Agenda and minutes

Venue: Level 8, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford

Contact: Committee Services, Breckland Council  Tel: 01362 656870

Items
No. Item

35.

Election of Chairman

To elect a Chairman for the ensuing year.

Minutes:

         RESOLVED that Mr P.D. Claussen be elected Chairman for the ensuing year.

 

36.

Appointment of Vice-Chairman

To appoint a Vice-Chairman for the ensuing year.

Minutes:

         RESOLVED that Mr. G. Wilson be appointed Vice-Chairman for the ensuing year.

 

37.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 83 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 26 April 2007.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 26 April 2007 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

Matter Arising – Minute 33/07: Request for Special Meeting

 

The Revenues Strategic Manager updated Members on the position regarding the arrangements for a special meeting to consider the new Breckland pay scheme proposals in relation to the issue of pay harmonisation for ARP staff.

 

The original date proposed for the special meeting on 31 May had not proceeded and there had been much movement in the negotiations between the Breckland Management and the union on the proposed pay scheme in the interim.

 

Details of the current status of these negotiations were explained and the position on the potential for strike or other industrial action was noted.  Although it was hoped that the potential industrial action at Breckland would be avoided, contingency plans were in place to ensure that the service provided for the partner authorities would not be affected in the event of any industrial action going ahead.

 

So far as the implications for the ARP were concerned, the point was made by Mr Burnip that he had found it difficult to obtain up to date information on the situation.  While he was conscious that this was a matter for Breckland, there were nonetheless issues of maintaining the service and reputation of the ARP as a centre of excellence which needed to be assured.

 

The concern was acknowledged and it was agreed that it would be helpful to put in place a protocol to cover any such similar high risk situations in the future to ensure that information was conveyed between the partner authorities at senior officer level at an early point and that, if necessary, a meeting of the Joint Committee was convened at an appropriate moment to consider contingency plans to cover the situation.

 

Accordingly, it was

 

         RESOLVED that the following protocol be agreed to apply in any future high risk situation arising affecting a partner authority which has potential implications for the ARP as a whole:

 

(1)         the Chief Executive be the formal point of contact between the partner authorities;

(2)         an early meeting of the Joint Committee be convened (if necessary, by telephone conference or by written communication) at an appropriate point to consider what contingency plans have been or need to be put in place to preserve the service and reputation of the ARP.

 

38.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Messrs. P. Cresswell, E. Stewart, K. Davis and M. Finch and Mrs S. Jones.

 

39.

Urgent Business (Agenda Item 3)

Minutes:

Bosnia Herzegovina Return Visit

 

This item was raised as urgent business as an early decision was required.

 

The Revenues Performance Manager reported that, further to Minute 28/07 of the last meeting, the visit of the delegation from Bosnia Herzegovina on 5th and 6th June had taken place and had been very successful.

 

There was now an opportunity for the ARP to make a return visit to Bosnia on 5th – 7th September 2007.  Two places for the visit could be funded by the Bosnian Local Authorities.  Ideally, it was felt the return delegation should be made up of one member and officer from each of the partner authorities.

 

The Joint Committee was asked to consider whether it wished to take up the opportunity to make a return visit and whether any additional places could be funded by the ARP.

 

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the proposal for a return visit be agreed in principle;

 

(2)         the Revenues Strategic Manager be asked to investigate whether any additional places can be funded by the ARP; and

 

(3)         subject to (2) above, the Revenues Strategic Manager liaise with members to agree which members/officers should make up the delegation.

 

40.

Performance Report - April and May 2007 (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 110 KB

Reports of the Operational Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Performance Manager presented the performance statistics for the period ending 31 May 2007.

 

It was explained that the items currently showing ‘amber’ status was due to increases in caseloads but the figures were expected to improve over the next month or so.

 

The position on partnership growth and the discussions currently taking place with North Norfolk District Council was noted. 

 

It was also explained that the statistics for East Cambridgeshire were incomplete at the date of the report due to the fact that the transfer of data from Capita was still in progress.  This information would, however, be available for future reports.

 

It was noted that there had been some issues relating to the East Cambridgeshire data transfer from Capita and a final audit report was awaited.  It was proposed that the results of the audit report should be discussed by the officers to determine the way forward and to set appropriate future targets.  There was likely to be a consequent dip in this year’s performance statistics as a result but it was expected that next year would show a much improved performance.

 

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the report be noted;

 

(2)    with regard to the audit report on the issue of data transfer from East Cambridgeshire, the results of the audit report be discussed by the officers to determine the way forward and to set appropriate future targets.

 

41.

Housing Benefit Overpayments Recovery Comparisons (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 48 KB

Report of the Operational Board

Additional documents:

Minutes:

As requested at the last meeting, this report provided information for members on the trend in recovery of overpayments for Breckland and Forest Heath in respect of BVPI 79(b)(ii) – Total recovered housing benefit overpayments as a percentage of housing benefits overpayments debt.

 

The report confirmed that this performance indicator was not used by the DWP to measure an upper quartile level and that it did not affect an authority’s corporate assessment rating.  The DWP was, in fact, using the indicator to collect data for information purposes and there was no published desired direction of travel for this indicator.

 

The comparisons with other authorities in the report showed similar collection trends.

 

The Joint Committee agreed with the view which had been expressed by the performance teams of the various authorities that this BVPI was perverse in that the better an authority performed in overpayments collection, performance under this indicator reduced.  A more accurate measure of performance was BVPI 79(b)(i) which showed the position during the year and where performance results were above target.

 

It was felt that the best course of action would be to amend the target to bring this item of performance out of the red.  It was not considered that allocating additional resource in this area was warranted.

 

It was noted that the Department for Communities and Local Government had previously been lobbied on this issue to either make the indicator more meaningful or to delete it altogether.  Although the Department had responded by introducing the annual indicator BVPI 79(b)(i), it had not removed BVPI 79(b)(ii).

 

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the report be noted;

 

(2)         the Revenues Income Manager be asked to advise the Forest Heath Performance Team on the issues; and

 

(3)         further representations be made to the Department for Communities and Local Government seeking the removal of BVPI 79(b)(ii) as an anomalous target.

 

42.

ARP Annual Targets and PM10 (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 45 KB

Report of the Operational Board

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Performance Manager presented the report which set out the performance targets for each of the partnership authorities for 2007/08 and explained the new indicator PM10 (number of reductions found), which replaces  BVPI 176a (number of interventions per 1000 cases).

 

It was noted that the new PM10 target appeared to work against the policy for reducing benefits and current feedback from the DWP indicated that of authorities canvassed this year to date, 109 had already failed the new target.  It was thought, therefore, that this target would be likely to change in due course.

 

The Joint Committee felt it would be helpful for future reports to include information on the Partnership’s overall direction of travel and performance aims (e.g. cheaper service and satisfaction levels) as a balance against statutory performance targets.

 

The Joint Committee also recommended that the ARP produce a single Annual Business Plan, which would feed into each partner authority’s individual business planning process, rather than complete three individual plans and then take the results to the Joint Committee. The ARP Business Plan was to be drafted and taken to the next Joint Committee, with any final changes to the plan being made in late December / early January of each financial year.

 

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)    the report be noted and the additional information on overall direction of travel and performance aims be incorporated into future performance reporting; and

 

(2)         a single ARP Annual Business Plan be produced in accordance with the timetable outlined above.

43.

Home Working Project Update (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 53 KB

Report of the Operational Board.

Minutes:

Members were pleased to note progress of this project.

 

         RESOLVED that the report be noted.

 

44.

Report on the Number of Fraud Officers within the ARP (Agenda Item 11) pdf icon PDF 50 KB

Report of the Operational Board

Minutes:

As requested at the last meeting, this report provided information for members on the number of Fraud Officers as it appeared that that the number of officers per 1000 caseload for Breckland Council appeared to be low.

 

Although current performance did not appear to be materially affected, there was a perceived need for additional resource if the Partnership was to meet the challenge presented by the new PM10 target to increase reductions in benefits.

 

It was noted that there were no Government financial incentives given for the finding of or prosecution of fraud cases.

 

It was suggested that funding for additional resource might be possible from increased recovery income.

 

Members also had regard to the fact that the new PM10 target might be modified and therefore its impact was an unknown factor at this stage.

 

In the circumstances, it was felt that no decision should be taken at present and that a more detailed business case should be presented to a future meeting.

 

         RESOLVED that the matter is deferred and a more detailed business case be presented to a future meeting for further consideration by the Joint Committee.

 

45.

Local Housing Allowance - Changes within the Benefits System from April 2008 (Agenda Item 12) pdf icon PDF 45 KB

Report of the Operational Board.

Minutes:

This report set out the background to forthcoming changes in the benefits system due to come into force as from April 2008 and the likely impact on the service.

 

There was proposed Government funding to implement the new system, details of which were still awaited.  It was intended that the funding to be received from the DWP in respect of each authority should be passed to the ARP to implement the LHA.   Without this funding, the changes could not be implemented.

 

There was also likely to be an ongoing requirement for additional budget to cover day to day running of the new system.

 

A full financial report would be presented to the next meeting.

 

         RESOLVED that the position be noted.

 

46.

East Cambridgeshire Update (Agenda Item 13) pdf icon PDF 41 KB

Report of the Operational Board

Minutes:

         RESOLVED that the report be noted.

 

47.

Next Meeting (Agenda Item 15)

To agree future meeting dates.  (Members are asked to bring their diaries for this item.)

Minutes:

It was noted that the new Partnership Agreement provided for the Joint Committee to meet on a quarterly basis.  It was suggested that the meetings be allocated for the Business Plan, Budget, Performance and Annual Meeting.

 

The previously suggested meeting date of 21 February 2008 was not acceptable as it clashed with another meeting.

 

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)    the following future meeting dates be agreed:

 

§   Thursday, 27 September 2007

§   Thursday, 20 December 2007

 

(2)         further dates be agreed in due course

 

(3)    an item be included on the agenda for the next meeting on 27 September 2007 to give consideration to indicative performance targets for 2008/09.