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To authorise the Leader to sign the Minutes of the meeting held on 11 January 2021, at a later date, as a correct record of the proceedings.
The Chairman was authorised to sign the Minutes of the meeting held on 11 January 2021 at a later date as a correct record of the proceedings.
Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Disclosure of Interests
To receive any disclosure by Members of personal and disclosable pecuniary interests in matters on the agenda, the nature of any interest and whether the Member regards the personal interest as prejudicial under the terms of the Code of Conduct. Members are reminded of the need to repeat their declaration immediately prior to the commencement of the item in question.
Declarations of interest were made by Councillors in the Minutes as indicated below:
Bayliss Agenda Item 8 – Personal Interest as convener for Skate Park Action Group.
Byrne Agenda Item 6 – Personal Interest as a committee member of Light Up Bexhill.
Drayson Agenda Item 6 – Personal Interest as a committee member of Light Up Bexhill and member of the Police and Crime Panel responsible for setting the Police council tax precept.
Prochak Agenda Item 11 – Personal Interest as Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee.
Timpe Agenda Item 6 – Personal Interest as a committee member of Light Up Bexhill.
Agenda Item 11 – Personal Interest as a member of the Planning Committee.
Vine-Hall Agenda Item 11 – Personal Interest as Chairman of the Planning Committee.
Members gave consideration to the Finance Manager’s comprehensive report and appendices on the draft Revenue Budget proposals for 2021/22. The budget proposals had been scrutinised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) on 25 January 2021 and a copy of the Minutes arising from the OSC meeting had been appended to the report for Cabinet’s consideration. It was noted that the budget had been prepared ahead of the finalisation of the Council’s new Corporate Plan and it was likely that the Council’s finances, staffing and physical resources may need to be redirected into new priorities and services over the coming months. Appendix A to the report summarised the draft Revenue Budget; Appendix B the detailed budgets over the various services the Council provided, Appendix C detailed the proposed Special Expenses for 2021/22, Appendix D the Earmarked Reserves, Appendix E the Minutes from the OSC meeting held on 25 January 2021 and Appendix F the Budget consultation report.
Members were reminded that the Council no longer received any Revenue Support Grant from the Government and would be wholly reliant on revenue from business rates, council tax, charges for services, income generation and specific grants for discreet services. Whilst at the time of writing the settlement was still draft, it was not anticipated that it would change when it was finalised.
The draft settlement did however confirm a specific additional COVID-19 grant of £519,000 to support the ongoing effects of the pandemic in 2021/22. The announcement also included grant to extend the help for residents through the Council Tax Reduction Support scheme (CTRS). Based on the provisional numbers, this was approximately £146,000 for Rother, £1.46m in total including preceptors. This funding only effected the Collection Fund and did not meet the loss of income due to the increase in the number of households claiming CTRS.
Other Government grants included £271,770 New Homes Bonus which was higher than the previous forecast. This had been incorporated into the draft budget to reduce the use of reserves as previously agreed by Members, however, as this was a one-year grant, no ongoing reliance of this income could be assumed, pending the outcome of the review of this grant.
The Council Tax Referendum principles that applied to the Council for 2021/22 allowed an increase of up to 2% or £5 whichever was the greater. To ensure the Council remained within this limit (after taking account of the increase in Special Expenses), the budget assumed an increase of £4.61 (2.5%) to £188.71 at Council Tax Band D for 2021/22. This brought a total Council Tax income for the Council of £7.1m.
The Council remained in the East Sussex 50% Business Rate pooling arrangement for 20201/22. An assessment had been undertaken of the risk due to the financial impact of the pandemic on the local economy and on balance it was expected that it would still benefit the County as a whole to remain pooled.
The Council’s Capital Programme totalled some £187m with £80m currently without secured funding. A ... view the full minutes text for item CB20/98.
The Treasury Management Statement set out the Council’s treasury issues and looked to ensure that the Council met its spending obligations. The Council was required to receive and approve a minimum of three main reports each year to include:
1) Prudential and Treasury Indicators and the Treasury Strategy;
2) a Mid-Year Treasury Management Report; and
3) an Annual Treasury Report.
These reports incorporated a number of policies, estimates and actuals which were scrutinised by the Audit and Standards Committee prior to making recommendations to Council.
The Treasury Management Strategy detailed the Council’s capital issues and reviewed the position regarding investments, borrowing strategy, economic outlook and policies on the creditworthiness of counterparties.
The Annual Investment Strategy detailed the Council’s investment priorities, promoting security, liquidity and investment return. In order to minimise risks, the Council stipulated the minimum acceptable credit quality of counterparties for inclusion on the lending list.
The 2021/22 draft Revenue Budget presumed an income of £326,000 from treasury activities, which assumed a return of 0.018% from deposit type investments and 4.08% return from property fund investments. The forecast for the next five years continued to see low returns, based on the forecast use of cash reserves to support the Revenue Budget. The expectation was that 2021/22 would remain a very difficult investment environment, however the strategies proposed in the report, together with the interest rates forecast, were in line with the assumptions made when preparing the 2021/22 Revenue Budget. The costs of treasury operations were contained within the 2021/22 draft Revenue Budget.
1) the Treasury Management Strategy as set out at Appendix A to the report be approved and adopted;
2) the Annual Investment Strategy as set out at Appendix B to the report be approved and adopted;
3) the Minimum Revenue Provision Policy Statement 2021/22 be approved;
4) the Prudential and Treasury Indicators as set out in Appendix A to the report be approved; and
5) authorised limits in this report be approved.
In accordance with the CIPFA 2017 codes for Prudential and Treasury Management, the Council was now required to have a Capital Strategy. The draft Capital Strategy was attached at Appendix A to the report and gave a high-level overview of how capital expenditure, capital financing and treasury management activities contributed to the provision of local public services, along with an overview of how associated risk was managed and the implications for future financial sustainability. The Strategy was intended to be a longer term view of investment and go beyond the detailed five year Capital Programme. However, it was recognised that the strategy was likely to change in the near future to reflect the Corporate Plan which was currently out to consultation.
From the 26 November 2020, the Government confirmed the introduction of new lending criteria from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) designed to prevent councils accessing low cost finance for investments made purely for financial return. This was a prospective change and did not affect any previous investment made by the Council prior to this date. A preliminary review of the draft Capital Programme indicated that all loan funded projects remained eligible for PWLB support, but further work was being undertaken to ensure this was the case.
The Council’s Capital Programme at Appendix B to the report totalled some £186.7m, although £80.0m was currently unfunded and showed the investment in approved schemes over the next five years. A significant part of the programme related to the Council’s approved Property Investment Strategy (PIS) and capital support to the Council’s company Alliance Homes (Rother) Ltd. Income of approximately £1m was included within 2021/22 the Revenue Budget for PIS assets that have been acquired.
The draft Capital Programme continued to minimise the use of Revenue (including Revenue Reserves) to fund capital expenditure. For 2021/22, some £0.619m was planned to be used, but this reduced thereafter. Largely this would be replaced by low cost borrowing where appropriate which, whilst having a revenue impact, was spread over a longer time period.
The Programme was broadly the same as that reported in November 2020, save for the re-phasing of expenditure in line with the latest information. The Programme now included the cost of improvements being made to Sidley Recreation Ground, which were being funded externally in addition to the Council’s own contribution to the scheme.
The draft Capital Programme showed that, despite the continued impact of the pandemic and Government austerity measures, the Council aimed to make a significant commitment to invest in the district to improve it economically and socially, to ensure it remained an outstanding place to work and live in.
1) the Draft Capital Strategy 2021/22 to 2025/26 be approved and adopted, as submitted; and
2) the updated Capital Programme 2020/21 to 2025/26 at Appendix B to the report be approved.
(Councillor Bayliss declared a Personal Interest in this matter in so far as she was a convener for the Skate Park Action Group and in accordance with the ... view the full minutes text for item CB20/100.
Members received the report of the Head of Acquisitions, Transformation and Regeneration detailing how the establishment of a local lottery could support community projects in the district, on the principle of raising money within the community for the community. A lottery could be an alternative income stream for the Voluntary and Community Sector by directly benefitting from a percentage of lottery ticket sales when their cause was selected by lottery players, whilst at the same time supporting the Community Grant Scheme budget at a time of financial challenges.
Members gave consideration to two options for the delivery of a lottery scheme: establish an in-house lottery at an estimated set-up cost to the Council of £80 - £100k, with the financial risk if the lottery were not successful to be borne by the Council; or appoint an External Lottery Manager (ELM) at a set-up cost of approximately £10k, with the financial risk passed to the provider. The preferred option was to use an ELM, as this mitigated the Council’s financial risk.
The expected set up cost of £10,000 would include, but not limited to, the appointment of an ELM, Gambling Commission Licence fee, Lotteries Council Membership and marketing costs. On-going costs could be expected to be approximately £1,200 per annum, plus an element for marketing. There was no annual cost for the ELM as this would be covered by the administration element on ticket sales. It was expected that most of the officer time would be upfront in the set-up of the lottery.
Dependant on the model once set up, the primary role of the Council would be to complete monitoring, codes of practice and social responsibility requirements by the Gambling Commission, authorisation of payments and acceptance of new community and voluntary groups to the scheme, and marketing and promotion of the scheme. From research, the officer time commitment estimation was one day a month.
An analysis to assess the position for implementing a Rother Community Lottery was available at Appendix A to the report.
1) a Rother Community Lottery be established;
1) the income generated from the Rother Community Lottery central fund be apportioned to the Rother Community Grants Scheme; and
2) the Head of Acquisitions, Transformation and Regeneration be granted delegated authority to:
a. procure and appoint an External Lottery Manager to run the day-to-day operations of the lottery; and
b. develop and complete the works as set out in this report as necessary for the completion of establishing a Rother Community Lottery.
*The RESOLVED parts of this minute are subject to the call-in procedure under Rule 16 of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules.
In February 2019, Cabinet approved a budget of £250,000 for the development of housing projects on Council-owned sites. The land to the rear of the Town Hall was identified as one of those sites to be explored. Following the change in administration in May 2019, it was made clear to officers that options for the future of the Town Hall were also to be considered. Subsequent discussions with the Leader had reinforced that position and therefore investigations into the rear of the site had incorporated the Town Hall and ancillary buildings.
The existing Town Hall was clearly an asset of historical significance for Bexhill and therefore all scenarios explored sought to retain and refurbish the core elements of the existing property. It was clear that the carbon performance of the existing buildings was very poor and needed to be a consideration for any works that were sought to be undertaken. In addition, the current building did not offer the attractive modern working environment expected by many employees.
A full options analysis had been undertaken, attached at Appendix B to the report. Option 4, ‘Whole Site Development’, presented the opportunity for works to be cost neutral in the longer-term, would regenerate a central area of Bexhill, and would provide Rother District Council (RDC) and other public sector organisations a fit for purpose, modern working environment into the future. East Sussex County Council (ESCC) was also consulting on plans that could be transformational for the Town Hall Square; the two schemes would be complementary and therefore the proposals made would incorporate the ESCC work.
A design team had been appointed to undertake a high-level concept feasibility options study for the whole site development, with an initial view to delivering housing on the site. The feasibility study showed that, with the right mix of housing and commercial space, it was possible to deliver a scheme that would be revenue neutral, in that the income earned through rent and capital receipts could offset the cost of borrowing for the scheme.
A staff survey had been carried out to understand how officers were likely to wish to work in the future given the precedent that had been set by the organisation’s response to flexible and home working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of this survey showed that, whilst the staff had adapted well to home working, most would anticipate still working in an office environment between one and three days a week ‘Post COVID’. Based on this, it was estimated that RDC would have an ongoing space requirement to accommodate 120 full time equivalents. Discussions had also been had with a number of other public sector bodies who potentially required workspace for staff.
Next steps would be to appoint the relevant architects, engineers, consultants, surveyors and other professionals to work up detailed proposals and achieve planning permission on the site. Consultations with staff would continue throughout the process.
Members raised some concerns about agreeing to grant delegated authority to the Head of Services Acquisitions, ... view the full minutes text for item CB20/102.
Prior to March 2020, all Council and Committee meetings were held in the Council Chamber or Committee Room and all meeting participants and observers were required to attend in person. Audio recordings of each meeting were taken and uploaded to Rother’s YouTube channel the following working day.
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government temporarily removed the need for Council meetings to be held in person and, as such, all Council meetings had been held remotely using Microsoft Teams, the first meeting having taken place on 18 May 2020. Since then, a full schedule of Council meetings had been held remotely using Microsoft Teams, the meetings were live streamed to Rother’s YouTube channel and links to the recordings placed onto Rother’s website, where they remained available to watch thereafter. The legislation allowing remote meetings was due to expire in May 2021.
Members were therefore asked to consider how Council meetings would be managed longer term, including continuation of the provision for members of the public to observe Council meetings online once they resumed in the Council Chamber. Subject to the extension of the applicable legislation, this could be expanded further to allow for remote participation from Members, staff and members of the public entitled to speak.
In 2018, Rother purchased microphones and an AV system for its Council Chamber. The proposal was to now expand on the investment in this equipment by purchasing hardware, software and support. A three-year contract was proposed in the first instance and would require a budget of £70,000 to meet equipment and licencing costs for the period. The cost would be met through earmarked reserves and would ensure residents of Rother would continue to be afforded real-time access to Council meetings without having to travel into the Town Hall. As the pandemic continued, this would help Rother adhere to any and all social distancing regulations, by limiting the number of people present in the Council Chamber.
If legislation to permit remote participation at Council meetings was extended or granted in perpetuity, video conferencing could also be integrated into the Council Chamber. This would create opportunities for ‘hybrid meetings’ with some Members, staff and public speakers attending in person, and others attending remotely. The Transformation Team had assessed whether they could develop this functionality in house. This was not practicable and therefore an external supplier would be required.
Offering opportunities for residents and Members to watch and participate in meetings online negated journeys to the Town Hall and reduced travel across the district. This contributed to the Council’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
1) all Council Meetings continue to be webcast once meetings resume being held in the Council Chamber;
2) video conferencing be integrated into the Council Chamber to allow for hybrid meetings (subject to the extension of applicable legislation);
3) a budget of £70,000 (to be allocated from earmarked reserves) be approved to procure the equipment and licencing for a three-year period; and
Egerton Park had eight courts, seven of which were used for tennis with one doubling up as a pickleball court. The eighth court was used for informal football kickabouts. Two of the courts were leased to Bexhill Tennis Club (BTC) and the remainder were available for wider public use. The Club, based in Egerton Park, had 85 members, including a junior section.
BTC had had exclusive use of Courts 3 and 4 for some 30 years, as well as the exclusive use of the timber clubhouse and terrace, through various informal and formal arrangements, including more recently a lease. The leased tennis courts, clubhouse and terrace were well used by BTC who played a valuable role in supporting the Council’s vision for a district where residents had the opportunity of being pro-active in sport in order to derive physical and mental health benefits.
BTC presently leased Court 4 and had requested to replace it with a new lease for Court 5, shown in the plan appended to the report. The reason BTC wished to do so was that Court 5 was closer to their clubhouse and the playing surface considered to be slightly better. The new lease would still include Court 3 as well as the clubhouse and terrace. It was therefore required to dispose of Courts 3 and 5 as public open space, together with the footprint of the clubhouse and terrace area.
1) by virtue of Section 123(2A) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended), the Council gives formal notice of its intention to dispose of two tennis courts (3 and 5), clubhouse and terrace area at Egerton Park as public open space; and
2) subject to the above, a new lease of three years term be granted to Bexhill Tennis Club with terms and conditions to the satisfaction of the Chief Executive.
Egerton Park had eight courts, seven of which were used for tennis with one doubling up as a pickleball court. The eighth court was used for informal football kickabouts. Two of the courts were leased to Bexhill Tennis Club and the remainder were available for wider public use.
Systems of booking and charging had been in place at various times in the past, this being most effective when an attendant was employed specifically to oversee the operation of the park games. Since 2017, the courts had been available to use free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis, but this left customers with no guarantee of being able to play when they wished. In addition, the cost to the Council of maintaining and managing the courts was not met.
Members were asked to consider a more user-friendly system that would help facilitate greater use of the courts and at the same time generate a modest income to contribute to the upkeep of the courts, without creating undue barriers to levels of participation.
Clubspark was a simple to use, mobile-friendly on-line system promoted by the Lawn Tennis Association which enabled advance bookings to be made with times, conditions and prices to suit the client’s needs. The system had been trialled successfully over the previous summer for two of the tennis courts, which had been available to book free of charge.
It was proposed that from 1 April 2021, the booking system be extended to all of the other public courts for a trial period of six months and that a fee of £1.50 be payable per court, per half an hour of play for those people who chose to use the system. The income generated would be used to cover the cost of the Clubspark system and offset routine maintenance costs, the value of which were approximately £360 and £9,500 per annum respectively. The fee would be seasonal with the courts being free to use during the period November to March inclusive. Those who chose not to take up the opportunity to book would continue to be able to use the courts for free at times when the courts were not booked.
It was estimated that the proposed fee of £1.50 would generate an income per annum of £13,088 based on the percentage uptake experienced during the 2020 trial period. Projected income had been calculated for the tennis courts only and based on the assumption that the majority of bookings would be for a duration of one hour.
1) the existing tennis court booking system at Egerton Park be extended to cover all of the public courts at this venue, including the football kickabout court; and
2) for booked courts, a charge be introduced of £1.50 per half hour of play to support the on-going maintenance of the courts and potentially contribute to future renovations.