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 here.
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. T. Mullaney CC has been appointed Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission for the period ending with the Annual Meeting of the County Council in 2024 in accordance with Article 6.05 of the County Council’s 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 2024.
The minutes of the meeting held on 12 April 2023 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.
Mr C. Smith CC, Chairman of the Scrutiny
Review Panel, introduced the report. He reminded the Commission that the
Panel had been established at its request following its consideration of the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2023/24 – 2026/27 in January
2023 which included the proposal to cease delivery of both SHIRE Grant
programmes with immediate effect. Members noted that the aim of the
review was to determine the impact and value for money achieved through both
Grant programmes and to consider the likely effects of discontinuation.
In presenting the report the Chairman welcomed and thanked external witnesses that had contributed to the review.
Arising from discussion, the following points were made:
Whilst it was acknowledged that it was not unusual for organisations to
seek repeat funding, the majority of the Panel had
been concerned at the level of such applications, particularly as such
organisations had no metrics to show the benefits and outcomes achieved with
the grant provided which was sometimes substantial.
Council had a significant funding gap of over £80m that needed to be addressed
and so it had to be recognised that its resources needed to be prioritised
towards its core statutory duties such as child and adult social care.
The situation was regrettable and a reflection of the current financial
position of the Council which continued to be the lowest funded local authority
in the country.
Member commented that the programmes had grown significantly over the years and
were being provided to organisations that were not intended to be the original
recipients of such financial support. The Grants had been established to
support small community groups and not to support organisations that already
had other funding streams, were large enough to employ staff, or those able to
raise money by way of a precept. Such organisations had rightly applied
in line with the Council’s criteria, but this could no longer be sustained.
All Members recognised that the organisations that sought either grant
funding were undertaking valuable work and providing excellent support to
communities and that the Panel’s recommendations were regrettable.
However, the majority commented that difficult financial decisions were
necessary at the current time, though it was hoped this could be reviewed again
at some future date.
noted that there were other grant schemes available from organisations with
significantly more funding, such as Lloyds Bank and the National Lottery Fund
and welcomed plans to ensure officers were able to continue to provide advice, support and signpost to where such funding was still
Member expressed disappointment that a reduced grant programme could not be
provided for and that the Panel’s proposals would mean the Council went from a
position of providing a broad Grants programme to providing nothing within a
Member further commented that the Grant Programmes had been expanded during the
pandemic and suggested that rather than abolishing the programmes entirely,
more could perhaps be done to return the scheme to pre-covid levels or for
tighter rules to be imposed to prevent repeat applications.
(ix) Another Member commented that to remove the grants entirely would inevitably impact communities as many of the organisations receiving funding provided services and support where the Council was already unable to do so due to limited resources. Some Members commented that a recommendation for smaller grant fund programmes that were more targeted so as to ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which set out the provisional revenue and capital outturn for 2022/23. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda item 11’ 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 arose:
A Member raised concerns that whilst the meeting
held between the Leader, Deputy Leader, Lead Member for Resources, Chief
Executive, Director of Corporate Resources and the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP,
had been promoted to be a success, it was not clear what tangible outcomes had
been achieved. The Lead Member for
Resources confirmed that the discussions had been helpful and promising, but
that there would not be an overnight fix.
Officers would next be meeting with Government officials to discuss the
Council’s proposed solution in more detail.
As the Government did not propose to look at
Fair Funding for local government until 2025/26, the Council was seeking the
early introduction of a funding floor (which was part of the overall solution
for Fair Funding) as soon as possible.
This had been done for schools and so was technically possible, but it
was not yet clear if this would be practicable given national financial
pressures. It could, however, make a
significant difference to the Council’s immediate financial position.
Whilst many tourist attractions were bouncing
back after the Pandemic, a Member commented that Beaumanor Hall still appeared
to be lagging behind and questioned if the Council had the right skill set to
perhaps diversify and maximise trading opportunities at this site. Members noted that advisers had been
consulted on how best to drive this part of the Council’s traded service
forward, particularly in respect of weddings.
Whilst Members were pleased to see business
rates were being retained locally, concerns were raised about ongoing discussions
as to how this would be split between the City, County and district
councils. Members noted proposals for
the income to be split by way of a third each, but that much of the growth
coming into Leicester and Leicestershire would fall within the County and so
would likely affect the County Council more than the City Council. The Lead Member commented that it was right
for the Council to seek to ensure it received a fair split that would reflect
where growth would fall. However,
Members raised concerns that if an agreement could not be reached, there was a
risk that the income would revert back to Government resulting in significant
loss to all, although it would be in no local council’s interest if this did
happen. Members encouraged continued
dialogue between the respective Council Leaders and for a resolution to be
found as soon as possible.
Post the Covid-19 pandemic it was clear that
more resources were needed in adult social care services. The Department had done a lot of innovative
work over the last four years to reduce costs but not the quality of service
and that it had performed well despite the challenges faced during that
period. However, a Member commented that
more needed to done by the NHS locally as Leicestershire had the fewest number
of nursing places funded within the community.
A Member commented that this was a key issue that needed to be
(vi) Members raised concerns about the continued level of slippage within the capital programme and the impact this had on overall costs incurred. A Member commented that large schemes cost a lot in officer time which also increased with delay. The Director commented ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided an update on the performance of Leicestershire Traded Services (LTS) during 2022/23. The report also sought the Commission’s views on the revised Traded Services Strategy (previously titled the Commercial Strategy) for 2023-28. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 12’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following points arose:
(i) Whilst all traded services had recovered well over the last 12 months, wage inflation and rising energy costs had unfortunately eroded these improvements and so overall contribution was still down compared to target.
Members were particularly interested in the
performance of Beaumanor Hall. Whilst it had performed well, the changes
having been made to address the deficits in previous years arising from Covid
now coming to fruition, its financial performance had been affected by
increased energy costs given the age and size of the building, and other inflationary
The school meals service had continued to face
significant challenges, but these were also being experienced by other similar
organisations providing such services and so the Council’s position was not
Whilst it was clear that every effort was being
made by officers in the face of some very significant and unexpected
challenges, a Member commented that a very significant
increase in turnover would be needed to address the gap in contribution versus
the MTFS figure. A Member further
highlighted that before Covid, the Council’s traded services were making a
profit and contributing to the Council’s budget, avoiding the need for more
cuts. Further consideration of the
planned approach to return to such a position would be beneficial.
In response to concerns raised, Members were
reassured that in considering the profitability and future improvement of each
traded service, all aspects of the business were considered as well as
different types of operating models, including outsourcing. In respect of country park cafes, for
example, the cost of car parking was considered to ensure this was not
prohibitive. In respect of Beaumanor Hall, external advisors had been engaged to
provide advice on future improvements to both its external activities and
A Member commented that as the Council was
facing some stark decisions regarding its future spending it would be necessary
to shine a spotlight on all services provided, particularly those that were
discretionary, like traded services.
Members requested that a Scrutiny Commission
workshop be held to discuss in more depth the service action plans
and the costs and income generated by all traded services noting the need to
manage some commercially sensitive information.
A Member further suggested that after the workshop, in approximately six
months’ time, a further performance update report be presented to a future
Scrutiny Commission meeting.
Efforts had been made to encourage schools that
had missed out on residential activities at Beaumanor
Hall as a result of Covid-19, to now take these up,
this being beneficial for the business but in particular the children that were
otherwise missing out. However,
increased transport costs were challenging for some schools. In any event, the service was actively
working with head teachers to try and expand and adapt the offer to encourage
more visits in future.
It was suggested that the proposed workshop
would be helpful to demonstrate the journey the Council had been on over the
last year and following the pandemic, as well as providing an opportunity to
share the input of external advisors on how to make services like Beaumanor Hall more effective for the future.
(x) It was recognised that some organisations ... 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 2022 to 31 March 2023. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 14’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following points were made:
(i) A Member questioned if complaints regarding the delayed allocation of school places was in part due to parents not applying on time. It was noted that whilst this was an issue in some cases, this was not the cause for many complaints received.
(ii) There had been challenges with some parents not putting a catchment school within their top three choices which came with risk and resulted in appeals and subsequent delay. Members were reassured that changes in the process had been made to address this and now all parents were offered their next nearest school so as to avoid having to go through this process. Greater clarity had also been added to the guidance provided to parents.
(iii) Members noted that most complaints around school admissions focused on people moving in and out of County and changing school. There had been delays in processing these applications and this was largely due to resource issues within the school placement team. Schools being oversubscribed was also a factor. In areas such as Oadby and Wigston and Blaby schools were heavily oversubscribed, and it was therefore difficult for officers to find and allocated a school place mid-school year.
(iv) Whilst the amount paid in the settlement of complaints had risen, this was largely due to one case relating to adult social care reviews being missed during the pandemic when lock down restrictions had been eased. This case, which had been determined by the Ombudsmen, had resulted in a payment of £11,000 to the complainant. This had been the subject of a report to the Cabinet. Payments otherwise remained consistent with previous years.
(v) There had been a significant number of complaints regarding SEND and the timely conduct of EHCPs (Education and Health Care Plans). A Member questioned when it was likely that improvements in the system would be seen which would in turn reduce the number of complaints received. It was noted that the Children and Family Services Department had in place an accelerated progress plan which forecasted improvements by the Autumn. The Chair of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee commented that performance against the delivery of this plan was being regularly monitored by that Committee, as was performance against delivery of the Department’s TSIL (Transforming SEND in Leicestershire) Programme. It would also be looking in more detail at the complaints report in respect of these areas at its meeting in September. The Chair reminded Members that the papers for the Children and Family Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee were available to view on the Council’s website and Members comments on the items it considered were welcomed.
Of those complaints that were not dealt with in
time, the Director confirmed that most of these related to SEND issues, rather
than school admissions. Significant
improvements had been made over the last 12 months to improve links with senior
manages to resolve admissions complaints swiftly. It was recognised, however,
that SEND complaints were often complex and so by their very nature, were less
easy to resolve quickly.
(vii) It was acknowledged that whilst complaints were often received when things did not go to plan, compliments were not usually submitted when things were going well. Much was done to try and capture compliments received and advice and ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
The Commission considered the draft Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report which summarised some of the key highlights of scrutiny work undertaken during 2022/23. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 15’ is filed with these minutes.
Members supported the content of the report and welcomed the increase in the numbers of people viewing meetings webcast online.
A Member requested that a minor change be made to the report to add reference to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to the contents page.
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 2022/23 be approved for
submission to the County Council on 5 July 2023 subject to the comment now made;
(b) That, following its consideration by the full County Council in July, a copy of the Annual Report be provided to all Members for wider circulation.
Dates of future meetings.
The dates of meetings of the Scrutiny Commission in 2023/24 have been scheduled to take place on:
Wednesday, 6th September 2023
Wednesday, 8th November 2023
Monday, 29th January 2024
Wednesday, 13th March 2024
Wednesday 10th April 2024
Monday 10th June 2024
Wednesday, 5th September 2024
Wednesday, 7th November 2024
It was noted that the next meeting of the Commission would
be held on the following dates:
Wednesday, 6 September 2023
Wednesday, 8 November 2023
Monday, 29 January 2024
Wednesday, 13 March 2024
Wednesday 10 April 2024
Monday 10 June 2024
Wednesday, 4 September 2024
Wednesday, 6 November 2024