Agenda item

Work Programme Update


The Committee considered a report from the Chair which updated Members on the current position regarding the Committee’s work programme.


At the previous Committee of 4 February, it was agreed that the Task and Finish Review on the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme should recommence. Furthermore, Cabinet had agreed, at its meeting on 10 February, 2015 the following budget resolution:


“This fund provides financial assistance to people in dire need. The government transferred responsibility for administering this from DWP to the Council together with a grant of £1.1m. The government announced that this grant was being cut with effect from March 2015. The Council has £600,000 in a reserve for this fund. Cabinet intends to make this available together with the anticipated underspend in 2014/15 of £300,000 to create a fund totalling £900,000 available in 2015/16. This will provide a local scheme to fill the gap left by the government’s unwillingness to assist the most vulnerable in our communities. It is proposed that the 2014/15 policy be continued until the end of July 2015. In the interim, Cabinet asks the Scrutiny Review Group which has been set up to look at this fund to meet in order to make recommendations as to how this resource should be allocated.”


The Panel had convened on 25 February, for the scoping meeting for the review, with one of the outcomes being that the review would be carried out in a single evidence session over the course of a full day. It was also agreed that representatives from a small number of organisations would be requested to attend the evidence session to enable the Review Panel, at its meeting on 9 April, to arrive at its findings and recommendations. The Panel’s final report would be referred to Cabinet in June for consideration of the recommendations made. To avoid an additional committee meeting being scheduled for the purpose of approving the final report, the Chair, Party Spokespersons and Members of the Review Panel had agreed that this Committee should be requested to delegate authority to the Review Panel to refer the final agreed report to Cabinet.


With regard to the Freedom of Information Scrutiny Review, which was completed in April 2014, the Committee received an update on the recommendations of the Review in an appendix to the report.


Responding to Members’ comments the Head of Legal and Member Services acknowledged that he would report back to the Committee on progress with the recommendations, and although nominations for departmental champions had been made they were not all in post yet, this would be completed after Future Council remodelling was complete. The FOI team was providing support and assistance to potential champions. There were some technical difficulties in managing and tracking FOI requests made via the “Whatdotheyknow” site and the Council’s CRM system. Alternative IT solutions were being explored.


Performance in responding to FOI requests within the required timescale was, over at least the last eighteen months, consistently above the 85% target, apart from one month in December 2014, when it dipped to 84% which was principally due to the unpaid leave closedown. The number of requests being made was on average 140 – 150 a month, costing the Council approximately £7,000 a week to deal with (which was the sum reported when the FOI Review was undertaken). Work was continuing on making the Council’s Website more user friendly and transparent so that as much information requested through FoI’s was readily available and accessible.


Resolved –


(1)  That the work programme for 2014/15 as shown in the appendix to the report be approved.


(2)  That the Terms of Reference of the Local Welfare Assistance Task and Finish Review Panel be varied and that the Panel be given delegated authority to refer the final report directly to Cabinet.

Supporting documents: