|Councillor Cook declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest in respect of the item entitled Support for the Voluntary and Community Sector as a result of his position as a Director of the St Anns Board.|
Councillor Coleman also declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest in respect of the item entitled Support for the Voluntary and Community Sector as a result of his membership of the St Anns Board.
Councillor Beall declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest in respect of the item entitled Support for the Voluntary and Community Sector as a result of his position as a Council representative on the Catalyst Board.
Councillor Nelson declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest in respect of the item entitled Economic Climate Update as a result of his involvement with Stockton District Advice & Information Service who had contributed Housing and Development data contained within the report.
Councillor Lupton declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest in respect of the item entitled Economic Climate Update as a result of his membership of the Tees Valley Leadership Board that supported the Local Enterprise Partnership bid.
|Cabinet considered a report relating to the Care Quality Commissions Service Inspection of Adult Social Care.|
It was explained that in July 2010, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had undertaken an Adult Social Care service inspection, focused on the themes of safeguarding adults; increased choice and control for older people; and leadership & commissioning. The inspection concluded that the Council was performing well in relation to safeguarding adults, and increased choice and control for older people; and that it had promising capacity to improve in relation to leadership and commissioning. Those judgements were consistent with the Councils self-assessment, which was considered by inspectors as part of the evidence base for the inspection.
Members were provided with the formal report produced by CQC and Cabinet and welcomed the lead inspector, Laura Middleton and her colleagues Linda Robinson and Pam Cox who presented the report.
Cabinet noted that the inspection had revealed a number of areas where the Councils actions were supporting outcomes and improving capacity. These included:-
· There was a clear priority on improving community safety, with strong multi agency working relationships through the Community Safety Partnership.
· Overview and Scrutiny had undertaken some impressive work.
· Users and Carers were very satisfied with services they received. The Council engaged well with older people and complaints were managed well.
Cabinet also noted areas where the inspectors considered outcomes and capacity could be improved:-
· Improve access to advocacy for both alleged victims and vulnerable perpetrators. This should include ensuring that the duty to consider the use of Independent Mental Health Capacity Advocates was consistently exercised and the reasons for decisions were recorded.
· Ensure that assessments, including the new assessment tools, fully reflected peoples interests and history.
· Ensure the Local Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Committee was supported by robust performance and management information.
It was explained that in line with CQCs inspection reporting and monitoring requirements, the Council had prepared an action plan, which sets out how the Council intended to address the recommendations for improvement identified in the inspection report. A copy of the draft Action Plan was included for Members attention. Members noted that there was a requirement to report formally to CQC in March 2011 regarding the progress made in achieving improved outcomes in line with the action plan.
|Cabinet considered a report that provided feedback on the recent inspection by Ofsted of Safeguarding and Looked After Children Services in Stockton on Tees. |
The inspection was focused on the contribution of all local partners to improving outcomes for children and young people and the impact that practice and services had on improving outcomes, including through managing risk and minimising incidence of child abuse and neglect. During the fieldwork period, there was 92 separate meetings / focus groups / interviews, involving 385 people - staff from the Council and partner agencies, members, parents / carers, and over 50 children and young people. In addition, inspectors reviewed 26 randomly selected case files, analysed performance data and information from inspections of local settings such as schools and day care provision, and examined a wide range of documentation about Council policies, strategies, plans and procedures.
The Councils response to the findings of the annual Unannounced Inspection of Contact, Referral and Assessment Services, undertaken in January 2010, was a significant element of the evidence evaluated by inspectors. That Unannounced Inspection resulted in some areas for development along with two priority actions which, under new criteria, developed by Ofsted from April this year, acted as limiting judgements on the annual assessment by Ofsted of Childrens Services - meaning that the Council would be rated as poor in the annual assessment unless a subsequent Safeguarding and LAC inspection provided evidence to the contrary. A significant element of the recent inspection fieldwork, therefore, was to assess the Councils progress in implementing the action plan developed to respond to the Unannounced Inspection and, in particular, the improvements made in the quality of casework practice.
The inspection evidence also included evaluation of the action that had taken place by partners following the Serious Case Review, which was rated as inadequate by Ofsted earlier in the year.
Ofsteds report on the findings of the Safeguarding and Looked After Children inspection was provided. The report included a total of 33 separate scored judgements; these were listed in the tables on the final two pages of the inspection report.
The adequate judgements for the overall effectiveness of safeguarding, and capacity to improve in this area, represented a positive acknowledgement that progress had been made following the Unannounced Inspection. Without that progress, it seemed certain that the Council would have been rated as inadequate and its annual assessment of Childrens services by Ofsted would then have been performing poorly. Significant issues impacting on the Safeguarding judgements included:
· Inspectors were satisfied that the Areas for Priority Action, highlighted in the Unannounced Inspection, had been addressed; and that appropriate learning and action had taken place following the Serious Case Review which was rated as inadequate earlier in the year.
· Inspectors stated that children and young people are safeguarded and that the children and young people they saw felt safe as well.
· CAF (the Common Assessment Framework) is not being used effectively, and needs to be owned by all partners.
· There was still considerable variability in the quality of casework.
Significant issues impacting on the good judgements for the overall effectiveness of Looked After Children services, and capacity to improve in this area, included:
· Good leadership, shared vision across the Childrens Trust Board, and clear commitment from corporate parents.
· Imaginative work with the Children in Care Council to give looked after young people and care leavers a voice.
· Good front line focus on placements based on the needs of children.
· Need to ensure strategy was consistently applied and performance was managed to ensure permanency is achieved whenever possible.
Areas for improvement had been identified in the inspection report and work had started to develop action plans for those areas for improvement. Progress in delivery of those improvements would be monitored through the cycle of performance reporting to the Council, the Childrens Trust Board, the Local Safeguarding Children Board, and MALAP (the Multi-Agency Looked After Children Partnership).
|In accordance with the procedure for the appointment of school governors, approved at Minute 84 of the Cabinet (11th May 2000), Cabinet was requested to approve the nominations to school Governing Bodies as detailed within the report|
|Members considered a report that set out the package of support Stockton on Tees Borough Council was proposing to make available to the voluntary and community sector.|
It presented the principle of a Voluntary Sector Investment Fund as a replacement for the Voluntary Sector Support Fund (VSSF). It was explained a review of the VSSF presented to Cabinet in November 2009 recommended an independent review be undertaken of the fund and that an alternative model be developed. Acumen Community Development Trust was commissioned to undertake the work against a number of core objectives;
·Support the consolidation of the Boroughs strategic infrastructure
·Provide a more flexible fund
·Help to measure the contribution of the third sector to the achievement of the Boroughs strategic objectives set out in the Sustainable Community Strategy
The proposed model was provided to Cabinet and it was noted that it changed the nature of the fund from a grant giving fund to an investment fund, which would help deliver the Third Sector Strategy and develop a more sustainable and thriving third sector in Stockton that was well placed to access future commissioning opportunities and external grants.
It also presented details of a complementary fund; the Stockton Community Fund, to be created by using under-utilised and dormant trust funds through an arrangement agreed by the Charities Commission.
Together the two funds would provide a cohesive package of financial support to the voluntary and community sector within the borough that supported the delivery of the Cabinet endorsed Third Sector Strategy and helped to ensure a vibrant and sustainable sector for the future.
Other aspects of the package of support include:
· Community Asset Transfer principles (to be approved at a future Cabinet).
· Development of a bid bank holding general and demographic information that organisations can use to support bids to external organisations.
· Participation in, and promotion of, the government-backed rate relief scheme for charitable organisations.
· Commissioning of a Community Empowerment Network function (£100k) -specification to be co-produced in partnership with Catalyst.
|Members considered a report that provided an overview of the current economic climate, outlining the effects that this was having on Stockton Borough, and the mitigations already in place and those being developed in response to this.|
Members were provided with a range of economic indicators for the Borough, sub region, region and nationally. Reference was made to the number of job vacancies advertised by the Jobcentre and whether these vacancies were local. It was requested that the Jobcentre be asked to provide data that could be reported to the next Cabinet meeting clarifying this issue.
Details of economic support measures and this Councils responses were provided for Cabinet. It was noted that it had been announced today that the Tees Valley had been successful in securing its own Local Enterprise Partnership.
|Cabinet considered a report that summarised the main points of the Health White Paper and the implications for the Council, as well as incorporating the response submitted to the consultation on behalf of the Council and the Health and Wellbeing Partnership Board.|
The White Paper represented a significant change in the role of councils and their responsibilities relating to health improvement and the coordination of health and social care.
The proposals were focused on four areas:
·Putting patients and public first
·Improving healthcare outcomes
·Autonomy, accountability and democratic legitimacy
·Cutting bureaucracy and improving efficiency
Members were provided with further detail relating to each of the four areas.
It was explained that the Department of Health (DH) launched its public consultation setting out proposals to support the White Paper,covering:
·Commissioning for patients
·Regulating healthcare providers
·The review of arms-length bodies
·Local democratic legitimacy in health
·Transparency in outcomes: a framework for the NHS
·Achieving equity and excellence for children.
A members seminar session was held in August to outline the proposals and discuss the key issues. The Health and Wellbeing Partnership held an extra-ordinary meeting to review the key points and Health Scrutiny undertook its own internal review of the White Paper. In addition there had been various internal meetings with officers and attendance at regional events that had helped shape and influence the comments that have been collated.
A summary of the issues/ responses was provided which had been submitted in line with the DH deadline of the 11 October 2010.
Members noted that the Health White Paper signaled a significant period of change for the Local Authority and NHS. This was in parallel to challenging financial constraints in both areas. The management of the transition period will be critical in skilling up the GP Consortia to manage their new functions, transferring of health improvement functions/ personnel to the Local Authority and reshaping pathways to enable efficiencies to be released and ensure that quality of care was maintained.
The Public Health White Paper was anticipated in December 2010 and would consult on further details around the expectations and arrangements for the public health transition to the Local Authority.
|Members considered a report relating to a review of the Councils Winter Maintenance Services.|
Members were reminded that during December 2009 and January 2010, Stockton-on-Tees and the rest of the UK experienced periods of extreme weather conditions with snow events lasting for weeks. These were, at times, combined with sub-zero Road Surface Temperatures (RSTs) and air temperatures amongst some of the lowest seen in decades.
It was noted that an initial report was presented to the Executive Scrutiny Committee in February 2010 and provided Members with an overview of the provisions of the Winter Maintenance Plan Members were also provided with a range of additional options for consideration which, if implemented and resourced, would ensure that Stockton was effectively able to deal with similar weather conditions in the future. The recommendations took account of those comments which were made as part of the consultation with Elected Members, public and staff and s had been approved by the Regeneration and Transport Select Committee on 16th August 2010.
Any suggested increase in the Council response to severe weather events needed to be considered within the tight financial constraints that the Council faced and the advice and guidance from DfT.
Members noted the damaging effect the severe weather had had on the infrastructure of the Boroughs roads. Following the severe weather, a full inspection of the road network revealed a significant increases in both footway and carriageway damage; attributable to the combined effects of continual freezing conditions and the gritting treatment. The Council had identified a one-off resource of £300k, in addition to the £208k received from Central Government, to spend on responsive repairs to the highway network with 50% being spent on resurfacing schemes and the remainder on the responsive repairs service.
The resilience of Stockton Borough Council to cope with significant snow events and prolonged cold periods must be at the forefront of its planning. The Council needed to be mindful to follow advice issued by the government and restrictions placed upon local authorities during severe weather events. Restrictions on gritting operation could be required by the Salt Cell, which would come into operation during extended cold periods to help conserve salt supplies and prioritise salt deliveries. If local authorities failed to follow the advice issued by Central Government and preserve salt supplies to protect its own resilience the implications would be that the Council would be deemed to be a lower priority as it had chosen to reduce its salt stocks by gritting more than was necessary. Therefore, there was a significant risk involved in having a winter maintenance plan and snow plan, which may be construed as being wasteful.
It was explained that the proposed improvements would also need to take account of the current financial constraints and direct scarce resources to the priorities identified. Members noted that some potential areas, which could be improved may, at this point, be considered as desirable and may be worthy of further consideration as and when financial resources became available.
Members noted the main elements of the report:-
1. The review of the Winter Maintenance Plan in light of the severe weather experienced over the last winter.
2. An overview of the Snow Plan with options for additional snow clearing activities and service improvements.
3. A Salt Bins for Footway Purposes Policy
4. An improved car park treatment regime and salt bin refilling. It was noted that the costs of these improvements would be £96,508 in year one with annual costs of £77,108 thereafter (cost detailed at Appendix D to the report). Given this it was suggested that, in view of the current financial restraints, any decision be taken in the context of setting the Councils Budget,the Councils MTFP and other Council priorities at the time the budget was set.
5. An option to extend the existing salt storage facility at Cowpen Lane and the consequent option to combine priority 1 and priority 2 routes.
6. An improved Communications Action Plan was currently being prepared, and would be ready for the start of the 2010/11 season, in order to improve residents knowledge and ensure regular and updated information regarding SBC winter maintenance activities was easily accessible.
|Cabinet considered a report informing members of the establishment of the North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and sought the appointment of a member to serve on that authority.|
|Consideration was given to the minutes of the meetings of various bodies.|
|Consideration was given to information announced as part of the Governments Comprehensive Spending Review with reference to its potential impact on this Council.|
As with most national budget announcements, not all the detail was available at present and Government departments would be producing business plans in November which would hopefully give more detail on how the proposals from CSR would be implemented in practice. For local government the provisional grant settlement that usually occurs in late November, or early December, would also be a key event.
From the headline information that was presented for local government the actual position was a little uncertain. The initial announcement said there would be reductions of 7.1% a year for 4 years, giving the impression there would be even phasing and a total reduction of 28.4% in real terms. However when the official papers were made available by the Treasury they stated funding to councils would decrease by around 26% over the next 4 years. The Institute for Fiscal Studies then produced a figure of 26.8% and this now seems to be the figure gathering general acceptance. The real terms figure includes an allowance for inflation, although as yet no official figure had been given for this element of the total.
Members were advised that it was important for authorities to understand the cash impact of the changes, as that was the actual sum of money that would be lost. The picture on this was a little clearer although some uncertainty still remained. The papers from the Treasury include a spending profile for Formula Grant spending starting from a baseline position of 2010/11. The baseline position is one of those uncertainties as it did not include an analysis of how it had been calculated. Officers from Stockton have had discussions with officials from the Communities and Local Government Department. Based upon these, officers had a hypothesis as to how the figure had been derived and were currently trying to get this confirmed. The phasing of the reductions was anything but even, with a considerable front-loading in 2011/12, and a very small reduction in 2013/14. This would seem to suggest that some kind of adjustment had taken place in that year, but there was no detail to substantiate this in the documents available. The figures as they appear for Formula Grant were summarised.
From discussions with officials at CLG it was believed that the transfer of grants, both Specific and Area Based, had occurred and was built into the baseline position. Nationally this figure starts at £3.4 billion in 2010/11 and rises to £4.5 billion in 2014/15 mainly due to an extra £1 billion the Government are putting into Social Care. Our assessment of the baseline would indicate that the full amount had been transferred into Formula Grant in the first year. However as we know the basis for calculating Formula Grant shares does not work on the same basis as the other grant allocations, it means it is likely there will be some distortion in the amount we receive by this method compared to previous allocations. This could have an impact on whether the 21.7% is evenly applied to ourselves. If the increase in grant had not occurred the actual reduction for Formula Grant would have been 29.3%.
The spending review confirmed the Governments commitment to help fund a Council Tax increase freeze for 2011/12. If an Authority does freeze its increase it will receive funds to the equivalent of 2.5% increase. This would be provided in the form of a grant and would be guaranteed at that amount for the next four years. At Stockton we had built in an assumption this funding would be at the 2% level, so this announcement was slightly better than anticipated. From 2012/13 the increases in Council Tax would be guided by a set of principles issued from the Government. If a Council chose to set a budget based upon a higher Council Tax increase, it must conduct a public referendum to allow a vote on the options.
Evaluating the impact of these changes on Stocktons core budget position required a number of assumptions to be made. Firstly, that the national scale of reductions would be evenly distributed. Secondly, that the funding for other grants rolled into Formula Grant come back to the Council in the same proportions. Finally that the unusual reduction in 2013/14 is actually what is going to happen. All of these were unlikely but, in the absence of any other information, were the only educated assessment that could be made. If this was the case then the impact on the General Fund would be a reduction of £27 million over the next four years. This is in comparison to our prediction in June of £24 million. In the Medium Term Financial Plan up to 2012/13 we had built in reductions of £12 million. If the £27 million turns out to be an accurate assessment, we would require an additional £15 million in reductions by 2014/15. This would be without putting any additional funding into social care for the £1 billion increase that the Government said they would be making by 2014/15. Stocktons intended share of that money was not known at this stage.
Reference was made to the success of this authoritys planned and managed approach to identifying efficiencies to date and the effects on our workforce. The reduction of the Specific Grants for Tees Valley Unlimited has meant a budget change from £7 million to £2 million and this has been managed with some tough choices made. The additional reductions of £15 million would undoubtedly also require some tough choices to be made in the future.
With regard to grants that had been moved into Formula Grant, for Stockton, this is currently the equivalent of £7.6 million in Area Based Grant, the largest being Supporting People where we currently receive £3.5 million a year. The grant for Working Neighbourhoods Fund was also ceasing, and £4.4 million of this grant had been received for 2010/11. Stockton currently received a further £7.4 million of Area Based Grant and there was no information on the future proposals of those grants at present. The largest elements in this area were School Development Grant £2.2 million and Connexions £2.1 million. The picture for Specific Grants was even less clear, with £1.7 million being rolled into Formula Grant, mainly for Social Care Reform £0.8 million, and Concessionary Fares £0.6 million. There was however a further £18 million of grants we currently receive where we do not have information on future proposals.
With regard to capital funding the review stated that the amount allocated to local government was anticipated to fall by an average of 45%. This amount would vary from department to department, with the CLG Communities anticipating a fall of 74%. Conversely it would appear that there was a small fall in the Transport budget but this included £30 billion for major schemes, so unfortunately this would have a knock on effect to other transport grants. The review stated an intention to fund the building of 150,000 new affordable homes. It would also allocate £200 million in 2011/12 to allow Councils to capitalise the cost of restructures due to the reductions. Concern was expressed regards the raising of PWLB rates for borrowing to 1% over gilts. This would have an impact on schemes Stockton had already committed to, for example the Forum, and impact on the viability of any future schemes. In addition to these changes, the details of further changes in other departmental spending programmes that would impact on Stockton were noted, as well as indications that:-
· Tees Valley Bus Network was to be funded.
· Street Lighting PFI Scheme has been cancelled.
· Playbuilder scheme capital allocation maintained at £439,000, the revenue element of £13,000 was withdrawn in July.
· A change to the Carbon Reduction Scheme was estimated to cost Stockton in the region of £300,000.
Cabinet noted some definite and some potential funding increases, including an additional £2 billion for Social Care. The Government would provide £1 billion of this and the other £1 billion would come from current NHS budgets to support joint working. There would also be an additional £200 million to accelerate reforms to Personalisation. Potential additional funding was also available from the introduction of the two new schemes, the New Homes Bonus and Tax Incremental Funding.
Members were advised that whilst there remained a lot of questions to be answered about the definite impact of some decisions made in the review, what was certain from the information so far was that the reductions in Formula Grant were front loaded for 2011/12, indicating a 10.7% reduction at the moment. It was therefore essential that in going into the 2011/12 budget Members were provided with as much information as possible as to how we will plan and implement those reductions.
Given the success of the Value for Money programme, the increased ability to undertake EIT reviews and in light of the financial environment, it was therefore proposed that officer led task and finish groups be formed to expedite the delivery of some of the year 3 EIT reviews identified as potentially resulting in the realisation of substantial efficiencies for Stockton. The reviews were concentrated around back office / service reconfiguration issues.
With this in mind the EIT framework had been tested by the Xentrall who had undertaken a pilot review which had proven the adaptability of the framework to an expedited approach. Details of the findings of this review were submitted which recommended that the partnership continues in its current form and continues to deliver the savings set out in the original business case, that it implements the additional savings identified from a restructure of the ICT service, and that additional opportunities to grow Xentrall are considered over the next two years.
It was proposed that a secondary reporting in approach be adopted for task and finish reviews which would require the lead officer to consult with the agreed select committee at the commencement of the review detailing the area/s to be reviewed and the issues and opportunities that exist. The timescale for undertaking these reviews was driven by a need to take final reports in most cases to Cabinet in December, with some taking slightly longer reporting to Cabinet in March. This work would support the next round of financial planning and the delivery of a positive communications strategy following the comprehensive spending review announcement and provisional settlement details. With this in mind it was proposed that some existing year two reviews were expedited to report in December and project plans had been amended to accommodate. Details of the revised timetable of reviews were submitted.