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Agenda item

Agenda item

Feedback from the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Subject To Call In::No - Item to note.


That feedback from the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be NOTED.     


30.1          The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny gave a short presentation, circulated separately, which provided an overview of the matters discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 11 July 2023.

30.2          With regard to the Ubico annual report, a Member asked whether the high number of requests for food waste bins was because people were being encouraged to remove food waste from residual waste bins.  The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee indicated that the reasons for the requests were not known which was why the Depot Services Working Group would be asked to look at this in more detail.  The Director: Corporate Resources advised that one of the reasons for the increase was that they were not substantial enough and were easily broken; there had been additional questions around how they were procured which was one of the reasons it had been pushed back to the Depot Services Working Group.  With regard to in-cab technology, a Member asked how the public would be informed of this and whether it would assist with cross-boundary working.  In terms of food waste bin requests, he would be cautious of telling residents they could not have bins given that they were being encouraged to recycle.  In terms of the waste vehicle fleet, he found it difficult to imagine a residual waste collection vehicle being run on electricity whilst it was required to travel down the motorway twice a day but electric vehicles could be introduced gradually.  In response, the Lead Member for Clean and Green Environment confirmed that cross-boundary collections were being considered along with the possibility of sharing vehicles between Ubico partners.  She was keen to move towards using electric waste vehicles but recognised this was not something which could be done in one go, both for cost and technology reasons.  She provided assurance that several options were being explored for the future including hydrogen and refurbishing some of the existing vehicles to avoid having to buy new diesel ones straight away – this would be considered in more detail by the Depot Services Working Group.  In terms of in-cab technology, the Director: Communities advised that this would go live in October and the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee confirmed that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been assured that communications would be put out alongside the soft launch so that residents would understand its benefits.  The Chief Executive agreed with the need to look at how to operate more efficiently in terms of cross-border working but it would be necessary to ensure that appropriate agreements were in place with the other partners who all had different contracts and waste collection arrangements.  If Ubico owned the vehicle fleet rather than the individual Councils, it may be financially beneficial in terms of purchasing and deploying electric and hydrogen vehicles in urban areas.  A number of questions were raised regarding requests for new bins and whether these were recorded and the Associate Director: Transformation advised that Customer Services did log requests as and when they were received; if a reason was provided by the customer this would be logged.  The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee indicated that the Committee wanted to understand whether this was happening or not; it aimed to be a data-driven Committee which was why the Depot Services Working Group would be asked to take an in-depth look which could be used to formulate a set of recommendations for presentation to the Executive Committee in due course.

30.3           With regard to the Workforce Development Strategy, a Member indicated that he was in favour of addressing the gender imbalance at the top management level and expressed the view that the Council needed to be representative of the whole borough.  He questioned whether the gender balance had been considered during the recruitment to posts within the new structure.  The Chair indicated that the gender balance had been taken into account; however, ultimately appointments had been made based on the most suitable candidates for the posts.  The wider question was why there had been less female applicants or why women were not being supported in the way they should be – it was important to ensure that all staff in the organisation, particularly women, were supported so they could progress into roles and were able to fulfil their ambitions.  He hoped this was something which could be addressed over time.  The Chief Executive confirmed that as much as possible had been done to provide a balanced shortlist of candidates – there was an issue in that a lot of the service areas covered by the posts being recruited to had historically been considered as male bastions e.g. planning and waste.  Unitary authorities did not tend to have the same problems due to the wider range of services covered.  He pointed out that there was more balance at the Associate Director level with several staff being promoted internally.  Members would be aware that the authority had also lost two long serving female members of staff from senior positions who had helped to maintain the gender balance for a long period of time; the new Associate Director: People, Culture and Performance would look to ensure this issue was addressed going forward.  Another Member expressed the view that diversity in general was a problem for the county as a whole with the majority of the top jobs in organisations being occupied by people of similar skin colours or backgrounds – this was remarkable as it did not reflect the make-up of the county.  He acknowledged this was a very complex issue which was not easy to address.  The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed this was an important societal point and suggested there may be things which others were doing which the Council could learn from; he was sure there were things that could be done, even by a small authority.  Another Member shared these concerns but felt that recruitment to posts needed to be driven first and foremost by ability and the authority could not be seen to be discriminating against anyone.  A Member indicated that she had Chaired the Executive Director: Place Employee Appointment Committee and Members of that Committee were aware of the gender balance within the organisation from the outset but they had been fair to all candidates and there had been no favouritism in any respect.

30.4           The Chair thanked the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for attending and it was