Our Current Investigations
30/06/2016 Funding from the European Union (EU)
In June the Committee received a report on Funding from the European Union; which was published after the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) due to restrictions on Council publicity prior to the referendum. The report updated members on the amount and status of funding received from the Greater Manchester European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) Programme and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Members noted that it was too early to know what the impact of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union would be on this funding. They also noted that a majority of Manchester residents had voted to remain within the EU, but that this result wasn’t reflected nationally. The Resources and Programmes Manager advised that approved projects would continue but that he awaited clarification on those projects that were pending or not yet approved. He added that the team would continue to operate under business as usual until they received further clarification.
The Deputy Leader said over the next few years there would be a need for the Council to be resolute to ensure that the national decision did not impact disproportionately on areas like Manchester that had been able to access EU funding. He said the Council would make representations to national government; and the Leader was already doing this. Members resolved to request monthly updates on the Council’s Budget Response to the result of the EU Referendum.
End of Year Summary 2015/16
Over the previous year the Finance Scrutiny Committee has looked at a range of issues within its remit including finance and budget setting, governance, ICT, procurement and commissioning, property management and revenue and benefits. At the start of the year the Committee requested monthly progress reports from ICT but these are now requested at key milestones instead. Members agreed that significant progress in ICT has been made over the past year and welcomed the three stage approach of recovery, stabilise and modernise. In October 2015 the Committee held a themed meeting around devolution which included an overview of key developments in respect of governance and finance. The Committee intends to continue to monitor developments as they occur.
The Committee re-established the Communications Subgroup which concluded its work this year. Recommendations focussed on making improvements to the Council’s communications with residents and included promoting the use of social media, ensuring translations reflected the city’s current requirements, and ensuring ward councillors had input to ward newsletters. The Final Report can be accessed here.
The Human Resources (HR) Subgroup was re-established and met several times throughout the year. It considered reports on the Voluntary Early Retirement and Voluntary Severance (VER/VS) scheme which has now closed, the M People scheme, the Council’s use of Agency Workers, Managing Attendance and a number of Council policies including Shared Parental Leave, Domestic Abuse, and Internet and Email use by employees. It recommended a number of improvements to Council policies and practices. Meeting papers can be accessed here.
The Committee established an Ethical Procurement Task and Finish Group in October 2015. Members scrutinised and commented on several versions of a draft Ethical Procurement Policy. The Policy was updated as a result and has now been approved by Executive. The work of the Group will continue into the new municipal year as members plan to hold an additional meeting to meet with key partners in the city to discuss their ethical procurement practices. Meeting papers can be accessed here.
17/12/2015 Communications Subgroup
At its December meeting members considered an update on the recommendations from the Communications Task and Finish Group, which completed its review in June 2015. Members recognised that different communication methods were required to reach different target audiences and welcomed the review of language used by the Council. The Deputy Leader acknowledged that some residents may prefer to telephone the Council rather than use IT but that those who could use IT would be encouraged to do so. He said that the Communication Strategy would support and influence behaviour change and ultimately reduce costs. Members discussed local twitter accounts and requested that training on the use of local Twitter accounts be arranged for members and consideration be given to using wider social media platforms. Members requested an updated place based social media strategy be brought to a future meeting of the Committee. In response to a members concern regarding consultations officers advised that the Communications team were working more closely with the relevant agencies to ensure that the correct messages and information are relayed during consultations and ensure members are informed regarding consultations that are undertaken in their ward.
1/10/2015 Governance and Devolution
The October meeting of the Finance Scrutiny Committee was devoted to governance and devolution issues. In respect of devolution it was explained that this was ‘enabling’ legislation and so did not set out the details of arrangements which would be contained in orders yet to be agreed with the Secretary of State. Members were told that the principles for health devolution were recently considered and agreed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and shadow arrangements would now commence with plans to move to more formal decision making including the establishment of a joint commissioning board. The Leader advised that April 2016 was the proposed date for formal devolution arrangements to commence. Members also heard about the Greater Manchester Joint Scrutiny Pool Review and the improvements made. It was noted that this related to the current system and once devolution was introduced new scrutiny mechanisms at the Greater Manchester Level would be required. Members intend to continue to monitor the devolution agenda as and when events occur.
25/06/2015 Revenues and Benefits Annual Update
At the June meeting the Committee considered the report of the City Treasurer which provided performance data for the 2014/15 financial year for Council tax, benefits and Business Rates Services. Members welcomed the detailed report. The Committee questioned the lengthy transitional period to Universal Credit and were advised that this was expected to roll out over a ten year period, taking into account Government adjustments. Members said that often Council's were often criticised in the media for not collecting enough Council Tax arrears. The Head of Revenues and Benefits explained the process for collection and assured members that collection rates were good in Manchester .
The Committee discussed the benefits of Direct Debit payments as a way to prevent people getting into arrears. The Committee was informed that a campaign had been carried out which was targeted at those customers who had previously been in arrears and then cleared them to transfer them to direct debit payments, as a result 10% of these had signed up to this method.
To find out more information have a look at our full work programme. This includes what topics we will be looking at, what specific issues we will be considering and who we will be hearing evidence from. Please bear in mind that the programme is continually updated, and so dates and agenda items may change from those listed in the programme.
If there's an issue you want to contribute to, let us know. You can either send a written contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can attend a meeting and ask the Chair if you can speak. You can also suggest a topic for us to look into by filling in our 'suggestions form.'
If you want to speak to somebody about contributing to the committee, please call our scrutiny support officer on 0161 234 3241 or email email@example.com.
The Role of the Committee
As Councillors on the Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee we have two broad roles. One is to keep a close eye on the Council's finances and the other is to make sure that the Councillors you have elected can voice your concerns in an effective way to different public services, such as the Council, NHS, Police and Fire. We have discussions with these organisations and use our local knowledge of Manchester to recommend to them how they can ensure their services meet your needs.
Our areas of interest include finances, Council buildings, staffing, corporate and partnership governance as well as Council tax and benefits administration.
Through this page you'll be be able to keep in touch with what we've been doing and find out what we'll be investigating over the next few months and how you can get involved.
Councillor Carl Ollerhead, Chair of the Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee