Agenda and minutes

Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Tuesday, 19th November, 2019 10.30 am

Venue: Witham Room - South Kesteven House, St. Peter's Hill, Grantham. NG31 6PZ. View directions

Items
No. Item

35.

Apologies

36.

Disclosure of interests

37.

Action notes of the meeting held on 5 September 2019 pdf icon PDF 202 KB

    Minutes:

    The action notes of the meeting held on 5 September 2019 were agreed as an accurate record, pending the following amendments:

     

    ·         Action point, page 11- The Cabinet Member for Finance was asked to consult with the Deepings District Councillors, rather than the Parish Councillors, regarding the Deepings Special Expense Area

    ·         Page 8, first bullet point- Councillor Morgan wished for the additional point to be made that herself and other Members expressed a strong objection to the reduction of the affordable housing requirement in the urban area of Grantham to 20%

38.

Update from previous meeting

    Minutes:

    Members enquired whether the update on Disabled Facilities Grant funding had been circulated to the committee, as some Members had not seen the information. Officers confirmed that this would be looked into and sent out following the meeting.

     

    Action Point

     

    Ø  The Disabled Facilities Grant update to be circulated to Members of the Committee

     

    Members also asked about the information requested on the final account of the Bourne CiCLE festival. It was confirmed that this information would be available at a workshop open to all Councillors organised by the Culture and Visitor Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee. An invitation to this workshop would be sent when the date had been confirmed. Some Members commented that if the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Committee had requested information, this information should be provided even if other Committees were looking into the subject. The Chairman confirmed that this should be the case in future.

     

    The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee would be addressing the item referred to it regarding the percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling and composting at its next meeting. 

     

    The workshop relating to the new Performance Framework had been held on 7 October 2019. The feedback received from Councillors at this workshop would be taken into consideration when developing the performance dashboards the Committee had requested.   

39.

Finance Update Report- quarter 2 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 295 KB

    Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance.

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Finance presented his report outlining the Council’s forecast financial position as at the end of quarter 2 of 2019/20. He referred to the tables and appendices within the report, which gave information regarding the current 2019/20 budget and the forecast variances for the Revenue Budget General Fund, the Housing Revenue Account, the General Fund Capital Programme and the HRA Capital Programme. Members were asked to review and note the forecast outturn position at this point in the financial year and to ask any questions that had arisen from the information provided.

     

    A Member enquired as to whether the vacant cinema project A3 sites had impacted the Council’s forecast outturn position. Officers explained that rental income from the A3 sites had not been factored into the 2019/20 budget and therefore had not affected the Council’s financial position at this point.

     

    Members asked for an explanation of the shortfall in corporate procurement savings, which showed a forecast variance of £250k at the end of quarter 2. Officers confirmed that although a saving of £300k had been budgeted for the 2019/20 period, it was anticipated that only £50k would be saved in relation to corporate procurement. A Procurement Officer had been recruited during the year and the focus of this role had been reviewing current arrangements and contracts and putting into place updated procurement processes, in order for further savings to be made in this area moving forward. As contracts were time-bound in nature and spanned all Service Areas, it was noted that achieving further procurement savings would be a gradual process.  

     

    Officers were asked what arrangements were being put into place to rectify the areas not currently meeting their budgets, and what lessons could be learned from the significant variances highlighted in table 1.3 moving forward. It was explained that although there were significant variances, the Council was on track to meet the majority of the budgetary targets. Reference was made to changes in market trends and other external factors exposing budgets to volatility. It was also recognised that some of the 2019/20 budget and savings targets had been very ambitious. The areas that had caused the most significant variances would be either removed, updated or reviewed as part of the 2020/21 budget setting process. The 2020/21 budget proposals would be undertaken with a more realistic approach, in order for the final budgets to align more closely with the reality of which savings and targets could be achieved in the next financial year. Any changes made would need to be offset with corresponding entries to ensure that the Council achieved a balanced position overall.

     

    One Member asked how employment agency costs were accommodated within the budget. It was explained that agency spend was not a budgeted item and that the service area budgets for permanent staffing were used to secure temporary agency support, working within the existing budget for the vacancy. In instances such as maternity leave or long term sick leave where the cost of an agency  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.

40.

Quarter 2 performance pdf icon PDF 203 KB

    Report of the Leader of the Council.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Strategic Director, Transformation and Change introduced the Leader of the Council’s report, which gave an update on performance reporting for quarter 2 of 2019/20. Most of the key performance indicators were meeting targets, with three achieving marginally below their targets. An update was given regarding the development of the new performance reporting dashboards. Two were included as appendices to the report and a further three were being created and would be ready to present at the next meeting of the Committee. The intention was for the dashboards to explain trends and benchmarking when available, as well as the implications of the performance level achieved. Members were asked if they had any questions regarding the information included in the reports or the documents appended to it.

     

    Members asked for further explanation of the performance indicator in relation to the percentage of Council Tax collected, which was at amber status. This was attributed to an increase in Universal Credit claims in the District, which was now a full Universal Credit area. It was explained that when Universal Credit was granted to a claimant, the Council recalculated their entitlement to Council Tax Support. Following this recalculation, a statutory period was required before the next instalment of Council Tax could be taken, causing payment dates to be pushed back. The performance profiles were set at the beginning of the year based on historical trends. This profiling was refreshed and reviewed on an on-going basis. One Member asked how the Council were ensuring that vulnerable Council Tax payers were not being put at risk of homelessness when Council Tax was collected. Officers explained that although enforcement measures were taken for persistent non-payment of Council Tax, there was a discretionary scheme available for benefit claimants with eligible circumstances to apply for support in meeting rental costs.

     

    Attention then turned to the performance indicator measuring the percentage of Non-domestic Rates collected. This indicator was at red status at the end of quarter 2. One of the reasons behind this was increase in rates payers selecting the option to pay over twelve months rather than ten; this affected the profile of payments over the course of the year. Members asked if vacant retail units had an effect on the amount of Non-domestic rates collected. It was explained that empty units did not have a significant impact on collection rates as they were subject to an unoccupied property rate after a three month period. Officers were thanked for providing a breakdown of the occupancy rates of retail units by town centre as shown in Appendix 2. Members asked what measures could be put into place to encourage new business into Grantham town centre. Business engagement schemes were being undertaken by InvestSK to help encourage new businesses into the town centre. There had also been two major bids made for funding to support these endeavours via Historic England and the Future High Streets Fund. Discussion ensued regarding what other initiatives could encourage an increase in occupancy rates of retail  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.

41.

Fees and Charges - Charging Policy pdf icon PDF 240 KB

    Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance.

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Finance introduced his report on the Charging Policy. The policy contained key principles to be considered during the fees and charges process, acknowledging that specific requirements would be unique to each Service Area. Along with Council Tax and Non-domestic rates revenue, fees and charges were an important element in securing Council funding as government funding continued to decrease and the Council was required to become increasingly self-sustained. In order to be effective, consistency was required in the fees and charges process; there had been examples previously of charges not keeping pace with market trends and demands, but it was intended that this policy would provide clear visibility and understanding for future annual budget cycles. A programme of work was being undertaken to support this policy by systematically reviewing current fees and charges. Members were asked if they had any questions relating to the report and the appended Charging Policy.

     

    A further explanation of the full cost recovery principle was requested. It was confirmed that the Council was not legally permitted to make profits, but it was prudent to attempt to recover full costs as standard procedure. One Member stated that this principle would need to be adopted with caution, in order for due care to be taken that the Council was still meeting its Strategic Objectives in the fees and charges process. Officers reassured Members that there was scope within the policy for subsidised services to be provided as appropriate. Each case would be considered in its own merit in order for the Council to continue to provide a financially viable service whilst also achieving its Strategic Objectives.

     

    The Chairman asked why the policy had been developed. There had been a fees and charges strategy in place since 2012, but it was being reviewed and built upon as a key part of the Council’s funding mechanism moving forward. It was not a legal requirement to have a Charging Policy in place, but it was considered to be beneficial in order to create a consistent approach across all Service Areas. The Chairman also queried how the 30% overhead recovery rate figure had been calculated, and requested evidence to support this.

     

    Recommendations

     

    ·         That the Charging Policy be presented to Cabinet for consideration

    ·         Evidence supporting the 30% overhead rate figure to be provided to the Committee

    ·         Officers to consider whether the policy could be expanded upon to give more specific guidance

    ·         Further information to be provided to Members outlining which services were currently subsidised 

42.

Additional meeting

43.

Work programme pdf icon PDF 86 KB

44.

Any other business, which the Chairman, by reason of special circumstances, decides is urgent

45.

Close of meeting