By way of introduction the Senior Scrutiny Officer submitted a report which included a schedule detailing proposed attendance by individual Members of the Executive to meetings of the Board. It was intended for Executive Members to provide updates on their respective work in terms of their aims, aspirations, objectives, priorities and any emerging issues especially having regard to the current financial pressures and ways of mitigating such circumstances. The process was part of the scrutiny arrangements of holding the Executive and Executive Members to account and also provided the opportunity for the Board to identify or highlight any issues of concern or difficulty.
The Chair welcomed the Mayor, Ray Mallon to the meeting who indicated his intention to focus on a number of key strategic and operational priorities for 2011-2015 as identified in a document circulated at the meeting which continued to be revised as circumstances dictated.
From the outset it was acknowledged that to safeguard the finances of the Council was imperative and given the drastically reduced budgets there was a need to consider how to deal with a changing culture to ensure that the Council was fit for purpose now and in the future.
Of continuing importance was the demand led pressures within safeguarding and an increasing number of children looked after with complex needs and pressures with regard to adult social care. If the financial cuts imposed by the Government continued together with increasing demand for adult and children's social care it was expected that over the coming years that such costs would amount to over 75% of the Council's budget.
The Mayor referred to detailed information presented to the Council at its meeting held on 3 July 2013 when it had been stated that the envisaged financial cuts between 2010/2011 to 2019/2020 was likely to amount to £137.3 million. An indication was given of the complexities of the current situation and the likelihood of such an overall figure increasing.
In discussing the overall partnership arrangements confirmation was given that following major Health reforms this included working more closely with the local health and social economy including South Tees NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust, South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group and Health and Wellbeing Board.
The Board's attention was specifically drawn to the ongoing work with Tees Valley Unlimited, a public and private sector partnership involving the five Tees Valley Authorities striving for economic growth across the Tees Valley. At the centre of a City Deal for the Tees Valley was around the growth of the existing industrial base. The bulk of Middlesbrough's industrial companies were linked to the larger industrial companies and the commercial and retail activity in the town was to a great extent dependent upon their success.
As Members commented on the successful DigitalCity partnership and growth in the digital sector the Mayor concurred that such developments were regarded as very important to the town and should be promoted.
Whilst there was much Partnership working and the City Deal would allow greater flexibility to suit the area's requirements it was recognised that inevitably there was a degree to which local authorities would be pursuing as to what was perceived best for their own area. The Mayor advised on the schools agenda which he regarded as one of the very complex aspects of the overall situation.
During the subsequent deliberations the Board was given an insight into the key points raised following discussions with local employers. Members concurred with the difficulties of striking the right balance focussing on academic achievement and encouraging graduates to remain within the town but at the same time ensuring that there were sufficient persons with the appropriate vocational skills which were most suited to the town's requirements.
ORDERED that the Mayor be thanked for the information provided.