Agenda item

Business Management & Monitoring Report - September 2020

Cabinet Member: Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance

Forward Plan Ref: 2020/094

Contact: Louise Tustian, Head of Insight & Corporate Programmes Tel: 07741 607452/Hannah Doney, Head of Corporate Finance Tel: 07584 174654


Report by Corporate Director Customers & Organisational Development and Director of Finance (CA   ).


This report sets out Oxfordshire County Council’s (OCC’s) progress towards

Corporate Plan priorities for 2020/21 - September 2020.


Cabinet is RECOMMENDED to note this month’s business management and monitoring report.


Cabinet considered a report that set out Oxfordshire County Council’s (OCC’s) progress towards Corporate Plan priorities for 2020/21 - September 2020.


Councillor Liz Brighouse, Chairman of Performance Scrutiny Committee advised that at their recent meeting the Committee had looked at various issues with the Business management & Monitoring report.  Councillor Brighouse commented that part of it was around our response to covid 19  and she had been impressed with the way in which staff had stepped up to ensure that services were provided for our residents and expressed her gratitude to them all. Councillor Brighouse noted that some data was missing in the report because it was difficult to collect during this time. The Committee had commented on:


·       The track and trace grant, wanting to know and understand how it was shared and spent;

·       Their wish to continue to look at the projected overspend in relation to EHCPs;

·       Their hope that issues around the high needs block would be taken up by the Education Scrutiny Committee;

·       The Committee’s concern that they did not have the cycling/pedestrian analysis and the hope that this could be prioritised, especially in relation to the active travel work;

·       Their wish to understand more fully the new system for delayed transfers of care in place since September;

·       The figures in relation to fix my street where improvements were needed;

·       Outcomes for care services to support independent living and why these have not been assessed;

·       The use of consultants questioning whether the Council sought to make use of our own staff in the first instance.


Councillor Hudspeth, Leader of the Council, agreed with Councillor Brighouse’s comments thanking staff. On the last point he noted that staff were overworked and that although in the first instance the Council would seek to use our own staff where there was insufficient capacity there was the need to get in additional resources.


Councillor Glynis Phillips, Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance, commented that whilst covid was taking up all the time for significant numbers of staff business as usual continued with a focus for instance on meeting the carbon reduction target and a renewed focus on inclusion and equality. The demand for adult and children’s social care continued to rise and was a real challenge. These were the highest risks on the risk register and had been so for many months.


Councillor Phillips referred to the performance indicators commenting:


·       That she was disappointed to see that the LED replacement of street lighting had been reprofiled to be completed by September 2025. The original timing would have saved money earlier on maintenance costs and contributed to the Council’s carbon reduction target earlier.

·       That it was disappointing that the percentage of waste sent to landfill was expected to rise, although no figures or explanation was contained in the report.

·       On the trees surveyed which were above target. However, she noted that the figures referred to 79 out of 84 parishes being completed and queried how the target was set for Oxford as the majority of the City did not have parishes. Councillor Phillips further noted that the report referred to different measures in development and assumed that following the motion to full Council about increasing tree planting that a target for increasing tree cover in the County was being developed.


Councillor Phillips referred to the finance section of the report noting that it was characterised by uncertainty. The report included assumptions that any shortfall in the budget would be met from the covid 19 budget for costs and income losses. In addition the comprehensive spending review from  government would cover just one year. Councillor Phillips referred to the revised budget agreed by full Council in September noting that  it was unknown if that would be enough and highlighting that the report warned that if there was insufficient funds in the covid19 budget to cover costs and lost income they would need to be met from general balances.


On a point of presentation Councillor Phillips commented that it would have been helpful to see the list of government grants alongside the additional costs and income losses so that it would be transparent where the council had incurred costs and income losses not supported by government grants.


Councillor Phillips thanked all those involved in the production of the report and in particular the Finance Team.


Councillor David Bartholomew, Cabinet Member for Finance in response to the comments made observed that  in terms of identifying costs and income losses that the reason for the Covid 19 separate item as that gave the clarity needed. He shared her view on the one year settlement; There had been the intention from government to have a longer term settlement but due to the pandemic this had not been possible. He had had every confidence, pandemic willing, that there would be a longer term settlement next year. All agreed that it was not satisfactory to have a one year rolling settlement. However, he agreed with Councillor Phillips that the finance team did a superb job within those constraints.


Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of the Council, responding to the point on landfill clarified that everything went to Ardley, so that apart from the approximate 2% residual ash nothing actually went to landfill; instead at Ardley it went to generating electricity for 40,000 homes across Oxfordshire.


Councillor Heathcoat, Deputy Leader of the Council, introduced the performance and risk elements of the report. She highlighted that despite the huge challenges presented by covid 19, 13 of the 17 performance indicators were green, 13 were amber and 1 measure was unreported (due to covid), with no red indicators. Councillor Heathcoat, praised the contributions of staff to the positive results and highlighted the work within community safety to fit 11 call blockers in the homes of vulnerable residents preventing scams and nuisance calls and the strong performance of trading standards in business interventions.  Councillor Heathcoat noted that whilst the Council was performing well in challenging times Cabinet was not complacent and recognised there were areas for improvement.


Councillor Bartholomew, introduced the finance elements of the report that set out the forecast position of the revenue budget as at the end of September 2020, and included an update on the MTFS savings, reserves and balances.   


RESOLVED:           to note this month’s business management and monitoring report.

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