Agenda and minutes

Resources Select Committee
Tuesday, 16th October, 2018 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping. View directions

Contact: Adrian Hendry, Democratic Services  email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

16.

Substitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Minutes:

It was noted that there were no substitute members for this meeting.

17.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 154 KB

Minutes

 

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 9th July 2018.

 

 

Matters Arising

 

To consider any maters arising from the minutes of the last meeting.

Minutes:

Minutes

 

The notes of the meeting held on 9 July 2018 were agreed subject to noting that the Committee had asked for minute item 12 (Project Initiation Documents) to be deferred to a future meeting.

 

 

Matters Arising

 

The Assistant Director, Resources noted that:

·         under item 5, provisional capital outturn 2017/18, the action point on the disabled adaptions, that this would now go through as part of the budget process;

·         under item 6 provisional revenue outturn 2017-18 – Councillor Bedford had not yet received a reply for his question on recycling income, this would be chased up;

·         under item 7, corporate plan key action plan 2017-18 qtr.4 outturn - Councillor Dorrell had asked for a definition of the phrase ‘under control’ – this was now taken to mean that the project would be completed within the next 6 months; and

·         under item 8, KPI 2017-18 qtr.4 outturn – under RES005 – it was reported that EFDC had been due to fully utilise Universal Credit by the end of this year, but with the recent government announcement, this had been put back again.

18.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

To declare interests in any items on the agenda.

 

In considering whether to declare a pecuniary or a non-pecuniary interest under the Code of Conduct, Overview & Scrutiny members are asked pay particular attention to paragraph 9 of the Code in addition to the more familiar requirements.

 

This requires the declaration of a non-pecuniary interest in any matter before an OS Committee which relates to a decision of or action by another Committee or Sub Committee of the Council, a Joint Committee or Joint Sub Committee in which the Council is involved and of which the Councillor is also a member.

 

Paragraph 9 does not refer to Cabinet decisions or attendance at an OS meeting purely for the purpose of answering questions or providing information on such a matter.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made pursuant to the Members Code of Conduct.

19.

Terms of Reference and Work Programme pdf icon PDF 52 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the Terms of Reference of the Committee. This is attached along with an ongoing work programme. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted their Terms of Reference. The Chairman reminded members that part of their Terms of Reference was to scrutinise value for money.

 

The Assistant Director, Resources, Mr Maddock reported that a report on the People’s Strategy would be going to the December 2018 meeting and would be added to the work programme.

 

The Chairman added that a report on the Council’s use of agency staff would also be coming to a future meeting and this would also be added to the work programme.

20.

Quarterly Financial Monitoring - Quarter 1 pdf icon PDF 117 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director, Resources, Mr Maddock introduced the quarter 1 financial monitoring report. The report provided a comparison between the original estimate for the period ended 30 June 2018 and the actual expenditure or income as applicable. 

 

He noted that:

·         overall there was a salary underspend of 2.8%, with the Neighbourhood Directorate having the largest part of this;

·         the investment interest was slightly above the target due mainly to the Council holding more cash than was expected;

·         Development Control income at Month 3 was well above expectations. Fees and charges were £274,000 higher than the budget to date and pre-application charges were £5,000 lower than expected;

·         Building Control income was £22,000 lower than the budgeted figure at the end of the first quarter due to some administrative issues. By the end of month 4 these had been resolved and income was only £5,000 below budget;

·         Public Hire licence income was above expectation and other licensing was below expectations. A significant number of renewals were due in the autumn which should bring licensing income back into line with the budget;

·         Local Land Charge income was now £8,000 below expectations however it was a little early in the year to be sure whether this trend would continue;

·         expenditure and income relating to Bed and Breakfast placements had reduced in recent months. Invoicing had been a little slow from bed and breakfast accommodation providers but also Housing Benefit caseload had been reasonably static;

·         no recycling credit income had been received in the first quarter and Essex County Council would have to be chased up for this; and

·         the Housing Repairs Fund showed an underspend of £38,000; this related mainly to planned maintenance works.

 

He reported that this was the seventh year of operation of the Business Rate Retention Scheme where a proportion of the rates collected were retained by the Council. There were proposals that 75% of Business Rates were to be retained within Local Government, to possibly take effect for the financial year 2010/21. The Council had volunteered to take part in a pilot programme for the 75% retention rate in 2019/20 and would find out early next year if it had been successful.

 

The salaries budget was on track having spent around £6million for the first quarter of the year. The table in the report shows the breakdown under the old structure. This is currently being revised into the new council structure.

 

Councillor Lion asked why the Communities Directorate were over spent by 0.3% he was told that they were overspent on the HRA but underspent on the General Fund by £7k.

 

Councillor Bedford asked about slow invoicing from Bed and Breakfast placements. He was told that although they were currently slow in invoicing the Council they would have caught up by the end of the year.

 

Councillor Patel was concerned that Building Control fees were significantly lower in the first quarter this year than in previous years. He asked if this had picked up in the meantime. He was told  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Financial Issues Paper 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 216 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

This report originally went to the Finance and Performance Management Cabinet Committee in July 2018.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director, Resources introduced the Financial Issues Paper 2019/20 that had originally gone to the Finance and Performance Management Cabinet Committee in July of this year.

 

This report provided a framework for the Budget 2019/20 and updated Members on a number of financial issues that would affect this Authority in the short to medium term.

 

In broad terms the following represented the greatest areas of current financial uncertainty and risk to the Authority:

 

·         Central Government Funding

·         Business Rates Retention

·         Welfare Reform

·         New Homes Bonus

·         Development Opportunities

·         Transformation

·         Waste and Leisure Contracts

·         Miscellaneous, including recession and pay awards

 

Since the last report was issued last year we have had a general election and the country was involved in preparations for the uncertainty of Brexit when we will officially leave on midnight on 29th March 2019. It would be a while yet before the Council could fully evaluate the effects of the Brexit but what we could see at the moment is that for district councils it has increased political uncertainty and reduced funding prospects.

 

Low interest rates continued and had been with us for nearly a decade, falling to an historic low of 0.25% in 2009.  There was no evidence to suggest that things would change dramatically in the future.

 

Since 2016 the budget had been moved from the Spring to the Autumn so there was a little more uncertainty at this point in the year than previously but it is hoped that more clarity on the two big issues of the Fair Funding Review and Business Rates Retention would be provided in this year’s budget.

 

Councillor Bedford asked if any work had been done on the assumption that there would be no Brexit plan and how it would affect this council. Mr Maddock said that there was a project on this in the planning stage. There have also been officer discussions at the risk management group and this had been put on the ‘risk watch list’. However, it was difficult to assess what the effects would be.

 

The meeting then considered the updated medium term financial strategy. They noted that for some time Members had aligned the balances to the Council’s ‘Net Budget Requirement’ (NBR), allowing balances to fall to no lower than 25% of NBR. The predicted balance at 1 April 2019 of £6,389,000 represented just short of 50% of the anticipated NBR for next year (£12,902,000) and was therefore somewhat higher than the Council’s current policy of 25%. However, predicted changes and trends mean that by 1 April 2022 the revenue balance would have reduced to £4,755,000. This still represented over 36% of the NBR for 2020/21 (£12,933,000).

 

Councillor Owen asked what would happen if it went below 25%. Mr Maddock said that this was just for guidance, we have never been anywhere near 25% but were now getting closer.

 

It was observed that for the first time last year officers had to top up the DDF from the General Fund balance. This would be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Technology Strategy Update pdf icon PDF 106 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director ICT, Mr Newton, introduced the updating report on the Technology Strategy. He reported that the implementation of the new corporate project management system, PENTANA, enabled the monitoring of the entire transformation process. Accordingly, all projects from the Technology Strategy had been entered into the system, making PENTANA the central point of reference for the ICT work programme. This report was the first generated for the Resources Select Committee using this new process and was identical to the report presented regularly at Leadership Team meetings. Members were invited to comment on the format and give any feedback to be used to develop the report to improve future presentations.

 

The Committee noted that there would be a rollout of 420 new laptops of which half had so far been distributed. The Council had purchased ‘Office 365’ as their new system. They were also replacing the old VPM technology with a better system to enable better out of office working. This also enabled them to replace old technology with newer ones.

 

The ICT Operations Manager, Mr Bacon, added that this type of PENTANA report was tight and focussed showing cancelled and delayed projects.

 

Councillor Hadley said that he would like to see just how many projects had slipped and when. He also asked why the laptop build happened in house; why not let HP do it? Mr Newton said that it was cheaper and quicker to build them in house. Mr Bacon agreed that they could add slipped projects into future reports.

 

Councillor Whitehouse asked why T7.01.05 (service desk satisfaction survey) had been cancelled. She was told that this had been rolled up into a larger piece of work, but more information could be added if needed. Councillor Stalker asked if this could be had as an exception report.

 

Councillor Bedford asked about T6.02.23 (SQL Server) and why had it been given a due date of 31 March 2023 when it had been completed in 16 April 2018. This was a bit of an overestimation as it had been done in two weeks. Mr Bacon said that they had made the wrong assumption on this.

 

Councillor Lion asked if, as part of the satisfaction survey, members were going to be surveyed as they were customers too.

 

Councillor Hadley asked if ICT had a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place. Mr Bacon said that they did and part of that agreement was to tell people what was happening and about any problems as quickly as possible.

 

Councillor Patel asked if they put in a ‘critical path’ for the projects and put in a progress bar. Also as it was a new system how were they finding it? Mr Newton replied that they could not manage their strategy without this new tool. Mr Bacon added that as the projects were based on themes and capital budgets they could see progress at a glance. Councillor Patel asked Mr Maddock if he used the system. He said that he was considering it at present.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Fees and Charges 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 118 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director, Resources introduced the annual report on the fees and charges that the Council levies and what scope, if any, there was to increase particular charges.

 

The meeting noted that the Medium Term Financial Strategy had identified the need to find savings of £600,000, £300,000 in both 2020/21 and 2021/22, this was over and above the £2.5m (£1.7m General Fund) savings from the implementation of the people strategy which in itself was very challenging. Revenue Support Grant funding was set to be phased out in 2019/20 and although we had already had the settlement figures as part of the four year agreement this had still to be confirmed by the Government. At this stage there was no real information on funding levels from 2020/21 onwards except that it was expected that 75% of Business Rates income would be retained by the Local Authority sector. The funding split between upper and lower tier authorities had still to be confirmed and it was unclear whether any additional responsibilities would be placed on the sector as a result.

 

In reality, going forward the Council would have to fund all its General Fund services from the Council Tax, Retained Business Rates and Fees and Charges. If these resources were not sufficient the General Fund balance would need to make up the difference.

 

Under the Community and Partnership Services officers were looking to generally add on between 2.3 and 2.4% on charges.

 

Housing and Property Services were looking to add about 2.3%.

 

Development Control fee levels were controlled by Central Government and the levels of income were somewhat dependant on the economic climate and the number and size of planning applications. The Government introduced an increase in fees of 20% from January 2018 under the proviso that the additional income would be used for planning related services. An assessment would need to be made to ascertain how much income this amounted to and also it would need to be monitored going forward to ensure we comply with the requirements of the new fee regime.

 

The way Local Land Charges were recorded and dealt with was undergoing significant change. Longer term all information was to be held centrally by the Land Registry with local authorities having access to that system. There was a significant amount of work required by the Council before that could happen including data cleansing and migration to the Land Registry system. This council was expected to be part of the first phase due to be completed by December 2019. A full report on this was to be presented to Cabinet in due course and a review of fees and charges would be carried out for financial year 2020/21.

 

Cabinet have already looked at car parking services and their fee structure. The cost of collection of bulk waste was subject to an annual index linked increase in line with the Waste Management contract. The proposed fees are based on the increased cost of collection and included an admin fee.

 

Commercial and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Transformation Programme Project Dossier - Resources Directorate pdf icon PDF 238 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Mr Maddock introduced the report on the progress of projects and programmes within the Transformation Programme, known as the project dossier for the resources directorate. The Committee were asked to review the list of active High and Medium complexity projects pertinent to this committee.

 

P172Corporate ICT Team Review - it was noted that its due date was in a few days time.

 

P002Service Accommodation Review – a report on this would be going to cabinet shortly.

 

P177Recruitment and Retention Review – Councillor Lion noted that there was no updated commentary on this item as its due date was 31 August. Mr Maddock said that it was nearly complete and should be done by the end of October. He also noted that the Recruitment and Retention review had been split up.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Committee reviewed the updated project dossier for the transformation programme affecting the resources directorate.

25.

Transformation Programme - Project Closures pdf icon PDF 203 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee reviewed the project closure report from the transformation programme. This project closure report was for P043 – mail, correspondence and management managed by S Lekha. This was to undertake document scanning projects in legal services and development management to support the transformation programme.

 

Councillor Patel informed the meeting that the transformation manager Mr Nicholas had been tasked with looking at the closure reports and analysing them to learn any lessons that they brought up.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the project closure report, P043, was noted.

26.

Reports to be made to the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

To consider which reports are ready to be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its next meeting.

 

Minutes:

The Committee noted that a general update would be going to the next O&S Committee meeting.

 

27.

Future Meetings

To note the future meeting dates of this Committee. They are:

 

04th December;

12th February 2019 and

02nd April

 

Minutes:

The Committee noted their future meeting dates.