PLACE, NEIGHBOURHOOD & CORPORATE ASSETS: SERVICE UPDATES: Friday 15 January 2021
Assets and Facilities
Gas safety inspections are ongoing and we continue to make progress in reducing the backlog of inspections resulting from the current pandemic. The courts have recently issued some warrants to access properties which are overdue on their inspections, with further warrants now on hold until the beginning of February due to the current change in covid restrictions. We will continue to further reduce these numbers over the coming weeks. Void repairs are ongoing with good progress being made on completing properties and this will continue as we aim to significantly reduce the number of void properties in the coming weeks. We are carrying out emergency and essential reactive repairs only with the minor works element of the Care & Repair service being ceased at this time. The completion of Aids & Adaptations continues and the Smoke and Heat detector installation programme remains ongoing across the estate. Kitchen, Bathroom, Heating and Roofing replacement programmes remain on hold and will restart as soon as is practicable and safe to do so. Works across the Education portfolio continue with good progress being made.
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. A recruitment exercise was undertaken in December 2020 and appointments offered to fill the vacant day cleaning posts within the structure, eight positions remain to be filled and a final recruitment exercise is underway. Cashless Catering is currently being implemented on a phased approach in Primary schools with twenty schools now operating the cashless catering system. The full roll out of this system will be completed early February 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.
Assets & Estates
Construction has re-started following the Christmas break at Southbank House / KHCC (anticipated completion end January) and the three new Early Years Centres at Oakburn (anticipated completion now 22nd January), Lairdsland and Bearsden (anticipated completion mid February). Productivity across each site continues to be impacted by the pandemic and the programme impact of this in particular continues to be monitored closely by the Major Asset projects team.
Council approved the Stage 2 Report for Boclair Academy in December and the main construction phase will lead-on from the enabling works, which are currently in progress, from the end of January onwards. Construction of Allander Leisure and Day Care Centre started on 11th January. Construction of the Kirkintilloch Community Sports Complex is anticipated to start in mid-Feb. Design and cost development continues to progress for the ASN project and a Stage 1 Report will be provided to Council in 2021.
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. Support continues to be offered where necessary to tenants through rent deferrals and referrals to the business support team.
The Asset Management team continue to deliver a range of capital projects across the property estate and in January will have a particular focus on the installation of a new all-weather sports pitch at Lenzie Academy, which commenced on 11th January and refurbishment works at Hilton Depot, due to start end January, alongside a number of other projects in the wider estate.
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 has re-started following the Christmas break at the former TJH site, Kirkintilloch and continues to progress well. Final contractual negotiations are underway ahead of the construction of new affordable housing at the former Lairdsland Primary School site, Kirkintilloch; Blackthorn Grove, Lenzie and the Loaning, Kirkintilloch.
Feasibility work continues to progress to develop the next phases of the Council's Affordable Housing Investment Programme for consideration by Council in 2021.
Homelessness & Prevention Team
- has been operating on an emergency basis from 14 December 2020 until 11 January 2021.
Out of hours service during the festive weeks (18 January 2020 until 5 January 2021) was extremely busy, with duty officers assisting 19 households (total of 36 hours) during this time; 7 of the 19 households requiring emergency accommodation:
- 1 was booked into B&B; 3 booked into First Stop; 3 booked into self contained Council accommodation.
6 of the 19 households were interviewed last week and homelessness applications taken and a further 4 emergency appointments were arranged, with 13 appointments arranged in the next few weeks.
Despite a busy period, there are currently no household's in B&B and to date the Council has not breached the Unsuitable Accommodation Order this financial year. There are a number of voids currently being prepared in the next few weeks to assist homeless households and our Rent Deposit Officer continues to assist households move to the private sector, where appropriate.
As part of our Rapid Rehousing "Our Home Project" - 419 households have been referred to the Welfare Rights Officer (65% of enquiries relating to benefit enquiries) to help prevent homelessness and/or maximise income to enhance housing options available. During December 2020 the Homelessness Team received confirmation of funding for 2021/22 Rapid Rehousing (£149k). A report to committee will follow to confirm funding/spend arrangements and key achievements during 2020/21.
We are delighted to confirm that one of our Housing Support Workers (Linda Thornton) was awarded the "2020 Y People Housing Support Worker of the Year" award. Linda joined Y People in 1999 and has been supporting households in the East Dunbartonshire area since 2012. Y People Housing Support is in place to support homeless applicants/tenants with housing support i.e. paying bills, sustaining their tenancies, door keeping and providing well-being assistance.
Housing Operations Team
Due to the office closure over the Festive Period, no new tenancies have recently been signed up. It is anticipated that 6 sets of keys will be returned 'fit to let' from Property Maintenance (PM) which will allow viewings to be arranged and new tenancies to be created this week. The Housing Operations Team continues to work closely with PM with the aim of reducing the back-log of void properties as quickly as possible. To date, 119 new tenancies have been created since the start of this financial year.
The team continues joint working with Legal, Police Scotland and Community Safety teams to deal with anti-social behaviour cases, through progressing Short Scottish Secure Tenancy conversions to try and resolve on-going noise issues and tenancy matters of a more serious nature.
Systems and Policy Update
The Housing Service is looking at options to expand the team to ensure there are resources in place to take forward the implementation of the new IHMS system and assist with the ARC, along with progressing the annual assurance statement - performance monitoring. New policies on the horizon involve log burners, garden structural permissions and looking at an asset management strategy, as well as continuing the review of current policy and procedures to ensure they are in line with legislation and new practices.
Rents, Arrears & TP Team
The Rents Team 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 to be tenants who do not pay and/or engage and the service is now issuing 1st and 2nd reminder letters to these tenants, as a result. There are no current court actions for rent arrears taking place as we cannot carry out any evictions until at least March 2021. 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 stand at £1,264,098 (week 40).
The next online TPWG meeting will be held on 21 January 2021. Annual rent setting consultation ended on 8 January 2021 and the team is currently reviewing responses. Response levels this year has seen a significant increase on previous consultations.
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.
Weekly 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, including a significant number submitted over the festive period despite the pandemic and are working to maintain performance as far as practical.
Land Planning and Sustainability Policy and GIS
The Council’s Local Development Plan 2 was approved at August Council. Consultation has now commenced on the Proposed LDP2 and will last until 15 January 2021. A technical note was issued to all Members with full details. Given the changing restrictions relating to COVID-19, adjustments may need to be made during the representation period. Officers are also working on planning guidance, the historic environment designations review 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 and data will continue to be analysed alongside undertaking consultation. Consultation took place between 2 – 30 November 2020 on the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the Economic Recovery Plan. 242 responses were received which are being analysed.
A Draft Parking Management Plan is currently being worked on by officers ahead of it being presented to the Transport Working Group for discussion. This is one 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.
Work is progressing well on the Scottish Government funded Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Pilot Project with virtual work to assess the potential for improvements on properties in the Milngavie and Bearsden areas to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions now under way. The recommendations from the project will inform the development of the Council’s approach to tackling climate change which will be reported to PNCA Committee in due course. The Council’s Climate Change Public Bodies Duties annual report was submitted to the Scottish Government by the November deadline and indicates that the Council’s 44% carbon reduction target for 2019/20 has been achieved. A report proposing a 49% carbon reduction target for 2020/21 will shortly be reported to PNCA Committee, along with proposals for the preparation of a new Climate Action Plan. This will set a new zero direct carbon emissions target for the Council, linking to new Regulations that require the Council to report the date by which it will achieve zero direct emissions, and how the Council will align its spending plans and use of resources to achieve its emissions reduction targets.
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 December 24th. The Strategy is now being finalised and an Action Plan prepared. The finalised Strategy and Action Plan will be reported to Council this spring.
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.
The GIS Team continue to develop a comprehensive training package with the aim of upskilling officers and enhancing the accuracy of data being produced. The team continue to support the planning and building standards departments.
The City Deal team has been established with 2 dedicated Officers and a Team Leader. A third City Deal Officer is due to start at the end of January. 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.
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: procurement of consulting services in support of the Outline Business Case (OBC); programming of the individual projects and work relating to the OBC, work on early economic impacts forecasting (as required under the funding approval), and fee proposals for work relating to the Bishopbriggs Town Centre Public Realm Plan.
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 are pleased to report that the Antonine Wall Play Park in Peel Park Kirkintilloch has started on site and progressing well. Officers continue to develop a project brief and plan in partnership with Land Planning Policy and landowners which aims to create a new Kirkintilloch Gateway Masterplan aimed at encouraging regeneration of the site. 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 has just finished on supporting a number of local groups and organisations to successfully access Scotland’s Towns Partnership “Love Local” funding to deliver a range of initiatives to help town centres and local businesses adapt to and recover from the impacts of Covid-19.
The Strategic Framework Grants which were launched in November continue to provide funding to businesses impacted by restrictions or closure with additional funding made available by the Scottish Government. These grants are designed to be paid 4 weekly in arrears and align to the five tier framework. Additionally a new one off top up payment for ‘retail’ and hospitality businesses has been announced – the exact details for which is still to be provided, but it is understood these payments will be made as part of the Strategic Framework Fund
A number of other Scottish Government Funds have been announced which local authorities are likely to be required to implement over January and February. These will be undertaken following completion and provision of guidance to local authorities. These grants include: Taxi Driver Grant; Indoor Sports Facilities, Brewers and Travel Agent one off grants; Mobile Close Contact Services Grant; B&B Grant; New Self Employed Hardship Grant; and a Discretionary Grant.
Ongoing weekly reporting to the Scottish Government on each of the grant programmes continues.
The Business Support team are working closely with other relevant teams across the Council, and they continue to play a central role in the coordination and implementation of ongoing Covid 19 business grant support. The team are currently processing a very high level of enquires as more funds are announced.
Work is ongoing to allocate additional support from across the Land Planning & Development Service in order to support these work streams.
Business Gateway continues to deliver its normal service provision however it is experiencing increased demand for support across all sectors. Redundancies and business closures are on the increase with trade not returning to the same levels for many businesses.
Latest information from Business Gateway National shows that East Dunbartonshire BG has the 2nd highest rate of attendance for its workshops across Scotland exceeded only by Aberdeen.
Traffic and Transport
The team continue to work on the A803 Signal Optimisation Project funded by the Bus Priority Rapid Deployment Fund (BPRDF). The fund supports the Transport Scotland led Transport Transition Plan, which is looking at measures across the City Region to support sustainable travel in the next stage of lock down easing.
A Design Consultant has now been appointed to develop the Canniesburn Toll Improvement Project. The project, which is funded through Developers Contributions, will look to install signals to the Toll as well as introduce improved pedestrian and cycle facilities.
Waste Services -
The Waste service continues to deliver a full range of services at present and collections are operating normally for residents. The ongoing Covid restrictions remain in place and the impact of positive cases and self isolation amongst the workforce continue to provide challenges for the team however this is being managed on a day to day basis.
The team successfully completed the full range of waste and recycling collections over the Festive period, in line with the two shift system from 6.30am through till 9.00pm over the Sunday and Monday of both weeks. The inclement weather led to some minor catch up being required into the Tuesday of each week.
Dry Recycling Collection and Food Waste Collection
Collections are operating normally for residents with increased recycling tonnage being identified.
Green Waste Collection
As previously advised, from Tuesday 5 January 2021 residents can dispose of real Christmas trees in one of two skips placed at the William Patrick Library car park, Kirkintilloch or Mavis Valley Recycling Centre, Bishopbriggs. Alternatively residents can call the customer contact centre to arrange a one off uplift for Christmas trees and garden waste which will take place between the 15th and the 23rd January. The main garden waste collections will recommence again in March 2021.
Bulky Collections (Special Uplifts)
The Waste team continue to deliver the Special uplift service with demand remaining consistent over the four week period. The front line crews continue to be deployed daily to meet this need and are substantially managing to deliver this service within the standard timescales for collection of 10 working days throughout this period. Some delays can however be experienced where there is a requirement to deploy a taillift vehicle to uplift very large items such as sofas which cannot be uplifted by the standard refuse truck.
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 was very busy over the festive period. The service experienced some difficulty due to the significant increase in demand which is normal for this time of year however the restrictions in place as a consequence of Covid led to some delays and queuing traffic at peak times. Demand has now reduced and the site remains operational through lockdown period, with continued support from the Roads service in order to manage traffic at peak times. Officers have used social media to remind residents that in line with Scottish Government guidance, they should not be undertaking non essential journeys at this time.
Clyde Valley Household Waste Transfer Station
The Waste team continue to work with Clyde Valley Partners and the Council's Major Assets team for the sign off and hand over of the new bulking facility at the Mavis Valley site. It is anticipated that this transfer will be concluded in the coming weeks to allow the contractor to take control and manage the transport and disposal of the Council's household residual waste from this location. Following on from the most recent meeting on the 8th January the contractor is looking to take control of the site from the last week in January.
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 programme for the year, with a range of vehicles delivered and introduced to the fleet. 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. There has been an increase in demand due to the reintroduction of further front line operations therefore work is being prioritised in order to ensure essential services can continue to be delivered through the winter period. The service worked throughout the festive period in support of the front line services operating over this busy period.
Electric Vehicle Charging update
Orders have now been placed for the procurement of 20 new charging posts for installation at the Southbank House Campus and Broomhill depot. The team also continue to work with colleagues at Major assets, in order to progress electrical capacity upgrades for the introduction of the new Charging Facilities at both sites.
The transport team continue to support colleagues in Education and Facilities Management for ASN School Transport and meal deliveries across the Authority. The team also continue to Manage vehicle and plant hire activities, supporting front line services in addition to managing the Councils Triscan Fuel Management and Masternaut Telematics systems across the Councils operations.
Place & Community Planning
The new Covid-19 strain identified at the end of 2020 is prevalent increasing incidence within the community, and therefore all associated work continues to create a significant demand for Environmental Health Officers. Environmental Health staff 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.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) (Amendment No. 10) Regulations 2020 came into force on Tuesday 5 January 2021. The East Dunbartonshire Council area is currently placed in Level 4 of the tiered strategy within the regulations. This means that all hospitality premises, non-essential shops and services, accommodation and leisure services amongst others are required to close and the public advised to remain at home unless to leave for essential purposes.
Environmental Health's programme of proactive visits to hospitality settings to assess compliance with legislation and the Covid-19 controls is currently on pause whilst current restrictions are in place although some visits are taking place to respond to serious Covid-related complaints. The team have received many requests from local businesses for advice on what the tier system means for their operation. Officers will continue to assess and monitor compliance by the hospitality sector for take away food and drink businesses over the coming weeks. 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 in Environmental Health continue to deal with other environmental regulation and public health in terms of Air Quality, Contaminated Land and numerous noise, odour, smoke 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. Furthermore, 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 the winter months with the presumption that inspection programmes can begin in Spring.
The 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 restrictions and lockdown 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. The team has also deployed mobile CCTV in known fly-tipping hotspots for the purposes of helping to tackle this on-going problematic issue.
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.
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 been centred around our town centre areas. 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.
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.
In addition, 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. There has been an increasing amount of antisocial behaviour in our communities during the course of the Covid pandemic.
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 require 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, the team have received enquiries from non essential businesses regarding click and collect. In line with our department’s concerns, it is envisaged that the First Minister will address click and collect in relation to non essential businesses in her statement to the Scottish Parliament on 13th January. The Scottish Government will review the level 4 restrictions at the end of January, however, they have indicated that the restrictions are not likely to be lifted at that time. 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 new Covid 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 fitness and exercise operators.
Further, there has been an increase in the workload in the areas of scam prevention, product safety, fair trading, metrology and petroleum.
We have now exited the EU, and anticipate an increased workload in relation to the changes made by leaving the EU. 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.
Round 2 of the Community Grant Scheme has been launched with a closing date of 5th February 2021. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the latest grants scheme will again be entirely online, with officers available to provide groups with support if needed. Current restrictions will be considered as part of the assessment process and applications which demonstrate innovative, and COVID-19 compliant, programmes and ideas are sought. The last deadline for applications was in October 2020, with around £70,000 due to be allocated to a wide range of community and voluntary sector groups. Groups can apply for funding up to a maximum of £3,000 provided they have a constitution and a bank account, are not for profit, aim to bring benefits to the residents of East Dunbartonshire and contribute to the priorities of the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan and help tackle inequalities.
Our Resettlement Officer continues to offer intensive full-time support to our Refugee families remotely and translates updates and guidance on an ongoing basis and facilitates access to essential services.
Roads & Environment
Streetscene Operations are currently assisting with footway and school playground gritting as part of the winter maintenance programme and undertaking the following tasks:
1. Litter routes/Street cleansing, including removal of waste from bottle banks and fly tipping
2. Pitch Lining
3. Clearing Culverts
4. Assisting in cemetery duties
5. Play Park inspections
Streetscene Technical Support
The Streetscene Technical Support Team returned to work on 5th Jan after the festive break. Re-engagement with the Council's pitch maintenance contractor. All schools pitches being maintained as normal. Maintenance of leisure trust pitches on hold under current restrictions.
Lennox Park Play Area upgrade commenced Monday 11th Jan and pre-start meeting held.
Specifications drawn up/in progress for woodland management at Kilmardinny House, restoration of Peel Park bandstand and for path upgrades at Cairnhill Wood, Kilmardinny Loch and Langmuir Park.
Online form to request joining allotments waiting list went live on council website Monday 11th Jan.
Tantra bed (Kirkintilloch) re-turfing and remedial works to paths at Twechar and Whitefiled pond were completed before the festive break
The team also continue to respond to open space, tree and cemeteries enquiries on a daily basis, including tree surgery works at e.g. Etive Park, together with planning application consultations.
Mugdock Country Park
Covid tier 4 restrictions have meant the toilets, offices and visitor centre at Mugdock Country Park have closed. Caulders Garden Centre and Mugdock Makkers Gallery and Gift Shop have also closed as non-essential businesses although the Stables Tearoom and Charlie's Coffee Bar have been able to serve takeaway refreshments. As the Park continues to be busy signage has been reviewed with additional signs put up where necessary. In addition, the following highlights are worth noting:
- The on-line Pantomime has run throughout the month of December with excellent feedback from schools and households
- During the recent cold snap the paths around the Stables Courtyard, main car park and access routes to the Park have been ploughed and gritted
- Work has continued on replacing the fence at the Play Park area
- Some tree maintenance has taken place and habitat piles formed from the debris
- The Park office and park businesses have signed up to the Openreach Community Fibre Partnership which should deliver superfast broadband to the area within the next 12 months and will help with connectivity issues
Procurement exercises are underway for a traffic calming gateway project at Milton of Campsie, a traffic survey contract and a lining contract.
There is regular liaison with Police Scotland Traffic Management department.
Continuing with identifying and refurbishment of lining/signing on the road network, continuing to respond to legal services on licensing applications and processing dropped kerb and disabled bay applications.
The team have been helping to ensure that there is reserved vehicle access for those using the temporary vaccination centres in Kirkintilloch and Milngavie.
Drainage and Flood Prevention
Our contractor has started work on Kinglass Road - upgrading a collapsed drainage system. Officers are preparing a capital program for next year.
The newly appointed Drainage Officer decided that the role had more responsibility than he wanted and so he resigned. Fortunately another suitable candidate had been interviewed and has accepted the post and should be in place in early February.
Works that are about to commence include:
- River Glazert River Restoration project - Site investigation works start this Month. This will inform the detailed design.
- GolfView Flood Alleviation Scheme, Bearsden - The contractor will be back on site 18th January to undertake fencing works with landscaping to follow.
- Bencloich Burn, Bencloich Road, Lennoxtown - Work starts 18th Jan on site to lift concrete covers off the culverted section of the watercourse for inspection, clear out and reinstatement.
Principal and General Inspections continuing. Abnormal loads being processed.
Works that have now been completed by our structures term contractor:
- Shanks Burn culvert on Stockiemuir Road, rebuilding, clearing and road stabilisation.
- Clober Road retaining wall Milngavie, rebuilding and pointing works.
- Torrance footbridge replacement of damaged timbers.
- Burncrooks footbridge repairs pointing works and scour protection.
- Nicolson Bridge. Joint repairs and resurfacing works.
- The replacement of low bridge signs.
This is in addition to the usual tasks of responding to planning applications and customer enquiries.
Some inspections to monitor the quality of road works associated with developments are still taking place.
The team keeps up to date with notifications on the road works register.
Roads Network Operations
The Roads lighting operational team have now completed the removal of the decorations on all Christmas trees to allow for their removal. Due to the current restrictions and concerns surrounding the new COVID 19 strain the team have restricted any works which involve close contact to only essential operations. As a result we will be unable to remove the Christmas decorations from all other locations as we would normally do at this time of year, but will revisit these locations later in the year when suitable to do so.
The team will continue to respond to all reports of street lighting issues throughout the lockdown period to ensure defects are repaired within the required timescales.
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, including reports of road defects across the network. Over the holiday period the Roads Network team provided 24 hour response to both Winter Maintenance duties as well as emergency response to any issues reported.
To assist colleagues in Education and the Facilities Management team with outside learning within our Schools the Roads team have developed treatment plans for all School playgrounds which will be treated throughout the winter season by Streetscene seasonal personnel and School site coordinators. This action will be done in line with Footway Gritting Operations to ensure a consistent approach is taken. Despite the current lockdown, the Streetscene seasonal staff continue to treat these areas to ensure the safety of and staff and key worker children still attending school over this period.
In addition, the Roads Operation Team are providing traffic management and stewarding at both of the newly opened vaccine centres at Kirkintilloch and Milngavie Town Halls.
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.
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 is continuing to review Risk Assessment and Safe Working Practises in response to the Government guidance and are actively working towards increasing activities to allow a return to the Capital Resurfacing programme when welfare and vehicle issues are resolved.
EDUCATION, PEOPLE & BUSINESS: SERVICE UPDATES: Friday 15 January 2021
The announcement by Scottish Government on 18 December that there would be a change to the arrangements for the reopening of schools and early years’ centres in January, required revised procedures in line with the national guidance. All schools and early years centres reopened but only vulnerable children and the children of key workers attend school; all other children are provided with remote learning.
The process, which was used during the last lockdown, was implemented and places were allocated. Head teachers allocated places for vulnerable children and those whose parents were key workers. The Head Teachers of Campsie View and Merkland Schools worked with other agencies to put in place support for children and families; this may include some time in school as well as support at home. The total number of children in schools and centres is higher than during the last lockdown but as it is across all schools rather than the hub model, there are low numbers in each school. Only those staff, who are required to be in the school or centre are working in establishments. A number of early years funded providers have opted to close and parents, who are key workers, are being offered a place at a local authority centre. Support and advice is being provided to funded providers.
The provision of remote learning is the main focus for schools and the local authority. This is a crucial time in the school session, particularly those pupils in the Senior Phase. There has been considerable work undertaken since March, digital learning has been the key area for development for all schools and the central team. The roll out of the Digital Inclusion Programme has ensured that all children have access to a device and IT access at home. There has been a comprehensive professional learning programme for teachers and the use of digital learning has increased in all schools.
All schools are well placed to provide a remote learning programme that includes digital learning. The Guidance on Blended and Remote Learning was updated and it was discussed and agreed with the Teacher Trade Unions. This provided guidance on the provision of remote learning, including the use of live streaming by teachers.
When the schools reopened in January, all head teachers worked with staff to develop a remote learning programme. The programme will include digital learning, this may include live interactions with pupils, access to recorded lessons as well as other activities, for example independent tasks and use of other learning materials. All schools have access to the West OS - the online resource provided by the West Partnership and E-Sgoil, the national learning provision. Teachers will plan a programme that is appropriate to the age and stage of the child but it is important to recognise that remote learning cannot replicate face to face teaching either in terms of content, delivery or the number of hours. Feedback and engagement with learners is a key aspect of the remote learning provision.
The central Quality Improvement Team are working with all head teachers to review the programmes that have been put in place and provide any further support and advice required. Guidance from Education Scotland was issued last week and we will review this with schools to ensure we are complying with the pupil entitlements and advice on the provision of remote learning.
The Quality Improvement Team are developing self evaluation processes for schools and the authority, this will include feedback from parents, staff and pupils. There will be engagement with Parent Council Chairs and with representatives from Pupil Councils over the next few weeks as part of the evaluation within the authority.
Advice and support will be provided to schools, including the sharing of good practice. A professional learning programme will be provided for teachers to ensure they have the skills they require to deliver effective remote learning. Changes and adaptations to the provision in schools will be made as a result of the self evaluation.
The inspectorate within Education Scotland have detailed a programme to evaluate the delivery of remote learning. This will include engagement with the local authority as well as individual schools. The changes to the National Qualifications and the move to internal assessment for Highers and Advanced Highers is an area of concern for teachers, pupils and parents. Further information is expected from the SQA in the next few weeks. The current situation makes it difficult to forward plan but the focus at this point is supporting pupils through remote learning.
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, City Deal 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.
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 meeting Scottish Government payment requirements.
The team processed Hardship and Free School Meal Grant Payments for the Christmas period and are closing out any late applications in line with Scottish Government Guidance. The team, working with Finance and Customer Services are also processing payments for Free School Meals to those who are eligible in line with Scottish Government criteria. Payments (£20 per week per child) up to the end of January will be paid by 15 January.
Health & Safety
The Health & Safety Manager continues to review with Environmental Health Officers the infection control arrangements that are in place when positive cases arise in different services and Council buildings. Reviews of risk assessment have been informing further controls where required.
The Health & Safety Manager supported communications and updated guidance to schools. A Leadership Information Pack was issued to support Managers with the latest Scottish Government guidance and the consequential workforce considerations. The reinforcement of existing measures continues to be part of communications with Leadership Teams, Managers and employees. Close working with Corporate Communications continues to support key messages.
The Team continues to support and assess Display Screen Equipment users, completing workplace assessments and working collaboratively with ICT to respond as required. In support of HR, the Team also supports Individual Risk Assessments and provide advice as required on measures and response required based on individual and workplace considerations.
The Team supported the winter response Risk Assessments taking account of the required equipment in response to sever weather events. This was discussed and agreed with the Trades Unions.
The Fire Safety risk assessors continue to look at the work schedule for 2021.
Social Work Commissioning Team
P&D 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 are safe, flexible and responsive to changing needs and are sustainable in the longer term.
P&D has an integral role in the HSCP’s daily Adult Social Care 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’s role includes daily update reports/analysis, service and financial monitoring, compliance, supporting providers/market management. A key priority over the coming months is the roll out of the C-19 vaccination across care homes and community based services.
During the Christmas period the team continued to support the Care Home engagement and support processes.
P&D is supporting providers with a Provider Forum taking place to discuss the weekly testing processes and the necessary support, reporting and impact analysis. Preparatory discussions will continue with follow up planned in the coming weeks.
P&D 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 has recently published updated guidance. All approved claims are captured within the HSCP’s Mobilisation Plan and thereafter, providers submit invoices to P&D team for recording and payment purposes.
Human Resources & Organisational Development
Engagement continues with Managers on employee Individual Risk Assessments based on Stay At Home regulations and Scottish Government advice. The response and review will continue to be monitored throughout this time.
Work continues on trend analysis of the impact of COVID-19 related absence and the implementation of Stay at Home Regulations in all services and any subsequent employee related mitigation and preparedness actions. Absence analysis and support continues with priority focus on the HSCP. Detailed scrutiny of absence performance across all services continues to understand required support and actions for improvement. Work continues to prepare and launch winter wellbeing information and this will be available on the Employee Zone. 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.
Cases are progressing where deemed appropriate for Discipline, Grievances and Absence with an assessment on whether these require to be virtual or in an office environment with all relevant safety measures being considered.
Recruitment and resourcing support continues, in particular for essential front line services. This includes HR support about right to work checks and recruitment processes. Policy work continues to fulfil legislative requirements including the review of contract templates which has been the subject of discussion with Trades Unions at weekly engagement sessions.
Trades Unions engagement has focused on strategic issues such as targeted vaccination updates, workforce vaccine programme, weekly testing processes as well as risk assessment and required actions to respond to strategic issues in the Stay At Home regulations.
Essential training is being progressed in line with Covid-19 risk assessments and appropriate safety measures. Further on-line training materials are being developed to support remote learning and working as a result of the pandemic, including resilience training.
Business & Digital Change Team
The Business & Digital Change Team continue to support the responses required including the continuation of Cashless Catering and the inclusion of pre order app for universal free school meals provision.
The Business Systems team continue to work with services to build requirements and specifications for 9 systems which need to be migrated from legacy platforms to supported platforms thereby improving systems security and maintainability.
Work continues on the remediation of the councils Financial Management System following a systems health check. This work will ensure capacity for future Education Budgeting and Accounting business need once the SEEMIS Finance module is retired.
The team continues to support the responses to schools based on technology required to support Home Learning. Close working with ICT and Education support continue.
Responses to new request for support on digital solutions continue to be prioritised based on escalation processes.
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 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.
Recently, the Team has taken up a lead role in planning for both mass vaccinations within East Dunbartonshire. This work is progressing at pace given recent announcements and Members will be updated once there is a clear picture and thereafter at key stages. Daily discussions with colleagues in NHS GG&C and other local authorities are taking place daily (and often more than once a day) in order that centres are ready to commence vaccinations at the start of February. Similarly, the Team is leading on planning for community asymptomatic testing across East Dunbartonshire for mass testing in the event that 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 contract tracing can be triggered.
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.
As at 14 January 2021, 45 Births and 141 deaths were registered, and 12 marriages were registered by Registration 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 as more services are “switched back on”, and is supporting colleagues in Place and Community Planning in these efforts locally and nationally. This area of work is expected to increase in the next few weeks prior to Christmas In addition, the Team continues to participate in work to capture the events of the last few months from a civil contingencies perspective, as part of a local, regional and national “lessons learned” exercise.
On top of the above, there are other emerging civil contingency concerns in relation to which the Team is participating 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.
Planning around EU Exit consequences continues to increase as regional, and national agencies (WoSRRP & CoSLA) continue to ingather information and activate existing regional planning groups.
Members will be aware that work has commenced on preparations for the Scottish Parliament Election scheduled for May 2021. This planning also requires additional attention as a “COVID-lens” is applied to conventional election workstreams on a local and national basis. The work plan for this includes a review of the layout of all polling places and the arrangements for counting votes. A small multi service team is being pulled together so that detailed planning can commence. 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. In addition to the above, a new Order has been laid which introduces the possibility of polling over more than one day and other significant changes. This will be the subject of a separate Technical Note
The Team continues to work on the further development of remote video meetings to support the Council’s governance arrangements and decision-making. The team is preparing for the impending cycle of virtual Committee meetings taking place up to the Christmas holidays. A proposed cycle for January to June 2021 was prepared and approved by Council on 17th December. 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 will take place and quasi judicial boards where there is urgent business. 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 Mass asymptomatic Testing and Mass Vaccinations] and extensive additional preparations for the Scottish Parliament Elections scheduled for May 2021. A further calendar of meetings for 2021/22 is also in initial stages of preparation and is expected to be submitted to Council 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.
Many of the Legal Services team’s resources continue to be dedicated to assisting 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. This requires sophisticated contract drafting and intense negotiations with contractors in order to ensure that the Council is protected but also that the best commercial terms are reached and the projects remain affordable. The recent developments in the pandemic have made an impact on the construction industry and, as a result, the Council’s projects. 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 first of these agreed and signed during the Christmas break.
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 various grant offers which the Council is receiving. Each grant comes with 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.
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 promised.
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. The team is further assisting the Education service in respect of the implementation of new software to facilitate new approaches to learning and teaching both within the Council’s schools and remotely, as well as contracts for the integration of new IT systems and upgrades which apply Council-wide. These pieces of work have gained significant momentum over recent weeks and the team has assisted education to get the required technology and agreements in place to facilitate home learning.
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.
In respect of litigation, the progress the courts were making in terms of “in person” hearings has stalled and there has been a move back to virtual appearances, where possible. 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 they are temporarily paused. However, during this period the team is still busy with dealing with applications and application/agents,
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.
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 members of the Legal Services management team are spending significant time in shortleeting and interviewing in order to make the correct appointments as quickly as possible, taking into account notice periods etc. The intention is that by Spring 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 continues to support data collation and analysis across all Council services and the HSCP social care services, including reporting for statutory returns and local performance indicators and the ongoing reporting requirements in relation to Covid-19. Quality assurance improvements and data cleansing across data systems also continues to ensure accurate data and confidence in data returns. Planning is ongoing with National Records Scotland in preparation for the next census which has been delayed a year in response to the pandemic.
Following the conclusion of Performance Reporting for 2019/20, reported to Council on 17 December, the Public Performance Report 2019/20 is being finalised ahead of the statutory reporting deadline of March 2021 and will incorporate case studies to highlight good practice across key LOIP principles and themes. Following approval of the approach to performance reporting for 2020/21 at Council on 17 December, the team will support Executive Officers in the preparation of HGIOS Reports in line with revised committee dates and ahead of Council recess in June 2021. Work will 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 as part of the report on Prioritising our Services, Prioritising our Resources.
Work is also commencing on the Council’s insurance renewals to ensure they are in place for continued cover from the end of the financial year.
The Communications Team continues to provide 24/7 communications support for emergencies and essential out of hours messaging and delivers communications from all services to ensure customers are aware of service delivery arrangements, highlighting changes if required across all channels to ensure maximum reach of message. This included the usual cover over the Christmas and New Year lockdown period
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 EU Exit messaging and communications planning around mass vaccination and mass community testing.
A total of 30 media enquiries were received and responded to since the pre-Christmas update and 5 media releases were issues resulting in positive coverage online and print media for the Council. Media releases this year have included the latest round for applications for community grants and the Council’s plans to commemorate International Holocaust Memorial Day later this month.
Social Media messaging remains a key focus and effective channel for engaging with East Dunbartonshire communities, with a total of 252 Facebook and 213 Twitter posts issued through the Council accounts since the last update. Followers across both channels have grown by over 200 since the last update Twitter has 18,702 followers and the total reach of all posts in the last period was almost 2.7 million (compared to 2.7 million the previous fortnight). The highest reaching posts were the news update issued by the Council on Sunday 20 December after the Scottish Government announcement on Saturday 19 December in relation to Level 4 and changes for schools returning after the festive holidays (45k reach 267 clicks through and 83 interactions), the further update the Council issued on 22 December in relation to schools returning after the festive break only for the vulnerable and children of key workers (36k reach, 195 clicks through and 75 interactions) and the two posts issued in relation to registering children for their catchment primary school for P1 intake in August 2021 and catchment secondary school for S1 intake in August 2021 (each had a reach of over £30k, over 100 clicks through and 45 interactions). Facebook now has over 17,500 followers and a reach of 1.23m since the last update (compared to 531K the previous fortnight). The top three posts this reporting period were again the Council update on 20 December following the Scottish Government announcement on Saturday 19 December in relation to returning to level 4 after Christmas and new arrangements for schools after the festive period ((21.5k reach, 201 clicks through and 150 interactions), the gritting update issued by the Council on 4 January (21k reach, 55 clicks through and 158 interactions) and the recruitment advert posted on 22 December for parking wardens (20.3k reach, 99 clicks through and 131 interactions).
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, delivering a full service across the festive period and also supporting the delivery of the Covid-19 helpline across this period..
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. Call volumes have been challenging in the new year, with high volumes of calls received in relation to Christmas tree recycling, green bin collections, hardship grants and free school meal payments and calls related to the recent prolonged snow and icy period. Customer service resources continue to be deployed flexibly across the channels with greatest demand and call waiting times are continually monitored. A full 9-5 service was delivered between Christmas and New Year on 29, 30 and 31 December.
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 in compliance with current guidance and maximum numbers permitted. Emergency registration cover was available but not required over the closure period with registration services also operating on 29, 30 and 31 December.
Shared Services continues to support a range of services across the council including the provision of cover over the festive period. The Social Work team carried out their annual support to provide assistance over the holiday period, while the General Team volunteered to provide cover for the National Assistance Helpline (for shielding, vulnerable and self isolating individuals). This included answering incoming calls and proactive calls to those individuals identified via Test and Protect.
The Letting Team has been focussed on the administration of changes to the COVID restrictions: liaising with the sports teams, cancelling lets and dealing with enquiries. Our Transport team have been busy organising revised transport arrangements for main stream schools and ASN pupils as a result of the school restrictions during January.
Revenues and Benefits
The Scottish Welfare Fund continues to cope with high demand on the services we deliver, particularly Crisis Grants. We saw a higher than normal volume of applications this year both during the Christmas and New Year break and since the return in January. Additional resources have been redirected to help support residents and ensure that payments are still paid on time. The team are liaising with colleagues to prepare for the new business grants.
We continue to see an increased number of cases across all areas of benefits including DWP ATLAS lists. The team are also preparing for the annual Council Tax billing process and financial year end process.
The Support Team provided standby cover across both corporate and education estates over the festive period with additional volunteers in anticipation of increased support requirements during the holiday period as more services were operating. Since returning in early January, the team have dealt with increased support demands particularly for Education. This includes support within schools for staff and pupils, as well as pupils that have been issued with devices to support home learning.
Finance & Audit
Work continues on a number of business as usual activities as previously reported to Elected Members. Council Reports on the 17 December 2020 have now been completed with Members agreeing their content and required future actions. These efforts continuing throughout our teams. Some opportunity was taken during the holiday period to reduce annual leave balances however with urgent payments requiring to be made for new Scottish Government priorities and essential ledger maintenance many Officers managed holiday commitments alongside supporting the ongoing Council efforts.
Having previously moved into Tier 4 the Council is now managing new Lockdown arrangements. The Finance Team continues to engage with services to understand the impact of these arrangements and the attributable costs. This work will inform future discussions about funding with new announcement on funding. 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 results of this work have now been reported to the Audit & Risk Management on the 10 December with this generally being reported as satisfactory. This reporting extends to those processes requiring appeals with independent review being called upon for the team.
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 continues to work on maintaining and improving the Council's financial systems and controls. The focus of this work may change with the potential for new processes to be developed following recent announcement. The technical team continue to provide support to the business support teams and revenues benefits teams in discharging associated grants to business and individuals. This includes the development of guidance, completion of returns and sharing VAT advice on national issues. A number of new grants, reporting requirements and other policy initiative continue to ensure that the work of the team continues at a pace and to support other teams within the Council.
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. Having reported on Period 6 at the end of November. Period 8 monitoring is now being finalised for Council in February given the change in the Council’s Committee Diary.
With new restrictions in place following the Tier 4 and Lockdown announcement further engagement with all services will now be required and projections of year end spend updated accordingly. Work is ongoing to develop previous reports to provide clarity of the Council’s overall financial position despite the challenging circumstances which continue to change and new funding announced. 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.
The Revenue Team have also completed to consolidation of the high level budget for 2021/22 which will inform the next steps of the Budget Setting process.
Treasury, Capital & Housing
The team are now focused on the impacts of Tier 4 and Lockdown restrictions on the Council’s cash flow including the impact of any intended borrowing decisions with Capital works continuing to slow. 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 have now completed all audit requests and are now working on completing various year end returns for Scottish Government, along with the submission of our City Deal claim. The team continues to work on producing and distributing our monthly capital & housing budget monitoring reports. The Capital & Housing team is also currently working on 2021/22 budgets.
Internal Audit and Fraud
Internal Audit have continued to work on audits included in the original audit plan for the year including Corporate Health and Safety, the Highways Code, Control Self Assessments and School Funds (Education) and the team is also seeking to finalise the last of the audits that were commenced pre-Covid. Appeals have been received from some businesses whose applications for the Strategic Framework Business Fund were rejected and Internal Audit are again providing an appeals service which has required the rescheduling of some audits. 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 providing support to transitional the operation process for reviewing HSCP provider additional cost claims based on the previous work undertaken by Internal Audit.
The Internal Audit Team are also progressing the recruitment of resources to the vacant Auditor post with an offer now being made and accepted. This recruitment will assist with the additional audit work now being required as new operational, control and governance processes are implemented to react to the Council’s approach to Covid-19.
The Corporate Fraud Team continue to investigate various reports of fraud and undertake vetting on all applications received for business grants, licences, housing, and school places. Corporate Fraud is also liaising with the relevant services and undertaking preparatory work in respect of submission of data for the forthcoming National Fraud Initiative data matching exercise.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE PARTNERSHIP (COUNCIL DELEGATED SERVICES): SERVICE UPDATES: Friday 15 January 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. Local resilience planning, surveillance and reporting continue to be undertaken through the HSCP’s fortnightly Local Resilience Management Team. Virtual management team meetings are also well established. At present active consideration is being given to applying risk rating to service delivery as a result of the workforce impact of infection, the resumption of shielding, and general sickness absence. The HSCP Board resumed business from its June 25 meeting, albeit by virtual means. As transmission rates have increased again since December, discussions are underway with HSCP Board members to once again review governance arrangements, similar to revisions made to Council processes.
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 2 performance (July to Sept 2020) report will be considered by the HSCP Board at its next meeting in January. An updated risk assessment will also be presented for consideration at that meeting. The HSCP Interim Chief Officer met virtually on 1 December with the Chief Executives of the Council and Health Board for the HSCP’s biannual operational performance review.
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 Strategic Framework and the development of more detailed guidance. 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 are now well underway. All care home residents that were clinically fit to receive their vaccine and consented to it have now been vaccinated with take up being 97%. A second round of visits to care homes is now underway to complete the vaccinations for those who were unfit to receive it during December, this completes week of 15 January 2021 and will increase the take up percentage. The HSCP is also now supporting GP practices in the delivery of vaccinations to the over 80s. These are being delivered across two main sites at Kirkintilloch and Milngavie Town Halls, in addition to GP surgeries.
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, but 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. Most of these services are now resuming, or have already resumed, working on a revised and much reduced capacity basis. The service has been working to provide alternative forms of support where possible.
A weekly report is prepared to highlight delivery status across all HSCP essential services, staff availability levels and operational team contingency arrangements.
On 3 November, the Scottish Government published an Adult Social Care Winter Preparedness Plan. This plan sets out the measures already in place that must be retained and those that the Scottish Government believes need to be introduced across the adult social care sector, to respond to the expected pressures over winter. This plan has significant impact for the HSCP and Council delegated services. A local action plan is in place to take this forward, which sits alongside the NHS winter plan.
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, but the second wave has 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 climbing significantly again and delayed discharges are becoming a significant pressure again, and are now above pre covid levels, largely due to challenges in moving people to appropriate long term care settings which are closed for covid reasons. 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, with the exception of day services which 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.
Staffing pressures have been felt within the in-house home care service in particular due to Covid-19 infection management procedures, more so in the second wave than the first. 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 is to be rolled out to all social care services who support at risk adults from week commencing 18 January 2021. This is in addition to the testing that has been rolled out to all care home residents and staff (services for older people and others such as mental health and learning disability services) 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 are now being 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, with an action plan in place to take forward these provisions.
No care homes in our area are currently subject to either a Large Scale Investigation under the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 or Enforcement Action by the Care Inspectorate. One home has one outstanding requirement which the Care Inspectorate will follow up on in the week of 18 January2021. A number of homes have experienced covid outbreaks in the past two weeks and currently nine homes in our area are classed as having an active outbreak. Appropriate support is being provided.
Support to Home Care
The home care services continues to be increasingly busy, with a noticeable trend towards referrals for more complex and staff intensive care inputs. Challenges of caring for covid +ve customers has been a feature recently but all required PPE and support for safe use of this continues to be in place. The staffing impact of the Test and Trace system is beginning to be felt across the service and business continuity plans are being refreshed to support effective responses should this become a significant challenge.