Venue: The Council Chamber, County Hall, Rhadyr, Usk, NP15 1GA and remote attendance
Election of Chair.
Councillor Alistair Neill was elected as Chair.
Appointment of Vice-Chair.
Councillor Tony Kear was appointed as Vice-chair.
Declarations of Interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Public Open Forum.
Select Committee Public Open Forum ~ Guidance
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amount of time afforded to each member of the public to speak is at
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No public submissions were received.
To confirm the following minutes:
Performance and Overview Scrutiny Committee Minutes – 7th July 2022
The minutes were confirmed as a true and accurate record. Concern was expressed regarding actions arising and the timeliness of responses received.
People Scrutiny Committee Minutes – 20th July 2022
The minutes were confirmed as a true and accurate record.
Jane Rodgers presented the report and answered the members’ questions.
Please can you explain what ‘Thinky’ training is and confirm when it will begin?
It’s a database for storing safeguarding training. We do not have a date for the roll out, but the expectation is that it will be this year.
· With reference to Appendix 4, which reviews the previous actions outlined in the action plan, there are explanations for the delay in implementing the actions in red, however, it doesn’t say when these are expected to be completed. Do you have timeframes for these?
There were 2 red actions, the first being related to the development of the core data set, which we have moved forward into our current action plan and set a completion date for March 2023. The second red action relates to the delay in the revision of the safeguarding training strategy. This was a deliberate delay because there is a national training framework being implemented, so that needs to dovetail, the expectation being that this will be April 2023.
· In Section 3 of the report which outlines the preventative approach, I note there are professional strategy meetings, and you refer to 63 professionals for 78 children with 33 claims being substantiated ~ this seems to be a high figure, but is this a high figure compared to previous years? I’d like to ask the same question for adult services.
It is higher than previous years. Prior to this year, for adult services, there hasn’t been a statutory duty, whereas for children’s services, there was a statutory duty in place. We are continuing to use the excellence we have developed to upskill teams across multiple agencies to understand what a professional concern looks like and the process that needs to happen. For example, we have trained managers at McDonalds who meet children through their occupation, so working with partners is very important.
· Page 27-28 refers to the Violence Against Woman, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) training. I’d like to know if that training is being undertaken in schools as it doesn’t feature in your report.
Yes, it is undertaken in schools.
· Would greater spending in targeted preventative services prevent children being on child protection plans for neglect. I’m not familiar with the contracts of shared preventative services, but my concern is around safe recruitment, being aware that the shared Emergency out of hours service has some staff retirement age. Are contracts proportional to the size of the authority?
Yes, we have a set contract that is proportionate to the size and need of the county. We are aware of the retirement of some of the staff in that service and there are clear plans in place, so we shouldn’t need to rely on agency staff.
· In terms of how we measure ourselves, in paragraph 3 of Appendix 1, there are 6 scoring levels and of the 6, 4 are described as positive. Do you think there may be a tendency towards a positive bias? ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Jane Rodgers presented the report and answered the members’ questions.
· Some of the language that used objectively is somewhat alarming and may need further consideration, an example being of a system that is “broken” and ‘”in crisis” which links to a statement of “expectations of services that are shifting” and “change being the only constant”. Please can you explain what is changing significantly, that is not predictable, accepting that the pandemic wasn’t.
We have a system that does feel at times in crisis, for all the reasons we are aware of such as demography and the pandemic. We have thought hard about how to solve those challenges, but the change required is to think about how we can organise ourselves from a whole system approach, re-engaging with our partners to understand practice and to determine risk in our communities. This is happening slowly, neighbourhood care networks being a new development that has been positive in developing an understanding of our communities and repurposing ourselves to do things differently. We know things are shifting but we don’t know exactly how it will develop.
Cabinet Member Councillor Tudor Thomas: It’s a challenging question, because the demographic in Monmouthshire is aging and that means people will need more support. The health service is under such strain and the pressure on hospitals is immense. We also have practical challenges such as recruitment, which we’ve spoken about.
· What is predictable change versus unexpected change?
Our demographic and our workforce issues are predictable to a degree, but the pandemic has brought about changes that were less predictable and we are in a different territory, trying to determine how to respond.
· Looked after children numbers have declined whilst the number of children on the child protection register have doubled. Please can you explain potential reasons for this?
We have had a strategy of changing the culture and practice, becoming more effective at care planning, which builds on the preventative approach, so children are staying on the register longer to seamlessly integrate them back into the community with family support services, so that’s the reason for the decline in the numbers of LAC together with those higher numbers on the child protection register.
· In terms of the future challenge, we’ve seen examples such as the very successful Raglan Project, where the situation required us to be creative in solving our challenges, so given that we are in a similarly difficult situation, is there a prospect doing something similarly creative?
The question is whether we go alone or with others. I think we need to do both, working with the health board and other Gwent partners, accepting we have different challenges to our Gwent partner authorities, but we need to do it in partnership with health. I agree that we often have to find our own solutions, our Community Night Sitting Service and the Micro Carers project being key examples. We are starting to think of different ways of procuring care at home by taking a place-based approach, ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Chief Officer for Education: Annual Report - To conduct pre-decision scrutiny of the report and scrutinise the performance of the service area (report to follow).
This report was deferred from this agenda after agenda publication and will be received by full Council at a future meeting.
Councillor Paul Griffiths, Cabinet Member presented the report and answered questions, together with Mark Hand and Craig O’Connor.
· The shortfall in actual housing and affordable housing in particular is a key concern and the plan will be for significant growth, so please can you comment on the potential for different construction methods, such as pre-fabricated houses and timber frame houses, to make faster progress?
One thing to note before answering the question is that the replacement Local Development Plan runs from 2018-2033, so what is coming through the system now, is counting towards our newly identified housing need. We have a desire to move at a faster pace, but large strategic sites can take some time to come forward, so we need to secure some smaller easy wins that can come forward quicker. Methods of construction is not something we can greatly influence as this is more ‘a land use’ document so, those are things for site developers to consider, although homes will need to meet the zero carbon and other required criteria. As part of the plan, we have to show trajectories of delivery and show how the new housing number will be delivered in the new plan. We are working with developers to put master planning in place so that by the time we are at the point of our plan being examined, we are ready to go, thus avoiding a time lag. So in conclusion, there are a range of things we can do to expedite delivery.
· What is the definition of affordable housing, low-cost housing and what is an allocated site?
This means a site allocated within the exiting LDP. Six of the seven residential sites have already got planning permission, it’s just that there’s just a time lag for construction. There are number of sites coming forward that are currently under development. The aim is to ensure sites meet the active travel requirements and are sustainable sites. We use Welsh Government’s Technical advice note 2 for the definition of affordable housing, which means ‘affordable in perpetuity’, but I will forward the definition of affordable housing and low-cost housing to the committee (Action: Craig O’Connor/Mark Hand).
· What is an unallocated site?
We have to review the appropriateness of sites that come forward in line with policy, so we are not looking to support unallocated sites that don’t meet the criteria.
· The affordable housing delivery figures do raise concern, given that only 35 affordable houses were completed during this monitoring period, plus the ones not delivered in the 10-year plan. How do we compare with neighbouring authorities? Also, in terms of completed dwellings, Chepstow accounted for 90 completed units, but Monmouth only 3. In the report, you state that there isn’t a significant issue with the implementation of the plan’s spatial strategy in relation to the delivery of new housing in the main towns, so please can you explain how you came to that conclusion?
In terms of comparison with neighbouring authorities, we are ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
Cabinet Member Councillor Rachel Garrick presented the report, Jonathon Davies and Peter Davies in attendance to assist her in answering members’ questions.
· I was surprised and disappointed to hear of the £8.8m shortfall in the budgetary position and I’d like to know whether there are weaknesses in our budget management process, and I’d like to ask why we heard of this via a press release. I don’t feel this was adequately communicated. Also, I object to the term ‘budget recovery’ when we are talking about service cuts.
Cabinet Member Councillor Rachel Garrick: All group leaders were briefed in advance of the agendas for Governance and Audit Committee and this committee being published so this is a conversation you would need to have outside the meeting with your group leader. I can confirm that due process was followed.
· If we are already in month 7 but are discussing a report detailing the position at month 4, given the severity of the situation, is it not appropriate that we look at the month 7 headline position, rather than waiting for the lengthy reporting schedule to catch up?
Cabinet Member Councillor Rachel Garrick: We are reacting to the forecast and looking to see how we can recover the budget.
Deputy Chief Executive: There are times when our budget monitoring reporting and the alignment of the scrutiny committee dates may mean that we are reporting retrospectively and there is a process those reports have to go through. The first cabinet meeting was 19th October, so it’s just been a consequence of this, however, the month 6 report will be available in the next couple of months. It is my responsibility to arrest and recover a budgetary position and there are times that this can be achieved without necessarily resorting to service cuts or services being withdrawn, as sometimes efficiencies can be made, and conscious decisions taken. Today’s report talks to the levers we are intending to use, and the month 6 report will provide further detail on those. In terms of your question as to whether there are inherent weaknesses in our budget management process, I’d like to emphasise the budget pressures that were evident in March and the risks in the escalating social care costs reported at that time. Together with factors such as the pay award and the current economic climate, these factors together have led us to the current position. We need to arrest the position to achieve a balanced budget by the end of the year, which is something we have a track record of being very effective in doing.
· In your role, you will have a good understanding of what month 5 and 6 look like, however I think it’s important all councillors are kept up to date with the headline position, rather than awaiting the full report.
We have management accountancy maintaining this continually, identifying where the biggest risks are and preparing updated forecasts. The month 4 report provide a very representative analysis of the situation ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
The forward work programme was noted.
People Scrutiny Committee – 15th November 2022 at 10.00am.
Special Meeting – Performance and Overview Scrutiny Committee - 21st November 2022 at 10.00am
The next Meeting was confirmed as Thursday 21st November 2022 at 10.00am.