Venue: Sparkenhoe Committee Room, County Hall, Glenfield
Contact: Mrs J Twomey (Tel: 0116 305 2583) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A webcast of the meeting can be viewed at [insert link].
Appointment of Chairman
To note that Mr. M. T. Mullaney CC has been appointed Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission in accordance with Article 6.05 of the County Council’s Constitution.
That it be noted that Mr M. T. Mullaney CC has been appointed Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission for the period ending with the Annual Meeting of the County Council in 2023 in accordance with Article 6.05 of the Constitution.
Election of Vice Chairman
That Mrs R. Page CC be elected Vice-Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission for the period ending with the date of the Annual Meeting of the County Council in 2023.
The minutes of the meeting held on 9th March 2022 were taken as read, confirmed and signed.
The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 34.
Questions asked by members under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5)
The Chief Executive reported that no questions had been received under Standing Order 7(3) and 7(5).
There were no urgent items for consideration.
Declarations of interest.
The Chairman invited members who wished to do so to declare any interest in respect of items on the agenda for the meeting.
No declarations were made.
Declarations of the Party Whip in accordance with Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 16
There were no declarations of the party whip.
Presentation of Petitions under Standing Order 35
The Chief Executive reported that no petitions had been received under Standing Order 35.
The Lead Member for Resources, Mr L. Breckon CC, has been invited to attend for this item and items 11 and 12 below.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which set out the provisional revenue and capital outturn for 2021/22. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda item 10’ is filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed Mr L. Breckon CC, Lead Member for Resources, who attended for this item.
Arising from discussion the following points were made:
Members raised concerns regarding the expected
increased shortfall in the budget by 2025/26 and questioned if there was any
realistic chance of fair funding coming to fruition to ease the pressures
faced. Members agreed this was not a situation of its making and many
councils were suffering as a result. Members were disappointed to hear
that the fundamental government review of fair funding which the Council had
pursued for some years was unlikely to happen. Though a consultation on
funding was expected to take place this summer, this was not expected to result
in any meaningful changes that would benefit the Council.
A member questioned whether there was anything
the Council could do to improve the speed with which it adopted new
roads. The member suggested that promoters that funded large schemes would
benefit from greater certainty on this issue, providing assurance that might
encourage them to deliver the infrastructure required.
It was suggested that a review of
underperforming assets with a view to disposal to help address the increased
gap might be beneficial. A member commented that some assets, such as Beaumanor Hall, were particularly costly and whilst the
disposal of such an asset would not be the preferred approach, the financial
circumstance might require this. The Lead Member for Resources responded
to confirm that the Council’s asset register was being regularly reviewed and
action taken in respect of those considered to be consistently
underperforming. Beaumanor Hall would be
considered as part of that ongoing process. Members recognised that the
Council might be required to consider sale and savings options which might be
unpalatable given the financial pressures it faced.
Members questioned the change in expectations
regarding rising inflation, noting the forecast in February when the MTFS had
been agreed was that this would be a short term
issue. The Director explained that this had aligned with the then
prediction of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Commentary early in
the year predicted inflation would spike and then fall rapidly to the Bank Of England target. However, since then the forecast
had changed to suggest inflation would spike much higher and stay higher for
longer, the key impact being the war in the Ukraine. Members commented
that this was making an already challenging situation more difficult and again
expressed disappointment at the lack of progress with fair funding which would
help alleviate such issues. A member commented that it was also
unfortunate that the Council did not secure a level three County Deal which
also might have helped address future funding pressures.
(v) In response to questions raised, Members noted that another factor affecting the increased budget gap would be the possible increase in the national living wage from £10.50 to £11.50; a 10% increase on a budget of £200m equating to an extra £20m staff cost to the Council. It was recognised that such factors were outside the Council’s control.
Members raised concerns about the additional
pressure inflation was putting on the capital programme and noted that the
Council, whilst mindful of its statutory duties to provide road and school
infrastructure, would be more heavily reliant on adequate developer funding
being secured when planning permission was granted by local planning authorities.
(vii) Members noted ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which advised of proposed changes to the Council’s Annual Investment Strategy to add Bank Risk Sharing Funds to its list of acceptable investments. The report sought the Commissions views on a proposed such investment of £10m of the Corporate Asset Investment Fund into Christofferson Robb and Company’s (CRC) Capital Relief Fund 5 (CRF 5). A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 11’ is filed with these minutes.
In response to questions raised by Members, the Director confirmed that:
· Corporate Asset Investment Fund (CAIF) schemes were progressing slower than expected and its cash balance was therefore high, though its value continued to be eroded by inflation. Consideration had therefore been given to alternative investment options which had a reasonable level of return balanced against manageable increased risks.
· The proposed investment with CRC would be short term – 6 years – and would fit well with expected CAIF scheme planning and development plans.
· CRC had been founded in 2002, not 2022 as stated in paragraph 13 of the report.
· As part of the Council’s due diligence of CRC, the company’s succession planning had been looked at. It was noted that the original founders of the company continued to manage CRC which gave added assurance and comfort.
· This was a regulated market and so regulators as well as the Council would be monitoring CRC’s activities and investments.
· The Council had several years’ experience of dealing with CRC through its investment activity relating to the Leicestershire Pension Fund. Its similar investments with CRC had performed consistently well over a number of years.
· The funds would be locked in for the term of the loan, but this would be spread across a range of lower risk investments in loans to SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises). This limited the risk of losing the capital invested.
· Given current volatility in the market, which was likely to continue for some time, as part of its own due diligence, the Council had assessed CRC across a range of credit crunch/recession scenarios. Given CRCs focus on SMEs its investments had been shown to be still profitable and performing comfortably as loans to such businesses tended to have less variable default levels than larger companies.
· The investment would be riskier than other types of treasury management investments the Council had made to date. However, the Director provided reassurance that the size and term of the investment meant such risks were being kept to a minimum and considered manageable for what was a good return.
Members noted that the Corporate Governance Committee had considered and supported the proposed change to the Treasure Management Strategy to allow the investment to be made.
A member commented that whilst the risk for these types of investment were higher, this was a calculated and manageable risk and the investment was being made in light of the investment track record the Council had as the administering authority of the Leicestershire Pension Fund.
Members agreed that the investment would provide diversification and a more balanced CAIF portfolio.
That the proposed investment of £10m into Capital Relief Fund 5 with Christofferson Robb and Company be supported and the comments now made by the Commission be passed to the Cabinet for consideration at its meeting on 27th June.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided an update on the performance of Leicestershire Traded Services during 2021/22 taking account of the impact that Covid 19 restrictions have had on these services. The report also sought the Commission’s views on future plans for recovery and growth. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda item 11’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following points arose:
Whilst performance had been disappointing, this
was not unexpected. The Council’s traded services were not immune to the
effects of Covid and subsequent cost and inflationary increases, like so many
other businesses across the country.
It had been thought that Services might begin to
recover more quickly, but this had not been the case due to staff pressures
(both in terms of Covid sickness absence and retention and recruitment issues),
the changing global and geopolitical situation which was putting enormous
pressure on the cost of food and fuel and continued reduced demand.
Regarding future plans
for recovery and growth, Members noted that this would include reconfigured
menus to reduce costs and wastage, as well as improved profit margins in its
cafes including the renegotiation of contracts with suppliers to respond to the
increased cost of goods. Members requested that the Services recovery and
growth action plan be shared with the Commission outside the meeting for
There were some promising signs starting to
emerge as demand had been rising at the cafes at Beacon Hill and Tithe
Barn. Beaumanor Hall had, however, been slower
to recover but figures were now starting to reach pre-pandemic levels.
A member questioned, given how competitive
operations at Beaumanor Hall had always been, whether
it was being run as a truly commercial operation. Members noted that
services run from the Hall were being considered along with other traded
services, but that Beaumanor was a particularly
expensive asset to hold and operate given the nature of the building
itself. Members commented that this was a recognised, valuable and well liked asset and so consideration of how to make it more
profitable would be looked at, but this had to be balanced against the need for
potential investment and repairs. The Lead Member provided reassurance
that all options were currently being looked at.
Demand for the Council’s School Meals Service
had increased in April and May which gave confidence
that this was returning to normal, pre-pandemic levels.
A member questioned the viability of supplying
school meals to one-off sites outside the County. It was noted that some
schools were just over the County boundary and
so did not incur any additional costs to those being supplied in
Leicestershire. The provision of services to areas such as Cambridge and
Birmingham were being provided by existing teams and Members noted that none
were being subsidised by the Council. The Director explained that out of
County schools supplied by the Council’s School Meal Service were clustered
together in each area which provided efficiencies and an opportunity to grow
across these localities. Members were
reassured that all out of County school meal contracts were profitable, but
that these were still monitored and reviewed where necessary.
(viii) Members noted that in order to limit environmental impacts, the Council’s School Meal Service delivered food provisions direct to site.
(ix) A Member questioned whether losses seen by the School Meals Service as a result of Covid should be borne by schools rather than the County Council. Members noted that school meal contracts had been modified to transfer risk away from the County Council and ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
The Commission received a report of the Director of Corporate Resources, which presented the Corporate Complaints and Compliments Annual Report, covering the period from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 13’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following point were made:
Historically the Council had low complaint levels,
but this had increased year on year for some time now. Whilst it was
recognised that Covid had affected the figures, Members asked for more
benchmarking information to better understand the Council’s complaints numbers
when compared with other similar sized local authorities. Members noted
that recording and managing complaints was not a statutory requirement and
authorities therefore managed the process differently making it difficult to
make comparisons. Some regional information could be collated, however,
and the Director undertook to look at this further. Members noted that
the number of complaints referred to the Ombudsmen could be benchmarked, and
such information would be included in the report for the following year.
A Member raised concerns about the level of SEND
complaints to Children and Family Services, which when combined with SEND
Transport complaints (which went to the Environment and Transport Department)
had risen significantly. It was acknowledged that staff pressures and
Covid had had a detrimental effect, but the Member commented that as a
statutory duty, this could not continue and perhaps required closer
Members noted that external consultants had been
appointed to look at SEND and SEND Transport to ensure they were better
coordinated across the two departments, focusing on family needs. A lack
of communication between departments had been identified as an issue and this
was being addressed to help better forecast expected SEND transport
Members acknowledged that Children and Family
Services had and continued to be faced with increased demand for SEND
services. This was intrinsically linked to the delay in the assessment
process which inevitably then effected SEND transport arrangements. It was
noted that the number of children assessed each year had increased by more than
10%. This gave rise to both financial and service difficulties which the
Council was working to address.
A Member commented that over the last 20 years,
the number of children being diagnosed with SEND had increased from around 1 in
300 to now 1 in 60. Such an increase in demand was unprecedented.
Members noted that this was a national problem and that an annual survey
currently being compiled would likely show the cumulative deficit for SEND
services across the country to be in the region of £2bn over the next two
years. Members commented that this was unsustainable without further
The Chairman of the Children and Families
Overview and Scruitny Committee, Mrs Fryer CC, confirmed that SEND pressures
were being looked at by that Committee and it would be receiving a report on
this issue at its next meeting in September.
Members noted that it was not only the increase
in numbers that gave rise to delays in SEND assessments, but also the increase
in the number of complex cases which could not be assessed quickly.
Members acknowledged that such pressures were intrinsically linked to the
resulting growth in complaints in this area. Proportionately, however,
the number of complaints compared to the number of cases assessed were not
dissimilar to previous years.
In response to questions raised, the Director
confirmed that the two main common themes of complaints were delays in the
delivery of services and communication to manage expectations around
(ix) A Member queried whether there ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
A copy of the draft Annual Report is attached for the consideration of the Scrutiny Commission. Subject to approval, the Annual Report will be submitted to the full County Council for consideration at its meeting on 6th July 2022.
The Commission considered the draft Overview and Scruitny Annual Report which summarised some of the key highlights of scrutiny work undertaken during 2021/22. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 14’ is filed with these minutes.
Members supported the content of the report subject to the addition of a small section referencing recent petitions received, as an example of how the public could get involved.
Members requested that following consideration of the report by the full County Council at its meeting in July a link to the report, which would be published on the Council’s website, be provided to all Members for wider circulation. It was noted that this would also be publicised through Leicestershire matters.
the draft Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report 2021/22 be approved for
submission to the County Council on 6th July subject to the comment
(b) That, following its consideration by the County Council in July, a copy of the Annual Report be provided to all Members for wider circulation.
Date of next meeting.
The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled to take place on 7th September 2022.
It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would be held on 7th September 2022 at 10.00 am.