Venue: Newton room, Guildhall Arts Centre, St Peter's Hill, Grantham NG31 6PZ
Contact: Anita Eckersley
Declaration of interests
Members are asked to disclose any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.
No interests were declared.
The action notes from the meeting held on 28 November 2018 were noted.
Updates from the previous meeting
A Member referred to action note 41 regarding the work being undertaken in respect of improving footfall in the towns and markets within the District. The Vice-Chairman noted that the County Council had completed their work in respect of this topic. It was suggested that the Cabinet Member for Retail and Visitor Economy, the Head of Town Centres and the appropriate Cabinet Member from Lincolnshire County Council be invited to a future meeting of the Committee in order to provide an overview of the work being undertaken and the findings of the Committee at Lincolnshire County Council.
Reference was also made to the £42k set aside for enhancing and improving markets as mentioned in the Q2 Financial Monitoring Report 2018/19 and the work undertaken to date.
a) That an invitation is extended to the appropriate Cabinet Member with responsibilities for towns and markets from Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) to attend a future meeting in order to report on the findings from the LCC Committee’s work on towns and markets in the County.
b) That an invitation is also extended to the SKDC Cabinet Member for Retail and Visitor Economy together with the Head of Town Centres to attend the same meeting that the Cabinet Member from LCC is attending in order to report on the works undertaken in respect of the District’s four towns and markets to date.
A Member referred to a delay in works at Wherry’s Lane due to the soil being contaminated. It was noted that the works at Wherry’s Lane were now progressing. The Member queried whether an update could be provided.
That an update on the progress of the Wherry’s Lane site is sprovided.
Disabled Facilities Grant:
Discussion took place on the uptake of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) and how the allocation of grants in South Kesteven depended on sign off and approval by the Occupational Therapists at Lincolnshire County Council (LCC). Members queried whether the grant monies not allocated would be carried over to the following year, and it was noted they would.
Members also acknowledged and praised the work undertaken by the Cabinet Member for Housing in raising the profile of the DFG.
The Committee was informed of ongoing discussions with GPs and hospitals in respect of a ppotential project around hospital patient discharge.
Further discussion took place on the feasibility of appointing an occupational therapist for the District and whether referrals would still need to be signed off by an OT in LCC. Members commented that innovative ideas would be required to resolve the issues and it was suggested that the Communities and Wellbeing OSC be tasked with looking at the process and issues arising from the allocation of the DFG
That the Communities and Wellbeing OSC be tasked with looking at the process and issues arising from the allocation of the DFG.
Report of the Deputy Leader of the Council
The Chairman referred to the timelines for Quarter 1 and 2 of the Performance Monitoring process, the timing of the Committee meeting, and how they did not align. He commented that the setting of meetings in the next Municipal Year would need to be arranged for an appropriate period after the end of a quarter in order that the information could be brought to Committee within a meaningful time scale.
The Deputy Leader referred to the circulated report which outlined performance outcomes for quarters 1 and 2 of the financial year 2018/19. The report also contained details of the proposals for transforming future reporting of performance and would also bring reporting in line with the corporate strategy.
The team was working together with trialling new performance management technologies. The current performance management system gave an overview of performance once it had taken place which meant that a retrospective view was being provided. The new performance technologies being trialled provided live information and automatically updated thus enabling managers to view real time performance data. This was a more pro-active approach and would enable managers to meet the demands of customers as well as enhance increased agility and service delivery. Information collated this way would provide evidenced based decision making as well as identify market trends and enable effective planning for future service delivery.
Work was underway to implement and make use of live performance reporting and predictive analytics. Once a prototype solution had been fully developed within Customer Services and within Revenues and Benefits the feedback from these services would be reviewed in order to identify effectiveness. The aim would be to extend this method across the organisation.
Using predictive analytics within the dashboards would also effectively enable officers to model different scenarios which would provide better understanding and identify what impact any changes had. SKDC was one of the first Council’s to look at using this type of technology.
Performance measures referred to were: The 94% occupancy rates of retail units in town centres and the introduction of higher levels of apprenticeships. Reference was also made to the progress of the delivery of broadband throughout the District and it was noted that Lincolnshire County Council continued to undertake the rollout of the programme with BT. It was also noted that targets set against revenue collection obligations including Council tax, non-domestic rates and rent collections were on track to meet their targets.
A Member queried whether the occupancy rate related to the District as a whole as he felt the occupancy rate was questionable in respect of Grantham. It was noted that the occupancy rates referred to the town centres in the District and had exceeded these targets for both quarters.
Members were informed of new higher apprenticeship levels that would be in addition to the current levels already available for young people. This was to encourage a wider skill set and provide young people with an opportunity of learning alongside work experience at a variety of levels.
Discussion took place ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance
The Cabinet Member for Finance reminded the Committee that the original general revenue budget for 2018/19 had been approved by Council on 1 March 2018 and had been set at £17.161m. Budget adjustments had taken place throughout the year and as at 31 December 2018 the budget had been amended to £19.353m. This was due to a number amendments being approved during the year. These were outlined in the table under 3.1 of the report.
The surplus forecast at Q2 which the Committee had received notice of at its’ last meeting had been allocated and was detailed in the table at 3.3 of the report.
In particular, business rates growth and s31 grants had been increased by £459k in order to offset the increase to the growth budget for the additional business rates income allocation. This was broken down as £149k for one-off expenditure, £50k for small business grant and £260k for priority growth projects in 2018/19. The Reserves and Grants budget had been increased to reflect one-off funding changes between quarters 2 and 3, such as redundancy costs. The Regeneration Reserve showed a transfer to reserves of additional business rates income for use in future years.
The Committee was informed that the overall forecast was a break even position as at 31 March 2019.
The Cabinet Member then referred to the Housing Revenue Account and how the original budget for 2018/19 had been set at a surplus for the year of £6.668m. This budgeted surplus had been transferred to the reserves in order to provide additional internal funding for the HRA capital programme. The budget had been adjusted during the year to allow for budget virements, the creation of set-asides and centralisation of key budget headings. The forecast surplus had now reduced to £5.987m which resulted in a forecast overspend of £518k. Further detail in respect of the HRA monitoring statement could be found at Appendix C of the report.
With regards to the Capital programme, the original capital budget for 2018/19 had been set at £14.839m but the budget had been adjusted during the year due to projects being identified which meant the updated position was £25.478m. Amendments had been Budget carry forwards, grounds maintenance vehicles, St Peter’s Hill Public Realm and property acquisition. Further detail could be found in the table. The capital budget now had a forecast underspend of £6.285m which reduced the requirement to use £3.81m of reserves during the financial year. It was anticipated that requests to carry forward the underspent budgets and associated funding to 2019/20 would be considered at the outturn of the financial year.
Members discussed the benefits of the Business Rate Pilot and how funding would be allocated, the good position the HRA was in and how this would enhance the possibilities of borrowing for social housing, whether it was normal practice to amend the budget proposals and the underspend in respect of commercial investment spending and the issues and risks.
Members were reminded that the budget documents ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
Report of the Deputy Leader of the Council
The Deputy Leader referred to the ambitious capital investment programme the Council was embarking on and how, in order to deliver this ambition, the Council was required to have in place a capital framework as an integral part of the annual budget framework. The Capital Strategy had been developed as an overarching framework that would develop and govern the capital programme and support the delivery of the Council’s growth ambitions.
The Capital Strategy at Appendix A set out the governance with respect to the formation of the capital programme and ensured that due consideration would be given to the affordability, sustainability, risks and rewards and provided a framework for the management and delivery of the capital programme.
In the draft 2019/20 capital programme proposals the Cabinet had allocated £10m for capital programmes and the allocation of this funding, would be driven and governed by the Property Investment Policy and supported by the Capital Strategy.
The draft policies were attached to the report for review by the Growth OSC. Cabinet had already considered these policies and once the comments from this Committee had been, they would be submitted to Council on 1 March for approval as part of the budget framework proposals for 2019/20.
The Capital Strategy would sit as the overarching strategic framework with the Property Investment Policy (PIP), the Treasury Management Strategy and the Asset Management Strategy and would be intrinsically linked in order to support the delivery of the corporate ambitions. The Asset Management Strategy was being developed and would be presented to Growth OSC at a future meeting.
The Property Investment Policy (PIP) would have broad objectives and include the following areas within its scope:
· An option to purchase tenanted property and carry out landlord functions;
· An option to build or develop property to be let to interested parties;
· An option to acquire land to be developed or make available for development;
· An option to develop existing land or property, and
· An option to undertake any other investments for which it had legal powers
A broader criteria would enable maximum flexibility when assessing potential investment opportunities with a possibility for a wide range of return measures. The focus on investment opportunities would mainly be within the district of South Kesteven.
Discussion took place on potential locations and whether these would primarily be within the District or whether there would be flexibility to consider options just outside the District. It was noted that primarily, locations would be considered within the District, but consideration would be given to locations that overlapped Districts.
Members were reminded that the last year had been transitional and the Council had been working towards different ways of working that would enable the Council to be more self-sufficient.
Cllr Peter Stephens left the meeting at 11.40am
Reference was made to the investment returns and the yield test measurements and how they were calculated. Also discussed was the lack of office space within the District and the need to create more commercial space as well ... view the full minutes text for item 49.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Growth and Communications
The Cabinet Member for Growth and Communications referred to the requirement for a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) as set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2014. The SCI was a document that set out how the public, organisations and other interested parties would be involved and engaged with in the preparation of new development plan documents and in the process of determining planning applications.
Reference was made to the revised Statement of Community Involvement that had been approved by Cabinet for public consultation at its meeting held in May 2018. A six-week period of consultation had then taken place during June and July 2018. All the responses made during that consultation were set out in Appendix 2 of the report, together with the officer response to each comment made.
The Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee was being asked to note the outcome of the public consultation exercise undertaken with respect to updating the Council’s SCI and make any recommendations to the Cabinet for consideration in determining any amendments to the SCI.
Around 1480 notification letters had been distributed and a total of 15 responses had been received. Amongst the responses it was noted that a Member had responded to the consultation regarding Member involvement and the inclusion of the right that Members had to attend any Development Management Committee meeting and, with the Chairman’s permission, speak on an objector’s behalf, highlighting valid planning objections. Members queried whether this would be included in the SCI.
a) That the Statement of Community Involvement includes the “Members right to attend any Development Management Committee meeting and, with the Chairman’s permission, speak on an objector’s behalf, highlighting valid planning objections”, be included in the Statement of Community Involvement.
b) After consideration of the responses from the public consultation in respect of the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement, the Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommend to Cabinet that the Statement of Community Involvement is adopted subject to any further amendments arising from the Cabinet.
Verbal Updates and items
· Indicative income predictions
· Local Plan
· Bank closures
Indicative Income Predictions:
A general discussion took place on the type of information Members were seeking. Members noted they were seeking reassurance that potential yields of income were available for the projects currently in progress and wanted an understanding of potential outcomes, income predictions and case by case benefits. A Member referred to EnvironmentSK and queried whether the business case included potential rates of return or the capability of expanding the business to generate an income by bidding and securing additional work from other sources.
The Committee was assured that the Capital Investment Programme would be driven by the Property Investment Policy previously discussed. It was also noted that some outcomes would not necessarily be financial but would be about engaging with local businesses as well as businesses further afield in order to encourage investment within the district. Each project had the potential to provide a variety of outcomes and there was no assumption that “one size would fit all”. Outcomes from engagement and investment would range from potential job creation, creating a regular income for the Council and providing an environment for investment in the District by businesses and organisations both from within and outside the District that would enable both social and economic returns.
Reference was made to the Council Meeting held on 31 January 2019 when a Member had referred to bank closures that had taken place in Market Deeping in recent years and in particular to the recent announced closure of the Market Deeping Branch of Barclays Bank. The Member had requested that the Chairman of the Growth OSC consider asking a representative from Barclay’s Bank to attend the Committee’s next meeting to explain their position and discuss how the Council could work with them to reverse their decision.
Members expressed their concerns about the implications for residents of Market Deeping and the surrounding areas and the expectation that they were to travel to a proposed banking hub in Stamford. In addition Members raised concerns about the impact on businesses and retailers and their access to banking especially as the post office had noted they would only undertake personal banking as they did not have the facility to undertake business banking.
The Chairman noted that as a result of Member’s concerns along with the request made at Council, a letter had been drafted for him to sign and send to the Divisional Manager at Barclay’s Bank in Cambridge. The Chairman then read the letter and sought approval from the Committee and the Member who made the initial request to sign and send the letter.
That the Committee approved of the drafted letter and agreed that it should be signed by the Chairman of the Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee and sent to the Barclays Divisional Director at Barclay’s Bank based in Cambridge.
Close of Meeting
The meeting closed at 12.30.