Members considered the Progress and Delivery report for period 4 2019/2020, including the months January to March 2020. This would be the last time the report would come to Prosperous Communities Committee in this format.
The Senior Performance Officer introduced the report and in doing so highlighted that the quarter had been largely unaffected by Covid-19. 78.4% of the performance measures set were being met or exceeded, however it was expected that Covid-19 would impact on some of these areas in the near future. Examples of areas that would be affected included the West Lindsey Leisure Centre, car parking and the Trinity Arts Centre
Members were also asked to note that there had been a second recommendation added to the paper related to ‘service updates’ and how the Covid-19 pandemic was affecting Council operations.
Councillors thanked Officers for their work and adopting and coping in extraordinary times and continuing to deliver services.
In response to questions regarding the nature and frequency of phone calls being received, and the reasons why 4 of the 9 contracts referenced were not won by local suppliers the Senior Performance Officer undertook to circulate this information outside of the meeting.
Concerns were raised around the cleanliness of the Leisure Centre and assurances were sought that this would be rectified before the centre re-opened. Officers also undertook to include further narrative around the outreach programme and its successes. There were calls from Opposition Councillors to revisit the Gainsborough THI Project including 5 – 7 Market Place. It was suggested that the project was poor value for money, even more so given the financial impact of COVID-19 and should be suspended
In response to several comments and points the Chief Executive addressed the Committee. Specifically in respect of homelessness, the Council did own nine units used for moving on accommodation and therefore the provision suggested by some Councillors already existed and there was no evidence that further stock was needed. With regard to the cinema development the competition to the Trinity Arts Centre had been recognised. It was intended to work with the provider, once they were operating in order to jointly programme the two sites, to ensure they were complementary offers as opposed to competing ones. The programming at the Trinity Arts Centre was already being changed to ensure its income relied less on cinema and more on live acts. The target was to reduce dependency to 25%. The Authority were continuing to tackle empty homes and the intention of the viable housing solution was for the provider to be in a position to acquire a critical mass of stock in an attempt to influence and disrupt the market forces in the area.
Further questions were asked around capital costs of projects and Officers were asked to clarify why the Council may be subject to increased costs, if contracts were signed and prices agreed. In response, Members noted that this was a cautionary note as there were some projects that were not currently contracted. The Council would work hard to hold contractors to quoted prices. As an aside there had been cases where suppliers were offering discounts to enter into contracts sooner rather than later, for example in the IT field, and therefore it was stressed that non contracted prices could go either way. It was unknown if supply chains would be affected and there was still the ramifications of Brexit to consider.
It was accepted that whilst the increased number of direct debit and card transactions might have an impact on the budget due to increased banking charges, it was questioned whether this would be offset by reduced costs in handling cash payments. Officers undertook to respond outside of the meeting.
In response to the increase in the number of empty homes and the Officer commentary included within the report Officers confirmed how the figure was generated and further gave assurance that they were investigating the data to understand the increase, for example had a new exemption been applied by the Council Tax team. There was no pattern to the spread and it was fairly generic. Further narrative would be included within the next report, once these investigations had been undertaken and the reasons behind the increase could be better understood.
Members enquired as to whether the number of homeless people had increased and whilst there had been a small increase, there had been no rough sleepers, and all those who had presented themselves to Council in need had been found accommodation.
Finally, in response to further comments and questions, the Market Rasen Leisure overspend was still within the overall budget agreed and the final figure would be provided once completed. It was confirmed how costs were to be apportioned going forward. Officers endeavoured to obtain data around the length of time those calls not answered within the standard expected were taking to be answered, where available.
Following much debate and on being put to the vote, it was
RESOLVED to: -
(a) agree that the performance of the Council’s services through agreed performance measures had been assessed. Areas where improvement could be made had been highlighted during the course of debate, whilst having regard to the remedial measures set out in the report; and
(b) note the updates provided for each of the Council’s service areas which detailed how the Covid-19 pandemic was affecting Council operations, and the likely effect on performance over the next 12 months.