Performance and Finance report Quarter 1 2013/14
Cathy Tyson (Assistant Director of Policy) presented a report to the committee introducing the Performance and Finance review for quarter 1 (Q1), 2013-14. Members were advised that the performance element of the full report, which was attached as appendix 1, reflected a transition towards revised performance reporting. It would be redesigned to centre on the key performance indicators highlighted in the new Corporate Plan which was currently in development. Members’ attention was subsequently drawn to the executive summary of the performance element of the report and it was noted that at present 39 per cent of all indicators were rated either Green or Amber, with 13 per cent categorised as Red. It was explained that the remainder were indicative only, and whilst useful did not measure service performance but rather provided information on subjects against which targets could not be set, such as the number of children on the Child Protection Register. It was intended that there would be a reduced number of indicative-only indicators in future performance reporting.
An overview of each service area was given by Cathy Tyson, highlighting the recent or planned introduction of new indicators and any concerns or anticipated pressures. It was noted that one of the new indicators introduced for this quarter for Children and Families reflected the Ofsted judgements for Brent’s Schools. At present, this indicator was rated Red and it was explained that this was due to the target being set at zero for the number of schools judged inadequate. Performance against recycling targets was addressed and it was emphasised that there had been a lot of improvement in this area over recent years. The alerts for these indicators were currently red but this was subject to potential change as the figures regarding residual waste and recycling were provisional due to the time lag. The impact of the Welfare Reforms was evident across departments. The number of households in temporary accommodation had been increasing since Q1 2012/13 but this remained within the forecasted rise due to the implementation of a comprehensive package of mitigating actions. Performance against the national indicator N181, time taken to process all new Benefit claims, had dipped, in the first quarter of 2013/14 due to exceptionally high demand on the Benefits Services. Performance against this target was significantly better in July 2013 and it was anticipated that there would be considerable improvement against this indicator during Q2. Turning to the finance element of the report, Cathy Tyson advised that the council was currently forecasting an overspend of £714,000 but that actions were in place to mitigate this.
In the subsequent discussion members raised several issues. It was queried how schools judged inadequate by Ofsted would be supported to improve and a suggestion was made that monitoring be similarly undertaken of Ofsted judgements for Brent’s Children’s Centres. A member noted with concern that Pupil and Parent services had an overspend of £929,000 and queried what measures were in place to ensure that this was kept under control. Further explanation was requested regarding the review of the Alternate Education Service and a concern was raised regarding provision for those children without a school place. Councillor Lorber asserted that it was important that there was sufficient support in place for those pupils waiting for an appropriate offer of a school place. With reference to the proportion of Looked After Children placed with Independent Foster Carers, a member queried whether there needed to be provision to support LAC remaining with their foster families beyond the age of eighteen.
Responding to these queries, Cathy Tyson confirmed that robust measures were in place to support regular budget review and detailed monitoring via Departmental Management Teams, the Corporate Management Team and the council’s strategic finance function. These mechanisms would ensure that Heads of Service would be made to account for any overspend and that appropriate oversight was in place. She further explained that following the award of an inadequate rating, Ofsted would issue clear recommendations for improvement and a detailed plan would be devised. The council’s School Improvement Service would work with the school to ensure that all of Ofsted’s recommendations were enacted. The possibility of monitoring the Ofsted ratings of Brent Children’s Centres would be explored further. The review of the Alternate Education Service did not affect those children without the offer of a school place; rather the service aimed to support children who had been excluded from school. The service had been reconfigured to be delivered in a different way and efficiency savings had been identified in relation to improved management, teaching staff and through co-location of facilities. Turning to the question of supporting LAC after the age of 18 years old, Cathy Tyson explained that semi-independent provision was available for those who did not feel ready to move into their own accommodation.
Members requested additional information on the actions being taken to address performance against recycling targets and incidences of fly tipping, with comment being passed on the impact on these of commercial businesses. A member questioned the efficiency of using street cleaning operatives to sort waste into recyclables and non-recyclables at the point of collection. It was further asserted that streets in poor condition led residents to be ill-disposed towards council messages encouraging recycling. A member commented that there was an established problem of rubbish being dumped in alleyways. It was acknowledged that alleyways were the responsibility of residents but it was queried if the council offered any assistance in addressing this problem.
Michael Read (Operational Director of Environment and Protection) advised that he understood that targeted work had been undertaken by the enforcement team to encourage appropriate disposal of waste, in order to address the overspend resulting from disposal costs. This may have led to reduced focus temporarily on the investigation of fly tipping incidents. It was explained that the council did not offer a commercial service for waste disposal but did monitor businesses to ensure appropriate arrangements were in place. Members were further advised that the council had previously delivered a programme to gate entrances to alleyways; however, there was no longer the resource for this and the council would now only be able to assist through enforcement action. Cathy Tyson explained that littered streets reflected a behavioural issue which needed to be addressed and in view of this, the street cleaning operatives were used efficiently.
Discussion was held on the use of the number of visits to a library as an indicator, with a member advising that he considered that the number of book issues would be a better measure of library use. The committee acknowledged the usefulness of both measures, noting the wide range of uses to which libraries were put.