Agenda and minutes

Companies Committee
Tuesday, 19th November, 2019 2.00 pm

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

Contact: Jo Toomey 

Items
No. Item

1.

Membership

    The Committee to be notified of any substitute members.

    Minutes:

     

    The Committee was advised that the Independent Group had given notice that it wished to substitute Councillor Moran with Councillor Knowles. This change would be formally ratified by Council at its meeting on 28 November 2019.

2.

Disclosure of interests

Members agreed a proposal that would see the Monitoring Officer consulting with the Vice-Chairman of the Committee where items were proposed to be exempt under Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

 

A request was also made that any reports submitted to the Committee should include a coversheet.

3.

Remit of the Companies Committee pdf icon PDF 56 KB

    Introduction to the Companies Committee and its Terms of Reference. Item led by the Chairman, Councillor Graham Jeal.

    Minutes:

     

    In summarising the remit of the Committee, the Chairman emphasised that it was not for committee members to take on a role as if they were a company director. The role of the Committee was to provide oversight of the Council’s companies.

     

    One member stated that they were particularly interested in the financial performance of the companies because they were funded through public money.

     

    Reference was made to the involvement of the committee in the appointment of company directors, and some concern was raised that there may not be scope for the Committee to influence the choice of directors. It was noted that in the main the Committee would be able to approve, or withhold their approval of directors, as it considered appropriate however some of the companies’ articles of association set out individuals who were required to act as directors. The example was given of InvestSK, where the articles required the Leader, Deputy Leader and Chief Executive of the Council to sit on the board of directors.

4.

InvestSK pdf icon PDF 117 KB

    Substantive Item- Overview report of InvestSK, in additional to appendices outlining the governance, business structure, financial statements and business plan of the company.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

     

    The Chief Executive of InvestSK gave a presentation to the Committee, which covered InvestSK’s background, establishment and the outcomes achieved to date.

     

    In its earliest iteration in September 2017, InvestSK was a brand rather than a company. It was an informal collaboration that focussed on business growth and investment, property and place-making. In June 2018 a formal Memorandum of Understanding was agreed, which set out InvestSK’s remit for the funding it received from SKDC. In October 2018, it began trading as a not-for-profit private company.

     

    Areas of activity that were set out in the Memorandum of Understanding included:

     

    -       Engaging with businesses to maximise growth and inward investment

    -       Leading on a collaborative approach to skills development

    -       Marketing InvestSK to existing and new businesses

    -       Developing a strategy to promote the district’s visitor attractions

    -       Exploring and optimising access to external funding opportunities

    -       Establishing a heritage regeneration programme across the district

    -       Leading on arts and cultural growth initiatives

    -       Leading on the enhancement of the district’s market towns

    -       Leading on an implementation plan for Grantham and masterplans for the towns

     

    Interventions had then been put in place to address each theme.

     

    A breakdown by theme setting out the funding provided by SKDC in 2018/19 and 2019/20 was supplied. During the company’s early life, funding primarily covered staff and office overheads, then, as projects came on-stream it covered additional project staff.

     

    The presentation also showed outputs against the objectives in the Memorandum of Understanding setting out achievements and the calculated economic impact. It was noted, however, that in some areas of activity, showing pure economic impact was not straightforward.

     

    Members were advised that since its creation, InvestSK had built strong connections into the local business community; this had led to an increase in the number of local businesses that were exploring apprenticeships.

     

    Reference was made to the number of vacant units in the town centres. Whilst the rate of empty units had seen a small increase, InvestSK considered the occupancy rate to be favourable in the context of performance nationally. It was also noted that a number of single sites skewed the figures.

     

    Other outputs related to arts and culture, sports development, external funding for groups, marketing and additional funding related to specific projects, including the university centre in Grantham, and historic and future high streets funding. Members’ attention was also drawn to wider social and economic impacts against which a monetary value could not be put.

     

    The presentation set out why InvestSK considered it to be beneficial for a private company to deliver this activity on behalf of the Council. Some of the reasons that were highlighted included:

     

    -       The perception of the council

    -       Engaging with a company was considered to provide quicker, easier access for businesses

    -       Businesses felt that they were dealing with a peer

    -       A culture of productivity that enabled an outcome-focused approach

    -       An external focus with confined areas of responsibility

    -       Distinctive brand identity recognised by a lot of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Company overviews

    Minutes:

     

    Committee members asked whether each of the committees that had provided updates had business plans, and, if so, requested access to them at the earliest possible opportunity. The Chairman stated that the discussion on the work programme would determine what information the Committee wanted to see and inform the time at which matters would be brought before the Committee.

5a

DeliverSK pdf icon PDF 56 KB

5b

Wherrys Lane Management Limited pdf icon PDF 56 KB

5c

EnvironmentSK pdf icon PDF 93 KB

5d

East Midlands Building Control pdf icon PDF 87 KB

5e

Gravitas Housing pdf icon PDF 85 KB

6.

Work Programme

    The Committee to discuss upcoming items for future meetings.

     

    (document to follow at subsequent meetings of the Committee)

    Minutes:

     

    Members noted that an additional meeting of the Committee had been added on 7 January 2020. Items on that agenda were HomesSK and DeliverSK. Members agreed that the next scheduled meeting on 4 February 2019 would focus on EnvironmentSK.

     

    Members asked for assurance that arrangements would be in place to enable the monitoring of actual expenditure and variances. This would give the Committee confidence that it knew where money was being spent. A request was also made for access to the companies’ audited accounts; it was noted that not all the companies had completed a full trading year and therefore audited accounts were not yet available.

     

    A suggestion was made that benchmarking would be helpful to see how the operation and performance of South Kesteven District Council’s companies compared with similar companies operating elsewhere.

     

    The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee agreed to look at each of the companies and review their milestones to inform the work programme for the Committee.

7.

Close of meeting