Agenda and minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Friday, 14 July 2017 2.00 p.m.

Venue: District Council Chamber, South Lakeland House, Kendal

Contact: Jason Habbershon 

Items
No. Item

O&S/1

Minutes pdf icon PDF 145 KB

To authorise the Chairman to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 17 March 2017 (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 17 March 2017.

O&S/2

Minutes of the Performance Sub-Committee pdf icon PDF 138 KB

To receive the minutes of the meeting of the Performance Sub-Committee held on 3 February 2017, and to authorise the Chairman of the Sub-Committee to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Sub-Committee held on 21 April 2017 (copies attached).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Shirley Evans explained that she had tendered an apology for absence for the meeting of the Performance Sub-Committee on 21 April 2017 but that this had not been reflected within the minutes.

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the minutes of the meeting of the Performance Sub-Committee held on 3 February 2017 be received; and

 

(2)        subject to the inclusion of Councillor Shirley Evans’ apology for absence, the Chairman be authorised to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Performance Sub-Committee held on 21 April 2017.

O&S/3

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/4

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/5

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/6

Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 152 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/7

Public Participation

After the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has discussed an item on the agenda, but before a decision is taken, there is an opportunity for those present at the meeting who are not Committee Members to ask questions.

 

More information can be found on the South Lakeland District Council website, www.southlakeland.gov.uk, or by contacting Committee Services on 01539 733333.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That it be noted that there was no public participation in respect of this meeting.

O&S/8

Work Programme and Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 174 KB

To consider the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme 2017/18, and the contents of the latest Forward Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman introduced the latest versions of the Forward Plan and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Work Programme. Referring to a training session which had taken place earlier in the day, she informed the Committee of a suggestion that the Community Safety Partnership be scrutinised twice in a year, rather than annually as was currently the case. The Committee supported the suggestion and requested that possible arrangements be looked into. The Committee Services/Scrutiny Officer undertook to report back to the Committee once this had been done.

 

The Leader and Finance Portfolio Holder asked how the Committee followed up on its recommendations. The Committee Services/Scrutiny Officer explained the current process, but undertook to include within future progress reports information relating to older reviews where appropriate.

 

In reference to the Forward Plan’s “Building Control” key decision, it was queried how this would affect the services currently offered by the Council and how service standards would be maintained if direct management of the Building Control function was transferred outside of the Council. In response, the Leader explained that these concerns had been recognised and that any proposal would seek to make the service more efficient for residents and the Council. The Leader reiterated that all risks and concerns would be carefully considered before a final decision was made. Members suggested that it could also be beneficial to explore options to work with Barrow Borough Council in addition to Eden District Council.

 

The Forward Plan item relating to the Unauthorised Deposit of Waste (Fixed Penalties) Regulations 2016 was discussed. Members expressed concerns about the level of enforcement available and the issues that unauthorised waste deposits could cause, particularly within high tourist areas. The Chairman and Committee Services/Scrutiny Officer undertook to discuss the issue with the Director People and Places regarding whether more information could be presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in future.

 

The Committee Services/Scrutiny Officer explained that the Asset Management Review Task and Finish Group included within the Work Programme and scheduled to start in September 2017 would need to be pushed back slightly to accommodate other work being undertaken by the Council’s property services contractor. Members would be informed of the new start date for the review once agreed.

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the contents of the latest Forward Plan be noted; and

 

(2)        the Committee’s current Work Programme, subject to the changes referred to above, be noted.

O&S/9

Revenue and Capital Out-turn 2016/17 pdf icon PDF 145 KB

To consider the Council’s financial performance for 2016/17 and the impact on reserve balances.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader and Finance Portfolio Holder introduced the three financial items on the agenda - Revenue and Capital Out-turn 2016/17, Treasury Management Annual Report 2016/17 and the draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2018/19 to 2022/23.

 

The Leader explained that the Council was in a good financial position, but that there were potentially significant risks which it could face, such as rising inflation and its effect on wages, and also the country’s finances. He suggested that both the possible lifting of the public sector wage cap, and falling migration would put increased pressure on wages, which could, in turn, have a large impact on the finances of the Council. He also referred to a recent Office for Budget Responsibility report which suggested that the country’s finances were in a worse state now than in 2007 prior to the financial crisis and would be less able to withstand a future financial crash. Additional issues surrounding changes to the New Homes Bonus and business rates allocations were raised.

 

The Leader expressed to Members his disappointment in recent comments from the Secretary of State regarding local government. He reminded Members that the Council offered more than just its statutory services and emphasised that residents affected by rising inflation and decreases in benefits would require additional support from the authority.

 

The Economy and Asset Portfolio Holder supported the comments of the Leader, and expressed his own concerns regarding the ability of businesses to withstand financial pressures and the increases in unsecured household debt. He proposed that innovative action would be needed to address these issues.

 

Members gave consideration to the Revenue and Capital Out-turn report for 2016/17, which set out the Council’s financial performance for 2016/17 and the impact on reserves balances.

 

Following a query, the Financial Services Manager confirmed that the reduction in the bad debt provision for the recovery of overpaid rent allowances had resulted from better than expected recovery and a decrease in allowances being overpaid to residents.

 

The nature of the £4.2m underspend was queried. In response, the Financial Services Manager explained that the largest item of the underspend was the £2.36m Community Housing Fund which had been placed in an earmarked reserve to be spent over the following year or two. Following a request that a traffic light system be used in future reports to easily identify good and bad variances, she also explained that a traffic light system had been considered in the past, but that as a significant underspend could be just as negative to the Council’s finances as a significant overspend, there would be difficulty in applying the system in many areas.

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the report 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 2016/17 pdf icon PDF 297 KB

To consider the Treasury Management Annual Report 2016/17.

Minutes:

Having been introduced by the Leader and Finance Portfolio Holder earlier in the meeting, Members gave consideration to the Treasury Management Annual Report 2016/17.

 

Members highlighted that the average annual return of gilt holdings was significantly higher than those for other investments and queried whether it would be worth considering placing more emphasis on the use of gilts. The Financial Services Officer explained that the existing gilt holdings were entered into a number of years ago at a time of higher interest rates and that new gilts were currently issued at a lower rate. The Leader and Finance Portfolio Holder explained that the current gilt would mature in September, and that a replacement investment would be sought although the yield on this would reflect the current interest rates.

 

The annual interest savings of £320k annually achieved through early repayment of debt in 2013/14 was welcomed by the Committee. It was queried whether the Council would have the opportunity for further early repayment of debt in the future. In response, the Financial Services Officer explained that high early repayment premia for the Council’s existing debt meant that this would not be financially beneficial currently, but that officers monitored the situation closely and early repayment would be considered should conditions become more favourable.

 

Members thanked the officers involved.

 

RESOLVED – That the 2016/17 Treasury Management Annual Report be noted.

O&S/11

Draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2018/19 to 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 56 KB

To consider the draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2018/19 to 2022/23, incorporating the Financial Strategy and the Budget Strategy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Having been introduced by the Leader and Finance Portfolio Holder earlier in the meeting, Members gave consideration to the draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2017/18 to 2021/22, incorporating the Financial Strategy and the Budget Strategy.

 

Further information on the reasons for the reduction in income achieved through the Cumbria Business Rates Pool was requested. The Financial Services Manager explained that the reduction could be attributed, at least in part, to an increase in appeals received from businesses against their rateable value prior to the deadline of 31 March 2017. Nevertheless, additional income had been achieved from the Council being in the Cumbria Business Rates Pool. The Leader and Finance Portfolio Holder added that in addition to the income already set aside for use, a further ‘volatility' reserve had been created as part of the terms of the Pool; this could lead to further resources being available at the time of the Pool’s dissolution.

 

The uncertainties that the Council faced as a result of the changes to local authority funding nationally were discussed. The Financial Services Manager suggested that increasing localisation would mean that over the next few years the projections of income would be more volatile than in the past. A Member queried whether this volatility warranted a further increase in reserves to provide additional protection against future shortfalls. It was also asked whether this unpredictability had resulted in the projected £9m of reserves being greater than the risk assessment’s suggestion that the Council maintain £5m general reserves. The Financial Services Manager explained that the risk assessment considered the level of income and the impact that changes to that level could have on the financial position of the Council. She confirmed that an increased level of reserves was common across the country, and that through the processes of the Medium Term Financial Plan any potential risks would be identified and the Council would be able to react to bring services back into alignment.

 

Referring to earlier comments made by the Leader, it was queried whether inflation was the biggest risk identified or whether other factors may affect the Council’s finances. The Leader responded by highlighting uncertainties around income, staff expenditure and public realm expenditures as other risk areas, but reassured Members that the Medium Term Financial Plan would minimise these risks and their impact on the Council.

 

Attention was drawn to the uncommitted capital resources relating to Right to Buy proceeds which had been earmarked for use in providing affordable housing by South Lakes Housing. It was asked whether South Lakes Housing had the capacity to spend the available money and whether other options for allocating the funds was being investigated. The Leader confirmed that other options were being considered, but explained that South Lakes Housing had recently changed their financial arrangements which would allow them to build more houses than had been the case. 

 

During a discussion on the nature and potential usage of the £2.36m Community Housing Fund, the Leader explained that the Council would need to be  ...  view the full minutes text for item O&S/11

O&S/12

Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee Update pdf icon PDF 66 KB

To receive an update on the work of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee from the Council’s representative, Councillor Vivienne Rees.

Minutes:

Councillor Vivienne Rees updated Members on the work of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee. She drew attention to the proposal within her written report that representatives from the local Clinical Commissioning Groups and other bodies such as Healthwatch and NHS England be asked to give a presentation to all Members of the Council on the problems and progress made against the new Sustainable Transformation Plans and Integrated Care Communities. The Committee supported the suggestion, and the Committee Services/Scrutiny Officer undertook to speak to both Councillor Rees and the relevant officers of the Council to make arrangements for this to take place.

 

The Leader welcomed the increase focus on these issues and highlighted the recent appointment of Councillor Philip Dixon to the Cabinet as Portfolio Holder for Public Health and Wellbeing. The Leader suggested that Councillor Rees also discuss her concerns with Councillor Dixon.

 

The Committee thanked Councillor Rees for her report and its recommendation.

 

RESOLVED – That representatives from the local Clinical Commissioning Groups and other bodies such as Healthwatch and NHS England be asked to give a presentation to all Members of the Council on the problems and progress made against the new Sustainable Transformation Plans and Integrated Care Communities.

O&S/13

Nomination of Representative to the North West Employers Strategic Scrutiny Network

To nominate a representative to the North West Employers Strategic Scrutiny Network (previously Councillor Dyan Jones).

Minutes:

The Chairman explained that some councils had sent a number of representatives to previous meetings of the Strategic Scrutiny Network and suggested that, where appropriate, arrangements could be made for a Member of the Committee to accompany the named representative to a future meeting.

 

It was requested that information relating to the Strategic Scrutiny Network’s meetings be forwarded to the Committee to provide Members an opportunity to inform the named representative should they be interested in attending a particular session.

 

RESOLVED – That Councillor Dyan Jones be appointed as the Council’s representative to the North West Employers Strategic Scrutiny Network for the 2017/18 municipal year.