Venue: Conference Room 1a, County Hall, Ruthin
Apologies were received from Councillors Rachel Flynn and Geraint Lloyd-Williams and co-opted member David Lloyd.
The Chair welcomed Neil Roberts, the newly appointed Church in Wales education co-opted member, to his first meeting in his new role.
DECLARATION OF INTERESTS
Members to declare any personal or prejudicial interests in any business identified to be considered at this meeting.
Personal declarations of interest were received for agenda item 5, Provisional External Examinations and Teacher Assessments from Councillors:
· Huw Jones, governor at Ysgol Carrog and Ysgol Caer Drewyn;
· Ellie Chard, governor at Ysgol Tir Morfa;
· Martyn Holland, governor at Ysgol Bro Famau;
· Hugh Irving, governor at Prestatyn High School;
· Arwel Roberts, governor at Ysgol y Castell & Ysgol Dewi Sant;
· David Williams as a parent of a child in a Denbighshire school;
· Huw Hilditch-Roberts as a governor at Ysgol Brynhyfryd and Parent of a child in Denbighshire school;
· Graham Timms, governor at Ysgol Dinas Bran
Together with Co-opted member Kathleen Jones, Governor at Ysgol y Parc.
URGENT MATTERS AS AGREED BY THE CHAIR
Notice of items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.
There were no urgent items.
To receive the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 27 September 2018 (copy attached).
The minutes of the meeting of the Performance Scrutiny Committee held on 27 September 2018 were submitted.
Councillor Martyn Holland expressed his appreciation for the inclusion of his comment summary that had been omitted from the minutes of the previous Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting.
Corporate Risk Register item 5 (page 8) - The Scrutiny Coordinator confirmed that the Performance Scrutiny Committee’s observations were presented to Cabinet Briefing on 15 October 2018.
RESOLVED that, subject to the above, the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 27 September 2018 be received and approved as a correct record.
To review the performance of schools and that of looked after children.
The Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People introduced the Principal Education Manager and GwE Secondary Lead’s joint report (previously circulated). The report provided the Committee with information on the verified Teacher Assessment results from Foundation Phase (FP) to Key Stage 3 (KS3) and the provisional Key Stage 4 (KS4) examination results for Denbighshire’s pupils during the 2017/18 Academic Year.
During his introduction the Lead Member highlighted the fact that the attainment threshold for attaining grade ‘C’ in the English GCSE examination in the summer of 2018 had been increased by 20 points compared to the previous year. Consequently a total of 107 pupils in Denbighshire who, based on the 2017 scoring threshold, had been predicted to attain a ‘C’ grade in their English examination in the summer of 2018 had actually only been awarded a ‘D’ grade – across the GwE region a total of 700 pupils had been affected.
The Lead Member advised that all local education authorities in North Wales and GwE had raised their concerns about the disproportionate increase in the English GSCE threshold compared to other subjects and the detrimental effect it was having on pupils with the Welsh Government (WG). Education officials were currently seeking legal advice on the matter.
The Council’s Head of Education and Children’s Services (HoE&CS) advised members that the report was presented in a different format to previous years to comply with WG requirements. As National comparative attainment data for education key stages was no longer published there was no expectation on local education authorities to benchmark themselves against other authorities - although the regional education consortia could compile regional comparative data sets if they wished.
The HoE&CS advised that outcomes as the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2) had remained solid, a position which had been held for a number of years and which Estyn had acknowledged in its recent report following its inspection of the Council’s education service.
Whilst the dip in performance at KS4 was a cause for concern it was important to bear in mind the reasons why this had happened and to have regard to the findings and conclusions of the Estyn Inspection of the Council’s Education Service which had been extremely positive. Estyn was expected to make favourable references to Denbighshire’s education services in its Director’s Annual Report, due to be published in December 2018.
Appendix 1 to the report contained the draft joint report with GwE on educational performance in Denbighshire. The format and structure for this report had been agreed across the region to ensure that the same type of information was reported to all local authorities and in the same format.
The Committee was advised that:
· whilst Denbighshire pupils’ performance at the FP had decreased slightly during the assessment period under consideration, the dip in performance had been less than that recorded both regionally and nationally. This dip in performance was mainly attributed to more challenging outcome descriptors being used when assessing outcomes in language and mathematics;
· KS2 results had continued to improve as expected as in previous years. Looking ahead the Council and GwE had identified a need to tackle the impact of deprivation on educational attainment, as well as how to support high achievers as part of their primary education focus for the future;
· performance remained strong at KS3 and remained broadly in line with national performance. Denbighshire pupils’ performance against the Core Subjects Indicator (CSI) had been good despite a slight decrease in mathematical performance. This was attributed to the fact that there had been a slight increase in performance in English ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To monitor the Council’s progress in delivering the Corporate Plan 2017 to 2022.
The Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets introduced the Strategic Planning Team Manager’s report and appendices (previously circulated) which presented the Committee with an update on the Council’s performance on delivering its 2017-2022 Corporate Plan as at the end of the second quarter of 2018-19. He drew members’ attention to the Executive Summary report on progress to date - Appendix 1, Appendix 2 which contained the full quarterly performance report, and Appendices 3 and 4 which contained a summary of the projects underway with a view to realising the overall Plan and their current statuses, advising that both Cabinet and officers were currently satisfied that progress to date was as projected.
The Strategic Planning Team Manager highlighted a number of points and decisions taken recently in relation to each corporate priority in the Plan:
· Housing priority: the new Affordable Housing Register, Tai Teg, had recently been re-launched in partnership with Grŵp Cynefin. The largest user group for this register was expected to be 25 to 34 year old employed people
· Connected Communities: there had been an improvement in 4G coverage in the county in recent months, it was now in line with the national average for Wales. A project on Digital Access Points had been presented to the Digital Futures Board during the summer. Due to the project’s potential inability to deliver long term change and realise value for money a decision had been taken not to proceed with the project
· Resilient Communities: this priority remained as a ‘priority for improvement’ status due to the fact that work was underway to bring a number of different services and agencies together to work on developing a Supporting Carers Project and a business case for an ‘Acting to reduce Domestic Abuse in Denbighshire’ project. Work was also underway on a project relating to the county being a ‘Dementia Friendly’ county
· Environment: work was continuing with a view to ensuring that the Council’s housing stock would all achieve an energy rating of ‘C’ by the end of the Corporate Plan
· Young People: the Denbighshire Employment Bursary was in the process of being launched.
Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member and the Strategic Planning Team Manager:
· reassured the Committee that despite the programme dashboard indicating an ‘at risk’ status for the new area school for Ysgol Carreg Emlyn the project was not at risk and building work was well underway. The risk status was thus due to the initial delay encountered in identifying a preferred site;
· advised that the locations for extra care housing projects were determined by the need for that type of accommodation in an area coupled with the economic viability of operating that type of facility. Extra Care accommodation would require to comprise of a sufficient number of units to ensure that its operating costs were met;
· confirmed that services and support to Carers featured prominently in the Corporate Plan. The Council’s Carers Strategy had recently been examined by Partnerships Scrutiny Committee and an Information Report on the support available to Young Carers was due to be circulated to members of that Committee in the near future. The Communities and Environment Corporate Priority Project Board had recently considered a business case in support of the Carers Strategy;
· informed the Committee that the 2,200 tree planning programme in Rhyl and Upper Denbigh was funded externally and linked to the well-being agenda, hence the reason that the planting programme was limited to the county’s most deprived council wards. The Council’s Countryside Services was actively working with schools, city, town and community councils in relation to other tree ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To consider Services’ performance in complying with the Council’s complaints.
The Lead Member for Developing Community Infrastructure introduced the Statutory and Corporate Complaints Officer’s report and appendices (previously circulated) which detailed the Council’s performance in dealing with customer feedback during the second quarter of the 2018-19 reporting year. The report also provided specific examples of how Council services had used the information gleaned from complaints and feedback to improve services for the future.
Recent quarterly reports on the complaints process had indicated consistently excellent performance in dealing with and resolving complaints. The only complaint which had missed the target date during quarter 2 was a Stage 2 complaint relating to the Planning and Public Protection Service, on which the target date had been missed due to human error. On the basis of the Council’s consistent good performance in dealing with complaints the Committee:
(i) to acknowledge the consistent excellent performance in responding and resolving complaints submitted under its ‘Your Voice’ customer feedback policy and statutory complaints procedure; and
(ii) that in future the report be submitted to the Committee on a quarterly basis as an ‘Information Report’ to enable it to continue to monitor policy compliance and call-in any Service who regularly under-performed or failed to comply with the ‘Your Voice’ policy and procedure
To consider the Customer Effort and Satisfaction results and determine the frequency of future reports.
Customer Effort Dashboard – Q2 Update Report: the Lead Member for Developing Community Infrastructure introduced the Service Improvement Manager’s report and appendices (previously circulated) which provided the Committee with an overview of the customer effort and customer satisfaction results derived following their contact with the Council. The appendices included the annual performance report on Services’ effectiveness in dealing with enquiries (which included actual figures as well as percentages), examples of customer verbatim and proposals for future service improvements, along with an overview of the long-term trend in relation to public satisfaction with the way the Council dealt with their enquiries.
Members were advised by the Service Improvement Manager (SIM) that statistics which illustrated the least effort the public had to put in to pursuing their enquiry equated to a better performance on a Service’s behalf in dealing and resolving an enquiry. The SIM also advised that work was currently underway, as part of the delivery of the ‘Connected Communities’ corporate priority of the Corporate Plan, to upgrade the Council’s website to enable and encourage more residents to transact their business with the Council electronically. A business case relating to this, which would include work to upgrade the Council’s website, was scheduled to be submitted to the Communities and Environment Programme Board in January 2019.
At the conclusion of the discussion the Committee:
Resolved: that following consideration of all the information and data provided -
(i) to acknowledge the continuous increasing trend in public satisfaction with the Council’s performance in dealing with their enquiries; and
(ii) that in future the Customer Effort Dashboard report be submitted to members on a six-monthly basis as an ‘Information Report’ to enable them to continue to monitor public satisfaction with Services’ performance in dealing with enquiries and facilitate the Committee to call-in any Service that regularly under-performed in this aspect of delivering their services
To consider a report by the Scrutiny Coordinator (copy enclosed) seeking a review of the committee’s forward work programme and updating members on relevant issues.
The Scrutiny Co-ordinator presented to the Committee the forward programme. Members were informed that the next meeting had a potentially heavy workload and asked whether members would like to reschedule specific items.
Library Service Standards – Due to the delay in Welsh Government assessing this year’s reports on public library standards this item had been deferred to the next meeting in January 2019.
That meant that there were now potentially five items (including the weighty subject of Verified External Examinations and Teachers Assessments) scheduled for January’s meeting which raised concerns over feasibility. The Committee agreed to defer the items on the Effectiveness of Wellbeing Impact Assessments and the Draft Fleet Management Strategy to a later meeting leaving January’s 2019 agenda to include:
1. Verified External Examinations and Teachers Assessments.
2. National Report on Waste Management in Wales and
3. Library Service Standards 2017/18.
At October’s Scrutiny Chairs and Vice Chairs Group meeting the Group had requested that Performance Scrutiny Committee should consider a report on Housing Services at its March 2019 meeting.
The Scrutiny Coordinator drew members’ attention to a copy of the “Member’s proposal form” that had been included in Appendix 2. The Scrutiny Co-ordinator asked the Committee if they had any items to submit for scrutiny to complete proposal form and submit to herself by the middle of the following week, in order that they could be considered at the next Scrutiny Chairs and Vice-chairs Group meeting.
Members were reminded that progress with the Committee’s resolutions could be found in appendix 4.
RESOLVED that subject to the above, the Forward Work Programme be approved.
FEEDBACK FROM COMMITTEE REPRESENTATIVES
To receive any updates from Committee representatives on various Council Boards and Groups
There was no feedback to be reported.
Meeting closed at 13:00