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 number of looked after children in the system had reduced over the past two years but reducing the costs of placements would make a significant difference. The cost of placements was being monitored to ensure these were reducing and there was work underway with colleagues at other boroughs in South London, but it was important to understand that it would take time to reduce costs in this area.
At the end of the item the Chair thanked both the Cabinet Members and Officer for their attendance at the meeting.
At the end of this item the Scrutiny & Overview Committee reached the following conclusions: -
1. The Committee agreed that the progress made with delivering the RIPI recommendations was commendable.
2. There was a concern about whether there was sufficient capacity within the organisation to continue delivering the recommendations in addition to delivering the other Council priorities and it was agreed that further evidence was needed to provide reassurance that there was a suitable system in place for the senior leadership of the Council to monitor the demand upon capacity. It was agreed that this would continue to be monitored during the year.