Full Cabinet – 14 October 2009

PRESENT:  Councillor Kirk in the chair.

Councillors Foster (vice chair), Carlile, Grant, Regan and Swift.

Councillors J Briggs, Bunyan, Collinson, England, Poole, Mrs Redfern, N Sherwood, Stewart, K Vickers, Waltham, Whiteley and Wilson also attended the meeting.

Simon Driver, Mike Briggs, Keith Ford, Denise Hyde, Neil Laminman, David Lea, Peter Lenehan, Paul Savage, Chris Skinner, Jeff Tattersall, Dave Watson, Mike Wedgewood, Jason Whaler, Peter Williams, Sarah Williamson, Mike Wood, Peter Young and Mel Holmes also attended the meeting.

831  DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – Councillor Kirk declared a personal interest on agenda item 5 as a member of the Yorkshire Forward Board.

832  MINUTESResolved – That the minutes of the meeting of cabinet held on 29 July 2009, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair.

833  (15)  OUTSTANDING ACTION FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS OF CABINET – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report which contained a schedule of outstanding issues on which cabinet had requested reports to future meetings.

Resolved – That the report be noted.

834  (16)  NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – CURRENT ECONOMIC SITUATION – With reference to minute 795, the Chief Executive submitted a report updating cabinet on the current economic situation in North Lincolnshire.  The report contained information about the situation both nationally and in North Lincolnshire and indicated that the council would continue to support local businesses and ensure that support for individuals was in place.

Since the last meeting of cabinet there had been a number of large scale redundancy announcements that were not yet reflected in the number of people seeking Job Seekers Allowance – this was likely to be felt in October/November, but on the positive side the number of advertised vacancies in August had increased by 22% on July 2009.  The Economic Development Team was working closely with all partners to ensure that a seamless approach was taken to assist both the businesses and individuals whose jobs were at risk.  The report set out a number of activities and initiatives which had been undertaken by the council in this respect.

The report also referred to the proposed increases in the Humber Bridge Toll.  North Lincolnshire, along with the other Humber area local authorities and businesses officially objected to the rise and a public inquiry had been held in March 2009.  The Minister of State for Transport, Sadiq Khan MP, had announced a decision to refuse a toll increase on 30 July.  A full year boost to the regional economy of this toll’s freeze was estimated to be around £2m.  In addition, following the high profile campaign to abolish the tolls or reduce them to £1 Sadiq Khan MP had agreed to meet a cross party regional delegation to discuss the issue.  This was due to be held on 26 October 2009.

The report contained other detailed information about the current economic situation and the efforts being made to mitigate this.

Resolved – (a) That the report be noted; (b) that cabinet agrees that council continue to provide support for local businesses and individuals affected by the recession, and (c) that further reports be submitted to cabinet at each meeting.

835  (17)  OCTOBER BUDGET REVIEW 2009 – The Service Director Finance submitted a report which would help cabinet to track expenditure and income for council services in the current financial year 2009/2010.  It also provided an opportunity to consider areas of overspending and identify savings.

The council set a cash limited budget for its general fund services at its meeting in February 2009.  This put a limit on service revenue spending and provided a separate contingency for areas of spending where costs were uncertain.  This year the contingency provided for the 2009 local government pay award, the recession and for energy cost increases.  This contingency was available to assist services in meeting some of their cost pressures.  However, it was expected that services would take their own steps to keep within approved budgets and there was no presumption that the contingency would be applied.

The report also provided a review of progress on the Capital Investment Programme.  Typically, capital schemes had a long lead time and for larger schemes implementation would usually take place over more than one financial year.  This meant that in practice, the council regularly had to review the phasing of scheme spending from one year to the next when original timescales proved to be too optimistic.  Provided that funding was not time limited, re-phasing did not bring a financial penalty.  However, of more concern were schemes where spending was projected to exceed budget and where remedial action was necessary.

The third area covered by the report was the council’s efficiency savings target for 2008/11 and the requirement to confirm the target for 2009/2010.  Finally, the report reviewed the management of the council’s cash flow against the criteria and target set in the Treasury Management Strategy.  This included planned borrowing and investment.

The report then considered the revenue position which was detailed in appendix 1.  It presented a forecast of spending on services compared to the annual budget and then looked at the different elements of the forecasts and identified how the different spending pressures could be contained.  Paragraphs 3.1 to 3.8 set out a detailed commentary on the issues in relation to revenue.

The report then considered the impact of the 2009/2010 position on reserves and future prospects details of which were contained in paragraphs 3.9 to 3.12 and in Appendix 1A.  Capital was considered in detail in paragraphs 3.13 to 3.17 and in Appendix 2 and indicated that the 2009/2013 capital programme currently planned spending of £70m in 2009/2010, £85m in 2010/2011, £52m in 2011/2012 and £23m in 2012/2013.  This scale of spending was significantly above the level of recent years and included  three major investments: BSF, the Sports Academy (the Pods) and the Baths Hall.

The report then considered efficiency savings and indicated that for the period 2008/2011 government set an ambitious target of 10% efficiency savings for public sector bodies.  In the case of local government the savings remain with the local authority but must represent real cashable savings.  For North Lincolnshire Council the 10% target equated to £15.3m an increase on the original 9% figure of £13.6m.  Although the council had comfortably achieved the 7.5% target for 2005/2008 it had made a slow start against the new target.  Details were contained within paragraphs 3.18 and 3.20 and Appendix 3.

Finally, the report commented on treasury management and indicated that the recent crisis in world financial markets had made finding a secure home for surplus cash difficult.  The action taken by government to deal with the crisis, including an aggressive reduction in central bank base rates had also significantly impaired the council’s ability to secure a decent return on cash invested.  In setting the budget for 2009/2010, the target return on investment was reduced from £2m to £0.5m, with the emphasis on maximising security at the expense of return.  Only UK institutions with high credit ratings and backed by the government credit guarantee scheme were being used.  The recent investment position was shown at appendix 4 to the report.

In dealing with revenue, the impact on the position of reserves, capital, efficiency savings and treasury management a number of options for future action had been highlighted.

Resolved – (a) That earmarked reserves and contingency funds be applied as follows –

  • £0.500m of contingency to offset the impact of recession (paragraph 3.2 of the report refers).
  • £0.725m of earmarked reserves to meet additional costs on BSF, waste procurement and the property trading account (paragraph 3.3 of the report refers).
  • £0.166m of contingency to meet fuel cost inflation (paragraph 3.5 of the report refers).

(b) that services provide clear action plans to contain the balance of £0.711m cost pressures within approved budgets (paragraph 3.6 of the report refers); (c) that the amendments to the capital programme identified in appendix 2 to the report be approved; (d) that to ensure capital programme affordability –

  • A formal process be established to seek approval from the leader before new contracts are let.
  • A rigorous review of asset disposal options be made to substitute for those now delayed.
  • A search be made for radical revenue efficiencies to provide scope to finance an increase in prudential borrowing.

(e) that the efficiency savings target for 2009/2010 be set at £2.28m; (f) that the policy of accelerating the transformation programme be endorsed, and (g) that the treasury performance for the year to date be noted.

836  (18)  A STRATEGY FOR ADULT CARERS WHO CARE FOR VULNERABLE ADULTS IN NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE – The Service Director Adult Social Care submitted a report which indicated that in June 2008, the government had launched its national strategy for carers: “carers at the heart of 21st century families and communities: a caring system on your side; a life of your own.”  This set out a ten year vision, the aim of which was to enable carers to be universally recognised and valued as being fundamental to strong families and stable communities by 2018.  The strategy required support to be tailored to meet individuals’ needs, enabling carers to maintain a balance between their caring responsibilities and a life outside caring, whilst enabling the person they support to be a full and equal citizen.  It also included a number of short term and long term priorities to ensure that the vision was achieved by 2018.

In North Lincolnshire carers had been widely consulted and had informed Adult Social Care that the services they received were adequate but could be significantly improved.  The council acknowledged this and made services to carers a priority by including it in the Local Area Agreement.  Carers’ experiences in North Lincolnshire were outlined in the document “Is KnaCARERed a medical condition?”  This document was the result of research into the lives of carers in North Lincolnshire and had been produced in collaboration with carers.  As well as outlining the current challenges from the carers’ perspective, the document suggested ways of improving support for carers.

As a result of the publication of the National Strategy for Carers and the above mentioned document, Adult Social Care had approved the development of a North Lincolnshire Commissioning Strategy for Carers in April 2009.  The suggestions contained within the above documents including the National Strategy were reflected in the final draft of the Carers’ Commissioning Strategy.  This was attached to the report at appendix 1 and had been developed in full collaboration with carers and other key partners.

The report contained further detailed information about this proposal and indicated that within it there were no new financial implications.  The range of services to be commissioned would be funded from the Carers’ Grant which had now been incorporated into the Area Based Grant.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet notes the requirements placed on North Lincolnshire to produce a Carers’ Strategy; (b) that the contents of the report be noted and that the North Lincolnshire Commissioning Strategy for Carers attached as an appendix to the report be approved and adopted, and (c) that regular progress reports be submitted on this matter to the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services.

837  (19)  INSPECTION OF ADULT SOCIAL SERVICES – The Service Director Adult Social Care submitted a report informing members of the outcome of the service inspection conducted in July and August 2009 by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC was now the independent regulator of Health and Adult Social Care Services in England.  It had been formed in April 2009 and brought together into one body the former Health Care Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission.  The new commission would regularly inspect various aspects of local authorities’ social services functions.

Three inspectors and an “expert by experience” had undertaken the fieldwork between 27 July and 6 August 2009.  They had also inspected a range of relevant documents and the council’s website.  The objectives of the inspection were to evaluate –

  • How well vulnerable people were safeguarded from abuse, neglect and self harm.
  • How quality of life was improved for adults with learning disabilities.
  • How adults with learning disabilities had choice and control.
  • The council’s capacity to improve.

The inspection aimed to support local change and development and the inspection findings were always integral to the assessment of performance to the council.

The CQC’s rules stated that they had to present their report publicly to elected members and did not allow any pre-publication of it before that date.  However, a draft version of the report had been given to senior officers to allow them to prepare an action plan in response to the recommendations.  This action plan had been prepared, approved by the inspector and was presented at the cabinet meeting.

The inspection report was presented by Rod Hamilton, the Care Quality Commission Business Manager for North Lincolnshire who gave a detailed presentation on the contents of the inspection report and its outcomes together with the detailed action plan.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet notes the outcome of the inspection, and (b) that the action plan arising from the report be referred to the cabinet member for Adult Social Care for detailed consideration.

838  (20)  ANNUAL JOINT NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL/NORTH EAST LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL (NLC/NELC) JOINT PROCUREMENT UNIT UPDATE AND PROCUREMENT STRATEGY 2009/2012 – The Service Director Finance submitted a report which considered an update on the progress made by the joint NLC/NELC Procurement Unit over the last 12 months and sought approval to an updated procurement strategy for the period 2009/2012.

Procurement was a recognised and firmly established key strategic function underpinning all the council’s activities and was essential for achieving value for money, service improvement and demonstrating effective use of resources.  The council’s Joint Procurement Unit with North East Lincolnshire Council co-ordinated the £100m spent every year on bought in supplies, services and works. Over the last 12 months it had continued to make good progress across a broad range of activities in line with its aim of being a best in class function.  A summary of key performance highlights was set out in paragraph 2.2 of the report.  In order to build on this progress and provide a clear forward direction, an updated procurement strategy had been produced for the period 2009/2012.  Copies of the strategy had been deposited in the political group offices and were available on request.

The report contained detailed background information about this issue and indicated that the procurement landscape over the past 12 months had been particularly dynamic with the publication of the Glover Report, (SME economic engine) the Roots Review of Procurement, HM Treasury Transforming Government Procurement Report and Operational Efficiency Programme had all set new direction, aspirations and objectives for local government procurement.  At a local level the profile given to procurement as part of the response to the recession together with its increasingly important role in supporting service commissioning, efficiency and in delivering wider council objectives had increased.  These developments had been reflected in the updated strategy which had been re-focussed to support the attainment of a number of key outcomes as detailed in paragraph 2.6.  The strategy would be delivered through the successful implementation of an ambitious business plan which was set out in an appendix to the strategy.

Resolved – (a) That the progress of the joint team over the last year be noted; (b) that the procurement strategy for 2009/2012 be approved and adopted, and (c) that an update on progress with implementing the strategy and the performance of the joint unit be submitted to cabinet in October 2010.

839  (21)  LOCAL STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP (LSP) UPDATE – The Chief Executive submitted a report updating and briefing cabinet on the recent activities of the LSP.

The report indicated that representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors sit on the North Lincolnshire Local Strategic Partnership.  The partnership is a “pseudo” statutory requirement for all local authorities which is based on a group of key bodies in the area that meet to share resources and strategies for the benefit of the area as a whole.  The North Lincolnshire LSP had been co-ordinating the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA), and was at the heart of the new inspection regime.

The Audit Commission lead on the CAA and had been working with the LSP to develop the area assessment element of the CAA.  In May, a desktop exercise had been carried out to produce an “emerging picture” which had formed the basis for discussions for gathering evidence to support the areas highlighted.  The first draft of the CAA report had been presented to the LSP on 8 October and the final assessment report would be published on 10 December 2009.  The LSP had also been performance managing the Local Area Agreement (LAA) and the first year outturn report for 2008/2009 showed that of the 35 indicators, 13 met their year 1 targets, 9 did not and 9 were setting baselines in this year.  The remainder did not currently have year end data.

The report also contained further information about the activities of the LSP and a recent elected member briefing on it had highlighted areas for improvement in relation to representation and communication between the LSP and elected members.  The report set out details of current elected member representation on the LSP at all levels and emphasised the need to improve communications between the LSP and the council.  The LSP now submitted performance papers to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panels and all meeting agendas and subsequent board papers were now available on the LSP website for information.  Other areas of progress in relation to the LSP were detailed in the report.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet notes the progress of the CAA; (b) that cabinet supports the endorsement of the council’s performance management system; (c) that Councillor Christine O’Sullivan be nominated to serve on the Community Resilience Board and Councillor Mick Grant be nominated to serve on the Economic Development Board of the LSP; (d) that approval be given to a briefing paper and monthly newsletter for elected members and wider audiences of the work of the LSP, and (e) that cabinet continue to receive reports on the workings of the LSP at future meetings.

840  (22)  REVIEW OF NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE MARKETS – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report which considered the conclusions and recommendations of the Economic Development and Corporate Issues Scrutiny Panel in relation to a review of North Lincolnshire Markets.

At its meeting held on 23 September 2009, council had considered a report of the Economic Development and Corporate Issues Scrutiny Panel in relation to its review of North Lincolnshire Markets.  The report had been approved by council and referred to cabinet for consideration of the recommendations with a view to the preparation of an action plan.

Attached as an appendix to the report were the conclusions and 25 detailed recommendations arising from the review.

Resolved – That the Service Director Asset Management and Culture and other appropriate officers, together with the Leader of the Council prepare an action plan in response to the recommendations of the report for submission to a future meeting of cabinet.