Considered– A joint report ofthe Chief Executive and the Corporate Director for Strategic Resources, bringing together key aspects of the County Council’s performance on a quarterly basis.
County Councillor David Chance introduced the Quarter 3 performance report, confirming the Council continued to demonstrate good performance across all four of its ambitions. He provided a brief summary of the strengths and challenges in performance across the four ambitions. In particular, he highlighted:
· GCSE Results
· Low repeat referrals for children’s social care
· The final report arising from the Rural Commission, to be published in Spring
· The ongoing work of Stronger Communities, working with 23 community organisations around the county, helping an average of 2600 people a week
· The County Council’s approved plans to become a gateway organisation under the Governments Kickstart scheme, offering 33 placements for young people within the Council, and 205 within 46 partner organisations
· The number of staff working from home - 3,237 on average weekdays
· The reduction in mileage costs throughout the Covid period
· An increase in public satisfaction in Highways and transportation
· The ongoing challenge of supporting the recovery of local businesses
· The impact of Covid on voluntary organisations with concern mounting about their future - over a third had needed to use their financial reserves in order to survive
· 56% of permanent placements for older people were currently above the authority’s approved rates (87% in Harrogate)
· EHC Plans had increased to 3450 (a 13% increase from Qtr3 2020), with 145 new EHC Plans issued in the Quarter
· An increase in referrals from the Police (1780 in Qtr3 – up by 15%)
County Councillor Carl Les acknowledged the strong performance the County Council continued to deliver, and County Councillor Janet Sanderson introduced the in-depth focus of the performance report on ‘Every child & young person has the best possible start in life’. She drew particular attention to:
· The lack of Ofsted inspections and formal exams due to school closures, as part of the Covid-19 lockdown measures
· The challenge of keeping schools open to ensure all vulnerable children and those with complex needs continued to attend school
· Good attendance levels (85-90% of those children had attended each day)
· A rise in elected home education, with the offer of support provided by Early Help
· Full term and permanent exclusions reduced for a second Qtr running
· The increase in Police referrals, thought to be due to an increased awareness campaign run by the Police around safeguarding issues
· The timeliness of assessments
· Child Protection Plans remained stable with no spikes in demand but there was some concern around the level of second and subsequent Plans
· The anticipated rise in Looked After Children had not materialised
· A reduction in the number of dental checks was cause for concern – work would continue to lobby for good health and dental assessments
· 96.2% of Care Leavers were living in suitable accommodation – NYCC being the best performing Authority nationally
· Early Help had adjusted flexibly in response to the pandemic, using ablend of real and virtual meetings
County Councillor Janet Sanderson thanked CYPS officers for their excellent work, and acknowledged their resilience and creative and flexible approach to service delivery throughout the pandemic.
On behalf of the Scrutiny Board, County Councillor Derek Bastiman endorsed those thanks and went on to query the reason for the increase in Police referrals and what more could be done to reduce the backlog in criminal court cases.
Stuart Carlton, Corporate Director for Children and Young People Service confirmed the Police had applied some additional vigilance since the closure of schools, which had resulted in the rise in referrals. He noted schools would usually have noticed concerns earlier. He too expressed concern about the way young people in the custody of HMIP were being looked after during the pandemic, and confirmed the Youth Justice Board was very aware of all the issues and would continue to keep a focus on those concerns.
Other Members of the Board also raised a number of queries related to the performance report.
County Councillor Annabel Wilkinson raised the lack of availability of NHS dentistry, particularly for LAC and care leavers. It was noted that the Looked After Children Members Group remained focussed on ensuring those children continued to receive health and dental care check-ups, and County Councillor Janet Sanderson agreed the Council should lobby NHS England and the local Integrated Care System.
County Councillor John Ennis confirmed the Scrutiny of Health Committee was planning to carry out a review of NHS Dental Services across the county, particularly for vulnerable groups, and suggested the findings from that review could help inform any future lobbying for improved access to dentistry as part of the emerging integrated care system.
County Councillor Janet Jefferson raised concern about the rise in the number of families who had chosen to home school, and sought reassurance that those families would be encouraged back in to traditional schooling once the pandemic was over. She also expressed concern about delays in the OFSTED programme of inspections caused by Covid. Noting the number of years that had passed since some schools had been inspected, she recognised how unfair it was for those schools who had worked hard to improve their standards but were still being judged on their previous low Ofsted rating. Finally, she complimented the work of Traded services in schools in preparation for the return to school and added her thanks to the Directorate for its work throughout the pandemic and for keeping members informed.
Stuart Carlton confirmed the Ofsted inspection framework had changed in recent years and that inspections were expected to start again in the near future. He also noted the current lack of comparator data available to support those inspections, and confirmed that primary school attendance rates on day one of the return to school showed attendance around 97%.
County Councillor Gareth Dadd was pleased to note the high level of attendance on day one. He was also pleased to note the enthusiasm from teachers and staff for the re-opening of schools, and the work they have undertaken to enable that to happen. Stuart Carlton drew attention to the support and guidance that had been given to all schools in the lead up to them re-opening.
County Councillor David Chance clarified that funding for the 23 Support Organisations had been extended to September 2021 to enable them to continue to support vulnerable residents/families. County Councillor Paul Haslem raised the importance of the provision of nutritious meals to children to ensure their best start in life.
Elsewhere in the report, County Councillor Don Mackenzie corrected an error that referred to the latest phase of the Superfast North Yorkshire Programme as Phase 3. He confirmed that Phase 3 was actually near to completion and it was Phase 4 that was now underway. He also paid tribute to:
· NYNet, for continuing an excellent job on delivering the project and maintaining the infrastructure throughout the pandemic,
· The Highways and Bridges Team for the rising public satisfaction levels
· The Public Rights of Way team for their work in maintaining the PROW throughout the pandemic, and in particular for the work of the volunteers.
Overall, the Executive endorsed the strong performance of the County Council, and noted the improvements required where necessary.
Revenue, Treasury Management & Capital Plan
County Councillor Gareth Dadd introduced those sections of the report. Concerning the revenue budget, he highlighted only marginal movement from Quarter 2 and drew attention to the projected net underspend ofless than 1%, slightly down from the last quarter outturn.
In regard to Treasury Management, attention was drawn to the proposal to extend the time given to Welcome to Yorkshire to repay their loan, and it was noted that the County Council had benefitted financially from the interest paid on the loan, and that given the value of the property the loan was absolutely secure.
Members noted the Capital Plan section of the report, and noted the slight uplift in the Council’s share of the Kex Gill Project, as detailed in the report. Gary Fielding, Corporate Director for Strategic Resources confirmed the additional £550K cost to the Council supressed the underspend referred to in the Revenue section of the report.
Executive Members voted in favour of all of the recommendations in the report, and it was
a) The latest position for the County Council’s 2020/21 Revenue Budget, as summarised in paragraph 2.1.2 be noted;
b) The position on the GWB (paragraphs 2.4.1 to 2.4.3) be noted;
c) The position on the ‘Strategic Capacity – Unallocated’ reserve (paragraphs 2.4.4 to 2.4.6) be noted;
d) The position on the County Council’s Treasury Management activities during the third quarter of 2020/21 be noted
e) Refer this report to the Audit Committee for their consideration as part of the overall monitoring arrangements for Treasury Management.
f) The secured loan facility of up to £500k to Welcome to Yorkshire, be extended to 1st April 2022;
g) Authority be delegated to the Corporate Director for Strategic Resources and the Assistant Chief Executive (Legal & Democratic Services) to complete the necessary arrangements with Welcome to Yorkshire on existing terms.
h) The updated Q3 2020/21 Capital Plan be noted; and
i) The additional funding requirement for the Kex Gill realignment scheme (paragraph 4.5) be noted;