Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Bexhill-on-Sea
Contact: Louise Hollingsworth Email: email@example.com 01424 787815
To authorise the Chairman to sign the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 14 October 2019 as a correct record of proceedings.
The Chairman was authorised to sign the Minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 14 October 2019 as a correct record of the proceedings.
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.
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:
J. Barnes Agenda Item 8 – Personal interest in so far as he was Vice-Chairman of Friends of Rye Harbour and Rye Harbour Management Committee.
S.J. Coleman Agenda Item 8 – Personal Interest in so far as he was a Member representative on the Board of Hastings Advice and Representation Centre.
P.C. Courtel Agenda Item 8 – Personal Interest in so far as he was a Member representative on the Board of Citizens Advice Bureau and Hastings Furniture Service.
R. Thomas Agenda Item 8 – Personal Interest in so far as he was a Member representative on the Board of Bexhill Museum and Hastings and Rother Mediation Service.
Members considered the report of the Executive Director which set out the latest forecast budget for 2020/21 and updated the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for the period 2020/21 to 2024/25. The report gave Members the latest view of the Council’s likely finances over the five year period, ahead of confirmation of Government funding and a number of other factors that would affect the Council’s finances. The Committee’s views were sought on the financial considerations outlined in the report to be reflected in the Council’s MTFP and the following points were noted:
· Budget Process: The Council had introduced a new three phased budget process. The third phase would commence in January 2020, once the Government settlement had been announced.
· Local Government Settlement 2020/21: The Council no longer received Revenue Support Grant and was budgeting for a net retained income from business rates for 2020/21 of £3.5m; a fall of £3.1m. Members noted that the Spending Review and Business Rates reset had been delayed. It was anticipated that the 2020/21 funding levels would rollover, including the Homelessness Support Grant. The Government’s technical consultation proposed that the Council Tax Referendum limit be reduced from 3% to 2%.
· Non Domestic Rates (Business Rates): The Council was currently part of the Government’s East Sussex 75% business rate retention pilot which was scheduled to conclude by the end of the financial year. Delegated authority was required for the Assistant Director, Resources to finalise the Council’s participation in the reformed East Sussex Business Rate Pool. The Council could retain up to 50% of business rates growth.
· News Homes Bonus Grant (NHBG): The five year forecast assumed that the NHBG would be reduced so that by 2021/22 there would be no reliance on this funding.
· Council Tax: The forecast currently assumed an annual increase of 2% which would generate additional income of £137,000. An increase of £5 per annum would generate a further £54,000 of income.
· Cost Pressures: It was predicted that the base Revenue Budget would increase as a result of the new waste collection contract, homelessness demands, staffing costs based on the current workforce.
· Rother 2020 Programme – Income Generation and Cost Savings: The programme had broadly delivered or identified £1.8m of additional income and savings.
· Five Year Forecast: Reserves of £4.8m would be required to support a balanced budget by 2024/25, as well as £2.5m to support the Capital Programme.
· Cost Saving and Income Generation (Rother 2025): Additional savings would be required from the Council’s Lean and Demand Project. Investment in technology would be required to improve Council efficiencies. Officers would be reviewing service provision, priorities and devolvement opportunities. Approximately £2.2m additional income by 2024/25 was anticipated from the Council’s Property Investment Strategy. A reduction in staff would be required through voluntary or compulsory redundancies or the deletion of vacant posts. Increased shared services across local authorities would be explored.
· Revenue Reserves and General Fund Balance: The Council’s usable reserves were expected to be £14.8m by the end of the financial year. The current ... view the full minutes text for item OSC19/34
Members received the report of the Executive Directors on the Revenue Budget and Capital Programme Monitoring Quarter 2 2019/20 that had been considered by Cabinet at their meeting on 4 November. The report contained details of the significant variations of the Revenue Budget and updated Capital Programme.
Since the last report to Cabinet, there had been two reportable virements. The Council had provided an additional grant of £193,000 to the De La Warr Pavilion Charitable Trust to meet the pension shortfall and a staffing post had been transferred from Resources to Housing and Community Service to improve operational efficiency.
Overall the cost of services identified a deficit of £1.2m which was 7.5% greater than the revised budget and represented an increase of £980,000 from the Quarter 1 2019/20 report. Currently reserves were being used to support the Revenue Budget however this would not be sustainable long term. The Council’s Rother 2020 programme envisaged delivering ongoing services based on savings and it was forecast in the financial plan that staff cuts would be required. The Strategic Management Team would be reviewing all vacant posts and seeking expressions of interest for voluntary redundancies. Costs of redundancies would be built into the Medium Term Financial Strategy and recovered within a year.
The main reasons for the variations were attributed to underspends / savings on employment related costs and staff vacancies. The deficit was attributed to election costs, planning fee and land charges income, costs associated within the Acquisitions, Transformation and Regeneration and Resources Services, waste services, provision of temporary accommodation, replacement of faulty Leisure Centre equipment and cemeteries income.
Investment returns were in-line with the budget. The final year end position would depend on treasury management and property investment decisions made between now and March 2020. 2019/20 Reserves were expected to meet £704,000 compared to the original budget assumption of £1.67m.
The Council Tax collection rate was forecast to be broadly in-line with the annual estimate and the Business Rates collection performance would be higher than the budget by £170,000. Appendix B to the report, showed the Capital Programme for the period 2019/20 to 2024/25 which included £46,000 for upgrading Camber Car Park.
Capital spend to the end of September 2019 totalled £9.3m which included the purchase of Glovers House, Bexhill, as identified in Appendix A to the report.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted.
Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Director on the Performance Report of the Second Quarter 2019/20. Members were given the opportunity to scrutinise 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.
The Housing Development, Programme Office and Policy Manager led Members through a summary of the Council’s performance against the selected indicators across four key areas (Housing and Homelessness, Benefits Performance, Waste and Recycling and Asset Income), giving the position at the end of the second financial quarter (1 July 2019 to 30 September 2019) for 2019/20.
During discussion the following points were noted:
Housing and Homelessness: During quarter two, one measure met or exceeded their target (Affordable Homes Built (gross) Supply Target and five did not meet their target (Affordable Homes Built (gross) Local Plan, Weeks in Temporary Accommodation, Homelessness Prevention Cases per 1,000 homes, New Homes Built (net) Supply Target and New Homes Built (net) Local Plan Target). Members were requested to recommend to Cabinet that the Affordable Homes Built (gross) Supply target be increased to 115 affordable dwellings, which was based on expected completions for the end of the year.
Benefits Performance: Both of the performance indicators relating to benefits performance had met or exceeded their targets and the service continued to work on improvements in its systems and processes in accordance with the adopted business improvement plan.
Waste and Recycling: Two of the indicators had met or exceeded their targets (Re-use, Recycling, Composting: East Sussex County Council and Re-use, Recycling, Composting: Contractor) and one had not met the target (Missed Bins per 100,000 homes), however this had improved significantly since the previous year under the new contract.
Asset Income: Performance in 2019/20 remained strong and included additional rent being collected as a result of the four properties purchased through the Property Investment Strategy (PIS) in 2018/19. The original income target of £1,520,000 was set prior to the budget setting for 2019/20; the budget was forecast at £1,939,000 including the income from the PIS, therefore, the target in the performance indicator had been adjusted accordingly. Without additional investment in this financial year, the Council would not meet its expected targets for asset income. The Property Investment Panel continued to work closely with officers to identify and acquire income generating assets.
1) it be recommended to Cabinet that the Affordable Homes Built (gross) Supply target be increased to 115 affordable dwellings; and
2) the report be noted.
Members received and considered the report of the Executive Director on the Voluntary Sector Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The Housing Development, Programme Office and Policy Manager summarised the report and guided Members through its content. The Task and Finish Group (T&FG) had been established to comprehensively review a number of existing SLAs which were due for renewal. The T&FG consisted of Councillors K.P Dixon (Chairman), Mrs M.L. Barnes and B.J. Drayson. The T&FG met on two occasions and took evidence from a range of witnesses. The Group was made aware of the contextual issues impacting on their considerations; primary among these were the current financial pressures facing the authority and the impact of funding cuts to its own services. The work of the T&FG was informed by the financial outlook contained within the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
The Chairman of the SLA T&FG paid tribute to his fellow colleagues for their support, the Member Representatives for the five organisations and the Housing Development, Programme Office and Policy Manager for facilitating the meetings.
After deliberation and consultation with the Assistant Director Resources, the T&FG recommended that each agreement would be fixed for a term of four years, April 2020 to March 2024. The funding certainty that this brought the voluntary organisations was known to be very welcome. The controlled termination or variation of any agreements that failed to meet their performance targets or did not achieve the agreed outcomes in any way was built into the detailed terms and conditions governing the agreements. This in effect meant that any service not meeting the Council’s requirements could be stopped within six months. It was further recommended that to assist financial planning for the Council, all agreements worked to a fixed fee structure, with no indexing against inflation.
Members considered each recommendation of the SLA T&FG in turn.
Hastings Advice and Representation Centre (HARC)
· HARC had requested an increase of £2,840 on the current annual SLA fee of £16,160, which would equate to the salary and overheads of a part time (0.5 Full Time Equivalent) specialist welfare benefits advisor. The T&FG acknowledged the excellent work HARC did to support Rother residents and agreed to recommend an increase of £2,840.
· It was recommended that the agreement be continued at an annual fee of £19,000 subject to detailed terms and conditions. The Revenues and Benefits Manager would monitor this agreement.
Hastings and Rother Mediation Service
It was recommended that the agreement be continued for a four year term, at an annual fixed fee of £8,400, subject to detailed terms and conditions. The current annual payment was £8,400. The Environmental Services and Licensing Manager would monitor performance against targets.
Rother District Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)
It was recommended that the Council’s core support be set for four years, to be reviewed after two years, at an annual fixed fee of £85,000, subject to detailed terms and conditions. The current annual payment was £85,000. Additionally it was agreed that ... view the full minutes text for item OSC19/37
Members received the report of the Executive Director detailing the results of the public consultation (including key stakeholders) of the Rother District Public Realm Strategic Framework (PRSF). The responses from that consultation had informed the final draft of the PRSF, which was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
The PRSF was structured into three sections: Section 1 which introduced the subject, vision and strategic objectives of the document; Section 2 which analysed the different spatial areas of the district; and Section 3 which set out the delivery mechanisms.
A six week consultation exercise had been completed in March 2019, which included residents and stakeholders. The consultation feedback demonstrated that the PRSF was well received in content, especially well received in its purpose and had widespread support, with 89% of respondents agreeing with the vision and strategic direction. Disagreements with the content were very rare, and related to whether a principle or priority action was deliverable and not about its inclusion.
Councillor Mrs Earl-Williams was in attendance in her capacity as Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Culture, Tourism and Public Realm and thanked the Public Realm Working Group for their work on developing the Framework.
Members had the opportunity to ask questions and the following points were noted:
· Members were disappointed with the lack of feedback from statutory agencies;
· recognising the value of the district’s unique heritage assets should also include the landscape, in addition to the built environment;
· the PRSF detailed the Council’s expectations for the Public Realm and Section 106 funding could be utilised;
· Members suggested that the PRSF be discussed at the upcoming Parish Conference;
· work was currently being undertaken to look at the structure of reports to be brought before committees, to ensure such issues as the impact on the Public Realm were considered; and
· Members suggested that reference be made within the framework to Climate Action, which would be given consideration.
The PRSF existed to set out a strategy to meet the current Rother Corporate Plan (Core Aim 4). Subject to the current review of the Corporate Plan, it was envisaged that delivery of the PRSF would be a Corporate Priority Project in the new Corporate Plan. As such, it was intended that annual updates would be provided as part of the Annual Corporate Plan Update Report. These would provide information initially on project programming and the development of a delivery plan to align with the Corporate Plan 2020-2027, and subsequently on delivery plan progress.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet be requested to recommend to Council that the Rother District Public Realm Strategic Framework be approved and adopted.
Members received the report of the Executive Director which advised how the Council could directly intervene in the housing market, as a developer, to accelerate housing delivery and increase overall housing supply.
The target set out in the adopted Local Plan Core Strategy was for 335 dwellings per annum from 2011-2028. However, the average delivery rate of housing completions equated to only 198 dwellings per annum since 2011. This meant that the Council needed to deliver 458 homes a year (over 4,100 homes in total) between the current time and the end of the plan period.
Following the work of the Housing Task and Finish Group (HT&FG) in 2018, the Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy (HHRSS) was developed and adopted by Council on 19 February 2019.
The HHRSS ‘Improvement Delivery Plan’ (IDP) listed ‘Increasing the Supply of Housing’ as its first priority. The report outlined the actions necessary to meet objective 1.1 of the delivery plan and in line with the HT&FG recommendations, which provided Members with an opportunity to consider and make recommendations to Cabinet in regard to a Council led housing development programme.
The IDP was broad in its ambition, suggesting that the Council should be looking to increase supply across the board inclusive of all tenures of housing. Whilst this could be achieved in a variety of ways, the Council, as a developer, had to have a very clear vision of which objectives it was choosing to prioritise.
The scale of the Council’s ambition needed to be realistic and achievable. Starting from a position of nil development, the Council expected to see starts on site by 2022 with the first units completed in 2023, if sufficient resources were allocated to the programme in the 2019/20 financial year. A 15 year development programme up to 2035 could realistically target delivery of 1,000 homes.
During the discussion the following points were noted:
· Members suggested the use of modular housing for temporary accommodation;
· Members were keen to look at how Eastbourne Borough Council, Hastings Borough Council and Wealden District Council had established their board structures, their reasons why and any lessons learnt, when establishing the Local Housing Company Board; and
· £60,000/year to appoint a Housing Development Programme Manager, to be met through the Medium Term Financial Plan Reserves may need to increase.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet be requested to recommend to Council that:
1) a Local Housing Company be established with the Board structure outlined at Option 2 on Appendix 4 to the report subject to further research into examples of board structures used by Eastbourne Borough Council, Hastings Borough Council, Wealden District Council and any other best practice Councils and a budget of £30,000 be allocated from earmarked reserves to undertake this;
2) a £200m Housing Development Programme to be delivered by the Local Housing Company be approved and financially supported by the Council;
3) the Programme aims to complete up to 1,000 new homes by 2035, with the primary objective being to increase and accelerate ... view the full minutes text for item OSC19/39
Members received the report of the Executive Directors detailing proposed changes to the Council’s Constitution to be effective from the date the UK left the European Union (EU). Whilst the exact timing was unknown, the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (the EUWA) would end the supremacy of EU law in UK law and would convert directly applicable EU legislation into domestic law. The legislation would generally have the same effect that it had before the UK left the EU, unless or until it was changed by Parliament. Some however had been amended by Statutory Instruments made under the EUWA to correct “retained EU law” to ensure that the legislation would work properly once the UK had left the EU.
It was therefore necessary to ensure that the Council’s Constitution remained robust and actions undertaken by officers in accordance with current EU legislation referenced within the Constitution were not open to legal challenge. It was therefore recommended that a clause be inserted into the current Constitution, to be effective from the date at which the UK left the EU, to that effect. If for any reason the UK did not leave the EU, the clause would not be inserted into the Constitution.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet be requested to recommend to Council that the Council’s Constitution be amended by the insertion of the following clause, effective from the date at which the UK leaves the European Union:
References to legislation including statutory instruments contained within this Constitution may have been superseded and therefore substituted by changes derived from the European (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (“the Act”) and subordinate legislation introduced following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
Consideration was given to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme.
RESOLVED: That the Work Programme attached at Appendix A be agreed.
OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE