Agenda and minutes

Postponed from 22.9.14, Performance and Finance Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Thursday 9 October 2014 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Rooms 1 & 2, Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2XY. View directions

Contact: Nicola Fletcher, Democratic & Electoral Services Officer  Tel: 020 8416 8050 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 interests were declared:


All Agenda Items

Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane declared a non-pecuniary interest in that he had been the Portfolio Holder for Adults and Housing for some of the period covered by the reports.  He would remain in the room whilst the matters were considered and voted upon.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 92 KB

That the minutes of the meeting held on 3 July 2014 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting held on 3 July 2014 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.


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, <DATE>.  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.



Update on Recommendations from Customer Care Review pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Report of the Head of Customer Services

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Head of Customer Services which set out the recommended actions to be taken by the Council in response to the Scrutiny Review Group recommendations about Customer Service as outlined in its 2013 report.


Members asked the following questions:


·                    One of the recommendations from the Review Group had been that the tone used in responses to complaints should be reviewed.  Had this been implemented?


The officer stated that the Council was sometimes perceived as being too defensive when dealing with complaints.  He was working closely with the relevant complaints’ co-ordinators and staff to ensure there was a consistent approach and the tone used in response to complaints was more conciliatory and proactive in remedying the issue.  Any complaints that were escalated to stage 2 or above were referred to the Corporate complaints co-ordinator for checking.


·                    How were queries and complaints from Councillors submitted via the councillor query email address dealt with and monitored?  It was his experience that he had had to follow up his initial emails to Access Harrow requesting an update.  How far had plans for the Members’ Portal progressed?


The officer advised that staff in Access Harrow aimed to deal promptly with any queries or complaints from Members.  These were tracked and monitored in terms of progress and response times.  If the query/complaint email was forwarded to another officer at the Council, then the Councillor in question should be copied into the forwarded email, for information.  A Members’ Portal is being developed to enable Councillors to track requests more effectively


The Member stated that he would forward screen shots and copies of email responses from Access Harrow to the officer for further investigation.


·                    Why did response times for residents’ queries vary?


The officer advised that there were set timescales to be adhered to when dealing with complaints.  Sometimes, delays occurred during the investigation stage.  There were plans to introduce a system of sending progress update alerts via MyHarrow to enquirers/complainants.


·                    What were the timescales for the upgrade of the SAP CRM system?


The officer stated that user testing of the upgraded CCP-H product (which integrates the CRM system to the line of business systems was planned for December 2014 and January 2015, and he expected the upgrade to be in place by February 2015.  Once complete, discussions about upgrading the CRM system can take place


The new Council Tax web forms were at the testing stage and would be fully integrated into the council tax system.  He expected the web forms to be live within the next 2-3 weeks.  The call centre telephony upgrade would enable emails to be processed more efficiently and would enable the sending of receipts for payments for things such as parking fines.


·                    How extensively was MyHarrow used by those residents who had registered accounts?  Did some residents use it regularly whilst others used it infrequently or not at all?  What qualitative data did he have regarding the use of MyHarrow?  Could details of the ‘Take Part’  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Adults Services Complaints Annual report (Social Care Only) 2013-14 pdf icon PDF 295 KB

Report of the Corporate Director, Community, Health & Well-Being.


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Corporate Director of Community, Health & Well-Being which set out the statutory Adults Services complaints Annual report (social care only).


Following a brief overview of the report by an officer, Members made the following comments and asked the following questions:


·                    How were compliments logged?


Any compliments sent to the complaints section, rather than the individual being complimented, were logged and forwarded to the relevant officer copying in their manager.


·                    What was the process for a resident or service user to lodge a complaint?


The officer stated that complaints were generally received via the web or directly by a member of staff, such as a social worker.  Adults and children’s complainants often preferred to telephone in to complain.  The officer taking the phone call would make extensive notes.  There were statutory timescales to be adhered to with regard to complaints and officers endeavoured to keep complainants updated regarding progress.  However, delays could occur during the investigation stage.


·                    What examples were there of lessons learnt following a complaint received?


The officer stated that some complaints could be resolved swiftly following a face to face meeting between the complainant and a member of Council staff to discuss the situation in detail.  This resolution work and meditation work, had helped to curtail the time required to resolve complaints at an earlier stage and reduce escalation rates.


Members acknowledged that not only were the number of complaints received low, the percentage of complaints received, compared to the number of people in receipt of a service was very small.  The number of people known to adult services was over 4500.


RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.


Children and Families Services Complaints Annual Report 2013-14 pdf icon PDF 262 KB

Report of the Interim Corporate Director, Children and Families


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Corporate Director of Children and Families which set out the statutory Children and Families Services complaints annual report for 2013/14.


Members had no questions regarding the report.


RESOLVED: That the report be noted.


Revenue and Capital Monitoring for Quarter 1 as at 30 June 2014 pdf icon PDF 293 KB

Report of the Director of Finance and Assurance.


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Director of Finance and Assurance, which had been previously considered at Cabinet on 30 June 2014.


Following a brief overview of the report by the Director of Finance and Assurance, Members asked the following questions and made the following comments:


·                    How was service delivery impacted by spend on the Capital Programme?  For example, what impact would the Council’s mobile and flexible working arrangements have on frontline services and residents?  How would residents’ feedback regarding this be monitored and dealt with?


The Director advised that the Capital Programme focussed on improvements to the physical infrastructure of the borough.  The Capital Programme budget was now being set for a four year period which would enable better forecasting and greater flexibility.  This also meant that officers could begin the procurement and commissioning process for a project as soon as it received Member approval.  However, some types of delays could not be controlled or anticipated, for example, bad weather which could cause delays to building projects.


He added that the report did not currently provide information about the impact of the Capital Programmes on service delivery, but undertook to include this data in future reports.


·                    The figures showed an increase in the number of families in Bed and Breakfast (B&B) accommodation and the rate of homelessness in the borough.  What pressures were there in securing B&B places, what were the costs associated with placing families in these, particularly in London and how were these being mitigated; did London Councils have any initiatives regarding this issue?


The Portfolio Holder for Hosing stated that homelessness was an 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.  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.


·                    Wouldn’t capping the rate lead to a reduction in supply and consequently exacerbate the situation?  What targets had been set for reducing the numbers of families in B&B, how were resources being used to meet these targets and what were the associated timescales?


The Portfolio Holder for Housing stated that the ideal would be to have no families living in B&B.  There were a number of variables which affected the supply and demand of B&B places.  For example, the increasing popularity of the ‘Right to Buy’ policy was impacting negatively on the availability of housing stock.  His aim was to reduce the number of families living in B&B accommodation and to reduce the costs associated with these.  Although no specific timescales or targets had been set, he would like to maintain the current rate of reduction in the figures.  The number of those in B&Bs had been reduced from 140  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Performance at Quarter 1 2014/15 pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Report of the Divisional Director, Strategic Commissioning.

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee received a report of the Divisional Director of Strategic Commissioning, which provided an update on the Chair’s and Vice-Chair’s review of the Scrutiny Watch List and Corporate Scorecard in relation to quarter 1 performance.


The Chairman introduced the report and stated that the Watch List was considered at the Scrutiny Chair and Vice Chairs’ briefing meeting.  The Chairs and Vice Chairs had the discretion to refer areas of concern to the Scrutiny Leads Meeting and/or the relevant Corporate Director or to the Overview and Scrutiny meeting.


Members voiced concern regarding the following:


·                    the poor response rate to the Council’s staff survey;


·                    ongoing staffing issues in the Children and Families Directorate;


·                    the increased levels of sickness absence, particularly in the Community Health & Wellbeing directorate;


·                    the lack of clarity or explanatory information regarding the figures relating to vacancy rates in the Town Centre.


It was agreed that the above issues would be discussed further at the next Scrutiny Leads meeting with a view to re-prioritising the Scrutiny work programme.


The Panel agreed that the Divisional Director of Human Resources Development & Shared Services be requested to provide a report to the next meeting of the Sub-Committee regarding the high rate of sickness absence, if this data was readily available.  In any case, Members requested that they be sent the raw data in the interim if it was not possible to submit the report to the next meeting.  The report should contain department by department breakdown and highlight any spikes and patterns identified, and how this compared to other comparable local authorities.  The Portfolio Holder for Performance, Corporate Resources & Policy Development be invited to attend the meeting to respond to Members questions regarding the report.


RESOLVED: That the report be noted.