Full Cabinet – 29 September 2010

PRESENT: Councillor Kirk in the chair.

Councillors Foster (vice-chair), Carlile, Grant, O’Sullivan, Swift and Regan.

Councillors Barkworth, J Briggs, Mrs Redfern, Whiteley and Wilson also attended the meeting.

Simon Driver, Caroline Barkley, Alan Bravey, Mike Briggs, Darren Chaplin, Frances Cunning, Liesel Dickinson, Keith Ford, Denise Hyde, Neil Laminman, Geoff Popple, Paul Savage, Chris Skinner, Susan Twemlow, Dave Watson, Mike Wedgewood, Jason Whaler, Peter Williams and Mel Holmes also attended the meeting.

898 DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – Councillor Mark Kirk declared a personal interest as a member of the board of Yorkshire Forward.

899 MINUTES – Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of cabinet held on 21 July 2010, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair.

900 (22) OUTSTANDING ACTION FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS – 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.

901 (23) SEPTEMBER BUDGET REVIEW 2010/2011 – The Service Director Finance submitted a report in connection with the September Budget Review 2010/2011. The council monitors spending against budget month by month through the year, with a formal report to cabinet at regular intervals. The report now submitted provided an opportunity to take stock of the spending position and to take corrective action where necessary.

The report tracked current expenditure and income for council services in this financial year and provided an opportunity to consider where services had difficulties containing expenditure within budget or compensating for a fall in income. It also considered the actions being taken to resolve problems and identify where there are saving opportunities. The report considered both the revenue and capital programme. Typically, capital schemes had a long lead time and for larger schemes implementation usually takes place over more than one financial year. In practice therefore the council regularly had to review the phasing of scheme spending from one year to the next. The report also reviewed the management of the council’s cash flow against the criteria of targets set in the Treasury Management Strategy and reported on progress in meeting the council’s efficiency savings target.

In July, cabinet reviewed the budget for 2010/2011, and in particular considered the impact of grant cuts made by the new coalition government. Cuts of this nature in grant funding during a budget year were unprecedented and required an urgent reappraisal of service plans. At that point the key reductions were

  • A £1.2m cut in area based grant
  • A £1.3m cut in highways capital

At that meeting cabinet agreed proposals to reduce the 2010/11 revenue and capital budgets by this value and in addition took the view that discretionary funds of £0.2m carried forward from 2009/2010 should now be returned to balances and that discretionary spending of £0.5m from the capital programme should also be withdrawn. Further government cuts in specific grant followed which at the end of August totalled £0.9m revenue and £0.1m capital. In total, therefore, there have been reductions in revenue spending of £2.1m and capital spending of £1.9m compared to what was approved by Council in February, 2010.

The report then considered the current situation. In relation to the revenue budget, services had to deal with a range of spending pressures which typically arise during the year and which need to be contained within existing resources. Within the financial monitoring at the end of August, services had indicated a number of specific pressures and savings which would impact within the financial year. These were summarised by service in appendix 1 and set out in detail at paragraph 3.2 of the report. It showed a balanced budget position across services overall. Although the spending pressures identified to date could be contained in 2010/2011, the prospect was that government grants would fall substantially in the 2011/2015 period. Permanent solutions, therefore, had to be found now to the pressures in service based budgets. This would allow savings from cash flow management to be used in future to decrease the level of service reductions required to offset government grant cuts. Indeed, the period ahead would require a undamental rethink of what public services deliver and how.

In relation to capital, the August monitoring was projecting an underspend of £7.8m in the first year of the 2010/2014 capital programme. This was predominantly an issue of the timing of expenditure on Building Schools for the Future, the primary capital programme, schools devolved capital, Messingham Primary School and a number of other projects where scheme starts were now later than first anticipated. In addition, there were two schemes where programme costs had been reduced. The details were shown at appendix 2 to the report. Cabinet in July had approved reductions of £1.8m in the programme following government grant cuts and the Corporate Services Cabinet Member had approved a number of virements under delegated powers. This gives planned spending of £86.3m in the first year of the 2010/2014 capital programme, before the further changes proposed in this report.

The report then considered the Treasury Management position which indicated that within the parameters set by the approved strategy for 2010/2011, investments had been made in a narrow range of UK institutions and for periods of one month or less. his included UK banks, the Nationwide Building Society and governmental bodies including the Debt Management Office and other local authorities. Outstanding investments at the end of August 2010 were £36.2m, including £7.3m with the council’s own bankers. Details were contained in appendix 3 to the report. The report also commented on the joint action through the Local Government Association (LGA) in relation to the recovery of funds invested with Icelandic Banks. The latest advice was to expect a return of 85 per cent in the pound for Heritable Bank and 95 per cent in the pound from Landsbanki. The amount received to date by the council from Heritable was now £1.451m on the council’s claim totalling £3.518m. Action to defend the priority creditor status of local authority deposits in Landsbanki is due to start shortly in the Icelandic Courts.

Finally, the report considered the previous government’s ambitious target of 10 per cent cash releasing efficiency savings for public sector bodies. These were savings which had no adverse impact on services and which were lasting. For North Lincolnshire Council, the 10 per cent equated to £15.3m. The coalition government had not withdrawn its requirement and cabinet had therefore to agree an in year efficiency target for the final year 2010/2011. The council’s previous track record was good and it had comfortably achieved its savings target for the 2005/2008 period. However, it identified only modest savings of £2.4m in the first year of the new target regime which covered the period 2008/2011. This was in part because not all savings generated outside the budget setting process were being captured, efficiencies become harder to find over time and in part because the council’s transformation programme is still in its early stages. A Performance Improvement Panel had been held in November 2009 and an action plan agreed. This increased to £8m in identified cash releasing savings made by 31 March 2010, a substantial step forward. So far in 2010/2011, £1.6m of further savings had been identified largely through the budget process. Details were set out in appendix 4. In previous years this mid year figure had been taken as a target figure for the year. It would leave a shortfall of £5.9m against the three year target of £15.3m. It was unlikely that the full £15.3m could be delivered at this stage of the council’s transformation programme and for now it was proposed that £1.6m be set as an interim target, and that a further exercise be initiated to capture other service efficiencies which had been generated during 2010/2011.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet notes that the 2010/2011 forecast spending is within overall budget but requires that cabinet members in conjunction with service directors propose initiatives to contain forecast overspends and emerging pressures within approved service budgets, with progress being considered in the December budget review; (b) that cabinet approves changes to the capital programme as detailed in appendix 2 to the report; (c) that cabinet approves an efficiency target of £1.6m for 2010/2011 with a further exercise to capture other service efficiencies generated during 2010/2011, and (d) that cabinet notes the performance against the approved treasury strategy.

902 (24) ANNUAL JOINT NORTH LINCOLSHIRE COUNCIL/NORTH EAST LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL JOINT PROCUREMENT UNIT UPDATE AND PROCUREMENT STRATEGY 2010/2013 – The Service Director Finance submitted a report which provided an update on the progress made by Procurement Alliance North and North East Lincolnshire (PANNEL) during the last twelve months and introduced an updated procurement strategy for the period 2010/2013.

The council’s Joint Procurement Unit with North East Lincolnshire Council co-ordinates the £212m spent every year on supplies, services and works across both councils. A joint team had now been operational for four years. PANNEL had continued to make progress over the last twelve months across a broad range of development activities. A summary of key performance highlights over the last twelve months were set out in paragraph 2.2 of the report, along with a number of developments.

To build on this progress, an updated Joint Procurement Strategy had been produced to ensure that procurement activity continued to support national agendas and deliver local priorities. At national and regional level, the procurement landscape remained dynamic with expectations from the new coalition government that public sector procurement would continue to drive cost reduction and economic growth. At local level the essential role of good procurement in the successful delivery of projects as well as supporting service commissioning, efficiency, cost-reduction and local economic development was now widely recognised. These aspirations and priorities were reflected in the updated strategy. Four improvement themes had been determined to help focus on procurement development work and these were detailed in paragraph 2.6 of the report.

A copy of the full draft strategy had been deposited in the political group offices and was available on request.

Resolved – (a) That the progress of the joint team over the last year be noted; (b) that the procurement strategy for 2010/2013 be approved, and (c) that an update on progress with implementing the strategy and PANNEL’s performance be submitted to Cabinet in October 2011.

903 (25) CORPORATE DIVERSITY PLAN – The Chief Executive submitted a report which presented Cabinet with the final draft of the Corporate Diversity Plan (CDP) for 2010/2013.

The council had a statutory duty to promote equality, and the Corporate Diversity Plan was the primary document identifying how the council was doing/would do this in the future. The plan for 2010-2013 had been written to align with area priorities and the council’s strategic and transformational priorities. It replaced the existing plan and diversity schemes and synchronises action across all diversity strands into one document. The plan detailed action under a framework of eight identified priorities, details of which were set out in paragraph 2.3 of the report. A copy of the plan had been deposited in the political group offices and was available on request.

The Chief Executive also reported that the council had been given the Investors in Diversity Award and was the first Local Authority in the country to receive the award in recognition of its commitment to diversity.

Resolved – (a) That Cabinet approves the Corporate Diversity Plan for 2010-2013; (b) that further reports be submitted to Cabinet on a periodic basis on the implementation and monitoring of the plan, and (c) that everyone involved in achieving the Investors in Diversity award be thanked for their work.

904 (26) EMERGENCY PLANNING AND BUSINESS CONTINUITY POLICY AND STRATEGY – A report was submitted by the Service Director Highways and Planning seeking approval for the emergency planning and business continuity policy and supporting strategy in relation to North Lincolnshire Council.

The council is defined as a Category 1 responder under the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) 2004 and its supporting regulations. This places seven duties on the council. These were set out in Appendix 1 to the report. However at the present time there was no agreed policy or strategy to ensure the duties were effectively discharged. A policy and strategy had therefore been prepared and copies had been deposited in the political group offices and were available on request.

The council operates a Tactical Emergency Planning Working Group (TEPWG) comprising representatives from all service areas to oversee the emergency planning and business continuity activities. That group works to agreed terms of reference which were set out in Appendix 2 of the report. However, the terms of reference did not provide clear guidance on how the responsibilities placed on the council by the CCA and supporting Regulations would be managed.

The council, using the TEPWG, had overseen the council’s emergency planning and later business continuity arrangements since around 1997 without the need for a formal policy or strategy. The first option in the report was to continue to use this group to discharge the CCA duties and supporting Regulations on an ad-hoc basis. Option 2 was to adopt the Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Policy and an Emergency Planning & Business Continuity Strategy as deposited in the political group offices.

The report was complemented by a presentation by the Head of the Humber Emergency Planning Service.

Resolved – (a) That the report and presentation be noted, and (b) that the council agrees to adopt the policy and strategy as detailed in the report.

905 (27) NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE OPEN WATER SAFETY STRATEGY – The Service Director Highways and Planning and the Assistant Director Human Resources submitted a joint report seeking approval of a strategy for the management of council owned water courses and open water areas, which would also provide advice and guidance for others external to the council with similar areas under their control.

As a result of a number of tragic accidents at Ashby Ville Ponds, a Working Group had been established to consider the risks and proposed options for managing the site more effectively. The Group had been chaired by the Service Director Highways and Planning with representation from the council, Humberside Police, Humberside Fire and Rescue and other organisations with an interest in the site. The Working Group had proposed a number of actions which had been quickly put into place and these included six larger permanent signs, colour coded and numbered to warn of the dangers, an emergency plan which identified clear access and rendezvous points, more formal site supervision, including the use of volunteers, information leaflets to be distributed and schools consulted in the neighbourhood.

As a result of this successful outcome for Lakeside, it had been agreed to consider other bodies of water within North Lincolnshire to improve their safety and raise the awareness of the dangers. The group had therefore been extended to include Children’s Services and Leisure. In the first instance this group identified the number of bodies of water within North Lincolnshire and categorised these into three distinct areas: high, medium and low risk. In addition, every Town and Parish Council in North Lincolnshire was consulted to gather local information on specific areas of concern. The designation of sites into the three categories was dependent upon a formal risk assessment process and any recommended risk reduction measures would reflect the relevant dangers and, in the case of low risk sites, might only consist of awareness raising, provision of information and education, through to treatment along the lines of the Lakeside project for higher risk sites.

As a result of the work referred to above, an open water safety strategy had been put together and agreed by a number of experienced and interested organisations which would serve to raise awareness of the dangers associated with open water and also provide practical advice to mitigate the associated risks. Cabinet was asked to adopt the policy for implementation. A copy of the draft policy was attached as an appendix to the report.

Resolved – That the North Lincolnshire Open Water Strategy be approved and implemented immediately and that the need for basic funding for safety equipment and signage be accepted.

906 (28) CHILDCARE SUFFICIENCY DUTIES – SINGLE FUNDING FORMULA – The Director of Children’s Services submitted a report which indicated that the Child Care Act 2006 required all local authorities to implement an open and transparent funding mechanism to underpin the provision of free and flexible early education for three and four-year-olds in all settings from April 2011. North Lincolnshire had been identified as a pathfinder authority to pilot the funding mechanism.

The Child Care Act 2006 identified a range of new and amended duties to be introduced by a phased timetable of implementation. Within the range of duties there was a small subset of sufficiency duties. Details of these were set out in paragraph 2.1 of the report. It was the council’s responsibility to ensure sufficient provision was available for local need. To date this had been achieved but was under constant review to ensure any changes were responded to in a timely manner.

The final measure to be implemented as part of the Act was a requirement to develop and introduce an ‘Early Years Single Formula Funding process’. The formula had to meet a number of the requirements which were detailed in paragraph 2.2 of the report. In addition, the requirement would become a statutory duty from April 2011.

Extensive consultations across all settings had been carried out to identify the challenges faced in terms of identifying a transparent funding formula providing the free entitlement for all three and four-year-olds. As a result of the consultation process an agreed single funding formula had been established in agreement with all early years providers, the Schools Forum and the Local Authority Children and Young People’s Finance Team. The formula had been piloted as part of the council’s pathfinder status. The opportunity to pilot the funding formula had given the council the opportunity to refine the formula to address any unintended consequences. As a result, a number of adjustments had been agreed with the providers from the non-maintained (voluntary and private sector) and maintained sectors (school). In addition, a contingency fund had been agreed with the Schools’ Forum to provide ongoing transitional support for all settings. Whilst there were still a small number of issues to be dealt with, there was now an agreed process for resolution and this would ensure the council would meet its statutory sufficiency duties.

Resolved – That approval be given to the implementation of 2011-2012 Early Years Single Funding Formula which had been developed in the 2010-2011 pilot phase for all early years’ providers.

907 (29) SCRUTINY REVIEW OF SCHOOL ABSENCE – UPDATE – The Director of Children’s Services submitted a progress report on the actions undertaken in response to the recommendations of the report published by the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel entitled ‘Report on School Absence in North Lincolnshire’.

The Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel had undertaken a review of school absence and the subsequent recommendations arising from the review had been developed into a School Absence Action Plan. The report set out the progress made so far on the recommendations and actions with a detailed appendix showing how these were being dealt with.

Good school attendance was crucial to the effective education of children and young people and for improving their life chances. Children who were not in school regularly were at risk on many levels and could be highly vulnerable. As part of this, parents had the responsibility to ensure that their children attended school and schools were responsible for the recording and following up of any absences of pupils. The council had the responsibility to support and challenge parents and schools in reducing school absence. This role was undertaken by the Education Welfare Service (EWS).

The update and action plan showed how work was progressing in relation to this matter.

Resolved – (a) That the progress and actions in relation to the School Absence Action Plan be noted and supported, and (b) that Cabinet supports all reasonable steps being taken to successfully complete actions that are currently in progress.

908 (30) PROMOTING THE HEALTH AND WELL BEING OF NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL’S STAFF – The Service Director Legal and Democratic submitted a report which considered the conclusions and recommendations of the Healthier Communities and Older People Scrutiny Panel in relation to promoting the health and well being of North Lincolnshire Council’s staff.

At its meeting held on 14 July 2010, the council had considered a report of the Healthier Communities and Older People Scrutiny Panel entitled ‘Promoting the Health and Well Being of North Lincolnshire Council’s Staff.’ 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.

Resolved – That the Assistant Director Human Resources and the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services prepare an action plan in response to the recommendations of the report for submission to a future meeting of Cabinet.