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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Zoom meeting

Contact: Sharon Davis  Scrutiny Manager

Link: Watch the meeting here

Items
No. Item

1.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

Members are asked to declare any interests in the items under consideration and in doing so state:

 

(1) the type of interest concerned either a

 

(a)   personal interest

(b)   prejudicial interest

(c)    disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI)

 

and

 

(2) the nature of the interest concerned

 

If any member requires advice on declarations of interests, they are advised to contact the Head of Democratic Governance in advance of the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillor Galley declared a personal interest in Item 3 ‘Tourism Recovery Planning’, the nature of the interest being that he was a non-Executive director of Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited.

 

Councillor Andrew Stansfield declared a personal interest in Item 2 ‘Children’s Services’, the nature of the interest that he was an employee of a care home outside of the borough.

 

Councillor Gerard Walsh declared a personal interest in Item 3 ‘Tourism Recovery Planning’, the nature of the interest that he worked within the hospitality sector.

2.

CHILDREN'S SERVICES pdf icon PDF 578 KB

To provide an overview of the Children’s Services response to Covid-19.

Minutes:

Mrs Diane Booth, Director of Children’s Services presented the report to the Committee highlighting its focus on the Children’s Services response to the pandemic and the social care improvement journey. Ofsted visits had been suspended until autumn, the scheduled commissioner review had been delayed due to the pandemic until December 2020, but an interim corporate stocktake would be undertaken in July 2020, which would inform the final review.

 

The Board queried reference in the report to an increase in contacts that coincided with the May bank holidays. Mr Robert Arrowsmith, Performance, Systems and Intelligence Manager explained that increase in demand was often seen around bank holidays, however, it had been exacerbated by the Government’s significant announcements regarding pandemic restrictions tending to coincide with bank holiday weekends during the crisis.

 

Reference was made to the out of time reviews and Members queried to what extent were reviews behind schedule and the plans that were in place to address the backlog. In response, Mr Arrowsmith advised that six weeks worth of ongoing reviews which had been scheduled had been lost due to the pandemic. However, the majority of reviews were being undertaken on time and those that had been delayed were being worked through. Mrs Jeanette Richards, Assistant Director, Children’s Services added that children had been prioritised dependent on need and that additional staff including two HM Inspectors had been working to get reviews back on track. Panels had continued to meet to oversee permanency plans and advise on their appropriateness. Furthermore, Mrs Booth noted the added difficulties caused by virtual meetings and advised that she expected the backlog to be cleared within the next few months.

 

It was noted that prior to the pandemic, there had been concerns regarding the number of home schooled children and the potential neglect of some children who were being home schooled. The Board queried the impact of the pandemic on those children. Mrs Booth advised that there was a cohort of children and young people who were home schooled well, however, there were concerns regarding some children who were being home schooled full time. She advised that during the pandemic there had been more referrals than ever from people in the community regarding the safety of children. It was important that this positive change was continued after the pandemic. She added that there was a small educated at home team providing support, however, it was up to the parents to engage. It was reported that reducing the long term levels of elective home education was still an aim of the Council.

 

Members queried the ongoing relationship with Ofsted and their expectations of progress during the pandemic. In response, Mrs Booth advised that fortnightly meetings were held with Ofsted representatives and experienced HM School Inspectors were assisting with work on a variety of topics. She suggested that Ofsted might consider how the Council had used relaxations offered by the emergency Covid legislation and advised that the service had worked hard to maintain as many statutory requirements  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.

3.

TOURISM RECOVERY PLANNING pdf icon PDF 382 KB

To gain an insight into how Blackpool Council is developing a tourism recovery plan for the resort in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown. The report is intended to illustrate the steps that the Council is taking to facilitate this recovery process together with key partners in the visitor economy.

Minutes:

Mr Philip Welsh, Head of Communication and Tourism advised that at the time of writing the report a number of points had been unclear. He reported that since publication of the agenda, requirements regarding social distancing had been reduced from two metres to one metre plus which would improve the viability of reopening some premises. The announcements made by the Government had also confirmed that attractions, hotels and bed and breakfasts in Blackpool could start to reopen on 4 July 2020.

 

Whilst many attractions were reopening, the main exceptions were the Sandcastle as swimming pools and waterparks remained closed and performance venues such as The Grand, the Winter Gardens and Viva Blackpool. It was noted that the Zoo had already reopened and had been sold out each day albeit at a limited capacity. The Tourist Information Centre, Pleasure Beach and Merlin attractions were all scheduled to open on 4 July 2020.

 

Visit England had put an industry standard in place ‘We’re good to go’ which would provide an accreditation to a range of businesses and aimed to provide reassurance to members of the public that it was safe to visit. Marketing and communications were also being used to provide reassurance to members of the public that visitor experiences were safe and there had been a positive response to the announcement that the Illuminations season had been extended until early January 2021.

 

Members referred to the reduction in social distancing from two metres to one metre plus and raised concerns that the reduction could impact upon how covid secure attractions were. Mr Welsh advised that he had spoken to the attractions and most were taking a cautious approach. A number had already installed signage based on the two metre requirements and would be continuing to work on that basis. Ensuring attractions were safe was a common goal of all involved in the tourist industry.

 

The impact of the pandemic on the coach industry was referenced and questions asked relating to the importance of the market to Blackpool. In response, Mr Welsh advised that the implications were still being worked through. The coach industry was not viable with social distancing requirements reducing the number of people travelling on a coach below the break-even threshold. It was noted that some hotels in particular relied upon coach bookings and that the Council would work with the industry. Mr Alan Cavill, Director of Regeneration and Communication added that the potential of Blackpool Transport Services would also being considered to determine if it could replace some of the capacity lost in the coach industry.

 

The Committee noted the anxiety within the industry regarding the level of information and guidance provided in relation to a wide range of issues and queried whether the Council had a role in simplifying the advice to businesses in Blackpool. A further question was asked regarding the Council’s role in inspecting businesses in order to ensure they were meeting requirements. In response, Mr Welsh advised that the process for acquiring the industry  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

SCRUTINY ANNUAL REPORT 2019/2020 pdf icon PDF 289 KB

To allow Members to consider the Scrutiny Annual Report for 2019/2020, celebrating achievement and identifying improvement to be made.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Mrs Maxine Callow, Chair of the Scrutiny Leadership Board presented the Scrutiny Annual Report 2019/2020 to the Board. She highlighted the good work undertaken during the 2019/2020 municipal year and the impact of the pandemic on the work programme and calendar of meetings. She thanked officers for their support during the year and highlighted potential future areas of improvement.

 

The Scrutiny Leadership approved the Scrutiny Annual Report and agreed to forward it to full Council for consideration.