Agenda and minutes

Policy, Finance and Development Committee
Tuesday, 2nd February, 2016 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Offices, Station Road, Wigston

Contact: Samuel Ball  Email: samuel.ball@oadby-wigston.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

61.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillors R E R Morris and Mrs L Eaton.

 

An announcement was made by the Chair informing Members of the recent passing of the late Denis ‘Elwyn’ Elliott who was known to this Council for his philanthropic work in trust for The Mayor’s Charities.

62.

Appointment of Substitutes

Minutes:

Councillor R F Eaton substituted for Councillor Mrs L Eaton.

63.

Declarations of Interest

Members are reminded that any declaration of interest should be made having regard to the Members’ Code of Conduct. In particular, Members must make clear the nature of the interest and whether it is 'pecuniary' or ‘non-pecuniary'.

Minutes:

None.

64.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting held on 27 October 2015 DOCX 108 KB

To read, confirm and sign the minutes of the previous meeting in accordance with Rule 17 of Part 4 of the Constitution.

Minutes:

RESOLVED THAT:

 

The minutes of the previous meeting of the Committee held on 27 October 2015 be taken as read, confirmed and signed.

65.

Action List Arising from the Meeting held on 27 October 2015 DOCX 32 KB

Minutes:

Councillor J W Boyce requested an update from Officers in respect of targets met in relation to the ‘Actions to be Taken’ (at page 12).

 

Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) reported that ‘Minute Ref. 42 - Internal Audit Progress Report 2015/16’, ‘Minute Ref. 44 - Overall Budget Position - April to August 2015’ and ‘Minute Ref. 47 - Overall Budget Position - Resident Forum Budget Position and Allocation Requests’ had been duly actioned.

 

The Director of Services reported that in respect of ‘Minute Ref. 57 - Social Media Policy’, a meeting with the Strategic and Creative Marketing Director at Big Sound Marketing Ltd had not been possible and, as such, the report would be brought before the next meeting of this Committee on 29 March 2016.

 

RESOLVED THAT:

 

The Action List be noted by Members.

66.

Petitions and Deputations

To receive any Petitions and, or, Deputations in accordance with Rule 24 of Part 4 of the Constitution.

Minutes:

None.

67.

Internal Audit - Progress Report 2015/16 DOCX 56 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 13 - 36) as jointly-delivered by theInterim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) and Chief Internal Auditor at CW Audit Services, Mr Tim Ridout, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

TheInterim Chief Financial Officer stated that the Internal Audit Progress Report for 2015/16 (“the report”) confirmed the sound financial-standing of the Council citing that significant levels of assurance were received across the Council’s Council Tax, Benefits and Fraud Investigation service-areas. It was said that there were concerns over the ability of service-area managers to implement the report’s outstanding recommendations as agreed (at page 16 - 33). However, he assured Members that significant improvement would be made in this respect ahead of March 2016.

 

The Chief Internal Auditor directed Members’ attention to particularly significant and noteworthy sections and paragraphs contained in the appendix (at pages 14 - 36). He reported that three reviews had been completed since the previous meeting of this Committee on 27 October 2015 (at page 15). He stated that each review had a positive outcome, and the attendant assurance given, that was reflective of a helpful Council workforce in delivering a good end-result.  It was noted that although there were several high-risk/priority issues that were six-months overdue for implementation, most notably regarding Health and Safety (H&S), updates had been received by managers and implementation dates have been revised accordingly. The Chief Internal Auditor stated that CW Audit Services would continue to work with the Senior Management Team (SMT) in order to realise the report’s full implementation.

 

Councillor B Dave expressed his discontent with the comments and concerns raised by the Internal Auditors as contained in the report. With reference to ‘Health and Safety - Policy and Procedures’ (at page 17) citing that ‘the current policy does not fulfil the legal requirements’, the Member noted the seriousness and longevity of the issue and enquired as to whether the Council was complying with H&S legislation.

 

The Director of Services / Monitoring Officer advised that an experienced, permanent Health and Safety Officer had been in-post since November 2015 who was in the process of drafting a new Health and Safety Policy due to be brought before the next meeting of this Committee on 29 March 2016. The Officer was said to have no serious concerns regarding the Council’s current H&S Policy and was presently implementing a new Fire Safety Evacuation Process and completing Fire Safety Warden training. 

 

The Chief Internal Auditor advised that discussions with SMT were being held on a monthly-basis to ascertain how best the Internal Audit Plans 2014/15 and 2015/16 were to be achieved as outlined in sections 5 and 6 of the report (at pages 34 – 26).

 

With reference to ‘Health and Safety - Training and Awareness’ (at page 18) citing the need to produce a ‘documented training needs assessment’ and that ‘some training had been carried out’, Councillor B Dave stated  ...  view the full minutes text for item 67.

68.

External Audit - Annual Audit Letter 2014/15 DOCX 57 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 37 - 46) as delivered by the Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer stated that the Annual Audit Letter for 2014/16 (“the Letter”) prepared by external auditors KPMG confirmed the Council’s positive achievements in comparative terms of value for money vis-a-vis the cost, quality and impact on the community of Council services. The Letter was reported to certify that all financial statements were carefully and properly prepared, attaching significant assurance to the accounts as a true and accurate record of the Council’s expenditure and service-delivery. The Council was also said to have successfully submitted its statutorily-required Whole of Government Accounts Return to the Department for Communities and Local Government confirming the Council’s robust financial management. The Interim Chief Financial Officer reported one concern in respect of the difficulties auditors experienced arising from delays in responding to requests for explanatory information which in turn incurred an additional cost of £7,016.00. He stated that discussions were held with Officers (in respect of the Closing Programme for 2015/16) to identify these issues and was confident that they would not re-occur in the future.

 

Councillor J W Boyce moved the recommendation contained in the report.

 

UNANAMIOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The content of the report be noted by Members.

69.

Overall General Fund Revised Financial Position 2015/16 and Draft Budget 2016/17 DOCX 127 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 47 - 63) as delivered by the Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer directed Members’ attention to particularly significant and noteworthy sections and paragraphs contained in the report (at pages 47 - 55) that would in turn be brought before the next meeting of the Council on 18 February 2016 for resolution, namely:

 

4.2       It was said that owing to the non-availability of the Council Tax Freeze Grant from 2016, an increase in Council Tax of the maximum rate of 1.99% (short of triggering a Local Council Tax Referendum) was to be proposed to Council. This increase was said to be in line with that of the other District and Borough Council’s in Leicestershire, while the County Council was likely to approve an increase of 3.99% (including 2% which had to be spent on adult social care).

4.1       It was said that despite the aforesaid increase of 1.99%, local authorities were still likely to experience economic difficulties due to an increase in service-demands vis-a-vis a reduction in local governments’ financial settlements that will see the phasing out of the Local Government Revenue Support Grant (RSG) by 2020. The implications for this Council was said to be a year-on-year reduction of approximately £400,000 per annum. He noted that the intended devolution of powers from central to local government by 2020 allowing local authorities to retain100% of local business rates was unlikely to raise sufficient additional revenue to offset the loss of RSG because the Borough would not be able to stimulate sufficient economic growth commensurate to what is needed to offset the RSG revenue losses.

5.2.      It was reiterated that given the consequential impact on local government resourcing, the Council would need to reassess future-funding levels in line with the Council’s strategic objectives and focus on the delivery of front-line services and to make these, and other service areas, more efficient as part of cost-consolidating exercise: the resolution by Council on the 08 December 2015 in respect of suspecting parts of the HR Policy was cited as an example of means to deliver an approximate saving of between £120,000 - £150,000.

16.       It was said in view of the aforesaid budgetary-constraints, an amount of £145,000 to be applied from the Council’s General Fund Reserves (GRF) was needed to bridge the financial gap. It was added that although the Council’s GRF sat at a healthy c. £800,000, Members should be mindful that any sum borrowed from the same would not mitigate the need for this Council to find further savings.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer acknowledged the challenges ahead faced by this Council although stated that he was confident that the necessary efficiency-savings could be achieved in accordance with the proposals outlined in the report. He assured Members that given the government’s recent announcement(s) as to the medium-term financial settlement for local authorities  ...  view the full minutes text for item 69.

70.

Draft HRA Budget and Housing Capital Programme 2016/17 DOCX 80 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 64 - 67) as delivered by the Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Interim Chief Financial Officer summarised the update in respect of the progress made in implementing the Housing Revenue Account’s (HRA) 30 year business plan, noting a number of changes to central government policy impacting on the HRA going forward. This was said to include, amongst other things outlined at paragraph 3.3 of the report (at page 64), a new social housing policy affecting the rent convergence mechanism by reducing rents by 1% per annum for the next four years with a move to return to rent convergence thereafter. Nonetheless, it was said that the Chartered Institute of Housing deemed the HRA Business Plan to be fully viable albeit marginally affected insofar the challenges faced by the Council to potentially invest less in housing-stock and to carry out maintenance works. The Interim Chief Financial Officer emphasised however that non-dwelling rents were not subject to the aforementioned regime and, as such, service charges and garage rents were to increase by CPI + 1% and that the same would be communicated to the Council’s social tenants.

 

The Chair moved the recommendations contained in the report.

 

UNANAMIOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

(i)        A 1% rent decrease in dwellings rent as detailed in Section 4 of the report be recommended to the Council; and

(ii)       A 1.1% rent increase in service charges and garages rent as detailed in Section 5 of the report be recommended to the Council.

71.

Resident Forum Outturn Budget Position and Allocation Requests DOCX 71 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 68 - 72) as delivered by the Interim Chief Financial Officer (Section 151 Officer) which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Chair requested that the allocation request of £500 in favour of the Oadby and Wigston Civic Orchestra in support of its commemorative event in 2016 (as approved at a meeting of the South Wigston Residents’ Forum held on 10 November 2015) be added to the ‘Approved Spending’ report at appendix 1 (at page 70).

 

Councillor J W Boyce moved that the Interim Chief Financial Officer be granted delegated authority to add the aforementioned allocation request.

 

The Chair moved the recommendations contained in the report.

 

UNANAMIOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

(i)        The position of the Resident Forums’ budget(s) be noted by Members;

(ii)       The allocation requested by the Resident Forums as set out be approved; and

(iii)      The Interim Chief Financial Officer be granted delegated authority to add an allocation request of £500 in favour of the Oadby and Wigston Civic Orchestra.

72.

Customer Services Transformation DOCX 67 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 73 - 76) as delivered by the Director of Services which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Director of Services reported that the statistics showing the number of full enquires fielded by the Customer Services Centre (CSC) had increased by 40% since its opening on 12 October 2015. A significant increase of 235% in turnaround times for quick enquires in like-for-like terms (between January 2015 - January 2016) was said to have been achieved owing to the added provision of additional self-service access points. It was said that the CSC had received overwhelming levels of positive feedback from service-users. This transformation was said to reinforce the Interim Chief Financial Officer’s earlier comments insofar it was this Council’s ongoing aspiration to continue to change the ways in which it operates to secure the best utilisation of resources to the betterment of the Borough’s residents. The Director of Services advised the second phase of the transformation project was to commence imminently and was to deliver the several new scheme as outlined in the report at 3.6. (at page 74).

 

The Director of Services stated that the overall transformation costs had already been factored-in: however, Members were asked to note at 3.6. of the report (at page 75) the potential of an added financial implication of £2,800 for the renewal of additional software licences should the TCA partnership fail to deliver within timeframes.

 

The Director of Services sought to add to the report’s recommendations that Members be minded to approve the £2,800 for the aforementioned reason.

 

The Chair commended the positive outlook of the report and requested that a decision be taken to issue a press release in respect of the same.

 

Councillor J W Boyce commended the Council’s achievements in being able to provide a new-and-improved service to the residents of the Borough on a cost-effective basis during austere economic times. He welcomed the report and again congratulated all those Officers involved in CSC transformation process.

 

Councillor J W Boyce moved the recommendation contained in the report and the further recommendation to approve an additional amount of £2,800 in respect of the possible renewal additional software licences.

 

UNANAMIOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

(i)        The information provided with the report be noted by Members; and

(ii)       An addition of £2,800 be approved in respect of the possible renewal additional software licences.

73.

Local Development Scheme (LDS) DOCX 61 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report and appendices (at pages 77 - 105) as delivered by the Director of Services which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

With reference to ‘Regulation 19/20 Consultation (preferred options)’ under the heading ‘Timetable’ in the appendix (at page 103), the Director of Services advised that this ought to read ‘Regulation 18’ and Local Development Scheme document shall be amended to such effect ahead of its full publication.

 

The Chair moved the recommendation contained in the report.

 

UNANAMIOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The Local Development Scheme for publication be approved.

74.

Public Realm Works Within The Borough DOCX 64 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report (at pages 106 - 107) as delivered by the Director of Services which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Director of Services summarised the proposals in respect of the proposed Public Realm Improvements to Wigston and South Wigston town centres as outlined at paragraph(s) 3.1 - 3.8. in the report (at pages 106 – 107).

 

The Chair moved the recommendation contained in the report.

 

UNANAMIOUSLY RESOLVED THAT:

 

The spending of approximately £11,000 - £13,500 on public realm improvements to Wigston town centre and the installation of a digital display screen in South Wigston town centre as detailed in this report to be funded from the remaining money in the Council’s Public Realm Reserve be approved.