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Cabinet news releases - October 2017

Published, 19/10/2017

Annual Performance Report

Flintshire County Council's performance during 2016-17 will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 24 October before the publication of the Council's Annual Performance Report.

The report reflects the overall good progress that has been made against priorities set out in the Improvement Plan 2016/17 and summarises the achievements of the organisation. Flintshire continues to be a well-run and high performing council. Our consistently good performance has been recognised locally and nationally. Flintshire is the most improved council in Wales when comparing similar performance measures.

Some of the successes are set out below:
· Over 3,300 customers contacted our housing service for advice and assistance. 63.4% of these enquiries were managed at the first point of contact allowing our specialist teams more capacity to deal with the remaining 36.6% more complex and urgent cases.
· Twelve new Council homes were completed through the Strategic Housing and Regeneration Programme (SHARP) at the former Custom House School site, and work will continue into 2017/18.
· The Council secured 285 "shared equity" properties for local first time buyers through developers' contributions. Developers have also gifted properties to North East Wales (NEW) Homes to the value of £3m.
· We have supported person-centred care in 16 residential homes and 3 nursing homes by providing "Progress for Providers" training and guidance.
· There are three Dementia Friendly communities in Flintshire, and four other communities are applying for this status. We now have 38 Dementia Friendly businesses, and 10 memory cafés.
· Flintshire County Council has played a central role in developing an Economic Growth Deal Bid for North Wales with the UK and Wales Governments.
· 181 business enquiries were received, of which 158 converted to investment, resulting in a conversion rate of 87.2%.
· Our development partner for the Strategic Housing and Regeneration Programme (SHARP), created 12 apprenticeships, 4 of these through Futureworks Flintshire, shared apprenticeship scheme.
· Flintshire is above the Wales and regional average for the percentage of Key Stage 3 learners achieving improved outcomes in mathematics - we are ranked 5th in Wales. At Key Stage 2 we have improved by 2.2% to highest level in North Wales and 6th in Wales.
· 57% of Flintshire Youth Justice Service school age young people are in full time employment, training or education (Wales average is 46%).
· We helped Flintshire households obtain additional benefit income of over £1.5 million.
· Communities First supported 99 people into full and part time employment and helped 247 long term unemployed clients gain a qualification, helping them to become more work ready.
· The percentage of employees working in an agile way within County Hall was 87% which equates to a ratio of 819 desks to 944 employees.
· In line with the Council's Digital Strategy, online digital transactions increased with over 11,000 customers choosing to correspond with the Council online via the website. There was also a 19% increase in the number of people using the Council's website.

Flintshire County Council Chief Executive, Colin Everett, said:

'The Council is making good progress in areas highlighted as priorities. Despite intense funding pressures and reductions in national funding, Flintshire has been creative and successful in achieving its aims for another year."

The Leader of Flintshire County Council, Councillor Aaron Shotton, said:

"The Council has once again proved to be a high performing organisation, setting targets and meeting the priorities stated in the Improvement Plan."

The Report must be published by 31 October and at County Council on 24 October, councillors will be asked to adopt the report for publishing.



Flintshire Public Services Board

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet will be asked to note the progress on the work of the Flintshire Public Services Board (PSB) and support the PSB themes for the Well-being Plan when it meets on 24 October.

The PSB was formed in April 2016, as a statutory responsibility of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Its work has focused on the production of the Well-being Assessment and the development of the Wellbeing Plan which is to be published by May 2018.

In addition, the PSB has continued work on the priorities from the former Local Services Board (LSB) and also maintains its statutory role of the Community Safety Partnership.

Flintshire has a longstanding and proud track record of partnership working. The Flintshire PSB is at the heart of promoting a positive culture of working together and concentrates energy, effort and resources on providing efficient and effective public services.

A Well-being Assessment for Flintshire has been produced and published in line with statutory requirements. This presents a contemporary picture of life and well-being in Flintshire.

The Well-being Plan is a requirement of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and will be produced and published by May 2018.

This Plan has five priorities, chosen because this is where the PSB believes it can add most value. These are:

· Well-being and Independent Living (former LSB priority)
· Community Safety (former LSB priority)
· Resilient Communities (new priority)
· Economy and Skills (new priority)
· Environment (new priority)

The PSB themes and priorities/sub-priorities were formally adopted by all PSB members and work is underway to pull these into a draft Well-Being Plan which will go out for a 12 week public consultation, starting this month and finishing at the end of January 2018.

These themes are also represented clearly in the Council's own Plan for this year; detailing the contribution of the Council's commitments to the future Well-being Plan.

The Well-being Plan for Flintshire once endorsed by the PSB, will be presented to each of the PSB member bodies for approval with a view to the Plan being published in early May 2018.

Councillor Billy Mullin, Cabinet Member for Corporate Management and Assets, said:

"Through the Well-being Plan, Flintshire Council and its partner organisations in the PSB can ensure they are working towards the same objectives for the benefit of local residents. We are always looking at ways that we can enhance the lives of local people."

Councillor Aaron Shotton, Leader of the Council, said:

"Flintshire has a longstanding and proud track record of partnership working and the PSB priorities link well with our Council Plan. The communities we serve rightly expect the statutory and third sector partners to work together, to work to shared priorities and, through collective effort, to get things done."


Corporate Safeguarding Policy
Flintshire County Council's Cabinet will be asked to approve the Corporate Safeguarding Policy when it meets later this month.
Safeguarding is everybody's business in every service within the Council. Whilst Social Services remains the lead service for dealing with enquiries regarding allegations and concerns, everyone, whatever their role, has a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of children, young people and adults.

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Social Services and Joint Champion for Safeguarding, Councillor Christine Jones, said:

"The policy describes the roles and responsibilities expected of every employee, as well as elected members, volunteers and contractors. It includes information on the different kinds of abuse, recognising signs of abuse and how to report any concerns you may have.
"The policy doesn't replace existing arrangements within Social Services; rather, it sets out the duty for the Council as a whole organisation, making clear the responsibilities at all levels, regardless of their area of work."

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Corporate Management and Joint Champion for Safeguarding, Councillor Billy Mullin, said:

"Flintshire is committed to its responsibilities and has taken positive steps by establishing an internal Corporate Safeguarding Panel to ensure that there are robust arrangements in place for protecting children, young people and adults. This policy is as a result of the work undertaken so far by the Panel."

The policy will be supported by a number of measures available to employees and elected members, including:

· Frequently asked questions;
· Two e-learning programmes for safeguarding children and safeguarding adults available online;
· AFTA Thought, an organisation specialising in training through drama, delivered four Safeguarding training sessions in May and June which brought to life different safeguarding issues. These sessions were attended by almost 300 employees across a range of portfolios.
· Presentations about safeguarding to be made to Scrutiny Committees during the next few months to raise their awareness.
· Publication of a Corporate Safeguarding newsletter to reinforce the importance of recognising and reporting concerns and to highlight current issues.




Income Generation Policy

Flintshire's Cabinet will be asked to approve an Income Generation Policy when it meets on 24 October 2017.

This policy has a number of key objectives and principles to assist in the setting of appropriate and benchmarked fees and charges together with the mechanism for regular reviews and monitoring.

The Council has undertaken a review of its fees and charges and concluded that:

· some Council fees are appropriate;
· other fees need to be reviewed to ensure costs are fully recovered, where appropriate; and
· there are opportunities to recover fees and charges which, based on other local authorities' activity, could legitimately be recovered.

Key objectives of the policy include:
· Maximising income generation with full cost recovery wherever possible.
· Ensuring that charges reflect the ability to pay.
· Comparing costs with our own sector and market.
· Taking into account any competition to deliver the service from the public, private or voluntary sectors.
· Ensuring that fees and charges are set in a way that complements the Council's wider policy goals.
· Collecting costs as efficiently as possible, in advance of the point of delivery and providing customers with as many ways as possible to pay.

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Aaron Shotton, said:

"Fees and charges are an important part of the Council's financial plans and the review undertaken has sought to ensure that there are clear mechanisms to set, review and recover fees and charges taking into account a customer's ability to pay. At a time of increasing demands upon services and reducing national financial support, it is critical for the future resilience of local services that the council maximises its ability to raise other forms of income to ameliorate the impacts of government cuts."



Welsh in the Workplace Policy

Members will be asked to adopt Flintshire's Welsh in the Workplace Policy at Flintshire County Council's Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 24 October.

The purpose of the Welsh in the Workplace policy is to:

i) Promote positive attitudes and encourage employees to take pride in the Welsh language and Welsh culture.
ii) Increase the number of Welsh speaking employees and provide opportunities for employees who are already fluent Welsh speakers and those who are learning to use Welsh at work.
iii) Encourage a bilingual working environment in which employees have the freedom and support to work through the medium of Welsh.

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Corporate Management and Assets, Councillor Billy Mullin, said:

"Implementing this policy will support the Council to develop bilingual services and comply with Welsh Language Standards. Amongst other things, it will reduce our dependency on translation services, contribute towards increasing the use of Welsh in the workplace and help to attract and retain Welsh speaking employees. It also supports the Council's Welsh in Education Strategic Plan, sending a clear message, internally and externally, that the Welsh language is valued outside of the school environment and is an asset in employment.

"Offering more opportunities for employees to see, hear, use and practise Welsh at work, will support them to become more confident and proficient, improving the quality of Welsh medium services to the public. The more people are immersed in a language, the more quickly they learn."

The Council's ability to deliver bilingual services is challenged by the difficulty in recruiting to Welsh essential posts. To rectify this situation, the Council is reviewing such things as:

· using practical and user friendly wording to describe the level of Welsh skills required for posts. Employers who use specific examples of the levels of skill required rather than stating a job is "Welsh essential" have reported more success in recruiting Welsh speakers.
· using Welsh media to advertise posts; and
· developing alternative solutions if suitable Welsh speaking applicants cannot be recruited, for example, introducing a requirement to learn Welsh to a specified level in a set time or training a Welsh speaker to fulfil other requirements of a post.

Councillor Mullin added:

"Flintshire is committed to working with the Welsh Language Commissioner to ensure that the Welsh Language Standards can be practically achieved, recognising the Council's geography and demographic breakdown. Resources to support managers and employees are available, including developing an intranet page to provide resources for Welsh learners."


Armed Forces Covenant

Flintshire's Cabinet will be asked to approve the Council's first Annual Report of the Armed Forces Covenant when it meets on 24 October.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served in the armed forces and their families are treated fairly. The Covenant is a national responsibility involving government, businesses, local authorities, charities and the public, encouraging local communities to support the Armed Forces in their area and to promote understanding and awareness.

The Council is committed to supporting the Armed Forces Community by working with a range of partners who have signed our Covenant, including Flintshire Local Voluntary Council and the Royal British Legion. The purpose of the Flintshire Covenant is to encourage support for the Armed Forces Community who work and/or live in Flintshire and to recognise and remember the sacrifices made by members of this Armed Forces Community.

A multi-agency steering group has been established and Councillor Andrew Dunbobbin, who is the Council's Armed Forces Champion, chairs the group.

The Steering Group has completed a self-assessment against the Covenant and developed an action plan to progress its work. Key achievements are set out in the Annual Report and include:

· a dedicated page on the Council website providing information and support for the Armed Forces Community and links to key agencies such as Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB);
· a commitment to the Covenant in the Council Plan 2017/18;
· the implementation of a Reservist Policy providing additional two weeks leave for employees who are Reservists enabling them to attend their annual training camp and provide support for those mobilised for duty to assist them transition back to the workplace and retain continuous service status;
· offer guaranteed interviews for veterans who meet the essential criteria of the job role;
· supported Accommodation Schemes for veterans are available in Flintshire in partnership with First Choice Housing.

Councillor Dunbobbin said:

"The Council is also an active member of the Regional North Wales Regional Armed Forces Forum which includes all six North Wales local authorities and BCUHB. A successful North Wales local authorities' bid for two year Ministry of Defence funding has led to the temporary appointment of two North Wales Armed Forces Liaison Officers. These posts will support local authorities to implement the Covenant and work with services to meet the needs of the Armed Forces Community."



Bailey Hill HLF application

Later this month, members of Flintshire County Council's Cabinet will be asked to agree a report on a stage 2 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) application for Bailey Hill in Mold and to agree the Council's contribution.

Bailey Hill is a significant project to improve the heritage environment of the Motte and Bailey Castle at Bailey Hill. This includes large areas of tree removal, access improvements, a new play area and site-wide interpretation including a display area in the Custodians Lodge.

The Council is working in partnership with Mold Town Council and the Friends of Bailey Hill Group. A Stage 1 HLF award of £43,000 was successful in 2016 to fund the development stage. This work is due to be completed by the end of 2017 with an estimated stage 2 application to be submitted if the work is agreed by all partners at the beginning of 2018.

Estimated costs of further work, which includes improvements to the entrance, renovation and development of the Custodian's Cottage, improvements to access to the Inner and Outer Baileys, signage and interpretation, and an activity and events programme led by a three year fixed term appointment, are £1.38m which does not include the play area. The play area is not considered eligible by the Heritage Lottery but is a key part of the overall masterplan.

The Council's contribution has been previously identified as funding for the play area.

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts, said:

"Cabinet agreed in March that capital funding would be used to improve play areas and all weather pitches. Bailey Hill was identified as a "red rated" play area, in need of repair, with improvement costs estimated at between £50,000 and £100,000. This money would be required during the financial year 2019/20. While not part of the overall Heritage Lottery Fund scheme, this allocation will be key to Heritage Lottery Fund agreeing their final contribution to the scheme."



Active Travel

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet will be asked to approve Flintshire's Active Travel Plan before submission to Welsh Government when it meets on 24 October.

The Plan forms part of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 whose purpose is to enable more people to choose walking or cycling for short journeys rather than using vehicles, such as driving or taking the bus, where it is suitable for them to do so.

To help draw up a local plan for Flintshire, a number of informal engagement events were held prior to the statutory consultation which ran between 3 July and 24 September, 2017. The outcome of this process will be submitted to Welsh Government on 3 November for approval and will subsequently be published on the Council's Active Travel web page.

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Transportation, Councillor Carolyn Thomas, said:

'The Active Travel Act gives us the opportunity to make Wales an Active Travel nation. Whilst the Act specifically relates to links to services and facilities, Flintshire recognises the benefit active travel brings in terms of leisure and the wellbeing of the community. Therefore any comments received during the consultation process on the use of the Active Travel Network for this purpose will be considered when plans for the strategic network are developed."



Community Resilience

Members of Flintshire's Cabinet will be asked to agree the Council's Community Benefits Strategy at its next meeting on 24 October.

A key priority of the Council Plan is ‘A Connected Council' with a sub priority being ‘Resilient Communities'. The Flintshire Public Services Board has also a developed a priority around ‘Resilient Communities'.

The Council recognises the importance of community benefits and has identified a set of community benefits which can be used in all types of procurement contracts, but which can also be used to assess the level of community benefit an organisation is delivering.

As part of the procurement process, organisations will be asked to set out how they will contribute to the community benefit objectives and will be assessed as part of the tender evaluation. This will include areas such as:

• the steps to be taken to deliver community benefits;
• how these steps will ensure benefits are realised; and
• the benefit that each step will deliver to communities.

Over the last three years, the Council has worked hard to grow the social sector through Social Enterprise Development, Community Asset Transfers and Alternative Delivery Models. A key element of this growth has been to develop social enterprises that are of a significant scale and can support the development of other social enterprises – examples include Aura Leisure and Libraries, Cambrian Aquatics and Holywell Leisure Centre.

In summary, 24 social enterprises or social organisations operating within Flintshire over the last year benefitted from Council support to help their development, including the following: RainbowBiz, West Flintshire Community Enterprises, Flintshire Counselling CIC, Beyond the Boundaries CIC and Amser Babi Cymraeg.

This work, along with the Community Asset Transfer programme, has resulted in the many assets being transferred to social enterprises or community organisations, including: Connah's Quay Swimming Pool (Cambrian Aquatics), Gwernaffield Village Hall, Hope Library, Holywell library, Mancot Library and Trelogan Community Centre.

Flintshire County Council's Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Aaron Shotton, said:

"Much work has been done already to grow the social sector and this policy will help to increase the community benefits that the council can achieve from procurement of its goods and services. This innovative approach is needed to ensure delivery of more community benefits which help to deliver economic, social and environmental well-being to local communities."



Review of Care Sector

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet will be asked to accept a report on the review of the care sector when it next meets later this month.

The Council faces a serious challenge to provide services within a context of rapidly changing social, demographic and environmental demands, and needs to be able to respond to the needs of its service users and their carers within a very limited budget.

Flintshire's older population ( 80) is predicted to rise by 23% in the next 4 years with the number of older people with significant health and social care needs predicted to rise by 22% during the same period.

There is a clear risk that the care sector will be unable to sustain itself if no action is taken. Flintshire has a proactive plan in place which will identify priorities, short, medium and long plans to help address some of the most pressing issues.

Flintshire's social care providers, like providers throughout the country, are facing pressures and are concerned about the sustainability of their businesses.

Between June and September, Flintshire commissioned an independent review of the residential and nursing care sector in the county. Significantly, results show that major pressures focussed around recruitment and retention of staff and the purchase of consumables, utilities, equipment and waste services.

The review identified innovative ways to support the sector, including development of a "portal" which will act as the hub of a local marking and recruitment. Also, working with the Business Development Team, the opportunities of Microcare services are being explored. These offer flexibility and operate on a small scale, usually employing less than 5 people, and focus on a small group of clients.

Flintshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Social Services, Councillor Christine Jones, said:

"This report makes clear that Flintshire is leading the way nationally in taking forward positive partnership working with our care providers and looking at every possibility for improving the long term future of social care in our county. Significantly, a letter has been drafted to accompany the report, which outlines our case to Welsh Government for increased funding, access to resources, and the full recognition of the needs of the social care sector."


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