Agenda for Cabinet on Wednesday 9th September 2020, 6.00 p.m.

Agenda and minutes

Cabinet - Wednesday 9th September 2020 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Skype - Virtual. View directions

Contact: Amanda Scarce 

Media

Items
No. Item

23/2020

To receive apologies for absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

 

 

24/2020

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.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest on this occasion.

 

 

25/2020

To confirm the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 6th August 2020 pdf icon PDF 250 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of Cabinet held on 6th August 2020 were submitted.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of Cabinet held on 6th August 2020 be approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

 

26/2020

Minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on 6th August 2020 pdf icon PDF 981 KB

(a)       To receive and note the minutes

(b)       To consider any recommendations contained within the minutes

Minutes:

Officers confirmed that the recommendation within the Overview and Scrutiny Board minutes form the meeting held on 6th August, had been discussed at the Cabinet meeting on the same day.  It did not therefore need consideration at this meeting.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board held on 6th August 2020 be noted.

 

 

27/2020

Draft Council Tax Support Scheme pdf icon PDF 296 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Director, Finance and Resources introduced the report and advised that the Council needed to produce this each year and had done so for a number of years.  This year’s scheme contained a number of fundamental changes from the previous scheme which had provided a blanket 85% support.

 

The Revenue Services Manager provided further detail in respect of the changes, together with the rationale behind them.  The report asked for authority to go out to consultation for the scheme and this was in two stages, the first with the major precepting authorities, and then the people with interest in the operation of the scheme, the residents of Bromsgrove.  The key questions that would be included within the consultation were included within the appendices of the report.  The key areas to note were:

 

·       The administration of the scheme - currently it was based on Council Tax Benefit and was reactive to customer changes, such as an increase in income.  It was heavy in administration and was difficult to recover the Council Tax as it became due.

·       The new scheme was based on Council Tax discount and was designed to give clear percentages of discount linked to household income which made the scheme less responsive to change and gave customers a clear idea of how much support they would receive and the impact of any changes. 

·       It prevented the Council from continually having to assess claims and was more static and allowed the Council to be able to better budget for it.  It also allowed the Council to be more responsible in the recovery of unpaid Council Tax.

·       It would also be aligned with Universal Credit which would provide the appropriate information and would allow the Council to assess and determine any Council Tax support needed at an earlier stage.  This would also help to increase take-up of Council Tax support, which had decreased.

·       The current scheme was capped at 85%, the proposed new scheme would provide the poorest household with 100% discount.

·       The housing element of Universal Credit would also be discounted, which was important for those low income households in rented accommodation.

 

There was a financial impact to the changes to the scheme, which would increase the cost of Council Tax support by approximately £350k which was shared between the major preceptors, approximately 12.5% by the Council and 71% by Worcestershire County Council.  It was noted that whilst there was an increase in Council Tax support at present the Council Tax demanded from recipients was not always paid and there was currently around £400k outstanding; that non-collection brought an increased cost in bad debt collection and was ultimately written off.  It was anticipated that the increase in support would improve the collection rates and balance out by reducing that bad debt that would be written off.  It should be noted that following consultation there may be some adjustment to the final scheme.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources commented that at the Finance and Budget Working Group it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27/2020

28/2020

Budget Framework - Presentation pdf icon PDF 414 KB

Minutes:

The Executive Director, Finance and Resources took Members through a presentation in respect of the Budget Framework (included in the supplementary agenda).  In so doing she highlighted the following:

 

·       A general update in respect of the outturn position.

·       A £231k underspend and its allocation across all areas of the Council in line with the strategic purposes.

·       £1m in reserves for Economic Regeneration particularly in respect of Covid-19.  Schemes to be funded from this were currently being worked on and it was hoped would come forward shortly.

·       Just under £400k had been allocated to balances to bring these up to around 34.4m.

·       There had been significant underspends and a more detailed summary position on these had been discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Board’s Finance and Budget Working Group the previous evening, which could be circulated to Cabinet Members.

·       Balances position and detail around this – the minimal level of balances had been agreed by Members at around £1.1m.  Whilst the Council was above that, in light of Covid-19 and the uncertainty its impact on Council services it was felt prudent to keep the levels at the maximum it could.

·       Reserves – an amount had been set aside for Economic Development and £300k had been not been used and was used to balance the budget.  There was also a significant Business Rates reserve, again it was important to mitigate against any loss of Business Rates following the impact of Covid-19.  The Government may also re-set the Business Rates and it may also change if there are any amendments to the appeals system for this.  There were also reserves for Services Reviews and IT Systems.

·       Covid-19 Financial Impact – the Return to Central Government had been set for July and this showed the grants which had been paid out on behalf of Central Government.  There was a drop in Business Rates and it was projected that there would be a loss of £2m., which would be shared with Central Government and Worcestershire County Council.  There was also likely to be an impact on Council Tax, Leisure Provision and Car Parking, some of which could be claimed back from Central Government.  Currently £1.2m of Grant Funding had been received and a further claim would be completed at the end of September.

·       Medium Term Budget Gap for 2021/22 moving forward for the next three years fr0m £495k to £797k which was largely due to the loss of New Homes Bonus.  The concern was the potential impact of Covid-19 going forward and areas that the Council could see a reduction in funding for – Members were reminded that previously the Council was looking at paying Central Government £750k a year, which had been taken out of the budget, but there was always the possibility that this would come back in again.

·       Review of the Medium Term Financial Plan – assessing impact of Covid-19, Fees and Charges would come forward in December.  Five service areas which have been subject to significant savings or overspends would be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28/2020

29/2020

Revenue Monitoring Quarter 1 Report pdf icon PDF 355 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Director, Finance and Resources introduced the report which set out the Revenue Monitoring for the first quarter using the new Strategic Purposes, which had been agreed by Council.  Unfortunately, these showed a significant overspend, the Team had not allocated the Covid-19 grant as she had wanted Members to see a “clean” position that the Council is facing.  This did not include Council Tax or Business Rates, which would not normally be included, but what was included was the losses from car parking.  The position was not in fact as bad as it looked but it was important for Members to see the wider picture in respect of Covid-19.  There were a number of explanations around some of the underspends and projects which had not been undertaken.  She explained the position in respect of the Leisure Centre and the how this had to be shown for accounting purposes.  The Government grant of £1.2m was much needed, together with the compensation fund.  The position would be much clearer when Quarter 2 was produced as this would reflect the whole position.

 

The Executive Director, Finance and Resources advised Members that Human Resources had requested a shared allocation of the training budget, which would mean a reduction in it for Bromsgrove.  This could be allocated back to the Councils savings target, which was important in the current circumstances.  In respect of Capital, a budget of £4.371m and underspend of £200k against Living Independently and this was mainly on Disabled Facilities Grants.  This was largely due to being unable to access Occupational Therapists into people’s homes from April through to June 2020.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources commented that, as had previously been discussed, the availability of Occupational Therapists and whether there was anything the Council could do to bypass this by employing them itself, as this had been an ongoing problem prior to Covid-19.  The Executive Director, Finance and Resources confirmed that she would speak to the Head of Community Services in order to explore this option further.

 

In respect of car parking, the overspend of £240k was discussed and the proportion of this that would be refunded by Central Government.  It was confirmed that this would not cover the period that the shops re-opened, but the Council chose to continue to allow free parking until the payment app was in place.

 

RESOLVED that the current financial position in relation to revenue and capital budgets for the financial period April 2020 – June 2020 as detailed in the report be noted.

 

RECOMMENDED:

 

a)    that a change in the 2020/21 Capital Programme of the S106 scheme already approved for Barnt Green Millennium Park – Toilet £62k be reallocated to a new scheme at Bittell Road Recreation Ground in relation to infrastructure/fitness route improvements due the requirements of the original project no longer needed. (See 6.1 of the report) be approved;

 

b)    that the training budget held within the Human Resources service, is allocated to a shared service budget meaning that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29/2020

30/2020

New Homes Bonus Community Grants Scheme pdf icon PDF 120 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Director, Finance and Resources introduced the report and reminded Members of the New Homes Bonus Scheme that was in place.  For 2020/21 there had been £144k funds to be allocated, as detailed in the appendix this had been allocated in full.  There had been virtual meetings of the Panel with applicants attending.  Where there was a reduction in the funding it was felt that either funding should be attracted from other sources or where it was felt two or three schemes were important and warranted the full amount and therefore other schemes had their contribution reduced.  It was further confirmed that, as detailed within the scheme, for those that were allocated funding and they were unable to meet the requirements and conditions placed on them then the offer would be withdrawn.

 

The Leader thanked officers and Panel Members for all their hard work and commented that it was a good which had been well utilised.

 

RESOLVED:

 

a)    that the grants, as detailed in the Summary of NHB Grants Panel Recommendations attached at appendix 1 be approved; and

 

b)    that should the scheme continue into 2021/22 a full review of the process be carried out prior to the commencement of the grants allocation for that year.