Full Cabinet – 27 September 2011

PRESENT:  Councillor Mrs Redfern in the chair.

Councillors Briggs (vice chairman), Poole, C Sherwood, N Sherwood and Waltham.

Councillors Ali, Mrs Bromby, Bunyan, Carlile, Clark, Collinson, England, Evison, L Foster, T Foster, Glover, Gosling, Kirk, Marper, Ogg, Robinson, Rowson, Swift, Wells, Whiteley and Wilson also attended the meeting.

Simon Driver, Tim Allen, Theresa Anderson, Louise Baxter, Will Bell, Frances Cunning, Mick Gibbs, Denise Hyde, Neil Laminman, Helen Manderson, Becky McIntyre, Chris Skinner, Mike Wedgewood, Peter Williams and Mel Holmes also attended the meeting.

The meeting was held at Pittwood House, Scunthorpe.

934  DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – Councillors Briggs, Poole and N Sherwood all declared a personal interest in Agenda Item 6 – Consultation on Public Service Financial Reforms – as business ratepayers. 

935  MINUTES – Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of Cabinet held on 12 July 2011, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chairman. 

The Chief Executive updated Cabinet with regard to minute 928 in relation to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

936  (8)  OUTSTANDING ACTION FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS – The Director of Corporate and Community Services 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. 

937  (9)  “OPENING DOORS” – QUALITY STANDARD DEVELOPMENT – The Director of Children and Young People’s Services submitted a report seeking support on the use of the “Opening Doors” Quality Standard for access to services for disabled children and their families. This was a partnership initiative developed by North Lincolnshire Integrated Service for Disabled Children and disabled children and their parents.  

Disabled children and young people and their parents want to be actively involved in planning services for themselves and in the wider development of service provision for other disabled children and young people. They were particularly keen to be involved in removing barriers to accessing services.  Professionals from within the integrated service for disabled children had worked on the “opening doors” project in partnership with the Parents’ Involvement and Participation Group (PIP) and representatives from leisure services to develop a quality standard and mystery shopper framework. This framework was a tool to assess and audit access to services by disabled children and young people and would become an integral component of the inclusion agenda. This type of audit constructively and positively involved disabled children and young people and their parents in evaluating services and provision. The audit tool was based upon the requirements and principles set out in the Equality Act 2010.

The “opening doors” standard was a pioneering project in the North Lincolnshire area and had already gained the interests and support of the Council for Disabled Children. The standard recognised and highlighted issues that disabled children and young people faced in their everyday lives and would help them to make a more informed choice as to which services they used.  The standard would highlight access for disabled children and young people in three key areas as follows: 

  • Facilities – the provision of facilities such as an accessible toilet and changing facilities, induction loop, hoist etc.
  • Access – how easily accessible a service is, based on ease of access through the use of electronic/push button doors, access ramps, lifts and signage, etc.
  • Staff Awareness – the awareness that staff have of different disabilities, how they support disabled people and the training staff have received.

It was proposed that the “opening door” standard be awarded as gold, silver or bronze dependent upon set criteria which would take the form of an evaluation. During the development phase of the project a draft standard had been tested in a number of settings by disabled young people and amended to take account of their views. The young people evaluations were also positively received by the settings and some actions for them to make improvements.This had been very positive and constructive.

The report contained further detailed information about this project including details about the criteria and the use of mystery shoppers. 

The report was complemented by an excellent presentation by Jack Marshall, a young person who had been involved in developing this initiative. Jack outlined how he had been involved using Epworth Leisure Centre and what had been achieved in changes made at the centre as a result of his involvement. Jack was accompanied by his mother Linda Marshall who also commented on the work done.

Resolved – That cabinet supports the development of the “opening doors” quality standard and endorses it for all council buildings. 

938  (10)  SEPTEMBER BUDGET REVIEW 2011/2012 – The Director of Finance submitted the council’s budget review for 2011/2012.  At regular intervals, cabinet received a formal report on the budget position which allowed it to take an opportunity to take stock of how plans were progressing and take corrective action if necessary. 

The report tracked council expenditure and income by service in the current financial year and considered the actions services were taking to resolve problems and identify where there were saving opportunities.  Where appropriate the use of contingency funds was considered.  The report also looked at progress on the council’s capital investment programme which included major multi-year projects such as Building Schools for the Future (BSF), The Pods, The Baths Hall and road maintenance.  Finally, the report also reviewed the management of the council’s cash investments and debt management against the criteria and targets set in the Treasury Management Strategy for 2011/2012.

Changes had been made to the 2011/2012 budget at council in June 2011 to reflect changes of policy following the recent election.  These included some new spending commitments funded by identified savings, and maintained a balanced budget for 2011/2012.  The report also considered performance against the latest approved budget.

The report then considered in detail the revenue budget, schools budgets, the approved capital budget, and treasury management.  The key points arising from the report were – 

  • Overall spending against the revenue budget for the day to day operation of services was on target.Pressures were being contained by services and increases in energy costs could be covered from the contingency fund set aside for the purpose.
  • There were changes to parts of the capital programme, in particular costs and phasing for Buildings Schools for the Future and the Carlton Street Car Park.
  • Cash balances and debt were reducing in line with the planned treasury strategy.
  • A further dividend had been received from the administrators of Heritable Bank. The Icelandic Supreme Court would shortly rule on the preferential status of local authorities with Landsbanki. 

Attached as an appendix to the report was a copy of revised service budgets.

Resolved – (a) That the revised service budgets attached as appendix 1 to the report be approved; (b) that the changes to the capital programme contained within paragraph 3.11 of the report be approved, and (c) that the latest position on treasury management be noted. 

939  (11)  CONSULTATIONS ON PUBLIC SERVICE FINANCIAL REFORMS – A report was submitted by the Director of Finance which introduced a series of consultations which were part of the government’s reform agenda. Each had implications for the funding and delivery of local services and covered three areas: 

  • Business Rates
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • The School Funding Formula 

The government had an ambitious legislative programme which included a radical re-design of public services. The principles which underpinned the new vision included:  

  • Decentralisation of powers to individuals and communities.
  • Freeing frontline service providers to innovate and encourage diverse provision.
  • To make public services responsive to those who need them.
  • Ensuring fairness through equality of access. 

The consultations covered within the report addressed three specific proposals: 

  • The retention of business rates income by local authorities
  • The transfer of responsibility for council tax benefit to local authorities as part of a wider reform of the benefit system
  • The new formula for government funding of schools. 

These separate consultations invited responses from all interested parties and attached to the report were three appendices on each element as follows: 

  • Local Government Resource Review – Proposals for Business Rates Retention – Appendix 1
  • Localising Support for Council Tax in England – Appendix 2
  • A Consultation on School Funding Reform – Proposals for a Fairer System – Appendix 3. 

Resolved – That the consultations and comments set out in the appendices to the report be noted and responses to each of the consultations finalised in consultation with cabinet members. 

940  (12)  COLLABORATIVE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS BETWEEN NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL AND NORTH LINDSEY COLLEGE – The Director of Corporate and Community Services submitted a report which considered the establishment of a collaborative project between North Lincolnshire Council and North Lindsey College to develop adult learning provision and approve governance arrangements for a proposed project board. 

The council had provided quality formal and informal learning opportunities to adults across North Lincolnshire for many years through its adult community learning service.  This service was funded by external grants.  The Skills Funding Agency provided most of the funding through its adult skills and adult safeguarded funding streams.  There was also a small grant from the Young People’s Learning Agency and the total value of external funding grants was currently around £1.5m.  The level of external funding had fallen considerably in the last few years and there had been a consequent fall in learner numbers.  In the present financial climate it was uncertain whether current levels of external funding would be sustained in the long term.

The council needed to consider how best to develop sustainable adult learning services that would meet learners needs, ensure equity of access across North Lincolnshire and endeavour to avoid costs for local taxpayers. Discussions had been held with North Lindsey College about setting up a collaborative project to develop adult community learning for North Lincolnshire.  Key potential outputs for the project including developing a strategic plan for adult learning across the area and shaping a broader curriculum offer in more localities.  The project would seek to develop more integrated and streamlined services such as a joint marketing approach and a single enrolment system which would help achieve economies of scale and improve value for money.  A business review of the council’s adult community learning services would also be undertaken by the project over the next year to ensure fitness for future purpose.  This could result in new service structures and delivery arrangements.

Within the proposed collaborative working arrangements both the council and the college would continue as learning providers in their own right and the council would also continue to receive and be accountable for the £1.5m grant currently received from the Skills Funding Agency.  Integral to the proposed project was the establishment of a project board to included elected member and service manager and staff representatives from the council and from the college.  The role of the board would be to make recommendations on the future development of adult community learning services. It would not be vested with any decision making authority.  Any decisions needed to implement the project board’s recommendations would need to be approved through the council’s and college’s decision making processes.

The report contained further detailed information about this proposal together with the options available.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet supports the establishment of a collaborative project between the council and North Lindsey College to develop enhanced and broader adult learning provision for North Lincolnshire; (b) that cabinet approves the creation of a joint project board and other governance arrangements for the collaborative project as set out in the report, and (c) that the cabinet member for Adult and Children’s Services be the council’s elected member representative on the project board. 

941  (13)  NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE FOSTER CARERS’ CHARTER – The Director of Children and Young People’s Services submitted a report informing cabinet and seeking cabinet support regarding the North Lincolnshire Council Foster Carers’ Charter. 

The council had a well established and effective fostering service with a stable population of carers who provided a high quality service for children in care. Over the last two years the service had prioritised recruitment, training and support to carers and this was now showing real success with a substantial increase in carers, low numbers of placement moves and carers who say they valued the support they received resulting in very high retention rates. The council had also demonstrated its commitment to further improving the choice, quality and sufficiency of family placements by substantial investment in the fostering service, including the creation of a dedicated service manager post, two additional fostering social workers and two senior social workers in the service.

In March 2011, the Government had launched the Foster Carers’ Charter. This was jointly produced with fostering organisations, charities and children. Recognising the invaluable work of foster carers, it set out clear principles based on the core belief that children come first, on how foster carers should be treated, the roles of carers and the pivotal role played by carers in helping children achieve their full potential.  The national fostering organisation ‘Fostering Network’ subsequently produced guidance – ‘The Foster Carers’ Charter: Putting It Into Practice’ as a tool to enable local authorities to put the Government’s charter into practice and develop their own local charters.

North Lincolnshire had embraced the principles of the charter and, using the fostering network guidance, undertaken consultations with children, young people and foster carers to develop the ‘North Lincolnshire Foster Carers’ Charter’.  This charter builds on the existing solid foundations and includes the ongoing commitment by North Lincolnshire Council to carers through day-to-day support, events and activities for foster families, to listen to carers and children, to value highly the contribution of carers in all areas, to have high aspirations for the children in care and to further develop and expand foster care in North Lincolnshire.

The North Lincolnshire Foster Carers’ Charter included: 

  • What foster carers can expect from the North Lincolnshire Council Fostering Service and its partners
  • What the North Lincolnshire Fostering Service can expect from foster carers
  • What children in foster care expect from North Lincolnshire Council and North Lincolnshire Foster Carers. 

The North Lincolnshire Foster Carers’ Charter had been launched at the annual ‘Foster Fun Day’ on 10 September 2011.   A copy of the charter was attached as an appendix to the report.

Resolved – That cabinet approves the Foster Carers’ Charter and commits to offer support through its corporate parenting role.

942  (14)  RENEWABLE ENERGY STRATEGY – The Director of Infrastructure Services submitted a report seeking approval to adopt a renewable energy strategy for the council.  If approved, the strategy would ensure that renewable energy options would be built into all the council’s projects.

The council had previously adopted a carbon management plan which set a target of reducing the council’s carbon footprint by 33 per cent by 2014.  In addition, the government had set its own national targets to ensure that the country produced more energy from renewable sources. It wanted 15 per cent of all the country’s energy needs to come from renewables by 2020.  The government had also recently increased its carbon reduction target to 50 per cent by 2025. Renewable energy is one of the main ways that the government believes we can achieve our carbon emissions reduction targets.  To ensure that opportunities for adopting renewable energy were taken up, the government has launched the Feed in Tariffs (FIT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme. Both schemes offered a subsidy to those who produced their own renewable energy.

The report contained further detailed information about the strategy and the financial implications in relation to the RHI and FIT projects which were included in the capital programme. A copy of the full strategy was attached as an appendix to the report.

Resolved – (a) That cabinet approves the Renewable Energy Strategy as attached to the report, and (b) that cabinet also acknowledges the work so far carried out in relation to this matter and requests that further work and proposed actions be developed and submitted to future meetings.