Agenda and minutes
Venue: Remote meeting held via Skype
The Senior Democratic Services Officer welcomed everyone to the meeting and advised that Councillor Alastair Gould had replaced Councillor Tim Valentine and Councillor Paul Stephen had replaced Councillor Bill Tatton on the committee.
Election of Chairman
Members agreed to nominate Councillor Lee McCall to be elected as Chairman for the Municipal Year 2021/22, to be confirmed at the next in person meeting.
Election of Vice-Chairman
Members agreed to nominate Councillor Tim Gibson to be elected as Vice-Chairman for the Municipal Year 2021/22, to be confirmed at the next in-person meeting.
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 Interests (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 Head of Policy, Communications & Customer Services gave a brief overview of the role and purpose of the Cabinet Advisory Committees (CACs). He referred to the member briefing session on the committee system delivered in June 2021 and said that the advisory committees could be seen as a precursor to the committee system, but could also be seen as more specialised versions of the old Policy, Development and Review Committee (PDRC). In response to a question from a member, the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance clarified that it was the intention that the CAC’s would lead to a full committee system but this could not be pre-empted.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance introduced the report which gave a brief on the 2022/23 budget process and outlined options for balancing the budget moving forward. He drew particular attention to the staff costs in paragraph 9 and reminded members that one-off monies to fund administration priorities could not be used to balance the base budget.
The Leader highlighted paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 in the report which set out the estimated future budget and he drew attention to paragraphs 15 to 19 and asked members to consider the options to balance the budget. The Leader explained that whilst Swale set the third lowest Council Tax in Kent, it was the second most deprived area. He said the Council might be expected to call upon its reserves but once this was spent it was gone.
Members asked questions which the Leader responded to.
During the discussion, a member asked whether income could be generated longer term through the Swale Rainbow Homes scheme. The Cabinet Member for Housing said it was too early to say as final costs were not known but other projects to generate income could be considered.
The Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance said that a report would be coming forward to the next meeting on one off funds and he hoped constructive ways to reducing spending would be discussed.
To follow report added 9 July 2021.
The Cabinet Member for Housing gave a comprehensive update and review of the progress of the Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping strategy that was adopted in 2019. He highlighted the progress that had been made during that time. The Head of Housing, Economy and Communities added that it had been developed as a four-year strategy but was now outdated. She said that they would be looking at a ‘Moving On’ strategy.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and the Head of Housing, Economy and Community Services responded to Members’ questions.
In the discussion that followed, the Cabinet Member for Housing explained that areas of high deprivation such as Swale often had residents with complex issues and the numbers requiring temporary accommodation was higher than some neighbouring authorities. The Head of Housing, Economy and Community Services said that whilst there was landlord liaison with Swale Borough Council (SBC), many were not keen to take on residents with complex needs, and affordability was an issue. Some properties were also not appropriate to be rented.
The Head of Housing, Economy and Community Services said that relationships with landlords were vital and the landlord forums were being reviewed, but were paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She said there would be a re-focusing on what SBC needed from landlords and on the Moving On strategy.
At the suggestion of using part of Swale House for homeless accommodation, the Cabinet Member for Housing said that all options could be looked into, but housing must be adequate, of a satisfactory standard and must benefit the health and welfare of an individual.
During a discussion on energy saving schemes, the Head of Housing, Economy and Property highlighted the challenges but agreed to look at this in more detail.
In response to a question from a member, the Cabinet Member for Housing stressed that the Swale Rainbow Homes project would develop 139 affordable homes with an option that the tenure of the homes could be changed in future years if appropriate, and 10% would be affordable in perpetuity.