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THE FORESTRY COMMISSION ENGLAND EXECUTIVE BOARD MINUTES OF THE 54th MEETING Room 301, Ergon House, London 17 December 2008 Present: Paul Hill-Tout, Chairman Richard Britton Charlotte Cane Sarah England Simon Hodgson Mark Pritchard Simon Pryor In attendance: Helen Townsend (item 5) Karen Simpson (Minute Secretary) 1. INTRODUCTION Paul Hill-Tout opened the meeting. 2. MINUTES AND MATTERS ARISING FROM THE MEETING ON 19 NOVEMBER The Board approved the minutes from the meeting on 19 November. Open Habitats A submission had gone to the Minister about the launch of the consultation, which it was hoped would take place as soon as possible in January. Performance Indicators A meeting was planned to discuss the development of a process for the preparation of delivery plans by the Programme Group. IT Richard Britton reported that for eight working days staff at the Mamhead office had been unable to access any communications systems and the problems were ongoing. During this time it had not been possible to make any payments, including farm woodland payments, and so there was a risk of complaints. David Felstead had been informed and was involved in discussions with Global Crossing and BT to sort out the problem. Charlotte Cane noted that there was not a good understanding of the network/ infrastructure in England. However, IT Liaison Officers had started to document information on all offices. The Board discussed the contract with Global Crossing and noted that there was no clear corporate understanding of what Global Crossing had contracted to provide. Paul Hill-Tout noted that the problem at Mamhead could be symptomatic of the need for a wider stock-take, and the Board needed a full understanding of the problems and wider risks. It was agreed that Paul Hill-Tout and Charlotte Cane would discuss this further. Action 54/1: Charlotte Cane, Paul Hill-Tout 3. FINANCE REPORT Charlotte Cane introduced Paper 51/08 which updated the EEB on financial progress as at the end of November 2008. She confirmed that Defra would cover the shortfall in timber income. At the November meeting, the Board had approved in principle the upgrade of the WAN at the York, South East England Forest District, East Midlands (Market Rasen), Hamsterley Area and Tangham Area Offices. The Board agreed to proceed with these upgrades. Annex B of Paper 51/08 provided a summary of the EWGS grant spend and forecast and the Board agreed that this annex would be included in future finance reports to the EEB and ENC. It was agreed that Charlotte Cane would consider providing a similar profile of non-EWGS grants as well. Action 55/2: Charlotte Cane As regards asset sales, Simon Hodgson noted that to date there was £3m of firm commitments, including £1m of completed sales. Paul Hill-Tout reported that a first draft of the shared services budget for 2009/10, including a list of priority areas for each service, had been presented at the GBEB meeting the previous week. It had been agreed that Tim Rollinson and Keith Gliddon would discuss this further. 4. GOVERNANCE OF SHARED SERVICES Charlotte Cane introduced Paper 52/08 which sought the Board’s views on governance of the Shared Services routine service costs and the Shared Services’ Business Plan and bids for 2009/10. The budget for England’s share of the Shared Service costs for 2008/09 was £6.6m and this had increased in the draft Business Plan for 2009/10. Shared Services were submitting bids for additional money, most of which were for IT. There was also an additional annual spend on GLOS. Richard Britton explained that there were two elements to GLOS: maintaining the deliverables and ensuring compliance with European rules which were subject to change. Charlotte Cane and Paul Hill-Tout would be meeting with Keith Gliddon to discuss the draft budget. Charlotte Cane outlined the governance mechanisms for Shared Services. Each Shared Service had a Board comprising a representative from each country, Forest Research and the Business Units. Each Service Board operated differently. However, the GBEB was responsible for agreeing the Shared Services Business Plan. Each Service Board gave a short presentation to the GBEB each year and provided a written annual report. The Board discussed options to improve the future governance of routine Shared Services costs. Simon Pryor noted that Forest Research and Corporate and Forestry Support (CFS) were not included in the paper because Forest Research was an agency although it was managed in a similar way to Shared Services, and CFS was a GB body, not a shared service. He noted that the PAG process was a step in the right direction. Paul Hill-Tout noted that the Chairs of the Audit and Risk Committees in all three countries had expressed growing interest in the operation of Shared Services. The Board agreed that Charlotte Cane would provide it with a list of FCE Shared Service Board representatives. Action 54/3: Charlotte Cane It was agreed that in future the EEB would decide who the FCE Shared Service Board representatives would be. Charlotte Cane would provide a follow-up paper on FCE’s arrangements for Service Boards and the EEB would discuss England’s role at a future meeting. Action 54/4: Charlotte Cane 5. DIVERSITY Helen Townsend introduced Paper 53/08 and presented an update on the roll out of Equality Impact Assessments (EqIAs) across FCE. She noted that Sharin Masih had taken up post as the Diversity Co-ordinator for England. EqIAs were required to ensure that we were complying with the relevant legislation, but more broadly they were also a way of helping to bring about a cultural change to make the Commission more diverse for the many benefits that can bring. The EqIA framework had been agreed and was available on the HR pages of the intranet. Information notes would be provided. A near final draft of Operational Guidance Booklet 44 on EqIAs had been prepared, and other OGBs would include diversity so that it would become a normal part of the planning process. The Board noted the need to ensure consistent language in all guidance. Mark Pritchard questioned whether there was duplication between the EqIA framework and OGB 44. However, Helen Townsend noted that the business had requested the development of an OGB. It was agreed that in the future the Board should consider whether an OGB was necessary before it was initiated. Level 4 training was being rolled out, mainly to cost centre managers and Programme Group leads. Forest Research had been commissioned to pull together an evidence base and this information was now available in draft. A series of regional and district workshops were being organised for January/February 2009. It was agreed that Helen Townsend would send details of these workshops to EEB members so that they could decide whether to attend. Action 54/5: Helen Townsend The Board discussed when an EqIA was required. Helen Townsend clarified that an EqIA should be done on any documentation that set out a decision on why and how our policies, services and functions were carried out. However most will either be at the screening or partial level, and very few full EqIAs would be required. Most of our work would not adversely impact on particular groups and, in fact, would be mostly positive (new services, infrastructure) or would affect all people indiscriminately. However we needed to ensure that we followed good practice or existing standards in a number of areas, e.g. consultation and engagement, design and infrastructure provision. This would come from training, awareness-raising and capacity building. The Board noted the need for consistency and to distinguish between good practice and best practice. Helen Townsend stressed the importance of having an audit trail and noted that most functions, services and facilities were documented. The Board agreed that business plans should go through an EqIA. It was agreed that Charlotte Cane would write to Cost Centre Managers asking them to retrospectively conduct equality impact assessments on their business plans for 2009/10, where there might be adverse impacts arising from any proposed changes to our existing services, functions or processes (e.g. staffing levels, site /facility closures). EqIA would become an integral part of the business planning cycle for future years. Action 54/6: Charlotte Cane It was agreed that an additional section would be added to the standard template for EEB papers to show whether an EqIA was necessary or has been considered. If deemed necessary then the EqIA should be appended to the paper. Action 54/7: Secretariat The Commission would be compliant with EqIA requirements by the end of March. Areas where further support was required had been identified, and Sharin Masih would continue to provide advice and support. Further information would be provided, including a matrix of known adverse impacts (drawn from existing research), and existing good practice and standards on consulting and engaging with ‘hard to reach’ groups. The Commission would be working closely, and share resources and ideas, with the ‘Defra family’ under the auspices of ‘Outdoors for All’. Helen Townsend noted that at a GB level the Commission had reached its targets on reporting on race and disability, and there would be regular monitoring reports. It was agreed that Mark Pritchard would consider obtaining some media coverage on this. Action 54/8: Mark Pritchard The Board noted the contents of Paper 53/08 and gave Helen Townsend a mandate to continue with her work. 6. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION Mark Pritchard introduced Paper 54/08 which updated the Board on the new Model Publication Scheme issued by the Information Commissioner, the publication of meeting papers and open information requests received. The FOI Act required the Commission to create and maintain a publication scheme setting out the information it held that was published on a routine basis. The existing publication scheme which the Forestry Commission designed was agreed before the implementation of the Forestry Devolution Review. In line with section 20 of the FOI Act, the Information Commissioner had decided to impose a new publication scheme which must be adopted and effective from 1 January 2009. We were required to adopt the publication scheme in its entirety and would be in breach of the Act if we did not publish information in accordance with the scheme. We currently published on the internet most of the information required. The main difference between the old and new scheme from the Commission’s point of view was that the new scheme also required many of the documents currently published on e-Connect to be made publicly available. In order to meet the requirements of the new scheme, open information representatives in business areas across the whole FC had been asked to identify information currently published on e-Connect that could be made available on our public website. This could be significant and publishing the information on our public website could have implications for the website’s structure. However the Board noted that publication of the information on the internet could save staff time in responding to individual requests for information. As regards the publication of meeting papers, the EEB agendas, papers and minutes from January 2005 onwards were available via the ‘About Us’ section of the England webpages. Work was currently underway to publish the ENC papers from January 2005 onwards and this was scheduled to be completed by May 2009. Work on Regional Advisory Committee papers was planned to start in spring 2009 in liaison with RAC Secretaries. The Communications and Secretariat team would continue to monitor how often these papers were being looked at externally. As regards open information enquiries, in the period from 1 December 2007 to 1 December 2008, a total of 18 open information requests were received in England and logged on the tracking system. Mark Pritchard noted that there had been increased interest in and scrutiny of the Commission, faster moving campaigns, and more and faster sharing of information. The Board noted the new Model Publication Scheme, progress with the publication of meeting papers and the overview of FOI enquiries. It was agreed that the Head of Secretariat would report performance on open information to the Board annually in December. Action 54/9: Mark Pritchard 7. ANY OTHER BUSINESS ETWF Delivery Plan The ETWF Delivery Plan had been launched on Monday 15 December by press release. Paul Hill-Tout thanked everyone who had been involved in the development and launch of the Plan, including the Programme Group and Communications team. He noted the importance of embedding awareness of the Plan both internally and externally. Following the launch there had been an article in the Daily Telegraph and Paul Hill-Tout had done an interview for ConFor. Over the coming weeks and months, there would be further articles in the forestry media, and the ETWF Delivery Plan would be reflected in the next Corporate Plan.
"EEB Dec 08 Minutes"