Venue: Committee Room 1 - Civic Centre
Contact: Anne Jenkins, Governance Team Leader Email: Cabinet@newport.gov.uk
Apologies for Absence
Declarations of Interest
The Deputy Leader referred to Item 3: Corporate Annual Report. page 6 last paragraph where Councillor Cockeram should have said was disappointed and not was ‘a’ disappointed. Item 5: Strategic Equality Plan, page 9 should read ‘contact’ tracing not ‘contract’ tracing.
The Minutes from 10 November were accepted as a true record subject to the above.
The Leader presented the report, advising her Cabinet colleagues that this was a compliance report to confirm that Treasury activities in the first half of 2021-22 in line with the Treasury Strategy previously considered and set by Members. The report compared activity with the year-end position for 2020-21 to indicate the resulting causes.
The report presented the following information:
· A reminder of the treasury strategy agreed
· Details of borrowing and investment activity
· Information regarding wider economic considerations such as the pandemic and the economic climate
An update in relation to the International Treasury
code on commercial investment funding
The Report concluded with an examination of activity against performance, confirming compliance.
The report was presented to Governance and Audit Committee and was endorsed by them for onward consideration by Cabinet and ultimately Council.
As at 30 September 2021 the level of borrowing decreased by £9.1m on 2020-21 levels to £144m.
This decrease was in relation to:
The repayment of a PWLB loan which matured in the
first half of 2021/22. As at 30 September further borrowing to replenish this
loan was not required. This might need to be covered by temporary
borrowing before 31 March 2022.
· The Council had a number of loans which were Equal Instalments of Principal (EIP), which paid back principal over the life of the loan, and the interest associated with the loan went down as the principal outstanding reduced.
· The level of investments also increased by £4.1m to £28.9m, meaning a decrease in net borrowing of £13.3m during the first half of financial year to £115.1m.
Included within the investment figure is £13.9m held in the form of cash. This was circa £6m less than year-end but due to the continuing pandemic the Authority continued to keep higher levels of cash than normal that can be made available at very short notice to cover any unexpected calls on cash flow.
Currently there was not much demand for very short term borrowing within the market place, and in September rates on deposits below 14 days with the Debt Management Account Deposit Facility (DMADF) were still very low at 0.01%. The Authority had its investment with other local authorities of £15m with slightly better, but still low interest rates. It was anticipated that investments would reduce during 2021/22 as an alternative to borrowing until we reach the balance of £10m, which would remain invested for compliance with Markets in Financial Instruments and Derivatives Directive (MiFIDII).
As a result of this collective position, no new long-term borrowing was required to be taken out in the first half of the financial year.
it was however anticipated that the Council would need to undertake additional borrowing on a short term basis for the remainder of the year in order to cover normal day to day cash flow activity, although with current capital expenditure forecasts, it was expected that there would be no specific requirement to undertake long-term borrowing this financial year. External borrowing might still be considered to ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
The Leader presented the report on the Council’s Risk Management Policy and Corporate Risk Register, which enabled the administration and officers to effectively identify, manage and monitor those risks which could prevent the Council from achieving its objectives in the Corporate Plan (2017-22) and undertake its statutory duties as a local authority.
The Quarter two risk report would also be presented to the Council’s Governance and Audit Committee in January (2022) to review the Council’s risk management process and governance arrangements.
At the end of quarter two the Council had 46 risks recorded across the Council’s eight service areas.
Those risks that were deemed to pose the most significant risk in the delivery of the Council’s Corporate Plan and services were escalated to the Council’s Corporate Risk Register for monitoring.
At the end of quarter two 18 risks were recorded in the Corporate Risk Register:
· Eleven Severe Risks (15 to 25);
· Five Major Risks (7 to 14);
· One Moderate Risks (4 to 6); and
· One Low Risk (1 to 3).
Change in Direction of Risk Scores
In comparison to quarter one, 13 risks remained at the same risk score with four risks increasing and one risk score decreasing.
In the last quarter the Covid case rate had increased with the easing of restrictions. The success of the vaccination programme had alleviated the most severe of illnesses in hospital settings but high rates of infection have been impacting staffing levels and attendances across school settings.
There was now new uncertainty with the new Omicron variant and residents and the Council would have to remain vigilant over the winter period.
Adult Social Care in Newport continued to see increasing demand on its services and this was affecting the Council’s ability to provide necessary service provision.
In Newport and Wales in general the Social Care sector was struggling to recruit and retain staff. There were significant numbers of job vacancies and all care providers were experiencing difficulty in attracting new entrants whilst existing staff were being attracted to other sectors through the offer of better rates of pay and immediate financial incentives.
The Council was involved in local, regional and national discussions to ensure service users received the care packages they needed and to address the issues of recruitment and vacancies.
Following COP26 there was more emphasis for nations to decarbonise and reduce their impact on the environment. The risk score increased to reflect a higher probability of global temperatures rising.
The Council committed to reducing its carbon emissions to net zero carbon by 2030 and the Council made a good start to meet this target. The Council would need to do more to make this a reality not only for the Council but across the City.
The Council drafted a clear plan for the next five years on the actions it needed to take to achieve this target. The Plan was out for consultation and would be launched early 2022.
In November Newport Council declared an ecological and ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Leader presented the report, advising colleagues that Audit Wales was one of the Council’s statutory external regulatory bodies that were required to audit the accounts of the Council and ensure the Council achieved value in the delivery of its services.
As part of the Local Governance Measure 2009, Audit Wales was required to issue a certificate of compliance to demonstrate that the Council was discharging its duties under the measure.
As a result of the Council publishing its Corporate Annual Report 2020/21 on its progress against its Corporate Plan and performance, Audit Wales published its Certificate of Compliance. Copies of the Certificate were included in the report for information in Welsh and English.
Cabinet noted the positive outcome of the Certificate of Compliance in relation to meeting its statutory duty under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.
The Leader presented the report, advising that staff, Elected Members and the public had to adapt to the on-going pandemic and it was likely that the way we work would never return to the way it was before Covid-19 impacted us all. Staff and Elected Members would only be afforded the opportunity of making more use of the Civic Centre when it was safe to do so. Welsh Government, and now UK Government, guidance was clear, those who could work from home should do so.
Cabinet had previously received a report on the New Normal and was asked for further work to be undertaken. Today the follow up report asked to make a series of decisions in order to progress this work.
Strategic Recovery Aim 3 of our Covid Recovery Strategy agreed by Cabinet, focused on Sustaining a Safe, Healthy and Productive Workforce. Most staff continued to deliver face to face, front line services, protected by appropriate risk assessments and mitigations such as the use of PPE, lateral flow tests, adaptations to workplaces and appointment systems for services.
Around 1200 of staff and Elected Members, were asked to work from home in line with Welsh Government guidance and in order to protect them, their colleagues and the public and to slow the spread of the virus.
This report sets out the next stages of moving to a new, flexible operating model that enabled us to meet our Strategic Recovery Aims, supports the work towards the Modernised Council agenda within the Corporate Plan and gave an opportunity to bring more people in to the Civic Centre, which in turn helped reduce our carbon footprint and support the city centre.
Organisationally we were in a strong position to respond to the pandemic and implement flexible deployment of our staff due to investments we had made in technology over the previous years. Staff were also used to working agilely. In an occupancy assessment of the Civic Centre before the pandemic began, we had a maximum desk occupancy of just under 400 staff. This was significantly below the capacity of the building.
The report rightly highlighted the climate change impacts of commuting and the potential benefits associated with a flexible approach to working. This was also in line with the Welsh Government’s Remote Working Wales approach, which focused on supporting town and city centres by providing space for public sector
officers to work from town and city centre locations close to their homes.
The approach taken in development of the New Normal work was as follows:
· Democratic Function
· Employment policies
· Civic Centre and public use
The Local Government and Elections Act required the council to make provision for hybrid Council and Committee meetings. This meant it would need to be able to hold a Council meeting with some Members in the Chamber and others accessing the meeting remotely. There was a need to broadcast these meetings.
Work was underway to install the technology to ensure we could operate this way and adapt ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The Leader presented the report to colleagues the Director of Social Services Annual Report 2020/2021. This was completed by Chris Humphrey. Chris undertook the role of Acting Director of Social Services from December 2019 – October 2021. This report reflected the period when Chris stepped up into the role under the most exceptional of circumstances. The Leader thanked Chris for her outstanding work during her time as Director.
The report reflected on the unprecedented period of demand and delivery for Social Services across Children’s and Adults Social Care. In May 2021 Care Inspectorate Wales undertook an Assurance Check which looked back at the period of 2020/2021. In their check they noted “We found support was underpinned by a relationship of openness and honesty about the options available for people who need care and support and carers who need support”.
Children’s services were experiencing unprecedented demand and increase in referrals while in adult services they were working under significant pressure. The findings identified a culture of improvement and mutual support and a recognition of positive leadership. It was noted that while staff were exhausted with complex high volume case work morale was generally good.
Across Adults and Children’s Social Care delivery of services continued with all levels of provision being maintained despite the impact of the pandemic. From Community Connectors, and children’s preventative services to advocacy, home care, and family support through to statutory interventions in family justice and provision of foster care and residential homes care and support was offered to citizens directly. Staff continued with face to face service delivery as well as seeking out innovative solutions in order to address the restrictions of the pandemic.
In Adult Services a new outreach service was developed and the Service’s hospital discharge processes were successfully embedded into the new Grange Hospital that opened in September 2020. The Hospital and Reablement teams were present at hospital sites throughout.
In Children’s Services the introduction of the Rapid Response team and the delivery of ‘Baby and Me’ supported families to be able to safely care for their children within the family home.
Working in partnership across the public sector and with our communities was key to being able to continue to deliver positive and robust services. At all levels of Social Services officers and Members continue to represent NCC in regional and National fora including the Safeguarding Boards, Regional Partnership Board, Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking children regional group and a plethora of partnership groups formed specifically to address the demands of the pandemic and ensure services could be delivered effectively across all agencies.
While 2020/2021 brought enormous pressures across Social Services the report outlines the extraordinary ways in which staff continued to care for and protect our most vulnerable citizens. Going forward into 2021/2022 will bring significant challenges but will undoubtedly create opportunities to continue to improve services.
The Leader invited Councillor Cockeram, Cabinet Member for Social Services to say a few words on the Annual Report.
Councillor Cockeram added a couple of points, firstly ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
The Leader mentioned to her colleagues that in the last couple of weeks, there was the emergence of the Omicron variant in Wales and across the United Kingdom.
The number of positive cases for the new variant was lower than those in England and Scotland but it was only a matter of time before we saw further increases and cases being reported in Newport.
This period was a time for many people in Newport to get together with friends, work colleagues and families to celebrate over this festive period. Especially after the very tough year that we have had. It was also important to remember that restrictions remained in place: wearing face coverings in shops, public transport and other public venues, maintaining social distancing, and covid passes when socialising in venues across Newport.
Consideration should be given to those who were vulnerable in Newport and more at risk to Covid. The health and social care system was being stretched further and further as we were seeing more demand on these services.
The message over this festive period was for people to think sensibly about their actions and of other when socialising with friends and family; taking regular covid testing, and self-isolating if tested positive for covid.
Finally, it was also important for people to take up the booster when they received their letter from the NHS or, for those who were not vaccinated, to do so as protected you and others around you.
The Council front line
services were continuing to operate and where possible staff were
continuing to work from home in line with the Welsh
Government’s advice. This also
continued for elected members in the Council with democratic
functions continuing to be undertaken virtually.
The New Normal Cabinet Report presented today outlined the future approach that the Council would deliver to modernise services built on the benefits that have been shown through Council services and staff working flexibly in the last two years.
In November, the Welsh Government announced a £51 million support package for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents across Wales with each eligible household able to claim £100 to support winter fuel payments. Letters were sent to all households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction on how to apply online but also through other methods if they did not have access to a computer or digital device. It was important for households eligible to take up this offer and to also share this message with their neighbours, families and friends who may also be eligible.
Throughout the Autumn term, Education services and schools continued to operate as normal despite the challenges faced by schools with Covid cases. Education Services and schools were collaborating, monitoring attendance and following Welsh Government guidance ensuring the most vulnerable pupils and parents were supported and encouraged to attend.
Rates of pupil attendance during the Autumn Term were monitored closely by schools, the Education Welfare Service and Welsh Government. This highlighted lower than expected rates of attendance for September and October ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
The Leader advised that it was nearly a year since the UK formally left the European Union and the single market. Throughout the year the Council continued to see widespread impacts not only from leaving the EU but also due to the global impacts of Covid as economies have seen increased demands and supplies have been disrupted. These impacts were also being experienced here in Newport as we were seeing vacancies across all sectors but most predominantly in construction, manufacturing, accommodation and food service activities. Supplies in food and goods had been disrupted and were being seen on the shelves of supermarkets. Major projects also saw increases in the price of materials and labour which were then impacting on the delivery and cost of projects. Finally, the cost of energy (electric and gas) and fuel had now increased which would see households on standard and pre-payment tariffs see an increase in the energy costs. For low-income households in Newport this would have a significant impact and would put further pressure on those vulnerable households.
As reported in the Covid Cabinet Report the Council launched the Welsh Governments Winter Fuel support to help eligible households to apply for £100 towards their electric and gas heating over the winter period.
In November, Newport was awarded £2.8m to distribute to seven external organisations to deliver economic and employment opportunities for communities throughout Newport. The Council met with the organisations to help them get set up and progress the delivery of the projects over the next eight months.
For the City’s EU/EAA citizens it was over six months since the deadline passed. For a significant proportion of residents in the City they would have received either full Settled Status or Pre-settled status. But the Council was are aware that there were residents still awaiting a decision.
Cabinet wanted to reiterate its support for EU/EAA citizens living and working in Newport and that they all had a part to play in making Newport a great city to live and work in. Therefore the Leader encouraged anyone who was still awaiting a decision or having difficulties to conclude their application to contact the Council and other organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau.
Newport Council was continuing to work with community groups and third sector organisations to ensure EU citizens have access to the services and support they need.
The Council was continuing to lead a city-wide food project network to assess demand and expected demand over the winter period.
The Council was also reviewing resources and capacity to respond to emerging need and are working with GAVO to make arrangements to support further food poverty work in the City.
The Leader added that the socio-economic duty required the council to tackle inequality during decision making as public bodies. Inflation rose to 5.1% and working households were at risk. The Council had provided free public transport across the city for the month of December to help residents. In order to strengthen and support communities as part of ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
The Leader advised colleagues on their regular monthly report on the work programme.
Please move acceptance of the updated programme.
Cabinet agreed the Cabinet Work Programme.