This report outline progress made in
delivering the Solihull Council Plan in 2022/23 and seek the
Board’s views about the content of the 2023/24 plan
The Scrutiny Board received an introduction to the report from theHead of Business Intelligence & Improvement, with additional comment received from the Leader of the Council and Director of Public Health.
Having received the report introduction, Members of the Scrutiny Board raised a number of questions pertinent to the report, which in summary included the following matters:
Councillor Parker noted that the Council Plan refresh was very good and queried whether the additional ring-fenced social care funding received from Government would support future interventions in Children’s Services. Councillor Courts clarified that the arrangements were currently at consultation stage and that the proposals needed to be reviewed in further detail. The Children’s Commissioners report was scheduled for submission to the Council meeting scheduled for 7th February 2023. Councillor Courts further advised that Sir Alan Wood’s report would explore the partnership responsibilities of the Police, NHS and Council and that a joint response to the report was planned that went further than the Government decreed.
Councillor Holt referenced the Multi-Agency Family Hub and the associated funding programme and sough further information as to what was planned for the physical hubs. The Director of Public Health confirmed that the hubs were being looked at in terms of their sustainability over the longer term. It was important to note that there was no new Capital spend available to place services under one roof, which clearly brings additional, longer-term costs. The service will use the MTFS process over future years to find a sustainable long term funding solution.
Councillor Adeyemo noted that 50% of the delivery ratings for the People and Communities Priority Areas were amber rated, with specific reference to Deliverable No. 16 (‘Accelerate action on the priority areas identified in the Health Inequalities Strategy and embed health inequality considerations across the Council so that we can improve the lives of people and places who are currently most disadvantaged’) and Deliverable No. 20 (‘Continue to grow and strengthen our localities and ensure this is built into the development of the Integrated Care System (ICS). Further milestones to be developed to reflect the links to ICS development’). Councillor Adeyemo stated that he was concerned these two deliverables were still rated amber. With regard to Deliverable No. 20, Councillor Adeyemo noted that the document concerned was projected to be fit for purpose in 2 years’ time and noted that improvements were required now, with the projected timescale not good enough.
The Head of Business Intelligence & Improvement responded that with regard to Deliverable No. 20, the RAG rating presented an honest reflection of where the Council was with taking the deliverable to fruition. Assessing the impact of investment via qualitative data was harder to define and was a complex task. However, the Council did have a first phase document in place which could be progressed. Councillor K Grinsell advised that the ICS needed to be reviewed further in its first year of operation. The ICS Partnership Strategy had recently been signed off, aligning priorities for Birmingham City Council and Solihull respectively, which would entail on-going alignment between the two authorities.
The Director of Public Health further noted that the Council was intentionally challenging itself through setting the RAG rating at amber. Members were informed that the Council had recently delivered a significant health check project in the north of the borough and that Family Hub services were targeted at those families in communities requiring services available through the Family Hubs. Furthermore, the current cost of living challenges was proving significant in addressing health inequalities. The RAG rating reflected the progress of significant work over the longer term in addressing these health inequalities in the borough.
In terms of funding arrangements, the Director of Public Health advised the meeting that there was a significant allocation of funding to be distributed equitably for voluntary and community groups in the borough to drive change. Some of the Councils partners would also have access to service funding. The Health and Wellbeing Board had established local outcomes to be delivered. It was recognised that the funding process had to be fair and accessible to all groups and partners involved.
Councillor Gibbins raised Children’s Services, noting that he had raised questions at the Scrutiny Board 9 months ago concerning how the Council held its partners to account. Specifically, Councillor Gibbins noted that the Nursing Team service dedicated to Looked After Children’s health assessments was in serious difficulty and questioned how arrangements holding partners and services to account were being delivered.
Councillor Courts clarified that the national, private report assessing Solihull’s Childrens Services had held Council partners to account, as did the OFSTED report and Children’s Services Improvement Board. Councillor Courts further advised that a Forum had been established to drive the necessary improvements across all the organisations concerned. It had been made very clear that significant changes were required, which had been accepted by the Council and its partners. The challenge ahead was a difficult one, but ultimately it concerned taking forward and delivering the necessary improvements to Children’s Services in co-operation with the leaders of the Councils partner organisations. The Children’s Commissioner was reported to be content with the progress being made to date.
Councillor Adeyemo highlighted Deliverable No. 31 (‘Unlock the development opportunity at Arden Cross and High Speed 2 (HS2)’), noting that the deliverable was RAG rated as amber. Councillor Adeyemo expressed concern regarding the length of time involved for the unlocking of the potential development of the site and queried what was happening and how long would it take to progress development of the site.
Secondly, Councillor Adeyemo drew attention to Deliverable No. 47 (‘Develop and implement the air quality strategy incl. identification of gaps in resources / capacity, opportunities to address these gaps and improved real time surveillance’), stating that he was disappointed with the deliverable having not been progressed. Councillor Courts advised the Scrutiny Board that the HS2 Act gave the right for HS2 to acquire land at the Arden Cross site. Significant progress had been made towards a commitment to release early a portion of the land concerned. Overall, the process involved was both very complex and expensive, which in effect was leading to the construction of railway infrastructure at the site. Significant progress was being made, but HS2 had yet to release the land.
With regard to progress and delivery of the Air Quality Strategy, the Director of Public Health advised that since this report was produced the Council had received positive feedback from DEFRA on the Air Quality Annual Status Report (ASR) and that this would be published on the Council’s website in due course.
Councillor Parker highlighted the current challenging economic climate in the context of delivering the Councils priorities, such as the Levelling Up agenda. Councillor Parker noted that the Council was unsuccessful in securing £12M of funding for the Kingshurst Village redevelopment and was mindful that the successful redevelopment of Kingshurst Village would act as a spur to future redevelopment of the Chelmsley Wood shopping district. Councillor Parker further observed that the WMCA’s input towards helping the Council achieve and deliver its priorities was sometimes overlooked.
Councillor Courts advised that town centre redevelopment projects frequently took 5 – 10 years in to deliver. Additional complications included the relocation of existing businesses to facilitate the redevelopment. Progress had been made in the Kingshurst Village development, with a report scheduled to Cabinet in March detailing the fiscal aspirations of the Kingshurst project. Councillor Courts stated that the WMCA had proven to be of great fiscal support to the Council and that great levels of investment had been provided across the West Midlands region courtesy of the WMCA.
Councillor Moses queried why Deliverable No. 60 (‘Complete the migration to Oracle Cloud of the finance, procurement and Human Resources systems underpinning Council operations’) was RAG rated amber. The Assistant Director of Finance & Property Services clarified that the amber RAG rating reflected the status of the project at that specific point in time. Payroll services would commence in February 2023 via Oracle Cloud. A further Oracle Cloud progress report was scheduled for the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board meeting in March 2023.[SG(M1]
Councillor Tildesley referenced the Solihull Council Plan 2020-25 (Plan on a Page), noting that there was no reference to Safer Communities and stated that he would like to see reference to the Councils work to make residents feel safer in their neighbourhoods and reducing re-offending in the community. Councillor Tildesley stated that 95% of criminality was committed by less than 10% of offenders and that this should be acknowledged. In terms of a number of the ‘enabling communities to thrive’ objectives, Councillor Tildesley observed that some updating of the Council Plan was required to reflect the current safer community arrangements in place.
Councillor Tildesley referenced Appendix D - The Solihull Council Plan 2020-25 – Scrutiny Position Statement for 2022/23, with specific reference to the Youth Offending Update – Stronger Communities & Neighbourhood Services Scrutiny Board (29/11/22). In relation to the Decision / Action ‘All elected Members assist in identifying role models from their local communities who could become engaged in initiatives to support reductions in youth offending’, Councillor Tildesley stated that great caution should be exercised when identifying individuals to undertake such work, requiring close supervision and appropriate vetting prior to undertaking any such role.
The Head of Business Intelligence & Improvement advised that the Council Plan was in effect a ‘Plan of Plans’, reflecting the top 15% - 20% of plans in place. Councillor Tyldesley’s suggestion of including clear outcomes in the Council Plan for Safer Communities would be followed up, as would the need for a Safer Communities vision.
In terms of the Council Plan Look Forward section, Councillor Courts clarified that the draft before the Scrutiny Board was a refresh, rather a complete re-write of the Council Plan, which required some updating. Childrens Services and the accompanying budget would be very prominent as a priority within the refreshed Council Plan. Furthermore, the on-going implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, cost of living pressures and the impact of cost pressures on the Councils deliverables would also be reflected.
Furthermore, the Council was pushing at a national level for recognition of the need for joined up approaches to public service delivery and cross boundary partnership working across agencies. Examples included the provision of Family Hubs and the need for a partnership approach in their delivery.
Councillor Clements highlighted Deliverable No. 26 (‘Continue to deliver Solihull Town Centre Masterplan, including progress on Mell Square and plans for a new Police Station’)., querying why the RAG rating was amber and what was the cause of the delay for the invitation to tender. Councillor Courts advised that constructive dialogue had been had regarding the future provision of a Police Station in the town centre. However, there was a potential requirement to upgrade the future project specification.
Having considered the report, the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board:
i. To note the progress to date in delivering the Council Plan in 2022/23; and,
ii. To request that the Head of Business Intelligence & Improvement notes the Scrutiny Boards comments and requests detailed above in respect of the content of the updated Council Plan 2023/24.
[SG(M1]Does a note need to be added that this will be delayed until April due to the March meeting being dedicated to the scrutiny of the Heat Network?