To receive and consider the report of the Deputy Chief Executive (enclosed)
The Overview and Scrutiny Performance Panel welcomed Howard Anthony (Performance & Partnerships Team Leader). The Quarter Four Report covered January to March 2021.
Considering the challenging circumstances, performance was said to be very good. 84% of projects were on target and rated green. 8% were not started, and 8% were amber. 50% of the indicators were on track or above target and 50% of the corporate strategy measures were on target.
The Communities team worked to provide support to residents and local businesses during the pandemic. The renovations of Astley Hall were currently amber due to issues found during renovations, but when resolved will be back on track. It was hoped that the work will be completed before the G7 speakers arrive.
Members questioned if the Astley Hall refurbishment was at risk of requiring further funds from Council. There was no indication that the project was at risk of going over-budget and that the amber rating was due to a delay.
The percent of the population with an NVQ level 3 or higher exceeded the target.
Play spaces progressed well with Westway Sports Campus’s installation of grass and artificial pitches. Work on King George V’s Playing Field commenced with improvements including a changing facility, kiosk space and a foyer.
Other projects included the extra care scheme and community facilities at Tatton Gardens. The project was progressing well and will provide high quality, affordable and suitable housing, a GP surgery, a pharmacy, a café and community centre. Work is ahead of schedule.
The number of empty properties increased during the quarter. The number of affordable homes in the region underperformed.
Members raised that only 47 affordable homes were delivered, which was below the target. Tatton Gardens would not make up the number and asked what was being done to increase the number of affordable homes. Howard explained that due to the market, house building had slowed, there were supply constraints. The Local Plan was being developed, highlighting land supply, and exploring the longer-term strategic position of how sites could be brought forward. The Members were reassured that the Council remained focused on delivering affordable homes.
In response to Members enquiring about the average length of time properties remained empty, Howard Anthony did not have a figure on hand, but noted that there were particular reoccurring empty properties that required further examination and when completed, the information will be returned to Members.
Good progress had been made with Alker Lane. Improvements have been made to the town centre with the upgrade of the market. The site at Bengal Street progressed well. All three projects reported green.
The Chair asked if the action taken to use letting agents to solve the town centre vacancy rates was the best way forward. Howard Anthony explained that the Council used the most efficient means of getting the vacant lots on the market, and it was hoped that once pandemic restrictions lift, town centres started to recover, but it was not an issue unique to Chorley.
Members asked if Alker Lane and other business locations were at risk with the changing patterns of work and if the Council had considered the short- and long-term impact on businesses and Council owned premises. Howard felt that it was too early to fully understand the future of working dynamics and is happy to approach the Business Team to provide evidence when understanding was greater.
The pandemic caused significant impact to overall employment rate, and there had been an increase in 16 – 17-year-old NEETs (not in full time education, employment, or training). Further monitoring to continue to assess if it was a short-term issue that would self-correct or if action was needed. The employment rate was below the target and decreasing in line with the average. There was work underway with the Quick Start scheme and the Business Engagement Team worked throughout Covid-19 assisting with government grants. The figures were not unique to Chorley and were common across Lancashire.
In relation to filling the skill gaps in the region, education establishments have been working with the Local Enterprise Partnership to proactively work across Chorley and South Ribble to provide future employees the skills to fill these gaps.
Median workplace earnings were below the average for the region. Efforts to improve growth in the local economy include Alker Lane and Strawberry Fields.
Members felt that Chorley did not have the structural and deprivation of other areas in Lancashire and felt that the area should not be on the wrong side of the average rate, and that if there was not a turnaround, it could be an aspect Scrutiny could pick up and address with partners.
Howard added that areas that consistently performed below targets were explored, action plans created and monitored. He also noted that the statistics came externally from Nomis and the figures were not broken down into various demographics but will approach the Department of Work and Pensions for further details.
Phase two of shared services progressed well, the Council implemented shared Chief Executive and Directors. Progress made for ICT and other departments to include Streetscene. New technology improved services for residents.
The Council progressed with its green agenda with the appointment of a Climate Change Co-Ordinator with capacity to deliver and enact the programme. The Clean Air Consultation was underway.
For the Performance of Key Service Delivery Measures, two were worse than targeted, one was worse but within threshold and five performed better than targeted. The number of businesses closed due to the pandemic increased the Town Centre vacancy rate. As covered by Asim, the Council failed to meet its target of missed collections per 100,000 of household waste.
Members discussed the format of the Performance Panel and questioned if other Directors and Cabinet Members should attend to answer questions relating to the quarter’s performance. The Chair disagreed and felt that the system in place of each Directorate and Cabinet Member attending one Performance Panel per year to answer questions made, and any further requests can be made at the next Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Decision: The report was noted.