Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny & Overview Committee
Tuesday, 16th July, 2019 6.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX. View directions

Contact: Simon Trevaskis
0208 7266000  Email: simon.trevaskis@croydon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

9/19

Minutes of the Previous Meetings pdf icon PDF 63 KB

To approve the minutes of the meetings held on 20 May and 11 June 2019 as an accurate record.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 20 May and 11 June 2019 were agreed as an accurate record.

 

10/19

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.

 

Minutes:

There were no disclosures of interest made at the meeting.

 

11/19

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.

 

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

 

12/19

Delivery of the Libraries Plan 2019-2028 pdf icon PDF 208 KB

The Committee is asked to review progress made to date and future plans for the delivery of the Libraries Plan 2019-2028, including capital investment in Croydon’s libraries.

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, Councillor Oliver Lewis, was in attendance at the meeting to provide an update for the Committee on the delivery of the Libraries Plan, which had been approved by the Council on 15 July 2019.

During the introduction to this item by Councillor Lewis, the following points were noted:-

·         It was 18 months since Carillion, the company who previously managed the Libraries Service went into administration. As a result it was decided to bring the management of the service back in house.

·         The Libraries Plan had been developed over the preceding 12 months with a view to improving the delivery of the service going forward.

·         It was confirmed that all the libraries in the borough would remain open and be fully staffed. Where it was possible to do so options for extending opening hours would be explored to ensure the service remain convenient for local people.

·         There would be increased investment in the book fund to update the current stock and it was planned to increase access to online services such as e-books. It was also planned to re-join the London Libraries Consortium which would give residents access to a stock of approximately 6,000,000 books.

·         Provision had been made within the Plan to improve the IT services current available in libraries across the borough. With an investment of £5,000,000 allocated for improving both IT and the general fabric of libraries. The aim was to ensure that all Croydon’s libraries were welcoming and attractive with improved facilities for both residents and staff.

·         Thought continued to be given on how best to deliver a modern library service, one which was more than just a book borrowing service. This would include working with the Gateway Service on their localities work and also providing flexible spaces that could be used for a variety of events.

·         It was confirmed that European funding with the British Library had recently been awarded to provide support and resources for start-up businesses at local libraries.

Following the introduction the Committee was given the opportunity to ask questions on the report. The first related to the report prepared by consultant’s which set out possible options for the Library Service, which had been published after the Plan had been originally considered by the Committee in February 2019. As the content of the report had led to public concern about the future of certain libraries in the borough, it was questioned whether it could have been included with the previous report to the Committee, which would have provided the opportunity to dispel some of the misinformation. In response it was highlighted that the consultant’s report was a background document which set out possible options. The actual preferred options were set out in the covering report, but with the benefit of hindsight it was acknowledged that this could have been made clearer.

With plans being made to upgrade library facilities, it was suggested that the possibility of offering any unwanted equipment to local charities for reuse  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12/19

13/19

Community Infrastructure Levy - Policy & Strategy pdf icon PDF 146 KB

The Scrutiny Committee is asked to review the report and consider whether it wishes to make any recommendations.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report setting out information on the current approach used to administer the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) along with data on the funds raised and its allocation. The Committee was asked for its views which would be fed into a review of the current policy and strategy. The Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Regeneration (Job Share), Councillor Paul Scott, was in attendance for this item.

During the introduction to the report the following points were noted.

·         CIL had been collected by the Council since April 2013, with the levy used to mitigate against the impact of development.

·         When CIL was first introduce its charge equated to £120 per square metre (psm). As the levy was linked to indexation, the charge had increased and was currently £170psm. From 2013 until the end of 2018/19 over £27,000,000 had been collected from CIL contributions.

·         CIL was split into two sections, namely a Borough CIL which accounted for 85% of the contributions and the Local Meaningful Proportion which equated for the remaining 15% and was at present allocated through Community Ward Budgets.

·         A requirement for the Borough CIL was for each local authority to set out a schedule through which spending would be allocated for identified infrastructure projects. No money was allocated from 2013 to 2016 while the outcome from the Growth Zone application was awaited. The schedule was administered through the Council’s Infrastructure Finance Group, with the current policy being to allocate CIL funds through the Capital Plan.

Following the introduction of the report the Committee was given the opportunity to ask questions. The first related to the Local Meaningful Proportion and whether there was an excess generated above what was used for the Community Ward Budgets, which was confirmed that there was an excess currently being created. It was noted that this excess could be allocated to the Community Ward Budgets, but the Committee agreed that consideration should be given to developing a scheme that local communities could bid for funding for projects in their local area.

Furthermore, it was agreed that it would be good if any such scheme could be targeted towards those communities experiencing the higher levels of development. It was acknowledged that it would be important for the scheme to take into account the varying ability of communities across the borough to ensure that it was equitable.

In response to a question about data on where CIL income had been generated, it was advised that this information was published annually on a Ward basis. However CIL was collected on a borough wide basis and was not restricted to it being spent in the Ward from where it was raised, which was in line with government regulations for CIL.

It was questioned whether there were safeguards in place to ensure that infrastructure was delivered where it was most needed. In response it was highlighted that the allocation of the Borough CIL was linked through the Local Plan and the Infrastructure Delivery Plan which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13/19

14/19

Corporate & Statutory Annual Complaints Report 2018-2019 pdf icon PDF 920 KB

The Committee is provided with a copy of the Annual Complaints Report for 2018-19 for their information and is asked to consider whether they wish to make any recommendations based on the content of the report.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report which set out data on both the Corporate and Statutory complaints received by the Council in 2018 – 2019. During the introduction to the report the following points were noted:-

·         The Council operate three separate complaint processes. One for corporate complaints and two others for Children and Adult Services respectively. In all three instances residents have the right to escalate their complaint to the ombudsman.

·         Included within the report was complaints data covering the last five years, although due to changes within teams over this period it was difficult to draw a consistent comparison.

·         The report also included benchmarking data with other authorities, but this information had not been available for statutory complaints (those relating to Children or Adult Services).

·         There had been a rise in the number of corporate complaints received, which could be linked to the new bin role out in autumn 2018. There had also been rise in the number of social care complaints, but a decrease in the number upheld.

·         The response times for Children Service complaints had decreased following complaint handling training for managers. The current system did not take account of the often complex nature of complaints received within the service, which meant that response times could be negatively impacted.

The Committee was given the opportunity to asked questions on the content of the report. The first question related to the submission of complaints and whether they had to be submitted online. It was confirmed that complaints were received in a variety of formats including both verbally and in writing. As such it was requested that the options open to the public in submitting complaints be made clearer on the Council’s website.

In response to a question about how complaints data was analysed, it was advised that the Complaints team regularly met with other teams to run through any trends in the complaints received for their respective area and to help with developing corresponding actions to address these trends.

Environmental complaints were currently higher than expected, but there were some teams that traditionally had a higher level of complaints such as environment, repairs, council tax and benefits. In general the number of complaints received tended to increase which was similar to other authorities.

It was confirmed that the Complaints team would share complaints data with CDS to help inform areas where there may be issues.

It was noted that the Children Service was starting to see a positive change, with the team taking a greater ownership of complaints. As such it was questioned whether this was similarly the case elsewhere in the Council.  It was advised that complaints handling had improved, but there was still further work to do around visible action plans showing improvements, in relation to complaint themes.

It was suggested that the level of complaints received may not be representative of the actual number of people wanting to complain. In response it was advised that it was the Council’s responsibility to ensure that the mechanism for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14/19

15/19

Freedom of Information (FOI) & Subject Access Requests (SARs) pdf icon PDF 429 KB

Report to follow.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report setting out the process for making both a Freedom of Information (FOI) and Subject Access Requests (SAR), along with information on trends and an improvement plan for the process. During the introduction to the report the following points were noted:-

·         An improvement process was in place for the Council’s handling of both FOIs and SARs. The improvement journey was currently being progressed with process mapping due to be completed.

·         A new case management system would go live in August which would help to streamline data and improve accessibility.

·         Reports were also being made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on the improvement process. The ICO target for compliance with both FOIs and SARs was 90%. Since December 2018 the Council had received 100% compliance.

It was recognised that there had been a lot of work within the team over the past few months to improve both the FOI and SARs processes. It was agreed that it would be important to informally review the progress made in six months to find out if the changes were having the desired impact. If there had not been the expected improvement, then another report would be requested for the Committee. If progress was being made then the next report would be the annual report in 12 months. 

It was agreed that a key performance indicator of whether the service was improving would be the response time to requests, with it hoped that 90% of FOI and SAR requests could be dealt with within their specified timescales. Other indicators suggested included whether the request was answered and the number of requests for review.

It was questioned whether the team was being supported across the Council to allow it to compile the information required to respond to FOI and SAR requests. In response it was advised that there was a structure in place identifying those responsible for responding in each team. When the new case management system went live it would give a further opportunity to embed these processes within the organisational culture of the Council through the delivery of targeted service training.

It was hoped that the new case management system would provide a wider range of data which would allow the team to identify those teams responsible for creating blockages in providing responses.

At the conclusion of this item the Chair thanked the officer for her attendance at the meeting and noted that the Committee had been encouraged by the improvement plan and looked forward to seeing the progress made in the coming months.

Conclusions

Following discussion of the report, the Committee reached the following conclusions:-

1.    It was recognised that there had been historically poor performance relating to Freedom of Information Requests, but it was welcomed that this was being addressed through the improvement plan.

2.    It was agreed that FOIs and SARs performance would be formally reviewed in twelve months, but an informal update was requested in six months to allow the Committee to monitor whether the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15/19

16/19

Scrutiny Work Programme 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 203 KB

The Committee is asked to agree the Scrutiny Work Programme for 2019-20.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report for its approval setting out its work programme for those for the three Scrutiny Sub-Committees namely:-

·         Children and Young People

·         Health and Social Care

·         Streets, Environment and Homes

It was noted that the work programme set out was a draft and it was expected that changes could be made during the year to allow Scrutiny to respond to any urgent items of business.

At first glance the schedule of business for the Children and Young People Sub-Committee meeting in November looked extensive, but reassurance was given that many of the items should be fairly straightforward to deal with.

It was suggested that choice based lettings may be something to be reviewed by the Streets, Environment and Homes Sub-Committee. It was agreed that this would be added to the work programme.

It was resolved that the Scrutiny Work Programme 2019-20 be agreed.

17/19

Update from the London Scrutiny Network

To receive a verbal update from the Chair of the Scrutiny & Overview Committee on the recent meeting of the London Scrutiny Network held on 5 July 2019.

Minutes:

An update was given on the latest meeting of the London Scrutiny Network which was held on 5 July 2019. The main item at the meeting was on the new Scrutiny Guidance and how differing London boroughs would be responding.

The next meeting of the Network would be on 1 November and would focus on how best to scrutinise the subject of youth violence.

18/19

Statutory Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny in Local and Combined Authorities pdf icon PDF 428 KB

The Committee is asked to consider whether it wishes to make any recommendations on the new Scrutiny Guidance to the Governance Review Panel.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report which had previously been included on the agenda of the previous meeting on 11 June 2019, which had been deferred to allow for further consideration.

It was agreed that communication of the role and work of Scrutiny was an area highlighted in the guidance that needed to be addressed. It was confirmed that the Democratic Services team were in the process of drafting a Scrutiny Communications Protocol that would hopefully address some of the concerns raised.

It was also highlighted that there often seemed to be an issue with the timeliness of information provided to Scrutiny and general concerns about access to information of Scrutiny Members. It was noted that the Governance Review was currently looking at these issues and as such whether they were addressed through the review would need to be monitored.

As the guidance highlighted the need to raise the awareness of the role of Scrutiny the Committee agreed that it would be important to formally ask the Cabinet how it will help to ensure that the good practice set out in the guidance would be enacted.

Conclusions

Following discussion of the report, the Committee reached the following conclusions:-

1.    It was agreed that the guidance was clear on the importance of support being provided for Scrutiny communication and publicity, with it welcomed that the Democratic Services team were creating a Scrutiny Communications Protocol to manage this going forward.

2.    That access to information was a concern for Scrutiny Members and the response to this issue through the Governance Review would be monitored.

3.    That it would be important to have a formal response from the Cabinet to clarify how it will help to enact the Scrutiny guidance.

Recommendations

The Committee RESOLVED to recommend to the Cabinet that a formal response be requested from the Cabinet on how they will help to ensure that the good practice set out in the Scrutiny guidance will be enacted.

 

19/19

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.”

 

 

Minutes:

This motion was not required.