Agenda item

Council Performance Against its Commitments for the Year 2021-22

As above for Item 3.


Chief Officer for Finance, Performance Monitoring and Change presented the report the purpose of which was to provide the Committee with an overview of the Council’s performance for the year 2021-22 and compared performance against the commitments made to deliver the well-being objectives in the Corporate Plan 2018-23, reviewed for 2021-22.


A Member was concerned about the things the framework did not measure and highlighted that there were very few measures noted in relation to the Council’s response to climate emergency. He was also concerned that the report did not provide sufficient detail regarding staffing vacancies or the responses of staff to the engagement survey. He was also concerned that the report did not measure resident satisfaction to the services provided by the Council. He confirmed that he had 39 areas which he felt needed to be addressed but given the brevity of time, proposed to submit those in writing. However, he asked what could be done to reflect the views of residents in the performance indicators.


Chief Officer for Finance, Performance Monitoring and Change confirmed that the report measured performance against the previous year’s Corporate Plan and that some issues raised had become more important for residents since then and which would take a stronger place in Corporate Plan being drafted. She confirmed that the way in which performance was measured was being reviewed to consider wider issues. Self-assessment was being introduced which would be subject to engagement by Members and people in Bridgend. She also highlighted that financial and workforce issues impacted on the Council’s performance and hoped to bring all strands together to provide Members with an overview of all factors impacting on performance.


The Member encouraged Officers to consider Future Generation Commissioner’s recommendations for local authorities for potential future commitments and performance indicators.


The Chairperson underlined that where there was new legislation which put additional pressure on service demand, it was crucial that consequential funding from central government followed. He asked what the Executive what the immediate priorities were and what areas they would be prepared to suffer if funding was no forthcoming. 


The Deputy Leader confirmed that it was not her intention for any service provision to suffer and that she would continue to lobby for fair funding. She reiterated that non-statutory provisions saved money in the long term and whilst the funding position was unknown advised that further cuts were unacceptable for residents and workforce.  


In relation to the percentage of people presenting as homeless or potentially homeless, for whom the Local Authority has a final legal duty to secure suitable accommodation being 19.2%, a Member asked what the percentage represented in terms of the number of people. In addition, she noted the percentage of households threatened with homelessness successfully prevented from becoming homeless was 30.5% and queried why the target was 60%.


The Head of Partnerships confirmed that, during the pandemic, WG guidance around homelessness changed. Before Covid-19, the DOPS39 indicator was expected to be as low as possibly as it was hoped to keep people from requiring statutory intervention. In relation to the PAN012 indicator which was 67% for 2020-21, he confirmed that it had been mitigated by alternative means, such as, support with bonds and leveraging the private rental sector.


When the guidance changed to anyone who presented was homeless, there was a statutory duty to care, that saw the temporary housing budget move from £78,000 to £2.7 million. He acknowledged that without the support of organisations such as the Wallich and Pobl, they would be unable to support rough sleepers and citizens in need of the service. 


He confirmed that there were 218 households residing in temporary accommodation, comprising 386 people, 137 of which were children. He acknowledged that the PAM012 and DOPS39 national indicators did not should the whole picture but outlined the pressure in housing. He confirmed it was at maximum capacity and that the biggest challenge was residential units to support people in transition away from temporary accommodation. He concluded that he would prefer the PAM012 indicate to show as green and the DOPS39 to be below target to mitigate the need for statutory intervene and providing accommodation.


The Member asked whether work that was being done to support children leaving care at age 18 to move seamlessly into other accommodation rather than having to prevent as homeless was in place and that those adults were therefore not included in the figures.


The Corporate Director for Social Services and Wellbeing advised that there was further work to be done between Housing and Social Services and recognised that it was counterintuitive that young people were required to present as homeless. An initial piece of work supported by a consultancy had given an indication of what needed to be done and some accelerated action was required around corporate parenting responsibilities and whether care leavers could be given priority in allocation systems.


A Member noted with concern the high waiting times for Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG). He sought clarification whether the narrative for indicator PAM/015 (PSR002) included all persons or and whether there could be a better definition of the category to aid consideration of the figures. He also asked on the progress of moving to an in-house service. He also asked whether the service should continue to sit in the Chief Executive’s Directorate or whether there was some merit in allying it more to the Social Services and Wellbeing Directorate.


The Head of Partnerships confirmed that PAM/015 was a Welsh indicator that covered all persons and accepted that the figures were not good enough. He was happy to provide further clarification around the indicator.


In relation to the progression to an in-house service, he confirmed that the agent model ceased on 1 April 2021 which meant that external agencies were not given the opportunity to take on DFGs as they were internalised. However, this caused a backlog which he anticipated would take 2 years to reduce in the new process. Internalisation meant taking end to end control from referral from social services to surveyor assessing and implementation with contractors. They had undertaken pre-market engagement with contractors and working with procurement and legal colleagues, had established a framework that was awaiting legal sign-off. He anticipated it going out to tender to contractors early September and confirmed that it was a circa £8 million framework over 4 years.


He confirmed that there was good joint working with social services as they were unable to do any work with the DFG itself without the official referral from social services once they had determined need.


The Corporate Director for Social Services and Wellbeing reassured Members that although there had been a difficulty with OT waiting times previously, the service had manged to achieve close to real time in dealing with referrals. The longest wait currently was from 12 June 2022 which was worse that it ordinarily would be due to some sickness in the service but she anticipated that it would improve again when back to full capacity.


In relation to empty properties and bringing empty properties back into use a Member noted that it had been a key commitment for some time but that there was no performance data available for 2021-22. She queried what the next steps were, when the performance data would be available and what more was being done to allow more ambitious and achievable targets in the future.


The Head of Partnerships confirmed that they worked in collaboration with Shared Regulatory Services on the Empty Homes Property Strategy with an Officer focused on empty properties. In the Strategy, the key focus is the top 20 empty properties causing significant difficulties in the community. He confirmed that there were around 150 ongoing cases and that the aim of Strategy was to work with empty property owners in a positive five stage process. If there was no positive movement, then statutory action could be taken although it was a long process which required time and investment.


He confirmed that the narrative explored what was meant by bringing an empty property back into use and discussed the process of single dwellings being converted to create an additional dwelling. He confirmed that the aspiration was to support empty property owners in terms of bringing their properties back into use hopefully for social housing or private rental sector where people can be signposted and moved.



The Member asked how long property owners were given to bring their properties back into reuse.


The Head of Partnerships confirmed that he could engage with an Officer from Shared Regulatory Services to provide a written response regarding the lengthy process of compelling property owners to bring their empty properties into reuse to include real case examples and timescales. However, he confirmed that there had been few Compulsory Orders with the preference to work with property owners.


In relation to empty properties, a Member asked whether it was possible to consider not only houses but large empty properties and whether large empty properties in town could worked on or needed to remain as commercial premises.


The Head of Partnerships confirmed that the Empty Property Strategy was focused on residential but that they worked with Communities to utilise space above commercial properties for residential purposes rather than converting commercial units directly. 


The Leader gave two examples of commercial properties being brought back into use; the Family Value store in Maesteg town centre where WG funding was used to bring the building back into use and a building on Nolton Street, occupied by La Cocina, which had been expanded on the ground floor and the 2nd and 3rd floor redeveloped for residential thus maintaining the vibrancy and footfall of commercial on the ground floor and making use above for residential. Further opportunities continued to be sought by the Chief Executive’s Directorate and the Housing team alongside the regeneration in Communities. 


The Member noted that the Authority was placing residents in temporary hotel accommodation and queried what pressure was being applied to organisations such as Valleys to Coast who, she understood, had over 100 properties requiring work which could be used as housing if brought up to standard.


The Head of Partnerships confirmed that the focus in the report was on private sector landlords and that there was a forum whereby private landlords could meet with the authority and discuss a wide range of issues and concerns. He confirmed that Valleys to Coast did have a void related issue but that the Authority had been engaging with them to bring 35 properties back into use. He confirmed that there were 218 households in temporary accommodation at a cost of circa £2.7 million per annum to the Authority.


In relation to the time taken to issue Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) to Adults and Children and Young People, the Member asked for an explanation as to why the targets were so high and why the issuing of the grants took that time.


The Head of Partnerships agreed that the targets were high and hoped to achieve delivery in 250-210 days. He confirmed that adaptations stopped due to Covid-19 and a lot of those jobs remained in the queue and the clock ticking with a number of complex jobs coming back into the Authority after the cessation of the agency model. Covid-19 and Brexit had skewed the statistics and whilst DFG’s were now going through the new system, it was too early to report those figures. In terms of children figures he advised that there was work with the Princess of Wales Hospital and Occupational Therapists in terms of setting expectations and early engagement.


The Member noted with concern that Performance Indicator CED28 was shown as red for the number of engagements in survey. She queried if there was any indication as to how happy and engaged the workforce was and why they were not engaging in the survey.


Chief Officer – Legal & Regulatory Services, HR & Corporate Policy Kelly advised that there had been survey fatigue amongst staff. She also discussed the difficulties and practicalities of getting the survey to staff working from home and that whilst it was made available electronically, there was more effort required for returning paper versions which caused a reduction in numbers. She confirmed that alternative ways of engaging staff in a more meaningful way was being explored.


A Member noted that costs were increasing and hoped there was sufficient capital in the budget and consideration given to that when calculating the cost of DFGs so that there would not be a lag in works provided and people waiting longer for their grants.

The Head of Partnerships confirmed that the DFG budget was just under £2 million but that some had always been utilised in enablement from hospital to home. He acknowledged that the cost of raw materials was rising and confirmed that whilst there was a cap of £36,000, the average DFG was £7,500-£12,500 and he was not therefore concerned about the monetary position. However, he acknowledged the need to get the process right in terms of working with Social Services around the need of residents to deliver the DFGs. 


The Member noted that the Authority was working in partnership with other Local Authorities on DFGs and asked whether any feedback on the work could be made available.


The Head of Partnerships confirmed that Neath Port Talbot had provided support to allow continuity of service by supplying surveying resources and support on internalisation of the service which would be ending at the end of the year. There was an in-house recruitment drive, work with corporate landlord to take on an apprentice and support from the private sector.


A Member noted the high level of sickness and absence due to MSD and stress, anxiety and depression, not work related, across the Authority and queried what support and signposting was available to ensure a return to work as soon as possible.


Chief Officer – Legal & Regulatory Services, HR & Corporate Policy confirmed that Care First, the commissioned counselling service could be accessed by staff themselves without involvement of their line manager and there was more bespoke counselling by experienced counsellors available for specific issues. If staff were off sick, a referral could be made to occupational health. In addition, there was a Wellbeing Officer appointed who would be running well-being initiatives to engage staff and managers.


A Member noted that a number of Social Services’ performance targets were low due to recruitment issues and queried what was being done to improve recruitment.


The Corporate Director for Social Services and Wellbeing acknowledged that there continued to be significant challenges in key parts of the workforce. In relation to care and support workers in domiciliary care she confirmed that there were various recruitment events and marketing which had seen some incremental improvements but not to the target set of 22 additional posts. They had reviewed the job description to reflect duty of care workers which was the first step in the Market Supplement Policy and would make an application under that Policy if there was no improvement. She acknowledged that the pressure in terms of the number of hours care being provided had meant that there had been split shift working which was not attractive so there would be a review of rotas. There was also corporate work taking place around fuel costs and consideration being given to electric and fleet vehicles.


The other area of significant challenge was in children’s social workers with the IAA team and safeguarding localities being particularly challenged. Having undertaken a review of job descriptions resulting in an increased grade for the most experienced social workers in adult and social care, they made a successful market supplement application. They were also undertaking work on the workforce charter addressing support for workers, opportunities to develop their career and lowering caseloads. However, there remained a significant level of vacancy and there was therefore, a strategic engagement of agency workforce to ensure quality and continuity of service and progression of international recruitment. Longer term, there was to be an increased number of secondees onto the social work course and from September onwards there would be social work trainees and secondees on the course. Whilst acknowledging that the challenge was UK wide, she highlighted that a recent survey by Care Inspectorate Wales found that 93% of workers in children’s social care felt supported to do their job, which she asked Members to promote.


The Member noted the high level of sickness absence in the last two quarters and asked whether there had been any improvement in the level of sickness absence.


The Corporate Director for Social Services and Wellbeing acknowledged the significant issue of sickness, particularly in care and support at home services. She advised that the workforce was very tired and highlighted the pressures faced delivering face to face services throughout the pandemic and the recent extreme heat. The biggest areas of sickness were in MSD, with issues of NHS waiting times for treatment impacting on their manual handling and ability to work, and work and non-work-related stress. However, they were working with human resources on corporate wide and bespoke wellbeing support.


A Member asked if updated literature promoting foster carer recruitment could be shared with Members. She also noted the red status of the percentage of assessments completed for children within statutory timescales and asked whether this would now improve and how it would be achieved.


The Corporate Director for Social Services and Wellbeing confirmed that literature regarding foster carer recruitment would be shared with all Members. She acknowledged the significant deterioration in performance in children’s social care in the start of quarter 4 of the last year which had been managed through a critical incident in respect of IAA to ensure there was a very high level, timely and focused support to oversee the improvements which were evident and would be seen in the performance measures in subsequent quarters.


A Member noted the relatively low percentage of staff who had undertaken the Safeguarding e-learning module was 72% in the Education Directorate and 77% in the Social Services Directorate. He queried what was being done regarding the number of staff who had not completed the modules.


The Corporate Director for Social Services and Wellbeing acknowledged that it could be a challenge to get social workers to undertake the Corporate e-learning as they were already trained in safeguarding. However, to improve numbers undertaking the training, she advised that this was likely through monitoring the figure and with visibility of the performance indicator included on Directorate dashboards and should be addressed through individual supervisions and appraisals as well as by inclusion in the induction for new starters to the Council.


A Member noted on the Education and Family Support dashboard that most of the commitments had a blue status without any key performance indicators (KPI) data and queried when that data would be made available to ensure the commitments were on track.


The Corporate Director for Education and Family Support advised that on 27 June 2022, the WG published a new model for accountability in line with curriculum and ALN reform, the Evaluation, Improvement and Accountability Framework that provided the framework for KPIs and public assessment measures. The framework required schools to provide several things which would allow for the production for much clearer data sets. A summary of School Improvement Plans and School Development Plan would be published as the start and the end of the year and provided to governing bodies. The information would then be used to benchmark performance, on an individual and local authority level and KPIs provided based on that benchmark and targets modified.


The Corporate Director for Communities highlighted that it was year 3 of a 3-year Corporate Plan and that there would be a number of important initiatives and projects brought forward in the new Corporate Plan.


A Member noted the level of sickness was increasing and queried how the small teams coped when members were sick. 


The Corporate Director for Communities confirmed that teams coped as well as they could and acknowledged the high sickness due to MSD due to manual handling work and the. Of concern was the stress related issues and staff wellbeing and she confirmed that during short term sickness, work was either covered by the existing team or that the work remains until the member of staff returns to work. She also referenced the unprecedented number of referrals received and that there were very few staff specifically dedicated to these and indicated that extreme pressure was becoming the norm.


The Cabinet Member for Communities further highlighted the level and inappropriate tone of Member Referrals and the impact it was having on the wellbeing of Officers. 


A Member noted the need to manage the expectations of Members who were being advised that they would receive a response to Member Referrals within 10 working. Another Member noted that the Communities Directorate was likely to receive more Member Referrals than others due to this being the area that the public see and queried whether there was sufficient support for wellbeing.


The Corporate Director for Communities confirmed that she had developed a four-point action plan for Member Referrals which had been delivered to Group Managers and could look to roll-out as a Member Development Session. She highlighted that Member Referrals had increased from 3045 referrals in 2021-22 which was up 1000 on the year before and that in 10 weeks since the election there had been 783 Member Referral and 1093 reported incidents which was unprecedented.


A Member advised that as part of his Community Council, they had asked for the grass cutting schedules for the area and been refused as circumstances could change and in relation to MR, he suggested that if it were complex issue that a holding letter be issued to Members advising of the need for time for investigations.


The Corporate Director for Communities confirmed that she was working on providing an acknowledgement to MR and providing any information possible. In addition, she would like to be able to provide grass cutting schedules and other community schedules on the Council’s website.


Following detailed consideration and discussions with Officers and Cabinet Members, the Committee made the following Recommendation:


  1. That the narrative for Welsh Government PAM/015 (PSR002) in Appendix A regarding Disabled Facilities Grants be expanded to clarify that it included all persons/groups.


And the Committee requested:


  1. A written response regarding the lengthy process of compelling property owners to bring their empty properties into reuse to include real case examples and timescales.


  1. Updated literature regarding Bridgend’s promotion of foster care recruitment.


Supporting documents: