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Apologies for absence were received from Councillor C. A. Hotham.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
There were no declarations of interest.
(a) To receive and note the minutes of the meeting held on 10th July 2023. Please note that these minutes will be published in a supplelmetary papers pack.
(b) To consider any recommendations contained within the minutes.
It was noted that there were no Recommendations in the minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 10th July 2023.
RESOLVED that the minutes from the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 10th July 2023, be noted.
At the invitation of the Leader, Councillor P. M. McDonald, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board, addressed the Cabinet with regard to the Governance Systems Task Group Report and the Recommendation from the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on Monday 11th September 2023; as detailed on Supplementary Documentation 3 agenda pack.
Councillor McDonald informed the Cabinet that the Governance Systems Task Group had kept to their allotted timescale and had delivered their report.
The Task Group had received presentations from Councillor Craig Browne, Deputy Leader, Cheshire East Council, who’s authority had changed over to the Committee System from the Leader Cabinet; and Mr. Ian Parry, Centre for Governance and Scrutiny (CfGS).
Councillor McDonald stated that following on from a Comparative Analysis being carried out between the Committee System and a Hybrid System based on the present governance system in operation at the Council; the Task Group had concluded that we were very lucky to have achieved the current Hybrid System. The best bespoke system which enabled everyone, including opposition Members to be involved.
It was estimated that the cost to the Council, including the design principles, to move to a Committee System would be circa £200k, and it was felt that it would be ridiculous to spend this amount of money. Hence the Recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 11th September 2023.
The Leader took the opportunity to express her thanks to Councillor McDonald and Task Group Members for their thorough investigation and the time they had invested over the summer months.
In response to questions from Cabinet Members, Councillor McDonald explained that with regard to the Cabinet Advisory Panels being introduced, this would provide all Members, including Back Benchers, with an opportunity to get involved and to put recommendations forward to the Cabinet and Portfolio Holders.
The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services explained that any Sub-Committee could be created in an advisory capacity and would be able to look at the Forward Plan and any other items. Including items that existed on the Cabinet Working Group Work Programme or items they considered should be included on the Cabinet Working Group Work Programme. An advisory panel would help shape the Cabinet Working Group Work Programme and would be able to put forward any recommendations to the Cabinet.
Councillor S. J. Baxter suggested that a review of Cabinet Advisory Panels should be included in the Recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 11th September 2023.
In response Councillor McDonald stated that the Task Group had considered this and had suggested that it would be reviewed by the Overview and Scrutiny Board after a six month period.
Councillor McDonald responded to further questions and clarified that Cabinet Advisory Panels would not be talking strategically. It would be up to Portfolio Holders to look at topics and then circulate those topics to all Council Members, who could then decide if they were specifically interested in a particular ... view the full minutes text for item 27/23
Housing Company - Shareholders Committee - Reserved Matters
The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services presented that Setting up a Shareholders Committee report for Members consideration.
Cabinet was informed that in July 2023 the Council had approved the setting up of a Housing Company to manage the Burcot development.
There was a requirement for Member oversight of the Company and paragraph 3.2 and 3.3, on page 30 of the main agenda pack provided details.
In response to a question as to why the Shareholders Committee would be a Cabinet and not Council function, the Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services clarified that; it was exercising an executive function and that Local Government Association (LGA) rules were that it should be a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet, but you could have cross party Members. The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling would sit on the Committee and Cabinet would monitor performance.
Members asked if Councillor C. A. Hotham had been made fully aware. The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services could not confirm this but did think that Councillor Hotham was consulted with.
It was agreed that subject to Councillor Hotham being fully informed that it be
1) a committee of the Cabinet, to be known as the Cabinet Shareholder Committee, which would provide oversight over the Housing Company set up in July 2023 (and other Companies that the Council might set up in due course), be established;
2) the Shareholder Committee meet on a biannual basis or as otherwise necessary;
3) the Shareholder Committee be responsible for the recommendation to the Cabinet of reserved matters; and
4) authority be delegated to the Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services to make necessary amendments to the Council’s constitution for the Cabinet Shareholder Committee, including the introduction of terms of reference for the Cabinet Shareholder Committee.
Equalities Annual Report
The Business Improvement Manager (undertaking an extended management remit to cover Policy & Performance) presented the Equality Strategy Annual Report 2022 for Members consideration.
Members were informed that the Annual Report informed the progress on the Council’s equality objectives covering the period January 2022 to
December 2022. Building on the last report and work carried out since
2021, this progress report provided a detailed insight into our ongoing
commitment to equality.
The Council adopted its new Equality Strategy 2022 to 2026, and this provided a detailed insight into our ongoing commitment to equality.
As we continued to recover from COVID-19, the Cost of Living crisis struck and this impacted greatly the work being undertaken by the Council and its partners, generating new activity to help support disadvantaged groups and to promote equality during this challenging period.
It should be noted that the examples included in this report were not a
complete list of everything the Council had done or would do to achieve in terms of equality objectives.
Members’ attention was drawn to ‘Community Engagement’ and
‘Community Safety’ as detailed in the report.
Members expressed their thanks for the report, which had stimulated a
lot of questions; as follows:-
· The demographics of the Bromsgrove Community Panel. The Leader explained that the next Community Panel was in October 2023, whereby it was our opportunity to engage and ensure that residents were aware of the Community Panel and were used to prioritise our priorities. It needed to be promoted so as there were more than 393 members, with just over 99,200 population; it might not be representative. The Business Improvement Manager further added that earlier this year the annual community survey was to go big, in an effort to increase the Community Panel. It may be a wide representation of Bromsgrove, but only those who opted to respond, and it was optional as to whether they divulged their area in the District.
· The Bromsgrove Partnership Board – could all Members have copies of the minutes, as the minutes were distributed to all Parish Councillors. The Business Improvement Manager agreed to action this.
· The Social Prescribing Service – with a population of 99,200 we needed to get the bigger picture. The Leader highlighted that she chairs the district collaborative and was looking at how this could be included. Members agreed that Hagley, Wythall and Alvechurch needed to be brought back into Bromsgrove’s Social Prescribing Service. The Leader explained that the social prescribing service was commissioned by Bromsgrove Primary Care Network, hence some slight anomalies. The Leader and Deputy Leader agreed to continue to raise these anomalies at the next meeting of the Primary Care Network.
· Employee Support – Staff Q & A sessions were referred to and the possibility of Cabinet Members and Group Leaders being invited to attend. It was agreed that the Chief Executive (Interim) would liaise with the Communications Team with regard to Cabinet Members and Group Leaders being invited to attend a future Staff Q & A session, (where ... view the full minutes text for item 29/23
Grass Verge Maintenance
The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services presented a report on Grass Verge Maintenance for Members consideration.
The report highlighted the Motion proposed at Full Council on 20th July 2022 to manage verges differently during 2022, the Motion was detailed as follows: -
“This Council changes its grass verge grass cutting and mowing regime to allow wildflowers to remain in bloom during the height of the season when bees, butterflies and general small wildlife rely on the pollen from wildflowers to flourish. This will not be a one size fits all approach. Council will work with local residents and Councillors to find an approach that worked for each community.”
The problem during the grass cutting season was being totally dependent on the weather. Regular mowing on the perimeters ensured that growth did not infringe on highway safety or inhibit drivers and pedestrian’s line of sight.
A number of grass verges across the District were identified in 2020 and
2021 that could be left uncut to support wildlife and pollinators without
causing concern for highway safety.
This had mixed responses from the pubic, with a strong public perception that grass should be maintained for aesthetics in residential areas, and this resulted in a number of these sites reverting to aesthetic maintenance rather than to support local habitat and plant life during 2021 and 2022.
Following discussions between the Portfolio Holder and the Environmental Services Manager, an addendum to the report was agreed. The addendum detailed the potential to reduce the Capital funding requirement in the 2023/24 financial year. This was by deferring a final decision on the purchase of a second flail mower until the end of the 2024/25 grass cutting season.
The Environmental Services Manager further explained that wildflower verges and natural verges were different. There was a lot of benefit to the habitat for wildlife. An interim measure to support what we already had was decided after an Ecologist was engaged to inform any future decisions to manage our biodiversity and to engage with our residents and Parish Council’s with regards to future grass cutting maintenance. A further decision was then taken, as explained by the Portfolio Holder not to purchase a second flail mower.
Members were fully supportive of the addendum and commented that the challenge we had was in getting the message to residents who thought we were not maintaining grass verges in order to save money. The Council needed to get the right message out to Members and residents.
The Leader stated that she fully agreed, we were trying to meet the
Council’s environmental responsibilities.
Councillor S. R. Colella commented that he very much supported this and the Council’s responsibilities to the environment. This was one step to the
bigger picture, having adopted a Carbon Reduction Strategy. With the new
Environmental Bill UK, the Council would be required to carry out more initiatives. The Council needed the support of Members of the Council and
residents and to tighten the Council Plan. Councillor Colella took the
opportunity ... view the full minutes text for item 30/23
Draft Outturn Report 2022/23
The Interim Deputy S151 officer presented the Provisional Financial Outturn Report 2022/23.
Members’ attention was drawn to the Financial Implications as detailed on page 34 of the report, as follows: -
The report sets out the Council’s provisional revenue and capital outturn positions for 2022/23 against budget.
The £12.068m full year revenue budget was the budget that was approved by Council in March 2022.
At Quarter 1 of 2022/23, it was noted that the budget included £478k of organisational cross-cutting efficiency targets which had not been allocated to services. This target was offset in the main by forecast underspends across other service areas predominantly due to vacancies. The 2022/23 budget had therefore, been revised to reflect the allocation of £424k operational efficiency target to those areas.
Whilst the Council had been on a finance recovery programme since April 2022, following the implementation of a new financial system in February 2021 which led to a deterioration of the Council’s financial position, it was important to note that at the time of writing the Council was yet to formally close its accounts for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 financial years. This could therefore result in adjustments to the actual expenditure and income in those years and could have a consequential impact on the 2022/23 accounts.
The Finance team had undertaken a detailed review of the 2022/23 accounts since year end. There were a number of assumptions and manual adjustments that had been made to arrive at the provisional revenue outturn position, mainly as a result of transactions still being cleared from suspense. Those assumptions and manual adjustments included:
· Anticipated accruals and prepayments,
· Grants are applied to known expenditure and remaining balances are carried forward,
· Reserves are applied to known expenditure,
· Shared service recharges between Bromsgrove District and Redditch Borough councils where a shared service arrangement exists, and
· Transfers between the Collection Fund and the General Fund.
Work continued to refine the position including addressing the backlog of
entries that were in suspense and any miscoding. Therefore, the provisional position detailed in this report was subject to change, and a further update would be presented to Members in due course. Taking this into account, the provisional revenue outturn position was anticipated to be a £956k overspend; a £54k increase over the forecast Q3 £902k overspend position. These figures were after the “absorption” of the £424k of non-allocated savings and efficiency targets.
The variances for each service area against the 2022/23 revenue budget were as set out on pages 36 to 37 of the main agenda report.
Members’ attention was further drawn to the Earmarked Reserves and
General Fund Position.
Appendix B – to the report detailed the Reserves Position.
Members were informed that the Council had no long term borrowing.
Questions followed from Members on the following: -
· Efficiency savings being predominantly linked to vacancies, as shown on page 37 of the main agenda pack, was this an efficiency saving? It was explained that this was lined to efficiency targets by taking out staff ... view the full minutes text for item 31/23
To consider any urgent business, details of which have been notified to the Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services prior to the commencement of the meeting and which the Chairman, by reason of special circumstances, considers to be of so urgent a nature that it cannot wait until the next meeting
There was no urgent business on this occasion.
The minutes from the Cabinet meeting that took place on 12th July 2023 were submitted for Members’ consideration.
RESOLVED that the minutes from the Cabinet meeting held on 12th July 2023 be approved as a true and accurate record.
Following on from the outcome of the discussions held during Minute Number 31/23 (Agenda Item No. 8, Provisional Financial Outturn Report 2022/23; Members agreed to defer the Quarter 1 2023/24 Financial and Performance Report, to the next meeting of the Cabinet.
Therefore, this item was not presented or discussed.
RESOLVED that the Quarter 1 2023/24 Financial and Performance Report, be deferred and brought back to the Cabinet meeting on 18th October 2023.