Venue: Virtual Meeting
Contact: Neil Carr Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 16 September 2020.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 16 September 2020 were confirmed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman at a later date.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
Declarations of interest were submitted from:
· Andy Croy – volunteered at the Wokingham Foodbank and the Woodley Lunch Bunch and his mother volunteered at Citizens Advice;
· Paul Fishwick – received a business grant as a Director of a small business and his wife volunteered at the Community Hub;
· Jim Frewin – volunteered to supply food for the maternity unit at the RBH;
· Guy Grandison – volunteered to produce PPE for distribution to charities and the NHS;
· Emma Hobbs – volunteered at the Community Hub and was a trustee of Citizens Advice;
· Sarah Kerr – volunteered at the Community Hub;
· Andrew Mickleburgh – volunteered at the Community Hub;
· Alison Swaddle – volunteered at the Community Hub.
The Chairman thanked Members for their efforts in contributing to the community response to the pandemic.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions. A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice. The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this Committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
There were no public questions.
Member Question Time
To answer any member questions
There were no Member questions.
To consider an update on the Council’s response to Covid-19 in relation to Corporate Recovery, including the results of a public survey and developments relating to the Test & Trace programme.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 13 to 24, which provided an update on the Council’s Covid-19 recovery activity. The report also gave details of the feedback provided by a Residents’ Survey and outlined progress relating to Test and Trace and the Borough’s Outbreak Management Plan.
Susan Parsonage (Chief Executive), Sally Watkins (Assistant Director, Digital and Change) and Meradin Peachey (Public Health Consultant) attended the meeting to present the report and answer Member questions.
The report stated that the Council’s Covid-19 recovery activity was a co-ordinated programme of work which supported Council services and the community in reconstruction of economic infrastructure and restoration of emotional, social and physical wellbeing for residents across the Borough. In addition, the process had identified strategic opportunities which went beyond traditional ways of working, aiming to achieve longer term benefits for the community.
The Corporate Recovery Programme (CRP) was initiated by the Council’s Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) in May 2020. The programme aimed to address four key themes:
· Impact – to ensure that WBC understood the impact of Covid-19 on the community and the Council (services, staff, budgets);
· Options – to identify options to harness the innovation which arose during the initial response phase;
· Co-ordination – co-ordinating services and the community in the reconstruction of economic infrastructure and restoration of emotional and physical wellbeing;
· Restoration – establishing a framework of support for businesses and any affected areas in the Borough.
The CRP initially comprised ten workstreams which aligned with individual service recovery activity, with CLT having overall responsibility for the Recovery Co-ordinating Group. The ten workstreams included community engagement, community wellbeing, test and trace, communications, business and economy, staff and accommodation and contracts and finance. By working alongside partners such as Town and Parish Councils, the voluntary sector and other community groups, the Council was able to ensure a community voice in the recovery planning process.
In order to assess the impact of Covid-19 on residents, businesses, partners and WBC staff, the Council undertook several engagement activities including an online residents’ survey, a workshop for internal and external partners and interviews to develop deeper insights on service delivery.
The residents’ survey garnered 1,477 responses and produced the following headline messages:
· 67% satisfaction with the Council’s overall response to the pandemic;
· Ability to connect with family, friends and community, stress and anxiety and diet/eating habits were the top three issues residents struggled with during the lockdown period;
· Supporting local businesses/employment, mental health and reducing social isolation and loneliness in vulnerable people were seen as the biggest future priorities for the Council;
· The biggest positive impacts of Covid-19 were the environmental impact, time spent indoors, sense of community and willingness to help each other, time spent with immediate family and work-life balance.
The report stated that Test and Trace at the local level had two main components – outbreak management and case tracing. These areas, led by the local Public Health team, connected to the national response to Covid-19. Governance of Outbreak Management ... view the full minutes text for item 45.
To consider the impact of Covid-19 on poverty in the Borough – people with low incomes, the unemployed and the homeless.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 25 to 200, which gave details of the impact of Covid-19 on poverty in the Borough, specifically individuals and families with low incomes, unemployment and homelessness.
Laura Callan (Strategy and Planning Manager, Insight and Change) attended the meeting to introduce the report. Also in attendance were Simon Price (Assistant Director, Housing, Income and Assessments), Emma Cantrell (First Days Children’s Charity), Annette Medhurst (Wokingham Foodbank) and Jake Morrison (Citizens Advice Wokingham).
The report stated that, whilst the Borough had consistently been one of the least deprived unitary authorities in England, there were individuals and families living on low incomes and there were challenges to ensure that opportunities were available for every resident. The End Child Poverty report indicated that, after housing costs, 17% of children in the Borough were living in poverty.
The Covid-19 pandemic had had a significant impact with the shut-down of large sections of the economy. The impacts included:
· A 223% increase in claims for out of work benefits between February and August 2020;
· Furloughing of 21,700 people in the Borough as at August 2020;
· A disproportionate impact on workers from the BAME community, women, young workers, low paid and disabled workers;
· 120 young people at risk of not being in education, employment or training (NEET), significantly up on previous years;
· Increase in demand for support from Citizens Advice;
· 220% increase in people accessing the Wokingham Foodbank during March-August 2020, compared to 2019;
· 479% increase in children eligible for free school meals between March-August 2020, compared to 2019.
The report stated that the Council had worked with partners to deliver a number of interventions, including:
· Operation of the Citizens Advice “One Front Door”;
· The “All In” policy which supported rough sleepers into accommodation;
· Financial support to providers in the community and voluntary sector;
· Flexible repayment plans for Council Tax and the Council Tax Hardship Fund;
· Support to residents through the Community Engagement Team;
· Support for Council tenants delivered by the Tenancy Sustainment Team.
The report stated that, whilst there were a number of intervention points available to the Council, not all issues could be resolved locally. In some instances, the Council was restricted by Government policy or may not be best placed to deliver the appropriate solution. The Council would continue to monitor data and local intelligence, working with partners to understand and need and to establish the most effective intervention points to support individuals and families.
In the ensuing discussion Members and guests raised the following points:
It was important to use language carefully when talking about poverty. The Borough was frequently referred to as being one of the healthiest and wealthiest in the country. However, as the report indicated, there were over 7,000 children living in relative poverty.
Jake Morrison stated that Citizens Advice Wokingham were working on a report for the Borough, Town and Parish Councils which would give details of deprivation levels, broken down into local areas. Citizens Advice was also running national campaigns ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
To consider the Scrutiny evidence compiled to date in relation to the Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 201 to 234, which provided an update on the Overview and Scrutiny Committees’ review of the Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report stated that, at its meeting on 24 June 2020, the Committee had considered a report on the Council’s initial response to the pandemic. The Committee asked each of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees to look at key themes relating to the Council’s response and to report back on their findings. The key themes were:
· Care homes;
· Effectiveness of health partnerships;
· Schools and Children’s Services;
· Impact on mental health;
· Finance and business;
· Community response;
· Community safety/localities;
· Communication and engagement;
· Test and Trace;
· Poverty – impact on the poorest, the unemployed and the homeless;
· Maintaining democracy.
Appended to the report were copies of minutes and briefings from the Overview and Scrutiny Committees which provided evidence of the issues considered and the findings to date.
In the ensuing discussion Members raised the following points:
In relation to the transmission of the virus between young people (18 to 35) and the over-60s, what could the Council do to increase awareness and support appropriate behaviours? Meradin Peachy commented that work was ongoing to understand the perspective of young people and any factors which prevented adherence to the guidelines. This was especially important for young people in the care system. A lot of work had been done in relation to vulnerable children in local schools. Another issue was the risks relating to university students, especially those who worked in or visited care homes. This should be factored in to the risk assessments carried out by care homes.
The Chairman confirmed that the intention was to bring the findings of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees together in a report to the Executive. A draft of the report would be submitted to the meeting of the Committee on 25 November 2020 for consideration.
1) the progress reported by the Overview and Scrutiny Committees in scrutinising the Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic be noted;
2) the Committee consider a draft report on the Scrutiny review of the Council’s response to the pandemic at its meeting on 25 November 2020;
3) the Committee recommend to the Executive that local care homes be advised to review risk assessments and ensure appropriate social distancing for young people who work in or visit their homes;
4) the Committee’s report to the Executive highlight the importance of supporting all aspects of WBC staff welfare as the Council enters into the next phase of the pandemic;
5) the Committee’s report to the Executive highlight the relative sparsity of data on domestic violence and abuse and emphasise the need for explicit recognition and action;
6) the Chairman write to the Chief Executive to request that Council staff be thanked for their outstanding efforts in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside the outstanding work of community volunteers;
7) Members receive an updated Council organogram setting out the roles of ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
To consider the current published version of the Executive Forward Programme and the Individual Executive Member Decision Forward Programme.
The Committee considered a copy of the Executive Forward Programme and the Executive Member Decision Forward Programme, as set out on Agenda pages 235 to 240.
RESOLVED: That the Executive and Individual Executive Member Decision Forward Programmes be noted.
To discuss the work programme of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and Overview and Scrutiny Committees
The Committee considered its forward Work Programme and that of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees as set out on Agenda pages 241 to 252.
During the discussion, Members raised the following points:
· Sarah Kerr requested that an item on the development of the proposed co-produced anti-poverty strategy be added to the Work Programme to ensure O&S input into the process;
· Sarah Kerr suggested that the Committee consider adding an item on effective partnership working with charities and other organisations tackling poverty at the meeting on 25 November 2020;
· Sarah Kerr suggested that the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider adding an item on the impact of inequality on children and measures to address it at its meeting on 5 November 2020;
· Ken Miall confirmed that Health Overview and Scrutiny items relating to ambulance response times, self-harm and suicide prevention would be timetabled for a meeting of the Committee;
· Guy Grandison confirmed that the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee would be considering the first tranche of growth bids as part of the development of the Council’s 2021/22 Revenue Budget, at its meeting on 28 October 2020. Further growth bids would be considered at the meeting on 23 November 2020.
1) the Overview and Scrutiny Work Programmes be noted;
2) an item on the development of the proposed co-produced anti-poverty strategy be added to the O&S Management Committee Work Programme to ensure O&S input into the process;
3) the Committee consider adding an item on effective partnership working with charities and other organisations tackling poverty, at the meeting on 25 November 2020;
4) the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider adding an item on the impact of inequality on children and measures to address it, at its meeting on 5 November 2020.