Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Sandwell Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury, B69 3DB
Contact: Democratic Services
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors R Singh, E M Giles and Hartwell.
Declarations of Interest
Members to declare any interests in matters to be discussed at the meeting.
There were no interests declared at the meeting.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 20 October 2021 as a correct record.
Resolved that the minutes of the meeting held on 20 October 2021 are a correct record
Additional Items of Business
To determine whether there are any additional items of business to be considered as a matter of urgency.
There were no additional items of business to consider.
To implement a Boroughwide Public Space Protection Order for Nitrous Oxide making it an offence for any person not to surrender any nitrous oxide canisters.
Consideration was given to approve the implementation of a Boroughwide Public Space Protection Order for Nitrous Oxide making it an offence for any person, when requested by an authorised officer, not to surrender any nitrous oxide canisters, with effect from 1 December 2021 for a period of 3 years.
Implementation of this Boroughwide Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) would give designated officers powers to seize and dispose of any canisters found in a person’s possession, in a similar way to the Boroughwide Alcohol PSPO already in place.
It was intended to help combat crime and Anti-Social Behaviour in the Borough and support public health. It would also provide a public statement of intent and provide residents with assurance that SMBC were listening to their concerns and taking appropriate action.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of Economy Skills Transport and Environment Scrutiny Board in relation to what the Council could do to lobby the government against the widespread usage of laughing gas, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety highlighted that the misuse of nitrous oxide cannisters was a national problem. On 3 September 2021, the Home Secretary commissioned the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to review nitrous oxide harms.
Dependent on the ACMDs findings, this may result in NOS being scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, making possession for recreational purposes an offence. Sandwell Council would be part of this review led by Public Health and would respond in writing to the Advisory Council. Sandwell would also continue to work on this regionally through our work with the Police and Crime Commissioner and through the West Midlands Community Safety Partnership.
Reason for Decision
The implementation of a PSPO would increase the range of powers available to tackle this issue which was a considerable concern across the Borough.
As well as providing useful enforcement powers such an order, it also provided additional engagement opportunities to improve behaviour and enable support to be offered where necessary.
This PSPO was supported by Sandwell’s Multi Agency Borough Tasking Group including Public Health.
Alternative Options Considered
Sandwell had no other specific controls in place in relation to the inappropriate use of nitrous oxide. It was not an illegal substance. Littering regulations were in place however to enforce littering it needed to be witnessed. There were no other controls in place that provided powers to confiscate the cannisters. The council could continue as we were but this
would not provide an opportunity to target this issue. There was clearly a strength of feeling from the public consultation and partners to indicate significant support to strengthen what we currently had in place and the issue was clearly a public concern. This option provided opportunities for engagement and education.
(1) that approval be given to the implementation of a Boroughwide Public Space Protection Order for Nitrous Oxide making it an offence for any person, when requested by an authorised officer, not to surrender any nitrous oxide canisters, with effect ... view the full minutes text for item 37/21
To consider term-time charges for Sandwell Residential Education Centres for the period 1 August 2022 - 31 July 2023.
The proposed charges would make the centres accessible to as many Sandwell children and school groups as possible, whilst generating sufficient income to provide a high-quality service at zero revenue cost to the Council.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of Children Services and Education, the Cabinet Member for Children and Education stated that in a typical year, there were more than 90 Sandwell schools that used the Centres. 102 Sandwell schools had used the service in the last 3 years. This did not include programmes such as Sandwell Young Carers, The Albion Foundation, and Sandwell Virtual School (LACE) in the figures.
Furthermore, 204 different non-Sandwell schools had visited in the last 3 years. Each September, Sandwell schools were given the first opportunity to reserve their preferred dates in the centres for the following school year before opening out to non-Sandwell schools.
It was also confirmed that all Sandwell children had a reduced fee:
· 20% reduction for children at Sandwell academy schools.
· 30% reduction for children at maintained schools. This equated to a subsidy of £74 to £111 per pupil per week.
· Looked After Children from Sandwell visiting during term time come free of charge.
· Where possible a further reduction for larger groups that are able to visit was applied. This comes, in part, by passing on an operational cost saving when a greater number of children visit.
Currently, no Home Educated pupils used the centres. However, two initiatives were upcoming to support this. Sandwell would look to work with established groups for this and would look at ways of engaging Home Educated children. The need for additional pastoral staffing would need to be considered if children visit overnight without an established relationship with group leaders in place.
Reason for Decision
The intention was to have centres occupied for as much of the school year as possible, increasing attendance and positive outcomes for Sandwell children, and generating income year-round.
The proposed charges were an increase of 2.4% on 2021-22 charges, in line with the consumer price index as of July 2021, rounded to the nearest pound.
An above-inflation increase of £10 during two months in high season at the Frank Chapman Centre was proposed, to meet additional costs when demand was high.
The centres were open to Sandwell maintained schools, Sandwell academy schools, and non-Sandwell schools and groups. The business plan aimed to retain Sandwell children participation of 15 000 term-time bed nights, or 4 750 residential pupil visits, per year. The proportion of non-Sandwell schools using the centres had risen in recent years, bringing in more income; but there was capacity to accommodate more Sandwell schools and children.
Sandwell Looked After Children would continue to be able to attend the centres free of charge with their schools during term-time.
The proposed new charges would be effective from ... view the full minutes text for item 38/21
To procure Best Interest Assessor services via the call-off agreement the Council has in place.
Approval was sought to procure Best Interest Assessor services via the call-off agreement the Council had in place with Hays Specialist Recruitment Limited, since January 2018, under the provisions of the Birmingham City Council Managed Service Contract for the Provision of Temporary Agency Workers.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board, the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources understood the concerns expressed on the current overspend on external resource and reported that this option was currently being reviewed as part of new legislation coming in.
Furthermore, Sandwell had a contract with Hays, which was part of Birmingham City Council Framework, for sourcing all agency workers. Whilst it was aimed to align external assessors recruited directly with the agency to the framework, HR resourcing management team would look into the possibility of recruiting providers from within Sandwell.
The proposal would allow for the Sandwell Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards service to be compliant with the procurement rules and to align the recruitment of Best Interest Assessors with the Hays Framework.
The Sandwell DoLS (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) service had outsourced its Best Interest Assessors directly with the recruitment agency and this fell outside the formal procurement arrangements.
There was a need to ensure the procurement of Best Interest Assessors meet Procurement Regulations, facilitate market testing and fair competition for this service.
The Council had statutory responsibilities under the provision of the Mental Capacity Act (2005) to complete formal Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding (DoLS) best interest assessments when a person who lacked the mental capacity to consent to their care or treatment was being deprived of their liberty in a care home or hospital to keep them safe
In order to meet those responsibilities, the Council needed to appoint Best Interest Assessors on an as and when required basis.
The alternative was for the Council to consider its internal staff to support the Best Interest Assessment work. This option was challenging and not feasible due to the specialist training and qualification required that was currently suspended by many Universities due to efforts in preparation for the new legislation, Liberty Protection Safeguards.
The other alternative was for the Council to continue procuring the Best Interest Assessors directly with the recruitment agency. However, this option was currently presenting its challenges as assessors were being sourced outside of the Birmingham City Council framework.
Procurement of these services as a single contracting authority had proved difficult because of the strong demand on resources and the level of specialism required. The Council had been procuring services on an ad hoc basis. The proposed call off arrangement with Hays Specialist Recruitment Limited would give greater certainty of availability of resources and a more robust contractual basis for the services.
(1) that approval be given to procure Best Interest Assessor services via the call-off agreement the Council has in place with Hays Specialist Recruitment Limited, since January 2018, under ... view the full minutes text for item 39/21
To approve the Highway Winter Service Operational Plan 2021/22.
Approval was sought for the Highway Winter Service Operational Plan for 2021/21.
Road users and the wider community placed a high value on keeping traffic moving safely in snow and freezing winter weather. Failure to do so could result in adverse economic and social impacts, public dissatisfaction and significant reputational damage.
The Council had a statutory duty ‘to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway was not endangered by snow or ice’. The duty was not absolute, but decisions must be taken on reasonable grounds with due care and regard to relevant considerations set out in best practice guidance.
To meet this duty, winter service operations were carried out to prevent ice forming (precautionary salting), melt ice already formed (post salting) and remove snow accumulations by using ground rock salt which is stored at Taylors Lane Depot in Oldbury.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of Economy Skills Transport and Environment Scrutiny Board, the Cabinet Member for Environment stated that the vast majority of our Winter Service Operational Plan weather and road temperature monitoring, duty rotas, managing grit stocks and the precautionary gritting of carriageways was undertaken by the in-house Highways team to an established program. Serco were responsible for gritting priority footways such as high streets and town centres.
The client team had discussed winter maintenance operations with Serco and Serco had provided assurances that they could provide the service as part of an overall established programme of gritting work that had worked well for several years. The service the client team had provided, particularly during bad spells of weather, had been generally well received by the public.
Last winter, Serco had supported maintenance of vaccination and testing stations. This would remain a priority for this coming winter. If a heavy and prolonged hoar frost or snow was forecast the Winter Maintenance Duty Officer would liaise directly with the Serco call out team to initiate the necessary gritting activity and in the event of prolonged snow was forecast senior members of Highways, the Service Manager responsible for the Serco contract and senior members of the Serco Team meet to ensure an adequate response
Sandwell’s Grounds Maintenance personnel staff also played a vital part on the precautionary gritting rota and were available to support other parts of Winter Maintenance Plan if it proved necessary to do so.
Reasons for Decision
Given high service costs it was not ‘reasonably practicable' to provide the service on all parts of the network nor ensure running surfaces are always kept free of ice or snow. Sandwell therefore apply a risk-based approach that reflected advice and recommendations contained in the relevant Codes of Practice.
There was no recommended affordable alternative to mitigate the safety risks addressed by the Winter Service Operational Plan 2021/22.
Agreedthat approval be given to the Highway Winter Service Operational Plan 2021/22 as now submitted.
To award a contract for the provision of Road Markings, Specialist Surfacing and Studs; for general maintenance of new and existing road markings around the Borough.
Approval was sought to authorise the Interim Director of Borough Economy to award a contract for the provision of Road Markings, Specialist Surfacing and Studs; for general maintenance of new and existing road markings around the Borough following a compliant competitive tender process
in collaboration with Dudley MBC and Wolverhampton City Council.
Road users and the wider community placed a high value on keeping traffic moving safely around the Borough. Ensuring road markings were visible and understandable was vital for road safety. They communicated important information to road users, help them safely navigate the road network and
highlight upcoming hazards. Failure to adequately maintain road markings could result in accidents, avoidable congestion, consequent adverse economic and social impacts, public dissatisfaction and significant reputational damage.
As the Local Highway Authority; the Council had a statutory duty to ensure the road was maintained in a safe and useable manner.
To meet this duty, routine maintenance of road markings was undertaken across the Borough. This incorporated both general road markings and those road markings which communicated restrictions such as double yellow lines and red routes.
The road marking contract was also used for the installation of advisory spaces for disabled badge holders. The framework tender was a collaboration with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Wolverhampton City Council in order that Sandwell could benefit from economies of scale and reduced tendering costs.
Reason for Decision
Cabinet approval was sought to approve the award of a framework tender in collaboration with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Wolverhampton City Council for a period of up to 4 years for Superimposed Road Markings, Specialist Surfacing and Studs.
The current contract for the supply of Superimposed Road Markings Specialist Surfacing and Studs was due to expire on 31st January 2022.
The tendering exercise would aim to ensure seamless operations remained in place and to enable a smooth and efficient switch to the new contract.
The exercise would be carried out by Sandwell MBC acting as lead authority, in collaboration with Dudley MBC and Wolverhampton City Council who would utilise the contract to support their own road marking operations.
It was anticipated that the combined value of the framework agreement over a 4-year period would be between £1,000,000 and £1,500,000, of which Sandwell’s proportion was estimated to be approximately half based on historic usage.
There were no recommended affordable alternatives to maintain existing road markings, specialist surfacing and Studs.
(1) that the Interim Director of Borough Economy be authorised to awarda contract for the provision of Road Markings, Specialist Surfacing andStuds; for general maintenance of new and existing road markingsaround the Borough following a compliant competitive tender processin collaboration with Dudley MBC and Wolverhampton City Council;
(2) that the Director of Law and Governance – Monitoring Officer be authorised to execute any documentation necessary to enable Resolution (1) above;
(3) that any necessary exemptions be made to the Procurement and Contract Procedure Rules to enable the course of action referred to in ... view the full minutes text for item 41/21
To consider amendments to the Black Country Executive Joint Committee Collaboration Agreement.
Approval was sought to make amendments to the Black Country Executive Joint Committee Collaboration Agreement covering the Joint Committee Advisory Board removal.
Reasons for Decision
The Collaboration Agreement set out the role of the Black Country Executive Joint Committee (BCJC) and how the Black Country Councils and the Black Country Consortium would work together. The Collaboration Agreement included an acceptance of delegated authority from each of the Councils Cabinets for the BCJC to act as the decision making body for identified programmes.
At its meeting on 5 November 2020, ABCA Chief Executives considered proposals for streamlining the BCJC governance arrangements and processes, and the option of removing Joint Committee Advisory Board approval stage and increasing the number of BCJC meetings was endorsed. It was followed by ABCA Leaders (9 December 2020) and
Joint Committee Advisory Board (1 February 2021).
The removal of the Joint Committee Advisory Board resulted in the Heads of Regeneration Working Group holding the responsibility for consultation on all reports requiring recommendation to BCJC, including with the Cabinet Portfolio Holders. To ensure continuous visibility and
Transparency, Heads of Regeneration now briefed their respective Regeneration Cabinet Portfolio Holder on all of the reports, from across the Black Country, which required Heads of Regeneration Working Group endorsement.
The increase of BCJC meeting frequency ensured that key time-bound projects could receive approvals as required, reducing any delays. However, if there were no items on the BCJC forward plan meetings would be cancelled.
The revised process was still compliant with requirements set out within the National and Local Assurance Frameworks following individual project assessments and spend recommendations by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.
BCJC approved and adopted the current governance arrangements at its meeting on 17 February 2021. The BCJC Constitution and Protocols, and the BCLEP Local Assurance Framework had been updated to reflect these changes and were approved by the BCJC at its Annual General Meeting on 23 June 2021.
Failure to approve the proposed amendment to the Collaboration Agreement may impact on the operation of the BCJC which had successfully administered a number of complex government programmes including Growth Deal over the past five years. It was unlikely that Sandwell MBC would be able to access this funding without being part of the Collaboration agreement.
(1) that approval be given to amendments to the Black Country ExecutiveJoint Committee Collaboration Agreement covering the Joint CommitteeAdvisory Board removal, as now submitted;
(2) that the Director of Regeneration and Growth and the Director of Finance be authorised to draft and enter into the appropriate Black Country Executive Joint Committee Collaboration Agreement Deed of Variation;
(3) that the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader of the Council, be authorised to take part in any negotiations and to make any minor amendments in connection with above, prior to its sealing as a Deed.
To approve the revised Corporate Health & Safety Policy.
Approval was sought to the revised corporate Health and Safety Policy. The Council was legally required to have a Health and Safety (H&S) policy that was formally reviewed at regular intervals.
Reasons for Decision
The policy was formally reviewed every three years.
Consultation had already taken place amongst the Leadership team and Trade Union safety representative colleagues.
There had been a few minor but no substantial changes to the policy during this formal review. The minor amendments included;
• Names of Chief Executive and Council Leader amended to reflect current incumbents,
• Removing reference to “EMT” and replacing with “Leadership”,
• Incorporating “Infection Control” and “SMART/Home Working” as standalone arrangements,
• Updating and merging of arrangements for “Occupational Road Risk” and “Vehicle movements on site” into one “Driver & Vehicle Safety” arrangement.
There were no alternative options as it was a legal requirement for employers to have a recorded H&S
Agreed that approval be given to the revised corporate Health & Safety Policy as now submitted.
To approve the use of Household Support Fund to provide financial support to eligible Sandwell residents.
Approval was sought to use the Household Support Fund to provide financial support to those Sandwell residents who were most in need this winter and to provide support to families who received free school meals with food vouchers during the school holidays in October, December 2021, February and April 2022 at a cost of £1.67 million, providing additional support for around 18,700 households.
Approval was also sought to provide aa sum of £123,000 to food banks to purchase food and other essential items and to include the setting up of 3 new food pantries.
Consideration was given to the criteria for Household Support Fund payment award and approval was sought for the Household Support Fund Policy 2021-22.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of Children Services and Education, the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources stated that West Bromwich and Oldbury would be the towns to have the 3 new food pantries. Discussions were being held with a number of partners to identify potential venues and capacity. West Bromwich and Oldbury had been selected as there were already pantries in Rowley Regis, Smethwick, Tipton and Wednesbury with each town in Sandwell having at least one.
Reasons for Decision
The Government had made available £500m to councils to support those most in need this winter during the final stages of economic recovery. This had been made available to councils earlier in October. Sandwell had been allocated funding of £3,471,442, for the period 6th October 2021 to 31st March 2022.
At least 50% of the total funding must be spent on families with children, and for Sandwell this was £1.7m.
Funding would be provided to support families who received free school meals with food vouchers during the school holidays in October, December 2021, February and April 2022. This would cost £1.67m and would provide additional support for around18,700 households.
The Household Support Fund would be administered by Revenues and Benefits. We know from our Council Tax Reduction records that there are around 21,000 households which receive financial help towards their Council Tax as they were on low incomes. These households would be written to in order to invite them to make an application.
The Government guidance stated that the Household Support Fund may be awarded to households not currently in receipt of DWP welfare benefits.
This approach could be considered in future application windows after the initial window from the 5 November to the 3 December 2021
(1) that approval be given to use the Household Support Fund to provide financial support to those Sandwell residents who are most in need this winter;
(2) that approval be given to use the Household Support Fund to provide support to families who receive free school meals with food vouchers during the school holidays in October, December 2021, February and April 2022 at a cost of £1.67 million, providing additional support for around 18,700 households.
(3) that approval be given to use the Household Support ... view the full minutes text for item 44/21
To note a decision taken by the Leader of the Council on a matter of urgency.
Details of the urgent action taken by the Leader of the Council were given, in relation to giving approval to authorising the Acting Operational Director of Children and Education to allocate £90,000 of the Extended Local Support Grant and £180,000 from the Emergency Covid Funding to provide food vouchers to families with children who are eligible for a free school meal for the October 2021 school half term period, be received.
The matter was urgent and could not be delayed until the next Cabinet meeting as otherwise the opportunity to fund meal vouchers for the October half term week would have been missed.
Reasons for Decision
It was proposed to continue to support vulnerable families in receipt of Free School Meals with food vouchers for the upcoming school half term holiday.
The proposal was possible with the recent announcement by the Government that a new grant allocation, the Household Support Grant, in the sum of £3,471,442, would shortly be allocated to the Local Authority, 50% of which should be made available to support households with children.
As the total value of the vouchers was estimated to be in the region of £267,000, executive approval was required to allocate grant funding and approve spend above £250,000.
An urgent decision was requested to avoid losing the opportunity to fund meal vouchers for the October half term week.
For children on a school roll, Schools would receive a payment from the Council to purchase vouchers directly from Wonde, continuing with their existing procurement arrangements.
For children not on a school roll, vouchers would be purchased and issued to parents / carers using Black Hawk, a specialist company previously engaged by the Authority.
An urgent decision by the Leader of the Council was requested to proceed with allocation of the grant funding identified to purchase meal vouchers for children, either in receipt of Free School Meals, or not on a school roll but who would be eligible to receive Free School Meals.
Do nothing was not a realistic option as to date the council’s food voucher scheme has supported some of our most vulnerable families.
Use of alternative voucher suppliers:
Children on roll: schools had the option to use Wonde, who they had primarily used for previous schemes, or to approach alternative voucher providers.
Children not on roll: research undertaken prior to extending the original Black Hawk contract to issue food vouchers found that either, not all major food retailers based in local communities were available through the voucher supplier, or that for those that were listed, limited food options were available to families.
Increased vouchers value: The current value was in line with the Free School Meal daily price per meal.
Development of a Council Voucher Scheme: the requirement was time limited, requiring extensive negotiations with major food retailers based in our communities. The cost benefit analysis of continuing with recent providers, namely Wonde and Black Hawk with a tailor-made package far outweighs the work and cost required to negotiate a ... view the full minutes text for item 45/21