PLACE, NEIGHBOURHOOD & CORPORATE ASSETS: SERVICE UPDATES: Friday 12 March 2021
Assets & Facilities
The majority of our FM teams are currently focused on the return to school for primary and secondary pupils and working to maintain cleaning standards and provide catering for those who have returned over the last week and preparing for numbers to increase over the coming weeks.
In line with the current lock down restrictions, cleaning staff including day cleaners are operating across all schools and Early Years sites and catering staff are working on a rotational basis providing hot lunches. Interviews are being conducted to fill the remaining eight vacant day cleaning positions and an additional recruitment exercise is underway to fill vacant FM cleaning, catering and Janitorial positions across the Education and Corporate estate. The implementation of Cashless Catering in Primary schools is complete with twenty eight schools now operating the cashless catering system. The next stage of this project is to upgrade the existing cashless catering system in all Secondary schools and new build Primary schools, this is underway and will be completed by the end March 2021. The pre-order system is operational in Secondary schools which allows pupils to pre-order lunches from mobile phones and view orders and balance.
We continue to make good progress in reducing the backlog of Gas Safety inspections most of which are a result of the current pandemic. The courts have issued all warrants to access properties which are overdue on their inspections and we are seeing a significant reduction in these numbers having gained access to a number of properties over the past few weeks. Further warrants have been issued with more being sought for properties which are due to reach their anniversary date as we continue to ensure compliance across our stock.
Void repairs are ongoing with continued progress being made on reducing the number of properties. There has been a significant number of new properties coming online over the past few weeks and we are utilising internal and external resources to address these. The monitoring of turnaround times for properties is ongoing as we continue to try and reduce these times going forward.
We continue to carry out emergency and essential reactive repairs with the minor works element of the Care & Repair Service still on hold at this time.
Aids & Adaptation works continue and the Smoke and Heat detector installation programme is ongoing across the estate with good progress being made in working to the Government’s target date for completion.
Kitchen, Bathroom and Heating replacement programmes remain on hold and will restart as soon as is practicable and safe to do so.
The roofing replacement programme has restarted and essential work continues across the Education portfolio which includes larger scale refurbishment works.
The setting up of polling stations for the upcoming elections will be ongoing and we will continue to provide assistance where necessary during this period.
The team recently assisted in setting up the new Covid testing centre in Auchinairn and we will continue to assist as and when required in this area.
Assets & Estates
The refurbishment of Southbank House and KHCC are now complete. Lairdsland Early Years Centre at Southbank is substantially complete and handover of the building is expected imminently. Works remain on-going at Bearsden Early Years Centre, with completion expected over the next month and good progress continues to be made at Boclair Academy and Allander Leisure and Day Care Centre. Contractual terms are almost concluded for the new Kirkintilloch Community Sports Complex.
Council approved the Stage 1 Report for the ASN project at Waterside, Kirkintilloch in February and design and cost development now continues. The planning application is currently under consideration and will be determined via a Pre-determination hearing and a Special Council which takes place on 30 March.
The Estates Management team continue to develop and manage servicing and maintenance contracts across the Estate, with a priority on regulatory compliance and building safety, and this work progresses on a continual basis. The team also continue to deliver a repairs services across the full estate with a current focus on priority issues within the Education estate. In the non-operational (commercial) estate, the team continue to support both new and existing SME businesses with their property requirements, including the renewal of leases, coordinating repairs and sourcing premises.
The Asset Management team continue to deliver a range of capital projects across the property estate. Work remains in progress at Lenzie Academy (3G Pitch Installation) and Hilton Depot (Drying Room / Canteen Refurb) and Balmuildy Primary School (classroom sink replacement). Design work is underway to progress various projects within the wider School Estate Refurbishment Programme.
The team continue to deliver a range of capital projects across the Housing portfolio, including external rendering of properties in Waterside, window replacement and electrical rewire to void properties. Preparations are underway to re-commence kitchens and bathroom installations later in 2021 with colleagues in Property Maintenance when safe and appropriate to do so, roof replacement to mixed tenure properties and external wall insulation. This will be subject to the lifting of construction industry restrictions which currently prohibit non-emergency works within houses.
Housing New Build
Construction continues to progress well at the former TJH site, Kirkintilloch. Contractual terms are agreed for the development of new affordable housing at the former Lairdsland Primary School site, Kirkintilloch; Blackthorn Grove, Lenzie and the Loaning, Kirkintilloch all of which are due to start later in March. Pre-construction action is now being progressed between the Housing Investment Team and contractor.
The revised Strategic Housing Investment Plan (2021-26) and the Affordable Housing Investment Programme (2021-26) were both approved by Council at the budget meeting in February and various work streams continue to deliver against these strategic priorities for the Service.
Homelessness & Prevention:
Homelessness presentations remain relatively low in comparison to previous years. The number of households awaiting an offer on the homelessness list is at an all-time low; 255 applicants, 5 (2%) of which have been on the list longer than 3 years. (Start of 2020/21, 383 households were awaiting an offer). There are no households in bed and breakfast (approximately 199 households in other types of temporary accommodation).
Requests for assistance in recent weeks has increased. Last week the Team received over 70 enquiries via the generic email account. Out of hours Service remains extremely busy; receiving 313 calls this financial year to date (48% increase compared to 2019/20; 163 calls).
Since the start of 2020/21, 128 households have been given specialist advice securing private sector accommodation. Of the 128 households, 39 were supported to view properties with 30 securing accommodation. 18 of the 30 households supported to move to the private sector were on the homelessness list, reducing their waiting time for settled accommodation, and pressure on the Council's stock of settled accommodation/temporary accommodation.
As part of the Scottish Governments COVID19 vaccination programme, the Homelessness & Prevention Team has now received appointments for their 2nd dose of the vaccination, this includes Housing Support partners i.e. Mungo Foundation, Action for Children and Y People.
The Housing Operations Team continues to work closely with Property Maintenance with the aim of reducing the back-log of void properties as quickly as possible. 85 properties have been signed up since the start of January 2020 and a total of 179 new tenancies have been created this financial year. Void levels with PM has reduced from around 140 in Oct 20 to 60 now. The team also continues to work closely with Housing Associations in the area to provide nominations for void and new build properties in this sector. As a result of the nominations agreements in place, 55 applicants from the Council's housing list have accepted tenancies with Housing Associations in the area.
The team continues to work jointly with Legal Services, Police Scotland and the Community Safety Team to deal with anti-social behaviour and noise complaints of a more serious nature within each of the housing localities.
The Rents Team has been updating tenants on the agreed 0.5% rent increase for the coming year and continue to engage with tenants to ensure rental income is being maximised. Advice and support continues to be offered to tenants whose circumstances have changed as a result of pandemic, or, are struggling to pay their rent. There continue however to be tenants who do not pay and/or engage. The service has been issuing arrears letters since late 2020 and is now restarting serving Notices of Proceedings, in an attempt to get responses from tenants who are not paying. There are no current court actions for rent arrears taking place as Coronavirus (Scotland) Act regulations has banned evictions. These regulations have been further extended, with the ban now beyond 31 March 2021 and subject to review every 21 days by the Scottish Government. The rents team continue to support and assist as many tenants as they can with UC claims/verifications, DHP claims, putting affordable agreements in place and also referring to CAB, where required, to ensure that income is maximised where possible. Current rent arrears are £1,310,391 (week 48), this is an increase of £145k at same week as last year.
The next Taking Part newsletter due to be issued in early April 2021, is in the later stages of production. The most recent online TPWG meeting took place online on Thursday 11 March 2021.
Systems, Policy and Performance
The Systems and Policy Team is gearing up for year-end returns and have finalised and distributed the rent review paperwork. The Business Improvement Plan for 2021/22 has been completed and targets set for the year ahead, a harder exercise than previous years due to the affect Covid-19 has had on 20/21 performance.
the team has finalised the withdrawal from the tenants home contents insurance scheme, working closely with the broker, Thistle, who will take on the administration of the scheme for our tenants from the 1st of May. This has been delayed by 1 month to ensure tenants are notified correctly.
The Annual Return on Charter will be due at the end of May this year and the Team will be working on that as soon as year-end hits. The performance for 20/21 will be unlike any other year due to the pandemic and it will be interesting to compare our performance with other Local Authorities in light of these unprecedented times.
The Local Housing Strategy is due for review this year and the Team is starting to put the wheels in motion in relation to consultation and beginning to think how a new strategy will look, taking into account the changes Covid-19 has placed on all of us.
The allocations policy is also due for renewal however, due to the volume of work involved in reviewing the Local Housing Strategy, it is intended to carry out the allocation policy review in 2022. The vacant policy officer post is currently advertised and it is hoped to fill this post in the coming weeks
Land Planning & Development
Planning Applications and Building Standards
The Planning Service is currently operating as close to normal services as possible. In accordance with the relevant risk assessment planning and enforcement site visits are continuing to take place under the current local and national restrictions. Building Standards is also currently operating as close to normal services as possible. Similar to Planning, site visits are continuing to take place in accordance with the relevant risk assessment for those properties and sites only where suitable alternative evidence is not appropriate. Monthly updates continue to be provided to the Scottish Government Building Standards Division to help monitor performance of Building Standards at a national level. Both the Planning Applications and Building Standards teams continues to receive the number of applications expected by this point in the financial year.
In the absence of a Planning Board meeting due to the continuing governance arrangements, the Planning Service has prepared and issued a Technical Note for circulation to Members. The Technical Note will contain details of delegated planning decisions, appeals and other matters.
The Councils Planning Service is currently considering a planning application for an Additional Support Needs School at land at Waterside Road in Kirkintilloch. The application is a major development and considered to be significantly contrary to the development plan. As suchplans are currently being developed for a Planning Pre-Determination Hearing and Special Council on 30 March to determine the application. The Service has written to interested parties to give them the opportunity of being heard at the hearing and a briefing session has been arranged for local members.
Land Planning and Sustainability Policy and GIS
The Council’s Local Development Plan 2 was approved at August Council and consultation took place between October 2020 and 15 January 2021. Over 2000 representations have been received and officers are logging these in order to acknowledge them and will begin analysis and drafting of the Council’s response. Future updates will provide more details on this process. Officers are also working on planning guidance, the historic environment designations review, which is currently being consulted on following a LDP Working Party, and site specific projects such as Kirkintilloch Gateway.
The East Dunbartonshire Economic Recovery Plan was reported to Council on 1 October 2020. The Plan draws together actions across the Council and those being progressed by economic partners as part of delivery of Local Outcome 1. It is a live document, reflecting the ongoing nature of the public health and economic crisis. Consultation took place in November 2020 and the findings and ongoing data analysis are being used to update the Economic Recovery Plan. Work has commenced on initial project planning for a Circular Economy Strategy.
A Draft Parking Management Plan is currently being worked on by officers ahead of it being presented to the Transport Working Group for discussion. Work has commenced on initial project planning for the next Active Travel Strategy, which replace the 2015-20 Strategy. These are two of a number of actions in the Local Transport Strategy, approved in March 2020, which is currently being progressed by the Land Planning Policy Team in conjunction with other Services.
Initial work on the preparation of a Climate Action Plan for the Council is now under way. The first stage of this is an early engagement exercise - the ‘Climate Conversation’. This invites people both inside the Council and across our communities to discuss their concerns about climate change, how it is already affecting them, and the action they think the Council needs to take to respond to the climate challenge. There will also be a particular focus on engaging with businesses to discuss what action they can take to reduce their emissions and how they can successfully adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change. The Climate Conversation webpages went live on Monday, 8 March, with surveys; a question and answer facility; and details of the forthcoming Climate Conversation events. The main webpage can be found at www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/CAP.
Consultation on the draft Glasgow City Region Climate Adaptation Strategy, prepared by Climate Ready Clyde in partnership with East Dunbartonshire Council and other partners, closed on 24 December 2020. The Strategy is now being finalised and an Action Plan prepared. This will be presented to Glasgow City Region Cabinet for consideration on 6 April, and will then be reported to a later PNCA Committee for the Council’s consideration.
Work on the Council’s other key Land Planning and Sustainability Strategies and Plans is ongoing. This includes ongoing policy development, continuation with consultation using electronic methods and plans and strategies being presented to Council for approval.
Work progresses well for a number of key projects that the GIS team are leading on and supporting. With the completion of the Local Development Plan 2 project, the team are creating a web application that will allow officers in shared services to accurately plot and analyse safe walking routes for school placement requests, due to be completed by March. This web application will utilise Ordnance Survey products such as OS Highways, Pathways and Place names, which will then be configured as required by the . The team is also collaborating with Glasgow City Council, the Digital Office and the NHS to create a Covid-19 case tracker. This will show real time cases of Covid-19, recorded by the NHS within the East Dunbartonshire boundary. This is due to be completed by the middle of February. The team is also planning a programme of work that will ensure the accuracy of address data with the Scottish Assessors Association and other key stakeholders. This is to support the issuing and recording of postal ballot votes for the upcoming May elections. Finally, the team is continuing to liaise with the Planning, Building Standards and Validation officers to ensure that any issues with the IDOX application are resolved swiftly.
The City Deal core team is now fully resourced with 3 dedicated Officers and a Team Leader. Additional resource across the Council is being put in place to progress the projects. Officers continue to engage with partners across the City Region on the Council’s developing City Deal project, including landowners, SPT and GCC and First Bus.
Work on the outline business case has been delayed due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, but progress is being made in relation to: programming of the individual projects and work relating to the OBC and work on early economic impacts forecasting (as required under the funding approval). Consultants have been appointed to commence work on the Bishopbriggs Public Ream Plan and desktop research and site visits are under way. Arrangements are being made for initial meetings with Council teams including Traffic and Transport, Roads, Greenspace, etc.
Regeneration & Town Centres
The team are working towards delivering a range of projects despite the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 including those approved at the Council meeting on the 1st October. Project activity and progress is being maintained via virtual meetings and electronic communication. The team can report that the new Antonine Wall Play Park in Peel Park Kirkintilloch is now scheduled to be completed for early March with the delay due to recent adverse weather conditions. Designs are being developed for phase 2 of the Milngavie Public Realm project. The project will mirror the phase 1 design which created an attractive gateway to the start of the West Highland Way and will be managed by the Milngavie BID with support from the team as required. The team have secured £1.1m of Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund for the Twechar Canalside project. Regent Gardens project is being progressed, working closely with the local community council preparing draft designs for consultation which is likely to start at the end of March. Work to identify and apply for external funding is ongoing to support both Council and community led projects as required and an update will be presented to an upcoming PNCA Committee. Work continues supporting a number of local groups and organisations to deliver Scotland’s Towns Partnership “Love Local” fund projects which will help town centres and local businesses adapt to and recover from the impacts of Covid-19.
As of the 26 February 1,960 temporary closure and restriction grants had been awarded, with a total value of £2,713,625. 429 top up grants £2,776,000 and 390 taxi grants £5850,000. £80,000 of Discretionary Fund payments. . The team have now administered nearly £20m in financial support to local businesses.
The Discretionary fund is now live and there has a very high number of applications received so far. The Strategic Framework Fund payments for February are processed and preparation for March payment is underway. New applications continue to be received under this fund.
Small Accommodation Fund (Self Catering and Bed & Breakfasts) and the Large Self-Catering Fund is being launched now final guidance has been received from the Scottish Government. The national Contingency Plus Fund (brewers, travel agents and indoor football centres) is being administered by EDC, who as with other Councils continue to work with Scottish Government to the agree the exact list of eligible businesses in the area that will be written to and awarded a direct one off payment.
The Council’s Business support during the coronavirus emergency webpage continues to be kept up to date. Due to the number of grants and volume, officers across the Place & Business Service, and other areas are supporting the grants schemes. The Business Support Team continue to experience high volumes and calls and e-mail enquiries.
Traffic and Transport
Works have commenced at Mugdock Road Car Park, Milngavie for the electric vehicle charging hub. Three new rapid chargers will be installed over the coming weeks adding to the existing EV charger.
Installation of seven Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) units are ongoing on Milngavie Road, Bearsden, as well as three replacement shelters. The rollout of RTPI will continue into Milngavie Town Centre as part of the 2021/22 Capital Programme.
The team are working with colleagues in Greenspace and Rangers at Mugdock Country Park to deliver path improvement projects throughout the authority including:
- Langfaulds Path; Kilmardinny Loch; Cairnhill Woods Path.
With the increase in cycling throughout 2020 schools are seeing a huge rise in need for cycle and scooter parking. The team are installing additional shelters at six schools by March 2021. A new cycle shelter design competition will be launched at Balmuildy and Milngavie Primary Schools and implemented by Easter 2021.
The team’s iBike Officers are working with colleagues in Outdoor Education on the roll out of led rides and led walks following the planned phased return to schools from Monday 22 February.
Design work continues on the Canniesburn Toll Improvement Project which aims to improve the function of Canniesburn Toll for pedestrians and cyclists making travelling by these modes safer in the immediate vicinity of this roundabout. The project also aims to improve the flow of traffic and reduce journey times with the introduction of traffic signals. Draft designs will be issued for information to the local community and businesses over March and April.
The team continue to work on the A803 Signal Optimisation Project funded by the Bus Priority Rapid Deployment Fund (BPRDF).
The team have now completed their 2021/22 funding applications with over £1m of external sustainable transport funding expected in the coming year.
The Waste Service continues to deliver the full range of collections with no major disruption, however the Service is having some challenges at present with resources in some areas
Dry Recycling Collection and Food Waste Collection
Collections are operating normally for residents with increased recycling tonnage being identified in line with previous updates. The Service is also in the process of concluding evaluations and awards for a new Dry Recycling contract due for renewal in April of this year.
Green Waste Collection
The service recommenced on Monday 1st March and is operating in line with recycling calendars on the normal fortnightly service interval.
Bulky Collections (Special Uplifts)
The Waste team continue to deliver the Special uplift service, with demand for this area increasing recently. The poor weather in February led to some delays for collections, however the team have been working over the past week in order to catch up on outstanding uplifts for residents. The service is substantially back on track no, however demand will be monitored in order to try and maintain a reasonable turnaround in this area.
The Service continues to work through requests for replacement bins as resources allow, with priority given to residual bin deliveries.
Mavis Valley Recycling Centre
The household waste recycling centre remains open and operational at this time. Social distancing measures remain in place and the site continues to be managed in line with current restrictions. It is anticipated that demand will increase over the coming weeks as Government restrictions ease and a further review of operating hours will be taken at that time. Colleagues from the Roads Service continue to provide assistance with Traffic Management at this location and staff are checking customer details on entry, to ensure visitors attending the site reside within the Council area. Work is also underway in order to progress the traffic management improvements at this location, in addition to progressing the works required to upgrade the single track entrance road to this facility.
The Service continues to manage the legal operation of the Councils fleet including compliance with the Goods Vehicle Operators licence, Drivers hours’ management and maintenance regimes.
Officers continue to progress work on the fleet replacement Capital Programme for the coming financial year, with tender evaluations now completed for the replacement of the Councils Fleet of buses for delivery of ASN School Transport and Social Work Day services activities. The new vehicles will be delivered in the coming financial year. Work is also taking place in order to de-fleet and dispose of outgoing fleet assets in line with the replacement programme.
The fleet workshops based at the Hilton Depot continue to service and maintain all front line Operational fleet vehicles and plant on a rotational shift basis. The Service is currently working to meet significant demands for truck and vehicle MOT preparation and testing at present. This work has increased as a consequence of DVLA MOT extensions granted through the lockdown in 2020 now coming to an end. The team continue to prioritise all work based on available staff and the greatest needs in order to deliver through these challenging times.
The team continue to support colleagues in Education, HSCP and Facilities Management for Transport activities associated with ASN School Transport, day services and meal deliveries across the Authority.
The team also continue to manage vehicle and plant hire activities which have increased significantly over the year, as a consequence of revised working arrangements for Services, in delivering through the pandemic response.
The team are also recruiting at present to fill recently vacated Driver & Mechanics positions which will be concluded in the next week.
Place & Community Planning
The new Covid-19 strain identified at the end of 2020 is prevalent with increasing incidence (estimated to be 85%) within communities, and therefore all associated work continues to create a significant demand for Environmental Health Officers.
The team are working with Education colleagues to deliver contact tracing within schools in liaison with health board colleagues through local Problem Assessment Groups (PAG’s) and Incident Management Teams (IMT’s). We are also being advised of clusters within occupational settings that require to be investigated to ensure the adequate mitigation measures are being put in place by businesses to prevent virus transmission. To this end, the service takes part in additional meetings with Health Board colleagues to agree investigation plans.
The area was placed in Level 4 of the tiered strategy within The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations but this was raised to a ‘Stay at Home’ order in January. This means that all hospitality premises, non-essential shops and services, accommodation and leisure services amongst others are closed and the public advised to remain at home unless to leave for essential purposes.
The team have just completed a programme of pro-active visits to supermarkets and takeaway premises to assess Coronavirus controls, with 20 supermarkets being visited as well as nearly 100 food takeaways. The overall majority of businesses were found to have good measures in place although a small number required remedial action and to be revisited for a subsequent assessment. Other visits are also taking place to respond to serious Covid-19 related complaints and the team continue to receive many requests from local businesses for advice on what the restrictions mean for their operation.
Other routine service requests such as food complaints continue to be received. The team are sampling foods from local businesses to assist in national monitoring surveys to ensure safety, composition and labelling requirements are adhered to. The importance of food safety and food standards compliance continues to be significant during the course of a wider public health pandemic.
Away from business regulation, officers continue to deal with other environmental regulation and public health in terms of Air Quality, Contaminated Land and numerous noise, odour, smoke, housing and dampness service complaints. The team are also assessing relevant incoming planning applications and providing comment for planning colleagues on environmental public health considerations to be accounted for.
The EU Exit Deal and its implications continue to be monitored, as there are implications to the import and export of food products. Food Standards Scotland has given advance notice of the expectation for the Official Food Control Recovery Plan to be implemented by Councils. This is likely to generate very significant extra work over early 2021 with the presumption that inspection programmes can begin in summer. Two new Covid-19 Public Health Compliance Officers have been taken on for 1 year to assist the team and will take up their positions later this month.
As a result of level 4 restrictions and amendments to regulations early January, then non-essential retail including close contact services such as hairdressers, beauticians and aesthetics providers required to close along with gyms, indoor visitor attractions, ski slopes and home improvement showrooms. The loopholes in the Regulations relating to an exemption for homeware and hardware retailers had also been closed.
The Trading Standards team continues to receive a number of enquiries from local businesses about whether they can trade and the methods they can use to trade. In particular, receiving enquiries from non-essential businesses regarding click and collect. Trading Standards Officers will continue to monitor compliance and take appropriate action in cases of non-compliance.
Trading Standards Officers continue to provide individually tailored advice and guidance to all non-food businesses on the emergency health protection Covid-19 Regulations and Scottish Government guidance. Officers are also dealing with complaints regarding compliance with the legislation from both the public and businesses. Officers continue to receive enquiries from businesses who work within people's homes and traders who operate from their own home. Trading Standards Officers continue to monitor gym/ fitness and exercise operators.
Since the restrictions came into place the Trading Standards team have dealt with over 360 complaints and business advice requests on Covid-19 related matters and have also delivered over 1500 interventions under the emergency Regulations.
Further, there has been an increase in the workload in the areas of scam prevention, product safety, fair trading, metrology and petroleum. Unfortunately there has been surge in the number of Coronavirus scams circulating via email, Facebook and text messages. These scams are wide ranging and some examples include advising you are a priority group due to family genetics or that you need to confirm your NHS vaccine appointment, all of which involve clicking on a link which then asks for a payment and/or personal details. Working with the Corporate Communications team Trading Standards are posting regular warnings on social media to alert residents.
Having now exited the EU, Trading Standards anticipate an increased workload in relation to the many changes which will impact on their remit. Officers will continue to receive training regarding changes to Trading Standards legislation brought in by the withdrawal agreement. Officers have undertaken e-learning courses on the changes to Trading Standards legislation, including fair trading, e-commerce, metrology, product safety, animal health, and cross-border matters in advance of the changes which are now in place. Enquiries are received from importers looking for advice on the new requirements and duties placed on them.
The Team's Fair Trading Officers have continued to provide advice to consumers and traders in relation to contractual disputes. Many of these instances have arisen as a consequence of the coronavirus restrictions impacting on performance of contracts, particularly home improvement complaints. The current situation presents additional challenges when mediating between businesses and consumers to satisfactorily resolve complaints.
Licensing Advisers are continuing to deal with routine licensing consultations, complaints and enquiries.
Community Safety Team
The Community Safety Team continues to deliver a range of essential, emergency and ongoing work. Service delivery activities have been tailored and prioritised to coincide with the requirements of the level 4 Covid-19 restrictions and lock down measures which are currently in place across East Dunbartonshire.
Investigation of instances of fly-tipping continue to feature heavily and officers have been working closely with colleagues in Police Scotland to take robust enforcement action in relation to a number of offences. Throughout the course of the pandemic the team has deployed a number of mobile CCTV cameras in known fly-tipping hotspots for the purposes of helping to tackle this on-going problematic issue. Additional camera deployment has been somewhat restricted over the last few weeks owing to the latest set of lock down measures, but additional deployment will be considered wherever relevant as soon as restrictions ease in order to assist with offence detection and support the valuable enforcement work being carried out by the Community Safety Officers in relation to fly-tipping issues.
Control of Dog matters continue to be investigated and an essential pest control service has also been delivered for residents on an on-going basis since the start of the original lock down in March. In terms of pest control, a number permanent bait visits have recently been recommenced and carried out in instances where they have been necessary to support the Council's on-going public health response in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic (e.g. at the mass vaccination centres in Kirkintilloch and Milngavie).
For Community Wardens on-street enforcement for parking offences recommenced in the middle of August 2020. Charging and enforcement in off-street car parks then recommenced 14 September 2020.
During the current period of restrictions, the focus for the Community Wardens in relation to decriminalised parking enforcement has largely been centred upon our town centre areas, but due to increasing complaints for a number of our Primary Schools (which have now re-opened on a phased return starting from 22nd February) we will be ensuring that patrols are carried out at these schools during drop off and pick up times over coming weeks. On the DPE front, interviews have recently been held for new Parking Wardens and 4 successful candidates will now join the team and commence duties with the Council towards the end of the financial year.
Essential patrols in relation to environmental incivility breaches as well as antisocial behaviour and youth disorder patrols in and around identified issue areas have also continued. Complaints in relation to the issue of dog fouling have increased significantly in a number of areas throughout ED over recent months and an increased number of targeted patrols (including plain clothes patrols) have therefore been delivered in these areas in order to tackle the problem and Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued to a number of offenders. Officers have also been working with colleagues in Corporate Communications as well as Greenspace on a number of eye catching leaflets and an animated video which was launched week commencing 15th February.
The team continues to provide a remote service in terms of neighbour complaints/disputes, providing advice by phone and email and liaising regularly with colleagues in other services including Housing, Social Work and Police Scotland. As part of this the team will continue to carry out antisocial behaviour visits in the most serious of cases in order to tackle the significant increase in the number of complaints that have been received in recent months - however, alternatives means are being utilised wherever possible with face to face visits only being carried out where absolutely essential.
A number of mobile CCTV cameras continue to be deployed across the Council area to try and help tackle ongoing issues in terms of antisocial behaviour as well as more serious criminal offences. These cameras have been deployed in conjunction and agreement with colleagues in Police Scotland. Whilst new camera deployment has recently been hampered to some extent by the nature of current restrictions, work in this area is continuing with priority being given to the more serious / essential cases. There has been an significant increase it the amount of antisocial behaviour in our communities during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic - we are therefore delighted that a replacement Antisocial Behaviour Investigator has now started with the team following a recent recruitment process.
The Community Wardens have also recently assisted in delivering leaflets and posters to a number of premises (retail and other) in and around the Auchinairn, Woodhill and Bishopbriggs Town Centre areas in order to promote and advertise the new asymptomatic testing facility which has opened in the Auchinairn Early Years and Community Centre. This facility is for testing people who have no COVID-19 symptoms but who could still be infectious and spreading the virus without knowing it.
Officers have assessed the Community Grant Scheme Round 2 (2020-21) and the Grant Advisory Committee is taking place 10 March and CPP Board approval will be sought thereafter.
Officers continue to develop actions relating to outcomes in our Local Outcomes Improvement Plan (LOIP), via online engagement with community groups and partners / individuals during lockdown. EDVA also works in the community and has strong links. The Council continues to develop the Place plans for Auchinairn; Lennoxtown; Twechar; and, Hillhead and Harestanes. These are due to be reviewed in line with statutory guidance and to reflect changed circumstances due to the pandemic.
In line with revised guidance for CLD planning in 2020 and further to the requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013, Council Officers are developing a plan for Community Leaning and Development for 2021-24. The Community Learning and Development Partnership is meeting (online) and the group is collating data on evidence of need in order to formulate themes for the next three-year plan. Emerging priorities include combatting isolation, developing green spaces and financial / digital inclusion for priority groups.
Our Resettlement Officer continues to offer full-time support to our resettlement families e.g. providing access to essential services.
In line with statutory guidance officers are working on the update to the Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report for 2021-2025.
In line with the mandatory requirements issued to public bodies under the BSL Scotland Act 2015, EDC have produced a British Sign Language Plan with an update required in October 2021.
Preparation is underway for a Best Value Audit that will include Community Planning and currently working with colleagues and partners to record case studies and information for the interviews and the focus groups anticipated to be part of the BV process.
Roads & Environment
Streetscene Operations are currently assisting with footway gritting as part of the winter maintenance programme and undertaking the following tasks:
- Litter routes/Street cleansing, including removal of waste from bottle banks and fly tipping
- Graffiti removal (emergency)
- Pitch Lining
- Clearing Culverts
- Assisting in cemetery duties
- Play Park inspections
- Winter squad continue with gritting of schools, Covid vaccination centres, cemeteries as well as assisting with litter/fly tipping
Streetscene Technical Support - highlights include
- Woodland management works at Kilmardinny House almost complete. Planting of new trees and shrubs to begin next week.
- Path upgrades at Kilmardinny Loch to begin next week. Path upgrades at Langfaulds ongoing.
- New play park at Lennox Park is now open to public and is being very well used. Play park upgrade at Afton View is ongoing.
- Drainage works complete at Thorn Park pitch
- Bea Rae path drainage works at Lenzie Moss are complete and signed off
Mugdock Country Park
Takeaway refreshments are still being served in the Courtyard and preparations are being made to open the public toilets;
Work on the Walled Garden paths and bandstand steps is continuing with the better weather making progress much easier;
New signage advising dogs to be kept on leads has been ordered for Khyber field due to dog attacks on sheep in recent weeks;
Deer cull completed for the season;
New footfall counter at main gate to be installed; and
Working with the Garden Centre on improvements to the Maintenance Yard.
Roads Network Operations
In line with current restrictions the Roads Network Team will continue, on a rota basis, to carry out essential road safety repairs where social distancing can be maintained. The Operations Team resources have been prioritised to the repair of road defects reported over the last few weeks to ensure the safe use of the network. We also continue with our planned gully maintenance operations, working to complete all secondary routes and respond to reports of blocked gullies. The Street Lighting Operations team are responding to any reported defects, dark lamps or dark areas, addressing all within the required time frames.
As we move into a period of drier weather the operations team have returned to our Road Marking and Relining operations as resources allow and are working to address any safety concerns raised over the winter period.
The Roads Operations Team have also provided 24 hour response to any issue reported on the network including road traffic accidents or emergency defects on a stand by rota basis including our annual Winter Maintenance programme.
The team is continuing to weekend support colleagues in Waste with the operation of Mavis Valley Transfer Station, providing traffic management to assist with the control of vehicles accessing the site.
With the opening of the Mass and Targeted COVID Vaccination Centres at Milngavie and Kirkintilloch Town Halls and the Asymptomatic Testing Facility and Auchinairn Early Learning Centre, roads operatives have been supporting with the supply of marshalling and additional gritting operations to ensure safe access is maintained to these centres. Through collaborations with Greenspace, additional gritting measures have been put in place to ensure those attending appointments can do so safely.
Roads Inspectors continue to carry out all statutory safety inspection routes as well as investigating issues reported across the road network. As operations by utility companies have now increased the inspectors along with the Utility technician have commenced inspections of their operations as required. Inspectors and technician are now continuing to review and process and permit applications submitted to the Roads authority.
The Lighting Technical Team continues to work on ongoing tasks suited to home based working such as processing inventory records, updating and data cleansing. Officers have returned to site inspection duties and are liaising with developers to carry out site inspection and testing of new developments and progressing any new adoptions. The team is also responded to any planning applications which have been received.
The Roads Network Team has reviewed and agreed all Risk Assessment for Roads related tasks with the Health and Safety Team in response to Government guidance and are amending our Safe Working Practises with the any additional control measures identified in this process. We are actively working towards increasing activities to allow a return to the Capital Resurfacing programme when welfare and vehicle issues are resolved. Through the use of specialist external contractors we have managed to resolve structural road issues on both Crow Road and Stockiemuir Road and managed to complete the resurfacing of several locations, including Manse Road, Whitehill Road, Eskdale Road, Tay Road and South Erskine Park. Works continue on Collylinn Road to upgrade both the carriageways, footways and street lighting.
Roads Technical & Engineering Team
- Allander Bridge - Further meetings have taken place with Scottish Water, their designer and their contractor to protect the water mains and provide support to Glasgow Road.
- Alnwick Bridge, Crow Road, Lennoxtown - Work ongoing to replace waterproofing to bridge deck.
- Inch Belle Culvert, A803 Kilsyth Road, Kirkintilloch - Work progressing.
- Culvert Repairs, Bencloich Road, Lennoxtown - Assisting Drainage colleagues with supervision of repairs to culvert.
- Stockiemuir Road, Bearsden - Assisting Roads colleagues with supervision of work to install gabion baskets to provide support to carriageway.
Continuing with General Inspections, and some Principal Inspections also being completed.
Drainage and Flood Prevention
We have requested a site visit from SEPA to the Strathkelvin Way alongside the River Glazert where it has been undermined. We expect that this stretch will be included in the River Glazert Restoration project.
Remedial works at Bencloich Burn, Bencloich Road, Lennoxtown are expected to finish by the end of the month.
Officers are working on a drainage design alongside the Canniesburn Toll project to remove ponding and reduce the flood risk on Canniesburn Road.
The February/March quarterly round of RAUC meetings took place and no issues have been reported with our road works reporting.
- Installation of a new average speed system on Auchinairn Road is expected within the next month.
- Providing technical advice to the City Deal projects in Bishopbriggs.
- Monitoring completion of the lining and signing elements to the temporary traffic order on the A803 through Bishopbriggs to improve traffic flow.
- Preparing to install a traffic calming gateway project at Milton of Campsie.
- There is regular liaison with Police Scotland Traffic Management department.
- Continuing to respond to Legal Services on licensing applications and processing dropped kerb and disabled bay applications.
This is in addition to the usual tasks of responding to planning applications, FOI requests and customer enquiries.
EDUCATION, PEOPLE & BUSINESS: SERVICE UPDATES: Friday 12 March 2021
The next phase of the reopening of schools takes place from Monday 15 March. Pupils in Primary 4 to 7 will return full time and blended learning will be provided for pupils in secondary schools. This will provide some time in school and remote learning continuing to be provided. This is good news for children and parents!
It has been very challenging for secondary head teachers to put a programme in place for the three week period until the Easter break. Priority has been given to pupils in S4 to 6 who are studying for national qualifications. There has been a high standard of remote learning provided by schools across the Council and head teachers wanted to try to maintain that as much as possible. A number of schools have been interviewed by Inspectors from Education Scotland as part of the national reports on remote learning. Douglas Academy and Thomas Muir Primary featured in a good practice evaluation on pupil engagement. It was important for schools to use their evaluation of remote learning to plan the blended learning provision. Feedback from parents and pupils has put a high focus on the live interaction with teachers. There is a balance between teachers teaching pupils in school and ensuring quality remote learning with live interaction with teachers. Officers have worked to support head teachers to put a programme in place with a clear rationale based on key principles and taking full account of operational considerations and the health and safety requirements. There has been engagement with the trade unions both teaching and non-teaching to ensure any concerns are addressed.
Secondary schools are under considerable pressure due to the requirements of the Alternative Certification Model which replaces the examinations for the National Qualifications. Two additional in-service days will be provided for secondary schools to allow teachers to moderate assessments in order to inform the grades pupils will be awarded. Consultation is underway with staff to identify suitable dates in May or June.
The next stage will involve supporting schools to evaluate the impact on children of lockdown and put support in place for learning and well being. A comprehensive self evaluation will be carried out by the central team to inform planning both at school level and within the authority.
The early years team continue to work towards the implementation of the expansion of early learning and childcare. Workforce recruitment is continuing and officers are working to support local authority and funded providers now that all centres are fully reopened. The new centre at Oakburn in Milngavie is being set up, with some minor issues to be addressed before it can open for children.
The Procurement Team continues to support tender and contract requirements across all services with significant workstreams around major assets, Property Maintenance contracts and other needs across services such as Education, Housing, Business & Digital Change Projects, and Roads. Renewal and award of various contracts continue with various key ICT system requirements being progressed at this time.
The team continues to monitor supply chains for PPE stocks and other critical supplies. The operating arrangements and support to services have been updated for all services to ensure sufficient supplies and emergency procedures where required. PPE demand is monitored from the Stores location, and is managed/facilitated by the Procurement team. Work is currently in progress to prepare for end of year stock check.
Procurement are also currently supporting key work streams, these include Mass Vaccinations, Scottish Parliament Election, City Deal, the new Integrated Housing Management System, Transport Service arrangements, Remote Digital Solutions for Education and Supplier/Partner provider support in line with COSLA guidance.
Review of Care at Home and Supported Living Contract renewals are currently ongoing and aligned to support the Commissioning team and HSCP.
Business Grants, School Clothing Grants, Education Trip repayments, Early Years grants, Care providers additional funding requests, etc continue to be processed via the Procurement Support team to support Scottish Government payment requirements.
End of year processes for invoices and payments are currently in place and resources aligned to support the increased demand on the Service.
The team continue to process Free School Meal Payments for the period of School closures and are supporting ongoing applications in line with Scottish Government Guidance. Payments (£20 per week per child) up to the 12th March 2021were paid on 5th March.
Financial tracking of costs for Free School Meals, Hardship and Isolation Payments is ongoing, and associated Grant claims to Scottish Government are being monitored.
Additional specialist workstreams from City Deal and increased payment requirements from Business Grants, had informed resourcing with additional recruitment required.
Health & Safety
Health and Safety training is being developed by the team such as ladder training, introduction to working safely and sharps. The team continues to carry out training for duty holders for our new buildings pre-opening and supporting small plant training at Broomhill.
The Team continues to engage with our Health Surveillance providers and the management of the health surveillance records as well as supporting on site clinics, which will re-start at the end of the month. Review of individual risk assessments stemming from Health Surveillance needs are being progressed and the HAVS REACTEC system reviewed for improved recording of tool vibration.
The Team continues to work with a number of services including:
- Property Maintenance doing on site H&S supervision visits and working on establishing a HAVS tool appraisal;
- Justice Services’ risk assessments and method statements are being drawn up as well as training supporting HSCP Children’s services;
- Hilton Depot and Mavis Valley with review of layouts and tasks;
- the Assets team with on-site visits of new premises pre-handing over of buildings to assure all H&S matters are being considered;
- Education with new guidelines for schools re-starting and answering all queries from Trade Unions;
- Legal and Democratic services for the Scottish Government elections preparations and electoral office set-up arrangements.
The Health & Safety Manager continues to support the Asymptomatic Testing Site alongside the British Army and Legal and Democratic services.
The Fire Risk Assessors have been have continued to carry out Fire risk assessments of all operational and non-operational buildings including EDLCT.
DSE workplace and home self-assessments are still continuing to be captured by the Team as well as Health and Safety inbox queries, accident and incident recording, investigations and task based risk assessments.
Social Work Commissioning Team
Planning & Development team continues to support the HSCP and commissioned services including Care Homes, Care at Home and Third Sector organisations – essentially ensuring that throughout the recent Stay at Home Regulations, services continue, are safe, flexible and responsive to changing needs and are sustainable in the longer term.
P&D continues to have an integral role in the HSCP’s daily Adult Services Oversight Group. The group, whose membership includes Public Health and Care Inspectorate, has responsibility for providing assurance across key service areas including care homes, care at home, supported living and day care. P&D’ responsibilities includes monitoring (daily analysis/reporting, service & financial monitoring, compliance, risk management) and supporting providers/market management/facilitation. A key priority is the roll out of the C-19 vaccination and testing across care homes and community based services. The team has recently implemented a weekly return to help monitor the status and impact of staff testing and vaccinations across services and provides weekly update reports to the Oversight group.
Lifeways Ltd, recently notified P&D of its decision to close Campsie Neuro disability care home. Campsie Neuro is a 22 bedded residential facility based in Kirkintilloch for people diagnosed with neuro disabilities. The Council/HSCP has five individuals currently placed within the home, external authorities also commission placements and there are two voids. Lifeways cited on-going financial pressures, poor quality care / standards and lack of engagement from the staff team as the main reasons for closure. Subsequently, the HSCP implemented daily / weekly operational and strategic meetings that P&D, external Commissioners and Service Managers, Council Officers, Care Inspectorate and Lifeways attend to ensure a co-ordinated and safe closure of the service. Based on assessed needs, P&D is actively seeking suitable alternative placements to accommodate local residents who require 24 hr support with accommodation within the next three months.
Planning & Development continues to monitor providers Business Continuity Plans and intervenes if/where required to help mitigate service continuity risks. Provider’s business continuity plans are regularly reviewed, and updated and aligned to the HSCP’s overarching BC Plan. The HSCP’s Local Resilience Management Team (LRMT) continues to meet fortnightly to review resilience planning, surveillance and reporting across all HSCP / commissioned services
Assurance visits to care homes are on-going. P&D progress any related compliance issues with care home managers/owners and report / update the Oversight Group on progress, actions required and outcomes.
Planning & Development continues to support Social Care Sustainability Payments & Care Home Occupancy payments for providers who, as a direct result of Covid-19, have incurred additional costs relating to infection control, PPE and/or losses due to reduced occupancy. The Scottish Government recently published updated guidance that P&D conveyed, in various formats, to providers. All approved claims are captured within the HSCP’s Mobilisation Plan and providers submit invoices to P&D team for recording and progressing/payment purposes.
P&D is currently working with the HSCP, supported by colleagues in Legal and Procurement to prepare the transfer of its Care at Home and Housing Support contract / business to Scotland Excel’s National Flexible Framework. The current contract expires on 31 March 21 and all current business transfers over – commencing 1st April 21. The criteria for accessing Scotland Excel’s framework includes Care Inspectorate grades of 3 or above. Unfortunately, and due to the pandemic / prioritisation of care homes and resourcing issues, the Care Inspectorate have not inspected many care at home services, resulting in two of our local homecare providers - who due to recent buy outs and effectively being new organisations, do not have the grading history required to satisfy Scotland Excel’s access criteria. On-going engagement and escalation with the Care Inspectorate and Scotland Excel is underway along with a scope of alternative interim options with a view to ensuring and protecting service continuity.
Human Resources & Organisational Development
Trades Unions engagement continues on a weekly basis focused on strategic issues such as targeted vaccination updates, workforce vaccine programme, weekly testing processes, election preparations as well as risk assessment and required actions to respond to strategic issues in the Stay At Home regulations.
Engagement continues with Managers on the support for Individual Risk Assessments and Occupational Health Assessments based on Stay At Home regulations and Scottish Government advice. The response and review will continue to be monitored throughout this time. This has been a particular focus with the reopening of schools.
The case team continues to work on concluding cases as timely as possible whilst always ensuring early intervention and informal resolution principles apply. Work also continues on preparing and presenting disciplinary and grievance appeal cases to members of the Human Resources Appeals Board.
Absence analysis and support continues with priority focus within HSCP. Detailed scrutiny of the absence performance across all services continues with engagement taking place to understand required support and actions for improvement. Work continues to prepare and launch winter wellbeing information and will be available on the Employee Zone. Updates will continue to be made as required. The team continues to receive daily calls on COVID reporting for various circumstances. The implementation of a 7 day cover rota remains in place. Advice and guidance to employees and managers on COVID related issues and absences continue to be supported by the HR & OD teams.
Work continues to enhance the Employee Zone pages with updates and additions to the Wellbeing page to reflect Healthy Working Lives campaigns going forward.
Support and advice in relation to resourcing and recruitment campaigns as well as safe recruitment practices during this time.
Wellbeing campaigns are being highlighted through employee communications and publication on the Employee Zone. The teams are involved in Trauma awareness training at this time.
Communications in relation to EU Exit for the workforce were circulated to all employees and a dedicated page on the Employee Zone created with the support of the Corporate Communications Team.
Business & Digital Change Team
The Business & Digital Change Team continue to lead the delivery of a range of multi-disciplinary projects across the Council.
New eforms are continually being developed to meet demand. Recent additions include: Grant forms for B&Bs and Guesthouses and Self-catering businesses.
Phase 2 of our Smart Working M365 project has now commenced. We have engaged a Microsoft Gold Partner to support the Council in developing our Smart Working capability. This phase will last for approx 12 weeks and will focus on our business and technical readiness.
Work to deliver new solutions for the replacement of legacy Education systems continues to gather pace, a wide range of new solutions are being planned and outlined to allow delivery of essential functions across the Education sector.
Round 1 of the Temporary Restrictions Fund closed on 1st March. To date, 10 applications have been passed for payment with a cumulative total of £22,025. This fund will support childcare providers in the private, voluntary and not-for profit sectors, including out-of-school care providers within East Dunbartonshire. Round 2 will cover the period 1st -26th February and the application period will be from 5th March -1st April.
The Business Systems Team are working with Legal and Democratic Services to upgrade and centralise the Electoral Management System underpinning the May 2021 Elections. Work has also commenced to migrate the Council’s Offender Case Management Index system to a national solution provided by the Scottish Government before the end of October 2021.
Legal & Democratic Services
The team continues to support the Council’s COVID-19 civil contingencies response, supporting command structures at Council, local, regional and national level. Work is still progressing on the recovery phase, lessons learned and in support of Test and Protect, however the changing circumstances are such that response activity is increasing. In addition, members of the Team continue to attend meetings of LARGS in support of these matters and are working across the network to look at concurrency issues through a series of thematic sessions. These sessions seek to share development work and good practice in relation to issues that all Councils are having to revisit with a “COVID-lens” e.g. the impact of COVID on existing civil contingency arrangements for bad weather and other business as usual civil contingency events. As part of this, the Team is reviewing the Council’s current civil contingency arrangements to identify necessary changes or supplementary requirements in light of COVID-19. This is challenging in light of the changing environment in terms of the trajectory of infection rates and has to be flexible enough to adapt to developing circumstances e.g. the recent local lockdown and increasing national restrictions.
In addition to the above, work is continuing on support for the most recent recurrence of COVID. Regular meetings are taking place both locally and at a Greater Glasgow & Clyde LRP level to look at current issues and also future planning e.g. dealing with additional deaths so that there robust plans in place which can be activated if necessary. In addition the Team is supporting colleagues in dealing with assistance for those isolating due to Test and Protect and more generally in response to current restrictions and other impacts of the increasing infection rates. Further, officers are finalising alternative rest centre preparations to ensure that the temporary centre is COVID compliant eg which accommodate physical distancing and dedicated rooms for those isolating and/or shielding and fully stocked and ready for use.
The Team continues to lead in planning and oversight of the Council’s involvement for both mass vaccinations and community testing within East Dunbartonshire. Members will recall that both centres (Kirkintilloch Leisure Centre and Allander Leisure Centre were structured to allow both the hours of operation and number of vaccinators to be scaled up as required. Activity slowed slightly over the last couple of weeks due to vaccine supply, however new schedules show this increasing again over the coming weeks and the centres will be closer to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week operating. Whilst it is likely that volume and hours will ebb and flow as new cohorts are introduced and supplies increase, it is anticipated that the soon to commence roll out of second jags will see the Centres running at close to capacity for several weeks. Discussions with colleagues in NHS GG&C and other local authorities continue to take place in order that centres are able to provide vaccinations as planned and the EDLCT workforce continues to provide excellent support to the clinical operation, in a manner which is flexible and responds to the ever changing supply chain. Feedback from attendees continues to be positive and colleagues in the Leisure Trust are managing the throughput of vaccines efficiently and without any significant queues or delays.
Similarly, the Team is leading on planning for community asymptomatic testing across East Dunbartonshire. This is where the Council is required to set up a testing facility in communities where there is a significant spike in infection rates and/or where there are persistently higher than average rates. These centres will be used to test those who are asymptomatic and are intended to identify where individuals have COVID-19 in order that they can quickly self-isolate and contact tracing can be triggered. Members will be aware that an ATS has been established at the Auchinairn Community & Early Years Centre. This site opened last week and has seen a reasonable footfall to date. It is currently staffed by an Army team which is supported by members of the Civil Contingency team and also colleagues from Roads & Environment. The Army Team will be on site until conclusion of the MACA (4th April) and discussions are ongoing, both internally and with GG&C to look at how best to resource community testing within East Dunbartonshire going forward. This will be the subject of a further update to Members. In addition to regular comms, the Team is liaising with colleagues in Community Planning & Place to engage with local community groups and also colleagues in Education with a view to encouraging testing via the various local schools.
In the last few week, the team has been engaging with Scottish Government in relation to the identification of sites for walk in symptomatic testing in East Dunbartonshire. These discussions are ongoing and a separate Technical Note will be issued shortly detailing proposed venues and the manner in which the facilities will operate.
The Team continues to be involved in the strategic management of Registration Services at a local and regional level to inform the national picture regarding the management of additional deaths during this pandemic and working with partners to support a Greater Glasgow & Clyde-wide response. The registration of births and marriages/civil partnerships continues to be supported by colleagues in Legal Services and significant progress has been made to address the backlog of birth registrations. In addition, the Team is feeding into discussions at a regional and national level, which seek to embed some aspects of the move to remote/online registration where possible and practical to do so. The Team continues to monitor the national position and infection rates so that additional resources can be deployed if necessary and plans for cover over the holidays are being finalised.
Wedding and Civil Partnership ceremonies continue to take place at 21 Southbank Road for now. In addition, the Team continues to closely monitor the ever developing situation around restrictions and what they mean for ceremonies and receptions. This will be continuously under review in light of changing restrictions.
Between 1 – 10 March 28 Births and 61 deaths were registered by Customer Services.
Notwithstanding the pause in some of the workstreams around Care for People and Shielding, the Team continues to work to support governance matters and civil contingencies input in relation to Outbreak Management & concurrency issues and will continue to do so as more services are “switched back on”, and restrictions are eased.
On top of the above, there are other emerging civil contingency concerns in relation to which the Team continues to participate in various local and regional awareness and planning meetings including the review of strategic infrastructure and fulfilment of the “All Risks” approach to the various concurrent risks across the country.
Preparations for the Scottish Parliament Election scheduled for May 2021 are proceeding at pace. This planning requires additional attention as a “COVID-lens” is applied to conventional election workstreams on a local and national basis. Preparations are developing on a “safety first” approach so as to ensure the safety of all involved (staff, candidates and voters) and to provide assurance that the arrangements are safe for all. A communications plan is being developed and other additional briefings are planned for both staff and prospective candidates. The layout of all polling places has been reviewed and the arrangements for counting votes are progressing. A small multi service team continues to work on the detailed planning. Contingency plans will be prepared which anticipate a resurgence in the virus and measures put in place to secure the availability of the core election team. All aspects of the process and arrangements will be subject to robust risk assessments in order to protect employees, voters and candidates. On 8th March a Pre-Nomination session was arranged for potential candidates and focussed on arrangements for the safety of the election and those participating, along with details of the nomination process.
In terms of the election timetable to date, then the key milestones are as follows:-
Notice of Election – 15 March
Receipt of Candidate Nominations – 16 March – 31 March between 10am – 4pm (by appointment only)
1st Issue Poll cards – 16 March
1st Issue Postal Votes – 14 April
Postal Vote Opening will commence week beginning 19 April
A subject specific Technical Note will be issued to Members in the coming week
The Team continues to work on the further development of remote video meetings to support the Council’s governance arrangements and decision-making. Members will be aware that most meetings up to the end of March have been stood down due to the resurgence of COVID-19 infection rates and the consequent lockdown. Notwithstanding, Council meetings have been taking place and quasi judicial boards where there is urgent business. The Team is currently working on arrangements for the forthcoming Pre Determination Hearing and subsequent special meeting of Council in respect of the planning application for a proposed new ASN School at Waterside. This is resource intensive for Democratic Services over the remainder of this month and Members have been provided with the timeline under cover of a separate Technical Note. The Legal & Democratic Services Management Team is examining the best use of available resources to accommodate this important area of work while sustaining our support for Covid response [particularly planning for Community asymptomatic Testing and Mass Vaccinations]. A further calendar of meetings for 2021/22 is also in initial stages of preparation and is expected to be submitted to Council for approval in April.
The team continues to support to services in relation to information management, data protection and data sharing, which are critical in these circumstances and has supported various services in the ongoing development and amendment of Privacy Notices and Privacy Impact Assessments for new workstreams and the establishment of information sharing agreements and protocols which assist the Council in its work to protect some of the most vulnerable residents. In addition to supporting the Council’s postal mail services, the Team remains busy with print activity in support of schools and Committee cycles. In addition to the foregoing, the Team is working with in relation to the classification and preservation of information generated by the Council’s response to the COVID pandemic
SMT Support & Members Support Teams
The SMT Support team is working with the CMT and SMT to assist in the re-introduction of services across portfolios and continue to support other areas of the wider service and beyond as required. The Team continues to support the CMT, SMT and Departmental Management Teams with processes for remote meetings, production of Committee Reports and Elected Member Technical Notes. The Members Support Team also continues to support Elected Members.
Legal Services continue to guide Major Assets in the negotiation and conclusion of the Council’s capital projects and attentions are now focused on the negotiation of contracts and ancillary arrangements for the new Allander, Boclair Academy and Kirkintilloch Community Sports Hub projects. Due to the nature of these contracts (in terms of complexity, scale and value) these are particularly time and resource intensive. One of the main issues with existing and planned contracts is how they deal with the allocation of the responsibility for risks to the projects presented by not only Covid-19 but also the UK’s exit from the EU. Complex negotiations and drafting are required in order to protect the Council’s commercial position and programme but also to ensure the long term sustainability of the pool of contractors. Separately, whilst full details of the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU upon labour, materials and exchange rates emerge, delicate drafting is required to future-proof the Council’s interests in these projects.
In tandem with this, the team is also guiding the Housing Service in respect of delivery of its many capital projects and in the recommencement of open market purchases and shared equity buy-backs to increase the provision of affordable housing within East Dunbartonshire.
The team is also assisting with the initial contracts required for the City Region City Deal project with the recruitment of a team to support this well underway.
Further resource continues to be dedicated to interpreting, assessing and, where necessary, protecting the Council from the impact of the pandemic and the EU exit on its legal interests. In tandem with this the team endeavours to ensure that any potential benefits to the Council are optimised. One particularly busy area of work continues to be in relation to the many grant offers which the Council is receiving. Each grant comes with its own terms and conditions which the team assesses and then advises the relevant service in relation to any potential risks or performance/reporting requirements. This work can often be challenging - whilst the terms and conditions are not overly complex, the volume and increasingly short turnaround times within which the grant has to be accepted in order for the Council to access funds can at times impact on other work.
The team also works closely with the procurement team in ensuring procurement processes are complying with the changing law in this area and that the flexibilities offered by Government guidance are appropriately used. This also involves the drafting and documentation of contracts with suppliers of goods, works and services to the Council and the contractual clauses on the risk to the delivery of contracts caused by Covid-19 and the EU exit have to be tailored to fit the individual nature and circumstances of each contract. At the moment the team is assisting with some urgent procurements which have some complicated features and, as such, need detailed legal advice to ensure compliance and minimisation of risk.
The team is also playing a key role in the project team appointed to deliver a new Integrated Housing Management System for the Housing Service. The market for such systems is such that procurement of this project is complex and requires a high degree of legal project management and support. Coupled with this is the drafting and negotiation of bespoke IT terms and conditions to ensure that the system delivers as required.
The team negotiates, drafts and concludes the majority of contracts that the Council enters into for supplies, goods and services. A particular highlight at the moment is the contract for the new Committee Management system.
On top of this, the Commercial team is endeavouring to carrying out its “business as usual” activities where required in support of a Council priority. These include land transactions and commercial agreements, which seek to improve the Council’s commercial position. The team has also been involved in many data sharing and IT agreements, including licences to other partnering local authorities in respect of applications developed by the ICT team for education purposes.
In respect of litigation, at present the team is usually representing the Council’s interests by way of virtual hearings. There are, however, some matters which necessitate team members physically appearing in court. Current ongoing actions in court relate to housing, social work, licensing and employment matters. The team also continues to support the Council’s services in the management of various complex matters, which are currently at the pre-litigation stage, in an effort to mitigate effects on the Council. In addition, the team is currently preparing for a public inquiry in relation to a compulsory purchase order. This is the first compulsory purchase order that has been promoted by the Council in some time and the team, having limited previous experience of the process, is navigating it ably.
A significant amount of work is dedicated to the running of quasi judicial boards. In conjunction with colleagues in Democratic Services, virtual meetings of the Planning Local Review Body, the Licensing Boards and the Civic Government Appeals Board are now talking place, albeit that some are temporarily paused. However, during this period the team is still busy with dealing with applications, renewals and queries from application/agents. Despite the pause in meetings, a Special Civic Government Appeals Board relating to an urgent and high risk matter took place last month and a meeting of the Planning Local Review Body took place this month to deal with some particularly complex applications.
Members will be aware that an announcement on the new “tiered” restrictions is expected from the First Minister next week. Following this, the Team will review previous arrangements for licensed premises and ensure that these are up to date and reflect any changes. This work will be carried out in conjunction with colleagues in Environmental Health, Customer Services and Planning and will ensure that up to date advice is available to the licensed trade. Importantly, procedures will be as pragmatic as possible so as to facilitate reopening, whilst still ensuring public safety.
The team continues to provide close support to colleagues in social work in respect of sensitive and important matters involving children, families and vulnerable adults some of which are particularly pressing at the current time. These often require court appearances with very short notice. The number of referrals and matters requiring legal support has significantly increased during the pandemic and is requiring increased support from the Litigation & Licensing Team. In addition, the Service has supported social work colleagues in collating and assessing information in respect of a major Inquiry.
The team is gearing up for the return of heritable court business in terms of actions suspended at the point of lockdown in March and other matters which have arisen since. There is, however, one complex and important heritable court matter that is being allowed to proceed due to its serious nature and the team are acting on the Council’s behalf to ensure the best outcome for the many different parties involved.
In addition to the above, the Team is now turning attention to this year’s placing requests. The extended timescales of last year (to accommodate the work of the pandemic and home working) are no longer available and so preparations are commencing for this year’s anticipated appeals. Members will be aware that the Council normally receives a significant number of placing request appeals which result in several weeks of Appeal Hearings. This is time consuming and labour-intensive for both the Litigation & Licensing Team and also the Democratic Team Accordingly, the Team, along with colleagues in Democratic Services will shortly meet with Education to agree a time line and process for dealing with these appeals.
The team is also representing the Council’s interests in respect of various employment issues, including disputes that have made their way to tribunal.
As always, the team provides strategic advice and support to its colleagues in other services on the full range of legal issues currently and normally facing the Council. At the moment, that is particularly complex and resource intensive.
As always and due to the nature of the work of the team, there are many matters which the team is working on which are confidential and sensitive and further detailed information cannot be given on these.
Resources in Legal Services have been depleted recently and the sharp increase in demand for its services has put significant pressure on the team. In addition to existing projects, the team will be required to support the delivery of the City Region City Deal project. This has necessitated investment in the team in the form of a substantial recruitment exercise to fill a variety of new and existing roles. That process is well underway and the first two new members of the team have now joined, including a new Team Leader for the Litigation and Licensing team, with others to join in the coming weeks. The intention is that by Spring/Summer 2021 the team will be much better resourced to be able to continue to support the Council through the projects and challenges which lie ahead.
Customer & Business Support Services
Corporate Performance & Research
The Corporate Performance & Research Team is supporting data collation and quality assurance for performance reporting including the preparation and submission of statutory returns and local performance indicators, as well as wider data analysis across Council services and HSCP social care services and ongoing reporting requirements. This period this includes working with HR colleagues on the annual Social Work staffing return and data collation and analysis in relation to target areas for Covid-19 messaging. Quality assurance improvements and data cleansing activity are ongoing to ensure accurate data and confidence in data returns. Engagement continues with National Records Scotland in preparation for the next census, now due to take place in 2022 with planning underway and a communications plan in development for engagement with the East Dunbartonshire public from March next year.
The Public Performance Report (PPR) 2019/20 is being finalised for publication this month and in line with our local approach this will incorporate case studies to highlight good practice and the PPR is aligned to the key LOIP principles and themes. A Technical Note on the LGBF Benchmarking data was issued to councillors on 1 March following the publication of the LGBF data and overview report by the Improvement service on 26 February.
Work is continuing to support performance reporting for 2020/21 and agree timescales for committee approval ahead of recess in June 2021. Support is being provided to Executive Officers in the finalisation of their Business Improvement Plans (BIPS) for presentation to Council next week on 18 March. Work will also continue in the coming months to develop the corporate performance aspirations highlighted in the strategic review of strategic planning and performance that was presented to Council on 17 December, and reinforced in the Council Budget papers on 25 February. Work is also progressing with all service areas on the Council’s insurance renewals.
The Communications Team continues to provide 24/7 communications support for emergencies and essential out of hours messaging. Communications support and advice is provided across all Council services the East Dunbartonshire HSCP and EDLC Trust to ensure customers are aware of service delivery arrangements, highlighting changes if required across all channels to ensure maximum reach of message. Internal communications have continued to focus on ensuring the workforce is aware of the latest guidance and the continuing review of risk assessments and workplace Covid-19 measures in line with updated guidance to ensure the safety of all employees and sharing the Public Health and Scottish Government guidance as this is updated and renewed.
Engagement also continues with Regional Resilience Partners, CoSLA and UK and Scottish Government Departments to co-ordinate consistent communications around Covid-19 and communications planning around mass vaccination and mass community testing.
In the past fortnight, a total of 12 media enquiries were received and responded to on deadline, and in a busy two weeks for releases, 11 have been issued, resulting in positive coverage online and print media for the Council. Media releases over the past fortnight have included: the Council Budget decisions, the opening of the Asymptomatic Testing Centre in Auchinairn, work commencing on the new Allander Leisure & Day Care Centre, work commencing on affordable housing at the former Lairdsland Primary School site, a release to encourage people to make sure they register to vote on 6 May and the international debating success of pupils in Douglas Academy. All media releases are available in the News Section of the Council website.
The website continues to be updated daily and new pages created to meet service and messaging requirements. Further new online forms and associated web pages have been created for the latest rounds of business support grants launched by Scottish Government and administered locally.
The Employee Zone, which can be accessed by all Council employees whether they are office-based or on the frontline, continues to be regularly updated with key information, including Health and Safety updates and Wellbeing support. A total of eight Employee News have been issued this reporting period.
Communications support for community asymptomatic testing centre in Auchinairn has been a focus of the past fortnight, including the establishment of a dedicated community testing webpage with a ‘what to expect’ video, promotion of the testing centre through social media and the production of posters and flyers both in digital and print format for local businesses and community groups. Information has also been collated on all the support available should an individual or someone in their household test positive, and all information in relation to the testing centre is also being disseminated through local schools.
Social Media messaging remains a key focus and effective channel for engaging with East Dunbartonshire communities. On twitter there were 114 posts in the last period with a reach of 2.22 million, similar to the previous fortnight and there are currently 18.8k followers of the Council Twitter account. The highest reaching posts on twitter this past fortnight were the launch of the community asymptomatic testing centre in Auchinairn, the ‘Keep Safe’ awareness day on 4 March, and a reminder to parents/carers about wearing a face covering when dropping off and picking up children from school:
Top three Twitter Posts:
On Facebook there were 129 posts with just over 457k reach over the past fortnight and the number of Facebook fans remains steady at 17.7k. The highest reaching posts were an alert about a Covid-19 grant scam and the posts promoting the community testing centre in Auchinairn.
Top three Facebook Reach:
The website continues to be updated daily and new pages created to meet service and messaging requirements. Further new online forms and associated web pages have been created for the latest rounds of business support grants launched by Scottish Government and administered locally. A communication plan is in place and being delivered ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary Election on 6 May, with a web page established and the campaign to ensure people are registered to vote underway, alongside messaging to reassure everyone that voting will be safe.
The Emergency Response Centre continues to provide customer support 24/7 for the hour care alarm service, CCTV monitoring and emergency communication across services out of hours as required.
The wider Customer Services team continues to respond to changing priorities and fluctuating numbers of daily enquiries, predominantly in response to local and national measures in relation to Covid-19 including vaccination and testing. Call volumes and remain stable with calls in relation to vaccination being signposted to the national helpline, NHS Inform and the dedicated Council webpage with details on transport and travel to centres. Customer service resources continue to be deployed flexibly across the channels with greatest demand and call waiting times are continually monitored. The team is gearing up to support further applications in advance of the Spring hardship payment announced for April.
Customer Service delivery continues primarily through digital and phone channels in line with current guidance with a strict appointment-only based approach for the necessary face to face elements required for licensing at Bearsden Community Hub, which continues to work effectively for the final checking of original documents ahead of issuing of plates/licences. Registration services (delivered by Customer Services Agents/Assistant Registrars) continue to provide 5-day service delivery during the Covid-19 Recovery phase, in line with current guidance. Death registrations continue to be delivered remotely through telephone appointments from Kirkintilloch Community Hub. Birth registrations are being undertaken in real time with a preliminary telephone appointment prior to a face to face appointment for the final stage and signing of the register. A strict appointment system is also in place for marriage paperwork submission. Ceremonies are being delivered at the former Registration Office on Southbank Road which has been risk assessed and appropriately signed for those attending. Ceremonies are in strict compliance with current lockdown guidance and maximum numbers permitted.
The Shared Services Team continue to provide critical support across a range of Council Services in both the pandemic response and business as usual. The team are providing support through the National Assistance Helpline which provides support to shielders, vulnerable and those asked to self-isolate by Test & Protect. The Early Years team have completed the recalculation of all bills due to the closure of services after the Christmas holiday break. Invoices will restart for customers from the 16tt March. The Education Team continue to work on P1 enrolment and placing requests. The Letting team continue preparations for the return of outdoor lets from 15th March for non-contact training for all clubs. The Social Work Team continue to process all referrals for Social Work, while also working with the ADRS team on the roll out of the new DAISY system.
The School Support Coordinators are meeting with Head Teachers to ensure budgets are correct at year end, while making preparations for the retirement of the SEEMIS finance module. The Transport team continue to liaise with the schools to organise the mainstream/ASN transport for the return of all primary pupils and also the phased return of S1 - S6 pupils until the Easter break. The updating of Carefirst for our Homecare and Residential Teams remains a priority to support the most vulnerable of our residents. The Residential Team continue to process paperwork for care home placements to ensure providers receive their payments and residents are aware of how much they require to contribute.
Revenues and Benefits
The team have successfully completed annual council tax billing. Royal Mail have started delivering the bills which has resulted in a large increase in call volumes as residents receive their bills. As well as the increased calls, we anticipate an increase in correspondence over the next two weeks. Council Tax recovery is continuing and we are currently responding to enquiries following the issue of the second summary warrant.
The Scottish Welfare Fund Team continues to experience high demand, particularly Crisis Grants. The ‘Self-Isolation Support Grants’ have dipped in the last week despite the changes to the qualifying conditions, reflecting a reduction in the cases in East Dunbartonshire.
Non Domestic rates continues to see higher than normal levels of work. The team are preparing the annual billing, however, this will be delayed by a few weeks as we have to invite applications for the Retail Hospitality and Leisure Relief (RHL) for 21/22 once the legislation is laid on 18 March 2021.
The Benefits team are still seeing high levels of applications, particularly for Council Tax Reduction. We are awaiting guidance on the pandemic support payments of £130 to households receiving Council Tax Reduction announced in the Scottish Budget.
The Debtors Team are continuing to issue invoices and recover as normal, while the Sheriff Officers continue to contact clients in attempts to get payment arrangements reinstated where possible.
The team continue to work with our colleagues in Business Gateway on all the various Scottish Government grants to support businesses during the current period.
The ICT Team continue to provide support across all areas of the Council including those working from home. The Corporate Support Team have completed the latest system updates and patches across the Corporate Estate. The Education support team are coordinating with their schools to prepare for the return of pupils from 15th March.
The Infrastructure Development Team continue to build and distribute devices for pupils as stock is received from suppliers and provide support to major assets projects with the installation of ICT infrastructure in Southbank House and the three new Early Years Centres.
The Infrastructure Team are also developing plans for upgrades to the Council’s main data centre in the William Patrick Library and are working with Business & Digital Change colleagues on detailed plans for the additional capital expenditure identified for investment in schools ICT.
Finance & Audit
Work continues on a number of business as usual activities as previously reported to Elected Members. These efforts continuing throughout our teams. Significant work is ongoing to support payments, grants and systems developments to support the ongoing Council efforts.
In the period since the last update the Council has agreed its Budget and Council Tax levels for 2021/22. Following this work has been ongoing in the to establish whether there are any implications for the Council as the Scottish Government’s Budget Bill passes through Parliamentary Processes.
The Finance Team continues to engage with services to track the impact of Service arrangements and the attributable costs of Covid. This work will inform future discussions about services with new announcement on funding occurring on a regular basis. Otherwise the process of business grants administrations continues to be challenging to manage with new forms of funding requiring administration and the development of guidance. This continues to increase the workload of all supporting teams with enhanced financial monitoring being required. With work ongoing in relation to a number of additional grants it will be necessary for the Council’s internal audit team to validate and consult on new control processes.
The Council’s Chief Finance Officer continues to work with COSLA and the Directors of Finance to represent the best interests of Local Government and the Council as efforts increasingly turn to budget setting and year end outturn. Work is also ongoing to review the requirements, guidance and notifications required to put in place a number of additional fiscal flexibilities to assist the Council as part of its future financial planning. The team is actively working with COSLA to inform the Scottish Government budget process making representations in a number of core areas for future funding.
The team continues to work on maintaining and improving the Council's financial systems and controls, including alterations required to the Oracle ledger system and preparations for the financial year end. They continue to provide support the discharging of grants to businesses totalling nearly £20 million and reclaiming that from the Scottish Government. Current VAT issues including adapting the Council's VAT return to meet HMRC's requirements under Making Tax Digital and the construction reverse charge have been implemented. The scale and timing of developments in these areas ensure that the work of the team to support other teams in the Council continues at pace.
The compliance and systems team continues to work with the Business and Digital change team to improve the Council's income systems to provide a better service to customers and to secure the Council's income streams against the effects of Covid. The team continues to ensure all income transactions and the school meals payments are ledgered timeously and assist other services as required.
The team continue to support the development of expenditure expectations in relation to Covid and tracking the various income streams to establish whether this funding is additional to support the anticipated financial gap or in the form of a grant to offset new, additional and required expenditure. This is being constantly reviewed and will be required for year end analysis and reporting. This work has now been consolidated into a single tracker and circulated to Executive Officers to ensure good governance and to aid reporting. In addition the team is starting to compile more detailed expectations and documentation in relation to the 2021/22 budget with benchmarking information being collated between all 32 Councils as well as through external economic advice. This is being applied within the Council’s financial model to provide initial expectations of future financial gaps albeit this remains at a very high level given the variability within the economy.
Period 10 monitoring has now been finalised and will likely be reported via a technical note in the near future. The team is also now phasing the agreed budget to allow for upload for next years monitoring. The team is also planning and working towards the financial year end including year end instructions and review of baseline papers. As well as working on the Government return (POBE). The Teams is also supporting the development of solutions to manage Seemis retirement of budgeting functions for schools. This is a technically challenging task lead by Organisational Transformation teams.
Treasury, Capital & Housing
The team continues to track Lockdown restrictions on the Council’s cash flow including the impact of any intended borrowing decisions with Capital works remaining slower than planned. The treasury team continue to monitor cash flow closely due to the increased financial transactions due to Covid ensuring that there is liquidity for all Council activities. This including putting in place the new controls and procedures for paying the daily isolation grants and also the opening of our new bank account to enable enhanced cashless catering processes at our schools. The team are engaging with Treasury advisors to determine the impact of potential fiscal flexibilities and the application of these in future years.
The Capital & Housing Team is now completed all audit requests and are now working on completing various year end returns for Scottish Government, Capital Budgets and the submission of our City Deal claim. The team has also completed Capital & Housing budgets for 2021/22 for inclusion on the Council’s agenda on the 25 February.
Internal Audit and Fraud
Internal Audit have continued to work on audits included in the original audit plan for the year including VAT, Corporate Health and Safety, the Highways Code, and School Funds (Education). Follow up work on previously raised internal audit findings has recommenced on a limited basis, focusing primarily on high risk issues at present. Reactive work also continues including the provision of advice in relation to new or revised processes.
Further, Internal Audit continues to provide a business grants appeals service including reviewing appeals from some businesses whose applications for the Strategic Framework Business Fund were rejected. The majority of these appeals are from businesses that are affected directly or indirectly by the current restrictions. However, as their business types were not listed in legislation as being required to close under Tier 4 or as a hospitality business to modify their services under Tier 3 through early closure or by ceasing to serve alcohol they are not entitled to this grant. The Council has no discretion regarding the eligibility criteria and must apply the Scottish Government's guidance in this regard. Of the 35 appeals received to date for this fund, the rejection has been upheld for 32, whilst three were passed back to the Business Support Team for further assessment. The Internal Audit Team will also provide an appeals process for Discretionary Grants. Two appeals have been received to date and the assessment of these is in progress.
The Team and the audit plan remains flexible, whilst recognising the need to review adequate evidence for the Chief Internal Auditor's annual opinion. The Team is also continuing to provide support to transition the operation process for reviewing HSCP provider additional cost claims based on the previous work undertaken by Internal Audit.
The Corporate Fraud Team is currently focusing on vetting applications received for business grants and school places. Corporate Fraud has also received National Fraud Initiative data matches for review and investigation. The Team has begun assessing the matches and commencing investigations, focussing initially on the high priority matches and those that are most likely to yield results.
In 2019 East Dunbartonshire Council participated in a successful Non Domestic Rates Small Business Bonus pilot data match which resulted in £412,974 in incorrect awards being identified across the seven authorities that took part. Audit Scotland is now progressing extending this data match across all 32 Scottish Local Authorities. Local preparation has begun to ensure that the relevant data will be submitted by the end of April. Matches are expected to be received by the Council in June and following this investigations will commence.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE PARTNERSHIP (COUNCIL DELEGATED SERVICES): SERVICE UPDATES: Friday 12 March 2021
HSCP Business Continuity & Recovery / Transition Planning
All departmental and overarching Business Continuity Plans continue to be in place. A Covid-19 annex to the HSCP Business Continuity Plan provides more detailed information on essential service prioritisation approach, team consolidation plans, public protection arrangements, arrangements to support and sustain commissioned services, arrangement for sustaining staff capacity and communications. These business continuity frameworks will continue to be updated in response to presenting and projected pressures and developing guidance. Virtual management team meetings are also well established. In response to Scottish Government correspondence on the matter, the HSCP Board has established temporary revisions to normal business processes from its meeting on 21 January, in order to reduce the duration of meetings, with a reduced focus.
Performance and activity reports continue to be prepared for consideration by the HSCP Board as normal. These provide indications of service activity and outcome impacts as a result of Covid-19 across HSCP functions and services, as well as reporting on normal business activity and performance. A Quarter 3 performance (Sept to Dec 2020) report will be considered by the HSCP Board at its meeting on 25 March 2021.
In line with the Council’s COVID-19 Strategic & Operational Planning, an HSCP Transition and Recovery Plan has also been developed, with a focus on service remobilisation wherever safe and possible to do so. This will be updated iteratively in line with Scotland’s updated routemap. The HSCP is also linking with the Council and NHSGGC on ensuring consistent decision-making and communication on service prioritisation and transition planning.
The targeted Covid-19 vaccination arrangements for high risk groups (including care home residents) is now well advanced. All care home residents have now had two vaccinations. The HSCP has supported GP practices in the delivery of vaccinations to the over 80s, those aged 75 to 79 and the clinically vulnerable (shielding). These were delivered across two main sites at Kirkintilloch and Milngavie Town Halls, in addition to GP surgeries, and aim to complete second vaccinations by the end of March.
Arrangements for personal protective equipment (PPE) continue to be in place for all services that require it.
Public protection work, which includes child and adult protection, drug and alcohol services, and a range of justice services, continues to be prioritised. Protection referrals are exceeding pre Covid rates.
The Public Protection Chief Officers Group (COG) continues its more frequent meetings, with an agenda focussed primarily on key areas of risk, but with an increasing return to business items. The Public Protection Leadership Group established at the outset of our Covid-19 response has continued to meet fortnightly and reports directly to COG. This ensures management oversight of all operational matters and statistics relating to Public Protection. This group has included work to support early release of prisoners in collaboration with Housing services.
Practices and processes for protection functions are updated in line with revised national guidance and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. A specific public protection covid-19 risk register has also been developed to support ongoing work. Items of concern are noted and escalated to COG.
Service Delivery Impacts
Most social care services continue to be delivered on a business as usual basis e.g. statutory assessment and supervision services, care at home and residential care, During the first wave, a number of services were suspended or reduced in line with social distancing requirements such as day services, group work, overnight residential respite and Unpaid Work. Many of these fall into the category of congregate services, which has been the subject of separate Elected Member Technical Notes and direct correspondence with service users and families. A number of these services are now resuming, or have already resumed, working on a revised and much reduced capacity basis, including Kelvinbank Resource Centre. The service has been working to provide alternative forms of support where possible.
A fortnightly business continuity report is prepared to highlight delivery status across all HSCP essential services, staff availability levels and operational team contingency arrangements.
Assessment and Care Management
Social Work assessment and care management referrals reduced sharply during the early stages of lockdown in the Spring, similar to the reduction in referrals to NHS services. Referrals returned to pre-Covid levels and assessment activity increased significantly during the summer, before second wave impacted once again on referral and activity numbers, albeit less than during the first wave. This is not a reflection of operational capacity, but a reduction in presentations. Numbers of East Dunbartonshire residents going to and being admitted to hospital are now reducing after a period of steep growth in December and January, but remain very high. The main Social Work Assessment and Care Management Teams continue to deliver their statutory services, mostly working from home, with physically distant customer contact wherever possible.
Contact and Monitoring is being maintained through digital mechanisms and phone calls wherever possible, whilst fulfilling the requirements of statutory orders and public protection requirements, although in line with Scottish Government guidance face to face contacts for the most vulnerable and at risk has been increased.
The Persons at Risk Database (PARD) that was been established to identify HSCP service users requiring ongoing contact during the Covid-19 response time period continues to be actively used. Numbers on the PARD remain static at around 5700 people. Those who do not receive a direct and ongoing care package e.g. home care, are contacted on a frequency that is defined by the assessed level of risk to their welfare and levels of need.
All of the Council’s in-house social care services continue to operate. Our day services are operating on a very limited basis only, for a small number of individuals with particularly complex needs. The Outlook and Outreach services operate an emergency response to families and individuals in crisis. The oversight of all day services, including those delivered by 3rd and independent sector partners is monitored via the HSCP Registered Care Services Oversight Group which has input from public health and the care inspectorate.
Staffing pressures were particularly felt within some in-house services due to Covid-19 infection management procedures, during December and January. The Care at Home service and learning disability supported living services were most affected, with contingency arrangements being escalated for a period to ensure priority cover and service continuity. Pressures have now reduced with contingency arrangements de-escalated, but monitoring continues. Joint working with trade union colleagues has been very positive in responding to issues on the ground.
A pan NHSGGC group on day services has been convened, led by the ED Interim CO, and has produced a document setting out the shared and collective approach to day services over the winter period.
Testing for Social Care Staff
There continues to be access to testing for all social care staff who are symptomatic and regular weekly testing has also been rolled out to all social care and social work services who support at risk adults and children. This is in addition to the testing that has been rolled out to all care home residents and staff where an outbreak is confirmed or suspected. The national testing strategy continues to develop and we continue to respond to any new requirements this brings. In addition, vaccination opportunities have been rolled out in line with Scottish Government prioritisation.
Support to Care Homes
A high level of support continues to be provided to care homes. Enhanced clinical support from the HSCP is routinely provided 5 days a week and over the weekend where this is required. In line with Scottish Government requirements the HSCP has in place a daily safety ‘huddle’ to oversee the position of each local care home. Following publication of the national social care winter plan this group’s remit has expanded to cover all registered care services as described above, with an action plan in place to take forward these provisions.
A care home provider operating in East Dunbartonshire has informed the Care Inspectorate of their intention to offer a 12 week notice period to close a specialist care home facility. The provider has intimated ongoing commitment to the care of people living in the facility during this 12 week period. East Dunbartonshire has placed a number of residents within this service. Each placing authority is now scoping the needs of the individuals that they are responsible for supporting and liaising with potential providers of care to establish how best needs can be met, in conjunction with the Care Inspectorate.
Covid outbreaks in care homes have reduced significantly since December and the impact of the vaccine programme is being positively felt.
Support to Home Care
The Care at Home service continues to be increasingly busy, with a noticeable trend towards referrals for more complex and staff intensive care support. Challenges of caring for Covid-positive customers has been a feature recently but all required PPE and support for safe use of this continues to be in place. Weekly testing for our care at home workfare is now in place.