Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 9th December, 2021 7.30 pm

Venue: Remote - Virtual meeting

Contact: Democratic Services (01737 276182)  Email: Democratic@reigate-banstead.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

46.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 408 KB

To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the previous meeting.

To approve as a correct record the Exempt Minute of the previous meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the previous meeting on 21 October 2021 were approved.

The Exempt Minute of the previous meeting – Companies Performance Update, Autumn 2021 (Exempt) was approved.

47.

Apologies for absence and substitutions

To receive any apologies for absence and notification of any substitute Members in accordance with the Constitution.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Moses, Councillor Parnall and Councillor Whinney. There were no substitutions.

The meeting took place virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

48.

Declarations of interest

To receive any Declarations of Interest (including the existence and nature of any Party Whip).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no Declarations of Interest.

49.

Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Strategy 2022-2027 pdf icon PDF 199 KB

That the Committee:

1.             Notes the activities and actions to tackle homelessness set out in the Homelessness Review at Annex 1 and the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2022-2027 at Annex 2, the Action Plan at Annex 3; Equality Impact Assessment at Annex 4; and

2.             Makes any observations for consideration by the Executive.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report on the activities and actions to tackle homelessness set out in the report, Homelessness Review at Annex 1, the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2022-2027 at Annex 2 and the Action Plan at Annex 3.

Councillor Neame, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Support, gave an overview of the Homelessness Review and Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy which the Council is required to publish every five years under the Homelessness Act 2002. The current strategy expires in March 2022. The new strategy, set within a revised legislative framework, contained priority activities and actions to prevent homelessness and support those who are homeless, including the increasing numbers of applicants with multiple support needs, and setting out proposals to secure more suitable accommodation options. The approved Revenue Budget 2020/21 of £1m in the report set out each area of spending. Private bed and breakfast emergency accommodation accounted for around a third of the current year’s budget.

Councillor Neame praised the dedicated work of the housing team over the last five years for their support for homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless. She highlighted successes such as providing services under the significant changes to legal duties set out in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, delivering the Council’s own emergency temporary accommodation to allow clients to stay in the Borough close to their own and family support teams and using the in-house advice service to support residents with budget and welfare needs at the earliest opportunity to prevent homelessness.

The Strategy looked to build on these successes to make services more user friendly give a wider choice to prevent homelessness and support on longer term basis for a stable home with more chance to obtain permanent employment. Key areas in the 2022-27 Strategy are to:

·       Prevent homelessness and sustain and secure tenancies.

·       Respond to residents with priority support needs – making multiple referrals to support agencies and accommodation providers.

·       Tackle rough sleepers, many with complex needs through the supported housing scheme and tenancy support.

·       Improve access to additional housing options and the range of accommodation available including delivering new affordable homes, council-led schemes, government ‘Move-on’ funding and funding our partners to deliver housing.

Members asked questions and made comments on the following areas:

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 – Members asked about the distinction between the three duties set out in the legislation for the way local authorities manage homelessness applications: Prevention Duty, Relief Duty and Main Duty. Head of Housing, Richard Robinson, gave an overview for the Committee and explained the main differences. Prevention Duty (provides a personalised housing plan (PHP) if anyone is threatened with homelessness and ends after 56 days if the applicant becomes homeless. The period of 56 days gave the Council longer than the previous 28 days and allowed staff to see people a lot earlier and work with them to prevent homelessness. Relief Duty follows these 56 days, when the applicant is homeless. Relief Duty ends if suitable accommodation is available  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.

50.

Observations on Budget Proposals - Budget Scrutiny Panel report pdf icon PDF 210 KB

To receive a report from the Budget Scrutiny Panel from its meeting on 1 December 2021 to:

1.    Consider the provisional  budget proposals for 2022/23

2.    Make recommendations to the Executive in line with the Council’s budget and policy procedure rules.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members received the report from the O&S Budget Scrutiny Panel which met on 1 December 2021 to consider the provisional Budget proposals for 2022/23 and make recommendations to the Executive in line with the Council’s budget and policy procedure rules.

Councillor Schofield, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance, advised the Committee that the proposed Budget 2022/23 was not yet finalised as central Government was still to publish the final financial settlement which was expected later in December. Further work was ongoing to address the forecast budget gap. There were encouraging signs that parking revenue was slowly improving; leisure centre visitors were also increasing towards pre-pandemic levels. The final Service and Financial Planning 2022/23 report was due to come to Executive on 27 January for approval and recommendation to Full Council on 10 February. It was agreed that the updated proposals would be discussed at Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 20 January.

Chair of the Panel, Councillor Harrison, summarised the findings from the Panel to the Committee which was set out in the report to the Committee as an Addendum to the agenda pack, and in the Recommendations set out above. He thanked the Portfolio Holder and the Interim Head of Finance and finance team for their responses to the Advance Questions and supplementary questions raised at the Panel meeting.

Members made comments and asked questions on the following areas, discussing the proposals to make savings in the community partnerships area, such as ceasing provision of taxi vouchers and pausing Medium Grants and Small Grants.

Budget savings ­– Members noted the forecast budget gap of £700k and asked about wider service savings to bridge this gap. They discussed the proposals to pause the Medium Grants and Small Grants scheme, to withdraw the taxi vouchers scheme and reduce the Borough News publication to a single issue a year. Had other savings been considered, for example, exploring further savings on staff salary costs if posts had not been filled? It was noted that saving costs by sharing services across local authorities generated some opportunities but also presented some risks.

It was confirmed that there were 22 full-time equivalent staff (FTE) vacant posts at the time of the Panel meeting, equating to £1m salary and on-costs. Head of Paid Service, Mari Roberts-Wood, advised that the vacancy rate was a snapshot at any one time. The current vacancy rate was within the usual range with less than 5 per cent of the total workforce. She confirmed that all vacant posts were reviewed by HR and senior managers when vacancies arose and before going out to recruitment.

Taxi vouchers – Members discussed the proposed to withdraw the taxi voucher scheme to save £43k costs a year. This would affect mainly elderly residents with mobility issues who currently received up to £120 of taxi vouchers per annum. The Panel had noted that this budget was consistently underspent each year by about £20k. Members asked whether the budget had been underspent due to the pandemic lockdowns when  ...  view the full minutes text for item 50.

51.

Quarter 2 Performance Report 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 314 KB

That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee:

1.    Note Key Performance Indicator (KPI) performance for Q2 2021/22 as detailed in the report and in Annex 1 and make any observations to the Executive;

2.    Note the Budget Monitoring forecasts for Q1 2021/22 as detailed in the report and at Annex 2 and make any observations to the Executive.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received the Performance Reports for Quarter 2 2021/22 including Key Performance Indicator (KPI) performance and the Budget Monitoring forecasts Q2 2021/22 – both revenue and capital.

Quarter 2 KPI performance 2021/22

Councillor Lewanski, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Policy & Resources, gave an overview of the KPI performance: of the ten KPIs reported on in Quarter 2, eight were on target. Two indicators were not on target and were therefore red-rated: KPI 2 – Business rates collection and KPI 7 – Affordable Housing Completions. KPI 2 was affected by the recalculation of Retail Rate Relief which led to new instalment plans but it was expected that performance would catch up during the year. KPI 7 was off target currently as affordable housing developments were often completed and then delivered in batches through the year.

Affordable housing – the lower number of social rent affordable completions by tenure compared to shared ownership delivery was noted. Members also commented that high performance delivery in developments such as Pitwood Park in Tadworth and Cromwell Road in Redhill were not captured in the targets.

Quarter 2 Budget Monitoring 2021/22

Councillor Schofield, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Governance, gave an overview of the Quarter 2 Budget Monitoring set out in the report and Annex 1.

There was a small overspend in Service and Central budgets, currently forecast to be only £0.061m (0.4%) higher than the Revenue Budget for 2021/22 that was approved in February 2021.

The report included separate forecasts for the additional expenditure and funding related to the COVID-19 pandemic (which is currently forecast to be in balance), and for income shortfalls due to the pandemic. The forecast income loss was £1.418m as of 30 September 2021, with car parking accounting for the majority at £1.228. Car parking income was steadily starting to improve . The net shortfall can be funded on a one-off basis through drawing on the Earmarked Reserve set aside in anticipation at the end of 2020/21.

The Capital Programme forecast for the year is £53.07m which is below the approved programme as a result of £87.36m slippage and a net underspend due to the lack of viable housing schemes and commercial investments coming forward.

Members made comments and discussed the following areas:

Community centres – it was noted that operating costs of the three community centres in the Borough were reported on in the revenue budget. The review of the community centres had been highlighted to the Committee earlier in the year, with changes well underway, supported by one-off funding from the Corporate Plan Delivery Fund. There were more family-related activities as well as activities for older people, and a positive response to home cooked food provided for those attending the centres.

Revenue, Benefits and Fraud – a reported £393k overspend in this service area was discussed by Members. This was due to a lower DWP subsidy, as more clients moved to Universal Credit, and higher Housing Benefit, partially offset by lower staff costs. The high number of vacancies  ...  view the full minutes text for item 51.

52.

Commercial Strategy - Part 2 pdf icon PDF 291 KB

That the Committee:

1.     Notes the Commercial Strategy Part 2 Report and Annex 1 and the Summary of the O&S Commercial Strategy Scrutiny Panel meeting on 2 November 2021 (Annex 2); and

2.    Provides any observations for consideration by the Executive.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received the Commercial Strategy Part 2 Report and its Annexes 1 to 6 and the Summary of the O&S Commercial Strategy Scrutiny Panel which met on 2 November 2021 (Annex 2).

Councillor Archer, Portfolio Holder for Investments & Companies, introduced the Commercial Strategy Part 2 report (Funding our Services: A Commercial Strategy Part 2Explaining the Reigate and Banstead approach to commercial investment). This followed on from the Commercial Strategy (Part 1) which set the direction for the Council’s commercial activity and was approved by Executive in November 2020.

Part 2 of the Strategy set out the current approach, taking into account the challenges of the current financial position, latest borrowing rules and experiences with commercial activity to date. The ‘Plan on a Page’ Summary in the published agenda pack (p143) set out the proposed commercial approach. This includes to maintain existing income streams from our assets (currently around £4m a year); to grow income from these assets and also develop new income streams, such as repurposing poorly performing assets; to invest in new assets to deliver corporate objectives and income/savings; to continue to sell or trade services; and to take a more commercial approach to non-statutory fees and charges.

It was noted that the draft strategy approach was reviewed thoroughly by Panel Members at the O&S Commercial Strategy Scrutiny Panel in November with opportunity for further consultation on the final document. The final strategy was due to be approved by Executive on 16 December.

Commercial Strategy Scrutiny Panel Chair, Councillor Walsh, gave a verbal update of the Panel’s discussions on 2 November. This included the need to learn from past commercial decisions both at Reigate and Banstead and in other local authorities. He highlighted the importance of effective commercial governance and oversight including robust business cases which were monitored as schemes developed.

In conclusion, Councillor Walsh recommended that the skills required for instigating, development of and managing commercial ventures by the Council isthoroughly reviewed and secured so that the Borough has all the necessary skills to undertake and successfully deliver the strategy.

Members discussed and made observations on the following areas:

Commercial skills – Members strongly supported the points raised by the Panel that the Council must ensure it has access to appropriate commercial skills, awareness and expertise for the strategy to succeed. This included drawing in additional expertise if needed such as use of external advisors to support in-house staff or provide specialist advice to oversee certain commercial projects.

Learning from experience – Members commented that it was important that lessons were learned, from previous projects and analysis of business cases. Best practice included listening to residents’ feedback from previous projects. Taking an evidence-based approach and applying the Council’s project management framework, including risk management, as set out in the report, was recognised as important to be able to deliver the income generation activities to build financial resilience as set out in the Corporate Plan, Reigate and Banstead 2025.

Environmental and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 52.

53.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 147 KB

To consider and agree any changes to the schedule for Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s Forward Work Programme 2021/22 in Annex 1 and note the Action Tracker (Annex 2).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered the Forward Work Programme 2021/22 for the Committee set out in Annex 1 to the report.

There were not any significant changes to report. The updated changes to Service and Financial Planning 2022/23 (Budget 2022/23) would be considered on 20 January 2022 meeting.

It was Agreed that the Head of Legal and Governance/legal team be asked to give regular progress reports on the Charitable Trusts matter set out on the Action Tracker to Councillors Sinden and Essex. The issue could come back to the O&S Chair, if Members were not satisfied, to be reconsidered as part of the meeting agenda.

RESOLVED – that the Committee noted its proposed Forward Work Programme 2021/22 and the change agreed above.

54.

Exempt Business

Recommended that members of the Press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that:

(1)  It involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as the information in the report relates to the financial or business affairs of the authority; and

(2)  The public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was no discussion by the Committee on this agenda item.

55.

Executive

To consider any items arising from the Executive which might be subject to the ‘call-in’ procedure in accordance with the provisions of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules set out in the Constitution.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was reported that there were no items arising from the Executive that might be subject to the ‘call-in’ procedure in accordance with the provisions of the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules.

56.

Any other urgent business

To consider any item(s) which, in the opinion of the Chairman, should be considered as a matter of urgency - Local Government Act 1972, Section 100B(4)(b).

(NOTE: Under the Committee and Sub-Committee Procedure Rules set out in the Constitution, items of urgent business must be submitted in writing but may be supplemented by an oral report.)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.