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					Scrutiny Commission                                                              Item    3B
                                                                               12th May 2004

Minutes of Meeting 22nd April 2004
      Chair:
      Cllr. P. Herrington
      Vice-Chair:
      Cllr. R. Carey
      Councillors:
      L. Ali                                    M. Martin
      L. Braham +                               R. Sullivan
      M Jovcic +                                R. Wheatley
      I.Leslie                                  T. Wheeler +
      M. Lewis

      +substitute Member
      Also Present:
      Cllr T. Bhogal                            Cabinet Member, Best Value and Performance
      Officers in Attendance:
      Phill Cox                                 Head of Human Resources
      Karlie Dickinson                          Corporate Solicitor
      David Knight                              Principal Committee Manager [Scrutiny]
      Clive Morton                              Head of Scrutiny

  132. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE & SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS
     Apologies were received from Canon Peter Hartley, Councillors S. Wright, J. Gover and T.
     Croot
     In addition, ww have noted the appointment of substitute Members as follows:

     Cllr. L. Braham for Cllr T. Croot
     Cllr. M. Jovcic for Cllr. J. Gover, and:
     Cllr. T. Wheeler for Cllr. S Wright.
  133. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
     None received.
  134. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
     No members of the public attended the meeting received.
  135. MINUTES OF THE MEETING 1st APRIL 2004
     Agreed.
  136. MANAGEMENT OF SICKNESS AND ABSENCE

     The Commission received and noted a presentation from Phill Cox, Head of Human
     Resources that provided:

     1. A review of the work on managing sickness during the last twelve months
2. A comparison of the current sickness statistics by service area with the previous year.
3. An indication that the overall level of sickness is predicted to reduce from 10.6 days to
   approximately 9.8 days across the Council.

The main points of the of the discussion on the report may be summarised as follows:

 Question:      The report states that additional resources had been allocated to address
                the management of sickness within Street Services. As this area had
                been identified as an area with one of the highest levels of sickness.
                However, the report also indicates that the current year’s estimate has
                showed an increase from 17.5 days to 18.5 days in the level of sickness
                within Street Services. What is the explanation for this?
 Answer:        The reason for this is that it will take some time for the work being
                undertaken in that area to have an effect on the levels of sickness.
 Question:      Why are the figures for Corporate Services Human Resources so high?

 Answer:        The figures for Corporate Services Human Resources reflect a small
                number of payroll officers who have now, with the support and assistance
                of Human Resources, returned to work. In addition, the appointment of a
                new Departmental Head for Strategy and Resources will have a
                significant impact on sickness figures.
 Question:      When will the final sickness figures become available?

 Answer:        By early June 2004

 Question:      Is it possible to have the actual numbers of staff involved in the next
                report?
 Answer:        Yes that would be possible

 Question:      What is the impact of absence and sickness upon the delivery of Social
                Services?
 Answer:        Whilst is it acknowledged that progress has been made in addressing the
                levels of absence and sickness in Social Services. It is recognised that
                there is no room for complacency. Full details of absence and sickness
                will be available in the next report to the Commission.
 Question:      What level of absence does the Authority consider acceptable?

 Answer:        The Authority does not have a level of absence it considers acceptable. In
                addition, triggers are put in place to alert managers when levels of
                absence are increasing. The recent Staff Survey has also indicated that
                staff want to see the levels of sickness addressed.
 Question:      It is a difficult managerial task to manage sickness levels, what guidelines
                have been put in place to assist mangers?
 Answer:        The purpose of monitoring starts even if a member of staff is sick for only
                one day as they are interviewed upon their return to work. In addition,
                patterns of sickness and absence are monitored over a period of time to
                identify any discernible trends in an individuals absence from work.
                Chief Officer’s performance is also assessed in terms of the levels of
                sickness and their response to the highest levels of sickness within their
                directorates.
 Comment:       The Commission needs to scrutinise the Management of Sickness and
                Absence on a regular basis.
Question:   Whilst officers are to be congratulated for the progress that has been
            made in addressing sickness and absence will not the new procedures
            have a detrimental impact on staff moral?
Answer:     The Portfolio Lead Member has requested that all staff are made aware of
            the procedures and practice so that they do not feel that they are being
            victimised.
Question:   What is the maximum length of time for sick pay?

Answer:     Unless there are exceptional circumstances the employee will be on full
            pay for the first six months and half pay for a further six months.
Question:   How well co-ordinated are the various Human Resources Teams based
            within each of the Directorates.
Answer:     The Corporate Human Resources Team works closely with the teams
            devolved into each of the Directorates to co-ordinate their activities.
Question:   Are the performance indicators targets for managers monitored?

Answer:     Yes, the figures are subject to regular audit, which means that managers
            now have the management information that they require to manage
            sickness and absence.
Question:   Does the Council have the numbers of staff within Human Resources to
            address the current levels of sickness and absence and ensure that the
            necessary action is taken?
Answer:     Yes, resources have been allocated to address the current levels of
            sickness and absence.
Question:   What is the common reason for sickness?

Answer:     Stress is cited by staff as the most common reason.

Question:   Paragraph 5.1 states that work is being undertaken to provide a co-
            ordinated communication plan for the proactive measures for staff which
            will assist in a healthy lifestyle and prevent sickness. How does this work?
Answer:     The intention is to get a proper balance between supporting staff when
            required and being firm with staff when necessary. Human Resources
            have analysed what mechanisms work best and reallocated resources to
            address the areas in greatest need. At present this has resulted in 34
            members of staff returning to work after a long absence.
Question:   In the next report to the Commission can Members receive not only the
            actual number of staff involved but also the financial implications of
            sickness and absence?
Answer:     Happy to provide such figures.

Comment:    A Scrutiny Members Panel could be established if Members are in
            agreement.
Question:   Why was the Management of Sickness and Absence removed from the
            Improvement Plan?
Answer:     The fact that the Management of Sickness and Absence has been
            removed from the Improvement Plan is an indicator that it is no longer a
            focus of the ODPM. However, the Management of Sickness and Absence
            will continue to be an objective for the Council and will feature within the
            relevant Service Plans and will be actioned to ensure that there is
            improvement.
   Question:     Heales Medical Limited is providing the Council’s Occupational Health
                 service, are they effective?
   Answer:       The service has improved as indicated by the fact that 34 people have
                 returned to work through the proactive approach adopted by Heales
                 Medical Limited
   Question:     Are managers in Social Services and Street Services the only managers
                 being trained to give them confidence in addressing staff sickness?
   Answer:       Whilst training is being provided initially to managers in areas of greatest
                 need the programme will the “roll-out” to the other directorates.
   In conclusion the Commission agreed:
   1. To note the report and endorse the ongoing work to manage sickness within the
      Council;
   2. That all future reports include the required performance indicators
   3. That all future reports include details on the required level of resourcing including
      training.
   4. Sickness Management should form part of all Performance Management reports and
      should feature in manager’s appraisals.


137. REVIEW OF OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY PROCEDURE RULES
  The Commission received and noted a report that asked Members to consider the
  proposed amendments to the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules and recommend
  them to Full Council. The main points of the discussion by the Commission are summarised
  as follows.


   Comment:      It is of concern that the procedure rules imply that the Call-In process
                 could be abused. If Members wish to use the Call-In process to delay a
                 decision then they should have the facility to do so in a democratic
                 system.
   Response:     The proposed amendments to the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure
                 Rules are a relaxing of the rules. These had originally been put in place
                 when it was felt that the Call-In process would be used to delay the
                 democratic process.
   Comment:      The Commission must have the ability to call the most relevant officers
                 before them.
   Response:     The relevant section of the procedure rules could be re-worded to allow
                 for this.
   Comment:      If the request for Call-In states that the reason for call-in is that the
                 decision is outside the budget and policy framework, should it not be
                 referred to the Compliance Committee and not the Commission?
   Response:     The Commission might wish to consider reserving the right to look at any
                 issue or to refer it to the Compliance Committee.
   Comment:      The constitution appears to relieve Council of the responsibility as the
                 final arbiter on any decision. Who therefore is the “Sovereign Body”?
   Response:     In certain circumstances the Cabinet will remain the “Sovereign Body” on
                 matters that are within the budgetary and policy framework.
  After further discussion on a number of issues raised by the report the Commission agreed
  that:
     Members should have the opportunity to submit any additional comments directly to the
      Scrutiny Unit and that a revised report is submitted to the next meeting. This revised
      report should include a review of Councils role as the “Sovereign Body”
     The revised Procedure Rules once agreed by the Commission be submitted to Full
      Council
138. CO-OPTED MEMBERS
  The Commission received and noted a report that:
     Updated the Commission on the current position with regard to the Education Co-opted
      Members; and
     Advised Members that the appointment of Co-opted Members would be the subject of a
      further report in the 2004-2005 Municipal Year.
  The Commission was reminded that within its membership it has the following voting
  representatives from the Education community.
   (a) 1 Church of England diocese representative;
  (b) 1 Roman Catholic diocese representative;
  (c) 3 Parent Governor representatives;
  These Members of the Commission are appointed in accordance with guidance from the
  Department for Education and Skills [DfES] and on the basis that they are responsible for
  the management of local schools within Waltham Forest. At present the only faith Groups
  managing schools within the Borough as specified by DfES guidance are the Chelmsford
  Dioceses of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church
  In addition, when the Overview and Scrutiny Commission deals with non-education matters,
  these representatives in accordance with [DfES] do not vote on those other matters, though
  they may stay in the meeting and speak:
  The Commission noted that the current level of attendance by these Members was as
  follows:
  (i) Church of England Diocese representative: The Chelmsford Diocese representative Rev
  Peter Hartley who replaced Rev. Maria Holmden has unfortunately not been in a position to
  attend any meetings of the Commission since June 2003.

  (ii) Roman Catholic Diocese representative: The Roman Catholic Diocese has not yet
  appointed a representative to replace the former representative Monica Costello.
  (iii) Parent Governor representatives: Only the Primary Sector representative Sharron Lee-
  Johnson has been appointed and the results of the elections to the Secondary and Special
  Schools Sectors are awaited.
  The Commission noted that they can, if they wish to, be more inclusive and appoint non-
  voting co-opted members to represent the many and varied communities within Waltham
  Forest. These members could be drawn from bodies with whom the Council is in
  partnership e.g. youth representatives, voluntary groups, stakeholders, professional bodies,
  consultees, and local communities.
  As a result of discussions on the report the Commission AGREED that a letter should be
  sent to the representatives of the Chelmsford Dioceses of the Church of England and the
  Roman Catholic Church. The purpose of this letter being to confirm if they will be in a
  position to attend future meetings of the Commission or nominate another representative
  from their Dioceses to attend as the Co-Opted Member.
139. CABINET FORWARD PLAN
  Further to Minute 128 (1st April 2004 refers), the Commission received and noted the
  Cabinet Forward Programme
140. WORK PROGRAMME
  Further to Minute 129 (1st April 2004 refers), the Commission received and noted an
  amended version of the Work Programme for the period up until 12th May 2004.
141. ACTION TRACKER
  Further to Minute 130 (1st April 2004 refers), the Commission received and noted an
  updated draft version of the Action Tracker.
  The Commission Members were also requested to submit any comments on the Action
  Tracker prior to the next meeting.




  Meeting closed at 10: 30 p.m.

  Chairs Signature__________________________________________________


  Date___________________________________________________________

				
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