Economic Development and Corporate Issues Scrutiny Panel – 9 February 2009
PRESENT: Councillor Smith in the chair.
Councillors Wardle (vice-chairman), Ali, Bainbridge, Barkworth, Berry and Waltham.
The panel met at Pittwood House, Scunthorpe.
89 DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS AND DECLARATIONS OF WHIPPING ARRANGEMENTS (IF ANY) – The following member declared a personal interest in the following matter:
Subject & Nature of Interest
|Councillor M Ali||93||Licence Holder|
No whip was declared.
90 PUBLIC SPEAKING – Council Tax Recovery (Mr J Corlett) – The Chair advised members that a request had been received asking to address the panel about Council Tax Recovery in North Lincolnshire. Mr Julian Corlett was introduced to the panel and invited to explain his concerns with regards to Council Tax Recovery.
Mr Corlett explained that he was appearing before the Scrutiny Panel as the Secretary of the Scunthorpe Health branch of Unison. Mr Corlett advised the panel that he was representing a member of the public who had received a demand for full immediate payment of arrears to avoid the risk of committal to prison. Specific reference was made to identifying people with differing needs, particularly making a distinction between debtors who could not pay as opposed to those who would not pay.
Mr Corlett summarised by asking the council to review its modus operandi in respect of council tax recovery, and urgently introduce a transparent monitoring system that objectively evaluated the working practices of delegated recovery agents to satisfy itself of their compliance, in all cases, with the national standards for enforcement agents.
Discussions ensued with Mike Wedgewood, Service Director Finance and Carol Johnson, Local Taxation and Benefits Manager. The Service Director Finance confirmed that the agents in question were one of two companies that had been contracted by the council as enforcement agents. He advised that Rossendale agents had received training to identify vulnerability and that systems were in place to retract the bailiffs if vulnerability was evident.
Members engaged in further discussions with the Service Director Finance, the Local Taxation and Benefits Manager and Mr Corlett. Mr Corlett was asked to provide specific details of the case in question so that a full enquiry could be made to ascertain whether the council’s recovery procedures had been followed, or had failed in the particular case in question.
Resolved – (a) That the subject be added to the panel’s work programme, (b) that the Service Director Finance ascertain that both recovery agents have a vulnerability policy in place and that this is adhered to, (c) that Mr Julian Corlett be thanked for his attendance and speech at the meeting, and (d) that Mike Wedgewood, Service Director Finance and Carol Johnson, Local Taxation and Benefits Manager be thanked for their attendance and input at the meeting.
91 CORPORATE QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE REVIEW – presentation from the council’s Performance Manager – The Chair welcomed Caroline Barkley, Head of Strategic Development and Nigel Manders, Performance Manager to the meeting. The Performance Manager was invited to deliver an oral presentation.
Nigel Manders provided an explanation into the Corporate Quarterly Performance Review, an overview of who had sight of the results, where the information was reported and also where this information was obtained from, which included external partners.
The panel was advised that many of the ‘new’ indicators did not, at present, have substantiated figures to report on the performance report that had been circulated, and that this information would not be readily available until the following quarterly report. On this basis, and also upon the recommendation of the Audit Commission, it was asked that any information contained therein would not published. The Head of Strategic Development confirmed that information would be released to the press in due course.
Discussion followed and members were advised of the importance for overview and scrutiny to be involved within the performance monitoring process, how this would be evaluated within the Comprehensive Performance Assessment and ultimately the Corporate Area Assessment. Amendments were suggested to the reporting format so that the information was tailored to the specific requirements of the panel.
Resolved – (a) That members of the Economic Development and Corporate Issues scrutiny panel receive targeted training on performance indicators from the Head of Strategic Development and the Performance Manager before the next Corporate Quarterly Performance Review; (b) that the position be noted, and (c) that the Head of Strategic Development and the Performance Manager be thanked for their attendance at the meeting.
92 PERFORMANCE MONITORING ARRANGEMENTS – The Chair invited the Service Director Legal and Democratic Service to address the panel.
Members were advised that meetings had taken place with the Performance Manager, Scrutiny Officers and also the Manager of the Local Strategic Partnership, to map out an acceptable solution for overview and scrutiny’s involvement within the Performance Monitoring Arrangements. A solution had been reached, and this had been presented to Chairs and Vice-chairs at the last meeting of the Scrutiny Coordinating Panel for approval.
The Service Director Legal and Democratic confirmed that the arrangements had been approved and referred members of the panel to the information that had been circulated.
Resolved – That the position be noted.
93 NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE MARKETS – Update – The Service Director Legal and Democratic confirmed that the draft report was underway and that it would be presented to the panel in due course.
Members were also advised that correspondence had been sent to John Leggott College asking for assistance with the market review, to date no response had been received.
Resolved – (a) That the position be noted, and (b) that the Chair write to the Principal of John Leggot College asking for a response to the panel’s request.
94 (11) LEADER OF THE COUNCILS FORWARD PLAN – FEBRUARY TO MAY 2009 – The Service Director Legal and Democratic circulated the Leader of North Lincolnshire Council’s Forward Plan for February to May 2009.
The plan contained details of all matters and issues likely to be the subject of key decisions for a period of the next four months, updated on a monthly basis.
Resolved – That the Leader of the Council’s Forward Plan for February to May 2009 be noted.
95 ADDED ITEM – The Service Director Legal and Democratic service advised members that a special meeting with the Service Director Finance had been suggested, to review the Budget. Two proposed dates had been proposed.
Resolved – (a) That the position be noted, and (b) that a meeting be arranged for 19 February 2009, with the Service Director Finance, to review details of the budget.