Agenda and minutes

Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 28th November, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Bridges Room - Civic Centre

Contact: Sonia Stewart - Tel: 0191433 3045 - Email: 

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 125 KB

The Committee is asked to approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 24 October 2022.


RESOLVED        -      that the minutes of the meeting held on 24 October 2022 be approved as a correct record.


Performance Management and Improvement Framework 6-month Performance Report 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Report of the Strategic Director, Resources and Digital

Additional documents:


The Committee were presented with the 6Month Performance Report on the Performance Management and Improvement Framework.  The report provides an overview of performance relevant to the role and remit of the Committee.


Cross-cutting key emerging areas already being highlighted are:


·        Budget pressures continue to provide a significant challenge, there is an increased level of uncertainty about the government financial settlement, however, it is not anticipated the settlement will address the gap in Council budgets and future demand pressures

·        Continuing demand pressures being faced by services particularly across social care

·        The continued impact of Brexit and the increasing outcomes from the current conflict in the Ukraine impacting on costs facing local people as well as  in the delivery of council services

·        Widening inequalities, income and longer term anticipated impact for the future on issues such as health.  Latest date shows an increase of over 2 percentages point increase in those people who are considered vulnerable.

·        Staffing pressures across the Council including recruitment and retention and sickness continues to present challenges in delivering services

·        Steady progress in key areas such as climate change strategy and engagement

·        Continuing increase in the access of digital and online services

·        Levels of support being provided to local people and businesses such as through various grants, for eg DWP Household Support Fund was aimed to prevent people from going cold or hungry.


Concern has previously been expressed over sickness absence increase and recruitment and retention issues where performance appears to be challenging.  A separate item on the Workforce Strategy will be presented to the Committee.


It was queried how much it was costing us to tell Councillors we aren’t meeting targets, it was appreciated that the inability to deliver is due to external factors.


It was noted that the purpose of the Corporate Performance Management and Improvement Framework is to ensure that the Council is focusing its resources on Council priorities agreed by councillors.



It was noted that the Council has a statutory requirement to report on performance; it is a requirement of inspection frameworks such as Ofsted and CQC and is a requirement of our external auditors.  It is also a requirement when evidencing a good governance framework for a public organisation.



RESOLVED –                 (i)     that the comments of the Committee be noted

                                        (ii)    that the performance report be referred to Cabinet for consideration in January 2023.


Update on Implementation of Workforce Strategy pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Presentation attached.


The Committee received a presentation on the current position with the workforce strategy. 


The Committee were advised that the following areas are going well:


·        The Pay Award has been agreed for green and red book colleagues

·        The Workforce Strategy has been developed into a three year plan

·        Union and Council relations are very good

·        Some work is progressing to improve the employee experience and positively impact on recruitment and retention


The Council does still face some challenges:


·        The percentage staff turnover was 12.74% in 2021/22 and whilst lower than the national average and lower than the average for public sector (15.6%) it sill impacts on service delivery, moral and so on.

·        Sickness absence per FTE has increased slightly

·        We have an ageing workforce

·        The conflict between budget and the aspiration to address recruitment and retention.


Progress has been made in the following areas:


·        The workforce strategy has been transformed into a 3 year deliverable plan

·        An employee survey provider has been identified and will progress subject to budget review

·        A new occupational health system design is underway with implementation and launch in the first quarter of 2023

·        Exit interviews and why stay have been re-designed in a more friendly tone with an online version to be launched in January 2023

·        A new employee benefits system has been identified, contact to be agreed for launch in first quarter of 2023.

·        Health and Safety culture trial in ways of working has begun in construction services

·        New policy and procedure layout under design to be more modern and keeping it simple

·        New job description layout designed

·        Training for line managers on people management underway

·        Corporate induction is being redesigned/modernised/refreshed

·        Membership of LA’s recruitment and retention improvement group

·        Learning management system has been launched


It was queried whether we are setting the bar too high in relation to attracting apprentices and them having to have a minimum level of qualifications.  It was noted that with regards to some apprentice roles there is a need to have a minimum qualification due to the nature of the programme which will be undertaken with the college.  It was noted that we are looking at work placements and working with the Learning Skills Team to encourage those who want a career but would not necessarily be about their academic ability.


The overall development of the plan was welcomed it was however queried whether having interviews with people about why they stay would be time consuming and worth the investment.  It was noted that if we have good managers people want to stay we need to know if we have poor managers.

It was noted that the emphasis on succession planning was welcomed as there has been a gap for years.  It was noted that we have group directors who have worked there way up from the tools we need to show that this is an organisation where people can start to work their way up. 


It was noted that the impact of Covid has been mentioned and a  ...  view the full minutes text for item CR88


Welfare Reform/Universal Credit and Review of Energy Fund pdf icon PDF 497 KB

Presentation attached.


The Committee received a presentation on the current position with regards to Universal Credit.  The Committee were advised that 16% of the population live within the 10 most deprived area and this equates to approximately 30000 people.  With regards to Local Council Tax Support, 21,112 people are eligible, 12, 695 are of working age and 8,417 are of pension age.  Over 7500 children are on free school meals.  And 6070 of Council tenants are in receipt of Housing Benefit.


Demand from local people for financial support continues to be a priority;  An average of 250 calls per day are received with regards to Council Tax and approximately 200 per day in relation to Benefit issues.  A average of 25 calls per day are in relation to Housing Advice and Support.


With regard to Council Tax and Benefits we are reviewing recovery processes and letters to encourage more contact, we are working with Citizens Advice Gateshead to offer direct access to support.  We are working with Adult Social Care Teams, Housing and Legal.  We are looking to maximise benefits when people are contacting us.  We are making sure every contact counts. 


In terms of impact on Council tenants and rental income.  It appears that the link between Universal Credit and higher levels of rent arrears is still very evident, the problem is that more people will be moving over from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit in future.  Support currently for tenants has mitigated against the impact.  Request from tenants for support have increased, the higher  levels of requests are for help with energy costs,and issues.  Higher incidences of direct debits failing.  Some tenants who have previously managed are now struggling.


Over 2838 tenants were affected by the under-occupation penalty in 2013 when this was first introduced.  1,132 tenants are now known to be affected.  This still represents a burden for those affected.  917 tenants currently in receipt of a Discretionary Housing Payment.  In 2013 when Universal Credit was first introduced 15 tenants were affected by the benefit cap, now 130 tenants are affected.


With regards to Cost of Living Impacts in relation to Council tenants, a recent monitoring exercise showed a 60% increase in requests for support this year compared to last year, 147% increase in energy referrals, 39% increase in referrals for specialist debt advice and a 28% increase in direct debt payments failing.  Out of 100 tenants contact in a sample exercise, 65 said that the cost of living was a reason for them missing a rent payment.


The Council are providing support and mitigation for tenants in the form of several options.  There are debt advice officers within the team, we are also using partner organisations such as 2-Way Tenancy Solutions and Citizens Advice Gateshead.  In 2021/22 we delivered over £1.7m in financial gains for tenants.  It is expected that we exceed that level in the current year.  We have also made referrals to Northumbrian Water to help reduce tenants bill.


We have provided energy support for tenants  ...  view the full minutes text for item CR89


Annual Work Programme pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Report of the Chief Executive and the Strategic Director, Corporate Services and Governance

Additional documents:


The Committee received the work programme reports.  There were no updates from the previous report.


RESOLVED -  (i)         that the provisional programme be noted.

                        (ii)        that further reports on the work programme will be brought to the Committee  to identify any additional policy issues which the Committee may be asked to consider.