Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, Dorchester, DT1 1XJ. View directions
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To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 4 July 2023.
The minutes of the meeting held on 4 July 2023 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of interest
To disclose any pecuniary, other registrable or non-registrable interests as set out in the adopted Code of Conduct. In making their disclosure councillors are asked to state the agenda item, the nature of the interest and any action they propose to take as part of their declaration.
If required, further advice should be sought from the Monitoring Officer in advance of the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive any updates from the Chairman of the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee.
In response to a request at the last meeting of the committee, the Head of Human Resources provided an overview of levels of sickness absence within the council and the activity being taken forward to support the workforce in remaining fit and well. The full text of the update is provided at appendix 1.
Councillors considered the information provided and comments were made in the following areas:
· Return to work interviews following a period of sickness – work was being undertaken around the validation of data to ensure that there were systems in place to capture data, particularly in the case of remote workers
· Recognition of the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic
· Benchmarking with similar local authorities – the availability of data to make comparisons between the situation with staff – a benchmarking network with other local authorities was currently being formed to share information
· A further report was to be provided to the committee at the November meeting regarding staff turnover and further information on sickness benchmarking could also be provided.
The Chairman thanked the Head of Human Resources for the update and asked that the thanks of the committee be passed to the team.
Representatives of town or parish councils and members of the public who live, work, or represent an organisation within the Dorset Council area are welcome to submit either 1 question or 1 statement for each meeting. You are welcome to attend the meeting in person or via MS Teams to read out your question and to receive the response. If you submit a statement for the committee this will be circulated to all members of the committee in advance of the meeting as a supplement to the agenda and appended to the minutes for the formal record but will not be read out at the meeting. The first 8 questions and the first 8 statements received from members of the public or organisations for each meeting will be accepted on a first come first served basis in accordance with the deadline set out below. For further information read Public Participation - Dorset Council
All submissions must be emailed in full to firstname.lastname@example.org by 8.30am on 7 September 2023.
When submitting your question or statement please note that:
• You can submit 1 question or 1 statement.
• a question may include a short pre-amble to set the context.
• It must be a single question and any sub-divided questions will not be permitted.
• Each question will consist of no more than 450 words, and you will be given up to 3 minutes to present your question.
• when submitting a question please indicate who the question is for (e.g., the name of the committee or Portfolio Holder)
• Include your name, address, and contact details. Only your name will be published but we may need your other details to contact you about your question or statement in advance of the meeting.
• questions and statements received in line with the council’s rules for public participation will be published as a supplement to the agenda.
• all questions, statements and responses will be published in full within the minutes of the meeting.
There were no questions or statements from members of the public or local organisations.
Questions from Councillors
To receive questions submitted by councillors.
Councillors can submit up to two valid questions at each meeting and sub divided questions count towards this total. Questions and statements received will be published as a supplement to the agenda and all questions, statements and responses will be published in full within the minutes of the meeting.
The submissions must be emailed in full to email@example.com by 8.30am on 7 September 2023.
Dorset Council Constitution – Procedure Rule 13
There were no questions from councillors.
To consider a report of the Corporate Director for Assets and Property.
The committee received and considered a report of the Corporate Director for Assets and Property which provided an update on progress in relation to the Property Strategy and Asset Management Plan adopted by Cabinet on 3 November 2020. The committee was invited to review and comment on the progress made in achieving the actions in the plan.
The Portfolio Holder for Assets and Property and the Chairman of the committee thanked Peter Hopkins, former Corporate Director for Assets and Property for his work and contribution to Dorset Council.
Councillors considered the issues arising from the report and during discussion the following points were raised:
· Current surplus freehold and leasehold assets identified for disposal or termination would be subject to separate reports
· Examples were provided of ongoing issues and it was noted that some disposals were complex
· Larger assets would be dealt with through the processes set out in the report and would include consultation with relevant ward councillors. Smaller assets would be dealt with through the Corporate Landlord model
· It was important to ensure that smaller council owned assets were included within the database and maintenance regime. The role of ward councillors in this area was recognised
· There was a request for further information regarding the appointment of Public Intelligence and access to the report produced
· There was a need to consider both the capital value of an asset and the social gain value
· The report by Public Intelligence had confirmed that the right process had been identified and that the council should move forward with it. Assets would be reviewed and ward councillors would be involved
· Examples of the use of the Corporate Landlord model in the areas of libraries and housing were provided. Work was being undertaken to establish user agreements to ensure there was a clear understanding of responsibility and usage
· The relationship between the property and assets team and the service departments was considered and it was noted that there was a need for flexibility within the agreed framework
· There was ongoing engagement with service departments and external partners and regular meetings with Cabinet members to discuss issues
· In respect of RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) it was noted that there were ongoing surveys with no problems identified to date
· Information provided on business partners working in this area, ‘One Public Estate’ and the workplace utilisation study
· A question was asked as to whether councillors would be able to access the property database.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the Chairman provided a summary of the key points arising as follows:
Councillors were assured by the information
included within the report, details of the property strategy and that the
council had the right processes in place
· A request for a series of webinars to be arranged to keep councillors informed of issues regarding property and assets and information to be included as part of the May 2024 induction – to provide an overview of the strategy and what the council was hoping to achieve – and ... view the full minutes text for item 27.
1) To review the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee Work Programme.
2) Monitoring of the Performance Dashboard – members of the committee to flag up any areas for potential review:
Operational – Corporate: Councillors Piers Brown, Barry Goringe and David Shortell.
Operational – Place: Councillors David Tooke and Jon Andrews.
HR: Councillors Rod Adkins, Andy Canning, Brian Heatley and Bill Trite.
The Chairman, Councillor Shane Bartlett, maintains an overview of all the above areas.
Councillors reviewed the committee’s work programme and noted items to be considered at forthcoming meetings. In addition to the items included on the work programme, an item relating to tourism issues would be brought to the November meeting.
It was noted that Cabinet had asked the committee to undertake a review of car parking charges within the context of the Council’s adopted policy and the timescale for consideration of this report would be confirmed.
To review the Cabinet Forward Plan and decisions taken at recent meetings.
The Cabinet Forward Plan and decisions of recent meetings are provided to members of the Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee to review and identify any potential post decision scrutiny to be undertaken, by scheduling items into the work programme to review after a period of implementation.
Councillors considered the Cabinet Forward Plan and decisions of the meeting held on 25 July 2023, which the committee could use to identify potential areas for post decision review.
Reference was made to the Cabinet decision of 5 September 2023, ‘Home in on Housing: Dorset Council’s role and response for the new and emerging Housing Strategy’ and whether there was a role for scrutiny in this area. The Chairman noted that a discussion would be held with the relevant portfolio holder and officers.
To consider any items of business which the Chairman has had prior notification and considers to be urgent pursuant to section 100B (4) b) of the Local Government Act 1972. The reason for the urgency shall be recorded in the minutes.
There were no urgent items.
To move the exclusion of the press and the public for the following item in view of the likely disclosure of exempt information within the meaning of paragraph x of schedule 12 A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended). The public and the press will be asked to leave the meeting whilst the item of business is considered.
There are no exempt items scheduled for this meeting.
There was no exempt business.
Appendix 1 - Chairman's Update
Dorset Council Sickness Absence – August 2023
This briefing note provides an overview of levels of sickness absence within the council and the activity being taken forward to support the workforce in remaining fit and well.
Sickness Absence Trends
In line with the national picture, the pandemic introduced unprecedented challenges for Dorset Council, causing a significant disruption in workforce attendance. The implementation of remote working, lockdowns, and quarantine measures directly influenced absenteeism rates. In 2020, the sudden shift to remote work led to a significant reduction in short term absence. However, the pandemic's prolonged nature resulted in an increase in mental health-related absences and burnout, resulting in an increase in long term absence.
Whilst levels of short-term absence have increased to pre-pandemic levels, because of increased social connection and the continued prevalence of Covid, long term sickness absence has reduced, equating to roughly half of overall absence compared to two-thirds in 2021.
Mental health related absence continues to be the biggest contributor to long term sickness absence across most directorates, with the Place directorate having proportionately more Musculoskeletal related long-term absence compared to other directorates, which is not unexpected due to the physical nature of roles within the directorate (i.e., Waste Collection, Highways etc.).
Levels of attendance are monitored as part of the Council’s Performance Management Framework, with appropriate commentary provided at a directorate level to provide a better understanding of cause and action.
Supporting employees to remain well and at work is a key priority for the council, as reflected by the inclusion of specific actions in this area within the council’s People Strategy Delivery Plan.
Each directorate has developed an employee wellbeing plan, working closely with employees to identify activity that can be taken forward to help people stay well. This includes a range of activity, including the delivery of specific mental health training and increased promotion of routes to support.
Having skilled, experienced, and confident managers in place to support colleagues is crucial and a range of opportunities to develop skills and experience in this area have been developed and introduced. The Council’s Leadership and Management Development Academy, accessible to all managers in the Council, includes a range of modules to help increase awareness of good practice. The Council’s HR Advisory Team have also delivered face-to-face sessions with managers in areas experiencing high levels of sickness absence, to ensure full awareness of our policy and procedure and to help increase the confidence of managers in its application.
A key element of the Council’s Attendance Management Procedure is the need for an interview to take place when employees return to work from any absence. This ensures that employees are well supported and that any actions can be identified and implemented to help ensure attendance can remain as high as possible. Levels of return to work interview completion are monitored as part of the council’s performance scorecard, with current completion rates sitting at 86%. Work is underway to validate the data and identify areas for improvement.