Agenda and minutes

Strategy & Resources Committee - Tuesday, 24th November, 2020 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Council Offices. View directions

Items
No. Item

185.

Minutes of the meeting held on the 8th October 2020 pdf icon PDF 444 KB

To confirm as a correct record

Minutes:

These minutes were approved as a correct record.

 

186.

Corporate Improvement Plan update pdf icon PDF 125 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee had endorsed a Corporate Improvement Plan on 9th July 2020. This comprised various measures necessary to take the Council forward, particularly in the light of the COVID emergency. A summary of progress against the plan was submitted, together with a covering report which drew attention to:

 

  • the implementation of recommendations from the Centre for Public Scrutiny (Ed Hammond);

 

  • Member training initiatives;

 

  • revisions to the performance & risk regime;

 

  • the new approach to financial management initiated by the new Section 151 Officer and the fact that the budget gap for 2020/21 had closed significantly with a view to producing a balanced budget for 2021/22; and 

 

  • the introduction of a new complaints policy.

 

It was intended to submit a further progress report to the Committee’s meeting in March 2021.

 

During the debate, it was confirmed that an ‘ICT / digital strategy’ would be submitted to Members in due course. The need to revise target dates in the next iteration of the plan was also acknowledged. 

 

            R E S O L V E D – that progress to date be noted.

 

187.

Q2 corporate performance and risk report pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were presented with an analysis of the Committee’s key performance indicators and risks for the second quarter of 2020/21.

 

Regarding Risk 3 (“inability of the Council to make savings as identified in the MTFS and to balance the Council’s budget in 2021/22 and 2022/23”) the Chief Finance Officer explained her intended approach to tracking progress against budgeted savings.

 

Whilst Members welcomed the improvements being made to the risk analysis, it was suggested that risk ratings should be signed off at Executive Director level with resource allocations being driven by the ‘RAG’ scores.    

 

            R E S O L V E D – that the Quarter 2 2020/21 corporate performance and risks be            noted.

 

188.

Finance report - period 6 pdf icon PDF 123 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A report concerning the Council’s revenue budget and capital programme as at the end of September 2020 (month 6) was presented.

 

A £400,000 overspend against the £10.6 million general fund revenue budget was projected. This represented an improvement of £100,000 from the previous month, which was largely due to a corresponding return from the Government’s Covid-19 income compensation scheme.  The overspend comprised additional costs / loss of income related to Covid-19 (£1.2 million) offset by an £800,000 underspend on ‘business as usual’ activities. The report cautioned against the uncertainty surrounding the 2020/21 forecast and advised that, if the position did not improve, reserves would have to be drawn upon to cover the overspend.

 

The revised capital programme had been reduced by £104.7 million to £15.4 million to reflect forecast expenditure and to provide a stable baseline.

 

Cashflow shortfalls in the collection of council tax and business rates were projected to impact in Q4 of 2020/21. The impact is currently being worked through.

 

The Committee was also informed that the Acting Chief Executive had exercised urgency powers (granted by Standing Order 35) to enable the Council to administer the Government’s Additional (Covid-19) Restrictions Grant Scheme. A report concerning this matter would be submitted to the Committee’s next meeting on the 16th December 2020.

 

During the debate, reference was made to the Committee’s resolution on 22nd September 2020 that, “a budget and project plan be produced immediately for Planning Policy Committee spending and that it is updated and notified monthly to the Planning Policy Committee and added to that Committee’s agenda on a regular basis.” It was confirmed that the required information would be included within the finance report to be submitted to the Planning Policy Committee’s January 2021 meeting and would be updated monthly for that Committee. 

 

            R E S O L V E D – that the Council’s financial position for revenue and

            capital be noted.

 

 

189.

Flexible use of capital receipts pdf icon PDF 205 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the merits of a strategy to enable the use of capital receipts to fund the salary costs of officers involved in one-off transformation work undertaken by the Council during 2020/21. This was permissible under Regulation 23 of the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003 and subsequent government guidance (March 2016) which provided greater freedoms for using capital receipts to finance expenditure.

 

In accordance with the statutory guidance, a schedule of the various areas of work undertaken by the transformation team in 2020/21 was presented. This identified the cost of the work (totalling c£160,000) and the estimated associated saving of £349,000 to be achieved in the current financial year. The Council had £1,851,077 of capital receipts that could be used under the scheme, which was more than sufficient to finance the transformational work identified.

 

            R E C O M M E N D E D   that the flexible use of capital receipts strategy be agreed.

 

190.

Corporate Debt Policy pdf icon PDF 567 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A proposed consolidated policy, reflecting a more joined-up framework for dealing with debt collection across the Council, was presented. It sought to maximise collection rates, while ensuring a fair, proportionate and consistent approach to debt recovery. 

 

The policy’s objectives were to:

 

·           apply best practice to debt collection;

 

·           ensure a professional and timely approach to recovery action;

 

·           maximise levels of income collected by the Council;

 

·           treat all debtors consistently and fairly;

 

·           promote a coordinated approach towards managing multiple debts;

 

·           ensure that debtors in genuine financial difficulty are supported to claim any

       benefits they are entitled to and, where appropriate, are signposted towards free

       debt advice; and

 

·           ensure that vulnerable people are supported to manage their financial affairs

       effectively, including the payment of debt.

 

The policy explained the ‘three-step’ debt collection process and timescales which comprised billing; instigation of legal proceedings following non-payment; and escalation to collection and enforcement agencies when necessary. Reference was made to debt management principles to be followed by officers; the expectations of debtors; and arrangements for the repayment of arrears.

 

The policy also highlighted the priority types of debt and the potential civil sanctions arising from court judgements. These concerned housing rent arrears; council tax; business rates; housing benefit overpayments; Business Improvement District levies; sundry debts; and commercial rents. The definition of vulnerable people in the context of debt management was clarified within the policy. 

 

            R E S O L V E D – that the Corporate Debt Policy, as attached at Appendix A        to the report, be approved.

 

191.

Climate Change Action Plan Report pdf icon PDF 302 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A proposed initial action plan was presented in response to the Council’s declaration of a climate change emergency in February 2020. The declaration confirmed the Council’s aim to reduce its environmental impact and to take steps to become carbon neutral by 2030.

 

Several potential actions still required scoping to establish business cases before decisions could be made to proceed. The Committee was therefore invited to adopt the initial version of the plan to provide officers with a mandate to conduct the necessary work, and then submit data on significant projects to enable Councillors to make informed decisions.

 

The initial plan included:

 

  • the strategic priorities informed by Surrey County Council’s Climate Change Strategy, adapted as appropriate for TDC;

 

·        actions TDC could take to:

 

-        reduce emissions from the Council’s estate and operations;

 

-        influence and encourage residents and businesses to reduce their emissions; and

 

-        work with other agencies to collectively reduce the carbon footprint of Surrey.

 

It was acknowledged that certain actions could be ‘quick wins’ such as: creating a baseline Council carbon emissions report; conducting a feasibility study into the installation of electric vehicle charging points in the Council’s car parks; and producing a climate change communications strategy.

 

The first iteration of the TDC’s carbon emission report for 2019-20 would be

available by March 2021 and would focus on emissions that the Council can directly

influence.

 

The Committee was also invited to approve the establishment of a Member/ Officer Task & Finish Group to inform the development of the action plan.

 

During the debate, the absence of costings from the proposed action plan was questioned. Officers explained that the first objective was to prioritise potential actions to pursue. The associated financial and other key implications would then be assessed, including the scope for assigning dedicated cost centres for budget monitoring purposes. The debate concluded with the view that residents expect the Council to become carbon neutral and that its declaration of a climate change emergency had committed the Authority to an effective programme of change.

 

            R E S O L V E D – that

 

A.     the Council's climate change action plan at Appendix A to the report be adopted;

 

B.     the Committee receives an update on the development and delivery of the action plan in June 2021 and annually thereafter; and

 

C.     a climate change task and finish group be established with the following terms of reference:

                       

i)       to inform the development of the action plan, including prioritisation of      actions and identification of timescales for delivery;

 

ii)      to review the carbon emissions report when produced and propose any   further actions required in light of that report; and

 

iii)     to inform the development of an update report to the Strategy & Resources Committee in June 2021, at which point the Group will have completed its work.

 

            (The Group shall comprise two Councillors from each of the three largest groups and       one member from the Independent Group. The officers most relevant to the topics         being discussed, and the climate change lead officer,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 191.

192.

Feedback from the Task and Finish Group on Committee reports pdf icon PDF 178 KB

Minutes:

In accordance with the decision of Full Council on the 16th September 2020, a Member Task & Finish Group (comprising Councillors Bourne, Caulcott and M.Cooper) had reviewed the production of committee papers. The Group had identified the need to improve the template for committee reports and for associated guidance and training for officers. The improvements were designed to make reports more concise and accessible. The new template for committee reports would be kept under review and any councillors with suggestions for further improvement were invited to share them with members of the Group.

 

Training for officers on report writing, including the requirements identified by the Group, would be delivered in due course and funded from within the centralised officer training budget. A key objective of the training would be to make reports more accessible for Members and the public, and to facilitate greater transparency and more informed decision making. 

 

During the debate, it was confirmed that authors would receive guidance on the need to consider risk implications in connection with their reports.  

 

            R E S O L V E D that the changes to the committee report template and plans for officer training be noted.

 

193.

Discretionary Test and Trace Grant - adoption of policy pdf icon PDF 228 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A Covid-19 Test and Trace Discretionary Payment Policy was approved by the Acting Chief Executive on the 4th November 2020 under the urgency provisions of Standing Order 35 and pending review and ratification by this Committee. This followed government guidance on the award of £500 grants to support people on low incomes who are unable to work from home if they are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and will lose income as a result.

 

The policy exercised the discretion available to local authorities to extend the Government’s minimum eligibility criteria, i.e.: 

 

            Minimum criteria

 

·           Have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive;

 

·           Are employed or self-employed; and are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating;

 

·           Have signed up and completed the test and trace journey (receiving the initial notification to isolate will not qualify for the grant);

 

·           Are not currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit; and

 

·           Who are on low incomes and will face financial hardship as a result of not being able to work while they are self-isolating.

 

            Discretionary payment Tandridge additional criteria as relevant to the determination of whether a Discretionary Test and Trace Payment will be made

 

·           Individuals who have made a claim for Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit and it is likely that this claim will be successful;

 

·           Individuals from abroad who are excluded from claiming benefits but meet all the other statutory and discretionary criteria;

 

·           Individuals whose gross annual household income is less than £20,000 a year (£385 per week), although consideration will be given for higher annual incomes if the Council is provided with a suitable justification that is in the spirit of the grant;

 

·           The individual’s employer must confirm that, as a result of his/her isolation, s/he will lose pay as a result of the terms of his/her contract;

 

·           If the individual is self-employed, the self-employment must clearly be of the nature where s/he cannot work from home;

 

·           The individual does not have capital exceeding £6,000.

The Tandridge scheme for considering and allocating Covid-19 Test and Trace payments, was presented to the Committee.

 

            R E S O L V E D – that the Discretionary Covid-19 Test and Trace Payment           Scheme, detailed at Appendix A to the report, be ratified.

 

194.

Investment Sub-Committee - 23 October 2020 pdf icon PDF 555 KB

To receive the minutes of the Sub-Committee’s meeting on the 23rd October 2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            R E S O L V E D – that the minutes of the Sub-Committee’s meeting on the 23rd       October 2020, as attached at Appendix A, be received.

 

195.

Chief Officer Sub Committee - 22 October and 13 November 2020 pdf icon PDF 113 KB

To receive the minutes of the Sub-Committee’s meetings on the 22nd October and 13th November 2020.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

196.

Appointment of Electoral Registration Officer and Returning Officer pdf icon PDF 277 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered the need for the Council to appoint a new Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) and Returning Officer (RO). This followed the departure of Elaine Jackson who previously held both positions, in addition to her role as Acting Chief Executive.

 

It was proposed that Jackie King, the new Acting Chief Executive, should be appointed to both the ERO and RO positions.

 

           

R E C O M M E N D E D   that:

 

A.      the Acting Chief Executive is appointed as Electoral Registration Officer and Returning Officer pursuant to section 35(1) and section 8(2)(a) of the representation of the People Act 1983 on a temporary basis until a permanent Chief Executive is appointed; and

 

B.      Lidia Harrison, Head of Legal Services & Monitoring Officer, and Chailey Gibb, Lead Democratic Specialist, continue to be appointed as Deputy Electoral Registration Officers.

197.

CIL spending review and funding statement pdf icon PDF 223 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report which summarised the Community Infrastructure (CIL) regime, including the new statutory requirement for the Council (as the CIL charging authority) to publish an Infrastructure Funding Statement (IFS) by 31st December annually; the role of Parish and County Councils; and the process for identifying projects for CIL spending.

 

A proposed IFS was appended to the report, setting out:

 

·         ‘Section 106’ funding obligations triggered throughout the District; 

·         ‘Section 278’ (Highways) agreements entered into with Surrey County Council; and

·         Projects that have been / will be funded by CIL income.

 

Councillor Bourne, seconded by Councillor Botten, proposed the following additional resolution:  

 

“.. agree to the immediate formation of a 7 Member politically balanced group (2,2,2,1) tasked to determine a method of evaluating and rating future CIL requests, with the group advised by Officers to ensure adherence to the CIL regulations. The result to be brought back to this committee for formal agreement and implementation. This will be followed up with Member briefing sessions to inform all Members of the new process and how best to represent projects in their wards”.

 

Councillor Cooper proposed the following amendment to Councillor Bourne’s proposal:

 

"Without prejudice to the outcome of the CIL bid - Grange Meadow (item 19),agree to the immediate formation of a 7 Member politically balanced group … [the remaining text as per the above]

 

… this was agreed.

 

Regarding the proposed IFS, Members questioned the absence of anticipated infrastructure projects not yet presented to the Committee, especially the scheme to improve Croydon Road, Caterham which was being led by the Caterham Business Improvement District (BID) group. As projects had to be included within an IFS to qualify for CIL, Members favoured the insertion of an additional list of projects to which CIL allocations were expected. Given the initial challenges associated with the Committee having to adopt a revised IFS (incorporating such a list) at a future meeting before the end of December, it was suggested that that the recommended IFS (within the agenda pack) be adopted forthwith to comply with the Regulations. However, the Committee wished to confirm its intention to adopt an updated iteration of the IFS at the earliest practicable opportunity thereafter, incorporating an ‘additional list’ as referred to above.  

              

            R E S O L V E D – that:

 

A.     notwithstanding the intention to produce a revised replacement Infrastructure Funding Statement (IFS) as soon as practicable during 2020/21, the IFS as attached at Appendix A to the report be agreed;

 

B.    Officers prepare a charging schedule for the monitoring of planning obligations to bring back to this Committee for consideration; and

 

C.   without prejudice to the outcome of the CIL bid, ‘Grange Meadow’ (item 19 on the agenda), a Member Working Group, politically balanced (2,2,2,1) be formed and tasked to determine a method of evaluating and rating future CIL requests, with the Group advised by Officers to ensure adherence to the CIL regulations – the result to be brought back to this Committee for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 197.

198.

CIL bid- Grange Meadow

Minutes:

The Committee resolved to move into confidential session (in accordance with Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 - paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A) to consider this matter.

 

A report was presented with a recommendation to award £250,000 from Community Infrastructure Levy funds for a project to improve access to the recreation ground at Grange Meadow, Bletchingley. The site in question was owned by the Council.

 

Arguments for and against the recommended award of CIL funds were put forward. While not disputing the need for the scheme, reservations about the proposal included a view that the works should be funded from the Council’s capital programme (given that the Council owned the site) and that the scope for contributions from other relevant agencies had not yet been fully demonstrated.

 

Upon being put to the vote, the motion to adopt the recommendation was lost.

 

            R E S O L V E D – that the CIL application be refused.

 

Notes:

 

(i)         In accordance with Standing Order 25(3), Councillor Pursehouse wished it recorded that he abstained from voting.

 

(ii)      Councillor Black declared a non-pecuniary interest in this matter on the basis that she was the Council’s representative on the Bletchingley Sports Association. She took part in the debate as permitted by the Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

199.

Freedom Leisure - verbal update

Minutes:

The Committee resolved to move into confidential session (in accordance with Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 - paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A) to consider this matter.

 

The Interim Transformation Lead updated the Committee regarding the on-going impact of the pandemic on Freedom Leisure’s operations within the District and the progress of negotiations regarding Freedom’s request for financial assistance following the Committee’s meeting on the 8th October 2020.