The purpose of this report is to seek budget framework amendments to the 2022/23 financial year and Budget Framework proposals for the period 2023/24 – 2024/25.
The Deputy Leader of the Council introduced a report seeking budget framework amendments to the 2022/2023 financial year and Budget Framework proposals for the period 2023/2024 – 2024/2025.
The report included:
· A proposal to accept the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) monies totalling £3.898,582, along with a £20,000 revenue contribution towards the investment plan. There was also a proposal to create a UKSPF and Rural England Board containing members of the Council, with associated terms of reference at Appendix B.
· The repayment of £1.3 million to the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP).
· An increase to the annual green waste charge of £5, and an increase of £2.50 for each subsequent bin from 1 April 2023, with the aim of simplifying the standing charge for residents.
The Deputy Leader of the Council proposed the motions with slight amendments to recommendations 2 and 4, to include the words ‘and with the agreement of the Board as proposed at recommendation 3’. There was also an amendment to the terms of reference of the UKSPF and Rural England Board, as set out in Appendix B – all bullet points in the terms of reference at paragraph 1.4 would start with the words ‘consider and agree’.
The following points were raised during debate:
· The proposal to allocate £2,500 to the 82 parishes under the Town and Parish Community Fund did not factor in the population size of villages. The Member’s Grant Scheme could be a fairer way of apportioning this funding, if appropriate.
· One member had the view that large grants from the government should benefit residents proportionally, which would roughly equate to Grantham and surrounding villages receiving 40% funding, The Deepings and surrounding villages receiving 20%, Bourne and surrounding villages receiving 20% and Stamford and surrounding villages receiving 20%.
· A case was made to apportion funding to the Deepings Leisure Centre Community Group to enable refurbishment works to take place at the Leisure Centre. It was argued that the scheme met the three priorities set out by the Government on expenditure, the creation of jobs and people and skills.
· The amount of money proposed for CCTV and the wireless hubs was £244,000, which was for 40 free public WI-FI service hubs across the four towns. This was in part to enable to upgrade of CCTV and digital coverage across the District.
· The UKSPF was the Government’s domestic replacement for the European Structural and Investment Programme (ESIF). The amounts of money involved were not going to address the bigger projects within the District but it would certainly help. The Government was prescriptive about what the UKSPF money could be used for. In order to decide on the best use of the money it would be for the members of the UKSPF Board to consider and agree on the projects listed at Appendix A, which had been planned based on discussions at member workshops, engagement and consultation with voluntary and community sector umbrella groups, consultation with members through four locality based virtual sessions in Bourne, Stamford, Grantham and the Deepings, and the 25 July 2022 meeting of Council. The UKSPF Board meetings would take place in public.
· The Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee received an update at its meeting held on 22 November 2022 on the five-year South Kesteven Economic Development Strategy for 2023-2028, which included information on UKSPF funding.
· Member workshops with a specific focus on the UKSPF would take place in early February 2023 alongside ‘roadshows’ on the topic.
· South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) was not eligible for Levelling Up Funding in the last round as it was not a top tier authority.
An amendment was proposed in respect of the UKSPF and Rural Prosperity Board Terms of Reference, set out at Appendix B:
· The insertion of new paragraph (to make the rules consistent with scrutiny committee procedures) and a further paragraph outlining the scrutiny of the board:
o “Any Councillor will have the right to make written submissions to any meeting of the board on any agenda item no later than 24 hours before the start of the meeting. Such submissions will be tabled at the meeting or circulated beforehand. A record of any submissions made and any response to them will be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.”
o “Since the board membership is not subject to the political proportionality rules, its work should be subject to examination by a scrutiny committee at least twice a year.”
The proposer and seconder of the substantive motion were happy to accept these amendments as per paragraph 14.10 of the Council Procedure Rules, and therefore they formed part of the substantive motion.
Debate resumed on the substantive motions:
· One member raised the possibility of more money being spent on rural areas in the District and requested a meeting with the Leader of the Council or another member of Cabinet on this. A fund for villages and parishes was a good idea.
· Another member suggested that the money should be better spent in the towns in the District on schemes to alleviate climate change.
· Food banks and warm hubs did not exist at the same level previously as they do now, and it was worrying that they were increasingly needed by members of the community. Whilst help for members of the community that were struggling to feed themselves was welcomed, it was not clear that a mobile food hub could equate to levelling up.
· Whilst recognising the work of officers to get the UKSPF document to this stage, further scrutiny would be required on the part of the UKSPF Board to ensure the appropriate final destination of the money allocated to year one of the UKSPF project.
· Reference was made to the Budget Scrutiny meeting taking place on the day prior to Cabinet in January; it would have been preferable to have a larger gap but the recommendations from that Budget Scrutiny meeting had been taken forward and accepted by Cabinet when they met in January.
Some members expressed a wish to vote on each recommendation in the report separately, rather than taking them en bloc. The Chairman granted this request, and therefore having been proposed and seconded, upon being put to the vote (separately) motions 1-4 were AGREED:
That the Council:
1. Accepts, in accordance with the Financial Procedure Rules, a grant of £3,898,582 (revenue expenditure of £3,069,306 and capital expenditure of £673,334 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund during the Financial Years 20222023, 2023-2024 and 2024-2025, along with a £20,000 revenue contribution towards development costs of the UKSPF Investment Plan.
2. Delegates authority to the Chief Executive, Section 151 Officer, Director of Growth and Culture and the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Growth to take all actions necessary to deliver the projects as set out at Appendix A in accordance with the grant conditions of the UKSPF, and with the agreement of the Board as proposed at recommendation 3.
3. Approves the UKSPF and Rural Prosperity Board Terms of Reference as set out at Appendix B.
4. Delegates authority to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Section 151 Officer and UKSPF and Rural Prosperity Board, to make the final decision regarding the award of the contract associated with the ‘Connected Towns CCTV and Wireless Hubs’ project, with the agreement of the Board as agreed at resolution 3.
Debate resumed on recommendation 5 in the report – the repayment of GLLEP funding:
· If the recommendation was not agreed the likelihood would be that the loan repayment would revert to £2 million, although confirmation from the GLLEP would be required. A repayment amount had been negotiated with the GLLEP at £1.3 million.
· The repayment related to a regeneration project which involved creating a new cinema and public realm in Grantham. Officers and members involved with the project at that time had failed to progress this initiative, but there was now a new management team in place. It was disappointing that the University of Lincoln were no longer involved in utilising the space above the cinema.
· The existing office space required a large amount of money being spent on it; the new office space above the cinema provided officers with a modern collaborative working space.
· A member raised the existing partnership between Grantham College and De Montfort University and questioned whether this avenue had been explored.
· The floor space of the offices above the cinema was larger than most organisations would require in Grantham, so the use by officers was a viable option.
· One member claimed that this project, having been initially discussed some years ago, was given a steer at that time that there was no demand for office and restaurant space.
Having been proposed and seconded, upon being put to the vote motion 5 was AGREED:
That the Council:
5. Approves the repayment of £1.3 million funding to the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership; with £500k to be transferred on 1 February 2023, £500k on 1 October 2023, and £333k on 1 April 2024.
Debate resumed on recommendation 6 in the report – the proposed increase in green waste collection charges:
· Green waste bins were previously free in 2007 and were seen as a community project where users could buy back the compost.
· The cost now to SKDC was between £2-3 million which was the justification for the charge. Members could work together in the future to see if a more bespoke service would be possible which would reduce the amount of journeys that lorries had to undertake just to dispose of green waste.
· The current policy model on green waste charging was one of cost recovery. There were currently around 31,000 households that utilised the green waste collection service. Fortnightly collections resulted in a unit cost of around £2.30. 97% of users paid by Direct Debit.
· The reason for taking the decision separately to the Budget was to allow for the charges to be fed through to the charging system ahead of 1 April 2023.
Having been proposed and seconded, upon being put to the vote motion 6 was AGREED:
That the Council:
6. Approves the green waste annual collection charge increase of £5 for the collection of the first bin and an increase of £2.50 for each subsequent bin with effect from 1 April 2023.
Note: It was proposed, seconded and AGREED that the meeting be extended until 4:30pm.