Venue: New Council Chamber - Town Hall, Reigate. View directions
Contact: Democratic Services (01737 276182) Email: Democratic@reigate-banstead.gov.uk
Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
An apology for absence had been received from Cllr Harrison, Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
To approve the Minutes of the last meeting on 14 December 2023.
The minutes from the meeting held on 14 December were APPROVED.
Declarations of interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were none.
Response to Motion: Climate Change
The Executive Member for Environment and Sustainability.
Councillor Moses, Executive Member for Environment and Sustainability, stated that the report responded to a motion presented to Full Council on 30 November by Councillor Essex. The motion was referred, by the Mayor, for consideration by the Executive.
The motion made 4 requests, relating to climate change and nature. These were:
· To declare a climate emergency, and reflect this in our Environmental Sustainability Strategy;
· To fully endorse the Surrey Climate Strategy and Surrey Local Transport Plan in the update of our Environmental Sustainability Strategy;
· To support the Climate and Ecology Bill; and
· To write to local MPs informing them that the motion has been passed.
The report considered each motion request in turn, providing some background information and setting out options and a proposed response. When it came to declaring a climate emergency, the Executive of course has the option to do this. However, the report recommends a continuation of the Council’s previously stated approach. That is, to recognise the continuing need for urgent action on climate change and to take action, in line with the Council’s agreed Environmental Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan.
Moving on to the request to fully endorse Surrey’s Climate Strategy and Local Transport Plan. The recommendation was that the Council acknowledged the need to work with Surrey County Council, and other districts and boroughs, to achieve a wide range of shared climate change and sustainability objectives. This this was a broader recommendation than that requested by the motion, which was focused just on two specific documents.
When it came to supporting the Climate and Ecology private members Bill, while the Executive had the option to express its support for the Bill, this was not recommended in the report. Instead, the suggestion was to focus on the Council’s own activity. Recommendation (i) also recognised the need for urgent action on nature recovery and that the Council would take action through its Environmental Sustainability Strategy.
Finally, the report included a third recommendation which reflected the spirit of the fourth motion request. This was for Councillor Moses to contact local MPs to outline the Borough Council’s approach to climate change and environmental sustainability. To ask for the opportunity to discuss with them how the Government can help the Council achieve its objectives in the future.
The Council’s current Environmental Sustainability Strategy explained how the Council was taking action on both climate change and nature issues. The Strategy review that was currently underway would continue the Council on this journey. The Council was already making good progress. The recommendations in the report reiterate the Council’s ongoing commitment to continue to do more.
Councillor Moses therefore commended the recommendations for approval by the Executive.
Councillor Booton requested that the Executive set an example by declaring a climate emergency. Six neighbouring authorities, Surrey County Council and Parliament have all declared a climate emergency and the Executive had this opportunity too. In 2019 the Executive did not approve a climate emergency and five years on there had been ... view the full minutes text for item 59.
Housing rent review
The Executive Member for Housing and Support.
The Executive Member for Housing and Support addressed the Executive, stating that this report concerned the annual rent increase to council social housing and housing debt write off policy.
This report sought agreement to a 7.7% increase to the Council’s social and affordable rent homes. The increase would be the lower of 7.7% or the Local Authority Housing Allowance rate.
It also sought agreement for the Head of Housing and Head of Finance to set the annual service charge for social rent homes.
Finally, it sought approval of the Housing Debt Write Off Policy.
The Council could increase rents annually. This year the maximum increase allowed was 7.7%. Rent income supports the Council to manage, maintain and improve its homes.
Local Authority Housing rates were a factor when looking at rent increases for households living in Affordable Rent homes. These rates would be increased in 2024/25 and this report aimed to support the future affordability for these households.
Social Rents continued to be the lowest rents. Some of these homes have service charges. These were not material. For clarity, Affordable Rents included service charges.
Finally, the proposed housing debt write off policy would support action to manage debt. The Council aimed to collect all housing charges, sometimes this was not possible. The Policy sets out how this process would be managed.
Councillor Smith stated that an increase of 7.7% seemed like quite a jump in rent and affordability could be difficult for some tenants with this rise. It was questioned as to whether there had been an impact assessment of tenants. In response it was stated that the Council will keep rents below the Housing Allowance. Last year the rent increase was only 2.3%. Rents had to be increased in April and the Council also considered the rent increases being made by other providers such as Raven. Properties had to be maintained and the Council had to consider the sinking fund as well.
Councillor Blacker stated that maintenance costs continued to increase. Those that had affordability issues could receive additional help from the Council through discretionary payments.
It was noted that a 3-bed property at the social rent level was priced at 60% of the market value.
Councillor Essex requested that a letter be written to Central Government to request an increase in Housing Benefit.
RESOLVED – that the Executive:
(i) Approves a 7.7% rent increase for Council-owned social and affordable rent homes in 2024/25, being the lower of a 7.7% increase or the Local Housing Allowance rate;
(ii) Delegates authority to agree the annual service charge to the Head Housing in consultation with the Head of Finance; and
(iii) Approves the Write Off Policy for Housing Service Debts at Annex 1.
Budget & Capital Programme 2024/25
The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance, Governance and Organisation.
The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance, Governance and Organisation addressed the Executive stating that this report presented the final revenue and capital budget proposals for 2024/25 resulting in a net revenue budget requirement of £23.167 million along with a recommended council tax increase of 2.99% (equivalent to £7.47) for the average Band D property.
The key components of the revenue and capital budget were outlined and firstly provided Executive Members with some context of how the Council has approached this year’s Budget and the challenges faced in the preparation and delivery of it.
Firstly, it was announced that the Council had been able to set a balanced revenue budget for 2024/25 without any requirement to use its General Fund Balances. This was a very positive outcome as it was reported that many other councils (estimated to be up to 40%) may have to consider drawing on Reserves to achieve a balanced budget.
It was confirmed that the Council (as a result of many years of prudent financial management) was nowhere near a position where a Section 114 notice might have to be considered. The Executive would be aware that many other councils across the country were struggling with this dilemma, and this was not a concern for this Council which was very reassuring news.
There was also additional comfort that the Local Government funding reforms had once again been pushed back, now to 2025/26 at the earliest; this meant that the prospect of future funding cuts, when the reforms took place remained a threat but was not imminent.
The net General Fund revenue budget for 2024/25 of £23.167 million was actually lower than the previous year’s budget of £23.194 million. Whist this may be only a small difference (of -£27k), it demonstrated the commitment that Officers and Members have made to reduce costs and find efficiency savings and income wherever possible to protect funding for the Council’s front-line services.
The Council has also maximised the use of capital resources to promote its environmental and sustainability ambitions across the borough. This included investment in solar compacting bins and a new electric refuse vehicle as well as a move to HVO fuel for other vehicles.
In terms of the economy, the Council remained in difficult times, both nationally and internationally. Geopolitical concerns across the globe (such as the war in Ukraine and the Israel/Palestine crisis) continued to have a marked effect on the UK economy. And in turn on this Council’s spending plans and those of our residents.
In the U.K. the cost of living crisis continued along with housing shortages and significant temporary accommodation pressures, were all impacting on this Council’s budgets. Plus the ongoing impacts of housing benefit cost pressures due to shortfalls in Government subsidy which the Council has to fund.
In terms of the UK domestic economy, the Council still faced stubbornly high inflation with CPI at 4.0% at January (an increase from 3.9% in December), coupled with Bank of England interest rates at 5.25% ... view the full minutes text for item 61.
Council Tax 2024/25
The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance, Governance and Organisation.
The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance, Governance and Organisation introduced the report stating that following on from the Budget report, this was the technical report that allowed full Council to debate and set the Council Tax for next year when it meets on 20th February 2024. The provisional Local Government Settlement announced on 18 December 2023, gave district and borough councils the option to raise Council Tax levels by up to 2.99% without referendum.
The reasons for this Council’s recommended increase of £7.47 (2.99%) were set out in the budget report. In particular it was emphasised that this was an increase of 0.14p per week for the average household. This 2.99% increase was a below inflation increase with CPI (at January) currently being at 4.0%.
The County Council was meeting on 6th February, and it was expected that their share of the council tax would rise by 3.99%, which included the adult social care precept. Any variations to this share (if the need arises) would be recalculated and reported to Full Council under delegated authority of the Chief Financial Services Officer.
This followed on from the Police and Crime Commissioner considering the Surrey Police budget on 6th February where a £13.00 increase (4.19%) is expected to be approved. Again, any variations to this would be reported and recalculated to Council.
Overall, this meant that the Reigate & Banstead element is just over 11% of the combined Band D Council Tax (including precepts) which would increase by £95.93 or 4.15% in total from April. In addition, sums will be charged where applicable, for the parish and town councils as detailed in the report.
Councillor Lewanski recommended this report to Executive and Full Council, specifically recommendations (i) through to (vii).
Clarification was sought regarding the relevance of the figures in the final total row in table 2. The Chief Finance Officer advised that the table format was in line with the guidance for council tax setting but would ask the Finance team to confirm.
RESOLVED – that the Executive:
(i) Noted that on 30 November 2023 the Council calculated:
a) The Council Tax base 2023/24 for the whole Council as 64,252.3 [Item T in the formula in Section 31B(3) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, as amended (the “Act”)] and;
b) For dwellings in those parts of its area to which a Parish precept relates:
· Horley Town Council 11,186.2
· Salfords & Sidlow Parish Council 1,453.7
The ‘tax base’ is the number of Band D equivalent dwellings in a local authority area.
Detailed calculations of the Council Tax are set out in Annexes 1, 2 & 3.
(ii) Calculate that the Council Tax requirements for the Council’s own purposes for 2024/25 (excluding Parish precepts) is £16,524,407
(iii) That the following amounts be calculated for the year 2024/25 in accordance with Sections 31 to 36 of the Act:
(a) £68,428,760 – being the amounts which the Council estimates for the items set out in Section 32(2) of the Act ... view the full minutes text for item 62.
Calendar of Meetings 2024 - 2025
The Leader of the Council.
The Calendar of Meetings for 2024/25 drew on the pattern of meetings from previous municipal years. It has been designed to ensure all business is achieved as efficiently as possible. The draft Calendar of Meetings for 2024/25 has been subject to a full consultation process having been considered by Group Leaders’ and Leader’s meetings both held on 15 January 2024. The Executive was asked to consider, and recommend to Council, the draft Calendar of Meetings for the 2024/25 Municipal Year. The calendar of meetings was subject to approval by Council in February.
Councillor Essex thanked officers for preparing this, commending the fact that there were no meetings in school holidays.
RESOLVED that the Executive recommends to Council, the draft Calendar of meetings for the 2024/25 Municipal Year.
To receive any statements from the Leader of the Council, Members of the Executive or the Managing Director.
There were no statements.
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: Urgent business must be submitted in writing but may be supplemented by an oral report).
There was none.
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:
(i) it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act; and
(ii) the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
There was no exempt business.