Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 8th February, 2022 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Antechamber, Level 2, Town Hall Extension. View directions

Contact: Michael Williamson  This meeting can be viewed on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/670185448

Items
No. Item

68.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 237 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 11 January 2022.

Minutes:

The Committee approve the minutes of the meeting held on 11 January 2022 as a correct record.

 

69.

Corporate Core Budget Report 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 361 KB

Report of Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer and City Solicitor

 

Following the Spending Review announcements and provisional local government finance settlement 2022/23 the Council is forecasting a balanced budget for 2022/23, a gap of £37m in 2023/24 and £58m by 2024/25. This report sets out the high-level position.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Further to minute (RGSC/21/46), the Committee considered a report of the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer and City Solicitor, which provided a further update on the saving proposals being proposed as part of the 2022/23 budget process.

 

Key areas to note were:-

 

·                Following the Spending Review announcements and provisional local government finance settlement 2022/23 the Council was forecasting a balanced budget for 2022/23, a gap of £37m in 2023/24 and £58m by 2024/25;

·                Overall, the settlement announcements was towards the positive end of expectations and it was expected that mitigations in the region of £7.7m, as previously identified, would be sufficient to balance the 2022/23 budget;

·                The budget assumptions that underpinned 2022/23 to 2024/25 included the commitments made as part of the 2021/22 budget process to fund ongoing demand pressures as well as provision to meet other known pressures such as inflation and any pay awards (estimated at 3% from 2022/23);

·                Whilst this contributed to the scale of the budget gap it was important that a realistic budget was budget set which reflected ongoing cost and demand pressures;

·                The focus would now be on identifying savings and mitigations to keep the Council on a sustainable financial footing; and

·                It was proposed that budget cuts and savings of £60m over three years would be developed for Member consideration which equated to just under 12% of 2022/23 directorate budgets. In addition, £30m of risk-based reserves had been identified as available to manage risk and timing differences.

 

The Leader advised that whilst there was no major changes to the proposed budget following the report in November, a decade of austerity had resulted in £420 million having been removed from eth Council’s budget, resulting in a  15% reduction in spending power compared to a national average of 2.4% and if Manchester had had the national average applied to its budget, it would have a further £85 million in its budget today.

 

Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-

 

·                The Council found itself in a situation of uncertainty with just having a one year settlement, forcing it to make preparations for massive reductions in budgets which could have been avoided if the Council had received a longer Finance Settlement;

·                The Committee applauded the commitment by the Council to continue to provide Free School Meals during school holidays to those who were entitled to free school meals attending schools and early year settings;

·                It would be useful to receive more stringent proposals regarding the capital investment to support carbon reduction measures on the Council’s corporate estate at a future meeting;

·                What progress had been made on the potential naming rights for The Factory and what guarantee was there that the loan to The Factory Trust, provided by way of grant, underwritten by the Council’s MIF reserve would be repaid;

·                Assurance was sought that in identifying a suitable naming rights partner, the Council would ensure its reputation would not be adversely impacted;

·                More information was requested on the HR/OD service redesign  ...  view the full minutes text for item 69.

70.

Housing Revenue Account 2022/23 to 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 534 KB

Report of Strategic Director (Development), Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) and Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer

 

This report presents members with details on the proposed Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget for 2022/23 and an indication of the 2023/24 and 2024/25 budgets.

 

It seeks approval for the 2022/23 HRA budget and follow the Government’s guideline rent increase of 4.1% for all properties.

 

It is also proposed that the City Council continue with the policy of realigning rents on properties at below formula rent, to the formula rent level when the property is re-let.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Strategic Director (Growth and Development), the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) and the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer, which set out the details on the proposed Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget for 2022/23 and an indication of the 2023/24 and 2024/25 budgets.

 

Key points and themes of the report included:-

 

·                The HRA Budget Position for 2021/22, which as of December 2021, was forecasting that net expenditure would be £11.621m lower than budget, inked to delays in capital projects;

·                Although the expenditure is lower than originally forecast, it is still more than the annual income and the forecast in-year deficit of £5.073m will be drawn down from the HRA reserve

·                The Budget Strategy 2022/23 - 2024/25,

·                The management of Housing Stock and the implications of “Right to Buy” on rental income;

·                Details of the various budget assumptions;

·                A proposed 4.1% increase to dwelling rents and garage rents

·                A proposal to establish a £200,000 hardship fund to support vulnerable tenants; and

·                The Reserves Forecast 2022/22 to 2024/25

 

Some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-

 

·                Whilst welcoming the proposed hardship fund, what was the timeframe for the distribution of these funds;

·                Would the hardship fund be available to just Council housing tenants or for also other social housing tenants;

·                PFI housing partners should be encouraged to contribute to the hardship funding;

·                In relation to investment proposals, was there scope in the budget for any additional HRA council housing;

·                Was there any indication from Government of additional funding to assist in the retrofitting of existing properties to achieve zero carbon targets, either direct to Manchester or via the Combined Authority;

·                What lobbying was taking place to address the need for further government funding to deliver more social rent homes in Manchester and when was the current round of this policy going to be reviewed;

·                How many properties associated with the operational overspend of £0.947 where council properties;

·                Clarity was sought on the proposed heating tariffs;

·                What was the current level of bad debt and consequently how had it been determined that the ongoing forecast requirement was 1% for the life of the plan;

·                What was the capital expenditure on fire safety and what was anticipated to be the level of spend required to meet legislative requirements and the cost of going beyond this requirement to meet any potential future changes in legislation;

·                What funding was being allocated on the decent homes programme, with reference around improved kitchen and bathroom facilities

 

The Director of Housing Operations advised that the process for distributing the hardship fund would be finalised over the coming weeks using the established mechanisms ins place for welfare support use during the Covid crisis. 

 

The Executive Member for Housing and Employment confirmed that the hardship fund would only be available to tenants in council owned housing stock (Northwards) and those in Council controlled housing stock, including tenants who resided in properties within the two PFI schemes.  Other Registered Providers were also establishing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 70.

71.

Strategic Communications three year strategy and service priorities pdf icon PDF 137 KB

Report of the Head of Strategic Communications attached

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Head of Strategic Communications that provided an update on the Council’s three-year communications strategy, to be adopted from April 2022.

 

Key points and themes in the report included:

 

·         The communications priorities for 2022/23;

·         The social media strategy implemented in 2021; and

·         Example of the monthly evaluation template.

 

Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were: -

 

·         Did staff from the team work at weekends to deliver messages via social media, noting the importance of accurate civil contingency messaging;  

·         Was social media used to encourage residents to respond to consultations and used as a platform for people to submit detailed considered responses;

·         Would there be the ability for members of the public to upload photographs online when reporting issues or making a request for service to the Council;

·         More information was requested on the work of the translation service and calling for the need to promote the work of this service, particularly noting their work in supporting residents during the pandemic;

·         Noting that the issue of digital exclusion was an issue for many residents across the city; and

·         Did the service work with the Revenues and Benefits Unit.

 

The Head of Strategic Communications responded to the comments and questions by advising that colleagues did work at weekends; however he noted the specific concerns raised by the Member regarding the recent flooding events and advised that he would look into this following the meeting. He commented that the team worked closely with the local Neighbourhood Teams to assist them with the delivery of key messaging and communications. He advised that clear English and the approved accessibility standards were used in the delivery of communications, adding that they did work with the Revenues and Benefit Unit. 

 

The Head of Strategic Communications recognised the importance of the translation service in delivering this work, particularly during the pandemic and the work underway across the city to address health inequalities, adding that they were integral to the successful delivery of front-line services. He further made reference to their work when helping support recent arrivals to the city, most recently from Afghanistan. He advised that there were over 200 languages spoken in the city, and the service engaged with local sounding boards to ensure the service responded to the needs of the residents in the city. He suggested that the Committee might wish to consider scheduling a specific report on the work of the translation service.

 

The Head of Strategic Communications stated that all direct correspondence from residents to the Council via social media was monitored and where appropriate referred to the relevant teams for attention or action. He stated that digital conversations across a range of platforms were reviewed to understand the nature of these conversations that were relevant to the organisation. With reference to consultations, he advised that these had to comply with specific legal guidance.  

 

The Head of Strategic Communications spoke on the issue of digital exclusion and made reference to the range  ...  view the full minutes text for item 71.

72.

Future Shape of the Council - Digital, Estates, Ways of Working and ICT strategy pdf icon PDF 276 KB

Report of Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer

 

This report has been written to provide an update on the Future Shape Programme including an update on Development of the ICT Strategy and the Estates Strategy (linked to how we work) and how they relate to the programme. 

 

Future Shape of the Council is a two-year transformation programme designed to enable MCC to be in the best possible shape to deliver its ambitions as set out in the Our Manchester Strategy whilst meeting the external challenges the council face from budget pressures and the response and recovery to Covid 19.

 

The digital agenda, Estates and Ways of Working forms a major workstream within the Future Shape programme and ICT support will be integral to its successful delivery. This paper sets out this work.

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer that provided an update on the Future Shape Programme including an update on Development of the ICT Strategy and the Estates Strategy (linked to how we worked) and how they related to the programme. 

 

Key points and themes in the report included:

 

·         The Future Council programme objectives and overview of workstreams;

·         An overview of the digitally integrated council workstream;

·         The role of ICT in the successful delivery of the programme, along with progress to date on the draft ICT Strategy and future target operating model for the service; and

·         The role of Estates and ways of working in the successful delivery of the programme.

Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were: -

 

·         Whilst supporting the ambitions described it was important to recognise that many residents experienced digital exclusion, as a result of a range of reasons and the need to ensure that residents could contact the Council through traditional methods, such as via a telephone call;

·         Noting the importance of reliable WIFI and appropriate devices to ensure staff could undertake their work in an appropriate and safe manner, with particular reference to the important work of Social Workers;

·         Information was sought as to the delivery and nature of Social Value as part of this programme of work;

·         What security measures were in place for devices, such as laptops that staff were now asked to bring with them to allow them to work in offices and remotely; and

·         Requesting that a briefing note be circulated to members of the Committee that described the discussions and agreements reached regarding staff health and safety considerations and mobile working.

 

The Head of Customer Services recognised the comments expressed regarding the need to maintain the provision of face-to-face appointments and telephone contact as a means for residents to contact the Council. He stated that these would continue to be provided. He advised that the programme described would improve all channels of communications. The Leader commented that in the previous two years the contact centre had taken in excess of 400,000 calls each year and suggested that this would be captured in future update reports to provide an assurance to the Committee.

 

The Director of ICT stated that he recognised the importance of WIFI for staff, including Social Workers, to enable them to undertake their duties. He described that services and sites, such as district offices where Social Workers were located would be prioritised as part of the implementation plan, noting the global supply issue that had hampered the delivery of the project, however he advised the Committee that this issue had been escalated with the supplier.  

 

The Director of ICT stated that Social Value would be delivered through the contracts awarded in the delivery of this programme, with an emphasis on the Year of the Child. The Leader stated that a more detailed report on the delivery of Social Value across this and a range of projects  ...  view the full minutes text for item 72.

73.

Overview Report pdf icon PDF 318 KB

Report of the Governance and Scrutiny Support Unit.

 

This report provides the Committee with details of key decisions that fall within the Committee’s remit and an update on actions resulting from the Committee’s recommendations. The report also includes the Committee’s work programme, which the Committee is asked to amend as appropriate and agree.

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report by the Governance and Scrutiny Support Unit which provided details of key decisions that fall within the Committee’s remit and an update on actions resulting from the Committee’s recommendations. The report also included the Committee’s work programme, which the Committee was asked to amend as appropriate and agree.

 

Following a comment from a Member, the Chair asked that an update to the outstanding recommendation, detailed at section one of the report ‘Monitoring Previous Recommendations’ be provided.

 

Decision

 

The Committee notes the report and agrees the Committee’s Work Programme.