|Members considered a report that presented the findings of the work of the Housing and Community Safety Select Committee in relation to the Cabinet referral concerning the selection of a Traveller Transit Site. |
Following a referral from Cabinet at a meeting of 25 October 2007, and confirmation by Executive Scrutiny Committee, the Housing and Community Safety Select Committee had undertaken a piece of work in order to identify a preferred location for a Gypsy and Traveller Transit Site within the Borough.
It was noted that Cabinet made the policy decision to establish a Travellers Transit Site at a meeting of 6 October 2005. The decision was made subject to the availability of 100% Government grant funding, and was made following a marked increase in Traveller activity within the Borough and the continued cost of dealing with unauthorised encampments.
It was advised that the Housing and Community Safety Select Committee had identified land adjacent to Bowesfield Pumping Station as the only option to go forward for consultation. It was explained that the site had the least issues identified during the site survey process. All other sites had significant issues, for example, they were outside the limits of development, within a Green Wedge or allocated for another use.
It was explained that preliminary consultation had been carried out on the option of Bowesfield Pumping Station within the timescale available in order to gain the initial views of interested parties.
The majority of responses (where they addressed the question of location) were negative. Members were provided with a detailed summary of the consultation responses.
It was indicated that whilst the Committee were mindful that a proposal of this nature might always encounter a measure of opposition, the Committee recognised the overwhelming concerns raised during the consultation process, in particular, issues arising from the close proximity to the Mount Pleasant residential site and, in light of these, felt that the Bowesfield Pumping Station site was not suitable for a Travellers Transit site. The Committee concluded that it was not possible to identify suitable land currently within Council ownership and considered that the terms of reference should be widened.
|Members considered a report relating to Local Authority Representatives on School Governing Bodies. It was explained that as a result of the expiry of some Governors' Terms of Office and the Resignation of others, vacancies existed on some Governing Bodies. A list of the Governing Bodies and nominations was presented to Members. |
In accordance with the procedure for the appointment of school governors, approved as Minute 84 of the cabinet (11th May 2000), Cabinet was invited to consider the nominations to school Governing Bodies.
|Members considered a report relating to the reorganisation of education for children with behaviour, emotional and social difficulties (BESD)|
It was explained that a review of provision for children with complex needs was carried out in 2006 in consultation with the headteachers and governing bodies of the special schools and other specialist settings maintained by the Authority. The first phase of action arising from the review had already taken place: Abbey Hill and Westlands schools had formed Stockton First Federation, and Abbey Hill was to be enlarged to consolidate provision for secondary-aged children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) on that site. Children with ASD at Westlands School were to be transferred to Abbey Hill School Technology College on the completion of those works.
Cabinet considered a report that covered the second phase of action, a similar reorganisation for children and young people with behaviour, emotional and social difficulties (BESD). It was explained that two schools catered for these youngsters at present. Westlands School provided for children and young people aged 7-16 with a total of 115 places (including 40 places for students with ASD). King Edwin School offered 64 places for students aged 11-16 only. It was advised that in order to improve learning opportunities for this vulnerable group of young people and make the best use of specialist staff and offer a broader range of curriculum options, it was proposed that:
the two establishments should be brought together on a single site
King Edwin School should be closed
Westlands School should be developed as the single specialist centre in the borough for pupils with BESD
It was advised that a third phase of action would include a proposal to replace Westlands School with a new building on the same site, to introduce post-16 provision there for students with BESD, and to introduce residential provision at Abbey Hill for children and young people with Learning Difficulty and Disability (LDD). That phase was to be the subject of a future report to Cabinet.
The proposed closure of King Edwin School required statutory consultation. The Authority was required to consult all persons likely to be affected by the closure, before considering whether to publish a Statutory Notice. It was proposed that a consultation paper based on the content of this report should be circulated to stakeholders including parents, students, school staff and governors. It was noted that the outcome of the initial consultation would be reported to Cabinet in April.
|Members considered a report that outlined the proposed admission arrangements for primary and secondary schools in September 2009. |
The Code of Practice for admissions determined that Local Authorities (LAs), when drawing up admission arrangements, should ensure:
Parents' preferences for schools are met to the maximum extent possible;
Admission criteria should be clear and benefit all pupils including those with special education needs, disabilities or in public care;
Admission authorities must publish admission arrangements to include admission numbers, criteria to be used for over-subscription, timetables, co-ordinated arrangements and waiting lists.
Members were advised that there were no changes to the LAs admission policy for 2009/10.
The LA was responsible for administering a co-ordinated scheme for its area in relation to all maintained (community, voluntary controlled and voluntary aided) schools. The purpose of co-ordinated admission scheme was to ensure that, as far as was reasonably practicable, every parent of a child living in the LA area who has applied for a school place in the normal admission round received an offer of one school place on the same day.
It was advised that the LA would act as a clearing house for the allocation of places by the relevant admission authorities in response to the Common Application Forms (CAFs). The LA would only make a decision with respect to the offer or refusal of a place in response to any preference expressed on the CAF where
it was acting in its separate capacity as an admission authority; or
an applicant was eligible for a place at more than one school, or
an applicant was not eligible for a place at any school that the parent had nominated.
Members were provided with a copy of the Stockton on Tees Co-ordinated Admission Scheme for admissions in 2009/10 which included the timetable. The published admission numbers for Community and Voluntary Aided (VA) Primary and Secondary schools were also presented to Members.
It was explained that for admissions in 2007, consultation had taken place with regard to changing the LA policy to a single intake into reception, the result of the consultation was inconclusive so there had been no change. However, a significant number of schools had continued to request that the policy be changed. There were six VA schools already managing one reception intake, and schools considered that it created an imbalance within the community as it did not provide equal opportunity for all children when parents/carers were considering which primary school to send their child to. It was for this reason that the LA consulted again for admissions in 2009 and asked schools to respond more effectively.
It was noted that the majority of the Local Authorities within the Tees Valley, as well as Durham and North Yorkshire, operated a system of one intake - Middlesbrough gave individual schools a choice.
There were changes in legislation extending the hours of free nursery education over the next few years, which would ultimately be 20 hours per week. Parents/carers would also be able to take these hours at times that suited them, spread over at least three days. If younger four year olds were able to move from part-time nursery (with flexible hours) to full-time school (with fixed hours) the burden of this change would be reduced for one term every year.
It was explained that the law required that children start full-time school no later than the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday. Local policy in Stockton on Tees allowed them to start before they reached five, at ages ranging from 4 years 4 months to 4 years 11 months. Parents may choose to defer a child's admission until the statutory school age if they felt that their child was not ready for full time school. It was advised that research had shown that the older children had an advantage that persisted for some years. It had been impossible to demonstrate whether this could be attributed to the extra term in reception or just to the age difference itself, but it was thought that younger children were being put at a disadvantage by the Council's admission policy.
The result of the recent consultation with governors showed that out of the 44 primary community schools, 28 opted to change to a single reception intake, 10 wanted to remain as 2 intakes and 6 schools made no decision. Members were advised that in percentage terms the result was:
64% - 1 reception intake (proposed change of policy - September only)
23% - 2 reception intake (current policy - September and January)
13% - no decision recorded
The result had been discussed with the Children's Trust Management Team and it was proposed that the policy should be changed to one intake for reception for future admissions from 2009.
It was explained that the LA proposed to change the policy on the way distances were measured when a school was oversubscribed to as the crow flies', as it was considered that this would give more clarity to parents. The distances would be measured from a point at the front gate of the property to the front gate of the school by a straight line using an electronic system of measuring. It was considered that it would be more efficient for the administrative process when allocating school places now that the LA was using Equal Ranking as the measurements would be able to be completed on the existing system currently used. The result of the governors consultation came out as 95% approval of the change and for it to be changed from 2009.
The current policy on measuring distances when a school was oversubscribed, was by the shortest public-access route and an electronic system was used. Members were advised that there were a number of disadvantages in using this option e.g. keeping information up to date, users of the electronic measurement system needed to have local knowledge to ensure shortest route was taken, different users could interpret the measurement in an alternative way, even the point where a road was crossed could give a different measurement. It was noted that the LA had been challenged on a number of occasions with regard to measurements at appeal and occasionally the appeal panel had supported the parents' case.
The new policy would be implemented for admissions from September 2009, any through year transfers would still operate the admission arrangements for the relevant year of admission and so the current system of measurement would still be used for those applications. It was advised that it would be 2013 before the system would be fully operational in all year groups.
Members were advised of a proposal to increase the clothing grant for secondary age pupils. The clothing grant was a discretionary function for the Local Authority (LA). It was considered that the grant was an important support for the more vulnerable families in Stockton on Tees. The proposal to increase the grant had been put before the Children's Trust Management Team who agreed to the change as long as it came within the set budget.
It was explained that the grant was £25 per child attending secondary school in Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 and the family needed to be in receipt of the same benefits as those for free school meals eligibility. It was noted that parents often felt that the grant should be available for pupils in Year 11 as they felt that this was the time when children had grown more and were need of new uniform.
It was advised that for the past 3 years, there had been a decline in the number of grants even though the LA had advertised the grant to try and reach those families not aware of its availability. Due to this, the budget allocation had been reduced over the years. The proposal was therefore to increase the grant to £30 and include Year 11 pupils in order to maximise the budget spend.
Members were advised that the LA had consulted all school governing bodies, the Diocese, other neighbouring Local Authorities and the Admission Forum on the proposals for admissions in September 2009 and the 2 changes in policy. The document had also been displayed on the Stockton on Tees website inviting comments from other users. No objections had been received.
The LA also consulted parents to get their views on the admissions process, the results of which were published in the Admissions Booklets provided to parents when applying for a primary or secondary school place. The responses gave an average of 98% satisfaction levels from parents and the comments/suggestions helped the LA to develop new practices to continue to improve the service.
|Members were presented with a report relating to the Voluntary Sector Support Fund 2008/09 funding allocations. |
It was explained that the financial year 2007/8 was the last year of a three-year funding agreement for the 11 organisations that had benefited from the Voluntary Sector Support Fund. During 2006/7 and 2007/8 the 11 organisations had had the additional benefit of a top-up of resources in addition to the Council's own VCSF from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) to the sum of £120,000 (during 2008/9). The VCSF and NRF had been combined and given to grant recipients as one payment. It was advised that the allocation of Neighbourhood Renewal Funding ran out on 31st March 2008. It was clear that NRF would not be directly replaced however, a new regime The Working Neighbourhood Fund (WNF) was to be introduced. Discussions on the priorities for WNF in Stockton were underway. This being the case and in order for the core funded organisations to receive as much notification as possible the worst-case scenario of all organisations bearing a reduction in funding had been openly discussed.
Members were advised that Core Funding Agreements (CFA) were in place with the 11 core funded organisations. The Core Funding Agreements were renegotiated during February and March 2007 to provide more focus, greater clarity and to make them more measurable. During the renegotiation of the CFA the pressure from the likely withdrawal of NRF was discussed with all recipients. The individual targets for the organisations benefiting from core funding were presented to Members. Monitoring returns were duly submitted in September/October demonstrating achievements for all the organisations without exception.
It was reported that the Voluntary Sector Support Fund during 2007/8 was £425,420 of Council funding topped-up by £120,000 of Neighbourhood Renewal Funding, providing a total pot of £545,420 for distribution. The sum for distribution during 2008/9 without NRF or an appropriate replacement would be £430,869, a reduction of 21%. The 11 organisations were guaranteed this core funding and had been asked to base their budgeting on the reduced level of support. The Authority was, however, looking at the possibility of a transition year, and if as a consequence of budget setting this materialised, £123,000 could be made available from the Working Neighbourhoods Fund to top up the Core Grant Fund. It was noted that plans were in place for either eventuality. The revised allocations for the individual organisation were presented to Members along with a comparison of their allocation for the previous year.
There had been an expectation that the Voluntary Sector Support Fund would be the subject of a full review during 2007/8, however it was considered that waiting until 2008/9 would bring more benefits and lead to more robust decision making, especially through the involvement of the emerging Voluntary Development Agency "Catalyst."
It was explained that Catalyst was the chosen trading name of the Borough's newly developed Voluntary Development Agency. Catalyst had appointed a Board of Trustees, had agreed its own Memorandum of Association & Articles and since September 2007 had become a fully functional organisation. The Council had two nominated places on the Board, one occupied by the Head of Housing, the other by Councillor Beall. The Chair of the organisation was Stephen Bray who had a senior role in the North East in Accent a registered social landlord and was also the Chair of the Housing & Neighbourhood Partnership in Stockton.
It was advised that Catalyst, as it developed would become the strategic organisation for the voluntary and community sectors in Stockton-On-Tees. Its role would be a Borough wide; Sub-Regional; Regional and National advocate and champion to secure strategic funding and influence policy for the benefit of the sector. Being tasked with shaping the review of the Voluntary Sector Support Fund would provide an important early task for the organisation and galvanise the sector into collective action. It was indicated that there were sufficiently experienced representatives on the Catalyst Board to ensure that decision-making was clear and transparent.
It was explained that another emerging influence within the Community and Voluntary Sector in Stockton was the development of a Community Interest Company (CIC). It was noted that the CIC was not to be confused with Catalyst. The CIC would be a delivery agency and was a collaboration between a number of key agencies from within the sector, namely The Five Lamps Organisation, Newtown Community Resource Centre and Accent Regeneration. The CIC was ready to be established as a legal entity (company limited by guarantee and no share capital). It was noted that a Memorandum and Articles of Association had been drafted and agreed and awaited final sign-off by the partners. The Partner's stated objectives for establishing the CIC were as follows:-
To contribute, and add value, to the delivery of neighbourhood renewal and regeneration in Stockton.
To provide a delivery channel to work in support of Catalyst (the newly established strategic body) within an evolving and new commissioning framework.
To increase the capacity and effectiveness of the broader third sector in the borough through structured joint working, improved relationships, joint resource and asset management, joint support mechanisms, common priorities.
To accelerate the development of local social enterprise; places and people working for themselves.
Members were advised that the lead partners suggested that the CIC would provide greater efficiency, building third sector capability and efficiency through joint working and resource/service sharing.
|Members considered a report that sought approval to introduce a policy of street lighting advertising and High Street digital display units to maximise revenue income for the Authority. |
It was advised that street lighting energy costs had more than doubled in the last two financial years placing unprecedented pressures on the Council's revenue budgets. The energy charges for street lighting were now approximately £1m per annum.
At the Environment & Regeneration Select Committee meeting on 11 December 2006, a street lighting scrutiny report was approved with a number of recommendations for service improvement. One of the seven recommendations from the report was to place an advert in a national journal inviting expressions of interest from companies interested in entering into an agreement for the advertising rights on street lighting columns.
It was advised that street lighting advertising in the form of banner signs had increased in popularity in recent years. There was a growing market for banner-style advertising on street lighting columns. A prime factor in agreeing to this form of advertising was a financial one. It was explained that with significant budget pressures on the street lighting service because of inordinate increases in energy charges, there was a case for considering this as a revenue stream to ease the financial burden on the street lighting budgets.
Members were advised that an advert was placed in the Surveyor magazine in April 2007 asking for expressions of interest from companies wishing to negotiate an agreement to use approved facilities for advertising purposes and community messaging services. The agreement would provide appropriate safeguards for the Council and would allow for regulating the nature and content of advertising in accordance with national guidelines. Expressions of interest were received from ten companies. However, only two companies returned the completed pre-qualification questionnaires, the two companies were Streetbroadcast and JCDecaux. Both submissions were evaluated and scored with Streetbroadcast performing best. A decision was then taken to discount JCDecaux and invite Streetbroadcast to carry out a presentation to officers in July 2007. Following the presentation, Streetbroadcast agreed to carry out an additional survey to review the business viability and resubmit the potential revenue stream for the Council.
It was explained that Streetbroadcast were one of the UK's largest supplier of street lighting advertising services with over 3,000 advertising panels already installed in 80 towns and cites. They currently supplied advertisement services to 22 local authorities and some of the largest commercial property owners in the UK. It was noted that all costs incurred in delivering the street lighting advertising service were covered by Streetbroadcast. This included obtaining planning approvals, installation works through to advertising space sales and future site maintenance. They intended to work with the Council using a consultative approach, along with their expertise and experience to deliver the objectives required by the Council.
It was proposed to use two products within the Borough, namely; StreetLites' and Digital StreetLive'.
It was explained that StreetLites' were strategically placed in high traffic areas and were considered to provide an enhancement to most urban environments. They held advertising industry standard posters, called a 6-sheet or a 4-sheet, one each side of a lighting column. These could be internally illuminated at agreed times of the day. The poster display was installed with a specifically designed lighting column to make up one complete product. The StreetLite had been designed to allow poster changing at ground level. This reduced the risk of accidents to the poster changer and to passing traffic and pedestrians. Posters were normally changed every two weeks. They were sold as a premium proposition and were highly demanded by both local and national advertisers. All unsold space was provided free to the council for its own community messaging use.
It was advised that the new street lights were specifically designed for the additional wind loading due to the rectangular banner sign. Any street lights removed were handed to the Council, free of charge, to be re-used in other locations in the Borough.
Digital StreetLive was a state of the art community messaging system which allowed various Council services and the Police instant communication with the local public on the street. The system could be used to stream news headlines, local weather, crime prevention messages, environmental messages, traffic and parking information, town events as well as emergency messages. Messages were input via a secure internet portal from any authorised desk or laptop computer.
It was advised that following a survey and detailed assessment the contractors originally identified potential sites for 75 Streetlites' and 5 digital Streetlive' units at various locations around the Borough. However, some of the "streetlites" were not considered to be in suitable areas. Members were advised that Streetlites would not be permitted:
on residential streets
in conservation areas
on high speed roads (>40mph)
Members were advised of the types of location suitable.
It was noted that the installation of any proposed sites for street light advertising or digital streetlive would be subject to discussion at the Council's Urban Environment Task Group (UETG), ward member consultation and planning permission.
It was advised that the content of Street Lighting advertising would not display any advertising in the area that contained any of the following:
party political advertising
It was also advised that the content would conform with the national regulatory body code of practice, namely the Advertising Standards Authority.
Members considered that it would be appropriate to include alcohol in the list of items that would not be advertised and discussed the possibility of amending the Council's overall advertising policy to reflect this.
|Cabinet considered a report that proposed the introduction of an affordable Home Ownership Policy. |
Members noted that, nationally, house prices had doubled relative to individual earnings since 1990. Over recent years average house prices in the borough have risen substantially. In June 2004 the average house price was £116,578, by June 2007 this had increased by 34% to £156,022. This coupled with increased mortgage costs had impacted on the ability of many households to enter the housing market.
It was explained that the Government believed everyone should have the opportunity of a decent home, which they could afford and within a sustainable mixed community. In order to achieve this, Government advocated a vital role for local authorities through their strategic planning and decision-making responsibilities. There were 3 themes to national affordable housing policy:
a. Providing high quality homes in mixed sustainable communities for those in need;
b. Widening the opportunities for home ownership; and
c. Offering greater quality, flexibility and choice to those who rent.
The Governments commitment to delivering affordable housing had been reiterated in the recently released Planning Policy Statement 3 (PP3) Housing' and the Housing Green Paper Homes for the Future: More Affordable, More Sustainable'.
Affordable housing included not only traditional social housing provided by local authorities and Registered Social Landlords, but also intermediate tenure housing (i.e. discounted market housing, shared ownership and equity share). Members were provided with a definition of affordability' and further information regarding the different types of affordable housing.
In 2006, the Housing Service commissioned a Local Housing Assessment (LHA). The purpose of the LHA was to provide a better understanding of the local housing market, the key drivers of local housing demand and supply and the level of housing need within the area.
In order to address the overall shortage of affordable housing the LHA proposed that 9% of all new housing development over the next five years should be classed as affordable, which equated to 200 actual dwellings over the same period. However, since some smaller sites may be unable to deliver any affordable dwellings it was recommended that overall, 15% of all new residential development (of sites of over 15 units) be affordable.
In order to deliver affordable housing units the Housing Service had been working in partnership with colleagues in Planning and Regeneration. As new planning applications came forward developers were advised of the requirement for affordable housing. Detailed negotiations then took place with the developer to agree the number of affordable housing units to be delivered.
The Council had been successful in securing affordable housing provision on a number of sites for example in December 2007 a Section 106 agreement was signed which ensured a developer contribution of 56 affordable housing units on the Corus' site (on this occasion the agreement reached is to deliver at a discounted' price).
The current housing register only registered a household's interest in renting from the Council or a Registered Social Landlord. It was therefore proposed that the Council introduce an Affordable Home Ownership Register (and associated eligibility and selection criteria). The Affordable Home Ownership Register would be a mechanism to ensure that affordable homes for sale were offered to local people who could not afford to buy on the open market and to ensure this was undertaken in a fair and transparent manner. It was proposed to align the Affordable Home Ownership Register with other low cost home ownership initiatives introduced by Government (Homebuy' schemes) and English Partnerships (First Time Buyers Initiative'), thereby expanding the potential range of options open to applicants.
A draft eligibility criteria was provided to Members as was a proposed selection/ short listing criteria
A detailed procedural guide for the proposed Home Ownership Register was being complied. It was recommended that the final version of this be signed off by the Corporate Director of Development and Neighbourhood Services, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Community and Community Safety.
In order to move the Register forward it was proposed to appoint an Affordable Housing Team Leader.
As this would be the first scheme of this nature introduced by the Council it was recommended that an initial review be undertaken six months after implementation and from then on an annual basis. In addition to operational issues, the annual review would also take into consideration the conclusions of the updated LHA, other relevant research, best practice and changing national policy.
|Members considered a report outlining final proposals for the extension of leisure facilities at Splash following public consultation|
Members were reminded that at its meeting held on 15 June 2006 Cabinet agreed to the closure of the Stockton Sports Centre at Tilery and to a major investment in new and more diverse leisure facilities at a single site location by extending the existing Splash site. Final plans and design details were delegated to the Director of Development and Neighbourhood Services in consultation with relevant Cabinet Members.
Since then Tees Active Ltd had been sensitively and successfully managing the gradual closure of the site at Tilery by helping relocate users to other facilities. Tees Active Ltd continue to provide this service for remaining users.
During the intervening six months it had become clear that there was very limited requirement for an additional four court sports hall to be incorporated within the proposals. Not only was there capacity at existing facilities at Thornaby Pavillion and Billingham Forum but also at a range of other community centred locations.
The Sport England Active Placed website stated that there was a 166% sports hall provision with the Stockton-on-Tees Borough whilst there was 170% provision in Stockton (local area). This equated to 46 (badminton) courts within the local area, 38 of which were pay & play, sports club/community association.
It was the Council's intention not only to retain the grass pitches at Stockton Sports Centre but to upgrade them via a football foundation bid. Stockton West End football club had expressed an interest to support the Council with this bid.
Furthermore, discussions with the Parkfield Mill Lane Neighbourhood Management and local community groups regarding the future use of Arlington Park as a floodlit outdoor 5-a-side football facility were well advanced.
These community buildings and facilities were in addition to the extended independent / private sector offering across Stockton and the Tees Valley including Norton Sports Club/Complex, Soccer Sensations, McMillan Leisure Centre.
Surveys had shown that 95% of users of the Stockton Sports Centre sports hall travelled to the centre by car (i.e. non local). By contrast there were clearly emerging demands (verified in recent public consultation) for a more diverse range of leisure facilities for young people.
Therefore, in accordance with the original Cabinet recommendations and following necessary consultation with ward councillors and the cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture, it was agreed to modify the original proposal, by deleting the four court sports hall, incorporating a wider range of activity opportunities for younger people and developing a community activity programme for the very local' areas of Portrack, Tilery and Victoria. This would help establish an extensive local use of service facilities.
The revised plans and proposals for the Splash extension had been on display in Stockton Sports Centre, Splash, Members Library, on the Stockton Borough Council website and there had been dedicated consultation with youth groups and community groups. There had been broad support to the revised proposals, details of which were provided.
The Stockton Sports Centre was increasingly fragile and with the final agreements to proceed with Splash there would be an accelerated but sensitively managed closure of it. As part of this project the retention of the outdoor pitches and improvement to the outdoor changing facilities would be completed. Details regarding the proposals for the Stockton Sports Centre (Tilery) site would be subject to future Cabinet reports.
|Members considered a report that sought Members approval to a review of Heads of Service and the senior management structure, taking into account current recruitment and retention issues as well as the need to improve the capacity of the Council. The report also informed Members of issues relating to pay in respect of the Corporate Management Team and raised the need for some work in the future which looked at longer term solutions around recruitment, retention and succession planning,|
Members were reminded that the Council had undertaken significant organisational reviews over recent years through the Planning for the Future process.
Planning for the Future 3 aimed to build on the success of earlier reviews which had played a significant part in Stockton's continued assessment as one of the best performing Council's in the country. Consideration therefore needed to be given to cascading this approach further down the organisation. The timing of this was appropriate not only because of the need to build on previous successes but also as the Council implemented the final phase of the Single Status Agreement. Members noted that posts graded PO15 and above were to be evaluated using the Hay scheme. This would provide an opportunity not only to ensure these posts were graded appropriately but would also address a current concern over the salary gap between third tier officers and Heads of Service to aid succession planning; and address some recruitment difficulties.
In October 2006, Cabinet approved an interim restructure of Heads of Service and required a further report to be presented following the conclusion of a number of issues which would have a significant impact on the Council over the next 6 - 12 months. The interim restructure resulted in the reduction of three Heads of Service posts and the temporary redistribution of their responsibilities to existing post holders. The issues referred to in the report included a review of Access to Services, the Stockton and Darlington partnership, the development of integrated service areas in CESC and the planned retirement of a Head of Service and a more co-ordinated approach to sports development. These issues had either been resolved or were well on the way to being so and in addition to the extension of the review to third tier officers, it was now appropriate to formally review the structure of Heads of Service in accordance with the Cabinet recommendation.
It was explained that the Local Government Agenda had continued to broaden and the Council needed to maintain the direction of previous reorganisations to build capacity and a management team which was structured appropriately to meet future challenges. In addition, recruitment had become increasingly difficult and there was a national shortage of staff of the calibre required to meet the Council's needs, who were willing to work within the Public Sector. This had resulted in escalating recruitment costs and the application of financial incentives whilst current salary levels were becoming less competitive. Heads of Service were last evaluated over 3 years ago, also using the Hay evaluation scheme and since then, there had been significant organisational change.
In determining its senior management structure, the Council also needed to look to future pressures. As an excellent rated Council, senior managers were frequently approached by recruitment agencies seeking to persuade them to apply for vacant posts. It was therefore essential that salaries remained competitive.
Many of the issues referred to above also affect the Chief Executive and Corporate Directors. The two previous Planning for the Future reviews had built up an extremely competent and effective management team which the Council must seek to retain. A shortage of potential candidates of such a calibre meant that Council recruitment and retention strategies and salary levels must be competitive. In addition, these officers are currently in receipt of performance related pay. The scheme was complex and difficult to administer. At the last meeting of the Remuneration Panel it was agreed that the scheme should be reviewed. For all these reasons it was considered that the time was now right to bring together a review of posts graded at Head of Service level or their equivalent, together with Senior Managers and for Cabinet to receive a further report, in respect of those CMT members not included in this review i.e. the Corporate Directors and the Chief Executive.
It was explained that the steps described above would resolve the immediate issues but a more integrated approach needed to be looked at for the future. This could be achieved through the introduction of the concept of total rewards and through more effective succession planning. The 2007 Recruitment and Retention Survey undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that out of the top 15 recruitment initiatives, only 3 of these are financial. Other contributing factors include:
a. Using the employer brand to market Stockton Borough Council as an employer of choice
b. Offering flexible working
c. Training and development opportunities
d. The job role.
The top 4 reasons for leaving were found to be:
a. Change of career
b. Promotion outside the organisation
c. = Level of pay
= Lack of development or career opportunities
A modern pay system therefore needed to reflect not only new structures but also needed to reinforce high performance including an assessment of all those factors which contributed to recruitment and retention ie a total rewards approach. Recruitment and Retention issues would therefore need to be tackled not only through an assessment of pay through the Hay evaluation process but also through succession planning, the promotion of jobs and careers at Stockton and diversity issues. Leadership and Management development would also be a key element. These issues would apply not only to senior staff but to all staff across the organisation and would be tackled on a phased basis. The detailed approach, together with associated timescales, was set out in the Council's People Strategy which described how the Council would lead, manage and develop its employees over the next 3 years. In respect of the issues detailed above, it was planned to complete the elements of those projects which applied to senior managers, within the next financial year 2008/09.
|Consideration was given to the minutes of the meetings of Area Partnership Boards. |
|Members considered a report that presented a summary of recent scrutiny developments and recommended that Housing and Community Safety Select Committee be the committee to fulfil the requirements of the Crime and Disorder Committee and that further reports be presented on Calls for Action.|
Cabinet was reminded that the past year had seen the publication of the White Paper "Strong and Prosperous Communities", the implementation of the Police and Justice Act and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act. These new developments looked to strengthen the role of scrutiny and the powers of Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
An extension of scrutiny powers was proposed in two main policy areas. Firstly, the "place shaping role" of a Council whereby an Authority would be able to oversee relevant aspects of the work of named agencies which were covered by a statutory duty to co-operate and secondly a Councillor's community leadership role whereby he/she would be able to refer a call for action.
It was explained that the Police and Justice Act required every Local Authority to have a committee to review or scrutinise decisions made by the Local Authority in connection with the discharge of their crime and disorder functions and to make reports or recommendations to the local authority. A local Authority or other body must consider and have regard to the report or recommendations and respond to the committee indicating what if any action it proposes to take. It was agreed that the Council's Housing and Community Safety Select Committee should fulfil this role.
There had been a strong emphasis in the recent legislation on developing the role of Local Authorities in relation to external scrutiny and specifically scrutiny of LAA partners in relation to local improvement targets.
Members noted some of the provisions of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act including those relating to Community Calls for Action:-
creation of a statutory framework within which the Government's new performance framework could operate across all the main bodies involved in delivering local public services.
power to overview and scrutiny committees to request information from LAA partners in relation to local improvement targets and make reports and recommendations to partners who, in turn, have a duty to consider them and respond.
requirement of the Authority or Executive to consider and publish a response to an overview and scrutiny report or recommendations within a 2 month period following receipt of the report or recommendations.
abolishing the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health and imposing a duty on each local authority to appoint an independent organisation to develop and support Local Involvement Networks (LINks).
strengthening the powers for frontline councillors to refer matters affecting their area for scrutiny.
enabling any Member of the Council to refer to an overview and scrutiny committee a "local government matter" which falls within the committee's remit.
It was explained that further reports would be presented to Members on Community Calls for Action following the receipt of Guidance and the issuing of Regulations by the Secretary of State.
Members were reminded that in relation to in depth scrutiny reviews, input had, to date, been sought in the following ways:
A standing item on Select Committee agendas
All members have been asked for suggestions for topics
CMT and HOS have been asked for ideas (Employees have input via line manager/HOS/CD)
Quasi judicial committees have been asked for suggestions
Consultation with Health Partners
Members of the public (though the scrutiny website/ Stockton News/ Scrutiny leaflets and publications)
Given the increasing emphasis on external scrutiny and the new legal powers for partnership scrutiny (e.g. scrutiny of Tees Valley Unlimited), Renaissance had also been asked for their input into the work programme of in depth scrutiny reviews for 2008/09.
Members noted that, together with existing pressures, the issues identified above created pressures that had implications for the resourcing of the scrutiny function. All of these pressures needed to be taken into account, (given that the scrutiny function was presently working at full capacity), so that a realistic and achievable work programme could be set.
|Members noted that the Remuneration Panel had been requested to undertake a review of Members' allowances. The review covered the scheme for the current year (2007/08) and proposals for a new scheme for next year (2008/09). It included one to one discussions with leading Members and a written consultation process with all Members. Outcomes were fed back into and informed the Remuneration Panel's work and resulting options. In addition the Panel received details of other local authorities' principal allowances. |
The Remuneration Panel's report of the review it had undertaken was provided to Members. This included:-
the main elements of the current approved scheme for this year 2007/08.
the Remuneration Panel's three options in relation to each of the key allowances contained in the current year's (2007/08) Scheme.
the Remuneration Panel's three options for a new scheme in 2008/09.
Members were also provided with details of the Council's Unitary Family allowances for 2006/07. As indicated these were used by the Remuneration Panel to formulate their three options in relation to this year's allowances, and as regards an allowances scheme for 2008/09.
It was explained that the Remuneration Panel's options had been discussed with Group Leaders and were also reported to and discussed at the Members' Advisory Panel meeting on 17 December 2007. The following thoughts and suggestions arose from these discussions:-
a. all Group Leaders to receive the same SRA;
b. all Group Leaders to receive a SRA, but on a proportionality (group size) basis;
c. only certain Group Leaders to receive a SRA, with a cut off point below which other Group Leaders would not receive a SRA;
d. a combination of (b) and (c);
e. recommending option 3 for 2008/09;
f. recommending option 1 for 2007/08; option 2 for 2008;09 and option 3 for 2009/2010;
g. recommending option 2 for 2007/08 and 2008/09;
h. no change to allowances for 2008/09 other than inflationary increase;
i. increases to allowances inappropriate and untimely in view of job evaluation/single status review.
j. significant increases would give rise to poor public perception and risk of alienating people;
k. basis allowance should be increased;
l. the Remuneration Panel's report was produced before the recent publication of the report of the Councillors' Commission - Members Remuneration - models, issues, incentives and barriers. This needs to be considered.
It was evident from Members' consideration of the Panel's work to date that there were widely differing views on the most appropriate way forward. It was also the case that the Remuneration Panel did not have the benefit of the report from the Councillors Commission.
In light of this, it was proposed that the Remuneration Panel be asked to review their findings, taking into account:-
(i) the views and suggestions outlined at paragraph 4 of the report;
(ii) the outcome of further discussions with Group Leaders;
(iii) any additional views from Members; and
(iv) a consideration of the Councillors' Commission report previously referred to.
The Remuneration Panel would be asked to complete their work and finalise their report in order to enable a decision to be made by Council provisionally in May/June.
In the meantime, the following interim changes to members' allowances were proposed:-
An inflationary backdated increase for basic, SRAs and Co-optees allowances.
An inflation increased backdated SRA for the Leaders of the Labour Group and Thornaby Independent Association.
A continuation of the Scheme for 2007/08 as amended above.
The revised scheme for 2007/08 and the scheme for 2008/09 was set out for Members. Following the further proposed Remuneration Panel review any agreed changes to allowances would be able to be incorporated into the Scheme for 2008/09 and backdated to 1 April 2008.
|Cabinet considered a report outlining the provisions contained within the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 ("the 2007 Act") regarding new executive arrangements for local government. The report also suggested a Members' seminar as a next step in order to begin to develop the Council's approach to the 2007 Act requirements. It was also proposed to provide details at the seminar of the report and recommendations of the Councillors' Commission - Representing the Future - for Members' views. |
It was explained that Part 3 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 ("the 2007 Act") had now revised the Local Government Act (the 2000 Act) provisions and introduced new executive arrangements requirements.
Authorities, such as Stockton, which were presently operating an "old-style Leader and Cabinet executive" as provided for in the 2000 Act, had to make a change in governance arrangements in accordance with the 2007 Act's requirements.
This meant that the Council must vary its present arrangements, and look to introduce a different form of executive as provided for and permitted by the 2007 Act.
The 2007 Act allowed for only two specific executive models:-
Mayor and cabinet, or
Leader and cabinet
The Leader and Cabinet executive (England) model was defined in the 2007 Act as an executive consisting of :-
(a) a councillor of the authority elected as leader of the executive by the authority; and
(b) two or more councillors of the authority appointed to the executive by the executive leader.
The 2007 Act had not, however, repealed the 2000 Act provisions which allowed for a form of executive which may be prescribed in regulations by the Secretary of State, such as a directly elected executive, as specified in the 2000 Act.
Members were provided with the details of key features of the Leader and Cabinet Executive (England) Model.
The 2007 Act enabled the Council to continue to operate its present "old style Leader and Cabinet" executive arrangements until the end of a transitional period. This period was from the end of December 2007 (when the new provisions came into force) and ended on 8 May 2011.
The Council must have drawn up and adopted a different form of executive arrangements before the end of this period or the Secretary of State had power to issue an order specifying a different form of executive arrangements.
The 2007 Act sets out certain requirements which a local authority which wished to change its governance arrangements must satisfy and Cabinet was provided with details.
In order to consider the provisions of the 2007 Act in more detail and to discuss the Council's approach to the requirements for a change in governance arrangements, it was suggested that a Members' seminar be held.
Members noted another emerging issue was the work of the Councillors' Commission which had been established in light of the Local Government White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, to seek ways of encouraging able, qualified and representative people to come forward for election as Councillors and as a corollary to secure public interest and recognition for the work Councillors carried out. The Commission had produced a report titled - Representing the Future. This included sixty one recommendations aimed at bringing about a fundamental shift in perceptions, attitudes and culture concerning local government, local councillors and employees but in order to enable Members to discuss it and its recommendations, it was suggested that details should be provided at the Members' seminar proposed for the new governance arrangements referred to above.
|Members considered a report that provided an updated position statement regarding the Billingham Forum Complex. In particular it highlighted the redevelopment options and continuing operational issues affecting Billingham Forum.|
Cabinet noted that the condition of the Billingham Forum was fragile. Given the frailty and condition of the structure, services and fabric of the building, and the desire to keep it fully operational and open for use, extensive monitoring arrangements had been put in place to mitigate Health and Safety concerns.
Since 1980 £4.5 million (at current day costs) had been spent on improvements and repairs to the complex. However, given its age and construction type, many components were collectively reaching the end of their natural life. Recent difficulties including electrical problems, issues with the roof, and structural damage, all reflected the increasing difficulty of maintaining the building as a safe and reliable operational venue.
Following an application for PFI credits in 2005, which although unsuccessful received positive feedback, the Council in conjunction with The Billingham Partnership (TBP) prepared a refined 2007 PFI bid for submission. However, given the timescales involved with a PFI scheme and uncertainty regarding the announcement of 2007 PFI credits, Officers investigated contingency options and completed detailed financial appraisals.
Following the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, DCMS advised that they had not been allocated funding for PFI credits for leisure projects. As the Comprehensive Spending Review provided budget allocations until 2010/11, it could be confirmed that a PFI credit bid was not a feasible redevelopment option.
A non-financial options appraisal of all the facilities concluded that with the exception of the climbing wall (which was not considered to be well used or have the necessary demand) and sauna/solarium, the existing facility mix in addition to a dance studio, play barn & /or crèche, and 80 station health and fitness studio would be desirable. An 8 lane x 25m pool was also considered to be desirable in order to provide good competition facilities, whilst the creation of exhibition space to display art work was considered to be essential.
In total eight options were identified to demonstrate the range of facilities that could be provided in a redeveloped/refurbished Forum. Members were provided with overview of the options and indicative costs associated with the options (including the PFI scheme for comparative purposes). Details of delivery options were also provided.
Having considered all the information provided relating to facility mix, costs and delivery options Cabinet considered that the refurbishment option offered value for money and provided an expedient solution to the structural problems. In particular the refurbishment option would retain all of the present facilities, including the unique regional attraction of the ice rink and would enhance the Forum's facilities, appearance and layout to attract new customers.
Furthermore, the use of prudential borrowing to fund a Council led refurbishment was considered to be the most favourable option as the Council could retain control of the end facility and Tees Active Ltd would remain as the operator in line with the Council's strategic aims.
Although the timescale was slightly longer for the refurbishment option than other approaches it would allow the building to remain partially open whilst works was being carried out. This was considered to be important for continuation of service, and in order to minimise the impact on Tees Active Ltd and Riverside Leisure Ltd. Furthermore, given the current state of the building any major repairs that would need to be carried out before the works started (such as the recent works to the ice rink plant) could be factored into the refurbishment. In contrast any monies spent on essential maintenance works before a Design Build Operate Maintain approach commenced would essentially be non-recoverable.
English Heritage had agreed in principle to a refurbishment option, although detailed discussions regarding structural improvements to the theatre would need to be held.