Stewardship of the Council report by the Chief Executive

Chief Executive Kate Kennally's Stewardship of the Council report to Cornwall Council members on 22 May 2018.

Can I start by congratulating the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council on their re-appointment and pay tribute to the important work that Councillor May and Councillor Frank have undertaken during the past year.

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I recently had the pleasure of attending the Cornwall Civic Awards and it really brought home the importance and value that the Council’s civic activities bring to strengthening the ‘fabric of society’ in Cornwall.

The definition of the ‘fabric of society’ is that everyone of us is in this together and over the past year, aside from the occasional and understandable political differences of opinion, it has felt that the Council and our partners have been pulling in the same direction to improve Cornwall and put the people of Cornwall first.

The Council’s new Business Plan seeks to do just that and I’m grateful to the Leader, the Cabinet and the rest of the Members in setting the strategic direction and a clear set of priorities that I have focused the organisation on delivering on your behalf.

A wonderful illustration of the fabric of society being strong in Cornwall was the response to the flash flooding that hit Coverack last July. Coming as it did a few weeks after the Grenfell Tower disaster, it showed a local authority responding and working with a local community to overcome adversity. Like you, I was extremely proud and appreciative of all the officers, councillors and partners that put so much time and effort in getting life back to normal in Coverack as quickly as possible.

The Council’s response to the Coverack flood was one of a number of high points during the last twelve months and there are others that are set out in the Annual Report that Members have received, some of which I will briefly touch on as part of this Stewardship report.

Once again, I want to share an honest assessment of our progress in delivering the Council’s Priorities for Cornwall.

I want to do this through the prism of the ‘balanced scorecard’ that I introduced last year, which is an effective way of assessing the overall health of an organisation by the strength of all four pillars that are needed for success. These are:

  • an engaged workforce, with the capability and capacity to deliver;
  • robust finances, with the money to match its ambitions;
  • strong performance, with a track record of delivery;
  • the trust of its customers – for us, our residents.

So, what does the balanced scorecard for Cornwall Council look like this year?

Let us first consider our workforce.

We employ around 5,500 people to deliver some 250 statutory responsibilities – we also have a further 3,000 employees working in our Council owned companies. They are passionate about Cornwall and committed to their work.

Over the past year I’ve prioritised meeting with the monthly winners of the Council’s One and All employee awards. A common phrase in all the One and All nominations is that employees of this organisation and going above and beyond for the benefit of the people that we serve.

I maintain that this Council is fortunate in having a hardworking and loyal workforce. That said, over the past year there has been a sustained focus on increasing the capability and capability of the whole organisation to avoid relying on the few.

Given the importance and challenge of improving the provision of health and social care in Cornwall – as evident from the results of the Residents’ Survey and CQC reports –I have increased the Council’s leadership capacity to deliver on our Healthy Cornwall priority by appointing Helen Charlesworth-May to the new post of Strategic Director for Adult Social Care and Health, jointly funded with NHS England.

While it is pleasing that the Peer Review team recognised that the capacity and capability of the senior leadership team has been strengthened to deliver the Council’s ambitions they identified that the next task is to ensure that there is the same focus and rigour throughout the rest of the organisation.

To that end a number of Service-level restructures have either concluded or about to conclude to ensure that we have the right skills at a working level, which I am hoping Members will see the benefit of over the coming months – our communications offer being a case in point.

I have been eager to ensure that this transformation of the organisation has been undertaken in a way that maintains the high levels of employee engagement that the Council currently enjoys which continues to be above the public sector average. During 17/18 we have completed a Leadership Development programme across the organisation, increased the number of Cornwall Council apprenticeships, exceeding our target as well as looking at further ways to improve health and well-being and reduce sickness absence.

For this year our focus will be on ensuring that we have the cultural and future workforce skills necessary to deliver on our digital transformation, income generation and economic growth priorities as well as taking proactive action to reduce the published gender pay gap of the Council which at 12% was below the national average of 18%, but still a gap to be closed.

Let’s now turn to the second pillar of our balanced scorecard, our spending.

The proportion of our spending funded through locally raised funds has increased as a result of successfully piloting the 100% retention of business rates. This is another example of Cornwall Council being the trailblazer for the rural authorities and one that has generated an extra £8m of funds as we now benefit directly from the business growth that we help create.

It also why it is even more important that we place achieving good value for local taxpayers at the heart of all we do and we still have some way to go to convince people that we do. The residents’ survey conducted last summer shows that less than a third of residents think that the Council provides value for money and our analysis shows that this has a direct bearing on satisfaction levels with how the Council runs things overall.

Improving this perception of us is a key priority and I’m determined that we get more of our positive messages heard by residents and businesses. For example, at a time when other councils are experiencing severe financial challenges, Northamptonshire being the most extreme case, this Council is in a position to protect spending in the areas that matter most to our residents and at the same time we are also able to invest in Cornwall’s future.

Our sound financial position will enable the council to invest up to £600m in the Duchy to deliver the homes and jobs people need whilst delivering a return for the council. It has also enabled the council to lead from the front by providing a genuine living wage for the work that people in Cornwall do. By allocating £10m over the next four years to ensure that the Foundation Living Wage is paid to employees of the Council’s contractors, particularly our social care providers to improve recruitment and retention, this Council is directly contributing to raising living standards and narrowing the wage gap in Cornwall.

Whilst our financial position remains sound –for example the outturn position for 17/18 was a small Council underspend of £2.7m, equivalent to 0.5% of the net revenue budget, we cannot ignore the fact that the organisation is committed to saving a further £77m over the next four years.  We need to improve on the delivery of our agreed individual savings plans and capital investment and I have already taken steps to ensure that this is the case through the budget setting process. This need for improvement will be reflected in suite of performance measures for 18/19 that will be considered by Cabinet next month.

So let’s turn to the third pillar of our balanced scorecard, our performance.

Last year the Council agreed a number of performance measures with ambitious targets.

The good news is that of the 35 measures that are reported quarterly, 63% either achieved or exceeded the target set. One of the performance highlights was the turnaround in the Delayed Transfers of Care attributable to the Council which is indicative of the wider transformation and incremental improvement of adult social care in Cornwall.  

Performance in Children and Families services has also been positive, with 75% of children leaving our care immediately entering education, training or employment which compares very favourably with the national average of 50%.

Other services have also improved performance in key areas.

Our recycling rates continue to creep up, with the new Waste Strategy designed to accelerate performance and make good on one of the aims of our Green and Prosperous Cornwall priority. On the back of adopting the Local Plan, the Council is enjoying more success in defending planning appeals with a year-end performance of 73% of appeals won, compared with a target of 65%.

Of the 30 annual measures, over two thirds have either improved or stayed broadly similar to the previous year.

One of the key successes reflects the Homes for Cornwall priority, with 900 new affordable homes provided – one hundred more than our target for the year. While this is clearly good news, we need to continue to accelerate our affordable homes build rate as one of the performance measures that missed the year-end target is the number of households in temporary accommodation.

It is also worth noting that the percentage of total Council spend with local suppliers has increased and exceeded the target set, which considering the monetary value that this represents, is of significant benefit to the Cornish economy.

At this point I want to play credit to the work undertaken by the Overview and Scrutiny Committees, the majority of which have been established for just 12 months. However, in that short time, the Committees have added tremendous value to organisational improvement, particularly the numerous inquiries – which didn’t go unnoticed by the Peer Review team.

Of course, each of these pillars of our balanced scorecard - our workforce, our spending, our performance – are only meaningful insofar as they support better outcomes for our customers.

These are the people who fund our spending, who use our services, and who we are here to serve. The greater their trust in the Council, the bolder we can be in standing up for Cornwall.

Customer satisfaction with a range of Council services is strong. According to the latest Biffa survey 88% of residents are satisfied with the Council’s refuse collection service, with similarly high levels of 87% satisfaction amongst our council housing tenants from the last Cornwall Housing survey. Almost nine in ten people who use our services for children and families such as children’s social care are satisfied (87%) and over 85% of people in Cornwall who use our sports and leisure services are satisfied with them.

For the first time our last resident survey asked whether we ‘get it right first time’ for our customers, with 72% responding positively, and the business plan makes driving this up further a priority. And we have achieved a significant improvement in our responsiveness where this isn’t the case, with 97% of enquiries dealt with in 10 working days, well in excess of our 90% target

But as the Residents’ Survey demonstrated, we still have some way to go to gain trust, despite improvements being made against key performance targets and budgets well managed.

Where national comparisons exist, the resident satisfaction levels with the council are well below the local government average. There is still too wide adisparity between the Council’s strong reputation and performance at national level and the views of local communities. To change this, over the last 12 months, I have allocated a senior Council officer to each of the 19 Community Networks to work with you to address local priorities as well as launching our new Customer Service Promise next month to help improve the experience of people contacting the Council.

It is crucial that progress is made swiftly, as improved communications, honest dialogue and meaningful engagement – with a stronger focus on place - are key to building public trust.  

In conclusion, demonstrable progress has been made during the first year of this new administration with improved performance and delivery in a number of key areas across the Council.  It was pleasing that this view was independently validated by the Corporate Peer Review team in December with further endorsement coming from an increase in the number of Internal Audit reports reflecting improved assurance levels in key areas such as contract management, performance management and governance arrangements with our Group of Companies.

However, as the Peer team noted, there is still more to be done but we have the right building blocks in place and with the continued support of Members, I am confident of greater success as we work together to  improve the quality of life for all the people that we are here to serve.

Link to Annual Report 2017 -18

Posted 22 May 2018