Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, and YouTube
Contact: Matthew Pawlyszyn Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Decision: The minutes were approved as a correct record.
Declarations of Any Interests
Members are reminded of their responsibility to declare any pecuniary interest in respect of matters contained in this agenda.
If you have a pecuniary interest you must withdraw from the meeting. Normally you should leave the room before the business starts to be discussed. You do, however, have the same right to speak as a member of the public and may remain in the room to enable you to exercise that right and then leave immediately. In either case you must not seek to improperly influence a decision on the matter.
No declarations were made.
To receive and consider the report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Overview and Scrutiny Performance Panel welcomed Councillor Bradley, Executive Leader, and Executive Member - Economic Development and Public Service Reform, Councillor Morwood, Executive Member - Planning and Development and Jonathan Noad, Director of Planning and Development.
Councillor Morwood highlighted areas of the report to Members.
There was an overspend of £56,000 due to the national shortage of building control officers, the Council had to hire from the private sector. Two separate unsuccessful attempts were made to recruit, the decision was made to focus on training officers internally with support provided by an external consultant.
The number of empty properties had decreased and was now below target.
Due to Covid-19, employment rates and the number of projected jobs created were below target.
Covid also impacted the business engagement service. Many businesses had struggled to maintain their position and survive.
Within the Enforcement Service, 100% of building control applications, both major and minor were decided in the timeframe, or granted extensions.
A correction was raised, paragraph 26, should read “the work noted in the report impacts climate change and sustainability targets of the Council’s Green Agenda and all environmental considerations are in place”.
Councillor Bradley stressed that Covid had significantly impacted the economy during the time frame of the report, noting that focus of many businesses had been survival, and the Council had a duty of care towards its staff which impacted the efficiency of the Council.
It was emphasised that the shortage of staff was not unique to Chorley Council, councils and businesses across the country were similar issues.
In response to a question from Members, it was confirmed that the employment target rate of 80% had been met but had not been for sustained significant periods of time.
It was clarified that within the targets, there were figures that were aspirational, and those that were interventional.
Jonathan Noad explained to Members that he would return with a figure of planning applications that had agreed extensions, and also to return with a figure of tree planting by ward. He also highlighted that the Council had overcome issues relating to building control due to lack of staff and difficulty in competing with the private sector. The Council had trained from within and the was awarded the ISO 9001 Quality Assurance. The Council was looking to gain a greater market share, currently 30% and overcome the issues that had been caused by Covid-19.
It was highlighted that Planning and Development was currently two sovereign services at Chorley and South Ribble, but resilience had been shared when required.
The external consultants were still in post and were deemed to be value for money. While efforts were made to recruit a named Enforcement Officer, enforcement continued. Staff were currently working in a hybrid capacity which was more productive than the full work from home model. A report relating to the Local Plan was to be presented at the next full Council meeting. The preferred option stage was expected February 2022.
To receive and consider the report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Committee welcomed Howard Anthony, Performance and Partnerships Team Leader to present the Business Plans across all departments of the Council and Shared Service developments since February 2021.
There were 15 Business plans containing 170 projects.
It was highlighted on page 19, a graph highlighting progress of projects colour coded. A significant bar of Housing Solutions was red, but it was to be rectified with the appointment of the Housing Solutions Manager.
‘Accommodation, Property Services, and Town Centre Development’, was a large plan, and covered three separate services, the number of red projects did not reflect the volume of projects that the service was delivering.
For many projects in the red, the correlated factor was resources and capacity of certain teams.
Key actions to reduce the risk included the recruitment drive in ICT to fill shared and vacant positions. This would also decrease the skills gap and increase ICT capacity to support the delivery of business plan projects.
There were additional issues with the Council taking control of the leisure facilities. The decision impacted the finance team, which caused a delay to their Business Plan direction resources into the programme. It was noted that all spending towards the leisure centre was within the budget and no additional resources were directed to the service. Time and effort costs were required to implement payments and required systems.
Members raised that they were concerned with ICT and recruitment. ICT was a key service that crucially related to other services. Councillor Bradley added that ICT was being restructured on the back of Shared Services to co-align cooperation and unity.
It was acknowledged that alongside many businesses, the Council was short of staff at every level, and it was an amalgamation of Brexit, the pandemic, and changing lifestyles. There was a shortage of viable applicants, and increasing wage demands of qualified applicants. There was the investment risk of training staff to the level which enabled them to leave for greater wages in the private sector.
It was clarified that Northgate were paid to digitised records, which was a long term programme.
In response to a query by the Chair relating to the purchase of 9 bungalows, it was confirmed that the decision was made by Council due to the short supply of bungalows in the borough.
It was expected that the coming months, matters would improve, and a presentation to be given to Councillors at the end of November.