Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, Ruthin and by video conference


Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item



Additional documents:


Apologies for absence were received from Education Co-opted Member David Lloyd.


The Committee was advised by the Scrutiny Co-ordinator that Mr Lloyd had also recently decided not to re-stand for election to the Governing Body of one of the county’s secondary schools.  Therefore, his term as a parent governor and as their co-opted representative on the Council’s scrutiny committees would also come to an end in late January 2024.  The Chair thanked Mr Lloyd for his contributions during his tenures as both primary and secondary parent governor co-opted member representative on Scrutiny.


The Committee also welcomed Colette Owen to her first scrutiny committee meeting as the Catholic Church’s newly appointed education co-opted member on the Council’s scrutiny committees.




Members to declare any personal or prejudicial interests in any business identified to be considered at this meeting.

Additional documents:


The following members declared a personal interest in business 5, ‘Promote School Attendance and Engagement in Education’, in their role as school governors:


Councillor Ellie Chard                     Local Education Authority (LEA) Governor at Ysgol Tir Morfa

Councillor Bobby Feeley                 LEA Governor at Rhos Street School

Councillor Martyn Hogg                  Parent Governor at St. Asaph VP School

Councillor Carol Holliday                Town Council/Community governor on the governing bodies of  Ysgol Penmorfa & Ysgol Clawdd Offa

Councillor Alan Hughes                  Governor at Ysgol Caer Drewyn

Councillor Paul Keddie                   Governor Ysgol Bryn Collen

Councillor Diane King                     Governor at Christchurch School

Neil Roberts                                      Governor at Ysgol y Parc

Councillor Gareth Sandilands       LEA Governor at Ysgol Clawdd Offa



Councillor Andrea Tomlin declared a personal interest in the same business item as a personal acquaintance of a team member delivering the service.



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.

Additional documents:


No items of an urgent nature had been raised with the Chair or the Scrutiny Co-ordinator prior to the commencement of the meeting.



To receive the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 30 November 2023 (copy attached).


Additional documents:


The minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 30 November 2023 were submitted.


Matters arising

Business item 6, Council Performance Self-Assessment Update – in response to an enquiry raised in relation to the availability of information on school attainment measures and how they will in future be reported, the Head of Education undertook to follow-up the enquiry with Welsh Government officials.


It was:


Resolved:  that the minutes of the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 30 November 2023 be approved as a true, accurate and correct record of the proceedings.



To consider a report by the Education Social Work Team Leader (copy attached) which provides members with the current position with regards to school attendance and engagement in education.  The report also seeks the Committee’s views on the approach taken by the local education authority to maximise pupil engagement in education.

10.10 am – 11.00 am


Additional documents:


The Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People, Councillor Gill German, introduced the Promote School Attendance and Engagement in Education report (previously circulated).  She explained that school attendance rates had not quite reached pre-pandemic levels, therefore more work was required in order to improve engagement and attendance levels.


Information and explanations were provided regarding the measures in place to support vulnerable pupils to re-engage in education and deepen an understanding of the regional and national context in addressing the current level of concern nationally. 


Attendance rates over the last three years across Wales had dropped with an overall average across authorities achieving 88.9% Primary/Secondary combined.  Appendix 3 to the report provided a more detailed breakdown of the current trend, these figures indicated that Denbighshire’s average attendance figures stood at 90.1% during the autumn 2023 term compared to the national average of 91.3%


The Welsh Government’s (WG) Minister for Education and Welsh Language had recently announced plans to bring Wales in line with England where persistent absence was defined as 10% of half day sessions missed (30 sessions) rather than the current 20% absence rate of persistent absence which equated to 60 half day sessions a year.


Denbighshire had received additional Welsh Government funding through the Local Authority Education Grant (LAEG) to address and support education and schools.


Work had been taking place with schools in the key aspect of where families were in difficulty with poor housing, living in poverty and struggling with the cost of living crisis, as this would impact on the children.  Engagement with schools and families would be imperative to improve attendance.  Officers would visit families in an attempt to establish the reasons why pupils were not attending schools and engaging with their education, support was offered with a view to encouraging re-engagement and improving attendance levels.


Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member for Education, Children and Families and officers advised that:


·         Interventions were critical, but the main difficulties were down to staff levels not increasing to cope with an increase in demand and pressures.  Additional Welsh Government (WG) funding had been received but it had been a challenge to appoint to posts.  

·         Interventions also varied from school to school as some schools had strong attendance, returning or even exceeding pre-pandemic levels whilst others required additional support and resources to realise improvement.  

·         Work was taking place with families of children with additional learning needs (ALN), those in receipt of free school meals (FSMs), refugees, gypsy, roma and traveller (GRT) families, looked after children (LAC) etc  as these were pupils with certain vulnerabilities.

·         From the point of view of the FSM cohort, these children and families often had housing needs and it was important children attended school to be in a safe environment and to be provided with at least one hot meal every day.

·         There were a lot of children with wellbeing and mental health needs, but this was not an excuse for a child not to attend school.  Some children were also carers for family members, therefore it was important that their needs were met to permit them to attend school to improve their future outcomes.  Attending school would benefit every child.  A One Council approach was in place with a view to encouraging pupil attendance, engagement and well-being, this approach also extended to external organisations i.e. health practitioners involved with children and their families/carers.

·         a communication strategy had been produced following an Estyn report and discussions at Head Teachers conferences.  This strategy ‘drip-fed’ messages via social media channels etc. on the importance of pupils attending schools on a regular basis, not being  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


At this juncture (11.30 a.m.) there was a 15 minute break.

The meeting reconvened at 11.45 a.m.





To consider a report by the Principal Librarian (copy attached) which highlights the Library Service’s performance against National Standards and seeks the Committee’s observations in relation to the report’s contents.

11.15 am – 12.00 pm



Additional documents:


The Lead Member for the Welsh Language, Culture and Heritage, Councillor Emrys Wynne, introduced the Library Service Standards and Performance report (previously circulated).  As part of his introduction the Lead Member emphasised that the Service had performed well during 2022-23 but acknowledged that he had concerns about the Service’s ability to sustain its high-performance levels in the medium-term given the financial situation for the foreseeable future.


The report provided information regarding the Council’s performance in relation to the 6th Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2017-20 (extended for 21-23) and the progress made in developing libraries as places of individual and community well-being and resilience.


The report related to Denbighshire’s Library Service for the financial year 2022-23 which was still within the covid period.  The impact on performance of proposed changes to the Library/One Stop Shop service was not expected to manifest until April 2024 at the earliest.


The new National Standards were expected to be established with the publication of the 7th Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards, which had a provisional implementation date of 1st April 2025.


The Head of Housing and Communities, Liz Grieve, introduced the new Principal Librarian, Deborah Owen to the Committee.


Prior to discussions the Head of Housing and Communities made a point of clarification that the report was not regarding the cuts to Library Service hours within Denbighshire.  She then proceeded to outline the process followed for undertaking the assessment, stressing that under the current standards the Council was performing well.  Performance had improved greatly following the end of Covid restrictions, although public use of computers in libraries had reduced following the pandemic.  Other service provision had been adapted to respond to post-pandemic public needs.


Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member and officers confirmed that the Service:

  • the Welsh Government’s Culture Division (WGCD) did not compare individual local authority library services against others.
  • was proposing to expand digital engagement within the library service, possibly by using volunteers to help improve residents’ digital skills and supporting organisations to seek funding to help support non-IT literate individuals to gain and improve their IT skills in a ‘friendly/supporting’ environment. 
  • currently made limited use of volunteers.
  • looking to the future would be exploring opportunities to increase income generation from external organisations with a view to sustaining and improving services despite budget cuts.  It would also be seeking information from Library Services elsewhere on what steps they had taken to try and sustain services despite budget cuts.
  • despite the fact that there was no longer a School Library Service, library staff worked closely with the county’s schools and had recently been engaging with years 7 and 8 pupils with a view to encouraging them to visit their local library and use it as a research facility.  School libraries themselves were also regarded by pupils as safe spaces and it was encouraging to see so many pupils volunteering to help out in their school libraries.
  • as part of its planning for the future would be undertaking a survey seeking the public’s views and ideas on the types of services they would like to see their local libraries providing.
  • Did not hold detailed information on how many people utilised library services and what services were specifically used but could provide data on the number of ward members who were active library members.


Confirmation was given that the impact of changes to library opening hours would be included within the 2024/25 report, the 2023/24 report would be based on the current opening hours and usage.  Members questioned the delay in providing the report and it was clarified  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.



To consider a report by the Scrutiny Coordinator (copy attached) seeking a review of the committee’s forward work programme and updating members on relevant issues.

12.00 pm – 12.20 pm


Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Co-ordinator introduced the report and appendices, (previously

circulated) the purpose of which was to seek the Committee to review its

programme of future work.


The next meeting of the Performance Scrutiny Committee was scheduled for 7 March 2024 which had four items and the meeting to be held on 18 April 2024 had 3 items.


Appendix contained a copy of the Members’ Scrutiny Proposal forms and members were encouraged to complete the form if they had any items which they thought would merit Scrutiny.  The Scrutiny Chairs and Vice-Chairs Group (SCVCG) would be meeting the following week to consider any requests received.  At their last meeting in November 2023 the SCVCG had added one item to the Committee’s forward work programme for consideration in November 2024, this related to the ‘Council’s processes and procedures for applying for high value grant funding’.


Appendix 3 showed the Cabinet forward work programme for information.


Appendix 4 outlined the progress made with respect of the Committee’s recommendations from its previous meetings.


The Committee’s attention was drawn to paragraph 4.8 of the report which detailed the rationale for reducing the frequency of providing Corporate Plan Performance Monitoring reports to the Committee from now on.  It was emphasised that it was only the Quarters 1 and 3 reports which were being withdrawn.  These reports were produced for the Committee’s information and not formally presented for discussion.  Quarters 2 and 4/Annual Performance reports would continue to be presented for formal discussion.  In the meantime, if members wished to undertake their own research on the Council’s performance in delivering services or track progress with delivering specific projects, they could do so by using the Verto corporate performance management system.  All members could request access to the Verto system. 


At the conclusion of the discussion the Committee:


Resolved:  subject to the inclusion of the items added during the course of the meeting’s discussions, to confirm its forward work programme as set out in Appendix 1 to the report.




To receive any updates from Committee representatives on various Council Boards and Groups.

12.20 pm – 12.30 pm


Additional documents:


The Chair, Scrutiny’s representative on the Queen’s Market Project Board, advised that the Board had not met since the Committee’s last meeting.


Councillor Holliday, the Committee’s representative on the Adult Social Care and Homelessness Service Challenge Group, gave an overview of the discussions that had taken place at the recent Service Challenge meeting.  Accommodation conditions and the increasing cost pressures entailed with accommodating homeless families was a key feature of the discussions.


The Vice-Chair advised that the Capital Scrutiny Group (CSG) had not met since the Committee’s last meeting.  Its next meeting was scheduled to be held the following day and Councillor Sandilands undertook to report back on the discussions of that meeting to the Committee at its March meeting.





Meeting concluded at 12.35pm