No declarations of interest were submitted.
No questions or deputations were received.
The minutes of the Scrutiny Board on 11th January were presented for approval and they were duly approved.
The following issues were raised as matters arising from the minutes.
Page 5 (Solihull Economy recommendation) - The Scrutiny Officer advised that the Taskforce Action Plan and a list of key impacts and outcomes emerging from key economic development strategies had been circulated to Members and hardcopies had been made available at the meeting.
Page 5 (housing issues) - A Member of the Scrutiny Board who had not attended the meeting on 11th January asked to be sent the letters which had been sent to the two MPs following consideration of a housing demand and supply report in November 2010, and any responses received. He also inquired whether a response had been received from the MP for Solihull. The Member was advised that no formal response had been received from the MP for Solihull.
Page 7: A Member sought clarification on why professional advice was needed to implement any proposed fixed tenancy scheme for people who were elderly or who had long-term illnesses. The Head of Housing clarified this and provided the context of the nature of discussion at the last meeting.
(i) That the minutes of the meeting held on 11th January be approved as an accurate record of the meeting.
The Policy and Growth Manager presented a report of the Director for Places which provided the Board with an overview of the work and key achievements of the Prosperous Communities Strategic Board and the key challenges for this Board over the next 12 months. She highlighted that the Board had achieved a considerable amount, particularly as two key LAA targets had been met which would enable the Council to receive reward monies from the Government. The Policy and Growth Manager drew Members attention to the key opportunities and challenges facing the Board. She also highlighted that the structures of the Board was likely to change as a result of restructuring from within the Solihull Partnership and the emergence of new structures and bodies such as, the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) and local police commissioners. The Policy and Growth Manager also illustrated that more detailed information about the work of the Board was included within the appendices and the Board was invited to make comments on the progress being made and the challenges ahead.
A Member expressed concern that there was not enough emphasis placed within the identified challenges on tackling homelessness. The Head of Housing acknowledged that tackling homelessness was a key challenge particularly as recently there had been a 26% rise in homelessness applications. He stressed that sufficient resources needed to be maintained in the homelessness prevention service together with increased collaboration with agencies such as the Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB). It was also highlighted that work was ongoing in working with landlords from the Private Rented Sector to encourage them to continue to provide properties to which SCH could nominate tenants
Members also highlighted that it was important for the Prosperous Communities Strategic Group to focus on outcomes and examining the impact of initiatives over time rather than just measuring outputs. Officers highlighted that the outputs and targets had been previously rigorously monitored as they were associated with specific projects and funding streams. However, they agreed that the outcomes approach would be adopted in the future as well as making use of case studies to illustrate how interventions have directly led to positive changes for individuals.
Members were concerned about the sustainability of jobs within the current climate and the need to monitor the impact of key programmes such as the West Midlands Public Sector Hubs and other employability projects. Officers illustrated that this would be monitored to see whether people were still in employment after 12 months of being on an employment programme.
In response to a number of questions and comments from Members, the following points were made:
It had been important that the members of the Prosperous Communities Strategic Group were decision-makers and could commit resources to developing and implementing initiatives and interventions outlined in Prosperous Communities Strategic planning documents.
There were approximately 14,000 people who were defined as workless in Solihull and this could be caused by deep-rooted and inherent cultural issues. There was a need to ensure that these people, particularly the young people, develop stronger aspirations and have access to opportunities to enable them to empower themselves to take steps to improving their quality of life in the future.
The impact on withdrawing the Education Maintenance Grant (EMA) was not yet known but colleges were actively working to sell the benefits of skills development opportunities within their educational settings.
Solihull MBC had been partaking in the West Midlands Public Sector Hub funded by European Social Fund and administered by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. The aims of this had included encouraging at least 36 workless people into jobs and encouraging a change in public sector recruitment practises to be more supportive of employing people who were currently unemployed or workless.
The Solihull Partnership had a role in ensuring that reward monies promised by the Government for achieving LAA Targets materialised. The Council needed to lobby the Solihull Partnership to ensure that this was taken forward and actioned.
The Council had provided the administration for Prosperous Communities Strategic Group. It was noted that since the mid-term review and the reduction of the numbers of partners, the group had been far more effective in carrying out its activities. It had been beneficial in getting key partners to work more collaboratively with the Council on allocation and prioritisation of resources.
The Council had developed a climate change toolkit which they had sought to widely disseminate.
Members wished to also place on record their thanks and appreciation to the Policy and Growth Manager for the way in which she presented information about Solihull Economy and Unemployment levels at a recent Full Council meeting
(i) That the Board note the work carried out the Prosperous Communities Strategic Group and the key challenges for the year ahead.
The Chairman presented a report of the Worklessness Task and Finish Group. He outlined the TFG had focused on examining what the Council needed to prioritise to tackle and address worklessness. He highlighted that a wide range of stakeholders had been involved in the evidence-gathering and it had been valuable to gather a range of perspectives to inform the review process and the formulation of recommendations. The Chairman fully supported and endorsed the findings, conclusions and recommendations within the TFG draft report and invited Members of the Board to provide any additional comments.
Members offered the following suggestions;
The need to ensure that equality and diversity implications were considered and embedded with the report and the recommendations so that emphasis was placed on the most vulnerable groups getting support to access jobs and skills.
To make reference to Jobcentre Plus taking on a strengthened role in improving the way they interact and engage with local residents, particularly young people as part of their changing role. It was also identified that the Jobcentre Plus needed to be providing more focused support to people over 65s and under-16s. Officers highlighted that Jobcentre Plus only dealt with people who are claiming out of work benefits but that supporting other groups could be taken forward through Work Clubs.
To make it clear within the report why it may be difficult to obtain funding to carry out the WorkWise Scheme in pockets of deprivation in the South of the Borough. Officers highlighted this was due to ERDF providing match-funding to Centro's delivery of the programme which was based within key areas where indices of deprivation were at its highest. When the Workwise funding application was developed only the three North Solihull wards were eligible for funding. ERDF was now available in some wards in the South of the Borough but would only fund 50% of costs so match funding would need to be sourced to extend the project to these areas. It was agreed that the Members recommendation around this area should be explored.
Members also placed on record their thanks to Officers who had supported the TFG and witnesses who have given their time, knowledge and skills in carrying out this investigation.
(i) That report of the Worklessness Task and Finish be approved
(ii) That the final report and recommendations be presented to Full Cabinet for an Executive response to the report and recommendations.
The Policy and Growth Manager presented a report of the Director of Place which provided the Board with an overview of the key elements within the Local Economic Assessment (LEA). She drew Members attention to some of the key initiatives and interventions which would be carried out through implementing this Plan. This included:
Developing a Solihull Champion network to encourage business leaders to act as ambassadors for the Borough and promote the benefits of business investment in this area;
Maintaining the Enterprise for Success programme over the next three years; and
Working with businesses and Solihull College to develop work-based curriculums.
In addition, the Employment, Learning and Engagement Manager provided the Board with a rationale for the Work and Skills Plan. She highlighted that the Council had a key role to play as a leader, service provider, employer and procurer in stimulating people to have greater access to jobs and skills in the Borough. The Employment, Learning and Engagement Manager outlined that the Worklessness Task and Finish Group had informed the development of the Plan which emphasised the need to improve links between education and business as well as improving the mechanisms for delivering work experience to young people and increasing access to employment through exploiting planning process. The Board were also informed that the Solihull Chamber of Commerce had endorsed both Plans and they were invited to offer their comments before presentation at Full Cabinet.
Members highlighted the following areas which could be included within the Plans:
The need for the Council to play a role in co-ordinating the relationship between banks, businesses and the public sector and that they be invited to a future Scrutiny Board meeting to discuss progress on working with local stakeholders to regenerate the economy.
Ensuring that Work and Skills Plan placed emphasis on local residents previous experience as well as any qualifications held by local residents[Su2] .
The Council playing a stronger role in being a Champion-enabler' and leading by example
The need for the Council to link with a business advisory board
In response to Members questions / comments, Officers offered the following responses;
The 14-19 Team and the Skills Visioning Group were actively looking at how the delivery of work experience could be improved looking at more creative ways that young people could access this service as well as seeing how the demand for apprenticeship could be met.
The Council was working collaboratively with Jaguar Land Rover to see whether there was scope to support local suppliers.
The Council was facilitating a Visioning Board which comprises businesses as well as a range of other partners to act as an advisor to key business stimulus schemes.
(i) That the LEA Action Plan and Work and Skills Plan be supported subject to the inclusion comments made above.
The Scrutiny Officer and the Chairman highlighted key elements of the report of the Director of Corporate Governance which fed back from the Scrutiny Work Planning Event held on 23rd February which brought together Councillors, Officers, Partners and Members of the Public to input into the development of Scrutiny Board work programme for 2011/12 The Chairman drew Members attention to the issues raised within the Economic Development and Regeneration Scrutiny Board discussion session (Appendix 2) and invited Members of the Board to prioritise issues for inclusion within the Board's work programme for the forthcoming municipal year.
Members made the following comments and suggestions;
Members felt that youth unemployment (item 10) was a key priority and wanted to explore this further as well as look at the progress of implementing the recommendations from the Worklessness Task and Finish Group
Members felt that the Economic Triangle (item 5) was important but felt that a Casino should not be included in the description of the area as this may be seen, however wrongly, to be prejudging a future decision.
Other key areas Members felt were important to keep on their work plan in 2011/12 were the future of social housing, North Solihull Partnership, model for regeneration in the future, the power to take over empty properties.
Members were interested in examining further a number of cross-cutting issues and highlighted that OSMB could play a role in deciding how the issue of fuel poverty and independent living was examined in conjunction with the Healthier Communities Scrutiny Board.
(i) That OSMB provide a steer on how cross-cutting work plan items could be dealt with.
(ii) That the EDRSB use the suggestions above to shape their 2011/12 work plan 2011/12
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