Manchester City Council

Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 7th February, 2019 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Ante Chamber, Level 2, Town Hall Extension

Contact: Michael Williamson 

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

8.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 159 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 10 January 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Decision

 

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 10 January 2019 as a correct record.

9.

Updated Financial Strategy and Directorate Business Plans 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 388 KB

Report of the Chief Executive and City Treasurer

 

This report provides an update on the Council’s financial position and sets out next steps in the budget process, including scrutiny of the draft budget proposals and Directorate Business Plan reports by this Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Further to Minute RGSC/18/66, the Committee considered a report of the Chief Executive and the City Treasurer which provided a further update on the Council’s financial position and set out the next steps in the budget process. 

 

The Committee was invited to consider and make recommendations on the budget proposals which were within the remit of the Committee and to comment on the Directorate Business Plans, prior to their submission to the Executive on 13 February 2019.

 

The Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources outlined the context of the reports, in particular the challenges presented by funding reductions from the national government.  The Leader commented that the cuts made to the Council’s budget were now £10million more than when the three year budget was first set in 2017/18, and what was clearly evident was that the impact of austerity was becoming ever more visible, particular in those areas of high deprivation.

 

In relation to the Corporate Core Business plan, some of the key points that arose from the Committees discussions were:-

 

·                With the uncertainty of Brexit, what would be the impact of the withdrawal of European Regional Development fund to the Council and what were the 3 million of approved grants that the Council currently had access to;

·                Further clarification was requested on the leadership role of the Core in influencing outside of the organisation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality and improve public transport and highways and make them more sustainable;

·                Why had staff absence levels increased within the Core;

·                There was concern that Council average days absence was 12.1 days when compared to the private sector absence average of 6.1 days;

·                Had the Age Friendly Board been involved in the arrangements to ensure residents were supported to live at home for as long as possible;

·                Was there a correlation between staff absence levels and efficiency savings;

·                Was the annual leave purchase scheme working well and if so was there any scope to achieve further savings than the identified £150,000;

·                Was it anticipated that the level of savings through ICT would be achievable; and

·                Reassurance was sought that the savings identified through the deletion of vacant posts was achievable and that these posts were not definitely not required.

 

The City Treasure advised that there had been a lot of work undertaken at a GM level on the impact assessment on the risk of withdrawal of European funding as a result of Brexit.  The removal of this funding would not impact directly on the Council’s core services, however, it would have some impact on programmes of work such as work with other European cities and climate change, were we would have reduced access to funding.  The Leader added that the removal of this funding was a bigger risk at a Greater Manchester than it was to just the Council.  The City Treasurer also agreed to provide a breakdown to Members of the 3million approved grants that was currently received.

 

In terms of the leadership  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

The impact of welfare reform agenda on the Council's finances and its ability to provide support to residents of Manchester pdf icon PDF 427 KB

Report of the City Treasurer

 

The impact of welfare reform agenda on the Council’s finances and its ability to provide support to residents of Manchester.

 

The scope of this report only considers the financial impact on the Council. A further report is due to go to Economy Scrutiny in March 2019 and this will cover the economic impact on residents, partners and communities

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the City Treasurer, which detailed the impact of the welfare reform agenda on the Council’s finances and its ability to provide support to residents of Manchester.

 

The main points and themes within the report included:-

 

           Budget implications, including the funding for temporary accommodation in connection to the rise in homelessness;

           The status of Universal Credit in Manchester, including details of the claim volumes of households;

           Details of Discretionary Housing Payment spend against agreed budget and associated budget pressures;

           The purpose and objectives of the Council’s Welfare Provision Scheme;

           The impact of Universal Credit on the Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme for 2019/20;

           The impact of Universal Credit on the Council’s collection of Council Tax and rent collection;

           Detailed area analysis of the impact of Universal Credit on housing provider tenants, including feedback from Northwards, Grove Village and S4B; and

           The burden to the Council’s Revenue and Benefits service to provide support for Universal Credit.

 

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

 

           The Committee was disheartened to see the compound effect that the removal of government funding to families, Schools and the Council itself was having on the city, and felt that the Government was in denial of the true impact austerity measures were having on Manchester’s most vulnerable residents;

           The work of the staff in the Revenue and Benefits team was commended and it was asked whether staff within these teams were offered any form of support due to the distressing nature of some of cases they had to deal with;

           To what level was the Council relaying to Government the serious challenges it was now having to face due to the continued cuts in funding;

           It was suggested that the issue of rental arrears of tenants of Manchester’s six housing providers, who were subject to Universal Credit, was referred to a future meeting of the most appropriate Scrutiny Committee for consideration; and

           There was concern as to whether there would be enough funding in future years to support the level of demand

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions shared the Committee’s concerns about the reduction in funding from Government and its impact on Manchester residents.  She advised that staff within the Revenue and Benefits Team received comprehensive training prior to starting their roles.  Staff had flexible working arrangements and were able to ask for support at any time.  It was also reported that the ratio of Team Leaders to staff was 1:12 in order to ensure appropriate line management support and foster close working relationships.

 

The Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources echoed the Committee’s praise of staff and commented that the work and support of the Director of Customer Services and Transactions and her managers had resulted in an improvement in the B’Heard 2018 survey results.  He also suggested that Committee Members might benefit form undertaking a site visit to the Revenue  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Changes to the Council Tax charges levied for tax on empty properties pdf icon PDF 270 KB

Report of the City Treasurer

 

The Government has introduced further discretionary powers for councils to charge progressively higher rates of Council Tax for domestic properties that are empty for more than two years, five years and ten years. This report considers the impact of adopting these changes.

 

The report also revisits the decisions made in 2012 to give a 100% discount for one month if a domestic property is empty and unfurnished, and a 50% discount for up to 12 months if a domestic property is undergoing major works or structural alterations.

 

The purpose of this report is to provide final recommendations, following a consultation exercise about whether to adopt these new discretionary powers, and whether to retain or remove the discounts relating to properties empty for one month or undergoing major works.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the City Treasurer, which detailed the final proposals, following a consultation exercise, about whether to adopt these new discretionary powers, and whether to retain or remove the discounts relating to properties empty for one month or undergoing major works.

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions referred to the main points and themes within the report which included:-

 

           Background as to how the Council currently applied council tax charges to long term empty (LTE) properties;

           Government proposals for changing how Council could apply council tax charges to LTE properties;

           The financial impact of these proposed changes, including how it affected the New Homes Bonus;

           The impact of removing the current 100% discount (for up to one month) when a property became empty and unfurnished and the 50% discount (for up to one year) when a property was undergoing major repairs or structural alterations;

           The outcome of the consultation and engagement plan with Manchester residents; and

           Key polices and consideration in relation to risk management and legal considerations.

 

The Committee had been invited to comment on the report prior to its submission to the Executive on 13 February 2019.

 

The Committee unanimously supported the proposed changes to increase Council Tax charges relating to empty domestic properties, as this would have a positive impact for the Council by offering a financial incentive to avoid properties being empty and unoccupied and would increase revenue to the Council.

 

Decision

 

The Committee endorses the recommendations contained within the report that the Executive:-

 

           Note the outcomes of the consultation exercise and the Equality Relevance Assessment, both of which have informed the final recommendations;

           Adopt the discretionary powers to charge higher levels of Council Tax on properties that have been unoccupied and unfurnished for two, five and ten years;

           Remove the 100% discount currently available for up to one month when a property first becomes unoccupied and unfurnished; and

           Remove the 50% discount available for up to one year when a property is unoccupied due to major works or structural alterations.

12.

Changes to the Council's Council Tax Support Scheme - results of consultation and final proposals pdf icon PDF 446 KB

Report of the City Treasurer

 

The purpose of this report is to provide final recommendations for the Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme from April 2019 for the Executive to consider.  The report proposes changes to the Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme. The changes are proposed so that the scheme remains fit for purpose as working age residents in receipt of welfare benefits are moved onto Universal Credit.  The report follows a period of formal consultation on the proposals that change the scheme for working age residents in receipt of Universal Credit.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the City Treasurer, which detailed the final proposals for the Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme (CTSS) from April 2019.  The report proposed changes to ensure that the scheme remained fit for purpose as working age residents in receipt of welfare benefits were moved onto Universal Credit.

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions referred to the main points and themes within the report which included:-

 

           The background to the current local Council Tax Support Scheme for the Council;

           The impact of Universal Credit on Manchester residents and its impact on Council Tax Support;

           What impact the proposed changes would have on Manchester residents;

           The cost of the proposed changes;

           Financial modelling and impact of a banded scheme;

           The outcome of the consultation exercise with Manchester residents; and

           Key policies and considerations, including any legal considerations in relation to the proposed changes.

 

The Committee had been invited to comment on the report prior to its submission to the Executive on 13 February 2019.

 

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

 

           Members unanimously supported the proposed changes to the Council’s CTSS in order to continue to deliver a scheme that was cost effective and provided optimum support to low income households within the available budget;

           How much additional funding would be required to deliver the proposed changes to the Discretionary Council Tax Payment Scheme in order to support those families where the government changes have had the most significant impact;

           How would these additional families who required support be identified;

           How will the Council standardise this support and incorporate it into Council policy;

           What opportunity was there to present a case to the DWP to change their ICT system to flag those individuals and or families that were entitled to Council Tax Support;

           Was there a trend of larger families moving into Manchester;

           It was pleasing to see that the number of Band H properties in the city had doubled in number and only eight of these were empty, which would result In more Council Tax income for the Council; and

           Was it possible for the Council to ask the DWP to advise claimants to always claim Council Tax support.

 

The Director of Customer Services and Transactions advised that an additional £150,000 was being invested into Discretionary Council Tax Payment Scheme to provide support to those additional families where the government changes had had the most significant impact and that this funding would be requested to be maintained in future budgets.  The Council will identify those households affected by the Government’s two child limit legislation and the impact of moving to a banded scheme.  It was estimated that the cost to provide this additional support would be £125,000 and a further £25,000 had been set aside to deal with any other cases that occurred which would be considered on their own merits.  Everything that had been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.

13.

Overview Report pdf icon PDF 414 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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Governance and Scrutiny Support Unit which contained key decisions within the Committee’s remit and responses to previous recommendations was submitted for comment. Members were also invited to agree the Committee’s future work programme.

 

The Chair noted that the section of the report relating to Key Decisions included decisions that had already been taken. The City Solicitor advised the Committee that work was currently underway to review how these decisions were recorded and reported to the Committee. The Chair welcomed this development and requested that additional detail was incorporated within the Register of Key Decisions to make the nature of the decisions more apparent.

 

Decision

 

The Committee notes the report and approve the work programme.

 

14.

Exclusion of Press and Public

The officers consider that the following items contains exempt information as provided for in the Local Government Access to Information Act and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. The Committee is recommended to agree the necessary resolutions excluding the public from the meeting during consideration of this item.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A Member moved a motion that agenda item 12 (Management of staff performance and misconduct) be taken as an open item.  The motion did not receive a seconder.

 

A motion was then moved and seconded that the public be excluded during consideration of the next items of business.

 

Decision

 

To exclude the public during consideration of the following items which involved consideration of exempt information relating to the financial or business affairs of particular persons and public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information

15.

Call In: The appointment of a Provider to deliver City Wide Advice Services (Public Excluded)

The decision of the Acting Executive Director Strategic Commissioning (with DASS responsibilities) has been called in by Councillors Clay, Curley, Reid, Hughes, Wheeler and Azra Ali in accordance with paragraph 13.3 of the Scrutiny Procedure Rules.


The terms of the call in are:

" With a contracting process whereby only one bidder submits a tender it is difficult to see the process as a robust test of efficiency and value."

 

A copy of the Decision Notice is attached.

 

Members of the Committee are asked to consider whether or not they will refer the decision back to the decision maker for reconsideration. 

Minutes:

The Committee considered a call in of the decision taken by the Acting Executive Director Strategic Commissioning (with DASS responsibilities) relating to the appointment of a provider to deliver city wide advice services.  The call in had been proposed by Councillor Clay and supported by Councillors Azra Ali Curley, Hughes, Reid and Wheeler.

 

Councillor Clay outlined to the Committee the reasons as to why he had called the decision in and the concerns he had, which centred around the contracting process and whether when only one bidder submits a tender, how could the process be seen as a robust test of efficiency and value.

 

The Acting Executive Director Strategic Commissioning (with DASS responsibilities) responded to comments and questions raised by the Committee.

 

After all questions were asked, the Chair invited Councillor Clay and the Acting Executive Director Strategic Commissioning (with DASS responsibilities) to add anything further to their presentations. No further information was added from either party.

 

The Committee then considered all the relevant matters.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:-

 

(1)       Supports the decision taken by the Acting Executive Director Strategic Commissioning (with DASS responsibilities).

 

(2)       Recommends that the Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee establishes a Task and Finish Group to consider the availability of advice services across the City as soon as possible, with a view to producing recommendations to be considered in the budget in the next financial year.

16.

Management of staff performance and misconduct (Public Excluded)

Report of Director of HROD

 

The purpose of this report is to provide Members with an overview of the Council’s approach to managing staff performance and misconduct in line with the organisation’s agreed policies. The report provides case numbers, key issues and trends in relation to the Council’s Disciplinary and Capability policies as well as broader information on the work of HROD to strengthen the organisation’s approach to people management.

 

This report responds to specific Member queries raised in response to this item at the Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee in January 2019.

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of HROD, which provided Members with an overview of the Council’s approach to managing staff performance and misconduct in line with the organisation’s agreed policies. The report further provided case numbers, key issues and trends in relation to the Council’s Disciplinary and Capability policies as well as broader information on the work of HROD to strengthen the organisation’s approach to people management.

 

The Director of HROD referred to the main points and themes within the report and responded to questions from the Committee.

 

The Committee had considerable concerns about the amount of time it is taking to go through misconduct processes, and the relatively low numbers that are resulting in formal action of any type. They were also worried by the apparently very low numbers of active capability management processes.   

 

The Committee had considerable concerns about the amount of time it was taking to go through misconduct processes, and the relatively low numbers that were resulting in formal action of any type. They were also worried by the apparently very low numbers of active capability management processes.    

 

The Committee was very worried by the apparent disproportionate representation of the BAME population in the misconduct figures, although were reassured that further analysis was being done on these figures to understand them more fully. The Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources confirmed that there was going to be an independent review of the number of BAME staff who were subject to misconduct processes which would be carried out by the Head of Equalities at Manchester Foundation Trust.

 

Decision

 

The Committee: -

 

(1)       Notes the report; and

(2)       Places on record its thanks and appreciation to the Director of HROD for all her dedication and hard work over the years and wished her every success in her new role.