Agenda and draft minutes

Public Services Reform Policy and Accountability Committee - Monday, 16th November, 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Online - Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: David Abbott  Email:

Link: Watch the meeting on YouTube

No. Item


Apologies for absence


There were no apologies for absence.


Roll call and declarations of interest

A roll call will be carried out to confirm attendance and members will have the opportunity to declare any interests.


If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.


At meetings where members of the public are allowed to be in attendance and speak, any Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest or other significant interest may also make representations, give evidence or answer questions about the matter.  The Councillor must then withdraw immediately from the meeting before the matter is discussed and any vote taken.


Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.


Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Standards Committee.


The Chair led a roll call of members to confirm attendance, which is listed above.


There were no declarations of interest.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 260 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meeting.


Councillor Guy Vincent asked how officers could be confident in the projected savings for phase two of the programme when detailed modelling work hadn’t been completed. Martin Calleja (Assistant Director, Efficiency and Zero-Based Budgeting) clarified that the modelling was being done in two phases. High level modelling had been completed for the whole project, then there was detailed modelling for each phase. The high-level modelling had been validated for the initial phase so officers were confident it was accurate. A full business case had gone to Cabinet in October and there was more detail in that paper.


Councillor Dominic Stanton asked officers to circulate the revised schedule to the committee.

ACTION: Martin Calleja



The minutes of the meeting held on the 2nd of September 2020 were agreed as an accurate record.



Public participation

This meeting is being held remotely via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to make a comment or ask a question about any of the items on the agenda, either via Teams or in writing, please contact:


You can watch the meeting live on YouTube:


No public questions were received.



H&F Way Progress Report pdf icon PDF 421 KB

This report updates the committee on the H&F Way, the Council’s innovative internal culture change programme.

Additional documents:


Mary Lamont (Strategic Head of People and Talent) presented the report on the H&F Way – the Council’s innovative internal culture change programme, where staff work together to shape cultural change and improvement.


The Chair asked what metrics were being measured for this work. Dawn Aunger (AD Transformation, Talent and Inclusion) said the team were starting with metrics like sickness absence and number of appraisals completed but they wanted to move towards using employee engagement as an overarching measure. Organisations that demonstrated high levels of employee engagement were high performing, showed strong levels of resilience, low levels of sickness, and were better at retaining talent.


Councillor Christabel Cooper noted that the organisation had reported an engagement score of 53 percent in the 2018 survey but had not measured it since. Mary Lamont said another survey was planned in December 2020 and staff sentiment surveys had been carried out in between to get a sense of staff wellbeing.


Councillor Cooper commented that two years seemed a long time to wait before measuring the core KPI. Mary Lamont said in future there would be smaller, more regular ‘temperature checks’ to get regular feedback.


Dawn Aunger agreed that it wasn’t effective to only ask these questions every two years. The goal was to have a more agile and responsive survey with a small core number of questions to go out monthly or quarterly. In 2020 the focus had been on wellbeing due to the pandemic.


The Chair asked which companies did this well. Dawn Aunger said they had been taking inspiration from the top blue-chip companies but in the public sector Aberdeen Council were known to be doing good work and best practices were shared at the Pan-London Heads of HR Group on a weekly basis.


Councillor Guy Vincent said, in his experience, the quickest way to improve engagement was to talk to people and set targets. Section four of the report showed some very negative feedback on performance management and appraisals. He asked if officers knew how well the appraisal system was working across the Council.


Mary Lamont noted that an ‘appraisal lite’ had been introduced as an interim measure during the pandemic and managers were encouraged to have quality conversations about wellbeing with their staff. In that time an H&F Way working group had been developing a new and improved appraisal process. She added that the Council sees the value of one-to-ones and communication between staff and managers had improved significantly.


Councillor Vincent asked how many people used the appraisal lite and asked what was wrong with the old system. Mary Lamont said indicative figures could be provided after the meeting which had been collated via short surveys which had been undertaken following the launch of appraisal lite.


ACTION: Mary Lamont


Dawn Aunger added that the team wanted an appraisal process that was easy to use and encouraged engagement. Councillor Vincent requested a report on the new appraisal process for a future meeting.


ACTION: Dawn Aunger / Mary Lamont  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Workforce Efficiency - Reducing Agency Spend pdf icon PDF 348 KB

This report provides an update on activity being undertaken to reduce agency spend.


The report on reducing agency spend was presented for information.


Councillor Guy Vincent, in reference to paragraph 6, asked how much money the Council would save by putting agency staff on the payroll. Mary Lamont (Strategic Head of People and Talent) said she could provide that information after the meeting.


ACTION: Mary Lamont


Councillor Guy Vincent said the target of £12.5m seemed optimistic and asked what would  happen if the target was missed by a significant amount. Mary Lamont said officers had looked carefully at agency usage and had secured commitments on exit dates. They were already seeing reductions in costs. Dawn Aunger noted that it was difficult to answer how much the Council saved as it depended on the type of the role, the nature of the role, the length of contract etc. Some agency staff could be cheaper and some more expensive. Transactional roles could be quite expensive – but for short project work agency staff could be more cost efficient.


Councillor Vincent asked what the consequences were for managers that over-relied on agency staff. Mary Lamont said that would impact directly on service budgets and that here was no separate budget for agency staff.


The Chair noted that Covid-19 had had a major impact on the Council and asked if officers were still confident of meeting the savings deadline. Dawn Aunger said they were currently on target  but that the target was always going to be a stretch and would be particularly challenging taking account of emerging issues associated with pandemic.  The projection provided reflected the commitments managers had provided.


The Chair asked if there was a ‘red flag’ system for when services were taking on agency staff when it wasn’t necessary. Mary Lamont confirmed there was and that there were regular monthly  reviews of agency staffing.


Councillor Christabel Cooper asked how the pandemic had impacted recruitment? Dawn Aunger said they were finding far more people in the market looking for work – and remote working had opened up new  opportunities to bring in talent.


Councillor Zarar Qayyum requested a departmental breakdown of agency spend – including level of seniority. Mary Lamont said she would circulate that information.


ACTION: Mary Lamont


Councillor Adam Connell (Cabinet Member for Public Services Reform) noted that the committee had challenged agency spend in the past and the paper showed that controls were in place and the Council had made progress. He invited the committee to revisit the subject at the end of the financial year. The Chair agreed.



That the committee noted the item and requested an update on progress at the end of the financial year.



Workforce Opportunities pdf icon PDF 724 KB

This report provides an update on internal learning and development opportunities.


Mary Lamont (Strategic Head of People and Talent) presented the report that provided an update on learning and development opportunities aimed at the H&F workforce.


The Chair asked if there had been a change in take-up of training since people started working from home. Mary Lamont said there had been an increase in online learning. The Council had reinforced its  ‘learning from home’ online modules at the beginning of the pandemic and there were  regular updates published on a corporate basis of  ‘top training picks’. There was also good uptake of virtual learning through Teams. Events like the lunch time learns which were  better attended than in-person learning pre-pandemic.


Councillor Zarar Qayyum asked how the Council was advertising apprenticeships to residents and how the budget of £250k compared to last year. Mary Lamont clarified that the figure of £250k was spend to date. She added that officers had been exploring different ways to engage residents, including creating a young people’s network and a recent promotional event (call to action) which had resulted in a sign up of ver 100 residents .  Further events were being planned throughout 2021.


The Chair asked if officers were working with schools on this too. Mary Lamont said they were.


The Chair asked if employees could take advantage of expensive training then leave for another job. Mary Lamont said there was a contractual arrangement in place with finance trainees but not in other areas. Dawn Aunger noted that the Council didn’t manage continuous professional development centrally so legal, finance and other departments had different systems in place. The Chair asked officers to ensure there were safeguards in place across the Council.

ACTION: Mary Lamont


Councillor Dominic Stanton noted that the report showed 33% of ‘Get Ahead’ recruitments were unsuccessful and asked why that was. Mary Lamont said she would take a look at the data and provide a breakdown.

ACTION: Mary Lamont


The Chair summed up the discussion and thanked officers for their work.



That the committee noted the report.



Date of next meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for the 19th of January 2021 (a change from the previously agreed calendar to accommodate remote meetings).


The next meeting was scheduled for 19January 2021.