Agenda and minutes

Policy, Finance and Development Committee
Tuesday, 21st July, 2015 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Offices, Station Road, Wigston

Contact: Democratic Services  Email: committees@oadby-wigston.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence received from Councillors Latif Darr Richard Morris and Ted Barr

2.

Appointment of Substitutes

Minutes:

Councillor Dr Teck Khong was appointed as a substitute on behalf of Councillor  Ted Barr

3.

Declarations of Interest

4.

Petitions and Deputations

Minutes:

None

5.

Action List DOCX 17 KB

Minutes:

A verbal update was provided by the Director of Services with regards to the adoption of open spaces within the Oadby Woodlands Ward. She advised Members that there was a report that was presented to committee in July 2014 whereby four areas of open spaces had been identified as land which the Council was maintaining but did not own.

 

Members were reminded that the recommendation put forward was that the Council would partake in discussions with land owners, with a view to the council adopting the said land subject to a commuted sum. In March 2015 a report was submitted to Senior Management team for the Policy, Finance and Development Committee (hereinafter PFD) to advise Members that  discussions had been taking place with the landowners as to whether they would transfer the land. She explained that whilst they were willing to transfer the land, they were not prepared to pay a commuted sum. Therefore, she advised Members that Senior Management Team felt that it would be best to defer the same; there was conflicting information as to whether the Council had been maintaining the same or not. She stated that the Clean and Green team had categorically stated that they had not been maintaining the trees. Further clarification was sought as different departments were saying different things. The clarification was not sought in time for the March PFD Committee. Notification was received from the developers that as they had not heard from the council they would auction the sites off.

 

She advised that it had recently come to light that one of the sights has a play area and upon speaking with the solicitors acting on behalf of the landowners, it has been agreed that the play area would not be auctioned off but gifted to the Council. She confirmed that all of the remaining open spaces were auctioned on 16 July.

 

A Member thanked the Officers who dealt with this and welcomed the update but considered it unfortunate that this play area reached a stage whereby it would be auctioned. He appreciated the verbal update but said that it should have been a report as stated within the minutes of the previous meeting, and insisted that it should come to the next meeting.

 

The Chair advised that the report would be presented at a committee meeting but could not guarantee when this will be done.

 

A Member queried whether the fact that the other 3 areas that were wooded and have been sold off contradicts the Councils Greening of the Borough Strategy. He was advised that there are policies in place that protect such open spaces.

 

A Member also stated that the information relating to Building Control was not received by and should be acted upon as soon as possible.

 

RESOLVED: That Members noted the contents of the report.

 

6.

Internal Audit Progress Report 2014/15 and 2015/16 DOCX 20 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Audit Manager advised that this report summarises the work conducted from 1st April 2015 to early July 2015.

 

He stated that a lot of the work in this period is work that was deferred from previous financial year with the majority having significant assurance with one moderate, whereby assurance has been received that work has been done.

 

He explained Section 4 of the report contained the Recommendation Tracking, informing Members that these were due to be implemented by the end of June. He said that there are a total of 50 recommendations and that between end of March and June 34 had been added. He advised that details are given of outstanding recommendations and that these were not necessarily subject to their audit unless management specifically requested the same.

 

A Member asked whether a Health and Safety Officer had been recruited to which the Director of Services replied that a Health and Safety Officer is in post and has started work with high risk areas, assuring Members that progress is being made. 

 

The Member asked whether the relevant individual from Zurich had started (As at page 25), to which the Finance Manager replied that work has started and explained that this work had been delayed by operational issues.

 

The Member further asked whether we had a Communications Officer (as at page 27) and the Director of Services advised Members that the Council was working with a company that does letterbox and Cuttlefish too. She stated that an arrangement will be reviewed in September to see whether a Full Time Communications Officer is needed. 

 

A Member raised a query in relation to the Recovery Plan mentioned on page 26. He reiterated the importance that all information that the Council has is protected and asked whether what was in place currently was adequate. The Chair stated this is a live document and that she will obtain a personal guarantee that all is ok.

 

 

RESOLVED: That Members note the content of the progress report for 2014/15 and 2015/16

 

7.

Internal Audit Annual Report 2014/15 DOCX 23 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Audit Manager as set out in report pages 32-46, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager explained that this is the Internal audit annual report highlighting key outcomes of internal Audit reports during 2014-2015. He advised that the findings from this form the annual governance statement which is later in the agenda.

 

The Chair advised all new Members that despite the fact it states it is an internal audit report this work has been contracted out to an external company to ensure its transparent.

 

The Audit Manager outlined the purpose of the report and advised that the overall opinion was that significant assurance can be given and that there is a generally sound system of internal control, designed to meet the organisations objectives. However, he stated that there were some significant internal control issues (As at page 40) that may need to be included within the annual governance statement. Notwithstanding this he advised that since the production of this report there have been discussions with Senior Management team who have stated that they will see how the issues can be resolved. He stated that subject to adequate and effective action being taken, these would not need to be published within the annual governance statement.

 

The Chair advised Members that significant assurance is good and despite more assurance being needed on certain areas these should hopefully be resolved in time for the annual governance statement.

 

A Member stated that these were pertinent finance reports and questioned why the reports author (the Council’s Section 151 Officer) was not present at the meeting. The Chair advised that the Section 151 Officer as not due in the office today and stated that the Finance Manager was capable of addressing the issues present.

 

 

RESOLVED: That Members noted the report.

8.

Provisional Committee Budget Outturn Report 2014/15 pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Finance Manager as set out in pages 47-53, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager outlined the report stating that the provisional outturn position for 2014/15 is £1.953m, which represents a £463,000 underspend for the financial year as compared with the revised estimate. He explained that two of the major variances were as follows; in terms of staff costs he stated there was saving of 75k taking into consideration an overspend on hired staff and revised staff costs too at time of budget. The other variances he advised was the overpayment of housing benefits due to better information from the Department of Work and Pensions, as detailed within the reports. He advised the general trend of the variances that have materialised have been even. With regards to the Capital outturn £306,000 he stated represents an underspend of £413,000.

 

A Member expressed concern regarding Appendix 3 and the note concerning the Customer services centre and that it had completed earlier than expected as it does not appear to be completed. The Finance Manager stated that there is a technicality with the scheme being carried over into 2015/16.

 

A Member questioned the revised budget for 2014/15 stating that there was an overspend of £15,000. He was advised that despite that overspend showing in 2014/15 that there would not ultimately be an overspend as the scheme is carried over into 2015/16.

 

The Member raised concern over the hired staff budget contained within the report on page 48. He asked whether the figure of £258,000 includes consultants, if this is not the case then he stated that Members need to be made aware of the separate costs for consultants.

 

The Chair advised that every time a Consultant is employed it has been through Committee.  The Director of Services stated there are a variety of reasons for agency staff, partially due to current market trends. She assured Members that it is something HR is working on.

 

The Member stated that elected Members should see separate figures so that it can be monitored. The Chair said she will have discussions with the relevant parties.

 

RESOLVED: That Members note the outturn positions for 2014/15

9.

Overall Provisional Budget Outturn Report 2014/15 pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Finance Manager as set out in pages 54-63, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager outlined the report stating that it relates to the General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).

 

With regards to the General Fund he advised that there is an overall reduction in outturn next expenditure against the revised budgets for 2014/2015 of £203,206.  He also noted that income from business rates is better than expected.

He explained that the Section 31 grant for small business relief has helped with the NNDR business rates income. With regards to the HRA he advised the outturn position is £827,000 in surplus.

 

A Member questioned the figures with regards to the General Fund (primarily point 2 on page 55) and the Finance Manager advised that salaries were revised and that on top of that there were more savings made. However for completeness and clarity he advised he will send an email to all Members explaining the same.

 

A Member stated that it should be reported to Members when there is both an overspend and an underspend with the reasons why so that there is transparency. He made particular reference to page 60 and the HPDG Reserve budget against the revised estimate and the outturn and asked why there were such big changes. He noted the same issue with Management of Change stating the trend is not good and that Officers must advise as to why such variations exist. He voiced that under spending is just as bad as overspending.

 

The Finance Manager advised there are many reasons and some concern the level of activity within the authority and advised that he will discuss with him after the meeting.

 

The Member also questioned the delays in relation to the Capital programme asking whether there are sufficient resources so as to ensure that it will happen within the next financial year. He asked for the reasoning behind the backlogs and if there are issues present what solutions there are. The Chair advised all Members will get a written response via email.

 

A Member noted that on Page 60, the Grants Reserve illustrated a £10,000 under spend and the Finance Manager advised he would revert back to him via email with a response.

 

The Leader of the Council stated that the budget set, the monitoring or outturn was wrong. He suggested that a branch review of the budget, monitoring and the outturn needs to be conducted as one of the process (budget, monitoring or outturn) is not sufficiently robust. The Chair noted his comments.

 

RESOLVED: That Members

 

(1)  Note the report and overall provisional outturn provisions for both the General Fund (as at Appendix 1 of the report) and the Housing Revenue Account 2014-15 (Appendix 2)

(2)  Approve the requested revenue and capital carry forwards for both he General Fund and Housing Revenue Account (Appendix 3)

(3)  Approve the transfer of £400,000 from  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Committee Budget Review April to May 2015 pdf icon PDF 53 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Finance Manager as set out in pages 64-65, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager advised that this review is for the first 2 months of the financial year only. He advised there has been no movement and includes the Capital spend. The Leader of the Council stated variances are unlikely at this stage.

 

RESOLVED: That Members note the current positions.

11.

Draft Annual Governance Statement 2014/15 pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Finance Manager as set out in pages 66-87, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager outlined the report and asked for Members to approve the same and refer to the Leader of the Council and Chief Executive for certification. He noted that the statement currently includes the areas for improvement however reiterated that should these be resolved by September’s Council meeting these can be removed from the Annual Governance Statement.

 

A Member noted the 8 bullet points on page 68 and stated there were so many variations, it is difficult to identify in either an individual or collective way. The Finance Manager advised that this is from official guidance so they have been suggested by CIPFA/SOLACE and inserted into the report.

 

RESOLVED: That the Annual Governance Statement (2014/15) as set out in Appendix 1 of the report be approved and referred to the Leader of the Council and Chief Executive for formal certification.

12.

Residents Forum Budget Position and Allocation Requests pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Finance Manager as set out in pages 88-92, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager outlined the report stating that the appendices set out the positions of the forums at the moment. He advised that the recommendation is for the budgets to be carried forward for completion in 2015/16.

 

A Member stated that the grants to the community response team monies should be paid.

 

RESOLVED:  That:

 

(1)   Members note the position of the Forums budget.

(2)   Members approve that any ongoing forum schemes have their budgets carried forward for completion in 2015/16

(3)   Members approve the allocations requested by the forums as set out in the report.

 

13.

Debt Recovery Policy DOCX 24 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Finance Manager as set out in pages 93-117, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager advised the Members that this policy combines all of the recovery policies into one document.

 

The Chair advised Members that they are voting for their own policy as opposed to that of the officers.

 

RESOLVED: That Members approve the revised corporate Debt Policy as at Appendix 1 of the report.

14.

Updated Medium Term Financial Strategy DOCX 79 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Finance Manager as set out in pages 118-139, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Finance Manager advised that this report is an update to the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) that was approved in March 2015. He advised the report takes into consideration a number of things; firstly the Governments budget on the 8 July and the Councils revised Commitments as approved at Council this year and the Draft 2014/15 outturn position. He advised that there is little change for 2016-17 and 2017-18. He advised the budget that came out on 8 July provided little guidance for local government. It did mention a pay rise of 1% and that the living wage would rise to £9. He reaffirmed that the Council has implemented the living wage (and so the change will have minimal impact on the Council’s budget) and that the 1% increase has already been incorporated.

 

A Member asked whether a policy was to be created for Greening the Borough as it is a council priority. The Director of Services advised that the Council has commissioned a tree strategy and that work on the same will commence in August.

 

A Member asked for the reasons why Oadby and Wigston Borough Council had the worst settlement of all districts in the County (as per page 119). The Finance Manager advised that this relates to a basket of grants income referred to Spending Power. He stated that Spending Power includes New Homes Bonus for which this Council gets the second worst contribution in the county, which severely distorts the Council’s Spending Power percentage. 

 

The Leader of the Council stated that he was unsure of what works need to be done but advised that it is prudent to assume that there will be a cut next year and so a Medium Term Financial Strategy would need to be produced, which reflected two different cut levels

 

RESOLVED: That the Committee approves the updated Medium Term Financial Strategy as set out in the report.

15.

Customer Service Transformation Programme Update DOCX 40 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Director of Services as set out in pages 140-146, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Director of Services advised that this report is an update to the transition of Customer services to the centre of Wigston. She stated that the project timetable has moved to mid September for the opening, explaining that this was no reflection on how it has been managed, reassuring Members that it has been managed very well. She advised Members that all new recruits will be fully trained before the centre opens. She informed Members that the lease had been signed and that refurbishment work is being undertaken. 

 

Members welcomed the update and a Member asked what the plan is with regards to Council services in Oadby as the surgery hours at Oadby Library have been reduced posing a problem for the residents of Oadby.

 

The Finance Manager advised that going forward there will be a review for Oadby to ensure sufficient representation. With regards to the number of surgery hours at Oadby Library, he advised this was a Leicestershire County Council decision. A Member stated that South Wigston should also be taken into consideration in respect of the above too.

 

The Leader stated that these are positive comments and the outcome is important.

 

RESOLVED: That Members note the report and progress to date.   

16.

Advisory Services in the Borough pdf icon PDF 86 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Head of Community as set out in pages 64-65, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Head of Community outlined the report stating that the report is primarily about advisory services within the borough however the new customer services centre gives more options about how the Council delivers its services on taking up an opportunity to look at a European Funding potential for a bid on what is termed as Me and My Learning. She provided some background information regarding the Council’s procurement exercise with Citizens Advice Bureau and the fact that the contract is due to lapse at the end of July 2015. The report offers an opportunity to look at a 12 month contract with CAB under different terms to enable the Me and My learning ethos to work alongside CAB and allow officers time to assess the qualified financial services and assess what the future needs are. She advised Members that the Community Engagement Officer has conducted extensive research and has concluded that there are good small advice centers within Oadby and Wigston, but there is a lack of qualified and certified financial advisory services that is why CAB have offered the revised services as outlined in Option 1 and option 2 in the report

 

She stated that in looking at the mapping out services there is an opportunity of consolidating advisory services within the Borough which is what the concept and ethos of Me and My Learning.

 

Members were advised that Melton Borough Council are the lead authority to put forward a bid and are seeking an initial request from this Council.

 

The Finance Manager stated that it is an ‘in principle’ bid at the moment and that there is a second stage to the same. He further stated that the implementation of the above could shift the level that the Council’s involvement is required and the pace the Council wanted to suit the level of funding received.

 

Members raised concerns over the CAB and its availability/access as they had received complaints from residents and suggested that the contract with CAB should be allowed to lapse. A Member opinioned that Me and My Learning was similar to Supporting Leicestershire Families (SLF) in that in principle it sounds good however ultimately it is of no benefit to the Council. He suggested the best way forward would be to include this in the SLF agenda and see where that goes.

 

The Leader of the Council supported the suggestion to allow the contract to lapse and suggested a review and a procurement exercise based on independent advice. He reiterated that the advice is independent and not about Council services. He stated he has an email from the Chief Executive of one other district which he read out and says that if one signs up to the initial bid for Me and My Learning it implies a commitment for the second bid and so  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Food Waste Collection DOCX 23 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Director of Services as set out in pages 154-156, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Director of Services advised that this report is an update regarding the current position on waste initiatives that will be subject to further reports.

 

The Leader of the Council asked for this to be limited to no longer than 6 months which was seconded by the Chair.

 

RESOLVED: That Members approve the recommendations subject to them being no longer than 6 months.

18.

Digital Display Policy pdf icon PDF 333 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Planning Policy and Regeneration Manager as set out in pages 157-171, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Planning Policy and Regeneration Manager outlined the report, highlighting that the policy contains fees and charges for advertising on the screens. He further advised that these fees and charges would cover the maintenance costs for the same.

 

A Member welcomed this suggestion but questioned how the fees would be calculated, particularly in relation to which business would be considered to be local and which not. The Planning Policy and Regeneration Manager advised that national chains would be considered as businesses outside of the borough where as franchises would be considered as being local businesses.

 

A Member questioned how much this would cost the Council to install, where the monies are coming from and who will maintain the same. It was confirmed by the Finance Manager  that the monies for this have come out of the Capital Budget.

 

The Planning Policy and Regeneration Manager confirmed that he would email all Members as to how much the costs would be, however advised that research was conducted before purchasing the screens.  

 

The Member questioned who will maintain and how much that would cost. The Chair stated that the costs would be recouped from the revenue accumulated through the advertisements.

 

Another Member stated that he welcomed this because local community organisations will be able to obtain free advertisements for their events/causes, hence supporting the Council’s Communication Strategy.

 

RESOLVED: That Members approve:

 

(1)   The Digital Display Screen Advertising Policy

 

(2)   The fees and charges scale for advertising on the digital display boards as set out in paragraph 4.4 of the report.

 

Councillors Fahey and Khong abstained from the vote.

19.

Facilities on Horsewell Lane Park, Wigston DOCX 962 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Planning Policy and Regeneration Manager as set out in pages 172-178, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

Members considered supplementary papers that were submitted to Members at the Committee.

 

The Planning Policy and Regeneration Manager outlined the report stating that after working with various stakeholders, the report recommends that the plans are agreed. He also stated that the recommendations include that of further works being undertaken as part of the scheme.

 

A Member stated they welcomed the report and stated a lot of work has been done.

 

RESOLVED:  That:

(1)   Members note the progress made on the option analyses undertaken to date and the work with stakeholders on options for redeveloping Horsewell Lane park and approve in principle the proposed basis on which the Council will move the project forward and seek funding

 

(2)   The Director of Services commissions further work to establish the cost of the redevelopment proposals so as to inform individual discussions with stakeholders and develop a funding package for the scheme.

 

(3)   The Council consider a capital to the scheme in considering the 2016/17 budget.

 

Councillor Atwal abstained from the vote.

20.

Disability Facilities Grant pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Head of Community as set out in pages 179-183, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Head of Community outlined the report, stating that Members are asked to approve the additional funding of £78,068; details of which are within the report. 

 

Members welcomed the report and stated that this has been an ongoing situation whereby monies need to be paid.

 

The Leader of the Council stated that he had no issues with the monies but was concerned about the ‘Light Bulb Project’ as there is a danger that it will increase costs. For the purposes of clarification he advised a report is needed as soon as reasonably practicable.

 

The Head of Community stated that this project will go live in 2016 and currently is being piloted in Blaby District Council. She added that the Health and Wellbeing Board on 22 September will receive a presentation on the Lightbulb initiative, and invited Members to attend should they want further information.

 

RESOLVED: That Members approve the additional capital funding of £78,068 to meet the demand which has been recommended from Service Delivery Committee of 7 July 2015.

21.

Leisure Contract Update - Report to Follow pdf icon PDF 139 KB

Minutes:

 

The Committee gave consideration to the report delivered by the Director of Services, which should be read together with these minutes as a composite document.

 

The Director of Services updated Members on the Leisure Management contract, especially the financial implications. She advised that work is on time for completion in November. With regards to the refurbishment of the gym at Parklands, she advised it is in progress and that in December  2014 there were additional works that needed to be done and could not have been costed for at the beginning.

 

In Wigston she advised that the soil has a small element of asbestos contamination and in order to dispose of the same safely, it will cost roughly £18,000.  She advised that once information is received from the  Contract Manager re the blockage   she will circulate an email to Members

 

At Parklands there is a drainage issue which could not have been foreseen. The Surveyors have been challenged in this regard however as this could not have been foreseen the Council will have to pay £33,000 for the drainage to be manually dug out. She advised there is headroom within the budget to pay this and will provide a further update at the next committee meeting.

 

A Member sought clarification that of this report that the report is to be noted and that the Officer is therefore not asking for authorisation for any additional monies to be paid from the budget of £9.6million.

 

The Chair reaffirmed that If extra monies were needed it would come back to committee. The Finance Manager also reaffirmed this saying that despite the £10m allocation approval would still be needed by committee and confirmed that the £9.6 million is the approved contract sum.

 

The Director of Services stated that firstly they will look at what can be done within the existing contract (make savings to fund this) so if this cannot be done she will bring a report to next committee.

 

The Leader stated that effectively it could go £51,000 over £9.6m. If this is needed he suggested that authority be taken in September at full Council or else it may result in falling foul of the deadline.

 

RESOLVED: That Members note the report.

 

22.

Exclusion of Press and Public

The Press and Public are likely to be excluded from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Section 100 (A)(4) of the local Government Act 1972 (Exempt Information) during consideration of the item below on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information, as defined in the respective paragraph of Part 1 Of Schedule 12A of the Act and the public interest in maintaining the exempt items outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

 

22a

Staff Honorarium - Finance

22b

Benefits Overpayment

23.

Minutes of the last meeting DOCX 31 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the minutes of the previous meeting of the Committee held on 24 March 2015, be taken as read, confirmed, and signed.