Agenda and minutes

Council - Tuesday, 14 December 2021 6.30 p.m.

Venue: Assembly Room, Kendal Town Hall, Kendal

Contact: Inge Booth  Legal, Governance and Democracy Specialist

Items
No. Item

C/72

Housekeeping Announcement

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and drew attention to curtailed attendance and to housekeeping arrangements in light of Covid-19 and the increase in cases as a result of the new Omicron variant.

 

Councillor Tom Harvey welcomed the Chairman back to the Chamber.  In the interests of speed, efficiency and safety, Councillor Harvey took the opportunity to propose, in regard to Agenda Item No.15 (Leader’s Announcements and Cabinet Question Time including the Composite Report of the Cabinet) (Minute No.87 below), that written responses be provided to the written questions, with the deadline for written questions being extended to midday on the following day.  He was seconded by Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder.  The Chairman, although not wishing to stifle debate, further asked Members to remain concise during discussion and debate throughout the meeting.

 

Members expressed agreement with regard to this approach.

C/73

Minutes pdf icon PDF 550 KB

To authorise the Chairman to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 11 November 2021.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the Chairman be authorised to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 11 November 2021.

C/74

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:

No questions, representations, deputations or petitions had been received from members of the public in respect of this meeting.

C/75

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To receive declarations by Members of interests in respect of items on this Agenda and to consider any dispensations.

 

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:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) referred to discussions which had taken place with Group Leaders with regard to a blanket dispensation for Members for non-attendance at this Council meetings in light of Covid-19 and the increase in cases as a result of the new Omicron variant, with an attendance of 50% having been agreed (see Minute No.C86 below).

C/76

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:

There were no excluded items on the agenda.

C/77

Chairman's Announcements

To receive announcements by the Chairman.

Minutes:

The Chairman expressed thanks to Members and officers for their good wishes and kind words during his recent illness.  He thanked Councillor Matt Severn for having chaired the November Council meeting.

C/78

Notification of Appointment of Deputy Chief Officer

In accordance with Minute No.C/47 of the meeting of the Council held on 10 October 2018,  to note the appointment of Charles Officer to the role of Human Resources Lead Specialist (verbal update).

Minutes:

The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources drew attention to the fact that the Chief Executive had delegated authority to appoint deputy chief officers and announced to Council that Charles Officer had recently been appointed to take up the role of Human Resources Lead Specialist from 1 January 2022.

C/79

Local Government Reorganisation - Implementation Costs pdf icon PDF 264 KB

To consider funding for the creation of the new Westmorland and Furness Council.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder, presented a detailed report requesting resources to fund the implementation costs of Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) within Cumbria by creating two new unitary authorities from 1 April 2023.

 

The Cumbria Chief Finance Officer’s Group, attended by all Section 151 Officers of the seven Cumbrian authorities, had undertaken a high-level assessment of the financial impact of LGR and provided some indicative figures for implementation which had also been sense checked against other authorities which have been through the LGR process.  The report, therefore, provided an update on the indicative cost of implementation. It also covered the establishment of a County Wide LGR Implementation Reserve including governance arrangements, funding proposals and the required scheme of delegation for relevant officers.

 

The report did not deal with the costs of transformation nor how these would be shared and funded, nor the level of savings that these could generate, as these would be decisions for the new shadow authorities, once established, and would be dealt with at a later date.  Some of these costs would be incurred prior to vesting date and so the timing, value and share of any of these costs relating to 2022/23 to be funded by this Council would need to be determined for provision to be included in 2022/23 spending plans.

 

Councillor Jarvis referred to the indicative, high level budget for what was necessary to get the new authorities to be “safe and legal” on vesting day of £18.92m.  Table 1 provided a breakdown of the costs.  He referred to the creation of a County Wide Implementation Reserve to cover this indicative cost which would be 50% funded by the County Council, with 50% split equally among the districts.  The contribution from South Lakeland District Council would, therefore, be up to £1.6m.

 

Councillor Jarvis was content that the approach outlined within the report was the most appropriate one, and that it had the full support of the Council’s Section 151 Officer.  He felt reassured that proper governance arrangements were being put in place, which was of importance given that the deliverables of the reorganisation could not be precisely defined until the shadow authorities were in place.

 

Councillor Jarvis referred to an additional recommendation to allow the Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) greater freedom around the payment date, copies of which had been circulated to Members at the start of the meeting.  He moved the recommendations contained within the report, together with this additional recommendation.  He was seconded by Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder who referred to the initial costs and the fact that this was a spend to save initiative.

 

In response to concern having been raised, the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that no money would be paid over until the Memorandum of Understanding had been signed by all parties involved.  The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) reiterated this fact.

 

During discussion, Councillor Philip Dixon, Customer and Locality Services Portfolio  ...  view the full minutes text for item C/79

C/80

Affordable Housing Delivery Options Update to Capital Programme pdf icon PDF 273 KB

To consider funding to increase the delivery of affordable housing in the District.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Helen Chaffey, Housing Portfolio Holder, presented the report.

 

The South Lakeland District Council Housing Strategy 2016 to 2025 contained an action to consider alternative methods of delivery of affordable housing to meet the Council’s affordable housing targets for affordable rent and affordable sale homes.  Action A3 of the Strategy Action Plan was “to consider options to establish a mechanism to help with land identification, acquisition and assembly; coupled with on-lending for new affordable housing delivery”.  Attention was drawn to a decision made by Cabinet 28 November 2018 to approve the commencement of an affordable housing loan facility for the sum of up to £6m previously agreed by Cabinet in December 2017.  This had been to allow South Lakes Housing and other Registered Providers to draw down monies supporting the development of new affordable homes.  Subsequent to this and despite extensive work being carried out to agree terms, there had been a number of issues that rendered the proposed loans scheme unworkable.

 

An alternative approach was now required to ensure funds in the Right to Buy Replacement Fund were applied to the delivery of affordable housing.  While there were strict guidelines in respect of councils using Right to Buy receipts on replacement stock or pooling the receipts to Government, these guidelines did not apply to preserved Right to Buy receipts following transfer of properties to a Registered Provider.

 

Cabinet had given in principle approval subject to Council approval at its meeting on 10 November 2021 to use the Right to Buy replacement receipts for the provision of grants to Registered Providers and land acquisition subject to further investigations.  Further investigations had been undertaken following the receipt of legal advice to ensure that proposals met the new criteria that had been introduced in July 2021.  Further clarification had, therefore, been sought from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to determine the potential uses of these funds.  This followed major changes to the Right to Buy pooling system that had taken effect from 1 April 2021 and further investigation was needed to determine whether the new requirements applied to receipts received prior to 1 April 2021 or to receipts from preserved Right to Buy.  Cabinet had agreed for a further report to be presented to the December Cabinet outlining the outcomes of these further investigations and impact on the following proposals for use of this funding.

 

The report provided details on the outcome of investigation into use of Right to Buy replacement receipts.  The report further provided details on Affordable Housing Grants to Registered Providers and on Purchase of Land.  The report had been considered by Cabinet on 7 December 2021.

 

Councillor Chaffey having moved the recommendations contained within the report was seconded by Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Action and Biodiversity Portfolio Holder who stressed the need for the encouragement of energy efficiency.

 

Councillor John Holmes recognised the financial receipts the Council had from the Transfer Agreement and asked what would happen to the Transfer Agreement through Local Government  ...  view the full minutes text for item C/80

C/81

2022/23 to 2026/27 Draft Budget pdf icon PDF 408 KB

To consider the first draft budget proposals for 2022/23.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council, at its meeting on 27 July 2021, had agreed to the proposed Budget Strategy for the current year’s budget process as part of the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).  The Budget Strategy set out some broad principles which were being used in the preparation of the 2022/23 – 2026/27 Budget.

 

The report, introduced by Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder, presented a draft position.  Work would continue to incorporate further changes into subsequent budget reports, particularly further impacts of Local Government Reorganisation (LGR), Covid-19 and the central government grant position which was not yet clear.  The position set out in the report would form the basis of consultation.  The Overview and Scrutiny Committee would consider the report at its meeting on 4 February 2022.  The final Draft Budget Report would incorporate the consideration of the internal and external consultation received at that time and be presented to the 9 February 2022 Cabinet meeting.  Any further amendments would be delegated to the Leader and Portfolio Holder in consultation with the Section 151 officer prior to the report’s consideration at the Council meeting on 22 February 2022.  The Council would be requested to approve the final Budget at its meeting on 22 February 2022.  The budget timetable was presented for information at Appendix 2 to the report.

 

Although the Council’s services, income, expenditure, assets and liabilities would transfer to the new Westmorland and Furness Council on 1 April 2023 as part of LGR, the draft budgets still included projections for a full 5-years based on the current structure and arrangements.  This reflected good practice and the requirement to consider the long term sustainability of local services through long term financial planning regardless of the provider of those services and the statutory responsibility to set balanced budgets.

 

Councillor Jarvis highlighted a number of areas within the report.  He referred to the Revenue Budget and the current projected deficit of £173,000 for the next financial year.  He reminded Members, however, that the budget was an iterative process and that work would take place over the coming months to close this gap.  Officers were though, he said, projecting very significant deficits from April 2023 onwards which would need to be reviewed in the context of the new unitary council.

 

Councillor Jarvis turned to capital expenditure, informing Members that the forecast and plan had been reviewed and was reflected in Appendix 8 to the report.  This showed expected spend this year falling from nearly £27m to just over £14.5m.  He highlighted a number of capital projects, pointing out that nearly £16m of capital investment was envisaged next year.  He stressed that even though the life of this Council was limited, it would continue to invest for the benefits of its residents, ensuring that work was underway so that it had to be completed by its successor council.

 

Despite the many challenges faced, Councillor Jarvis felt that this budget showed that the Council was going into reorganisation in sound financial health.  He thanked  ...  view the full minutes text for item C/81

C/82

Customer Connect Five Years on, the outcomes, benefits and future pdf icon PDF 233 KB

To consider the outcomes and benefits of the Customer Connect Programme since inception in 2016 and the work still to be completed over the next 18 months.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland and Innovation Portfolio Holder, introduced the detailed report to enable Members to recognise the achievements of the Customer Connect Programme since inception in 2016 and to note the outcomes and benefits the Programme had delivered as set out in Appendix 1 to the report.  The report further outlined the work still to be completed and how that was going to be delivered over the next 18 months.

 

Due to the Pandemic, the Programme had been delayed by 12 months, affecting the transition of Phase 2.  This was due to staff time required to deal with the initial emergency situation and then the ongoing resilience needed to support communities and businesses.  As a result, there was some activity that still needed to be delivered, details of which were provided, as well as on how this would be delivered over the next 18 month period.

 

How the Programme would be managed going forward was in recognition of the Local Government Review (LGR) outcome.  At the Customer Connect Member Steering Group, it had been recognised that there was still an importance to continue the work of the programme and to not lose sight of the final outcomes and benefits to be achieved.  Therefore, the recommendation to manage the Customer Connect Programme within a Portfolio Management approach alongside the LGR Programme, other council projects and business as usual work had been agreed.

 

Councillor Brook closed, drawing attention to the fact that National Regulator Inspectors had been so impressed by South Lakeland’s Customer Connect Programme, it was being used as an example of best practice for other authorities to follow.  He hoped that the Programme would be absorbed into the new Westmorland and Furness Council.

 

In response to a query relating to Storm Arwen, Councillor Brook explained that the Council had back-up generators in case of loss of power, however, informed Members that loss of power to individual households was outside of the Council’s remit and that any concerns in this regard would have to be considered by OFGEM.

 

Councillor Brook having moved that the report be noted, was seconded by Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Action and Biodiversity Portfolio Holder.

 

RESOLVED – That the outcomes and benefits of the Programme as set out in Appendix 1 to the report be noted.

C/83

Changes to Delegated Decisions making Property Services and updates to the Council's Constitution pdf icon PDF 217 KB

To consider amendments to the Constitution.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Philip Dixon, Customer and Locality Services Portfolio Holder, introduced the report, which outlined proposed changes to the Council’s Constitution.

 

Council was being asked to consider clarifications required as a result of a review of the Financial Procedure Rules following the insourcing of this area of work earlier in the year.

 

Councillor Dixon moved the recommendations contained within the report and was seconded by Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder.

 

It was unanimously

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the following be approved:-

 

(a)        the proposed amendments to the Constitution outlined in paragraph 3.4 to the report in relation to the Financial Procedure Rules; and

 

(b)        the proposed amendments to the Constitution outlined in Appendix 1 in relation to Property Services; and

 

(2)        it be noted that the Monitoring Officer will make any additional consequential changes to the Constitution to take account of these proposals.

C/84

Audit Committee Update: Fraud pdf icon PDF 253 KB

To consider recommendations from the Audit Committee for approval of the Counter Fraud Strategy 2021-2024 and the Anti-Tax Evasion Policy, Procedures and Reporting Arrangements.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Stephen Coleman, Chairman of the Audit Committee introduced the report.  The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) informed Members that, as part of the Audit Committee review of the Council’s arrangements preventing fraud, bribery and corruption which had been considered by that Committee on 8 December 2021, it was necessary to update the Counter Fraud Strategy.  It was also recommended that the Council introduced an Anti-Tax Evasion Policy. These policies strengthened the Council’s arrangements to prevent fraud, bribery and corruption.

 

Councillor Coleman having moved the recommendations contained within the report was seconded by Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder.

 

It was unanimously

 

RESOLVED – That the following be approved:-

 

(1)        the Counter Fraud Strategy 2021-2024 attached as Appendix 2 to the report; and

 

(2)        the Anti-Tax Evasion Policy, Procedures and Reporting Arrangements attached as Appendix 1 to the report.

C/85

Decision to Opt-in to the National Scheme for Audit Appointments pdf icon PDF 270 KB

To consider Public Sector Audit Appointments’ invitation to opt into the sector-led option for the appointment of external auditors to principal local government and police bodies for five financial years from 1 April 2023.

Minutes:

Councillor Stephen Coleman, Chairman of the Audit Committee, introduced the report which had been considered by the Audit Committee on 8 December 2021.  The report regarded an invitation from Public Sector Audit Appointments to opt into the sector-led option for the appointment of external auditors to principal local government and police bodies for five financial years from 1 April 2022. 

 

Attention was drawn to the fact that it was expected that, as a result of Local Government Reorganisation, this Council would cease to exist from 31 March 2023 and therefore would not need to appoint an external auditor for 2022/23 onwards.  The decision for external audit for the proposed Westmorland and Furness Council would need to be appointed by the new Council, once created.  However, Public Sector Audit Appointments had advised that all councils undergoing reorganisation opt-in under this invitation to ensure continuity of external audit cover if, for some reason, the implementation of the new unitary authorities was delayed.

 

The Audit Committee had resolved to recommend that Council accept the invitation. 

 

Councillor Coleman having moved the recommendation contained within the report was seconded by Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder.

 

It was unanimously

 

RESOLVED – That Public Sector Audit Appointments’ invitation to opt into the sector-led option for the appointment of external auditors to principal local government and police bodies for five financial years from 1 April 2023 be accepted.

C/86

Urgent Item - S.85 Local Government Act 1972 - Dispensations

To consider urgent items of business, if any.

Minutes:

Note –This matter was being included as an urgent item of business under Section 100B (4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, as the Chairman was of the opinion that, due to the circumstances set out below, it required consideration without delay.

 

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) referred to Minute C/75 above and to the need for Council’s formal approval of a blanket dispensation for Members for non-attendance at this Council meeting in light of Covid-19 and the increase in cases as a result of the new Omicron variant.  As stated at C/75, this matter had already been discussed by Group Leaders, with an attendance of 50% having been agreed.  The proposed dispensation would, therefore, provide that, for such Members the six month period of non-attendance under S.85 of the Local Government Act 1972 would commence on the day after this Council meeting, i.e. on 15 December 2021.

 

The Vice-Chairman, Councillor Matt Severn moved, was seconded by Councillor Fiona Hanlon, and it was unanimously

 

RESOLVED – That approval be given for a blanket dispensation for the Members listed below for whom it has been agreed will not be in attendance at the Council meeting on 14 December 2021 in light of Covid-19 and the increase in cases as a result of the new Omicron variant, the six month period for those Councillors for whom it has been agreed are not attending the Council meeting on 14 December 2021 to have a new six month period calculation for attendance purposes commencing on 15 December 2021:-

 

Councillors Caroline Airey, Giles Archibald, Ben Berry, Roger Bingham, Brian Cooper, Michael Cornah, Tracy Coward, Pete Endsor, Gill Gardner, Hazel Hodgson, Chris Hogg, Vicky Hughes, Janette Jenkinson, Helen Ladhams, Malcolm Lamb, Susanne Long, Ian Mitchell, Suzie Pye, Doug Rathbone, Brian Rendell, Heather Troughton, Ian Wharton, Janet Willis and Shirley-Anne Wilson.

C/87

Leader's Announcements and Cabinet Question Time, including the Composite Report of the Cabinet (1 Hour Maximum) pdf icon PDF 283 KB

Council is asked to receive the Executive Reports from the Leader and Cabinet and to deal with any questions raised by Members to the appropriate Cabinet Members on the contents of the reports.

 

To receive announcements from the Leader and, in accordance with Paragraphs 10.2 and 10.3 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure, to deal with any questions to the Leader and/or Portfolio Holders on any topic which is within the jurisdiction or influence of the Council and is relevant to their Portfolio.  Any Member who poses a question will be entitled to ask one supplementary question on the same topic.

 

Members are encouraged to give 24 hours’ written notice of questions to the Monitoring Officer of questions to be raised under the Agenda Item.  If no notice is received, then the Portfolio Holder can reserve the right to give a written answer.  Where written notice of questions has been given, these will be taken first.  Should a Member wish to ask more than one question, questions should be listed in order of priority.  If more than one Member sends in a question, these will be taken in alphabetical order of Members’ names, alternated from meeting to meeting.  Each question and each response is restricted to three minutes.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman thanked Members for having agreed to curtail verbal discussion on this item and for written responses to be provided to the written questions, with the deadline for written questions being extended to midday on the following day (Minute No.72 above refers).

 

Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, took the opportunity to express thanks to all Members and officers for their hard work during 2022 under difficult circumstances with Covid-19, Local Government Reorganisation, Storm Arwen and business as usual.  He wished everyone well for Christmas and the New Year.

 

No questions were raised in respect of the composite report of the Cabinet.

 

The list of written questions which had been submitted in accordance with paragraphs 10.2 and 10.3 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure had been circulated to Members at the start of the meeting.  Those questions were as follows:-

 

From Councillor Giles Archibald to Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Action and Biodiversity Portfolio Holder - Recently the Countryside Climate Network released its “landscape of leadership” report with insights into ‘five of its most ambitious members’ - of which SLDC was one.  This appropriately recognises the national role that we have established under your leadership.  In this role, what do you see as the key climate emergency tasks and objectives for this authority during the period of reorganisation?

 

From Councillor Stephen Coleman to Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Action and Biodiversity Portfolio Holder - I understand that the work CAfS have been doing on Zero Carbon Ambleside is drawing to close.  Please can you outline some of the positive outcomes from this project?

 

Councillor Fiona Hanlon raised an additional question to Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder - The Leader will be aware of the devastation caused by storm Arwen and the awful after effects that meant several communities across South Lakeland were without power for several days, some for over a week.  Many are still on temporary power supplies, prone to fuel and technical failures.  In addition hundreds of households suffered simultaneous telecommunications failures which meant contact and being contacted was impossible.  Many homes still have no phone, signal or WiFi over a fortnight after the storm hit.  What assurance can the Leader provide that lessons will be learnt and that Members of this authority will be able to contribute to any reviews into the response, so that any future disruption and suffering are kept to an absolute minimum?

 

Councillor Coleman posed a supplementary question to Councillor Dyan Jones, Climate Action and Biodiversity Portfolio Holder, in relation to his question on the work of CAfSAre there any plans to use the outcome in other areas of South Lakeland?

 

Members were reminded that further written questions and/or supplementaries could be submitted until noon on the following day.  The list of questions and responses would be sent out to Members as soon as possible and published on the Council’s Website alongside the agenda and minutes for the meeting.

C/88

Minutes of Meetings

To receive Chairmen’s comments (if any notified) in respect of the minutes of the Committee meetings held between 23 August and 19 November 2021.

Minutes:

No comments or questions had been received in respect of the minutes of committee meetings held between 23 August and 19 November 2021.

C/89

Questions to Chairman of the Council or Chairman of any Committee or Sub-Committee

To deal with any questions under Rule 10.6 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure, of which due notice has been given and/or the Chairman allows as a matter of urgent business and which are in relation to any matter over which the Council has powers or duties or which affect the area.

Minutes:

No questions had been received under Rule 10.6 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure.

C/90

Urgent Decisions

In accordance with Paragraph 17.3 of the Access to Information Procedure Rules, to receive details of any urgent Executive Decisions, if any, taken since the last meeting of Council on 10 November 2021.

Minutes:

No urgent decisions had been taken between the last meeting of the Council held on 10 November 2021 and publication of the agenda for this meeting.  However, attention was drawn to the taking of an urgent decision by Cabinet on 7 December, details of which would be included on the agenda for the next scheduled meeting of the Council.