Report of the Chief Executive attached.
The Leader of the Council (Councillor Paul Foster) and Interim Chief Executive (Gary Hall) addressed the Committee and responded to members’ comments and enquiries relating to the corporate performance report at the end of Quarter 4.
The Leader emphasised the importance of the Scrutiny Committee receiving future reports prior to Cabinet and the Committee welcomed the offer.
During the discussion, the Committee’s comments and enquiries focused around many performance-related topics highlighted in the report.
Reassurances were sought on the capacity of the senior Leadership Team following the departure of two Deputy Chief Executives and the timescale for their replacement. Mention was given to the appointment of the Council’s Interim Chief Executive which led to a discussion on the progress of Shared Services arrangements with Chorley Council. Both councils have reaffirmed their commitment to the partnership and a report will be provided at the full Council meeting in September 2019 for endorsement.
The Committee also discussed financial issues outlined in the report and commended those involved in reducing the amount of debt written-off. An explanation of lettable assets and their scale was requested. It was reported that these are commercial assets with an annual revenue of £1 million.
Additionally, members queried the funding options being considered for the Ribble Crossing and were informed that talks are ongoing with the City Deal team. Emphasis was also placed on the involvement of central government for funding. Concern was also expressed over rumours that the opening of the Cross Borough Link Road had been delayed until autumn 2019. Confirmation of this was unavailable but assurances were given that officers would work to find out.
The report highlighted that progress on the City Deal project was ‘off-track’. Members requested an update on the status of the project and were advised that a decision on how to progress development would be made by October 2019 and that members would be kept updated of progress. The committee also enquired as to how the town centre masterplans were being developed and expressed concern that relevant My Neighbourhood Forums had little involvement with the process.
An update on the delivery of the Cuerden Strategic Site was requested and the committee received assurances that meetings would take place with Lancashire County Council to re-engage with the process.
The commercialisation of both the Civic Centre and Worden Hall was a key topic for discussion. Members expressed confusion at the Civic Centre Commercialisation project being marked as complete despite phase 3 still being in progress. The status should reflect that phase 1 is complete and alternative methods of reporting were suggested.
Members queried the progress of the Worden Hall commercialisation project and the methods of public consultation used. It was reported that submitted bids which had not previously been considered were now being reviewed and that consultation would take place through My Neighbourhood Forums, the website and with local councillors and businesses.
The report highlighted that South Ribble continues to be recognised as a Dementia Friendly Community due to the work of the Dementia Action Alliance but members queried the council’s involvement in this scheme. It was reported that this association is through the South Ribble Partnership, helping to coordinate exercises and events and training staff to recognise dementia.
Committee members requested further explanation as to the efforts for improving staff morale and supporting employees. It was stated that the council was re-engaging with trade unions and that a staff survey would be undertaken over the coming months to gain feedback on morale. In response to concerns around the increase in complaints regarding refuse bins, it was reported that feedback was being taken into consideration about changing the council’s policy and that other options would be explored in the Budget Outturn report later in the year.
The committee requested that future performance reports be more outcome-focused and asked that all reports are written in plain English with all acronyms explained. The Leader and Chief Executive were thanked for their attendance and the committee noted the good performance and progress made by the council.
1. a breakdown of the Council’s property asset income be circulated to Committee Members.
2. an explanation for the number of ‘violence against person’ offences being unavailable be provided to the Committee.
3. the report commissioned by the Leader on the Civic Centre commercialisation spending and on City Deal be brought to a future meeting of the Committee.
4. the Committee be provided with updates on the masterplans and rephrasing and resourcing them.
5. the Committee be provided with updates on the completion date of the Cross Borough Link Road.
6. the Risk Register be reviewed with Committee members.