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Council plan overview report - Chief Executive’s commentary

This report sets out an overview of the council’s performance for the second quarter of 2019 to 2020 (July to September 2019). The purpose is to formally provide the Executive with a high-level summary of key achievements, and to highlight areas where performance was not matching targets or expectations, along with any remedial action that is being taken. It complements the detailed Quarterly Service Reports and is based upon the performance data that is available to all members.

The second quarter was the last before the Executive agreed to recommend a new Council Plan to Council on 23 November 2020. As such, some priorities will inevitably change over the coming year. Nonetheless overall, good progress was made against the actions in the departmental service plans to the end of October.

At the end of the second quarter progress showed:

  • 87 actions (86%) are green (9 complete, 69 in progress)
  • 14 actions (14%) are amber (1 complete, 23 in progress)
  • none were red

This report contains information on the performance indicators across the council for each of the strategic themes. Again, the picture was positive, showing that the status for the key indicators in the council plan in the second quarter is:

  • 38 (82.6%) green
  • 1 (2.2%) amber
  • 7 (15.2%) red

30 further indicators have no set target.

Overview of quarter 2 and what went especially well

Teams have continued to deliver services to a high standard during the period. I have highlighted here a small selection of examples from across the organisation.

In August, the council’s website was recognised as one of the best in the UK. It was ranked joint second in the Sitemorse INDEX review for local government; an independent industry standard review of digital governance. The ranking reflects the website’s inclusiveness and being user friendly for everyone. Further improvements to our website are planned by our Digital Services team which will help us to build on this success.

The essential maintenance works to High Street car park were completed successfully during August within the planned 2-week closure needed to enable the work. Although this involved the displacement of up to 700 users to Braccan Walk car park the project was very carefully planned to take place during the quieter summer holiday period. Customer feedback has been good about the way disruption was minimised.

Following the re-award of the waste and recycling contracts, several service changes and enhancements were implemented this quarter. A difficult transition of collection rounds, with new vehicles and in-cab technology was achieved. Changes impacted around 7000 households created a significant increase in calls to Customer Services for support, advice and payments for brown bin services. However, the two service areas of Environmental Services and Customer Services pulled together to ensure that the service disruption was minimised and the overall response has been positive.

Following a recent inspection, 100% of Private, Voluntary and Independent early help settings are now OFSTED graded good or outstanding. Meanwhile in Learning and Achievement, the figure of 1.9% of 16 and 17 year olds who are NEET in September 2019 represents our lowest ever proportion. Elevate continues to track the activity and support the cohort with their participation in education, employment or training.

During the quarter we have been listening to feedback about the HR and OD services and work is underway redesigning the offer based on this feedback. We have been making sure that we have the right skills within the service to increase the functions accessibility, by offering workshops, ASK HR open sessions and making remote contact simpler and more effective. The overall objective at a time of significant change is to support managers in considering their current and future workforce needs. The Chief Executive has taken direct management responsibility for the department, initially until March 2020, to provide space in which to consider future arrangements.

Attention during the quarter has focussed very much on monitoring the current year’s budget and starting to prepare for the 2020 to 2021 budget. Early monitoring indicated that a higher level of pressures were being experienced than in previous years by services, most notably in Children’s and Adult Social Care. There has consequently been a more detailed review of the council’s overall financial position during the year than has normally been required, to help make sure that expenditure doesn’t exceed the approved budget. Although the financial position is the most challenging that we have faced, the fact that we are on top of the issues with remedial action underway is positive.

The medium-term financial planning assumptions were also updated following the Government’s Spending Review announcement on 4 September. This signalled more generous funding for local authorities than had been expected, with some details for individual authorities having been announced already and others to be confirmed in the Local Government Finance Settlement in December. Work is underway to develop detailed budget proposals for 2020 to 2021. Despite an increase in Government funding, it is set to be a challenging year given the likely on-going impact of pressures being experienced in the current year, most notably in services for vulnerable people.

What we are doing about things going not quite so well

During the quarter, there has been a renewed focus on implementing the findings of audit reports due to an increase in the number of limited assurances. Of course, the internal audit function is in place to provide support to the whole organisation in identifying potential areas of weakness and recommending solutions. The findings of the reports are important aids to managers to make sure financial control and governance remain strong. Specific workshops have been held to support managers in improving our response in this area.

The quarter has also seen an increase in the number of complaints that have been taken up by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). At the same time the LGO has been taking a more combative approach and the time taken to respond is increasingly significant.

Forward look

Policy and Engagement Team have been working with CMT and DMTs to finalise the new 4-year Council Plan. Strategic messages and key objectives have been agreed and full council will formally sign off the plan in November. The team are working with directorates to develop new service plans to be in place by February 2020.