Report of the Chief Executive, Strategic Director, Corporate Resources and Strategic Director Corporate Services and Governance
The Committee were provided with a report which provides the year end assessment of performance and delivery for the period 1 October 2018 to 31 March 2019 in relation to the Council’s Thrive agenda.
The information contained with the report provides information to how well the Council is achieving against the strategic approach, Making Gateshead a Place where everyone Thrives. The report has been structured to show how the five pledges are at the front and centre of everything the Council does.
The following areas of performance were highlighted as areas of achievement, challenge and actions:
Performance relating to the speed of processing housing benefit
claims 6.2 days, compared to the previous year’s performance
of 7.5 days. This has primarily been due to the volume
of new claims reducing following the full service roll out of
Universal Credit and improvements in the use of IT.
· In order to support the Council’s role as corporate parents to children and young people who are looked after, the Council has a strategic indicator to achieve a year on year increase in the number of young people leaving care who are supported to have an opportunity in the Council for an apprenticeship. The year-end figure for 2018/19 has reduced from 4 apprenticeships to 2. (In addition there is one apprentice – LAC in the Housing Company) There is the intention to recruit a further 2 LAC apprentices to be based in the Office of the Chief Executive and Care, Wellbeing and Learning directorates. Additionally, the process of recruiting an Apprenticeship Co-ordinator is underway and part of their role will be to explore apprenticeships for LAC and care leavers.
• Performance relating
to council tax collection is slightly down at 95.7% compared to the
previous year of 95.9%.
• For 2018/19 the
indicator relating to business rates collection achieved 98%, which
is 1% above the 2020 target, however this is slightly down on the
previous year’s performance which ended at 98.6%.
• There has been
significant improvement in the Council’s performance
regarding the percentage of undisputed invoices paid on time, up
from 78.9% in 2017/18 to 87.7%.
• The direction of travel continues to be positive in improving Superfast Broadband connectivity, which now stands at 97.5% (up more than 1% from the previous year).
Two new strategic indicators relating to
Trading, will establish a baseline year in respect of:
• The amount of traded
• £ increase in new Services to Schools business generated.
Committee will be aware that due to the
Council’s own budgetary pressures the Council Tax payable by
householders has been increasing over recent years. This has led to
some residents finding it more challenging to pay their council tax
as well as other household bills.
• Performance around
Council Tax collection has also been impacted on by the rollout of
Universal Credit (UC), which has resulted in UC claimants not fully
maximising support while delays in payments to UC claimants from
DWP has reduced disposable income to claimants and affected
collection rates. Within the borough there are just under 10,000
households claiming UC. Some of those households are experiencing
periods of time when they have little or no income due to the way
that UC is assessed and paid.
• Promotion of help and advice to residents is offered via council correspondence. Some residents are also unaware of the need to claim Council Tax Support in addition to UC. This is an ongoing area of work to maximise the take-up of Council Tax Support.
What we’ve been doing
• To support and
assist our customers to pay their Council Tax, employees are
encouraged to work with customers, always show empathy and
understanding and arrange payment schedules with residents that are
affordable. Although challenges remain, customer satisfaction is
high with continued receipt of positive feedback from residents who
have received and appreciated how we have been able to support
them. In the future, the use of new technology will help improve
our performance and service to our residents with the introduction
of online forms and SMS texting will improve how we communicate
There were several queries raised with regards to the issue of apprenticeships, for example, the length of apprenticeship offered, the types of apprenticeship, how the take up of apprenticeships for Looked After Children was so low.
It was noted that there are a number of barriers, including lack of providers, provisions and conditions attached to the apprenticeship levy.
It was noted that some funding has been secured to appoint a person to co-ordinate apprenticeships and to look to work with partners to assist in securing providers and to recruit employees onto apprenticeships in order to make the most of the Levy.
It was suggested that a more detailed report be brought back to the Committee at a future date to give a clear picture of the position with regards to apprenticeships. It was suggested that the Council make use of the Northumbria University Business Clinic to assist the co-ordinator.
It was requested that an update on the Anti-Poverty Strategy also be brought to a future meeting.
It was also suggested that something be brought to the Committee on how we incorporate Health and Wellbeing in all of the policies we adopt within the Council.
The Committee were advised of a Members Seminar on 19 June on the subject of public sector reform.
RESOLVED - (i) That the Committee agreed that the activities undertaken are supporting the delivery of the Thrive agenda.
(ii) The areas highlighted for further scrutiny be brought to a future meeting.
(iii) That it be agreed that the four out of six budget proposals no longer require monitoring as the Committee is satisfied that there has been no disproportionate equality impact following implementation.
(iv) That a composite report will be presented to Cabinet at its meeting on 16 July 2019.