The Scrutiny Support Officer advised that a schedule had been prepared for arrangements for individual Members of the Executive to attend meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Board to provide updates on their respective work in terms of their aims, aspirations, objectives, priorities and any emerging issues or pressures.
The process was part of the scrutiny arrangements of holding the Executive to account and also provided the opportunity for the Board to identify or highlight any issues of concern or difficulty.
The Chair welcomed Councillor Brenda Thompson - Executive Member for Supporting Communities to the meeting. Councillor Thompson explained that the Executive Member for Supporting Communities was a new Executive portfolio. The Supporting Communities portfolio was aimed at promoting Wellbeing by focussing on preventative measures. The Executive Member provided the Board with an overview of the areas of responsibility included within the Supporting Communities portfolio including the 0-19 Service, Troubled Families, Community Hubs and libraries, Street Wardens, Travellers, the Skills Agenda and Apprentices and reported on progress made in carrying out those responsibilities.
The Executive Member explained that although each Executive Member had their own designated responsibilities, there were also thirteen general responsibilities which each Executive Member was required to adhere to which included being a spokesperson for the Council with regard to issues relating to their portfolios.
The Board was advised that as part of the Skills Agenda the Council was aiming to increase the number of Apprentices in the Council and throughout the town. Reference was made to the work currently being carried out with the Army in respect of Apprenticeships and it was highlighted that Councillor Arundale had already visited Catterick to progress this initiative.
As part of their role, Executive Members were required to work closely with officers and carry out work on their own initiative. The Executive Member for Supporting Communities advised that she had visited a different library hub every week to ascertain what types of service each hub offered. It was highlighted that the new library based at the Rainbow Leisure Centre was working very well and it was anticipated that members of the public would be able to change library books at the Neptune Centre in the near future.
The Chair of the Board referred to the Mayor's Budget statement and the proposal to reduce funding for the purchase of books. It was highlighted that Ormesby library in Redcar and Cleveland welcomed contributions of books from members of the public where the books were in good condition. A section was set aside in the library to specify that the books had been donated by the public. The Executive Member advised that she would make further enquiries regarding this initiative to see whether this initiative could be adopted in Middlesbrough libraries. It was commented that many libraries were functioning as hubs even though they were not officially classed as hubs.
The Executive Member had also spent time with the Stay Safe Team which comprised of members of the Police, 0-19 team, a SECOS worker and a Social Worker. The working relationship between the members of the team was working particularly well and the response from the young people on the streets had been very positive. The Executive Member also highlighted that she had spent time with the Enforcement Team and Street Wardens, visiting shops that had experienced anti-social behaviour. The Board was advised that the Street Wardens were now based in the Bus Station with the CCTV team.
As part of her role, the Executive Member also held regular meetings with the Executive Director for Economic Development and Communities, the Assistant Director of Supporting Communities and the Community Grants Team.
The Executive Member reported that in terms of the Troubled Families Programme the Council had a target of 'turning around' 570 families by March 2015 and the Council had achieved 93% of that target. Plans were being progressed for Middlesbrough Council to become an 'Early Starter' authority for Phase 2 of the programme. The funding for Troubled Families was currently ring-fenced by the Government but there was a possibility that the funding could become main-stream in Phase 2.
The Council was looking at the support available to troubled families to prevent families from ending up in 'crisis'. Many families were escalated straight to the Safeguarding Team upon their initial contact with the Council. More work was being done at Stage 1 of the process so that low level cases that were not appropriate for the Safeguarding Team to deal with could be signposted to the appropriate service area or organisation to ensure that they received an immediate response to their problems.
A Member commented that there had been some degree of integration with the libraries throughout the town and he queried whether this would be an issue if the Council chose to outsource Leisure Services. The Executive Member advised that she would be clarify the position regarding the services currently provided by libraries and whether there were any proposals for some of the services to remain with the Council as it was important to ensure that the eventual decision with regard to the future of Leisure Services was in the interests of the residents of Middlesbrough.
The Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Board advised that the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel were currently investigating Alternative Delivery Methods in relation to Leisure Services. The Scrutiny Support Officer responsible for the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel advised that the issue of part of the services that were currently being delivered in-house remaining if Leisure Services was to be outsourced was not something that the Panel had highlighted however it was an issue that could be considered.
The Board was advised that it was anticipated that savings of £2m would be generated over the next two years in respect of the services within the Supporting Communities portfolio.
ORDERED that the Executive Member for Supporting Communities be thanked for the overview of progress made in developing and implementing the new portfolio for Supporting Communities.