Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday 22nd November 2021 6.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Bexhill-on-Sea

Contact: Louise Hollingsworth 

Items
No. Item

OSC21/29

Minutes

To authorise the Chairman to sign the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 18 October 2021 as a correct record of proceedings.

Minutes:

The Chairman was authorised to sign the Minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 18 October 2021 as a correct record of the proceedings.

OSC21/30

Apologies and Substitutes

The Chairman to ask if any Member present is substituting for another Member and, if so, to declare his/her name as substitute Member and the name of the absent Member.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors S.J. Coleman, B.J. Drayson (ex-officio) and Mrs D.C. Earl-Williams.

 

It was noted that Councillor L.M. Langlands was present as substitute for Councillor Mrs D.C. Earl-Williams.

OSC21/31

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.

Minutes:

Declarations of interest were made by Councillors in the Minutes as indicated below:       

 

Barnes Agenda Item 5 – Personal interest as Vice-Chairman and Company Executive Director for Alliance Homes (Rother) Ltd.

 

Clark   Agenda Item 5 – Personal interest as Company Executive Director for Alliance Homes (Rother) Ltd.

OSC21/32

New Community Infrastructure Levy Governance and the proposal for apportionment of Strategic Community Infrastructure Levy Funds pdf icon PDF 354 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was agreed by the Chairman to vary the order of the Agenda and for Members to discuss Item 11 first.

 

The Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning and Chairman of the Community Infrastructure Levy Steering Group (CILSG) guided Members through the report of the Director – Place and Climate Change, which proposed the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Governance arrangements and proposals for apportionment of Strategic CIL funds.  A CILSG had been established to consider the allocation and spending of the Strategic CIL funding.  The CILSG had met four times and the report detailed what had been considered / discussed at each meeting.

 

Appendix 1 to the report identified the updated CIL Governance and Funding Decisions Protocol for consideration and allocation of Strategic CIL funding and included the application form, assessment criteria and validation checklist.  The Protocol outlined how the Council, as the Charging Authority, allocated the Strategic CIL and ensured governance arrangements were consistent and transparent.  There were two main funds, namely the Rother Infrastructure Fund (RIF) (55% apportion) and the Infrastructure Matched Fund (25% apportion).  Both would be sub-divided into Bexhill and Rural sub-funds.  Funds would be allocated to projects identified on the annual Infrastructure Funding Statement and prioritised by the Strategic CIL Allocations Panel.  A Climate Emergency Bonus Fund (20% apportion) would be established to assist schemes that were considered ‘green premium’ e.g. reduced carbon emissions.

 

It was recommended that the composition of the Strategic CIL Allocations Panel be the Cabinet Portfolio Holders for Strategic Planning, Finance and Performance Management, Economic Development and Regeneration, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Chairman of the Council and would be supported by the Director – Place and Climate Change, Planning Policy Manager, Chief Finance Officer and Principal CIL Officer.

 

Members were given the opportunity to ask questions and the following points were noted during the discussions:

 

           parish and town councils with a Neighbourhood Plan could apply for 25% of CIL funding collected, those without, 15%;

           a Neighbourhood Plan would not be required to apply for funding from the Infrastructure Matched Fund;

           any party meeting the criteria of the scheme could apply for the Climate Emergency Bonus Fund;

           decisions of the Allocations Panel would be regularly scrutinised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and reported to the Audit and Standards Committee; and

           infrastructure priority requirements would be sought from the parish and town councils.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee was supportive of the CILSG’s recommendations.     

 

RESOLVED: That Cabinet be requested to agree and recommend onwards to Full Council, where appropriate, that:

 

1)         the Strategic Community Infrastructure Levy Allocations Panel be established, with a composition of Councillors supported by officers;

 

2)         strategic Community Infrastructure Levy funds be distributed by the Panel in accordance with the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy Governance and Funding Protocol;

 

3)         the Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy Instalment Policy be maintained (the Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy Instalment Policy was considered and compared with those of neighbouring authorities);

 

4)         a review of  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC21/32

OSC21/33

Review of the Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy (2019-2024) pdf icon PDF 226 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members received the report of the Director – Place and Climate Change and the Head of Service Housing and Community which provided an update on the progress made towards achieving the Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy (2019-2024)’s three strategic priorities.  The outcome of the full review could be found in the updated Improvement Delivery Plan (IDP) attached at Appendix A to the report.  Members’ attention was brought to some of the key highlights from the IDP achieved during 2020/21.

 

PRIORITY 1: Increasing the Supply of Housing

Despite issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, significant progress had been made on Alliance Homes (Rother) Ltd (AH) developments, with the first scheme of the Blackfriars development programme due to deliver 200 homes towards the total delivery of 335 new homes committed to in the medium-term Business Plan, at least 70 of which would be affordable homes of mixed tenure to include affordable rent and shared ownership.  The Council had entered into contract with Breheny to undertake delivery of the neighbourhood road; subject to final sign-off of pre-planning commencement conditions, work on the road would be starting in the current year. Construction of housing was expected to begin in early 2022, with the final homes completing during 2023.

 

The Council was actively seeking to broaden the range of Registered Providers (RP) of affordable housing operating in Rother, alongside the increased resource being put into AH to deliver at least planning policy compliant levels of affordable housing. Additional further resource had been allocated to increase delivery of Community Led Housing (CLH).  The number of RPs who were expressing interest in Section 106 developments in the district had been increased (the majority of affordable housing units were currently being provided through Optivo) and a target of six RPs had been set to deliver affordable housing across the district.

 

The CLH scheme in Icklesham, being led by the Icklesham Parish Community Land Trust with support from the Sussex Community Housing Hub (SCHH), would provide 15 homes for local people. Through the work of the SCHH, the Council planned to have a minimum of 45 homes either delivered or in the delivery pipeline by 2024.

 

The Empty Homes action plan had been finalised in March 2021 and an officer group was meeting twice yearly.  Visits and engagement with property owners was led by the Private Sector Housing team and supported by the wider Environmental Health and Housing Needs services, underpinned by appropriate data sharing with the Council Tax team to identify long term empty properties.

 

PRIORITY 2: Rough Sleeping, Homelessness and Meeting Housing Aspirations 

The Council purchased four units of accommodation in February 2021 for use within the East Sussex-wide Housing First scheme. Through the Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) the Council were providing Housing First (HF) accommodation to former rough sleepers.  HF was recognised as best practice in settled accommodation for individuals with high level multiple and complex needs. The support was commissioned through Seaview.

 

Through the RSI, a gap in provision for vulnerable females, particularly in  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC21/33

OSC21/34

Medium Term Financial Plan 2022/23 to 2026/27 pdf icon PDF 178 KB

Minutes:

Members received and considered the report of the Chief Finance Officer on the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2022/23 to 2026/27, which would be considered by Cabinet at their meeting on 13 December 2021.  The MTFP set the financial framework for the next five years and would be modified as the financial situation of the Council changed during that period.  Appendix A to the report gave details of the MTFP, showing a £3.3m funding gap by 2022/23, but a surplus by 2025/26.  Appendix B to the report illustrated the impact on the Council’s Reserves.  Members noted that the figures quoted were as robust as possible, but the financial forecast was a work in progress.

 

The following salient points were noted:

 

           Budget Process: The Council followed a three phased budget process.  The first phase was to update the MTFP, which set out budget pressures and estimated the size of the budget deficit over the next five years. The second phase was to produce a detailed draft budget for Cabinet’s consideration in January 2022. The third phase was to finalise the budget once the national funding settlement had been announced and incorporate the Capital Strategy and revised Capital Programme into the MTFP for approval by Cabinet and full Council in February 2022.

           Government Funding: Since 2010, the Council had seen a substantial fall in income.  Its Revenue Support Grant and share of Business Rates was £6.6m in 2010, but it no longer received the former and its share of Business Rates income in 2021/22 was estimated at £3.7m. This was a fall of £2.9m in cash terms and ignored the effects of inflation on the Council’s costs. Furthermore, the average Band D council tax charge was frozen between 2010 and 2016, which had had a knock-on impact on council tax income levels.  In July 2020, the Government announced its intention to undertake a local government ‘Fair Funding Review’. This had been further delayed and it was not yet clear when it would take place.  The funding settlement for 2022/23 was expected in December 2021.

           Cost Pressures: These included the predicted increase in the base Revenue Budget for planning appeal costs, net financing costs due to the planned increase in capital investment on major projects such as the Property Investment Strategy and Temporary Accommodation (TA) acquisition programme, the annual pay award and non-pay inflation increases.

           Corporate Plan:  The new Corporate Plan was adopted by full Council on 5 July 2021 and included several priority objectives, some of which could require revenue and capital investment if they were to be successfully delivered.  One of the objectives of the Corporate Plan was to achieve financial stability by the end of 2025/26, therefore the Corporate Plan must be cost neutral.

           Financial Stability Programme (FSP):  There were four main work themes designed to achieve financial stability within five years by delivering cost savings and income, namely Service Devolvement Invest to Save, Income Generation and Service Prioritization.  Cabinet approved an Invest to  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC21/34

OSC21/35

Performance Progress Report: Second Quarter 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 697 KB

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Director – Place and Climate Change on the Performance Report of the Second Quarter 2021/22.  Members were given the opportunity to scrutinise the progress towards the Council’s stated aims, outcomes and actions in the Corporate Plan and make any necessary recommendations to Cabinet for future service delivery. 

 

A summary of the Council’s performance against the selected Key Performance Indicators (KPI) areas (Housing and Communities, Economic Development and Poverty, Waste Collection, Additional Income and Planning Processing) at the end of the second financial quarter (1 July 2021 to 30 September 2021) was set out in the report.  Performance was compared to the previous quarter result and to the same quarter the previous year.

 

Housing and Communities:  During quarter two, one measure had been flagged as a warning (Number of Affordable Homes Delivered (gross) Supply target) and four did not meet their target (Number of all Households in Temporary Accommodation (TA), Average Weeks in TA, Number of Households on the Housing Register and Net Additional Homes Provided Supply target). 

 

Economic Development and Poverty: During quarter two, all three measures met their target (Number of Council Tax Reduction Claimants, Council Tax Collection Rates and Business Rates Collection Rates).

 

Waste Collection:  During quarter two, this measure (East Sussex County Council (ESCC) Waste re-used, composted and recycled) did not meet its target, largely due to contamination at bring-sites.  ESCC had advised that the recycling rates for the districts and boroughs were under review due to discrepancies between ESCC figures and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ for some authorities and were subject to change.

 

Additional Income:  During quarter two, both measures did not meet their targets (Net Income from all Investment Assets and Additional Income Generation).  The property team was actively looking to improve revenues from existing assets, primarily through scheduled rent reviews as well as ensuring any outstanding arrears were collected.

 

Planning Processing: During quarter two, both measures did not meet their targets (Major Applications days to process and Minor Applications days to process).  This centred around limited capacity in the service due to vacant posts, long-term sickness, significant upturn in workload and challenges faced with COVID which had impacted on officers’ ability to deal with all applications in a timely fashion.

 

Members had the opportunity to ask questions and the following points were noted during the discussion:

 

           time taken to validate planning applications had decreased from an average of 12 weeks to two weeks, which would eventually filter through to the processing time of applications;

           Members requested that officers ensure that acknowledgement of receipt of a planning application also be sent to the applicant when using an agent;

           the recent backlog of approximately 800 planning applications had been reduced by 135 in the previous eight weeks.  By the Quarter 4 progress update, the impact of the Capita contract to assist with processing would be evident;

           the use of pre-fabricated buildings for TA was within the Strategy; and

           the improved  ...  view the full minutes text for item OSC21/35

OSC21/36

Revenue Budget and Capital Programme Monitoring Quarter 2 - 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 236 KB

Minutes:

Members received and considered the report of the Chief Finance Officer on the Revenue Budget and Capital Programme Monitoring Quarter 2 2021/22. The report contained details of the significant variations of the Revenue Budget, updated Capital Programme and a brief update on the Collection Fund performance.

 

There had been no reportable virements since the previous financial update to Members.

 

The revenue forecast showed a deficit of £93,000, against the approved budget drawdown from Reserves of £2.7m. The main reasons for the variations since the previous monitoring report were detailed in the report, which included planning appeal and potential judicial review costs, staff costs to cover long term sickness and special projects, increased net cost of the Rough Sleeping Initiative and a shortfall of £474,000 in the Financial Stability Programme’s savings target.

 

The Council was expecting to receive an additional £75,000 from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) in relation to the sales, fees and charges compensation scheme for irrecoverable income losses suffered during the pandemic.  No other additional income was anticipated.  Added to the surplus of £317k detailed at the end of Quarter 1, the Council now reported an Income Surplus of £392k.

 

The Capital Programme forecast as at 30 September 2021 was £9.223m, which was £53.519m lower than the approved revised budget. This was due to timing differences and the approved five-year programme was still on target to be delivered. The position was summarised in Appendix B to the report, the main changes were concerned with Housing Development schemes, the Property Investment Strategy and Temporary Accommodation purchases.

 

The forecast impact on Reserves was a reduction of £3.395m against the planned use of £3.319m, a slight increase of £76,000 mainly due to the forecast revenue budget overspend explained in paragraphs 3 to 12 of the report. 

 

The collection rate at the end of Quarter 2 for the Council Tax part of the Collection Fund was 57.17% of the collectable debit, which was 1.41% higher than the corresponding figures in 2020/21.

 

The collection rate at the end of Quarter 2 for the Business Rates part of the Collection Fund was 46.68% of the collectable debit, which was 6.3% lower than the corresponding figure in 2020/21.  This was considerably lower and was possibly influenced by the extension of the business rate relief period to 30 June 2021.

 

The revenue forecast for Quarter 2 showed a deficit of £2.793m, which was £93,000 greater than the approved planned use of Reserves. The Chief Finance Officer would continue to work closely with Heads of Services and Members to reduce the overspend and its impact on reserves.

 

RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

OSC21/37

Council Tax Reduction Scheme - Outcome of consultation to proposed changes pdf icon PDF 463 KB

Minutes:

Members received the report of the Revenue and Benefits Manager which provided details of the outcome of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS) consultation and made recommendations to implement changes as proposed.

 

The objective of the change was to improve access to the CTRS for self-employed people who were also carers and those self-employed residents who were registered disabled. The current CTRS reflected previous national benefits in assuming a minimum level of working and income. Experience had shown that the current scheme disadvantaged those households where full-time work was not possible, and in particular where they were carers or where they were disabled. Appendix A to the report replicated the information considered by Cabinet when approval was sought to go out to consultation.

 

The response rate to the consultation had been very low, with nine responses from the community plus responses from the major preceptors.  Of the community responses, it appeared that seven of the nine had some level of support to the proposed changes; those that did not support the changes were more opposed on the grounds of the potential for fraud and misrepresentation of income by self-employed applicants rather than the principles behind the changes.

 

The Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and East Sussex Fire Authority were in support of the changes, whereas East Sussex County Council (ESCC) were not.  The CTRS was expected to have a relatively small impact on the total income derived from Council Tax but would make an important difference to those households affected. The uptake and ultimate cost would be monitored throughout 2022/23 and would be considered when the CTRS was next reviewed.

 

RESOLVED: That:

 

1)         the outcome of the consultation be noted; and

 

2)         Cabinet be requested to recommend to Council that the changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme as outlined in this report be approved and adopted with effect from 1 April 2022.

OSC21/38

Carbon Baseline Approach for Council's Activities pdf icon PDF 209 KB

Minutes:

Members received the report of the Director – Place and Climate Change, which provided details of the proposed approach to be taken to establish a Carbon Baseline for the Council’s activities to assist the Council in meeting its ambitious carbon zero target.

 

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol identified three types of emissions, referred to as Scopes 1, 2 and 3 and were reported as carbon dioxide equivalents (further details were provided in Table 1 within the report). 

 

It was proposed to use a framework for the calculation of greenhouse gas, such as the one developed by Local Partnerships/Local Government Association, the benefits of which included standardising how emissions were measured and reported to enable a consistent, sector-wide benchmark.

 

It was recommended to use 2019/20 as the baseline year. Data would be collected, where possible, of direct emissions generated from the Council’s own operations from an assessment of electricity, gas and water usage and business travel. It was intended to include the outsourced services of leisure, waste collection and grounds maintenance services within Scope 3 (indirect emissions that result from the other activities that occur in the supply chain of the Council’s activities), but would be dependent on the data available.  Carbon emissions generated by the tenants of assets within Council ownership, where the responsibility for the payment of the utility bills lay with the tenant, would be excluded from the asset baselining, as they were included within the districtwide emission calculations.

 

The approach to improving the energy efficiency of the Council’s Asset portfolio would be reviewed within the Asset Management Plan, which was due to be finalised by December 2022. This would also contribute to the landlord requirements to meeting the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard Energy Performance Certificate in the future.

 

It was anticipated that baseline emissions for Scope 1, 2 and some Scope 3 activities would be in place no later than 31 March 2022. The Council intended to advertise the post of a Climate Change Project Officer before the end of the year, who would review the baseline data, further scope 3 activities, including data capture, and progress projects to reduce carbon emissions.  The emissions would be calculated using the agreed framework on an annual basis and be reported through the Environment Strategy update to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, via the Climate Change Steering Group.

 

RESOLVED: That:

 

1)         the report be noted; and

 

2)         Cabinet be requested to agree that the carbon baseline data should be set from the 2019/20 financial year and that data related to scopes 1, 2, and where possible, 3 be included in the baseline set.

OSC21/39

Duration of the Meeting

Minutes:

In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9, it was moved and seconded that the meeting continue beyond three hours. 

 

The Motion on being put, was declared CARRIED.   

 

RESOLVED: That the meeting continue beyond three hours and all remaining business be concluded.

OSC21/40

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 207 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme.

 

RESOLVED: That the Work Programme attached at Appendix A be agreed.