Scottish Borders Council

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Newtown St Boswells

Contact: Pauline Bolson 01835 826503  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence.


1.0       Welcome and Introductions

The Chairman welcomed those present to the meeting.




Minute pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Minute of Audit Committee held on 26 June 2018 for approval.  (Copy attached.)  


2.0       Minute

There had been circulated copies of the Minute of 26 June 2018. 



(a)        APPROVED for signature by the Chairman.


(b)       NOTED that, in respect of recommendation 3(ii), the Chief Officer Roads would provide an update to Members at the next meeting of the Committee in respect of corrective action in place to address the issues identified in the Fleet Management Workforce Plan.



Welfare Benefits Service Changes Petition pdf icon PDF 124 KB

Additional documents:



3.1       There had been circulated copies of an extract from the Audit and Scrutiny Committee Petitions procedure and the Chairman explained the procedure to be followed.  The Chairman welcomed Ms Jenny Mushlin, Lead Petitioner who was in attendance to present a petition on the Welfare Benefits Service changes and was accompanied by Jenny Smith – Chief Officer (Borders Care Voice) and Marc Bremner - Member of the Mental Health & Wellbeing Forum.


3.2       Ms Mushlin commenced her presentation by explaining the subsequent workload which had been created by the change to the Welfare Benefits system, in that people currently with indefinite awards of disability living allowance (DLA) were being migrated to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).  By October 2017 over 97,000 people within Scotland had been reassessed of which nearly £17,000 (17.3%) had not been given any award.  Of the Appeals made against these decisions, 65% were successful, appeals made locally had been carried out by the previous Welfare Benefits Service and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).  Ms Mushlin went on to explain that six major benefits had been transferred to Universal Credit (UC), with the full service recently going live in Scottish Borders.  This benefit is an online claim, regardless of the claimant’s IT skills.  Transitional protection (where you keep your current rate of benefit) may also be different.  It was possible that claimants may only keep the benefit until a change of circumstances and then they would not receive it if they claim Universal Credit before being invited, but this had yet to be finalised.  Ms Mushlin continued with her statement, covering each request within the petition.  


3.3       SBC employ Welfare Benefits Assistants or other Staff who have a specific remit to assist with initial completion of form application.

It was explained that the PIP application form was 40 pages long with 12 pages of guidance and used a points system which was unfamiliar to most people.  There were examples of staff in a range of organisations spending hours completing forms rather than doing the job they were employed to do.  It was advantageous to have a well completed form, should it go to appeal.  The same was true of Employment Support Allowance (and its equivalent form in UC).  Dedicated staff know which details were relevant and how to sensitively approach people dealing with a claim which was very personal and potentially distressing to complete.


The petition requested that all Customer Services Staff were well trained to handle welfare benefits queries and recognise all queries, which may appear deceptively simple, and should be handled by a Financial Inclusion Officer.  It was further requested that SBC recruit sufficient staff for initial form completion and should demand outstrip supply, further staff be recruited.


3.4       Regularly Monitor and listen closely to Citizens Advice Bureaux on their workload with initial and pre-assessment support, including waiting times for the public

The Citizens Advice Bureaux do not exclusively provide Welfare Benefits Advice and have an extensive caseload dealing with various aspects  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Any Other Audit Items which the Chairman Decides are Urgent.



          Under Section 50B(4)(b) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the Chairman was of the opinion that the item dealt with in the following paragraph should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency, in view of the need to make an early decision and to keep Members informed.    



4.1         With reference to paragraph 8 of the Minute of Executive Committee held on 21 August 2018, whereby the Audit and Scrutiny Committee had been asked to undertake a review of the progress made in delivering improved broadband services in the Scottish Borders by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme.  The Chairman had invited Councillor Mark Rowley, Executive Member for Business & Economic Development, to the meeting to advise Members of the background to the programme.  Councillor Rowley explained that Scottish Borders Council had contributed significantly to the roll-out of the Scottish Government’s Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme, contributing £8.4M to help extend the roll-out as far as possible in the Scottish Borders and achieve 93.8% coverage, but this coverage had not been achieved, and many Borders homes remained without connections for superfast broadband.  The new R100 broadband programme was out to tender at the moment and the proposed review would feed in to this to enable the Council and the Borders to get the most out of this new programme.  The Chairman then advised that he would be speaking with the Executive Director, Mr Dickson, and the Chief Officer Economic Development to agree the format of the review and what papers would be available for the Committee to consider.  Councillor Chapman referred to a 2016 report by the Scottish Rural Parliament which could be helpful for the review and this would be investigated further.  It was likely that additional meetings would be required for the Committee which had been asked to report back to the Executive Committee by 4 December 2018.



AGREED to undertake the review of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme in the Scottish Borders, including its outcomes.



Councillor Tatler left the meeting following consideration of the above item of business.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              




Delivery of the IT Strategy and Plan within Scottish Borders pdf icon PDF 506 KB

Presentation by Chief Financial Officer.  (Copy to follow)



5.1         With reference to paragraph 2 of the Minute of 30 November 2017, the Chief Financial Officer was present to report on the IT Strategy and Plan within the Scottish Borders.  Mr Robertson explained that the presentation would focus on the Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) system and the vision for the Digital Customer Access (DCA) Portal, with no commercial detail from the contract being put forward in this public session.  The CGI contract was a £90m plus investment over a 13 year period with the potential for extension which would provide a platform for change and transform the Council’s IT function.  The contract deliverables included the delivery of a new ERP System, a new DCA solution, a full refresh of the Council’s hardware, protection against technical obsolescence, Cyber security resilience and market leading innovation.  CGI would also set up a new Borders Service Centre, with up to 200 jobs over 5 years.  Mr Robertson went on to advise that what had been delivered to date with CGI included major contract outsourcing; IT resilience, stability, security and refresh; and a major upgrade of the Council’s complicated and antiquated IT infrastructure. There had been issues with implementing the ERP system but rectification was largely complete and an upgrade to Milestone 7.2 was planned.  The DCA  project had been re-scoped and specification agreed.  The Council’s previous financial information system (F.I.S), HR/Payroll System (Resourcelink) and Purchasing System (Proactis) had all been replaced with a single integrated Finance and HR System.  The benefits of having the one system included self-service, standardisation, integration and “one version of the truth”.  Mr Robertson reported that some of the lessons learned included addressing deficiencies in the post go live environment; retaining specialist consultants as system architects; issues identified with build post rectified by CGI at their cost, although SBC had put in staff time; and the detailed specification for the DCA project was now being developed jointly between Council staff and CGI.   Not insisting on test system prior to going live turned out to be a significant shortcoming, and insufficient  focus on end to end testing of processes prior to going live had resulted in testing being carried out in a live environment.  Mr Robertson reassured Members that CGI had met the costs of rectification, although the Council had paid CGI for further enhancements not in scope in the original contract.  When the contract had been signed, it was thought that Edinburgh City Council would be the pathfinder for the development work, but SBC moved forward more quickly so SBC had implemented ERP and Edinburgh had not yet done so.  There had been too much focus on April 2017 go live date and an over reliance on the third party integration specialist (Agilysis) who had not provided the complete overview of all the workstreams involved as had been expected.


5.2         The Service Director Customer & Communities advised that in terms of DCA, this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Any Other Scrutiny Items which the Chairman Decides are Urgent.



          Under Section 50B(4)(b) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the Chairman was of the opinion that the item dealt with in the following paragraph should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency, in view of the need to make an early decision and to keep Members informed.    


6.1         The Chairman advised Members that a Call-in Notice had been received from Councillor Ramage on a decision of the Executive Committee on 21 August 2018 relating to the Monitoring of the General Fund Revenue Budget Monitoring 2018/19.  A special meeting of Audit and Scrutiny Committee would need to be set up to consider the Call-in.



AGREED that a special meeting of Audit and Scrutiny Committee to consider the Call-in would be held on 31 August 2018, depending on officer/Member availability.  




Meeting concluded at 1.10 p.m.




Scottish Borders Council

Council Headquarters Newtown St. Boswells Melrose TD6 0SA

Tel: 0300 100 1800


For more Contact Details