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Agenda item

Presentation Executive Member Finance, Policy and Resources


Councillor Satnam Gill, Executive Member Finance, Resources and Performance was present together with David Hodgkinson, Director of Corporate Resources and outlined the report


During consideration of the report the following main points were made –


·         Key achievements and ongoing work – HR -Leadership and staff development, staff engagement and inclusion, and changes to systems processes and policy

·         Key challenges HR – HR vacancies to be filled following implementation of new HR structure. Most vacancies will be filled by Quarter 4. System improvements cannot take place until cloud migration has occurred June 2022. Challenging candidate driven recruitment market and impact of COVID on workforce

·         Noted key achievements for Digital Services and key challenges especially recruitment issues and supply chain issues. Next steps to continue the 2 year programme to migrate all IT services to cloud delivery

·         Democratic services – delivered a full annual programme of in person, COVID safe committee meetings, implemented a webcasting system, reinstated in person advice surgeries, completed induction for 6 new Councillors and managed increased casework. Key challenges noted, included induction may be impacted for new Members due to COVID. Next steps implementing hybrid technology and induction plans post May

·         Information Governance – Noted key achievements and successful implementation of new case management system. Key challenges note including demands on staff increased and compliance with FOI’s and SAR’s below ICO target of 90%. Next steps – procurement of a new system to manage mandatory paperwork for data protection, and increase pro -active publication of information

·         Legal Services - noted key achievements including successful defence of claim by OCADO , resisted threats of legal action over People Friendly Streets, and enabled Housing to be built on Dixon Clark Court. Key challenges include managing increased workload, fully implementing cloud based legal case management system, recovery of income due to pandemic and preparing for PFI 2 legal work to come back in house. Next steps include cloud based CASE legal management system, continue to promote development of staff, continue to work collaboratively with clienst to achieve best outcomes for residents

·         Electoral Services – Noted key achievements including delivery of GLA elections, full borough polling districts and polling places review following boundary revisions , successful delivery of ANGEL bid ballot renewal. Key challenges include delivering elections in a COVID safe environment, the annual canvas delivery, and the Election Bill implementation. Next steps to deliver household notification letters to all households

·         Delivery successfully local elections in May 2022

·         Transformation – Key achievements include establishment of Directorate Delivery Boards and Transformation Board to provide assurance and oversight of organisational change proposals, support a wide range of transformation programmes. Key challenges include strengthening key priorities and resources to achieve best impact for residents, difficulty in recruitment and funding. Next steps include embedding corporate approach to project and programme management, horizon scanning to help shape future direction, support allocation of resources in best possible way

·         Revenues – Key achievements include successful distribution of over £19M COVID  restart grants to 2,000 businesses, volume of outstanding customer contacts has been successfully managed, collection of Council Tax on target despite challenging period. Key challenges include resourcing service is becoming increasingly difficult, and business rates collection is tracking 2.4% below pre-pandemic levels. Next steps – Account receivable service reviewed and improvement from that will be implemented to secure income for the Council. Government announced further discretionary grant to support NNDR paying businesses, and proposals being worked up for Member approval, further grant up to £6k for businesses in hospitality and leisure sector and extension of Expanded Retail Relief scheme

·         Finance – Key achievements include – tracking of COVID grant funding, conclusion of successful budget process, close management of finances to achieve financial strategy, pension fund performed well, annual pension benefits statements sent out by due date. Key challenges include statutory financial monitoring reporting been a challenge, audit market facing challenges, large degree of political and economic turbulence which results in short term settlements from the Government and planning challenges in the long term. Next steps include restructure of Finance Department, new budget proposals, uncertainty over long term funding and awaiting fair funding review, increase number of Islington residents in apprentice posts

·         Internal Audit – key achievements include implementation of prompt ant-fraud checks to emergency COVID response, alignment of Internal Audit Plan with the Council’s Principal Risk report, successful joint working with the wider London Internal Audit and anti-fraud community. Key challenges include recruitment and retention of staff, demand for services, unplanned work at short notice, ensuring staff well-being during COVID. Next steps include  delivering high quality service, good governance, draft 22/23 Internal Audit Plan, revise risk management framework, and increase pro-active anti-fraud activity

·         A Member referred to the vacancies, particularly in HR and other services and that with the current labour market initiatives should be put in place to ensure that Islington is a place of choice to work. It was stated that all Local Authorities were currently having difficulty in recruiting staff, and that this was particularly the case in HR, Digital Services, Finance and Legal. This is exacerbated by the costs of travel and working in London for staff. It was noted that hybrid working for staff was being offered and it is aimed that there will only be 45%-55% in the office at any one time, however this offer was being made by a great number of employers. Initiatives were being looked at, however the Council wished to employ as many local people as possible so that monies could be retained and spent in the local economy

·         Reference was made to the need to attract women who had taken a career break back into the workforce and that this should be looked at

·         A Member enquired as to the measures the Council had put in place to avoid a similar cyber-attack that had taken place in L.B.Hackney. It was stated that systems were being migrated to the cloud and training for staff had taken place on phishing e mails to alert them to the dangers of cyber-attacks. However the difficulties of attracting IT staff, and the fact that such staff often had to undertake this work at weekends and out of hours presented problems in recruitment

·         In response to a question as to the high rate of non-compliance on FOI’s and SAR’s it was stated that extra resources were being added to assist with dealing with this issue, however much of this was a historical problem

·         Reference was made to the Fair Funding review and it was stated that details of this were not yet available as the Government had not yet published this

·         Noted the good performance of the Pension Fund, and in particular the investment in decarbonisation programmes

·         Noted the difficulties and reasons as to statutory financial reporting, and why Islington was one of 90% of authorities not to have their audit completed by the deadline

·         In response to a question it was stated that the Critical Business applications would be mostly transferred to the cloud by July, and the remainder in the next year



(a)  That Members be informed of the details of the Critical Business Applications that have not yet been migrated to the cloud

(b)  That Members be informed of the details of the key challenge in Legal in relation to managing increased workload with existing resources, and whether this was as a result of increased housing disrepair cases




The Chair thanked Councillor Gill and David Hodgkinson for attending

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