To consider the recommendations from the meeting of the Cabinet held on 18th January 2023 (to follow).
The Chairman advised that four recommendations had been made at the meeting of the Cabinet held on 18th January 2023, which had been highlighted for Council’s consideration.
CCTV Digitalisation Upgrade
The Leader presented the recommendation in respect of the CCTV Digitalisation Upgrade and in doing so, explained that this recommendation had been made by the Overview and Scrutiny Board at the meeting held on 21st November 2022; as a result of receiving a report from Officers. Members were advised that it was recommended that £48,600 be included in the Capital Programme and £6,030 per annum in the revenue budget as part of the review of the Medium Term Financial Plan for the upgrade of CCTV cameras at Brook Road (Rubery), Wythall and Alvechurch.
The recommendation was proposed by Councillor K. May and seconded by Councillor G. N Denaro.
RESOLVED that £48,600 be included in the Capital Programme and £6,030 per annum in the revenue budget as part of the review of the Medium Term Financial Plan for the upgrade of CCTV cameras at Brook Road (Rubery), Wythall and Alvechurch.
Council Tax Support Scheme
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance presented the report on the Council Tax Support Scheme. Members were advised that in October 2022, the Council had agreed to go out to consultation on an updated Council Tax Reduction Scheme. It was explained that the Council had received advice from its consultants that no Councils were reducing their Council Tax Reduction Schemes, and that many were increasing them to a scheme similar to the one Bromsgrove Council had introduced in 2021.
Council was advised that, having taken into account the Cost of Living crisis, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Wyre Forest were all increasing the support available to eligible residents in their schemes. However the three remaining Worcestershire Councils were not making any changes to their schemes.
It was reported that in the updated scheme, the Council was increasing its discount bands by 5% each and that certain childcare charges and critical payments would be disregarded in order for the scheme to be open to more residents.
Members were advised that the consultation period for the new Council Tax Support Scheme had now closed and that 87 responses had been received. This, it was noted, was an increase from the 55 responses received during the previous consultation. Of the 87 responses received, Members were informed that 65% agreed with the widening of the bands, 82% agreed with the disregard to childcare payments and 80% agreed to disregarding critical payments.
The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance reported that Worcestershire County Council (WCC), as the major preceptor, had provided a view on the proposals. This was as follows:
“Whilst we would support in principle the ambition for many of the changes to your Council Tax Reduction Schemes, the net council tax income would reduce and that would mean the impact, however small, would ultimately be felt on the overall resources available across other district areas outside of Bromsgrove District Council and Redditch Borough Council. We would not encourage any cross subsidy and would ask that its impact is minimised or avoided if possible”
Members were advised that the Council had accepted this point from WCC. However it was highlighted that non-payment of Council Tax was likely to increase due to the present cost of living crisis. This would result in higher levels of default, in turn impacting on the precepting authorities with lower levels of income and the requirement to rectify in the following financial year through the collection fund. It was noted that although there were currently no definitive figures available, the proposed change would mitigate a degree of this risk and enable more of the families on low incomes in the District to pay reduced amounts, which would be a benefit to the precepting authorities.
Council was advised that the overall additional cost involved in the proposal was estimated to be £131k, with Bromsgrove District Council’s proportion totalling £17k (13%).
Following the presentation of the report Members commented that this was a positive step forward in relation to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and that the Finance and Budget Scrutiny Working Group had looked at this in detail prior to its consideration at this meeting.
The recommendations were proposed by Councillor G. N Denaro and seconded by Councillor K. May.
RESOLVED that Council approve the introduction of a revised and more supportive Council Tax Reduction scheme for working age applicants with effect from 1st April 2023 in line with the following:
The scheme be designed to assist the lowest income households and to allow the Council to operate the scheme more flexibly by:
(a) Increasing the maximum level of support for working age applicants in certain income bands and to increase the income levels within the 'income -grid' scheme. Both of these changes are designed to provide more support to low income households;
(b) Disregarding certain child care charges where an applicant (and their partner if they have one) areworking more than 16 hours per week;
(c) To disregard certain payments paid to taxpayers under special schemes (Local Welfare Provision); and
(d) Where the Government makes emergency increases to national welfare benefits to assist in a crisis, the scheme would give the Council the discretion to disregard those increases if they had a negative effect of Council Tax Reduction.
Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board – Budget 2023/24 Recommendations
The Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services presented the report in respect of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) Board – Budget 2023/24 Recommendations. In doing so, Council was informed that there had been a WRS Board meeting on 17th November 2022, at which Board Members agreed to uplifts to the 2022/23 and future budgets due to the increases to the national pay award and cost of living crisis.
Members were advised that the overall increase in 2022/23 of £18,861 was due to the pay award and also additional hosting charges. The increase in salaries, took into account the 2022/23 pay award and a 2% increase for future years, increases in rent and hosting charges as well as pension back funding. It was reported that there were no inflationary increases in supplies nor in services and transport.
Council was informed that WRS would increase charges by 5% across the County in 2023/24 and that Bromsgrove District Council accounted for 14.52% (£510k) of the overall £3,507k base budget.
Following the presentation of the report, Members queried the amount paid by the Council for hosting charges and if there might be an opportunity to reduce the rent due to Officers working from home. It was reported that there was a contractual agreement in place, however Officers undertook to find out the exact amount currently paid for rent and to provide this information to Members.
The recommendations were proposed by Councillor P.L. Thomas and seconded by G. N Denaro.
1) WRS contributions be increased by £18,861 in 2022/23 due to the national pay award of £1,925 per pay point and increases in hosting costs due to the “cost of living” crisis; and
2) WRS Budget contributions be increased to £510,000 in 2023/24 to take account of pay awards and the impact of the “cost of living” crisis.