Agenda and minutes

Venue: Level 5 Meeting Room, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford IP24 1BT

Contact: Committee Services, Breckland Council  Tel: 01362 656870

Items
No. Item

6.

Minutes (Agenda Item 1) pdf icon PDF 80 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2013.

Minutes:

It was noted that TUPE should be in capital letters with only one ‘e’ in the penultimate paragraph of page four.

 

Subject to that amendment the Minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2013 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

7.

Apologies (Agenda Item 2)

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Mr Ambrose-Smith, Mr Edwards and Mr Millar.

 

Mr Roman and Mr Waters were present as Substitute Members.

 

8.

Fraud (Standing Item) (Agenda Item 5) pdf icon PDF 86 KB

Report of the Fraud and Visits Team Manager.

Minutes:

The Fraud & Visits Team Manager was present for this item and presented the report which updated Members on recent work for each authority and compared the sanctions during the past quarter to the same quarter the previous year.

 

There were no significant changes.  The slight reduction for East Cambs District Council had been caused by some on-going, labour intensive cases.

 

Mr Smith asked what the acronym HUMINT stood for and was advised that it was human intelligence (feedback from an informant).

 

The Chairman thanked the officer for a good report.  The item was noted.

 

9.

Performance Report (Standing Item) (Agenda Item 6)

Reports of the Operational Board:

9a

Operational Performance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The February performance report was tabled by the Operations Manager.

 

Members’ attention was drawn to the Welfare Reform information events noted under key achievements.  There had also been training sessions and letters had been sent to all affected people warning them about the changes.  It had been a busy month.

 

The Chairman asked whether people seemed to be aware of the forthcoming changes and was advised that it varied.  A lot of work had been done with the Housing Associations to reach their tenants.  Benefit letters would be sent out in the next week and the number of phone calls received following that would be an indication of how well people understood the changes.  There had already been a lot of queries from letting agents regarding the technical changes.  The effect on customers would only be fully understood once the changes had been implemented.

 

The Head of Shared Service noted that they had contacted people by letter warning them of the changes, but that they were not able to advise them what their new benefits would be.  Letters regarding the changes to Housing Benefits had not been sent yet in an attempt to spread the load.

 

The Operations Manager went on to advise Members that training sessions had been held for staff for Business Rates Retention, on negotiation techniques, etc, to try to ensure maximum yield.

 

He then moved on to the performance spreadsheets which had been set out in a new style.  The red indicator for Breckland was attributed to issues with the ICT infrastructure and the fact that three members of staff had moved on.

 

The Forest Heath amber for Benefits was due to the same reasons.  The Council Tax amber was due to the debt shift caused by people moving into properties at the start of the year and having to pay three months worth of Council Tax on the new property, having often already paid for the full year on their previous property.

 

The East Cambs red for National Non-Domestic Rates collection was also caused by a debt shift and every effort was being made to hit the end of year target.

 

Some Members queried the format and struggled to understand how the targets for each quarter, divided by four, did not equate to the target for the year.  The Operations Manager explained that the target differed throughout the year due to changes in workload and the way in which some items of work (such as the year end mass upload) were dealt with.  It was confirmed that the figures were moving in the right direction.

 

The Chief Executive (ECDC) noted that one of the recommendations in the Strategic Review was to improve the presentation of information.

 

The Chairman asked whether it would be worth the Committee receiving comparative information on the number of complaints each authority received.

 

The Director (SEBC & FHDC) suggested that the Operational Improvement Board should look into that.

 

Mr Claussen asked what impact had been noticed now that Benefits were paid directly  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9a

9b

Financial Performance pdf icon PDF 56 KB

Minutes:

The Assistant Director of Finance (BDC) noted that they were still forecasting an underspend although that would be partly off-set by reduced income and postage budget increases.  Both of those areas had been reflected in the next year’s budget.

 

The report was noted.

 

10.

Budget Details (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 64 KB

A breakdown of the budget figures is attached for discussion.

Minutes:

The Chairman had requested this item on the agenda as there were some items which required clarification. 

 

The subscriptions for BDC were £12,000 but for FHDC only £70 he asked why there was such a big difference and the Assistant Director of Finance (BDC) explained that each Partner Authority formulated their budget based on the number of staff they were employing.  All direct costs formed part of the ARP core budget through Breckland Council’s books.  That also explained the difference in HR costs.

 

The amount for stationery seemed very large considering that it did not include postage costs.  The Operations Manager explained that they were legally required to send out lots of letters, including reminders, final notices and summonses. The volumes were in excess of one million pages annually, including explanatory leaflets that had to be sent with letters. 

 

E-Billing was used but the take-up levels were not good.  They were currently in touch with a software supplier to improve that service, which would also have a knock on effect of reducing the number of queries coming through other channels.

 

He went on to explain the breakdown of the subscriptions paid which were in three key areas:  National Anti-Fraud Network, which saved money by giving access to information; the Institute of Rating & Valuation, a professional body; and CIPFA – the rates for which had been driven down by the power of having six authorities.

 

The Director (SEBC & FHDC) noted that as part of the Operational Board’s performance management they would have benchmarking data on admin costs at other authorities which would be really useful in determining whether the Partnership was getting value for money.

 

The item was noted.

11.

Additional Government Funding 2013/14 (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Report of the Operational Improvement Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Operations Manager presented the report which advised Members of the amount of additional funding received through various funding streams from the DWP and the CLG to implement changes to the benefits regime.  The report detailed where the funding was to be spent.  

 

The funding would cover the cost for software upgrades, changes to the website and leaflets and additional staffing to deal with the increasing caseload.  The details were set out at Appendix A to the report.

 

It was also proposed in the report that power be delegated to the S151 Officers and the Operational Improvement Board to deal with future spending of additional funding to streamline the process.  Details would be reported to the Joint Committee quarterly.

 

In response to a question Mr Moakes was advised that over 90% of claims were dealt with over the phone.

 

Mr Smith pointed out some discrepancies in the figures in the current report and that at Agenda Item 9.  It was explained that the reports had been written at different times and the more up to date figures were in the telephony report.

 

Mr Smith also asked whether the new staff would be experienced or would require training and was advised that it was the intention to move experienced staff from within the organisation and back-fill their posts and train internally.

 

Finally Mr Smith said it was to the credit of the finance department that they drew attention to the risk of the Partnership becoming dependent on the additional funding.  The Chairman agreed and wondered what the liabilities would be if the funding ran out.

 

The Operations Manager advised that the new posts would all be fixed term contracts with no liabilities.

 

Mr Ray noted a change in the terminology from Local Council Tax Support Scheme to Localised Council Tax Reduction Scheme and asked which was correct.

 

The Head of Shared Service explained that although the DWP had originally called it the Local Council Tax Support Scheme Central Government had changed it to the Localised Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

(1)               the report was noted;

(2)               the payments necessary from the Partner Authorities to Breckland Council be approved;

(3)               the appointment of the fully funded temporary staff by Breckland Council be approved;

(4)               the delegation to the Partner S151 officers and the Operational Improvement Board to consider and agree any future spending in  respect of additional funding be approved;

(5)               the additional funding be reported within the quarterly financial performance report in future; and

(6)               any surplus of funding be retained by the Partner Authorities in the agreed gain / cost share ration.

12.

Telephone Recording Policy (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Report of the Operational Improvement Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Operations Manager presented the report which sought approval for further integration of the Benefit Claim automation process.

 

To provide a complete service it was necessary to have the telephony to record a claimant’s declaration.  That recording would be admissible in a court of law.  Members were asked to approve the Policy and delegate authority to the Operational Improvement Board to bring in any necessary amendments and changes when the best software option had been chosen.

 

Mr Ray pointed out some typographical/grammatical errors which would be corrected.

 

Subject to those amendments it was RESOLVED that:

 

(1)               the report was noted;

(2)               the Telephone claims recording policy be approved; and

(3)               the delegation to the Operational Improvement Board for any subsequent changes, in line with other ARP Policies be approved.

13.

Welfare Reform (Standing Item)(Agenda Item 10)

Minutes:

The Head of Shared Service provided a verbal update.  She had attended several meetings with the DWP about the framework for partnership working with Local Authorities.  More information would be available in October.  They would be looking at Local Authorities and Partners working with vulnerable people; those who did not have English as a first language; those with literacy problems; those with drug/alcohol problems, etc.  Such people would not be sent electronic notifications. 

 

The Universal Credit pilot did not take account of the Local Council Tax Support scheme and the Head of Shared Service had heard some rumours about bringing it into Universal Credit.  There was also talk of removing Local Council Tax Support in two to three years.

 

There were still lots of details to resolve.

14.

Any Other Business (Agenda Item 12)

Minutes:

It was suggested that the pre-meetings for Members only should be reduced to 30 minutes and that the meetings could then commence at 1.30pm. 

 

RESOLVED that future meetings would commence at 1.30pm following a 30 minute pre-meeting for Members only (at which a light lunch would be available).

 

15.

Next Meeting (Agenda Item 13)

To note the arrangements for the Annual meeting to be held on Thursday 13 June 2013 at 2.00pm in the Level 5 Meeting Room, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford.

Minutes:

The arrangements for the Annual Meeting to be held on 13 June 2013 (commencing at 1.30pm) in the Level 5 Meeting Room, Breckland House, Thetford, were noted.

 

16.

Exclusion of Press and Public (Agenda Item 14)

To consider passing the following resolution:

 

“That under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Act.”

Minutes:

RESOLVED that under Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972 the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act.

 

17.

Strategic Review (Agenda Item 15)

Report of the Chief Executive of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Minutes:

The Operations Manager and Head of Shared Service left the room whilst this item was discussed.

 

The Chief Executive presented the report which was a joint effort of the Operational Improvement Board (OIB).  The appendices to the report would be updated at each meeting.  The recommendations identified where decisions were needed.

 

The Director (SEBC & FHDC) drew attention to the timetable on the final page.

 

Final outline business cases would be presented to the September meeting with options.

 

Mr Ray thanked the OIB for making a good start on implementing the recommendations and setting a good timescale.

 

Details of the proposals were discussed.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

(1)               the draft Implementation Plan at Appendix 1 of the report be agreed and the progress outlined at Appendix 2 be noted;

(2)               the draft Job Profile and Person Specification for the new post of Head of Service, together with a draft management structure and outline recruitment and selection timetable (Appendix 3) be endorsed;

(3)               officers be authorised to finalise the new management structure for consultation and recruit as appropriate; and

(4)               officers be instructed, in accordance with the Implementation Plan, to bring forward proposals to the June meeting, specifically:

 

i.                    update on the outline business case for the two preferred governance models;

ii.                  update on management restructuring following consultation;

iii.                scope of works for shared support services; and

iv.                 improvements to ARP’s Performance Management Framework including the introduction of a balanced scorecard.