Report detailing South Kesteven’s performance now the council has moved into the ‘Re-start’ phase of the Covid-19 pandemic recovery plan and setting out performance reporting for quarter one of 2020/21
The Leader of the Council presented to Members the Quarter 1 Performance Report which detailed performance now the Council had moved into the ‘Re-start’ phase of the Covid-19 pandemic recovery plan.
Throughout the pandemic the Council had worked hard to ensure an essential service had remained. The waste collection service remained uninterrupted with staff redeployment to help with the increased volumes of collection.
Some council services had resumed such as Environmental Health Food hygiene inspections. They had been working with nursing homes and schools to ensure the safety of communities within the district.
An autumn arts schedule had been put in place and the arts centres had been re-opened in a limited way for regular users to meet in a Covid-19 safe way. Socially distanced films would be starting soon at the Stamford Arts Centre.
Despite the restrictions and challenges brought on by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, overall the Council had performed well. The performance was a testament to officers throughout the authority. At the start of the lockdown there were only around 40 agile workers, with that having increased considerably, to almost all the office-based workforce.
The Director of Finance was invited by the Leader to highlight the key points featured in the report.
The Cabinet had agreed a framework on 16 June 2020, to set out a recovery plan from the effects of Covid-19. Key activities of the ‘Re-start’ phase were:
· Deliver growth of the economy;
· Housing that met the needs of residents;
· Strong communities with high quality facilities;
· A clean and sustainable environment; and
· A high performing council.
The report highlighted each area of the plan and what that Council had committed to achieve.
An overview of performance for Quarter 1 2020/21 against agreed indictors was set out in the report, with details provided within the appendices, these were as follows:
· Rents performance;
· Council Tax Performance;
· Non-domestic rates Performance;
· Planning process performance;
· House build performance;
· Complaints and Compliments performance; and
· Waste Performance.
Covid-19 had a detrimental impact to collection activity to date and this was primarily due to the suspension of all recovery activity due to the lockdown. The focus of the revenue teams during that time was on providing support and advice to residents and businesses. The team would ordinarily have issued approximately 11,000 council tax reminders and 1,300 business rates reminders.
The annual council tax bills were issued 10 days before lockdown commenced, collection was down by 1.06% which was £905,383 and the net liability had increased by £2,802.726. Deferral requests for council tax collection in April and May to later in the year totalled £242,000. Direct Debit cancellations totalled £141,000 for April to July, which represented a 0.5% rejection rate.
A balance remained of £436,305 from the Government allocated Council Tax Support hardship which, when awarded, would assist with reducing collectable liability. South Kesteven had seen an increase in the number of residents in receipt of Council Tax Support of 661 since 1 April 2020. The cost of the scheme was shared between South Kesteven and the precepting authorities, Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
It was not possible to make a meaningful comparison with previous years’ collection performance, due to the high number of businesses who had received 100% rate relief for 2020/21. As at 31 August 2020 the collection rate was 46.50%, which was £11,197.710 of the net collectible £24,000,000.
A total of £20.3m had been awarded in Expanded Retail Discount to 958 businesses. The Revenues Team had worked closely with InvestSK Limited to administer the business grants, as part of the Covid-19 Government support measures.
Rents collection also had not seen any formal recovery since March 2020, with all court action suspended. Proactive contact had been made with residents in order to provide support. Discretionary Housing Payments had been allocated to those residents in need which had left a balance of £220,000 for the remainder of the year.
Collection of rents was only 0.5% below target for Quarter 1, actual rent collected was £5,961,486. There would be ongoing challenges for the recovery of rents for the remainder of 2020/21.
A member of the committee thanked officers for the work that had been put into the production of the report and queried whether bonus payments made to refuse collectors would continue. The member was advised that there had been a national pay settlement of 2.75%. Staff had received an increase of 2% from April 2020, and would receive the additional 0.75% backdated to April, now that the national award had been agreed. The Council also had agreed to apply a market supplement for waste operatives and front-line street scene staff which was to continue until March 2021.
There were concerns around the viability of recouping deferred payments for business rates and council tax, given that there may be considerable job losses which would have an inevitable impact. It was queried as to what terms would be used to recoup the deferred payments. Council tax debt would mean an increase in instalments, due later during the Council Tax year. That would carry a risk in residents’ ability to meet those payments, there were only a small number of deferrals, which were detailed in the report. There were a large number of businesses that had been given business rate relief, meaning that they did not have to pay rates for that year. Those provided with relief were within sectors facing difficulties, such as retail and hospitability.
There was great concern about those residents who were self-employed and if there was any assistance provided by the council. It was advised that support for the self-employed was not covered by local authorities but that there were a number of national support schemes launched by the Government that residents should access if they needed to.
A member asked if planning performance had increased and raised concerns around the time it took for Customer Services to answer and transfer calls. The Leader advised that the Chief Executive was aware of the concerns and that the issue was being investigated. The planning backlog was reducing with additional planning meetings to improve performance.
The Chairman was keen for performance information to be available in the public domain. He had been advised that performance reports would be available on the website, within a month of the end of each Quarter.
1. Officers to ensure that Quarterly Performance Reports would be available on the South Kesteven District Council website, within one month of the end of each quarter.
Members requested for figures to be provided on the number of staff from home and those who were at their usual place of work. They also requested that figures showing collection rates also show a figure for the amount not collected, so that it provided more context to performance. Reference to street care services in the report should be broken down into a number that could be easily tracked and monitored.
2. That the number of officers working from home and the number who were in their usual place of work were provided to members.
3. Future reports to show figures for rates collected and those not collected.
4. Street Care services to be broken down into a number that could be easily tracked and monitored
Members agreed that they would like to see details on the number of houses that had been approved by Planning, against the number of houses that had been built. This had been requested previously but been advised that it was difficult to monitor. The Chairman agreed that the information would be useful to monitor performance and requested that more details be provided.
5. That details were to be provided, if possible, on the number of houses built within the district versus those approved.
It was requested that future reports showed more historical context for house builds. It was also queried why members had been informed that the council had built 16 houses, but it was noted in the report only 2 affordable homes had been built. A member advised that the 16 houses were a mixture of social housing and affordable housing; it was requested if that was confirmed and those figures were to be included within the next performance report.
6. More historical context of house builds be included in future reporting
7. Officers to clarify the number of affordable and social houses included within the figure of 16 houses built.
The Committee noted the contents of the report, thanked officers for a detailed report and looked forward for the information being available to the public in due course.