Agenda and minutes
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To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 18 November 2020 (Minute Nos. 258 - 263), subject to Minute No. 260 Scrutiny of 2021/22 Fees and Charges Proposals, page 286, to read The Guildhall, Queenborough and the Minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting held on 24 November 2020 (Minute Nos. 264 - 270) as correct records.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 18 November 2020 (Minute Nos. 258 – 263) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record subject to Minute No. 260 Scrutiny of 2021/22 Fees and Charges Proposals, page 286, to read The Guildhall, Queenborough, not Faversham. The Minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting held on 24 November 2020 (Minute Nos. 264 – 270) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
The Chairman explained that the meeting would be conducted in accordance with the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panel (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 No. 392.
The Chairman welcomed all Members, officers and members of the public to the meeting, including Larissa Reed, the Council’s new Chief Executive.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
The Chairman will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:
(a) Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote. This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.
(b) Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.
(c) Where it is possible that a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Member might be predetermined or biased the Member should declare their predetermination or bias and then leave the meeting while that item is considered.
Advice to Members: If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.
No interests were declared.
The Committee is asked to consider the Financial Management Report – Second Quarter 2020/21.
The Leader and the Chief Financial Officer will be attending the meeting.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance introduced the report which set out the revenue and capital project outturn position for Quarter 2 2020/21 as at the end of September 2020 which had been considered by Cabinet on 16 December 2020.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance highlighted the projected £3.5m overspend as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and drew attention to Table 4 on page 8 of the report which detailed the Forecast Variance and Total overspend of £3.89m, which included the projected loss of Swale Borough Council’s (SBC) share of income from Business Rates and Council Tax.
Referring to Government Funding at table 5 on page 9 of the report, the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance said that whilst the future impact was unknown, SBC were currently in a good position, even though the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was greater than expected.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance drew attention to paragraph 3.15 on page 11 of the report, which set out the proposed support for projects funded from the pooled Business Pooled Growth Fund which were a one-off spend for growth purposes only. He praised and thanked the Finance Team.
The Chief Financial Officer explained that the current closure of the courts had affected the collection of Council Tax payments. He said that the Finance Team were currently working on the Quarter 3 report and praised the Financial Services Manager.
Members were invited to asked questions and make comments.
Referring to paragraph 3.18 on page 12 of the report, a Member sought an update on the Leisure Contract. The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance explained that negotiations were ongoing on the sensitive, confidential matter and progress had been made which would be clarified soon. He added that once the matter was resolved, and details had been confirmed, the Leisure Contract would be discussed.
In response to a Member’s question on the Litigation Settlement, the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance advised that funding had not been set aside in previous years and the settlement was full and final.
The Leader explained that £1.1m Malro capital receipt as set out in paragraph 3.15 on page 11 of the report was income received for the purchase of land on the Isle of Sheppey, and would fund future projects on the Isle of Sheppey.
A Member sought an update to any progress on projects listed at paragraph 3.21 on page 14 of the report which the Leader agreed to provide.
A Member offered his thanks to the Finance team and spoke positively on the financial support received from Government. He questioned whether using £220k from the £800k allocated to Town Centres from the Business Pool to fund staff to manage it was a good use of resources? In response, the Leader acknowledged the support from Government but said that SBC had greater needs than some other Boroughs and he highlighted the current high borrowing of the Government. He said that recruiting specialist staff for ... view the full minutes text for item 407.
To review the draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan for 2021/22 and to consider making recommendations to Cabinet on 10 February 2020.
Cabinet Members and their Deputies; and the following Officers have been invited to attend the meeting, as have all Members:
Chief Executive, Director of Regeneration, Chief Financial Officer, Head of Policy, Communications and Customer Services, Head of Planning Services, Head of Commissioning, Environment and Leisure and Head of Housing, Economy and Community Services.
Tabled paper added 19 January 2021.
In welcoming the Cabinet and Deputy Cabinet Members, the Chairman confirmed that Members had received the tabled update, circulated and added to the website the previous day.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance introduced the report and said the Council faced serious challenges that had built up over the last decade, and from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that core funding did not meet the funding of core services. The Leader explained that Government had postponed the changes to Local Government funding but SBC would not be making staff cuts, and a pay increase to staff was included in the budget. The table on page 32 of the report set out the funding streams that had or would be received by SBC. The Leader said £996k was also received as part of Tranche 5 Covid-19 funding from Government. He referred to the Coalition Priorities, and in particular the creation of a housing company, Rainbow Homes, to help increase the supply of affordable homes with Council funding of £23m.
The Leader referred to the Council Tax rise of £4.95 per annum for a band D property and said that whilst he was aware of the impact this might have, no rise would impact on SBC’s fragile finance.
Drawing attention to Appendix I – 2021/22 Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) on page 39 of the report, the Leader said the Council was in a far better position than expected but there was no flexibility and no extra income except for Government grants, and the shortfall would have to be met from reserves. He warned that this was not unlimited or sustainable, but it was an unusual situation, and some other Councils were in difficulty. In highlighting paragraphs 2.16 – 2.19 on page 35 and 36 of the report, the Leader stressed that there was no possibility of a Section 114 Notice being issued in SBC.
In the debate that followed Members asked questions and raised points including:
· Was there any indication when the Local Government review might come forward?;
· praised and thanked the Finance team;
· as few savings were currently being made in the current ‘Covid-19’ budget, would there be a more harsh impact in future ‘normal’ years?;
· pleased that staff were being recognised with a pay rise;
· suggested SBC would have to look at other options and how they delivered services; and
· welcomed news that Coalition Priorities would be maintained as residents needed good news.
The Leader said that the Local Government review had been delayed for the previous 2 years and it would be difficult for Government to make radical changes whilst assessing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Chief Financial Officer added that the Treasury were pressing for a review, any Council that was allocated less funding would have to be safety netted and it was too difficult to consider during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Leader said that the General Fund might not be able to be used in future years, there had been ... view the full minutes text for item 408.
There was an adjournment from 8.21pm to 8.26pm and 9.44pm to 9.49pm.
Word of thanks
The Chairman gave thanks to the Policy and Performance Officer who would shortly be leaving SBC. He thanked him for his help in administering the Scrutiny Committee and their working groups over the years. Other Members added their praise and thanks.
The Policy and Performance Officer thanked Members for their kind words.
Extension of Standing Orders
At 10pm and 10.30pm, Members agreed to the suspension of Standing Orders in order that the committee could continue its business.