Agenda item


Report from the S.151 Officer attached

Appendix A attached

Appendix B attached

Appendix C attached


Sam Evans presented a report providing an update on the Corporate Risk Register.


It was explained that the report provided an update position with regards to the risks identified and assessed on the Council’s Corporate Risk Register.


The report set out a total of 23 risks that had been identified:-


·    23 risks are currently present on the Corporate Risk Register

· 17 risks are currently rated as Significant (risk score 15-25)

· 6 risks are currently rated as High (risk score 8-12)

· 0 risks are currently rated as Moderate (risk score 4-6)

· 0 risks is currently rated as Low (risk score 1-3)


Of the23 risks: o

·         15 have remained static

·         2 have increased in score

·         3 have decreased in score

·         1 risk is proposed for closure

·         3 new risks have been introduced during the Quarter 4 reporting period.


At the December meeting of the Audit Committee, a further analysis into two risks present on the Register was requested. Two Deep Dive reports into the following two risks:


· CR14 Staff Safety and Wellbeing

· CR21 Project Safety Valve


CR21 Project Safety Valve


Jeanette Richards, Executive Director of Children and Young People attended the meeting to provide an update on Project Safety Valve and the risk of the Council being withdrawn from the project due to not reducing the deficit in the DSG which would rein a loss of £10m.


At the end of February 2023, full-time internal project management capacity had been secured to support delivery of PSV. This increased capacity would enable the development and monitoring of the plans to improve service provision, increase sufficiency and reduce the deficit. Governance of the programme was currently being strengthened to focus on progress, risks and issues.


Significant progress had been made with improving the EHCP process and working with parents and Bury2gether to continue to deliver an improved SEND service in Bury.

An EHCP Team Manager had been recruited and commenced work d in August 2022 to ensure that the team had remained stable. This had enabled a greater focus on quality and co-production.


It was also explained that weekly reporting was providing a better understanding of the trajectory of demand which allowed the team to plan resources more effectively to deliver quality plans in a timely manner.


Jeanette explained that Project Safety Valve had been challenging to manage, there had been a spike in demand for EHCPs post Covid which had seen an increase of 45%. This had now reduced to 12%.


There were proposals for 2 new special schools in the borough which would see 54 new school places coming on stream.

The DfE were leading the establishment of the Free Special Schools in Bury. There was a basic timeline in place and a requirement for the DfE to create a project group and formalise key milestones. This will enable the Council to work through any local issues regarding legal, land and property, planning and highways. A formal ask will be made of the DfE regarding the project group as progress with the Free Special Schools impacts directly on sufficiency and the ability to reduce out of borough placements.


Jeanette explained that due to the current reliance on non-maintained places it was hoped that increased in house provision would be provided.


The Council had regular contact with the DFE through regular meetings and reporting.


Councillor Berry asked why the demand for SEND in Bury was so high and it was explained that there had been an increase in demand nationally partly due to social, emotional health with younger children not accessing nursery due to covid which then leads to speech and language concerns. This was being regularly reviewed to ensure that the unmet need was identified and understood.


Councillor FitzGerald referred to  the increased demand and the costs incurred around this asked what was being done to ensure that the Council wasn’t withdrawn from the project.


Jeanette reported that the £10m figure was not correct and it would be more like £8m. It was explained that work is taking place to develop the finance deficit project plan. Once complete, there will be a plan in place to review how the council currently commission out of borough placements, moving to a model where the council can be assured of value for money. The same process will also be applied to Alternative Provision and the Pupil Referral Unit. This will ensure that Bury pay for provision which is based on need at rates comparable to other Local Authorities. 


It was also reported that amongst other actions Bury’s SEND Graduated Approach Toolkit had been created and will be embedded in the Local Offer. A task and finish group had started to meet monthly at the beginning of March 2023 to roll out training across the SENCO network. This will be a rolling training programme, with the first set completed by the end of October 2023.


The Graduated Approach will be embedded in the induction of all education staff. To support delivery of the approach, Barnardo’s has been commissioned to create a volunteer network in Bury to signpost professionals to the support available. This is an important step as the Approach is embedded and pupils are supported. Expected outcomes are:


· An increase in the number of pupils receiving SEN support.

· A decrease in the number of requests for EHCPs.


It was anticipated that the Council will  see a difference in the number of pupils receiving SEN support by July 2023.


Sam Evans reported that she had a scheduled meeting with the DFE the following week and that the Executive Directors met with the Chief Executive weekly to review the DSG deficit.


The Committee asked that an update on the planned actions be brought to the next meeting of the Audit Committee.


CR14 Staff Safety and Wellbeing


Sam McVaigh presented a report setting out the work being done in relation to sickness levels across the Council and Health and Safety.


It was explained that the risk concerns the impact on service delivery due to staff sickness levels and the potential for both legal and financial consequences due to failure to comply with health and safety legislation.


The two areas are clearly different in many ways but are reflected together in a single risk under the shared theme of staff safety and wellbeing.


It was explained that in late 2021 an audit of the Council’s Health and Safety arrangements gave a ‘limited’ assurance opinion.


Significant work had been undertaken following the audit to strengthen health and safety governance, assurance and culture with the associated audit recommendations now complete.


The area, however, remains a key priority and a number of recent reportable health and safety incidents have highlighted the need for continued focus.


The Council’s sickness absence level as of January 2023 is an average of 13.92 days lost due to absence, per full time equivalent employee, in the proceeding 12 month period. This is significantly greater than the Corporate target of 9.85 days. ‘Stress, Depression, Mental Health and Fatigue Symptoms’ are the highest cause of absence.


An update on staff sickness absence was presented to the Council’s Performance and Finance Scrutiny Sub Group in December . A copy of the report was appended to the report.


It was explained that the risk currently has a score of 16, with a likelihood rating of 4 and impact rating of 4.


This was an increase of 1 point in the likelihood rating since the most recent review because of both the increase in sickness absence and the number and nature of recent health and safety incidents.


The current controls in relation to sickness absence include:

· A strong employee wellbeing programme with localised action informed by both sickness data and the staff Pulse Surveys

· Targeted work to address key sickness hotspots, particularly in the Operations and OCO Departments

· Management training through a new mandatory management development progamme, launched in January of this year

· Improved data, reporting and management prompts for action through the use of the iTrent system

· Strong joint working with the Trade Unions


The planned actions in relation to sickness absence include:

· A review of the Council’s Occupational Health function (currently subject to consultation)

· A review of the Council’s sickness absence policy

· Continued prioritisation through the 2023/24 Corporate Plan

· Further targeted work with hotspot areas

· Roll-out of a new management information dashboard

· Targeted work to promote positive attendance and to focus on compliance with the Return to Work process.


The current controls in relation to Health and Safety include:

 · Approval of a new corporate Health and Safety Policy

· Re-establishment of a formal Health and Safety Joint Consultative Committee (JCC)

 · Approval of an annual Health and Safety report via Cabinet

· A programme of quarterly health and safety performance reporting to the Council’s Executive Team and Health and Safety JCC

· An annual ‘risk assessment needs checker’ process, to better understand service level risk profile, and resultant programme of deep-dive health and safety audits flowing from this

· Inclusion of health and safety as a core topic within the new mandatory management development programme.


The planned actions in relation to health and safety include:

· A commissioned external review of health and safety arrangements within the Operations Department, the area of greatest health and safety risk within the Council.

· A strengthened staff training approach including a new mandatory ‘elearning’ module for all staff and improved automated recording and reporting in relation to essential health and safety training

· Ongoing audit activity and a refresh of the annual ‘risk assessment needs checker’ process.


Councillor Berry referred to the miscellaneous/unknown category in the sickness reporting form and stated that this was unhelpful. Councillor Berry asked whether this would be reviewed.


Sam reported that this was due to be reviewed and was likely to be removed.


Councillor Hayes referred to the figure of 71 employees returning to work following long term sick and asked what the length of time was in relation to long term sick.


Sam explained that these were cases of 20 days and over. Work was being carried out in relation to these cases and management were making contact with the employee sooner and working closer with union representatives.


It was explained that work was being done to strengthen the return to work process.


Councillor Moss highlighted the increase in sickness levels within the corporate core and asked if there was a specific reason behind this.


Sam reported that the business support team had moved into the corporate which had been an increase of over 100 employees.


Councillor Bernstein referred to the requirement to fulfil services such as waste management and having to bring in agency staff to cover. Councillor Bernstein asked what was being done to bring the levels down and how did Bury compare to other local authorities?


Sam explained that Bury was broadly comparable to other authorities. Work was being done to develop managers in relation to sickness and that all cases of sickness would be escalated to the relevant Executive Director through the iTrent trigger system.


Councillor Whitby referred to the Absence Management Policy and asked whether this was available to all staff.


Sam explained that it was accessible but work was being undertaken to make it more accessible and user friendly. It was explained that the unions were assisting with this work


It was asked whether the previous risk scores could be included within the report for reference.


Delegated decisions:


1.   That the Audit Committee notes the update provided;


2.   That the Audit Committee approve the recommended closure of risk CR2 COVID-19 Impact


3.   That an update in relation to the progress made on Project Safety Valve be brough to the next meeting of the Audit Committee.


4.   That previous risk scores be included within the reports for reference.


5.   That the following risks be considered in more detail at the next meeting of the Audit Committee:


CR.6 – Climate Change

CR.28 – Asylum & Immigration


Supporting documents: