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Disclosure of Interests
In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.
There were no disclosures of interest made at the meeting.
Urgent Business (if any)
To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.
The Vice-Chair of the Committee highlighted that their continued to be concern about the provision of information to Scrutiny and requested the support of the rest of the Committee in submitting a statutory request for the information requested as part of the call-in considered at the previous meeting of the Committee on 27 May 2021. This request was endorsed by the Committee, with it noted that the deadline for a response to this request was ten clear working days.
Resolved: That a formal request for the information outlined in the call-in considered by the Scrutiny & Overview Committee on 27 May 2021 would be submitted.
The Chair advised the Committee that it had been agreed to include a Cabinet report setting out the proposed performance framework for the Croydon Renewal Plan on the agenda as an urgent item. This report had been considered by the Cabinet on 7 June and had been referred to both the General Purposes and Audit Committee and the Scrutiny and Overview Committee to obtain feedback from the members of these committees and was included as an urgent item to ensure prompt feedback could be given.
It was confirmed that it be considered later in the agenda, after the update from the Leader of the Council.
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee will be provided with an update from the Leader of the Council, Councillor Hamida Ali.
The Committee considered a presentation from the Leader of the Council, Councillor Hamida Ali, which provided an overview of the previous eight months since Councillor Ali was appointed as Leader and looked forward to the year ahead. A copy of the presentation delivered by the Leader can be found on the following link:-
During the presentation the following information was noted: -
· Credit was given to council staff and Members for the scale of change delivered over the preceding six months, while it was acknowledged that there was still a considerable journey ahead.
· Since Councillor Ali was appointed as Leader, the Council had responded well to its precarious position and with the support of others such as the Local Government Association, had been able to balance its budget through capitalisation.
· There had been a range of work aimed at changing the culture of the organisation including the Leader and the Chief Executive attending frequent staff briefings and Cabinet Members attending staff roadshow events.
· The conditions found in the flats at the council block on Regina Road had resulted from a breakdown in systems designed to support residents. There was now a focus on delivering a quick response to address both the repairs needed on the block and the Council’s relationship with the residents.
· The appointment of Katherine Kerswell as the permanent Chief Executive was due to be considered by the Council on the 5 July. Providing this appointment was confirmed, a new structure for the Council could start being implemented.
· The Administration had been revisiting its priorities and had included the following new ones: -
o Warm, safe and dry homes for everyone
o Tackling the climate emergency
o Supporting Croydon’s health and economic recovery from Covid-19.
· In order to deliver the priorities there would be a focus on the Council living within its means, having a strong relationship with residents, speaking up for Croydon and the issues that affected local communities, and having an open and transparent council.
Following the presentation, the Committee was given the opportunity to question the Leader on the information provided. The first question noted that there had been criticism in the Report in the Public Interest (RIPI) of the concentration of power within a small group of Councillors. As the Council had new leadership, it was questioned whether there was now a more collective approach to decision making. It was confirmed that through development work with the local government sector and the Local Government Association (LGA), the Cabinet had been able to develop its team dynamic which had led to a new culture of sharing of information to ensure collection resolutions were found for the more challenging issues.
Although it was acknowledged that the issues leading to poor housing conditions at Regina Road were long standing, it was questioned how going forward the Cabinet would be able to satisfy itself that residents were receiving a good service from the Council. The Leader confirmed that the issue had first been reported four years ago, ... view the full minutes text for item 44/21
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee is asked to review the information provided in this update on the delivery of the RIPI Action Plan and consider whether it wishes to make any recommendations on the activity to date.
The Committee considered a report setting out the progress made with delivering the recommendations outlined in the Report in the Public Interest (RIPI), which had previously been considered by the Cabinet on 7 July. It was now being presented to the Committee and also the General Purposes and Audit Committee for further input.
The report was introduced by the Interim Executive Director for Resources, who highlighted 45 of the actions outlined in the action plan had been completed, with 44 still outstanding. There was a recognition that there was a need to maintain momentum with officers working at pace to ensure the delivery of the recommendations. Internal Audit had been tasked with reviewing the actions completed to ensure that they were having the desired impact and were in place. Feedback on this was likely to be provided on the second quarterly update when it was presented to the Committee later in the year.
In response to an open question to both the political and corporate leadership about what actions gave them the most cause for concern, providing support for UASC was highlighted as a significant challenge. Another major concern was meeting all the requirements on the Council within such a constrained budget, while at the same time ensuring the budget was both sustainable and targeted towards where it was most needed. There was also a need to look after staff welfare given the Council had been in crisis mode for fifteen months while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to responding to the financial challenges.
As a common theme within the report was the capacity of the organisation to deliver the RIPI recommendations, it was questioned whether there was the ability to monitor delivery and adjust capacity as needed. It was confirmed that work was ongoing to establish what the Council needed to deliver its services within the available financial envelope. This included delivering business as usual, as well as transformation work, which needed to be directed correctly to ensure the maximum benefit was delivered. The new structure for the organisation would be considered by the Cabinet in July, with it accepted that the high number of senior managers employed on an interim basis may be impeding long term delivery.
In response to a question about the strategy for managing demand within Children’s Services, it was advised that these actions were set out in the delivery plan which had been presented to a number of committees and were under constant review to ensure the intended outcome was being achieved. A request was made for the Committee to be provided with a copy of the Strategy to provide reassurance that it was in place.
The progress made with reducing the cost within the Children’s Service to near the London average was also questioned, with it advised that in some areas the Council was already at or below the average. However, it would be a significant challenge to reduce costs in those areas where families were used to receiving services. The ... view the full minutes text for item 45/21
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee is asked to review the attached Cabinet report and provide feedback on the proposed framework.
The Committee considered a report setting out a framework for monitoring the performance of the Council. The report had previously been considered by the Cabinet on 7 June, who had referred it to the Committee for its input on the content. It was highlighted that the version presented was an early draft and any feedback given would be considered when compiling the final version that would be available in September 2021.
It was noted that the framework presented to the Committee seemed to be a business plan framework, rather than one specifically for the Croydon Renewal Plan, with it questioned whether there was a framework in place to assess the delivery of the renewal plan. It was acknowledged that there were gaps in the framework presented to the Committee, who had been asked to comment on an early version with the intention of using the feedback to address any gaps identified. It was highlighted that the framework was based on the Croydon Renewal Plan which took account of other reviews.
Given the recent issues experienced by residents at Regina Road, it was questioned whether the final document would enable the Council’s leadership to identify areas of concern at an early stage, to prevent such issues being repeated in the future. It was confirmed that a section on housing had not been included in the version presented at meeting, as it had been held back to allow for it to be designed with the new Executive Director for the service. It was confirmed that the report would be in two layers, what was reported to the Cabinet and a more detailed operational level version.
It was questioned whether the framework would allow the political and corporate leadership of the Council to maintain line of sight over services. It was confirmed that the framework would need to provide feedback from residents on the quality of services provided and work was underway with the Communications team to establish the best mechanism for this. It was envisioned that the reporting framework would be subject to ongoing refinement as new sources of information became available.
In response to a question about how the Council’s financial controls would be monitored, it was confirmed that there would be a separate finance report and the framework would only include those areas of finance linked to the renewal plan. The financial report would also be provided to the members of the Scrutiny & Overview Committee, which given the concerns of the Committee about the financial controls of the Council, would enable the progress made with delivering the budget to be closely monitored.
It was suggested that the framework could look to draw in comparative data from other sources such as LG Inform, although it was acknowledged that some local authorities did not share as much data as others. For the comparative data that was available, there also needed to be certainty that the same measurements were being used to ensure there was a like for like comparison.
Given there was ... view the full minutes text for item 46/21
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee is asked to review the draft version of the Scrutiny Annual Report, with a view to making suggestions or amendments to be incorporated in the final version to be submitted to Council.
The Committee considered the Annual Scrutiny Report for 2020-21, which had been presented for its approval before being submitted for inclusion on the next Council meeting agenda. In introducing the report, the Chair highlighted that the past year had been a challenge for scrutiny with an increased workload following the Report in the Public Interest (RIPI). Although received criticism in the RIPI, it also needed to be acknowledged that the Scrutiny & Overview Committee was the only one to challenge the financial judgement of the previous Council leadership.
The Committee agreed it Annual Report for submission to Council and passed thanks on to the scrutiny officers who drafted the report.
Resolved: That the final draft of the Scrutiny Annual Report 2020-21 be agreed.
The Scrutiny & Overview Committee is asked to:-
1. Agree the initial Annual Scrutiny Work Programme,
2. Review and agree the process that will be used to manage the work programme as the year progresses.
The Committee considered a report setting out a draft work programme for both itself and the three Sub-Committees for the year ahead. In introducing the report, the Chair highlighted that there were gaps in the work programme as there was a need for Scrutiny to be responsive to the priorities of the Council.
It was also highlighted that the recommendations from the Scrutiny Improvement Review, conducted by the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny, would be introduced during the year and this would bring in a new approach for planning. The new approach would be based upon using data to identify those areas where scrutiny was needed, with an underlying principle of support the Council in its financial recovery.
Resolved: That the initial Annual Scrutiny Work Programme is agreed.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
The following motion is to be moved and seconded where it is proposed to exclude the press and public from the remainder of a meeting:
“That, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information falling within those paragraphs indicated in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended.”
This motion was not required.