|Members considered a report that outlined the Council's service and financial performance to 30 September 2008 highlighting achievements, areas for improvement, impact of the global economy and pressures against revenue and capital budgets.|
Cabinet was provided with a table detailing the current MTFP position of each service compared to the projected position reported to Cabinet in September 2008.
Members were reminded of the inflationary pressures around energy and fuel and also the demand-led pressures, particularly in Children, Education & Social Care. The MS/MC position showed a reduction in MS from that projected at the beginning of the year as services used MS to accommodate the increases. Since the June budgetary control report services had been proactively managing the financial position across the Council. As a consequence of this action savings and efficiencies had been made which had resulted in the MS/MC reverting back to the projections at the beginning of the year i.e. £2 million MS. Significant elements of this were however committed and details were provided to members.
It was noted that the economic downturn both nationally and globally appeared to be here to stay. It was expected that the financial position would therefore continue to be extremely challenging. Officers were currently analysing trends and challenging cost drivers with a view to informing the medium term financial plan and the budget/Council tax setting in February. Areas being considered include:
Agency placements (CESC)
Direct payments (CESC)
There were a number of other initiatives and pressures that would also need to be considered including:
- Cabinet recommendations agreed in principle as a result of the Scrutiny Work Programme.
- Potential implications of the Housing Futures Programme.
In addition the Council's treasury management (loans and investments) position was being monitored on a daily basis. Officers have taken a cautious approach and have recently, via urgency powers, revised the Treasury Management Strategy. (Council dates were such that delays would potentially have a serious impact upon the position). Details of the approach and the revision were provided to Members. Interest rates were dropping and as the Council's medium term financial plan relied upon some investment income, this was being evaluated and would be considered via the budget setting process.
With regard to the General Fund Balances, the projected level of working balances at 1 April 2009 was reported as £9.1million (3.6% of 2008/09 Net Budget Requirement).
In terms of the Housing Revenue account issues had been identified surrounding a reduction in capital receipts and Right to Buy sales. Officers had identified savings, additional income and reprogramming that would ensure a balanced capital position and also retain the Balance on the Housing Revenue Account to a projected £1.1million. It was noted that this area would be monitored closely throughout the year.
Members noted the Capital budget and were supplied with details of movements within the budget.
Members then considered performance issues and were initially provided with details of changes to the way government would assess and monitor performance of councils and their partners, brought about by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. These changes had a number of implications for the way that Stockton on Tees Borough Council collected performance data, monitored its performance and drove performance improvement. Details of ongoing work to deliver was provided to Members
Cabinet then considered comprehensive performance information in the following areas:-
Local Area Agreement performance to September 2008
Non LAA measures for which data is available
Progress against the Council Plan (including by theme) to September 2008
Complaints and Commendations
Details of measures where data was not yet available but systems were under development to collect/obtain data was also provided.
|Members considered a report relating to the Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) which was a requirement of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The Plan was intended to be the prime means by which the Council would identify changes to be made in respect of the management and improvement of the local rights of way network over the next 10 years.|
It was explained that legislation sets out the following requirements regarding the ROWIP:
The extent to which local rights of way meet the present and likely future needs of the public;
The opportunities provided by local rights of way (and in particular by footpath cycle tracks, bridleway and restricted byways) for exercise and other forms of outdoor recreation and enjoyment of their area; and
The accessibility of local rights of way to blind or partially sighted persons and others with mobility problems.
It was noted that given the requirements a ROWIP had been prepared, which was provided to members, based on the need to create a joined up' network of paths across the Borough; in good condition; accessible to all users for leisure and other everyday needs; which assisted in increasing the levels of exercise that people took; and on which people felt safe.
The Plan was one of the Daughter Strategies' supporting the Second Stockton-on-Tees Local Transport Plan (LTP). The Department for Transport (DfT) had stated that the ROWIP must show clear links to the priorities set out in the LTP, as well as helping to deliver the objectives set out under the five key themes of the Central/Local Government Shared Priority for Transport. From 2010 onwards, it was a statutory requirement that the ROWIP was fully integrated with the LTP.
The Plan had two key sections. The first contained an assessment of the state of the existing public rights of way network and the present and likely future needs of the public. The second contains an Action Plan setting out a programme to improve the network over the next 10 years.
Cabinet was provided with a copy of the Action Plan, which identified seventeen potential improvements to the existing path network in order to provide greater opportunities for use of the network by residents of, and visitors to, the Borough.
Members were provided with details of the extensive consultation that had been undertaken in the preparation of ROWIP and were provided with responses to a draft plan published in June.
|Consideration was given to a report on the policy and procedure for naming and numbering of streets and buildings throughout the Borough.|
The naming and numbering of streets and buildings throughout the Borough was the statutory responsibility of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council. It was essential that there was a clear policy and procedures for allocating and maintaining street names and numbers. They should be assigned and maintained in a way that provided absolute clarity for the delivery of all mail, goods and services to residents and businesses. Also, emergency service vehicles should be able to locate any address to which they may be summoned.
The address of a property was increasingly becoming a very important issue. It was the Councils responsibility to allocate road names and house numbers to new developments and property conversions, as well as informing Royal Mail for the allocation of postcodes. There existed a National Land and Property Gazetteer, which set out good practice guidance for street naming and numbering. The report followed the conventions contained within the guidance.
There were currently two sets of powers available to the Council to manage the naming and numbering process:-
* Town Improvements Clauses Act 1847 (Sections 64 and 65) together with Section 21 of the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907.
* Public Health Act 1925 (Sections 17-19).
The legislation enabled the Council to:-
* Allocate numbers to new dwellings.
* Allocate names to new streets.
* Change a street numbering scheme where practical.
In order to ensure that consistency was achieved, the a policy had been developed by following best practice guidance for Street Naming and Numbering contained within the National Land and Property Gazetteer (BS7666). The policy was detailed within the report.
The significant change related to the naming of streets posthumously. The current procedures, stated that the Naming of living persons were not normally permissible.
The naming of streets after living individuals was becoming more widespread across the Country. A recent example was Lewis Hamilton Way in Stevenage. Another non-posthumous naming included the three times gold medallist Rebecca Adlington. It was therefore proposed that this be amended and read as:-
Requests for the Naming of Streets after living individuals would now be considered. The requests must relate to an individual that had made an outstanding contribution to society or was of historical significance to the local area. Where the request related to a living person, it would be referred to the Head of Technical Services and the Cabinet Member of Regeneration and Transport and would only be approved after consultation with all Council Members.
|Members were reminded that, in 2006, the Tees Valley Joint Strategy Unit (JSU) had appointed consultants, Entec UK Ltd, to prepare two Joint Minerals and Waste Development Plan Documents on behalf of Stockton on Tees Borough Council and the other four Boroughs in the Tees Valley. The two DPDs were the Core Strategy and a Policies and Sites document. The Core Strategy set out a long-term strategic vision and overarching policies for minerals and waste developments. The policies and sites document would identify specific minerals and waste sites in the area.|
The documents were published for consultation at the Issues and Options stage of production in May 2007. This version of the DPDs, the Preferred Options, identified which of those options consulted on in May 2007 was the preferred choice. The consultation on the preferred options lasted for 6 weeks commencing on the 21st February 2008 and closing on the 2nd April 2008.
The purpose of this report is to summarise the main areas of concern raised by respondents to the consultation. Due to the size of the schedule of comments issues raised were not reproduced in full, however, members were supplied with a summary schedule of the actual comments received which, either related to issues concerning Stockton on Tees or were of a more general nature but were made by residents, businesses or organisations based within the Borough.
The main issues raised in the consultation can be summarised as follows:
Issues with the tests of soundness that each DPD must be in accordance with;
The proximity of minerals and waste developments to sites of nature conservation importance and the effect of proposals on habitats in these areas;
The owner of the former anhydrite mines has identified the site as a potential location for the disposal of hazardous waste. It should be noted that the Council is not supporting the use of the mines for any purpose within the documents;
Scott Bros / Impetus Waste Management's response sought inclusion of two sites within the documents. One of these sites at New Road, Billingham has planning consent, the other site, known as "Billingham Bottoms", does not have planning consent and is located within an area of green wedge.
Scott Bros are of the opinion that the strategy is complacent and that there is a lack of ambition and support to encourage and request the need for new state of the art waste management facilities and clusters. This is an opinion contrary to Stockton Viewpoint, who considers that minimising the risk to the environment should take precedence over managing waste as close to its source as possible. They are also concerned regarding importing waste from other areas for processing and the resulting image of the area.
All other comments received can be categorised as references to typing errors, fact checks, adding additional information to the text and improving the terminology used in the document.
|Consideration was given to a report on the Impact of the Credit Crunch on the Borough. The credit crunch and global economic slow down began in the construction and financial industry was having an impact on Council services and individual households. The report sought to assure Members that the Council was taking a lead role to establish the impact for Stockton Borough and put in place immediate and longer term plans to help local residents and businesses mitigate the effects of the economic slow down.|
The credit crunch and economic slow down was developing into a global recession. The problems faced by businesses, rising unemployment and mortgage repossessions were an almost daily feature in the national media and many households and businesses within the UK were now experiencing increasing financial pressure and hardship.
The North East region's economy was predicted to suffer up to 70,000 job losses over the next 2 years. Despite this though, a recent report produced for the Local Government Association had predicted that the North East's recent growth and industries such as the process industry and new technologies, would position it relatively well to cope with the effect of the recession, second only to the South West.
Stockton Borough Council was proactively taking on a leadership and coordinating role, working with regional and local partners to put in place measures to help mitigate some of the effects of the economic downturn and be prepared for when the economy improves in the future. The Association of North East Council's (ANEC) was having fortnightly meetings with the regional Minister to monitor the economic conditions, providing SBC with the opportunity to feed directly into central Government to influence the direction of government support. The credit crunch was also on every Corporate Management Team (CMT) meeting agenda.
Although the report dealt primarily with the issues regarding the local economy, regeneration and housing, most services within the Council were being effected to differing degrees and future reports would be presented to Cabinet to provide updates and more detail on specific issues from all Service Groups as appropriate.
|Consideration was given to a report that described the progress that had been made to date with implementing phase 1 of the Council's Access to Services strategy, which was approved by Cabinet in November 2006. It also made recommendations for consolidation of contact centre performance and the future development of the programme.|
In January 2006 Cabinet approved a vision for the way that the Council's customers might access its services in the future. The vision centred on making it as easy as possible for customers to request a service or obtain information about Council services. In November 2006 Cabinet approved a plan of action for turning the vision into reality. The plan included the transfer of enquiries and requests for service relating to several key front line services to a newly formed Customer Services team, the creation of a corporate contact centre, a multi-service centre at Thornaby and a pilot community access point in Tesco at Ingleby Barwick.
The Contact Centre opened at the end of January 2008. This new initiative saw the first point of contact services for Taxation, Benefits, Care for your Area, main switchboard and telephone payments coming together in a single, purpose built location equipped with modern technology. The range of services provided by the contact centre had since been extended to include Pupil & Student Support calls and a 6-month trial for Private Sector Housing calls.
To create the new Customer Services Team, staff were transferred from single-service customer facing teams spread across the Council and were trained so that that they became multi-skilled and able to deal with calls for two or three different services. In addition 7 staff had completed NVQ level 3 in Customer Services, with a further 7 on schedule to complete NVQs by March 2009. The contact centre achieved ISO9001:2000 certification in June 2008 and the Customer First Stage 2 standard in October 2008.
Through part-time contracts and the use of a rota system, the contact centre had been able to deliver extended opening hours for key services and operate the Community Access Point in Ingleby Barwick Tesco at no additional costs.
The results of the recent IPSOS MORI survey indicated that the Access to Services and Customer First programmes had a positive effect on customers' satisfaction with the quality of service and customer care they received when they contacted the Council, with all measures at their highest level recorded. The satisfaction of service percentage details from 1998 to 2008 were presented within the report. The report also detailed performance for contact centre, call handling, service demand, speed of answer, abandoned calls, complaints and customer satisfaction.
Performance had improved since the contact centre had opened and this was attributed to:-
* Staff becoming multi-skilled and able to deal with a greater range of queries;
* Staff becoming more familiar with the technology;
* Better use of part-time contracts to cover the busiest days and times;
* Lower call volumes after the traditionally busy months of April and May for Taxation and Benefits.
It was explained that whilst the extended opening hours had generated positive feedback from customers that had used the service, it was indicated that it was taking time for customers to become accustomed to the new hours of operation. The situation would continue to be monitored and it was recommended that the decision about how/if the extended hours scheme continued, after the pilot ends in January 2009, be delegated to the Corporate Director Resources in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Access & Communities.
With regard the community access points it was reported that even with in-store publicity, change of opening hours, promotions in Stockton News and local Ingleby Barwick newsletters, take up of the service had been disappointing.
A review of the Ingleby Barwick service is currently being undertaken, which will inform a decision about a possible change in venue or change to a fortnightly or monthly service. This would include consultation with residents and ward councillors, and trying new methods of promotion.
It was recommended that Cabinet receive a further report in February 2009, detailing the results of the review of the trial Community Access Point at Ingleby Barwick together with any recommendations for changes to the service arising from the review, and decisions be delegated about the setting up of any alternative trial Access Points, to the Corporate Director Resources in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Access & Communities.
With regard Access to Services Phase 2 it was reported that in October 2008 the contact centre began a six-month trial answering calls on behalf of the Private Sector Housing service. The trial had been successful and was expected to become a permanent arrangement when it concluded. The trial was introduced in response to a request for assistance at a time of staff shortage and fluctuating call volumes.
Cabinet was asked to approve the following list of services for review as potential services for phase 2 of the Access to Service Programme and to agree to delegate the decision as to which (if any) of these front-line services subsequently moved into the contact centre to the Corporate Director Resources in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Access & Communities and the appropriate Corporate Director and Cabinet Member for the service(s) concerned:
Transport (e.g. Dial a Ride, Schools)
Family Information Services
It was proposed that the Stockton multi-service centre be the second centre to open. This would allow the amalgamation of the existing reception points dispersed around Municipal Buildings, 16 Church Road and Gloucester House into a single location in central Stockton. The "Workwise" project, due to recommend an outline business case to Cabinet in March 2009, include a review of the Council's office accommodation. The review had provisionally identified space, suitable for the multi-service centre that would become available on the ground floor of Municipal Buildings when Tristar Homes move out early in 2009. Tristar Homes had secured a lease for Stratford House from which they would deliver the choice based lettings scheme for allocation of empty properties, with an estate agent style service delivery that was easily accessed by customers. The Housing Options service which delivered the Council's homeless service was currently based at 16 Church Road, but would be co-locating to Stratford House (rather than to the Stockton multi-service centre) to ensure a one-stop enhanced housing options service provision.
|Consideration was given to the minutes of the meetings of Area Partnership Boards.|
|Cabinet considered a report that informed of the completion of the fourth Local Development Framework Annual Monitoring Report (AMR), prior to it being submitted to the Secretary of State before the end of December 2008. The AMR also included the schedule of policies from Local Plan Alteration Number 1 which Cabinet had agreed required saving beyond March 2009. Members were provided with a copy of the Annual Monitoring Report which was based upon the period from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008. |
Members of Cabinet were informed that the Annual Monitoring Report would enable the Council to:
assess progress towards meeting the targets set out in the Local Development Scheme, and provide a basis for amendments in timetabling, as necessary.
strengthen baseline data against which to monitor performance in the future.
identify further gaps in the knowledge base, to enable systems to be put in place to collect information required for monitoring.
look at the existing Local Plan policies to assess their effectiveness.
Cabinet was given details of the key findings of the 2007/08 Annual Monitoring Report.
|Cabinet was reminded that the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 had introduced new arrangements and a more locally based conduct regime, including a new model code of conduct for local authority members.|
A recent White Paper - Communities in Control: Real people, real power sought to build on those new arrangements. Cabinet considered a copy extract of a consultation paper, issued by the Department of Communities and Local Government, and were asked to provided views on proposals:-
revising the current model code of conduct for local authority members;
regarding associated changes to the general principles of conduct; and on proposals;
for a new statutory model code of conduct for local government employees.
Members were provided with a summary of proposed changes to the current code and General Principles of Conduct. Details of proposals for the introduction of a model code of conduct, for local government employees were also provided.
The Department for Communities and Local Government had requested views on the consultation paper by 24th December 2008.
It was explained that the Standards Committee had considered the consultation paper and a summary of its views was provided. The consultation paper would be reported to the Audit Committee too. The Human Resources Strategy Group (HRSG) had also considered the paper. The Group's views were consistent with the Standards Committee's, save as regards questions 17,18,21 and 22 of the paper. Details of HRSG's comments on these questions were provided to Members. It was agreed that the views expressed by the group on questions 18,21 and 22 should be incorporated into the response, but that as regards question 17 the selection of "qualifying employees" should be based on the political restriction model, rather than on the delegation model as suggested by HRSG.
It was noted that, as the consultation period expired on 24th December, it would not be possible to await Council's consideration of Cabinet views on the paper's proposals.
It was therefore agreed to forward an appropriate response to the consultation prior to the deadline, making it clear that further comments may arise from the next full Council meeting on 21 January 2008.
|The Chairman agreed to consideration of this matter due to the important nature of the information provided to Members.|
The Corporate Director of Children, Education and Social Care verbally updated Members with regard the child protection issues at Haringey Council and an independent inspectors report that had recently been published and how this may affect this Council.
Members felt that due to the seriousness of the situation a report should be prepared and forwarded to all Members of the Council.