Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 8th September, 2021 2.00 pm

Venue: Ground Floor Committee Room - Loxley House, Station Street, Nottingham, NG2 3NG. View directions

Contact: Laura Wilson  Senior Governance Officer

No. Item


Apologies for absence




Declarations of interests




Minutes pdf icon PDF 223 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 7 July 2021


The minutes of the meeting held on 7 July 2021 were confirmed as a true record and were signed by the Chair.


Discussion with Sir Tony Redmond, Chair of the Improvement and Assurance Board pdf icon PDF 109 KB

Report of the Head of Legal and Governance

Additional documents:


Sir Tony Redmond, Chair of the Improvement and Assurance Board (IAB) addressed the Committee around his views on the progress the Council is making in its recovery and improvement. He highlighted the following points:


(a)  The Recovery and Improvement Plan (R&IP) has a number of key areas of focus: 

·  Financial resilience

·  Reserve and debt planning

·  Service planning within financial constraints

·  Transformation and culture change

·  Ensuring robust governance arrangements are in place

·  Review of commercial activity

·  Communication – consultation and engagement with citizens


(b)  There are a number of key functions for the Scrutiny Committee to fulfil:

·  Ensure accountability of decision making

·  Examine Executive response to the R&IP

·  Oversee and challenge Strategic and Corporate decisions stemming from the plan and how they are then implemented

·  Examine transformation to ensure best value and robust governance remains a focus


(c)  The last report submitted to the Secretary of State by the IAB highlighted the need for Nottingham City Council to work at pace and this is a reasonable feature for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to address.


Members of the Committee asked a number of questions, and throughout discussions the following further points were highlighted:


(d)  The biggest challenge facing Nottingham City Council is the need to produce fundamental changes in a short timeframe. At the start of the year when the recommendations from the Non-Statutory Review (NSR) were published the Council had already started to review the Council Plan. This reviewed Plan now needs to be linked to Service plans. The Scrutiny Committee can look to ensure that these strategic changed are being implemented in an effective way and at sufficient pace;


(e)  Both the implementation of the revised constitution, in particular the decision making protocols, and the transformation programme and its push to change the culture of the Council are important elements of the R&IP that the Committee can examine and oversee;


(f)  The rewrite of the constitution was deemed necessary as the risk policy and practice of the Council needed reviewing, and in terms of Governance, a deeper review of how risk is identified and managed was required. This is helping the Council to understand its appetite for risk, how it is best managed, the tolerances it can work within and how it balances these with its responsibility to citizens. Increased clarity in the decision making process and in governance arrangements stipulates who is responsible for what element of the decision making process ensuring accountability is clear. Previously the practical application of the process did not reflect this;


(g)  The role of the IAB is not to compare Nottingham City Council to other Authorities, it exists to ensure that the required transformation takes place in a timely manner and to support the process. It looks at operations to establish if it is in line with good practice, done with good governance, and delivers services in the best interests of its citizens. It is important to ensure that the arrangements in place in Nottingham City best suit this authority; 


(h)  It is a difficult task to measure and evidence culture change. It can be seen in the ways services are delivered, most often in improved efficiency and improved value for money.There will need to be a fundamental change as to how services are delivered, this needs to be cost effective and resources within the financial envelope available to the Council. Clarity and consistency in delivery and outcomes of services are the best performance indicator;


(i)  The IAB initially expressed concern that the voluntary debt reduction policy would not address sale of assets quickly enough.  Nottingham City Council has implemented the changes needed to diminish these concerns and there is no further criticisms to be levelled at the Council for the implementation of this element of the R&IP to date;


(j)  In addition to the challenge of time pressures facing Nottingham City Council for the implementation of the changes required, the Council also has to match service aspirations with resources and budget. It is essential that the Medium Term Financial Plan from 2022 pays proper regards to resourcing and the necessary pace of change;


(k)  It is essential that statutory services, like Children’s Services, are met consistently. There is a growing demand for these services, it is not for the IAB to tell the Authority how to address this issue. There are a number of different ways to deliver services and still fulfil statutory requirements. Looking critically at how services are delivered against the statutory requirements will help to ensure improved value for money;


(l)  The role of Overview and Scrutiny is to look at the strategic decisions made by the Council and ensure that they benefit the Council’s improvement plan. If this is not the case then the Overview and Scrutiny Committee must hold decision makers to account;


(m)The R&IP is a high-level plan that well illustrates the priorities, and gives an insight into the direction of travel, the Council needs to take. What the IAB is now looking for is how this R&IP is translated into implementation and how it is resourced through Service Planning;


(n)  Committee members expressed frustration that they often received information around services and plans too late to effectively offer feedback and scrutiny. Offering feedback and scrutiny in a timely manner as situations develop is an essential role for the committee to fulfil;


(o)  The Chair highlighted that it was important to strike a balance between acting at pace and making changes, reiterating the need to act cautiously and ensure that changes being proposed were suitable for Nottingham City Council.


The Chair confirmed to the Committee that she would liaise with the Leader of Nottingham City Council in his capacity as a member on the IAB so that any concerns raised by the IAB can be fed into the Scrutiny Committee Work plan in a timely fashion.  


Centre for Governance and Scrutiny Review of Scrutiny pdf icon PDF 185 KB

Report of the Head of Legal and Governance


Additional documents:


Jacqui McKinlay, Chief Executive of the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny, and Ian Parry, Head of Consultancy (Review Lead) of the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny presented their report resulting from their recent review of Scrutiny at Nottingham City Council. They highlighted the following points:


(a)  The review was commissioned as part of the Recovery Plan established following the Non Statutory review (NSR). It looked at the structure of scrutiny at Nottingham City Council (NCC) , the culture and mind-set underpinning the scrutiny process, how information is prepared and shared, as well as the impact that Scrutiny has;


(b)  The review took into account what type of scrutiny works for the Council, something that differs from authority to authority, alongside the statutory guidance and the established framework and examples of best practice;


(c)  The review identified a number of themes that although already in place at Nottingham City Council would benefit from strengthening and improvement:

·  Ensuring active and effective participation in the Scrutiny function by Committee members. There is already a good foundation here and the review commented on the engagement and commitment of members.

·  A shift to a more strategic focus for the scrutiny work, rather than the current trend to look at service delivery

·  Better focus on what matters the most, for example the budget, there is a disconnect between the focus of the Executive and Scrutiny

·  Culture and freedom to challenge.

·  Whole Council support, ensuring sufficient support and parity of esteem, including support from senior officers and Councillors

·  Ensuring information is put before the Committee at the right time to ensure effective scrutiny can take place;


(d)  The review suggests that Scrutiny should operate on a “recovery footing” for the next 12 months, to ensure 3 key outcomes are achieved:

·  Upskilling and development of Committee members 

·  Encouraging greater trust between the Executive and Scrutiny

·  Reprioritise and repurpose of scrutiny to focus on delivery of the Council Recover and Improvement Plan (R&IP)


(e)  The Review makes 10 recommendations, most of which can be achieved within 12 months. The development of a full action plan is supported by the Review and by the Improvement and Assurance Board;


(f)  The recommendations set out focus on repurposing and refocusing the Scrutiny function, introducing a prioritisation to the work programme to better support the R&IP. Support capacity and training for all committee members, and Executive members is also highlighted as needing action;


During discussion and questions the following points were made:


(g)  Work on an action plan is underway. This will be brought back to the Committee at the October meeting. Work has also begun on looking at the change in function and work programme to bring it in line with the R&IP;


(h)  In order to work at pace and become more responsive it was suggested that stripping back the work programme and focusing on the strategic elements  would help the Scrutiny function come into line with the R&IP. With the fast moving transformation programme it is essential that Scrutiny Committee have fast access to information so that practical recommendations can be flagged before actions are already put into place. Ruthless prioritisation is key to ensuring the most pressing matters receive the time and attention they require;


(i)  Committee members agreed that Scrutiny needed more prominence in the Council, all members will be trained and upskilled to give them the confidence to carry out the role to the best of their ability and as part of a team. A job description will be developed to ensure Committee members are fully aware of their responsibilities;


(j)  Whilst the Scrutiny function should seek to challenge decisions it should not try to become a “Shadow Cabinet”. Its role is to look at the impact of decisions, what the risks are and how it will impact citizens. If an issue is identified it is for scrutiny to hold the relevant executive member to account. This approach reduced the duplication of work and focus attention on the issue;


(k)  Service standards should not be measured on the money spent on them. It is important to look at the level of service, rather than the overall budget spent on a service and its efficacy;


(l)  Support to this committee needs to be resources properly, both in terms of democratic services support but also in availability of officers to support Committee members in developing knowledge and insight;


(m)Committee members expressed a level of frustration that the challenge that the Committee makes often disappears and is not followed through. Ian Parry indicated that monitoring and tracking of quality recommendations results in good quality scrutiny.  The important outcome is the impact of the scrutiny, not the amount of scrutiny taking place;


(n)  Additional training within induction will help to prepare members to take up their role as Councillors, and will ensure that they are aware of the different roles each committee plays.


Resolved to


(1)  Endorse the report and recommend it to Council for approval;


(2)  agree that a working group comprising the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee, the Chair of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, the Head of Legal and Governance, and the Senior Governance Officers responsible for scrutiny, be established to develop an action plan to respond to the recommendations in the report; and


(3)  agree that the action plan is submitted to the October meeting of the Committee for approval.


Restructuring of the Council’s Regulatory Services pdf icon PDF 209 KB

Report of the Head of Legal and Governance


Additional documents:


Councillor Neghat Khan, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Inclusion, and Andrew Errington, Director for Community Protection, along with Ben Partington and Rupinder Kooner, Senior Community Protection Officers presented the report on the Restructure of the Council’s Regulatory Services to the Committee. They highlighted the following points:


(a)  The most visible face of Community Protection are the uniformed officers seen on the street day to day, however Community Protection is responsible for a vast range of statutory services, many of which the public do not necessarily recognise as the responsibility of the Directorate. This includes Safer Housing, Pollution, and infection control, which has come to the forefront throughout the Covid 19 pandemic, as well as many others;


(b)  There was a 24% reduction in the numbers of Community Support Officers (CPO’s) in the last budget round and a 50% reduction in Antisocial Behaviour enforcement Officers within the same period. There were cuts to other services covered by Community protection and some savings made have had to be reversed as they have left elements of the service unable to fulfil its functions. This is a recognised risk of working at pace and not fully understanding the implications of changes made;


(c)  The transformation plan has been designed to ensure that statutory services and functions continue to be delivered and that the relevant elements of the Council Plan are achieved. The first part will be around Regulation Training, with duties split into 5 “tiers”. All officers will be trained to deal with the high volume tiers 1 through to 3, but a small percentage will be further trained to deal with tier 4 and 5, requiring more advanced skills. This will free up the higher skilled officers to deal with these functions more effectively;


(d)  A new reporting system will be put into place, using a new software called Firmstep. This allows direct reporting of incidents by members of the public, as well as frontline staff and officers. It will also allow tracking of data for individual wards and identify hotspot areas to better inform strategic planning;


(e)  The last element of the transformation programme is to step back from reliance on Police systems, restoring Nottingham City Council (NCC) IT systems and ensuring support is in place for outlying officers;


Committee members asked a number of questions and made some observations, the following points were highlighted:


(f)  In the past CPO’s have been completing tasks and duties usually done by Police Officers. There is now a shift to returning these responsibilities to partner organisations to ensure that Council Officers focus on the Council’s statutory functions. With the introduction of GDPR and the financial pressures increasing on the Councils’ budget it is no longer viable for CPO’s to pick up this work;


(g)  Returning to NCC IT systems will ensure an easier work flow for Officers. Access to Police systems will be maintained, however work flows and prioritisation will take place through Council systems;


(h)  The functions of Community Protection are once again all under one Portfolio. This allows for greater strategic oversight, leading to more efficient working and reporting. This change makes it easier for the implications and impacts of decisions to be seen across the whole service rather than individual teams, and better manage efficiency savings;


(i)  A Committee member highlighted that during conversations with CPO’s in the past they have indicated that they pick up work from Partner organisations on a regular basis leaving them with reduced time to fulfil NCC statutory work. This is being addressed, and there is a renewed focus on work that is the responsibility of NCC;


(j)  The attendance of the Neighbourhood Action meetings is being monitored and partner organisations encouraged to attend more frequently. Where there is good and varied attendance there has been an improvement for the CPO’s picking up partner organisations work. This is also being addressed through strategic cross partnership conversations and performance management. The new Firmstep software allows collation of information that can then be passed to responsible partners;


(k)  Firmstep is live and being used by Officers. All Councillors will be invited to training to ensure that they are able to log incidents and make reports relevant to their wards and the system is available for residents to use too. This system does not take away from the traditional Councillor Casework, but does allow Councillors and residents to track the progress of work around reports they have made. It also has a mechanism that allows reports to be escalated to partners were it is necessary and appropriate;


(l)  It is difficult to compare spend per head on Community Protection with other Core Cities as Nottingham City is unique in terms of functions it covers for the size of area. However when looking at the closest comparators, Nottingham City has a low spend per head, meaning it is efficient and effective;


(m)In the past Nottingham City Council has reached out to neighbouring authorities with a view to multi-authority working for some services with a view to providing further efficiencies. These efforts have not been successful, and neighbouring authorities have not looked favourably on multi-authority working;


(n)  The Selective Licensing regime does not provide the mechanism to allow enforcement to address issues outside a property. It can not help to solve issues around bins left in the street etc but can be used to manage the landlord’s response to issues of Anti-social Behaviour rather than the anti-social behaviour its self; 


(o)  There are currently 7 full time vacancies for CPO’s. The team is split over three localities, North, South and Central. There is no longer a dedicated team for the City Centre, this has been split into the localities. The team is very diverse and resilience within the team is important, but turnover is high, with many CPO’s going on to apply and be accepted onto the Police Force;


(p)  The introduction of CPO’s attending Councillor Ward walks has been successful so far in its roll out. CPO’s are able to log issues straight onto the Firmstep software remotely, improving accuracy of reports. Where CPO’s have yet to attend ward walks they are being encouraged to do so, along with team members from Safer Housing and other teams to address a wide variety of issues;




(q)  The transformation programme is ongoing, it has been rolled out within the City Centre, and is now being pushed out into neighbourhoods. Logistics and IT systems are in place and staff are in the process of receiving the necessary training. Future projects for further efficiency savings include digitalising as many operations as possible, the example given that of parking permit application and approval;


(r)  At present it is not possible to make further savings. If additional savings must be made then non-statutory services and functions will need to be cut. If further cuts are made to the service then it will be difficult for Officers to give assurance to the Portfolio Holder that all services can be met as required;


(s)  There is opportunity for CPO’s to pick up additional hours in overtime, however after the last 18 months working through the pandemic many of the team are exhausted and have expressed the opinion that the overtime flat rate is not enough of an incentive in the current climate;


(t)  There are a number of initiatives being considered to help promote more efficient working. Investment in better camera equipment for fly tipping hotspots, to increase likelihood of enforcement is being considered. Habits of the general public have changed since lockdown began in March 2020. Waste is more focused on homes as people continue to work from home, bulky waste collection requests have increased and waiting times are now up to a month;


(u)  There may be a greater role for the Universities to play in helping to pay for CPO’s. Other Core Cities receive a larger percentage of funding for CPO’s than from Universities than Nottingham currently does;


The Committee thanked the Portfolio Holder, the Director for Community Protection and the Senior Community Protection Officers for attending and for their presentation.


Resolved to request a written response from the Portfolio Holder on the impact of Firmstep and that it be brought to the Committee in 6 months time in order to assess its impact on response times to Anti-Social Behaviour and responses from partner agencies with evidence of improvements.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Report of the Head of Legal and Governance


Additional documents:


Following detailed discussion committee members agreed that the work programme would generally appear the same as published and agreed the following points of action:


(a)  Overview and Scrutiny Action Plan to come to the October meeting as per minutes 25, Centre for Governance and Scrutiny Review of Scrutiny;


(b)  Crime And Drugs Partnership Annual review to be brought to the December meeting and an invite to be sent to Vernon Coker at attend for it’s presentation;


(c)  Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee to write to the Portfolio Holder for Housing, Planning and Heritage requesting a written response seeking assurance that the Portfolio Holder is satisfied with the response from Nottingham City Homes to concerns raised around contract management; 


(d)  An overview report to come to the November Committee giving outline plan for the Medium term Financial Plans, with an emphasis on rational rather than actual numbers;