other organisations.

 

Councillor Bassett asked if we had many applications for the Resourcing Apprentices. He was told that officers were not sure at present but would find out and put in the minutes. He then asked what were HRBP Power Hours? He was told that it stood for HR Business Partners who led these sessions, taking managers and staff through various issues.

 

ACTION:         To find out the number of applicants for the Resourcing Apprentices scheme.

 

Councillor Bassett noted that there was a review on ‘creating our tomorrows’; should this go out to Councillors a well as they would be heavily involved. He was told that this survey was focused on Hybrid and agile ways of working and how officers wanted to work. This would not have suited members.

 

Councillor Bassett noted that there was not a lot on Member interaction in this, and it could get quite confusing on what was happening. Could we have some sort of presentation on the buzzwords going around so we had some sort of comprehension on them. P Maginnis said that they could put together a glossary of terms for the minutes.

 

ACTION:         To put in a glossary of terms used by the Council in the next set of minutes (Attached).

 

The Chairman added that would be very useful and asked if there was a need to scrutinise any areas that were finding it hard to recruit to, it may be that we could look into it.

 

Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked how many vacancies we were carrying at present and how many temporary staff were there and were there any vacancies that we would not fill. He was told that currently going through such an exercise to identify vacancies and if we did need to fill them; we can bring back information on vacancies and temporary staff along with some comments on why we had them.

 

ACTION:         To provide information on number of vacancies and temporary staff currently in place with a short explanatory comment.

 

Councillor Hadley asked how many people were in the People team. He was told there were 8 people. He then asked if they had used ‘Agile Approach’ before for project work, as opposed to normal task to timescale approach. He was told that they had in the organisation; it’s the difference between a ‘waterfall’ approach as opposed to an ‘Agile’ one based on building the project, on feedback, and continuous review. Councillor Hadley replied that it could be said that an Agile Approach was making it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Azure Move to the Cloud pdf icon PDF 135 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report author, S Jennings introduced the report on the future strategy for IT for EFDC, based on recommendations to our Corporate Strategy and Government Strategies for IT within public bodies. The report outlined where we were at present and the cost for the replacement hardware for the Council. At present we have a data centre housed in the Civic offices and this was now coming up to its 5-year renewal, and there will be costs for the replacement of hardware and cooling system. Epping Forest District Council digitisation strategic plan includes standardising its infrastructure and services to a cloud first strategy. As such this project will create a cloud platform that supports the longer-term digital ambitions of the council.

 

The Government advice was to move where we could to the Cloud and not have a single point of failure, i.e. if our data centre was destroyed by fire then the council would be completely without any IT structure. Better to have it in the cloud. This would be for our core services and not for the Housing or Planning systems. The report went into detail on how we would carry out this process and included the costings for the project.

 

Councillor Hadley said there did not seem to be any end user training with this new system. He was told that the move would not change anything for users, they would remain the same.

 

Councillor Hadley said that some apps were not very good in the cloud such as Excel or graphic packages. It was also dependent on the internet connection. These things need to be taken into account. He was told that the core applications such as Microsoft office and email will remail on corporate devices as there could be a lag. The core office suite would remain on a device. The benefits would be managing a device from the cloud as opposed to from a data centre. It was much more beneficial than from a data centre. Also, as we have the majority of people working from home now, we are almost in a cloud environment anyway. A lot of the applications that we will be moving to were designed to be used in the cloud and minimised as much as possible the effect of the internet, so there should not be a major issue with performance. Councillor Hadley noted that the potential risks did not fully come over in the report.

 

Councillor S Kane said that what was changing was where the data was stored and how it was delivered and not the end use. Councillor Philip said that there seemed to be a degree of confusion between hosting the servers in the cloud and the software. Everything else would be the same.

 

Councillor S Patel noticed the project plan has a phased waterfall approach; was there a reason this was chosen over an agile one. S Jennings did not know quite what the Councillor wanted to know. The Chairman noted that a written answer  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Quarter 4 Budget Monitoring 20221/22 (Outturn) pdf icon PDF 684 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was introduced by C Hartgrove, the interim chief finance officer. He noted that the report set out the 2021/22 General Fund and Housing Revenue Account positions for both revenue and capital, as at 31st March 2022, which represented the Quarter 4 (Outturn) for the 2021/22 financial year.

 

The figures included within the report were still subject to external audit and so should still be considered provisional at this stage.

 

In terms of General Fund revenue expenditure – at the Quarter 4 (Outturn) stage – a budget underspend of £0.992 million had been recorded, with net expenditure of £15.877 million against an overall budget provision of £16.869 million.

 

The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) revenue position was presented in Section 3 of the report. Although there were some pressures in the year (most notably an overspend of £901,000 on Repairs and Maintenance), a planned surplus of £2.059 million was achieved and was to be applied to supporting the 2022/23 budget, which forms part of the strategy in the new HRA Business Plan. 

 

The General Fund Capital position is covered in Section 4, showed underspending (Programme slippage) of £46.767 million from originally profiled spending of £72.443 million in 2021/22. The single largest factor is the slower than anticipated drawdown on Qualis loans (impact £41.767 million).  

 

Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked about the £0.5 million savings which came from vacancies. Was this hampering the delivery of projects? And, recycling, was it volume or value that makes a difference, and would this continue into the current year? He was told that the salary savings was dominated by slippages in projects, so this was delaying recruitment to resource projects and not a case of not delivering services. Waste management spending had been identified later in the financial year. One of the regular payments got out of sync during the pandemic (with them owing the council some £225k), which has now been rectified. With regards to recycling income, he was not sure as to the finer points, other than quarter 3 projections were more pessimistic than actually turned out to be at year end.

 

Councillor Bassett thanked officers for their work over the past difficult year. He was concerned by the differences from the forecasts to the actuals. Were we more confident in this year’s forecasts? Councillor Philip replied that we had poorer balances last year than we intended to have and as such we needed the ability to pull in £1.35 million from our reserves. In the end we significantly reduced our spending last year to bring us in under budget. He always said that our budget was a ceiling, and we should not go over that. Our budget was a target and to come in under budget was a good news story and the work we will be doing in the coming months will give us the ability to come in under budget once again this year. But this year’s budget will be more difficult than last years. It will be more challenging this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Dates of Future Meetings

To note the next meeting date of this Committee will be held on:

 

01 September 2022;

25 October 2022;

24 November 2022;

24 January 2023;

21 February 2023; and

18 April 2023.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted their future meeting dates.