Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Sandwell Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury, B69 3DB
Contact: Democratic Services
Members paid tributes to Sir David Amess, MP for Essex constituency, who was tragically stabbed last week. A minute’s silence was held in his memory.
Members were reminded of the vigil in memory of Sir David Amess which would be held outside the Council House at 5.00pm that day.
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Millard and Simms.
Declarations of Interest
Members to declare any interests in matters to be discussed at the meeting.
There were no declartions of interest made.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2021 as a correct record.
Resolved that the minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2021 be confirmed as 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 consider the recommendations of the Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board into Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transport Models.
The Chair of the Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board presented the recommendations of the Board, following the Scrutiny Review of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transport Models.
The Chair of Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board advised that the Board was aware that all recommendations could not be implemented immediately but hoped to see a gradual improvement in the service with the new provider on board.
In response, the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources confirmed, on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Children and Education, that all the recommendations of the review would be fully considered by Cabinet.
Reason for Decision
The recommendations had been identified by the Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board in order to address the findings of a scrutiny working group into Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transport Models. These recommendations covered matters for Cabinet to consider in relation to the commissioning of SEND Transport at the end of the current extended contract period, matters relating to the longer-term delivery of SEND Transport and other, more general, recommendations on the topic.
Alternative Options Considered
In accordance with the Localism Act 2011, Cabinet was requested to respond to the recommendations of the Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board within two months, setting out any approved recommendations and how they would be implemented.
Cabinet could decide not to consider the recommendations of the Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board arising from the Scrutiny Review of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Transport, however, any potential service improvements would then not be realised.
Agreed that the response to the findings of the Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board be submitted to the Scrutiny Board within two months’ time.
To consider the eight recommendations of the Sandwell Childcare Sufficiency Report 2021-2022.
Consideration was given to the eight recommendations arising from the Sandwell Childcare Sufficiency Report 2021-2022, which detailed how the Council was meeting its duty, as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014, to secure sufficient childcare as follows:-
1. to continue to support childcare providers to deliver high quality, sustainable provision;
2. to improve the quality of the providers which were judged by Ofsted as Requires Improvement or Inadequate by working intensively with them and those that delivered early education funded places;
3. to undertake a parent survey, increasing social media engagement and strengthened links with Jobcentre Plus to understand local demand for childcare;
4. to continue to monitor take-up of 2, 3 and 4 year-old funding and 30 hours codes. To increase promotion of free entitlement ELT and 30 hours and create a more nuanced, targeted approach to marketing;
5. to undertake parent consultation to understand demand for wraparound childcare and how flexible it needed to be. To monitor wraparound childcare to ensure sufficient places were available for families;
6. to continue to work with childcare providers to ensure business viability and monitor for any red flags where providers were at greater risk of closure. To monitor capacity and childcare places to ensure sufficiency through the borough. To promote childminding as a business opportunity;
7. to increase parental engagement to determine how SEND provision should be delivered post-pandemic. To consult with childcare providers to assess any potential short and medium-term gaps for SEND provision, particularly wraparound childcare;
8. to continue to promote the Family Information Service to parents and professionals. To raise awareness of brokerage and online chat facility and engage with families through social media channels.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of the Children’s Services and Education Scrutiny Board in relation to equality of childcare provision across Sandwell’s six towns, effects of lockdown on children who accessed childcare, and concerns regarding the low take-up of provision by two-year-olds, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, in the absence of Cabinet Member for Children and Education, confirmed that:-
• even though quality of provision was comparatively even across six towns, ease of access to childcare places was not. This was due to an uneven number of providers across each town. Factors such as lack of suitable buildings and lack of demand in some parts of the borough contributed to this, as well as parental preferences on whether their child would attend a nursery near their workplace or near home. This created a fluctuating demand that was difficult to plan for;
• it was confirmed that there was no unmet demand for childcare places in the borough this year. Working with childcare brokers, the Council had been able to support all parents to find a suitable placement for their child which would suggest there were no inequalities in access to childcare at present;
• during the pandemic the number of two-year-old children taking up their funded 15 hours had decreased. At the lowest period, in ... view the full minutes text for item 180/21
To award a contract for providing a Storage Area Network (SAN) refresh, for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2027.
Approval was sought to award the contract and accept a tender for supplying a Storage Area Network (SAN), including professional services for implementation and migration from the current platform plus annual maintenance and support, for the period
1 April 2022 to 31 March 2027.
The contract was to be awarded following a compliant further competition and evaluation process under the NHS Shared Business Services, Digital Workplace Solutions Framework agreement.
The new contract would provide an accredited channel reseller to transition the current SAN and replace with new products and services.
The value of the new contract for the 5-year period was estimated to be around £900,000 based on market engagement.
Reasons for Decision
In accordance with the Council’s Procurement & Contract Procedure Rules (Rule 15) an exemption from any rule for a contract above £250,000 must be approved by Cabinet.
The current SAN was being provided by the manufacturer - NetApp – and some of the support offered had now reached the end of supported life. The last refresh was in 2014. The current support contract was also due to expire on 31 March 2022 and the Council would then have to continue with a new, best endeavours contract, due to the potential reduction in the availability of spare parts.
Alternative Options Considered
The alternative of a do-nothing approach was not feasible, as it would result in no software updates being available and potentially a lack of availability of spare parts, e.g. new discs or system boards in the event of failure. This would present both major cyber security and operational risks for the Council if data could not be accessed or was totally lost.
A cloud data storage approach was feasible but not within the timescale for needing to refresh the current on-premise SAN. The Council would continue a gradual migration to cloud services where this was the smart approach to take, e.g. value for money, functionality, etc. However, it was not easy to lift and shift data from on premise to a cloud service and sufficient time was necessary to ensure the data is cleansed and structured ready for migration.
As the COVID pandemic still presented a significant challenge for the Council, it would not be wise to radically change the way our workforce accessed its data and the strategic approach to buy a new SAN was a sound one both commercially and operationally. By the end of the 5-year SAN contract it was envisaged that the Council would have orientated towards a more cloud than on premise approach meaning we would then be able to reduce the need for a SAN of the size we need to purchase now.
(1) that the Director of Business Strategy and Change, along with the Director of Finance and Section 151 Officer, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, be authorised to award a contract for providing a Storage Area Network (SAN) refresh, for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2027, via a compliant further competition ... view the full minutes text for item 181/21
To award a contract to undertake the Composite Door Programme to various properties within the North of the housing stock owned by Sandwell Council.
Approval was sought to award the contract to undertake the Composite Door Programme to various properties within the North of the housing stock owned by the Council to Sycamore Windows Limited for a contract period of two years, from November 2021 to October 2023, to a value of £10 million (£5 million per annum).
The delivery of this programme would include both planned programmes of door replacement as well as reactive maintenance where existing doors fail or are not fit for purpose.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of the Economy, Skills, Transport and Environment Scrutiny Board, the Cabinet Member for Housing confirmed that Councillors would be provided with the timetable for the door replacement programme in the next few weeks. For Council homes that were part of existing planned programme of works, replacement of doors was included. For homes not covered by planned programmes, doors were to be replaced according to a prioritised schedule that was separate to the planned programme.
Reasons for Decision
In accordance with the Council’s Procurement and Contract Procedure Rules (Rule 15) an exemption from any rule for a contract above £250,000 must be approved by Cabinet.
Since Cabinet awarded these works within the North of the Borough at its Cabinet meeting of 17 March 2021, both the appointed contractor Lovell Partnerships Limited and the third-place contractor had formally withdrawn their bids owing to not being able to hold their bids at their prices as tendered, leaving the fourth placed contractor as being the most economically advantageous tender submitted for the North.
The second placed contractor had already been awarded the contract to undertake composite door replacements within the South of the Borough and therefore could not be considered, as Contractors were afforded the opportunity of applying for one or both contract areas but would only be awarded one contract.
The award of the works contract to the fourth placed bidder, Sycamore Window Limited, was deemed to provide value for money and was still within the original budget allocation for these works.
An option existed to re-procure the works within the North of the Borough. It was felt, however, that owing to the current uncertainty around material prices within the industry, the tender of Sycamore Windows Limited provided the best value option and outweighed the cost of re-tendering and the risk of receiving higher bids. If the Council was to re-procure, alternative doors might have to be evaluated and there would be the possibility of costs being higher now due to the unstable market.
It was not possible to award the works within the North of the Borough to Nationwide Windows Limited, who were the Contractor appointed to deliver these works in the South of the Borough as Contractors were afforded the opportunity of applying for one or both contract areas but could only be awarded one contract.
Another option was to continue to undertake the replacement of Composite Doors within the North via the Contractor currently delivering an External Refurbishment ... view the full minutes text for item 182/21
To utilise Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) Framework to supply Mains Gas to Council sites for the period 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2027.
Approval was sought to utilise Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) Framework to appoint Total Energies Gas and Power Ltd to supply Mains Gas to Council sites for the period 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2027.
ESPO was a Central Purchasing Body (CPB), defined in the Public-Sector Contract Regulations as a contracting authority that:
• acquired goods and services intended for one or more contracting authorities;
• awarded public contracts intended for one or more contracting authorities;
• concluded framework agreements for goods, services or works intended for one or more contracting authorities.
The most recognisable CPBs were known as the Pro5.The Pro5 was a group of regional local government CPBs that provided procurement services to the wider public sector and along with the Crown Commercial Service offered accredited Public Contracts Regulations 2015 compliant energy frameworks. The Pro5 members were:
• Central Buying Consortium (CBC Laser)
• Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO)
• North Eastern Purchasing Organisation (NEPO)
• Consortium Education (formerly West Mercia Supplies)
• Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO).
It was proposed that participation in ESPO Framework 192_23 would be for the period 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2027 and based on current levels of consumption and price, the expenditure during the four-year period would have a value of £4,064 000.
In response to a question from the Chair of the Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board on whether the Council benefited from participation in ESPO energy framework, and why ESPO chose Total Energies Gas & Power Ltd to supply Mains Gas to Council sites, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources responded that participation in ESPO offered financial advantages in terms of flexible purchasing whereby energy was purchased from winning bidder in advance, when commodity prices were at their lowest. Flexible purchasing also limited exposure to rising costs by securing energy requirements in advance at multiple opportunities rather than at a single decision point. The provider was chosen following the evaluation of returned tenders, with the bid submitted by Total Energies Gas & Power Ltd being the most competitive.
Reason for Decision
The Pan-Government Energy Project was launched back in 2007 to improve the standard of energy procurement across the public sector. The key recommendation was that all public-sector organisations adopted one of the aggregated, flexible and risk managed energy procurement frameworks that were put in place by the recognised Central Purchasing Bodies (CPB) that had been evaluated by the Government’s Project Strategy Team against best practice criteria.
In 2011, the energy frameworks provided by these CPBs were reviewed by the Council’s Corporate Procurement Service and approval was provided to participate in the agreements offered by ESPO. Since this time, the Council had participated in the ESPO energy frameworks and had a representative on their stakeholder governance panel that established and reviewed the effectiveness of price risk strategy and purchasing performance.
The Council currently had 234 gas supply points that were included in the current ESPO energy framework arrangement that commenced in April 2019 and was due to ... view the full minutes text for item 183/21
To seek approval for the extension to the existing Community Care (Domiciliary Care) Framework Agreements for the period 1 March 2022 to 31 August 2022.
Approval was sought for the extension to the existing Community Care (Domiciliary Care) Framework Agreements for the period 1 March 2022 to 31 August 2022.
Reasons for Decision
It remained the intention of the Council to secure a new model of delivering Domiciliary Care by 1 March 2022 and a procurement was underway to achieve that objective. However, approval for an extension to existing arrangements, as a contingency measure, was now sought should the new model not be delivered for service commencement by 1 March 2022.
An options appraisal had been completed by Commissioners to consider alternative options should the new model of domiciliary care not be delivered for service commencement on 1 March 2022 and option 3 in the options appraisal table was the preferred solution.
(1) that an exemption to the Council’s Procurement and Contract Procedure Rules be approved to allow an extension to the existing Community Care (Domiciliary Care) Framework Agreements for the period 1 March 2022 to 31 August 2022 to allow for a contract extension to be effected given no further extension provisions exist within the existing contract terms;
(2) that, subject to (1) above, the Director of Adult Social Care be authorised to extend the existing Community Care (Domiciliary Care) Framework Agreements from
1 March 2022 to 31 August 2022 if the new model of purchasing domiciliary care was not deliverable by
1 March 2022;
(3) that the Director of Law and Governance and Monitoring Officer, or their designated representative, be authorised to execute any documents necessary within a reasonable time to give effect to the proposal in (1) above, should the enactment of the recommendation be necessitated.
To consider proposals for the Council to announce their ‘Intention to Declare’ the whole Borough of Sandwell as a Smoke Control Area (SCA) under the Clean Air Act 1993.
Consideration was given for Cabinet to endorse and recommend to the Council the proposal for Sandwell Council to announce their Intention to Declare the whole Borough of Sandwell as a Smoke Control Area (SCA) under the Clean Air Act 1993.
The Chair of the Economy, Skills, Transport and Environment Scrutiny Board queried how the smoke control order would be enforced and whether this would be financed through existing budgets. In response, the Cabinet Member for Adults, Social Care and Health confirmed that enforcement would be carried out using existing budgets and would be enforced in the same way other local authorities enforced their smoke control areas, by following the graduated route set down in the Regulators’ Code, from informal advice right through to prosecution in some circumstances. Members would be provided with a full briefing later in the week.
Reasons for Decision
Sandwell Council had a duty to assess air quality and where necessary take appropriate action to protect the health of those living and working in the Borough.
There had been concerns about poor air quality in Sandwell. In 2020 Sandwell Council undertook a public consultation on Climate Change and Air Quality. Of the 654 responses, 70% strongly agreed that improving air quality should be a key priority for Sandwell MBC.
Out of 72 local authorities found to have dangerous background concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in 2019, Sandwell and Leicester were the only two local authorities that had these exceedances outside of London and the South East of England.
PM2.5 concentrations and other toxic emissions were closely associated with domestic burning. PM2.5 had a significant impact on human health. It could cause coughs, dizziness, inflamed airways and shortness of breath. It increased the risk of pneumonia, COPD and lung cancer as well as heart disease and stroke, leading to early death. It could also impact pregnancy and the development of children’s lungs.
The use of open fires and solid-fuel burning stoves had risen in popularity over recent years and concerns continued about the current and future impact on urban air quality.
At present many properties in the Borough could still legally burn unauthorised fuels (i.e. wood and coal) in non-exempted appliances. The proposed new single Smoke Control Area would address this inequality.
To continue with Sandwell’s 51 Smoke Control Orders would mean that differing legal requirements would remain for exempted properties compared to other parts of the borough. This would be inequitable and result in mixed messages and potential greater levels of non-compliance by those in existing smoke control areas who consider themselves unfairly penalised.
Air pollution was already impacting negatively on our economy and health - the do nothing option would result in higher costs to the health and lower the quality of life for those who lived and worked in Sandwell.
To award a contract for the renewal of the tenant’s home contents insurance scheme for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2025.
Approval was sought to authorise the Director of Housing to award a contract for the renewal of the tenant’s home contents insurance scheme through the current agreement with the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2025.
Approval was also sought to authorise the Director of Housing to extend the renewal of the tenant’s home contents insurance scheme through the current agreement with the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) from 1 April 2025 to 31 March 2026.
Reasons for Decision
Sandwell Council had utilised Marsh as a broker to source a low cost, non-discriminatory scheme for tenants for the past 16 years. This was designed to provide insurance options for financially excluded tenants who might otherwise be excluded for reasons such as high excess, high premiums, or living in a high-risk postcode area. Home contents insurance promotes resilience and independence for our tenants/policy holders.
The unique selling point of the scheme was there was no excess for policy holders and all tenants could join for the same rate, regardless of the postcode. The cover was from £4,000 to £40,000 and was on a new for old basis.
The value of the contract was dependent on the take up of the scheme by our tenants. Based on the 12 months from August 2020 to July 2021, premiums collected were £262,809. As the value was in excess of £250,000 threshold, this was deemed a key decision, which required the decision to be made by Cabinet.
The Council could decide to no longer offer Tenant Home Contents Insurance, however, this was not recommended as it would financially exclude council tenants from an affordable home contents insurance scheme.
Alternatively, the Council could cease use of the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) contract and procure their own insurer independently. However, this option was not recommended as the NHC had members across the country that had joined to take advantage of a wide range of frameworks it could access through the consortium procurement. Moving away from this would eliminate any economies of scale benefits.
(1) that the Director of Housing be authorised to award a contract for the renewal of the tenant’s home contents insurance scheme through the current agreement with the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2025;
(2) that, in connection with (1) above, the Director of Housing be authorised to extend the renewal of the tenant’s home contents insurance scheme through the current agreement with the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) from 1 April 2025 to 31 March 2026;
(3) that the Director of Housing in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing be authorised to seek contract terms via the NHC for tenants contents insurance and make the necessary arrangements to put this into place;
(4) that the Director of Law and Governance and Monitoring Officer be authorised to execute any documentation necessary to enable the above;
(5) that any necessary exemptions be made to the Council’s Procurement ... view the full minutes text for item 186/21
To consider proposals to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for West Bromwich Town Centre.
Approval was sought for a proposal to implement a Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) for West Bromwich Town Centre.
The Cabinet Member for Community Safety presented the report and underlined that the main aim of this measure was to enable Council officers and partners to better engage with people who were vagrant or suffering from addiction. The measure should be managed appropriately and not become a means of criminalising people who were already poor and in crisis.
It was underlined that 84% of respondents to public consultation were in favour of renewing the order and a significant number of respondents expressed concerns about going to West Bromwich town centre. It was highlighted that responses from public consultation underlined the need for PSPO to be in place alongside measures such as engagement. It was deemed vital that agencies work together and with people affected to intervene in a manner proportionate to the scale of each case.
The Cabinet Member for Community Safety asked officers to investigate the effectiveness of PSPO given that for the last 18 months no penalty notices were given mainly due to people not visiting shops during COVID pandemic, and that only 66 penalty notices were handed during the first 3 years of operation of the PSPO (1 August 2018 to 31 July 2021).
Officers were asked to investigate how to raise awareness of wardens and public with regards to the prohibition on parking on footpaths as in the first 3 years of PSPO operation in West Bromwich town centre no fine was issued for this offence.
Officers were also asked to investigate the possibility of extending the PSPO in respect of parking on footpaths to the rest of the borough.
In response to concerns raised by the Chair of the Economy, Skills, Transport and Environment Scrutiny Board that anti-social behaviour remained a serious issue in the borough, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety responded it was the intention of the Council to liaise with police and other agencies to find ways of being more effective and proactive in enforcing the PSPO. It was also deemed important to allocate a councillor to sit on the Board of West Bromwich Business Improvement District (BID).
Reasons for Decision
In August 2018, following significant consultation and public support, SMBC introduced the West Bromwich Town Centre Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). PSPOs last for up to 3 years and then need to be reviewed. This PSPO expired on the 1 August 2021, however, public consultation and a review of the first 3 years had shown there was ongoing support for continuing with a new PSPO as part of a suit of measures to tackle anti-social behaviour within the town centre.
Since its introduction, 66 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) had been issued. However, as well as providing useful enforcement powers, this PSPO had provided additional engagement opportunities to improve behaviour and enable support to be offered where necessary. This PSPO was to operate in tandem with the Boroughwide Alcohol PSPO which was renewed ... view the full minutes text for item 187/21