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Board minutes May 2021



Mrs Helen Pitcher (Chairman)

Miss Karen Kneller (Chief Executive)

Ms Amanda Pearce (Interim Director of Casework Operations)

Mr Peter Ryan (Finance & Corporate Services Director)

Mr David Brown (Non-Executive Director)

Mrs Linda Lee (Non-Executive Director)

Mr Andre Katz (Independent Non-Executive Director)

Mr Mark Oldham (Independent Non-Executive Director)

Mr Martin Spencer (Independent Non-Executive Director)

Apologies: Mr Rob Ward (Non-Executive Director)

  1. Welcome

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.

  • Declarations of interest


3.  Minutes of the previous meeting and matters arising

The minutes of the previous Board meeting held on 23 March 2021 were approved.

4.  Action Matrix

The Chairman reported that the sub-group to review the Westminster Commission recommendations was due to meet for the final time this week before submitting their responses to the Westminster Commission and publication on our website.

5.  Chairmans update

The Chairman announced that three new Commissioners were starting on 1st June.  Planning for a further round of Commissioner recruitment was in progress. A number of media interviews with the Chairman had taken place concerning the recent PO cases and issues surrounding the Westminster Commission report. Following a discussion with the Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, the Commission had been invited to participate in a joint seminar on Legal Aid funding and other systematic issues in the CJS.

6.  Chief Executive’s report

The Management Information Pack was noted by the Board.

The Chief Executive reported that recent focus had been on the Annual Report & Accounts and business planning.   

The current public sector pay freeze effects all staff earning over £24k; we are still able to use the Commission’s Reward & Recognition policy to reward exceptional work or effort as a one- off. Commissioners will be reminded about the scheme so that they can alert managers to such performance.

The DFCS was in discussion with MoJ Taxation regarding Commissioner expenses.  Separately, the CEO had been in discussion with the Public Appointments Team concerning the fee level for Commissioners; she was concerned that the fee was not sufficiently attractive and was putting off good candidates who are at the early stages of their career.

The Board discussed remote working. It was noted that the Commission had successfully become a home working organisation during the pandemic.  Smarter Ways of Working were already under consideration when the Pandemic hit, this led to greater investment in technology and more rapid acceleration of change.  It was agreed that this would continue and would be particularly beneficial in terms of being able to appoint staff outside of the West Midlands to those posts which we have struggled to fill. The organisation being “remote first” would also ensure the continuation of one culture and one way of operating. Time spent in the new office for the majority will primarily be for collaboration – new joiners, group activity, training etc. The CEO will update staff at tomorrow’s staff briefing.  

7. Casework report to note  

The interim DCO reported that 53 convictions were overturned in March and April.  With Covid restrictions easing, travel to Northern Ireland to review material could go ahead in June.  The prison estate restrictions meant face to face meetings were still not permitted, however, video conferencing with prisoners was available. 

Three new CRMs were joining in June and the trainee CRM recruitment exercise would be launched in early July. 

8.  Transformation Programme Report to note

The DFCS reported that the current focus was on implementing the new HR system, the new website going live in June and the office move in August. The building work in the new offices will continue until the end of September. 

The IT Transformation Manager is leaving in mid-August. The DFCS recorded his thanks for her hard work and commitment to the project over the last two years.

IT were implementing a Helpdesk ticketing system to deal with calls and recruiting an IT support analyst on a six-month contract.

CMS reporting was being looked at to see the number of days where a case sits at the different stages of a review and staff needed to be reminded to record their time to ensure the data is accurate.

9.  Westminster Commission Report

The working group were preparing their response to the recommendations and anticipated this would be ready to submit in the next week together with publication on the website.

10. Business Plan

The Business Plan was approved subject to one drafting point.

11.  Annual review of Risk Register

The Board was concerned about the increase in ransom ware attacks on organisations and Cyber Security generally. The DFCS reported that links were being made with MoJ and other government departments and a support contract was in place with a specialist cyber security company to provide additional resilience. Cyber awareness training for staff was ongoing and the Business Continuity Plan was under review.

12. ARAC annual report

The report was noted.

13. LRC annual report

The report was noted. 

14. Board Terms of Reference

The Board terms of reference were approved.

15. People

It was reported that staff morale was good overall but CRMs’ portfolios were too large and the news of the pay freeze was disappointing for staff. CRM recruitment was a priority and SMT were looking at other opportunities to recognise good performance such as development opportunities.

16. Any other business   


17.  Date of next meeting

Friday 25 June at 8.30 am

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