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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD. View directions


No. Item


Apologies for Absence

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Declaration of Substitute Members

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Declarations of Interest

If you have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest* in an item of business:

§  if it is not yet on the council’s register, you must declare both the existence and details of it at the start of the meeting or when it becomes apparent;

§  you may choose to declare a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest that is already in the register in the interests of openness and transparency. 

In both the above cases, you must leave the room without participating in discussion of the item.


If you have a personal interest in an item of business and you intend to speak or vote on the item you must declare both the existence and details of it at the start of the meeting or when it becomes apparent but you may participate in the discussion and vote on the item.


*(a) Employment, etc - Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation
  carried on for profit or gain.

(b)   Sponsorship - Any payment or other financial benefit in respect of your expenses in carrying out duties as a member, or of your election; including from a trade union.

(c)   Contracts - Any current contract for goods, services or works, between you or your partner (or a body in which one of you has a beneficial interest) and the council.

(d)  Land - Any beneficial interest in land which is within the council’s area.

(e)  Licences- Any licence to occupy land in the council’s area for a month or  

(f) Corporate tenancies - Any tenancy between the council and a body in which you or your partner have a beneficial interest.

 (g) Securities - Any beneficial interest in securities of a body which has a place of business or land in the council’s area, if the total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body or of any one class of its issued share capital. 


This applies to all members present at the meeting.




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Minutes of the previous meeting

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That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 8 June 2023 be agreed as a correct record and the Chair be authorised to sign them.



Chair's Report

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The Chair noted that a query had arisen over if the scrutiny of the medical points awarded under the Housing Allocations Scheme was a matter for the Housing Scrutiny Committee, or Health and Care Scrutiny Committee. It was agreed that this would be a matter for the Housing Scrutiny Committee to consider, if it was minded to do so.


Public Questions

For members of the public to ask questions relating to any subject on the meeting agenda under Procedure Rule 70.5. Alternatively, the Chair may opt to accept questions from the public during the discussion on each agenda item.


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Update on Complaints Performance pdf icon PDF 260 KB

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Councillor Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance, introduced the report, with Dave Hodgkinson, Corporate Director – Resources, Nadeem Murtuja, Interim Corporate Director – Community Engagement and Wellbeing, and Matt West, Director of Housing Property Services.  


It was acknowledged that the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman had carried out an investigation into the council’s backlog of complaints waiting for investigation at Stage Two of the corporate complaints procedure. The Ombudsman had issued a public report, finding fault with the council’s complaints management performance, and had made recommendations to the council.


The Executive Member accepted the Ombudsman’s findings and that the council’s performance had not been good enough. It was noted that the Ombudsman had concluded that local authorities were under unprecedented pressure due to budget cuts, increasing demand, and the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this was not an excuse for the delay in processing complaints.


The Executive Member explained the key features of the Resident Experience Programme that sought to transform services for residents. This would include improvements to the council’s telephone-based and face-to-face services, supported by improved technology, improvements to the council’s website, and training for staff. The Committee noted that the complaints backlog had been successfully cleared, and that the resources to manage complaints had significantly increased.


The following main points were noted in the discussion:


·        A member highlighted that many seemingly simple issues were escalated to elected members as casework and queried why this was the case. In response, the Executive Member suggested that the delay in processing complaints may contribute to the volume of member casework.

·        Following a question, it was clarified that the council had invested an additional £350,000 into clearing the complaints backlog. A new complaints management system was being procured which would allow for greater management and oversight of complaints.

·        A member queried why the complaints backlog escalated to the extent it did. In response, the Executive Member commented that there were several factors, including insufficient resources, increased demand, and issues with oversight. A new project manager had been appointed to manage the backlog and it was commented this was progressing well.

·        A member queried the cause of member complaints. In response, it was advised that there was no single issue driving the complaints backlog, however a new omnichannel solution would allow for greater oversight of communications with the council and should help issues to be resolved faster.

·        It was queried if organisational culture and the shift to working from home had contributed to the complaints backlog. In response, the Executive Member could not comment on if home working was a factor or not, but if the council had the right systems in place, it should not matter where staff are based.

·        Following a question, it was confirmed that all 44 overdue complaints had received a response, as required by the Ombudsman report.

·        In relation to staff training on managing complaints, it was commented that there was previously no corporate budget for staff training and development. A budget had since been introduced  ...  view the full minutes text for item 124.


Corporate Performance - Year End 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 251 KB

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Paul Clarke, Director of Finance, and Dave Hodgkinson, Corporate Director – Resources, introduced the report.


The following main points were noted in the discussion:


·        A member noted sickness absence related to mental health issues and queried why sickness absence was particularly high for the Homes and Neighbourhoods directorate. In response, officers indicated the range of mental health and wellbeing support available to staff, including the Employee Assistant Programme, wellbeing activities, and guidance to managers on how to support wellbeing through the new Check-In process. It was commented that Homes and Neighbourhoods and Environment tended to have higher levels of sickness absence and officers were working to bring down levels of absence.

·        It was commented that the Committee may wish to review the implementation of the workforce strategy in future.

·        A member noted that the number of agency workers had increased over recent years and queried the actions being taken to reduce this number. In response, officers confirmed that the council was committed to a permanent workforce where possible and noted initiatives to move temporary staff into permanent employment. Officers also commented on the difficulties in recruiting permanent staff to some specialised roles, particularly in areas such as Digital Services.

·        A member queried the actions taken when complaints were upheld. In response, it was advised that feedback was provided to staff, and the particular actions would depend on the circumstances of the case.

·        A member requested more granular detail on staff sickness absence, including an analysis of the time taken off, any patterns to sick leave, the roles with higher levels of absence, if roles are desk based or manual workers, demographic data, and so on. It was agreed that an update would be submitted to a future meeting.

·        In response to a question, it was advised that the Council had not explored the possibility of a four-day-week, as adopted by South Cambridgeshire Council.




That the Corporate Performance data be noted. 




A detailed update on staff sickness absence to be scheduled for a future meeting.


Budget Monitoring Report - Year End 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 190 KB

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Rachel Harrison, Deputy Director of Finance, introduced the report.


It was noted that the covering report had been omitted from the agenda pack and would be resubmitted to the next meeting.


The following main points were noted in the discussion:


·        Officers highlighted the increased pressure on children’s social care placements due to increased demand, and the decrease in parking income. There had been a £1.2m overspend on energy associated with the high price of gas and electricity. There was a capital overspend on leisure services due to the unexpected flood damage to the Sobell Leisure Centre.

·        A member asked if the council had factored in a fall in parking income associated with the council’s People Friendly Streets schemes. Officers advised that projections for future income would need to be assessed to consider lower car usage.

·        It was confirmed that the council’s £1m hardship fund was still open and the scope of the scheme had been extended to allow applications from those on Universal Credit. A member suggested that targeted spend on those in housing and council tax arrears may be more helpful, however the Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance disagreed, noting the range of support already available through the Resident Support Scheme. The hardship fund was intended for those working and in private rented accommodation.

·        A member queried how the overspend in Adult Social Care compared to similar local authorities, and what was being done to address the overspend. In response, officers commented on the relatively higher cost of providing care in inner-London, noted the work undertaken by Finance Officers and Adult Social Care to develop savings plans, and commented that the financing of Adult Social Care was a national issue. Members suggested that national reform of Adult Social Care financing was needed.  




That the Budget Monitoring Report be noted.


Approval of Scrutiny Initiation Document - ASB Review pdf icon PDF 175 KB

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The Committee noted the aims and objectives of the review and the proposed evidence sessions.




That the Scrutiny Initiation Document be approved.


Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 494 KB

·        Council Forward Plan

·        Scrutiny Review Tracker

·        Verbal Updates from Committee Chairs

·        Work Programme

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The Chairs of the council’s scrutiny committees summarised their main reviews for 2023-24, as follows:


·        Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee: Children’s Workforce; 

·        Health and Care Scrutiny Committee: Access to Primary Care and Adult Social Care;

·        Housing Scrutiny Committee: New Build Programme;

·        Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee: Active Travel.