Agenda and minutes

Business Support and Digital Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 26 October 2023 6.00pm

Venue: St George's Centre, Pembroke Road, Chatham Maritime, Chatham ME4 4UH. View directions

Contact: Steve Dickens 


No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Councillors Animashaun and Joy.


Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 369 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 31 August 2023.


The record of the meeting held on 31 August 2023 was agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct.


Urgent matters by reason of special circumstances

The Chairpeson will announce any late items which do not appear on the main agenda but which he has agreed should be considered by reason of special circumstances to be specified in the report.


There were none.


Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests and Whipping pdf icon PDF 471 KB

Members are invited to disclose any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests in accordance with the Member Code of Conduct. Guidance on this is set out in agenda item 4.


Disclosable pecuniary interests


There were none.



Other significant interests (OSI)


There were none.



Other interests


There were none.


Use of Agency Staff and Consultants pdf icon PDF 345 KB

This report provides an overview of the use of agency staff and consultants by the Council and any action being taken by directorate management teams to identify opportunities for a reduction on reliance on off-payroll staff.


The Chief Organisational Culture Officer introduced the report which outlined the use of agency staff where there was a skills shortage in the market and where consultants were employed in project work. She highlighted plans to reduce the number of agency workers through improved recruitment and retention.


The following issues were discussed:


Increase in non-permanent staff – in response to a query why the numbers of non-permanent staff had increased, the Chief Organisational Culture Officer advised Members that during the Covid pandemic, uncertainty relating to sick pay had encouraged staff to take permanent contracts. Now this was no longer the case recruitment and retention had been more challenging, with greater opportunities for home working this had increased competition with neighbouring authorities such as Kent or the Inner London Boroughs. There had also been an increase in project teams to undertake a backlog of work.


Length of Contract – Members were advised that the majority of non-permanent staff contracts were short term and were required to fill established posts. In response to a question how many contracted staff were renewed, the Chief Organisational Culture Officer explained some contracts were renewed periodically on the basis of funding, however, she was not aware of the exact numbers and undertook to provide that information outside of the meeting.


Employee Role – in response to a query, on what roles the 39 agency staff were who were not listed as working in Childrens, Adults or the Legal Department covered, the Chief Organisational Culture Officer reported that they were short term project workers with identified specialist skills which would not be required by the Council over the long term.


Retention of apprentices – in relation to the apprenticeship academy, Members were advised that the Council did look for where apprentices could qualify for 80% of the role so they could find permanent positions within the Council. Further work needed to be undertaken on Medpay to ensure the career progression of apprenticeships.


It was commented that four apprentices for Children’s Social Care was a low number compared to the 200 social workers the Council employed, were there any plans to increase this number? It was explained that the number of apprentices were at a level which could be supported by permanent staff. As the number of vacancies reduced the number of apprentices would be increased.


Exit Surveys – it was asked what action had been undertaken as a result of staff exit surveys and had the Council learned from those lessons. The Chief Organisational Culture Officer noted that data from exit surveys were published and stay interviews were also conducted which looked at why staff remained at the Council and opinion had also been tested through the staff survey with positive results. A key area for development was Medpay, including pay and career progression. The Medpay project delivery team had been increased in response to staff turnover and the staff survey. A new communication and engagement programme had been developed to support staff. There was a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 348.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 176 KB

This item advises Members of the current work programme and allows the Committee to adjust it in the light of latest priorities, issues and circumstances. It gives Members the opportunity to shape and direct the Committee’s activities over the year.

Additional documents:


The Democratic Services Officer introduced the report which set out the Committee’s work programme for 2023/24. He referred to section six of the report which provided information about the selection of task group topics. The Committee was asked to agree the priority order for task groups.


Members debated the priority order of shortlisted topics and the membership and size of task groups. In response to a question regarding the political balance of the task group the Democratic Services Officer explained this reflected previous practice between 2015-2019.


Membership of Joint Task Groups – suggestion was made that a joint task group should have a larger membership and have representation from both Regeneration, Culture and Environment and Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committees. The Democratic Services Officer undertook to discuss the size of a joint task group with colleagues and provide further information to the Committee.


Membership of single task groups – Members debated the membership and size of single tasks groups and, a proposal was put forward for task groups to have seven members (4 Labour and Co-operative, 2 Conservative and 1 Independent Member). Upon being put to the vote, the proposal was lost.


Medway 2.0 - in response to a query whether the Transformation Board which had undertaken similar work to the remit of Medway 2.0 had been abolished, the Chief Operating Officer confirmed it had been abolished and those reports would be considered by Cabinet.


Task Groups priority order – with regards to setting a priority order for the task group topics, Members discussed and agreed the following order:


Air Quality and Public Transport & Active Travel

Medway 2.0

Child Mental Health

New Social Housing Regime

Education Inequality



Work Programme - a Member raised concern at the number of items scheduled to take place at the November meeting with particular reference to pre decision scrutiny of the 2024/25 Budget. A proposal was put forward to move the items Attendance of the Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, and Universal Credit and Welfare Reforms – Annual Progress Report to a later date. Upon being put to the vote the proposal was lost.




1.1       The Committee agreed the work programme at Appendix 1 to the report.


1.2       The Committee noted the work programmes of the other Overview and Scrutiny Committees at Appendix 2


1.3       The Committee agreed the priority order of Task Group topics as: Air Quality and Public Transport & Active Travel, Medway 2.0, Child Mental Health, New Social Housing Inspection Regime and Education Inequality and that, with the exception of the first topic, task groups would be set up with a membership of 5 Councillors (3 Labour, 1 Conservative and 1 Independent Group Member for single task groups only).


1.4       The Committee authorised the Head of Democratic Services to appoint the Members to the first task group once nominations have been received from Group Whips in consultation with the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Opposition Spokesperson.