Venue: District Council Chamber, South Lakeland House, Kendal
Contact: Committee Services
To authorise the Chairman to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 26 October 2018.
RESOLVED – That the Chairman be authorised to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 26 October 2018.
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.
RESOLVED – That it be noted that no declarations of interest were raised.
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.
RESOLVED – That it be noted that no declarations of the party whip were raised.
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.
RESOLVED – That it be noted that there are no excluded items on the Agenda.
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.
RESOLVED – That it be noted that no questions, representations, deputations or petitions have been received in respect of this meeting.
Northern Rail Services
To consider a business update from representative of Northern Rail (verbal presentation).
The Chairman welcomed Chris Jackson, Craig Harrop and Martin Keating, representatives of Northern Rail.
Chris Jackson, the new Regional Director, introduced himself to the Committee. He looked after the west region, was a local, and was aware of the importance of the successful running of the railway for the local economy.
Craig Harrop, Stakeholder Manager, who had last spoken to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in August 2018, then addressed Members.
He explained that the Office of Rail and Road Glaister Report had found that all rail industry partners had made mistakes causing the collapse of the May 2018 timetable, worsened by Network Rail wrongly believing that it could make up the time. The industry had not focussed on its passengers, but on planning and engineering concerns. In addition, the System Operator, who had been in the best position to understand and manage the risks, had not taken sufficient action. Neither Govia Thameslink Railway nor Northern Rail had been properly aware or prepared for the problems in delivering the new timetable and had not done enough to provide information to passengers when disruption occurred.
Mr Harrop next explained the changes to timetable and operations which had occurred since August 2018.
The Lakes Line had been withdrawn and reintroduced in July 2018. An interim timetable had been introduced to reduce last minute cancellations, to provide stability and to allow for outstanding driver training. Train service delivery had now stabilised and was more resilient on both the Lakes and Furness Lines. The majority of services had been re-introduced in September 2018 with little or no adverse impact and, since December 2018, all Northern services had been reintroduced and were being delivered robustly.
Performance on local routes has continued to improve since the Committee’s meeting in August, with the Lakes Line PPM (public performance measure) tracking at 90% consistently - the previous day’s performance on the route had been 100%. The Furness Line PPM had also seen a steady improvement, with significant incidents and cancellations that had been averaging around 70-80, falling to around 20 in each four week period. PPM has seen a 20% improvement and was now averaging 80%. This route interworked with other routes into Manchester which had imported more delay over autumn. Autumn weather and adhesion, i.e. fallen leaves on tracks, had also impacted on all routes during November, but had since recovered.
Current performance focus included greater resilience, working closely with Network Rail on infrastructure issues and full winter preparedness through point heaters and unit availability. Proposed changes to service recovery on the Lakes Line would mean services continuing along the line to terminate at Kendal rather than Oxenholme when there was significant late running as a result of operational issues.
Mr Jackson provided the Committee with an overview of the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) Strike Action which would see its 43rd action on the following day. The latest development was that Transport for the North and the Department of Transport had guaranteed a ... view the full minutes text for item O&S/44
To consider the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme 2018/19, and the contents of the latest Forward Plan.
The Solicitor to the Council presented a report including the Forward Plan published on 21 December 2018 and an up-to-date copy of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s 2018/19 Work Programme, which included a number of amendments made since the last meeting. She drew attention to fact that, since updating the Programme, she had been advised that the Homelessness Strategy 2019-2024 included for consideration at the 1 February 2019 meeting of the Committee would be delayed and be included instead on the agenda for the 26 April meeting.
The Solicitor to the Council further reported that arrangements were due to commence for the Task and Finish Group for the development of locality working through Customer Connect. Due to the significant nature of the topic, seven Members would be sought to form the group, in order to ensure membership from across the district, as well as gender and political balance. A request for expressions of interest would shortly be sent out to all Members.
A suggestion was raised for the formation of a task and finish group to examine rail issues, with Northern Rail being invited to provide further information, including details on station improvements. The Solicitor to the Council explained that the Chairman of the Committee had, following the presentation by representatives from Northern Rail earlier in the meeting, asked the representatives if they would be willing to return to speak to the Committee again, if necessary. She also informed Members that consideration could be given to setting up a task and finish group on the topic at the April meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee when the 2019/20 Work Programme would be set.
Attention was drawn to the fact that the Health and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder was due to present his report to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 26 April and to a request which had been made by a member of the public when the Committee had considered its 2018/19 Work Programme for a review of air quality within the district. It was suggested that the individual who had submitted this proposal might be invited to attend the meeting on 26 April. The Solicitor to the Council explained that the Committee had considered this particular suggestion in April 2018 when setting the 2018/19 Work Programme and that it had been felt at the time to be more effective to include the topic within the task and finish group which was to carry out a strategic review of the Council’s health and wellbeing priority. She also clarified that the area of air quality fell within the remit of both the Environment and the Health and Wellbeing Portfolios.
RESOLVED – That
(1) the Forward Plan published on 21 December 2019 be received; and
(2) the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s current Work Programme, including the amendment raised at the meeting, be noted.
To consider the draft Council Plan 2019 to 2024 and the draft Council Policy on Climate Change.
The Council Plan set out the Council’s vision and priorities and formed part of a suite of corporate documents and linked closely with the Medium Term Financial Plan. These documents formed part of the Council’s Policy Framework and underpinned the Council’s approach to governance and community leadership. The current Council Plan was for the period 2014 to 2019, and had been updated on an annual basis since 2014.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader and Housing, People and Innovation Portfolio Holder, presented a new draft Plan which was intended to run from 2019 to 2024. In developing the Plan, the vision had been revised to add the words “working together” to reflect that the Council could not achieve its ambition alone, and that it worked with partners to deliver on its vision and ambitions.
The vision, as stated in the draft Council Plan, was, “Working together to make South Lakeland the best place to live, work and explore.” To achieve the vision, the Council’s areas of focus were:-
· creating an environment for people to thrive;
· delivering excellent value-for-money, services;
· playing a leading role and influencing others;
· empowering customers and communities; and
· forward thinking, innovative Council.
As with previous versions, the Council Plan retained the following values:-
· Empowering People - By listening to our customers and our employees their ideas and comments will help us make improvements to customer service and workforce development.
· Excellence - Seeking continuous improvement in what we do, ensuring that our actions address the needs of South Lakeland.
· Open and Transparent - Being courteous, efficient and transparent in our dealings with the public.
The Council Plan set out the challenges and opportunities that the district faced in the short, medium and long term. These were described in detail in Appendix 3 to the report. In brief, the challenges and opportunities were:-
· South Lakeland’s demography;
· financial resilience;
· affordable housing;
· rise in obesity levels and inactivity;
· access to better training and development; and
· education and skills.
In order to meet the challenges and maximise opportunities, the Council Plan set out the delivery of the vision by:-
· working across boundaries to deliver to communities that,
· creates the right balance across different age groups that,
· reduces inequalities so that no one is left behind that,
· creates a sustainable and inclusive economy.
In addition to the Council Plan, an Executive Summary, detailed at Appendix 4 to the report, had been developed. This document stated the high level priorities across the cross-cutting themes to deliver the overall strategic aims of the Council.
Developing a sustainable and inclusive economy was a key element of the new Council Plan. This reflected growing awareness of the importance of Climate Change and the Council’s role in tackling it. A draft policy, as detailed at Appendix 5 to the report, represented a public recognition of the importance of Climate Change, an awareness of the opportunities offered by both tackling and adapting to meet the challenge of climate change and a series of ways in which the Council could ... view the full minutes text for item O&S/46
To consider the draft budget proposals for the financial years 2019/20 to 2022/23.
Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance Portfolio Holder introduced the 2019/20 Five Year Draft Budget. The first draft budget had been considered by Council on 18 December 2018 and the report considered at that meeting was attached as Appendix A to the substantive report. The remainder of the substantive report provided an update on significant changes since the first draft budget had been prepared.
The Government had published the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement on 13 December 2018. It would be subject to consultation until 10 January 2019 and the final settlement for each authority was usually published soon after the conclusion of the consultation period. The majority of the settlement was in line with the four-year settlement the Council accepted in 2016/17 and which was already reflected in the draft 2019/20 – 2023/24 budgets attached to the report. Details of the main changes in the provisional settlement were provided.
The Council Tax referendum thresholds remained at the levels set for 2018/19 for district councils, with the maximum increase of the higher of below 3% or £5. For this Council, this could potentially raise the maximum increase in Band D Council Tax from the £5 that as included in the draft budget to £5.72, which would generate an additional £32,800 of income from Council Tax. There were no limits on increases for parish councils, but the Government expected parishes to take all available steps to mitigate the need for Council Tax increases.
As expected, the Government had chosen not to reduce local authority funding through reductions in business rate retention, a reduction which had been known as negative Revenue Support Grant. Under the original four-year settlement, the Council had expected a reduction in funding of £613,000 for 2019/20. This decision by the Government had been widely expected and had already been reflected in the draft budget proposals considered by Council on 18 December 2018.
Rural Services Delivery Grant was due to be frozen nationally for 2019/20, but the provisional settlement had increased the national funding from £65m to £81m. This Council’s share of the grant would increase from £347,900 to £433,500. This was an extra £85,600 for 2019/20 only.
The Cumbrian authorities had not been successful in the bid to become a business rate pool pilot. The draft budgets for 2019/20 to 2023/24 did not anticipate any additional income from the potential pilot pool. The existing Cumbrian pool was expected to continue for 2019/20.
The settlement also included some unexpected funding from the business rate levy account surplus. The Government collected a levy of up to 50% from authorities who collected more business rates than their baseline. This levy was used to fund a safety net for authorities who fell well below their baseline. This was the first time the levy had exceed the safety net, and the Government had £180m to distribute nationally. The Council’s share was £34,000.
Finally, the Government had confirmed the threshold for payment of New Homes Bonus would remain at 0.4% of taxbase for 2019/20. For this ... view the full minutes text for item O&S/47
To consider the Treasury Management and Capital Strategies and the authorised borrowing limits.
Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance Portfolio Holder, presented a report setting out the Council’s Treasury Management Strategy and Capital Strategy for 2019/20 – 2023/24. The Strategies had been updated to reflect the 2019/20 Budget and Capital Programme.
The framework fulfilled five key legislative requirements relating to the setting of prudential indicators, the Council’s Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Policy, the Treasury Management Strategy Statement the Investment Strategy and the Capital Strategy, details of which were provided.
The report reflected the budget proposals which had been approved for consultation by Council on 18December 2018.
The Treasury Management Strategy was based on the proposed Capital Programme for 2018/19 – 2023/24 as considered by Council on 18 December 2018.
The Capital Strategy included potential capital expenditure not currently in the proposed Programme and arising from the review of Council Assets. The resulting indicators in the Capital Strategy were, therefore, higher as it included potential expenditure and borrowing which might not arise, depending on future decisions around service delivery. The Capital Strategy would assist in ensuring that the Council had funds available in the future to meet future opportunities which might arise. It also considered organisational issues, including how the Capital Programme would be prioritised and considerations, including capacity to deliver. Councillor Jarvis drew attention to an error within Section 5 of the Capital Strategy under paragraph 5.2 where the figure earned by the Council in relation to its 23 investment properties should read £0.464m and not £0.325m.
The Strategies ensured that the Council had robust arrangements for investing and that it only borrowed where it was appropriate and affordable.
Members thanked Councillor Jarvis and officers for an informative report. Councillor Jarvis responded to a query explaining that decisions on all capital investments, including those which were commercial in nature, were reported and made through Cabinet and Council. The Assistant Director Resources (Section 151 Officer) confirmed that all such decisions were made through the budget process and that any proposals for large borrowing would come forward with a business case.
RESOLVED – That
(1) the Treasury Management and Capital Strategies and the authorised borrowing limits within the report be noted; and
(2) Cabinet be recommended to endorse both strategies for recommendation to Council.
To consider the progress achieved by the Building Financial Resilience Partnership Group.
Councillor Philip Dixon, Health and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder, presented a report which highlighted the work carried out to date by the South Lakeland District Council (SLDC)-led Building Financial Resilience (BFR) partnership group following the Council’s first Tackling Poverty Workshop which had been held in 2016. That workshop had sought to raise ideas for reducing poverty in South Lakeland through the work of both the Council and partner organisations. At the workshop, three clear areas of work had been identified:-
· understanding the nature and extent of poverty in South Lakeland;
· helping those in immediate need; and
· focussing the work of the Council and partners in the long-term to help to address the root causes of poverty in the area.
A Position Statement had subsequently been created which set out the broad aims for the BFR group in tackling poverty. This Statement had evolved and now stated, “Ensuring that no-one in South Lakeland is excluded from an acceptable standard of living.”
An SLDC BFR officer group had developed an initial analysis/mapping exercise of poverty in South Lakeland and had drafted an action plan through meetings with partner agencies to take on their issues, concerns and recommendations. The action plan was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
The full BFR partner group had now met five times, with a future meeting set for March 2019. Partners had expressed the desire to continue meeting as they valued the creative collaborative networking opportunity where new initiatives and link-ups were taken forward to support people suffering financial hardship.
The report included details of the key actions achieved by the group to date:-
· The creation of five task groups which had met to work on the actions.
· A fuel poverty and money advice scheme (LEAP) had been launched, providing free energy saving household improvements and advice on switching and budgeting to all fuel poor households in South Lakeland.
· South Lakes News was including articles in each issue to give practical advice/signposting to raise awareness of helpful schemes and promote the work of partners.
· The creation of a BFR page on the SLDC website, with useful resources and information.
· SLDC was providing ‘Assisted digital support’ to assist customers in making and maintaining claims for Universal Credit and referred customers having difficulty with payments to the Citizens Advice Bureau for ‘Personal Budgeting Support’ courses.
· The SLDC Revenues and Benefits Department managed alternative payments arrangements of housing benefit, or Universal Credit (not rent), to pay direct to landlords in certain circumstances.
· The number of organisations using MARS (Multi Agency Referral System from Gateway) had increased from 60 to 90 (as of September) - Age UK had used the partner meetings to promote this system and was committed to its promotion to more small charities. This would help direct the service user to the right support at the right time.
· General Practitioners could now signpost and refer clients to the third sector via MARS, and the Integrated Care Communities (ICC) had promoted MARS with ICC groups to encourage social prescribing. ... view the full minutes text for item O&S/49
Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee Update
To receive an update, if any, on the work of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee from the Council’s representative or substitute.
Councillor Vivienne Rees, the Council’s representative on the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee, referred to her written report considered at the last meeting of the Committee on 26 October 2018, and informed Members that the situation remained the same.