Cabinet Portfolio: - Leader
Strategic Directorate: - Assistant Chief Executive
Consideration was given to a report that was submitted for pre-decision scrutiny ahead of the Cabinet meeting scheduled for 20 September 2021 that provided information on the on progress made in delivering the key activities as set out in the Council’s Year Ahead Plan in the plan. The Leader of the Council and the Assistant Chief Executive attended the meeting to present the report.
The report noted that the Year Ahead Plan was the Council’s plan for operating in and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and that it had originally set out key activities for the Council for the period September 2020 to May 2021. It was noted that an extension to the Plan, featuring these same themes and outcomes had been approved by Cabinet in June 2021 and that the plan was now in place for period until the new Council Plan for 2022 onwards had been produced and approved.
The report stated that the plan detailed in the key activities that would be undertaken in order for the Council to support residents, communities and businesses through the ongoing challenges and uncertainties of the pandemic and also direct the Council’s ambitious plans for Rotherham’s future.
The Leader noted that of all the activities contained in the Year Ahead Plan:
· 13% (11) of the activities outlined within the extended Year Ahead Plan had been completed
· 63% (55) were on track
· 14% (12) were behind schedule
· 2% (2) were off track
· 9% (8) had been closed.
The Leader noted that the development of the new Council Plan was continuing with a wide-ranging consultation with residents being carried out that would be used to shape the new plan. The Leader also noted that members of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board would also have further opportunities to be engaged with and consulted on the development of the new Council Plan.
The Leader advised that development of a new Carers Strategy was continuing and that a draft strategy had been prepared following online consultation. The Leader noted that the draft strategy would now be subject to further consultation through a series of face-to-face consultation events in order to ensure the consultation had been as thorough and wide ranging as possible. The Leader noted that he was pleased to report that after numerous delays caused by the pandemic, that work at the Herringthorpe Stadium, other than the works on the car park, would now be able to commence.
The Leader provided further information on the reinstatement of face-to-face customer service access across the Borough, the Council’s application to be an accredited Real Living Wage employer and the proposed Hybrid Working Policy that was scheduled to be considered by the Council’s Staffing Committee in the next week.
A document that outlined progress against all of the actions contained within the Year Ahead Plan was attached as an appendix to the officer’s report.
Members asked why the activity to realign ward based partnerships and networks with the Council’s new wards was delayed when the introduction of the new wards in 2021 had been known about well in advance of the changes being implemented. The Leader advised that the delay had been due to external factors including delays in the Police matching their data to the new wards and in ensuring that staffing capacity was most effectively allocated in order to deliver effecting ward working.
Members sought assurance regarding work and consultation activity with the Parish and Town Councils as the post of Parish Liaison Officer was currently vacant. The Assistant Chief Executive advised that a wide range of activity, including seeking an internal secondment that was taking place in order to fill this post, but assured members that that the duties related to this post were not being neglected and were currently being covered by the wider Neighbourhoods Team.
The Chair noted the ongoing work that was being carried out with regard to the development of new Carers Strategy and asked when the new strategy would be in place. The Strategic Director Strategic Director - Adult Care, Housing and Public Health, who was in attendance at the meeting advised that the draft strategy would be considered by the Unpaid Carers Group and the end of September before being subject to further consultation.
Members noted the many positive achievements of the Council over the previous 18 months that were detailed in the plan and welcomed the Council’s commitment to become an accredited Real Living Wage employer that took the welfare of all of its employees seriously. Members also noted the success of the new style Rotherham Show that had taken place earlier in September and advised that they had received a great deal positive feedback about the event.
Members asked for further information about the reasons why the activity to commission new services to prevent financial exploitation were off-track. The Leader advised that the delay had been caused by the preferred delivery partner, West Yorkshire Trading Standards not taking on new business during the pandemic, and that due to the unique service that they offered it had not been possible for an alternative delivery partner to be commissioned.
Members noted the activity detailed in the plan surrounding neighbourhood working and asked how the Council planned to move this on further and embed a culture of neighbourhood working across the entire Council. Members commented that the Neighbourhoods team should operate as a central and coordinated hub that enabled elected members to work effectively with officers and residents in order deliver positive change to their communities but noted that this function was not operating as effectively as it needed to.
In response the Leader reaffirmed his commitment to effective neighbourhood working and in ensuring that the right processes were in place to ensure that members could respond effectively to the needs of residents in their wards. The Leader acknowledged that the fully integrated approach that was needed to deliver seamless neighbourhood working was not quite as developed and embedded as it needed to be but assured members it was a top priority to ensure that these processes were developed and improved further.
Members asked whether the Council’s activity in driving and supporting the post-pandemic economic recovery would include work to ensure that those looking for work had the skills that matched the industries, notably the hospitality industry, that had significant numbers of vacancies. Members noted that the implementation of the Town Centre Masterplan would create significant numbers of hospitality vacancies and as such it was essential that those looking for work received the support to be able to fill these vacancies.
The Leader noted the wide range of support that was offered locally to support people into work but advised that there was no specific programme that worked to bridge the skill gap into hospitality work. The Leader advised that he was keen for all the different schemes that were in operation in the Borough to work together in a more coordinated way in order to maximise their outcomes in supporting as many people into sustainable work as possible. The Leader noted that the Council had created 89 jobs as part of the Government’s “Kick Start” scheme and that around half of these vacancies had now been filled. The Leader advised that he was optimistic that many of these temporary posts would lead to permanent jobs.
The Chair thanked the Leader and the Assistant Chief Executive for attending the meeting and answering member questions.
That Cabinet be advised that the recommendations be supported.