Agenda and minutes

Performance and Finance Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Tuesday 6 January 2015 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Room 6, Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2XY. View directions

Contact: Miriam Wearing, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Tel: 020 8424 1542 E-mail:

No. Item


Attendance by Reserve Members

To note the attendance at this meeting of any duly appointed Reserve Members.


Reserve Members may attend meetings:-


(i)                 to take the place of an ordinary Member for whom they are a reserve;

(ii)               where the ordinary Member will be absent for the whole of the meeting; and

(iii)             the meeting notes at the start of the meeting at the item ‘Reserves’ that the Reserve Member is or will be attending as a reserve;

(iv)              if a Reserve Member whose intention to attend has been noted arrives after the commencement of the meeting, then that Reserve Member can only act as a Member from the start of the next item of business on the agenda after his/her arrival.


RESOLVED:  To note that there were no Reserve Members in attendance.


Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of disclosable pecuniary or non pecuniary interests, arising from business to be transacted at this meeting, from:


(a)               all Members of the Sub-Committee;

(b)               all other Members present.


RESOLVED:  To note that the following interest was declared:


Agenda Item 7 – Revenue and Capital Monitoring

Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane declared a non-pecuniary interest in that he had been part of the administration that had passed the outline budget.  He would remain in the room whilst the matter was considered and voted upon.


Minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 2014 pdf icon PDF 111 KB

That the minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 2014 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 2014, be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


Minutes of the meeting held on 9 October 2014 pdf icon PDF 45 KB

That the minutes of the meeting held on 9 October 2014, as previously circulated and as amended by the circulated wording, be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


Additional documents:


Further to the decision at the last meeting to defer consideration of the minutes of the meeting held on 9 October 2014, amended wording to Minute 15 with regard to the second paragraph of bullet point 2 on homelessness and B&B accommodation was circulated.


It was proposed and seconded that the minute be amended to include that the Portfolio Holder for Housing had stated that ‘The ideal number in B&B accommodation was zero, and he was hoping to achieve that in 12 months.’       Upon being put to the vote the motion was lost.


The minutes of the meeting as amended by the circulated wording were put to the vote and carried.


RESOLVED:   That the minutes of the meeting held on 9 October 2014 be approved as previously circulated with an amendment to the second paragraph of bullet 2 on minute 15 to read:


‘The Portfolio Holder for Housing stated that homelessness was an ongoing area of challenge. B&B accommodation in London was costly and it could cost between £12k-£16K to keep a family in B&B accommodation. Whilst the ideal number in B&B accommodation was zero, it was difficult to predict a timescale for the achievement of this aim.  The Council had placed some families out of borough, however moving families into accommodation outside the borough or outside London was a far from ideal solution.  The Council was looking to increase its stock of temporary housing and other London boroughs faced similar problems.  London Councils had a pan-London initiative whereby the daily rates for B&B accommodation were capped.’


Public Questions, Petitions and References

To receive any public questions received in accordance with Committee Procedure Rule 17 (Part 4B of the Constitution).


Questions will be asked in the order notice of them was received and there be a time limit of 15 minutes.


[The deadline for receipt of public questions is 3.00 pm, Wednesday 31 December 2014.  Questions should be sent to  

No person may submit more than one question].


RESOLVED:  To note that no public questions, petitions or references were received at this meeting.



Revenue and Capital Monitoring pdf icon PDF 106 KB

Report of the Director of Finance and Assurance.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Director of Finance and Assurance, which had previously been considered by Cabinet on 11 December 2014.


Following a brief overview of the report by the Director of Finance and Assurance, Members asked the following questions and received responses from the officers:


·                    Where was the underspend on the Emergency Relief Scheme (ERS) from?  (para 4)


The Director advised that this pertained to Council Tax Support and was allocated to Environment and Enterprise to aid people to find employment.  He undertook to circulate information as to the success of this initiative.


Q -       Could more detail be provided on the unspent grant carried forward from 2013/14 for Public Health within the Council’s ring-fenced reserve?  (para 29)

A -       The aim was to allocate the sums transferred from central government in accordance with the grant conditions to further public health outcomes.  The previous year grant had met some leisure costs to improve health.  Although certain health objectives such as in connection with drugs and sexual health were appropriate, others were less prescribed.


Q -       What was the allocation for Headstone Manor in the capital programme for? (para 59)

A -       The officer undertook to flag this up for the Lead member when meeting with the Corporate Director.


Q -       What was the delay in charging for parking at Harrow Leisure Centre and when would the consultation with users take place? (para 9)

A -       The responsible officer was no longer employed by Harrow Council. The aspiration was for 1 April and it was thought to be on the consultation website.


Q -       The shortfall in salaries for the Public Realm Integrated Service Model (PRISM) had been met through vacancies.  What was the impact on service provision of the Divisional Director vacancy and, if there was not an impact, was the post required?  Was the post at the correct level and was the restructure correctly specified? (page 32, items nos 0.11, 0.12 and 0.13)

A -       As the starting budget had been understated, savings from a reduction in posts had enabled management to balance the bottom line.  The officer stated that he was unaware of any diminished service.  The post might have been subsequently deleted, it could be a vacant post which competent officers had absorbed and achieved savings for the Council.


Q -       The information suggested a continuing overspend on Continuing Care and Ordinary Resident cases.  (para 13)

A -       The responsibility for payment of the Continuing Care bill between the Council and the NHS was unresolved and work was being undertaken to determine the issue.  There was the view that the remainder of the business risk reserve would need to be appropriately drawn down by the end of the financial year.


Q -       Would the large increase in the use of interims in Targeted Services be offset by staff vacancies and had market factor supplements been necessary? (para 31)

A -       Due to an increase in demand, some caseloads  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Staff Survey Results and Sickness Absence pdf icon PDF 132 KB

Report of the Divisional Director Human Resources and Shared Services.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received a report from the Divisional Director of HRD and Shared Services on the latest staff survey and sickness absence monitoring results and action plan.


Members received a brief overview of the staff survey and agreed that discussion on the detail take place at the Scrutiny Leads meeting.  The officer undertook to circulate colour copies of the diagrams contained in the report to members of the Sub-Committee and Scrutiny Leads.


It was noted that the survey took place every two years with a ‘light touch’ survey in between.  In response to a question as to whether sufficient support had been available to the Children and Families Group to finalise their plan to respond to staff feedback, it was reported that good support had been received and the action plan had been concluded.  With regard to questions as to a lack of progress in undertaking appraisals in some areas, it was noted that, whilst there were no specific penalties, 100% compliance was sought and measured by line management.  Support was provided to those being appraised to address workload problems or performance measures taken where appropriate.  The officer estimated that 85% appraisals had been undertaken, the aim being 90%.


 A Member asked whether the feedback had shown a significant impact on protected groups.  The officer advised that there were differences in responses from some groups and there were lower levels of satisfaction from staff with disabilities and some BAME groups, who were also proportionally less represented at senior levels.  The officers examined service areas to drill deeper in order to identify issues and take action.


The Sub-Committee discussed the sickness absence and the following questions were asked by Members and responded to:


Q -       Does the frequency of sickness absence of manual workers increase with age?

A -       Harrow Council had an aging manual workforce and although sickness absence was not reported by age, it was known that chronic illness and disability increased with age.  This was potentially a factor in the Council’s relatively high levels of sickness which was exacerbated by the withdrawal of a normal retirement age and a sick pay scheme with relatively long term benefits.  Long term absence constituted approximately 60% of the sickness absence across the Council.  Occupational Health referrals for muscular skeletal problems were relatively high and referrals for mental health relatively low.


Q -       Is there an analysis with private sector comparables?

A -       Detailed comparisons are not undertaken, only headline figures.


In response to a suggestion that the data on sickness absence distribution from 1 October 2013 be differentiated between long and short term absence in order to focus on the short term to show percentages for each day to highlight problem areas, the Portfolio Holder for Performance, Corporate Resources & Policy Development stated that the sickness absence distribution information in the report was historical data.  He commented that the return to work interviews were designed to identify patterns of absence and it was important that the processes were undertaken correctly, for example,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.


Corporate Equality Objectives - Annual Monitoring and Refresh pdf icon PDF 123 KB

Report of the Policy Officer – Equalities and Diversity.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received an update of progress against the Council’s Equality Objectives which were adopted by Cabinet in April 2012.  The Chairs of the Equalities Committees for the Resources and Children and Families Directorates were in attendance.


An officer advised that the objectives were being reviewed a year earlier than normal in order to align the review with the electoral cycle.  The objectives would be incorporated into the Corporate Plan and through monitoring to Scrutiny and Cabinet. The half yearly information will be reported to the Sub?Committee.


In response to a question as to how the objectives had made Harrow a happier place, the Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Equality and Wellbeing stated that she was confident that those most impacted by inequality had been well served by the objectives and that the protected characteristics had helped to address the issues.  An officer advised that the Equality Act 2010 brought together existing legislation and that Harrow Council’s systems were robust and in place.


With reference to the target in the Annual Progress report objective 4 regarding job seekers allowance which had a red ‘rag’, a member questioned whether the correct targets were being used and whether the equality objectives were always of relevance.  The Portfolio Holder stated that it was important to strive to meet targets even if difficult to achieve and that if it was considered that a target was inappropriate then it was necessary to consider whether a different approach would be beneficial.


Following a question as to whether the fear of disclosure was a factor in the continued fall in the proportion of disabled employees, it was noted that disclosure had recently been discussed by officers.  The Portfolio Holder for Performance, Corporate Resources & Policy Development referred to a report that had been considered recently by the Employees Consultative Forum which identified adjustments to be made to ensure employees were dealt with fairly.  The number of disabled employees was a lot higher in the staff survey than in equality monitoring forms.  It was noted that the workforce programme  had eight priorities for action and one of these was addressing disclosure and this action plan would be reported back to the sub-committee.


A Member suggested that the target for increasing the top 5% of earners who were Black and Asian Minority Ethnic appeared low given the diversity of the borough.  It was reported that a reasonable target was required which could be increased year on year




(1)               the progress against the Council’s Corporate Equality Objectives for 2013/14 be noted;


(2)               the revised performance measures to support the Equality Objectives for 2014/15 be noted.


Performance at Quarter 2, 2014/15 pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Report of the Divisional Director, Strategic Commissioning. Checking that Chairman is aware and approves.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received an update on the Chair’s review of the Watch List and Corporate Scorecard in relation to Quarter 2 performance.


RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.


Termination of Meeting


In accordance with the Committee Procedure Rules, it was


RESOLVED:  At 9.59 pm to continue until 10.15 pm.