Venue: Via Microsoft Teams
Members were presented with a draft strategy on stabilisation, the period between response and recovery, following the COVID 19 outbreak. The strategy set out a general framework that would support a consistent and co-ordinated approach as the Council moved towards recovery. It was noted that the draft strategy was being presented to all Scrutiny Committees for comments before presentation to Cabinet on 30th July 2020 for approval.
Officers gave a brief overview of the content of the strategy, explaining that it was split into three sections which consisted of looking back at what the Council did during the response phase of the crisis, looking forward as the UK moved out of the response phase and a road map of actions.
When looking back at what the Council did during the response phase, it was highlighted that a number of key actions were undertaken including setting up a seven day a week communication service so that guidance from UK Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales could be sent out as and when it was available. It was added that the Council closed down services to assist in reducing the spread of the virus and changed the way some critical services operated in order to operate safely, for example the refuse service. Officers mentioned that the first part of the strategy also set out the changes that were made in relation to leadership and governance, including the use of the Urgency Action provision set out in the Constitution, to ensure that key decisions were still being taken during the response phase.
The second part of the strategy was explained to Members, which consisted of looking forward as the UK moved out of response phase into a stabilisation period which is the stage before moving into the recovery phase. It was explained that there were three areas identified as a focus as the Council moved forward:
The Test, Trace and Protect Programme
2. Standing up of Council services and functions
3. Understand and respond to the effect and impact that the virus has had on citizens, organisations and businesses across Neath Port Talbot
It was added that the second part also set out the changes required to be made in terms of leadership and governance, as well as some of the risks and issues identified that will need to managed as the Council goes through the implementation of the strategy.
The third part of the strategy was presented as a road map of actions which was framed on the basis of a traffic light system, which set out how to move from a position of total lockdown, through the traffic light system, to a position where services are back up and running. It was noted that a number of services on the road map fall within the remit of the Streetscene and Engineering Scrutiny Committee including transport, parking fees, parking enforcement and refuse and recycling.
Members asked how long the Llandarcy Field Hospital would be in situ, to which it was ... view the full minutes text for item 1.
Members were provided with an overview of the current service position in Streetcare and how service delivery was proceeding as the Council moved towards the recovery phase from the coronavirus emergency.
Officers presented the Committee with a graph of COVID related absence in the Streetcare service area, contained within Appendix A of the circulated report. It was highlighted that COVID related absences were required to be recorded and collated on a weekly basis, which Officers had been doing since 13 March 2020. The graph illustrated how the COVID absences had varied and in particular, how the rate of absences was progressing towards the end of March before lockdown was then introduced. As evident in the graph, it was stated that the biggest element associated with COVID absences for Streetscare was those shielding which now made up the majority of absences. However, it was noted that the next review for those shielding was due on 16 August 2020, with letters due to be sent out the week before that, which would provide a better understanding of the impact.
Following this, the Committee was presented with the Streetcare service delivery position, contained within Appendix B of the circulated report, which covered the A-Z of services within the Streetcare remit. Officers briefly went through some of the comments on the existing status and updated Members where necessary.
In relation to beach cleansing, it was mentioned that the service was operating as normal, however more resources were being utilised as the service was trying to keep up with the clearing up of waste due to more people were visiting the beach and not disposing of their rubbish.
Members were informed that the recycling centres opened on 26 May 2020 with a booking system introduced in which the public could book a 15 minute time slot to drop off their recycling. It was noted that the system was working very well, and that other Councils across Wales were thinking of keeping their booking systems in place for the future. Officers highlighted that Neath Port Talbot Council could also look into keeping their booking system in place.
The Committee were made aware that the £1million street lighting project was going ahead, in which more LED lighting would be introduced and the high energy consumption lights would be removed. It was mentioned the contract started the week commencing 13 July 2020 and the contractor had started to complete the electrical testing before lights start to be replaced.
It was highlighted that recycling and waste collection was an area that the Streetcare service had prioritised, with staff working very hard over the lockdown period to keep the service going and to deal with the increase of waste and recycling that had been generated.
Stores and purchasing was mentioned to have played an important role in helping with PPE and equipment, not only for the Environment Directorate but also assisting other areas across the Council.
Officers explained that tree maintenance had an additional service pressure to cut back overgrown ... view the full minutes text for item 2.
Members were provided with an overview of current service provision across the Engineering and Transport Service and how the service will look and function as the Council moves into the recovery phase.
Across the five service areas, it was stated the Highway Development Control (HDC) and Passenger Transport and Home to School Transport were fully enabled to effectively carry on as normal as far as being able to deal with correspondence and day to day operations, following the announcement of the closing of offices.
In regards to the Highway Development Control team, it was noted that they had progressed with some planning applications that had been dealt with during the lockdown period and the SAB (SuDs Approval Body) that went live earlier this year had initially been slow in the uptake, but work is now progressing in that area. It was added that all risk assessments were in place for necessary site visits to enable SAB applications to move forward.
Officers highlighted that staff, particularly the Structures team, had been heavily involved with responding to the three recent storm events, including storm Dennis. Following this, a great deal of inspections were undertaken of Neath Port Talbots structures and bridges. It was noted that one bridge in Blaengwrach was severely affected by structural damage, however following Cabinets support of its replacement, the new bridge was now in fabrication and work was underway for it to be completed by the end of summer.
It was explained to Members that some areas within the Road Safety and Business Performance were affected by the results of COVID 19, mainly due to the closure of schools. Officers stated that a lot of the training programmes were delayed and staff had to re-think how they could move forward with the programs; however, programmes were now being developed that would be delivered online via the hub and classrooms talks completed via whiteboard technology through Microsoft Teams. Dave Griffiths, the Head of Engineering and Transport, gave thanks to their links with Education and IT, as they have helped to maintain important training programmes for young people.
Members were informed of the new cycle to work scheme that was launched at the beginning of July, in which the uptake had been very good. It was mentioned that around 73 people had taken up the opportunity of purchasing bikes through the scheme (33 electric and over 40 traditional bikes ordered) with both Members and Officers within the Council, taking up the benefits of the scheme. It was added that there would be a training programme delivered over the summer so people can learn how to ride a bike.
In terms of business performance, it was noted that some employees within the area had been deployed into Track and Trace service to support the workload and that a number of new ICT driven arrangements had been introduced; due to the positive outcomes of these new arrangements, it was stated that the business and secretarial teams were going to be reviewed ... view the full minutes text for item 3.