Agenda item

Risks and Issues within Portfolios and Feedback from Overview & Scrutiny

To provide an update on the top/current risks within all five portfolios and feedback on those risks considered by Overview & Scrutiny Committees.


That the progress of the highlighted areas of risk within all five portfolios identified at earlier meetings of this Committee be noted.


The Chief Executive introduced the update on progress with areas of risk for each of the five service portfolios and feedback on those issues from Overview & Scrutiny Committees, as set out in the report.


Education & Youth


In summarising the main areas of risk, the Chief Officer (Education & Youth) provided on the approach to identify levels of school resilience in approaching the Christmas break and that the switch to remote learning - in consultation with Welsh Government (WG) - had been well received by Head Teachers and the majority of parents.  There was an ongoing requirement for additional grant funding to provide necessary support to address the long term impact of the pandemic on pupils of all ages.  A further high risk was the ability of schools to deal with challenges such as staff absences along with legislative changes and preparations for the rollout of the new curriculum.  The WG position on school examinations was being closely monitored.  Preparations were underway for schools to undertaken risk assessments in readiness for re-opening in January.  An update on the position of all schools would be shared with all Members once the data had been collated later in the day.


Councillor David Healey thanked the Chief Officer and her team for their support to schools and Head Teachers.  In response to a question on improving ventilation in schools, she said that additional funding from WG would enable the Council to assess where remedial work should be prioritised.


Following comments by the Chairman, the Chief Officer said that the rising number of children being home educated and its effects on the Local Authority’s responsibilities had been discussed by the Education & Youth Overview & Scrutiny Committee.  On the challenges in sourcing supply staff which had increased nationwide during the pandemic, she would pass on the suggestion for WG to contact those organisations to reiterate their value to service delivery.


Housing and Assets


The Chief Executive re-emphasised the impact of the pandemic on rental income and the support available to tenants experiencing difficulty who were willing to engage with the Council.  The position on homelessness presentations continued to be monitored and additional funding from WG would help to increase staff capacity and other commissioned support services.  Ongoing risks with raw material resources and costs were reflected nationally.


Planning, Environment & Economy


The Chief Officer (Planning, Environment & Economy) reported that team resilience had benefitted from a successful recruitment campaign, with the exception of an unfilled vacancy within the Drainage and Flood Protection team.  On the Local Development Plan, a response was expected from the Planning Inspectorate prior to the next stage of consulting on the changes.


Social Services


The Senior Manager - Children said that the main areas of service demand were due to pressures on the three local hospitals and that child protection work had increased significantly as a result of national cases raising awareness.  He explained the approach to prioritising Children’s Services work on a case by case basis and gave assurance that safeguarding services were being maintained, albeit with a short-term impact on good practice models.  Options were being explored to increase capacity and redeploy staff to support areas under pressure.


The Chairman asked what could be done about the lack of wraparound social care and its impact on hospital discharges, which was a national problem.  As with other portfolios, the Senior Manager said that some individuals had chosen to leave services to pursue alternative employment opportunities during the pandemic.  A working group set up with Human Resources would look at recruitment and retention across the organisation to increase capacity and identify long-term solutions.


The Chairman said that workforce retention was clearly a shared risk across portfolios.  In response to comments, the Senior Manager acknowledged that demand on Social Services was becoming more challenging and that the virus of concern would be closely monitored over the coming weeks.


In response to remarks by Councillor Hilary McGuill, the Senior Manager said that career progression opportunities were a key part of the recruitment campaign in social care.  He acknowledged safeguarding concerns about the increased number of children who were educated at home or absent from school due to Covid, as did the Chief Officer (Education & Youth) who gave assurance of close working between Education and Social Services colleagues on a regular basis and through the Corporate Safeguarding Panel.


Councillor Christine Jones commented on the effectiveness of the panel and she shared concerns about the lack of legislation on elective home education.


The Facilitator advised that a letter highlighting the same concerns raised by the Education, Youth & Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee had been sent to WG and that the response would be circulated to all Members.


The Chief Executive said that safeguarding was a shared responsibility across portfolios supported by training sessions.


In praising the work of Social Services teams, Councillor Marion Bateman asked about the number of Flintshire patients currently awaiting care packages to enable them to be discharged from hospital.  The Senior Manager gave assurance that teams were working proactively to address the situation as much as possible, although numbers were increasing.  He would seek an update on the current position from Susie Lunt.


Streetscene and Transportation


The Chief Officer (Streetscene & Transportation) provided an update on sickness absence figures which had increased since publication of the report and the impact of legislative changes on Covid testing and self-certification rules.  Recruitment issues were again a factor for some areas including HGV drivers.  It was pleasing to note that waste collection and recycling sites had run smoothly over the Christmas period following deployment of staff and use of agency workers.  Contractor staffing issues had resulted in some disruption to the supply chain and delays with gaining regulatory approval were affecting some schemes.


The Chairman asked about the potential risk to grant funding and was informed that meetings with WG were ongoing to ascertain the position.


In thanking all the senior officers for their informative updates, the Chairman moved the recommendation and was seconded by Councillor Marion Bateman.




That the progress of the highlighted areas of risk within all five portfolios identified at earlier meetings of this Committee be noted.

Supporting documents: