Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Friday, 13 July 2018 11.00 a.m.

Venue: District Council Chamber, South Lakeland House, Kendal

Contact: Jason Habbershon 

Items
No. Item

O&S/1

Minutes pdf icon PDF 87 KB

To authorise the Chairman to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 20 April 2018 (copy attached).

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the Chairman be authorised to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 20 April 2018.

O&S/2

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations by Members of interests in respect of items on this Agenda.

 

Members are reminded that, in accordance with the revised Code of Conduct, they are required to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests or other registrable interests which have not already been declared in the Council’s Register of Interests.  (It is a criminal offence not to declare a disclosable pecuniary interest either in the Register or at the meeting.)

 

Members may, however, also decide, in the interests of clarity and transparency, to declare at this point in the meeting, any such disclosable pecuniary interests which they have already declared in the Register, as well as any other registrable or other interests.

 

If a Member requires advice on any item involving a possible declaration of interest which could affect his/her ability to speak and/or vote, he/she is advised to contact the Monitoring Officer at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That it be noted that no declarations of interest were raised.

O&S/3

Declaration of the Party Whip

In accordance with Rule 17 of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules, any Member who is subject to a party whip on any item must declare the existence and nature of the whip.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That it be noted that no declarations of the party whip were raised.

O&S/4

Local Government Act 1972 - Excluded Items

To consider whether the items, if any, in Part II of the Agenda should be considered in the presence of the press and public.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That it be noted that there are no excluded items on the agenda.

O&S/5

Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 63 KB

To note the Terms of Reference for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the Terms of Reference of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be noted.

O&S/6

Public Participation

Any member of the public who wishes to ask a question, make representations or present a deputation or petition at this meeting should apply to do so by no later than 0:01am (one minute past midnight) two working days before the meeting.  Information on how to make the application can be obtained by viewing the Council’s Website www.southlakeland.gov.uk or by contacting the Committee Services Team on 01539 733333.

 

(1)        Questions and Representations

 

To receive any questions or representations which have been received from members of the public.

 

(2)        Deputations and Petitions

 

To receive any deputations or petitions which have been received from members of the public.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That it be noted that no questions, representations, deputations or petitions have been received in respect of this meeting.

O&S/7

Northern Rail Services pdf icon PDF 43 KB

To consider a business update from the Interim Regional Director of Northern Rail.

Minutes:

The Vice-Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chairing the meeting, welcomed Craig Harrop, Northern Rail’s Interim Regional Director, and Martin Keating, Northern Rail’s Regional Communities and Sustainability Manager, to the meeting.

 

Mr Harrop began his presentation by apologising for the unacceptable situation which Northern Rail had found itself in over recent months and for the disruption and inconvenience which had been experienced within South Lakeland as a result. He explained that Northern Rail were working hard to fix these issues and reported that an independent assessment and review would be carried out in the coming weeks, with recommendations due to be released in September.

 

A background to the problems which had seen delays and cancellations across the Lakes Line and Furness Line since May was provided. The May 2018 timetable had been designed to be the first major step in modernising rail in the North, but had been predicated on the delivery of electrification between Manchester and Preston, a Network Rail project which was two years behind schedule. As a result, Northern Rail had been required to rewrite that timetable in around a third of the time normally given to such a project, and a request to revert to the previously agreed timetable had been rejected by the rail industry. These delays had impacted on depot crews as more training was required in a shorter space of time. This had been compounded by the withdrawal of an agreement with the driver’s trade union to allow drivers to undergo training during rest days.

 

Mr Harrop explained that it had been clear by the end of the first week of the new May timetable that it was not possible to both roll out the plan and to continue with the training, and that the only way forward was to curtail some services. The result was the removal of 165 trains (around 6%) from service; despite leaving 300 more trains than the previous timetable, this had meant that the entire Lakes Line service was withdrawn.

 

Northern Rail’s aim was to now provide a reliable service which was stable to plan around and to give customers more faith in journey opportunities, with a view to reintroducing a robust timetable from the end of July 2018. However, it was important that the timetable was not put in place prematurely and the entire process was under close review. The number of cancellations had dropped significantly following the introduction of an interim timetable and driver training was now almost complete.

 

During the withdrawal of the Lakes Line, efforts had been made to reduce the impact on customers, from adding in additional services for children travelling to schools, moving to a half-hourly bus service, and using social media to make clear that people would still be able to travel into the Lake District. A second operator, West Coast Railways, had joined the service provision during this time, and the Northern Rail shuttle service had returned to the Lakes Line from 2 July. This reintroduction had gone well,  ...  view the full minutes text for item O&S/7

O&S/8

Work Programme and Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 68 KB

To consider the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme 2018/19, and the contents of the latest Forward Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee Services/Scrutiny Officer introduced the latest version of the Forward Plan and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s 2018/19 Work Programme.

 

Following a request for additional information regarding the upcoming Cumbria Care Leaver Council Tax Exemption key decision, the Director People and Places undertook to provide a short briefing note for the Committee following the meeting.

 

It was suggested that the Committee’s named representative to the North West Employers Strategic Scrutiny Network continue to be the Chairman of the Committee, with the Vice-Chairman acting as substitute. Information relating to the Strategic Scrutiny Network’s meetings would continue to be forwarded to the Committee to provide Members an opportunity to inform the Chairman should they be interested in also attending a particular session.

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the latest Forward Plan be received;

 

(2)        the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s current work programme be noted; and

 

(3)        the current arrangements for the Chairman of the Committee to act as named representative to the North West Employers Strategic Scrutiny Network, with the Vice-Chairman acting as substitute, be continued in future years.

O&S/9

Revenue and Capital Outturn 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To consider the Council’s financial performance for 2017/18 and the impact on reserve balances.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Finance Portfolio Holder presented the Revenue and Capital Outturn 2017/18 report which set out the Council’s financial performance for 2017/18 and the impact on reserves. In concluding his presentation, the Portfolio Holder expressed his view that the report highlighted that the Council continued to have good control of its expenditure.

 

The Financial Services Manager provided additional information regarding the reasons for capitalisation of flood relief grants at year end.

 

A discussion took place regarding the underspend within Community Grants and specifically regarding the amount which was to be put back into reserves. A suggestion was made that this money could be made available, in full or in part, to be used within Members’ locality budgets for health and wellbeing projects in line with the aims of the Council Plan. The Finance Portfolio Holder undertook to take the suggestion back to his Cabinet colleagues and to review whether there was any scope to build greater flexibility within the locality budgets in the future.

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the outturn figures be noted; and

 

(2)        the comments made by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be taken forward as appropriate for consideration by Cabinet.

O&S/10

Treasury Management Annual Report 2017/18 and 2018/19 Strategy Update pdf icon PDF 149 KB

To consider the Treasury Management Annual Report 2017/18 and the 2018/19 Strategy Update.

Minutes:

The Treasury Management Annual Report 2017/18 and 2018/19 Strategy Update was presented by the Finance Portfolio Holder. He emphasised that the current premium level on the Council’s borrowing was circa 83% and that, as a result, it was prudent to continue paying the debt at current levels and to invest until a stage where the repayment premium was more attractive. Investments continued to outperform benchmark rates and the Council had reached the end of the payback period for the early repayment in 2013/14 and was now experiencing an annual saving.

 

A technical change was being recommended to the Treasury Management Strategy which would extend the Counterparty limits to investments with the highest, purple or yellow, creditworthiness scores under Link Asset Services. These institutions would have the same duration and amount overlays as the current best counterparties.

 

RESOLVED – That Council be recommended to approve the 2017/18 Treasury Management Annual Report and the update to the 2018/19 Treasury Management Strategy.

O&S/11

Draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2019/20 to 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 58 KB

To consider the draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2019/20 to 2023/24, incorporating the Financial Strategy and the Budget Strategy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2019/20 to 2023/24, incorporating the Financial Strategy and the Budget Strategy (referred to collectively as the MTFP) was presented by the Finance Portfolio Holder. The MTFP would ensure that the Council had a sound basis for allocating resources and effective financial management over the medium term. The overall position would be constantly reviewed and reported over the rest of 2018 and early 2019 as part of the budget process and update reports.

 

The Finance Portfolio Holder stated that the Council began this process in a relatively robust position and that, through prudent financial management, the Council had a record of balanced budgets, good reserves, low debt and a healthy cash balance. He emphasised that the Council had maintained services and activities despite the reduction in Government support.

 

The Finance Portfolio Holder highlighted the changes that had arisen following approval of the Budget in February 2018, including the anticipated changes to the finances of the Customer Connect Programme which would be considered by Council on 24 July. He highlighted the impact of inflation, and the efforts being made to address the deficit predicted over the course of the MTFP. The Portfolio Holder offered reassurance that the 2019/20 and 2020/21 deficits were manageable, and added that serious actions, such as those of Customer Connect, were required to address the longer-term deficits. He also highlighted three significant items facing the Council’s finances: uncertainty regarding the Second Homes Bonus agreement with Cumbria County Council that was due to come to an end in March 2019; the possibility of Cumbria becoming a pilot area for 100% retention of National Non-Domestic Rates (also referred to as Business Rates); and the great uncertainty regarding local government funding.

 

In concluding his presentation, the Finance Portfolio Holder thanked the Finance Team for their work in producing the MTFP. The Vice-Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chairing the meeting, echoed those thanks.

 

The Financial Services Manager provided additional information regarding Business Rates including the current distribution of income, the effect of Business Rate Pooling, the proposed changes to Business Rate retention and how entry into the 100% business rate retention pilots could benefit the Council.

 

In response to a query, the Financial Services explained how the distinction between holiday homes, empty homes and second homes impacted on whether a property was required to pay Council Tax or Business Rates. A description of the effect of probate on Council Tax exemption was also provided.

 

The Chief Executive explained the current thinking amongst businesses regarding Business Rates, with many of the opinion that they should be scrapped or reformed. He felt that the differing views of businesses and the Government was a conundrum which needed to be resolved and stated that the Council could become increasingly reliant on something which local businesses did not like. The Vice-Chairman added his view that this was an area where greater communication with residents and local businesses was needed, particularly in addressing concerns surrounding the future of high streets.  ...  view the full minutes text for item O&S/11

O&S/12

Annual Procurement Update 2017-2018 pdf icon PDF 103 KB

To consider the Annual Procurement Update 2017/18.

Minutes:

The Finance Portfolio Holder introduced a report providing Members with an update on the progress of the procurement function across the Council and against the Sustainable Procurement and Commissioning Strategy 2016 to 2019. The work of the Procurement Team had helped the Council to reduce costs or work towards offsetting inflationary pressures.

 

The Finance Portfolio Holder explained that the Council’s procurement function had been subject to a review by Internal Audit during the past year, and that a reasonable assurance rating had been received. However, issues had been raised regarding some inconsistencies in applying tendering and quotes and a need to raise awareness internally of the Contract Management Policy. He was pleased to announce that those key actions raised were either complete or in progress and none were outstanding.

 

Both the Finance Portfolio Holder and the Committee thanked officers for their work.

 

RESOLVED – That the progress of the procurement function across the Council over the financial year 2017-2018 be note.

O&S/13

Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee Update

To receive an update on the work of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee from the Council’s representative or substitute.

Minutes:

Councillor Vivienne Rees updated Members on the work of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee. She explained that much was happening, but that this tended to be focused around the North of the County. Councillor Rees had continued to draw attention to the rural areas of Cumbria and particularly within South Lakeland. She highlighted a recent consultation carried out through Healthwatch Cumbria’s “Chatty Van” which, despite its mobility, had not visited locations outside of the main urban centres of the District.

 

Councillor Rees explained that she had introduced a lead member of the Better Care Together programme to the Practice Manager of Ambleside’s Central Lakes Medical Group. She highlighted the strain experienced by rural GP practices due to funding cuts, and suggested that this had resulted in fewer rural GPs being able to take part in these strategic discussions.

 

The proposed amalgamation of the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was reported. Councillor Rees expressed particular concern regarding the impact that this will have on the county-wide focus of the Foundation Trust, and particularly its capacity within the Central and South of Cumbria, if such a merger occurred.

 

Councillor Mark Wilson, a County Council representative of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee expressed his view that there would be a benefit to all Members of the Council receiving information regarding the changes to health services within the area. He also highlighted the possibilities for better health care away from hospitals.

 

RESOLVED – That the update be noted.