Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Neil Barnett Scrutiny Adviser
Declarations of Interest
The Members of the Committee approved of the minutes from the meeting held on 6 October 2021 as a true and accurate record of the meeting.
A Member of the Committee asked with page 13 with regard to the mention of the informal briefing with officers; to include the main focus of the briefing which was to focus on what they will be discussing with Newport Norse. The Scrutiny Adviser advised this would be amended.
- Tracey Brooks (Head of Regeneration, Investment and Housing)
- Lyndon Watkins (Managing Director – Newport Norse)
- Mark McSweeney (Director of Professional and Contract Services – Newport Norse)
The Head of Regeneration and Investment and Housing advised the Committee that the purpose of the report is to inform Scrutiny Committee of the performance of the Council partnership company Newport Norse Limited. Members were provided with the background of the partnership, where Newport City Council entered the 10 year joint venture agreement in July 2014. All of the professional services were transferred from Newport Property Services to Newport Norse to offer a total facilities management service. It provided an alternative to privately delivered outsourcing and met the Council’s needs. It was pointed out that all assets remain owned by council, it is just how they manage these assets, is done by joint venture.
The Managing Director and Director and Contract Services for Newport Norse gave an overview and breakdown of the benefits that Newport Norse Partnership offers the community through many means such as the economy and education services. They highlighted within the report how Norse ensure that the council optimises their assets and the work in successful bids with the Welsh Government. The Managing Director acknowledged the challenges. The Managing Director highlighted that the partnership has three years left to run and that they would like a longer term.
Members asked the following:
· A Member noted their appreciation for the comprehensive presentation and asked if there is anyway the Council can help Newport Norse more.
The Managing Director responded by stating that the relationship has always been good with the Council; in the earlier days of the partnership there was obviously levels of distrust but noted they have now formed good working relationships at senior and management levels. The Member appreciated that it is good that it is about working well together, not just the money made from the joint venture. The Managing Director acknowledged that they would not be the cheapest because they do the right job in a professional way and that their focus is on the partnership.
· A Member queried with regard to the £16 million turnover with 300 employees and worked out that is about 5,300 per employee. The Member asked how that compares to management companies as it appears low to them.
The Managing Director explained that the makeup of the turnover, is that some of the delivery of services such as cleaning with professional fees, there are joint ventures across the companies and the turnover is relatively high because they are one of the biggest joint ventures in scope of the services that they undertake. The Member then asked the Officer to confirm the turnover per employee. In response, the Managing Director highlighted that many of the employees range from cleaners to technical staff and stated that out of the 300 staff, there are around 150 of those that are cleaners. And a number of those will be part time and also ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
Geraint Willington - Director – Resources, Business and Governance, EAS
Ed Pryce - Assistant Director Policy and Strategy, EAS
Sarah Morgan - Head of Education, Newport City Council
The EAS Director presented a brief overview to the Committee and highlighted they key areas for consideration. The report to the Committee assessing the performance of the EAS concluded that the EAS is providing good value for money in terms of those aspects that are within its control, notably: economy; efficiency; equity and; sustainability. However against the backdrop of a global pandemic; the approach has been rethought in vulnerable and disadvantaged wellbeing. The Director went through the report in detail for the Committee and highlighted that the focus is spending less and spending well, the external contender introduced equity of spending fairly and for the long term. They found effectiveness affects wellbeing and therefore assessed how the EAS mitigated the impact on those from poor backgrounds.
The officers covered the sustainability area of the report and went through the data on how to get a greater range of accountability about what was going on in schools rather than exam performance. As they did not have the exam grades due to the pandemic the team had to improvise their approach and also discussed the feedback from the schools on this. The officer noted it is about ensuring that the recommendations from the report have been implemented as part of the value for money and they continue to compare the outcomes outlined from the surveys.
The Committee asked the following:
· A Committee Member noted the a third of the staff numbers being reduced. With that, will they still see a resilient service and what the differences will be? For instance would that be putting more on the head-teachers on providing a service more so than before?
The Assistant Director covered the headteacher element by stating that the majority of heads are improvement schools that they backfill and ensure that their funding they receive are able to other leaders to buy and supply and. Their partner school advisors report gained huge amount of support in another school; can learn a lot by providing the support back into the school.
The Director for Resources confirmed with the resilient point, they had to make major savings but the issue with grants has hit them hard as they had to reduce what was needed to be taken again and have had to re-structure. They assured Members they are mindful with the improvement service area, that it cannot go any lower. They are mindful of the support going to the staff; for instance they received the gold award while going through a re-structure.
· The Member asked if the reduction in funding from Welsh Government was foreseen or unforeseen and in terms of risk balance; would there be a risk if there is further reduction; and if there is clarity between the Welsh Government and Council of this difficulty.
The EAS Director confirmed that the Joint Executive Group (JEG) ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
a) Forward Work Programme Update (Appendix 1)
b) Actions Plan (Appendix 2)
c) Information Reports (Appendix 3)
d) Scrutiny Letters (Appendix 4)
- Neil Barnett – Scrutiny Adviser
a)Forward Work Programme Update
The Scrutiny Adviser presented the forward work programme, and informed the Committee of the topics due to be discussed at the next two meetings:
17th November 2021 –
· Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children
1st December 2021
· Violence against Women and Sexual Abuse against Women
· Shared Resource Services (SRS) Update
Members asked the following:
· A few years ago, the Committee were supposed to undertake a site visit of Wastesavers, however this never materialised. It was queried if this could possibly be organised, according to Covid regulations and whether Wastesavers could come to committee to discuss their performance. The Scrutiny Adviser told the Committee that he would check with officers regarding the site visit. Early next year, Scrutiny Advisers will meet up with Heads of Service to put together the draft Annual Forward Work Programme for the committees for 2022-23, so will see if this can also be an agenda item.
b) Actions Plan
The Scrutiny Adviser advised the Committee that since 6th October 2021; they have actioned the comments and sent them to Cabinet and the partnership for the Public Services Board Well-being Plan Annual Report.