Agenda and minutes

Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 20th September, 2016 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions

Contact: Charlotte Raper, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 68 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committeemeeting held on 21 June 2016.


The minutes of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 21 June 2016 were approved as a correct record, subject to an amendment at the request of Councillor Maney to note his apologies for absence.


Items of Urgent Business

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.


There were no items of urgent business.


Declaration of Interests


There were no declarations of interest.


Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 59 KB


The Democratic Services Officer presented the terms of reference to the Committee and highlighted that the process of updating them had been completed since the last meeting.  Members were reminded that they were also available within the Constitution on the Council’s website.




Members noted the updated Terms of Reference for the Committee.



Council Spending Review Update pdf icon PDF 82 KB

Additional documents:


The Director of Finance & IT presented the report which gave the Committee an update including budget gaps and pressures.  The report also outlined the Council Spending review process and timetable, the General Fund Balance and a revision of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).


Councillor Duffin raised his concern that following repeated promises from the Portfolio Holder that there would be no “salami slicing” point 3.8 which outlined “a minimum of 15-20% efficiencies in each service” seemed to be exactly that. 


The Director of Finance & IT assured members that the reduction of 15-20% had not been built into the budget, but was a target set out by the Chief Executive, he continued to explain that there would be a thorough review headed by the Corporate Director of Environment and Place, including a cross service panel, to assess how effective and efficient services were, including their commercial standing.  Once this review had been completed the actual percentage identified would be built into the budget, regardless of whether or not it met the 15-20% target.  Councillor Duffin requested the report be amended to reflect the fact that the 15-20% was in fact a target and not a strict minimum.  The Director of Finance & IT agreed that the feedback would be noted and the report amended accordingly.


Councillor Duffin continued to refer to point 3.8 of the report and queried whether it might be possible to bring forward the March 2019 date, so that if there were to be a change of administration the responsibility would not fall at their feet.  The Director of Finance & IT explained that March 2019 was definitely a long-stop date, but there was a need to ensure that the hundreds of services provided by the Council could be reviewed thoroughly, in the most practical and efficient way which would take time.  The aim was to set future direction so that for any administration there would be a pool of evidence and background information to support it.  The Committee heard that it would not be a case that anything was pushed through; the reviews would need to be completed in great detail for the most efficient outcome.


Councillor Duffin referred to section 5 of the report, regarding consultation, and particularly asked whether the make-up of the cross-party panel would mean that the Portfolio Holder and Shadow Portfolio Holder would not be involved.  The Committee was advised that those decisions would be reserved to Party Leaders, based around numbers and workability to avoid large numbers being sent from each Party.


Councillor Duffin sought clarity regarding the “consultation” mentioned in point 3.10 of the report and what the planned process would be.  Members heard that the process would depend upon the proposal.  “Consultation” would cover a number of areas; minor restructuring within service areas would fall completely within the remit of management decisions, whilst other areas such as the provision of services, opening hours, etc. would merit the Overview and Scrutiny process, and finally areas where it would be required, such  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Quarter 1 Corporate Performance Report 2016/17 pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Additional documents:


The Head of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services presented the report which outlined the new assessment system which differed from the previous Red, Amber, Green (RAG) coding.  The report also covered the benchmarking groups used and the approaches taken, as previously requested by the Committee.  Members were advised that this was an opportunity for them to comment upon the contents of the report before it would be presented at Cabinet in October.


Councillor Duffin began by referring to Planning, which had been in focus for exceptional performance, raising the concern of elected Members who had submitted complaints or queries and found the department’s responses to have been slow, and asked whether anything could be done to make the process faster.  The Head of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services agreed to take that feedback back to the department and respond outside of the meeting. 


Councillor Duffin moved onto focus 2 and informed the Committee that he had been in contact with several residents whose bin had been missed on their usual collection day and once they had complained to the Council that it had still not been collected days later.  He asked whether it would be possible to review the reporting and complaints process.  The Interim Head of Environment agreed that officers were looking into ways to improve the collection service but also the response if there were missed bins.


Councillor Duffin asked what work was being done with local schools as apprenticeships were a great way to offer opportunities to young people as they were leaving school.  The Improvement manager informed Members that there had been a talent pool of apprentices set up by the Recruitment Team and that there was also to be an event held in October called “Opportunity Thurrock” which involved schools and at which Thurrock Council would have a presence.


Councillor Maney asked for additional information surrounding section 2.3 and the upcoming residents’ survey, particularly how it would be rolled out to residents.  The Committee heard that a telephone survey would be held, to obtain results from 1000 residents selected upon the basis of age, gender, ethnicity and their location within the Borough so as to give an accurate depiction of the population as a whole.  The survey would be carried out by an independent market research company, BMG and would look into residents’ perceptions of council services, access to information, anti-social behaviour and their preferred means of correspondence.   A survey such as this had not been carried out within Thurrock for a number of years and it was expected to take place over 2-3 weeks in October.


Councillor Duffin asked the expected cost of the survey.  The survey was expected to cost £18,000 which had been included within the existing budget.


The Chair raised concern that there may be a risk of excluding people by completing a telephone only survey.  Members were assured that the market research team would continue to work through residents until the necessary quotas were met to give a proportional depiction  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


Staff Survey 2016 pdf icon PDF 160 KB


The Director of HR, OD & Transformation presented the report which outlined the outcomes of the 2016 staff survey, which measured Thurrock Council’s performance as an employer and the performance of managers.  She expressed positivity at the 71% response rate and the considerable improvement made since the 2014 survey.  Members were assured that there would be ongoing communication, particularly regarding the less positive responses in the form of a “You said, we did” campaign and a mini survey to identify progress planned to take place in Spring 2017.


Councillor Duffin asked what the cost of the survey had been and what benefit there had been as opposed to having used free survey software.  Members heard that the cost of the survey had been £10,000 but the Council had retendered the contract and saved 50% of the previous cost.  The requirements of using an externally accredited organisation were that Thurrock Council had access to their benchmarking data and employees would trust the confidentiality.  If the survey had been run internally it would not have cost much less and there would have been uncertainty about their responses remaining confidential.


Councillor Duffin asked how the homeless department ranked, as he and other members had faced challenges when contacting the department and wondered what the feedback had been.  The Director of HR, OD & Transformation advised Members that she would have to pass that information on outside of the meeting as she did not have data on every department individually to hand.  Members also heard that data would depend upon response levels; it was only possible to access results for teams with more than 10 responses otherwise the confidentiality status would be breached.


Councillor Duffin noted that one of the less positive areas was IT and highlighted his own issues with the “Good” app.  The Director of HR, OD & Transformation advised the Committee that there were a number of aspects and systems which contributed to the score, and in reality the “Good” app didn’t arise in the follow up workshops carried out.  The Director of Finance and IT interjected that as IT was one of his areas perhaps he could shed further light on the issue.  He assured members that the feedback was being taken very seriously.  He also noted that oftentimes, the more IT one had access to the more one would want it to be able to do.  Within the survey outcomes there had been a wide ranging set of IT issues highlighted but there would be a need to look into how IT works and whether systems could be improved.  Members were advised that the majority of staff did not have access to the “Good” app, as it was only used by staff with work tablets or phones.  Councillor Duffin reiterated that he found “Good” did not have much functionality.  The Chair added that he had personally lost his emails the day before on the same app.


Councillor Maney agreed with the Director of HR, OD & Transformation that there was no point harvesting  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Employee Performance Review - 2015/16 pdf icon PDF 295 KB


The Director of HR, OD and Transformation presented the report which linked in with KPIs and the Staff Survey as it assessed how the organisation managed the performance of individual employees.  It outlined the results for the previous year’s assessment process, with 87% of staff having been deemed as working well or excellently. 




1)    The Overview & Scrutiny Committee noted the report


2)    Those directorates with lower compliance rates for the completion of one-to-ones and PDRs confirm action plans to ensure full compliance going forward.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 47 KB


Members were asked if there were any amendments to the Work Programme they wished to propose, in addition to the two reports already requested within the evening’s debate.




Members noted the Work Programme, including the addition of a report on the Council’s investment and the Staff Survey Action Plan.