Agenda and minutes

Stronger Council Select Committee - Tuesday, 18th January, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: A Hendry (Democratic Services) 01992 564246  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

34.

Webcasting Introduction

This meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to activate their microphones before speaking. The Chairman will read the following announcement:

 

“The Chairman would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties).

 

If you are seated in the lower public seating area it is likely that the recording cameras will capture your image and this will result in the possibility that your image will become part of the broadcast.

 

This may infringe your human and data protection rights and if you wish to avoid this you should move to the upper public gallery.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its  meetings.

 

 

35.

Subsitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that Councillor J Lea would substitute for Councillor R Morgan for the duration of this meeting.

 

 

36.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 305 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 16 November 2021.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

That the notes of the meeting held 16 November 2021 were agreed as a correct record.

 

 

37.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)          Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct, Councillor R Bassett declared personal interests on item 7, Corporate Plan Action Plans and item 10, Draft Budget Proposals on the agenda by virtue of being the Chairman of Trustees for Epping Forest Community Transport and a Non-Executive Director of  Qualis. The Councillor had determined that his interests were non-pecuniary and he would remain in the meeting for the consideration of this item but not take part in any discussions concerning Qualis.

 

 

38.

Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 100 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference and work programme for the select committee. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents. 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Select Committee noted their terms of reference and work programme.

 

Councillor Murray asked about the current position on the item on Voter ID. He was told that officers would investigate and let him know.

 

 

39.

Corporate Plan Action Plan (Q3) (KPIs by exception) pdf icon PDF 133 KB

To consider the attached report on the progress of project delivery against Q3 milestones (detailed information to follow).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

C Graham introduced the report on Corporate Performance reviewing progress for quarterly performance measurement delivery against Quarter 3 milestones.

 

Key Corporate Projects

 

It was noted that closure reports were being complied for the various projects that had closed. Councillors could request a copy of any closure report, but they would not be coming automatically to the Committee.

 

Councillor Bassett asked why CPP009 (Housing & Asset Management Systems) had gone from green to amber and what was the plan to get it back to green, he was told that officers would ask for further information and how it could be brought back to green; this would be put in the minutes.

 

Councillor Brookes asked about CPP033 (Reprovision of Hostel) which had been completed, and what was the internal governance process. She was told that this was now managed by a specific service area and treated as business as usual.

 

Councillor H Kane asked about the Waltham Abbey Community & Cultural Hub. She would like to know if the council got external funding and how would it be progressed. She was told that it would not be a programme for next year. Councillor Bassett asked why it had gone straight from red to blue. He was told that was because there was no plan to move it forward at this stage. Councillor Murray expressed concern as he presumed that the Loughton Cultural Hub was also on hold and that the Epping Hub was in the wrong place. Councillor Philip commented that they had this building and repurposed it to have one of its uses as a cultural hub. The council was tight for money this year, so it was a choice between cutting services or setting up the cultural hubs. He also suggested that this item be removed from the report for now.

 

Councillor Neville asked to see the closure report for CPP037, corporate approach to resident engagement.

 

Councillors Bassett, Jon Whitehouse and Neville would like to see the closure report for CPP040. Councillor Whitehouse would be especially interested in seeing some of the figures for the project.

 

CPP024, Travel Local – Councillor Bassett commented that as the Chairman of Trustees for Epping Forest Community Transport he noted that this was a difficult time, but things were changing. Budgets were stretched and finding money was difficult. Councillor Neville asked if Harlow Council were happy to part fund bus route 87. Councillor Bassett said they were still in talks with them. They were also in discussions with Essex CC on the wider aspects of bus services in the area, and were looking to fill gaps.

 

Councillor H Kane asked if a report (on Travel Local) would be ready to go to the March Cabinet. She was told that officers were working on it.

 

Councillor Murray asked about CPP093 (Green Infrastructure Strategy) and if the Roding Valley Recreation Ground would become a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). There had been no consultations with any ward councillor or the Town Council about this who were the local  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.

40.

Peoples Strategy pdf icon PDF 277 KB

To consider the attached report updating the People’s Strategy.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report on the People’s Strategy was introduced by J Budden, Service Manager, People, Culture & Wellbeing.

 

Councillor Jon Whitehouse remarked on the proposals for the restructuring of the legal team and noted that they were increasingly reliant on bringing in lawyers from outside; had we looked at the balance between inhouse expertise and outsourcing for advice. Also, at our last meeting we had discussions about resourcing issues in different areas of the council and filling in with agency staff or consultants. What were the current areas of concern? And what action was being taken to ensure we had permanent staff? A Small replied that the Legal staff were people that the council could permanently occupy all the time. We then brought in specialists when we needed them, which was more cost effective. We needed to strike a balance here and this area was kept under constant review. J Budden added that they now had a lot of data on recruitment and knew where the ‘hot spot’ areas for recruitment were. They could share this as a report to members if needed.

 

RESOLVED:

 

The Committee considered the report as information on the continuing People Strategy for 2022.

 

 

41.

Quarter 3 Budget Monitoring Report 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 838 KB

Report to follow.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

C Hartgrove introduced the quarter 3 budget monitoring report for 2021/22. The report set out the 2021/22 General Fund and Housing Revenue Account positions, for both revenue and capital, as at 31st December 2021 (“Quarter 3”).  The report updated the Stronger Council Select Committee on how the Council’s services had performed against their budgets in the first nine months of the financial year and projected forward to the anticipated outturn for the end of the financial year.

 

In terms of General Fund revenue expenditure – at the Quarter 3 stage – a budget over spend of £0.396 million, with projected net expenditure of £17.265 million against an overall budget provision of £16.869 million was forecast.

 

Councillor Bassett thanked the officers for sorting out the budget for the last year and he noted that the Council was in better position than many other authorities; we had not withdrawn any frontline services, but maybe had to cut down on our plans and perhaps delve into our reserves. He was happy with the report but thought it would need close monitoring. Councillor H Kane echoed these sentiments and suggested that when this was over, we could perhaps see how much Covid had cost the council.

 

Councillor Philip welcomed the thanks on behalf of his officers. It had been a very challenging year and next year would be even more challenging. We needed to replenish our reserves and at the end of quarter 3 we seem to be in a reasonable place.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.         The General Fund revenue position at the end of Quarter 3 (31st December 2021) for 2021/22, including actions being or proposed to improve the position, where significant variances have been identified, was noted;

 

2.         The General Fund capital position at the end of Quarter 3 (31st December 2021) for 2021/22 was noted;

 

3.         The Housing Revenue Account revenue position at the end of Quarter 3 (31st December 2021) for 2021/22, including actions proposed to ameliorate the position, where significant variances have been identified, was noted; and

 

4.         The Housing Revenue Account capital position at the end of Quarter 3 (31st December 2021) for 2021/22 was noted.

 

 

42.

Draft Budget Proposals for 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 226 KB

To consider the attached report on the draft Budget proposals for 2022/23.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

C Hartgrove introduced the draft budget report for 2022/23. He noted that the Cabinet had considered an early draft Budget proposal for 2022/23 at its meeting on 6th December 2021. The full report included revenue and capital proposals for both the General Fund and Housing Revenue Account as well as a schedule of suggested Fees and Charges for the forthcoming financial year. An updated Medium-Term Financial Plan (MTFP) covering the financial years 2022/23 through to 2026/27 was also included, which reflected both the impact of the draft Budget proposals as well as the latest available intelligence at the time.

 

In recognising the important role of scrutiny in developing a robust budget, the Cabinet also requested that the Stronger Council Select Committee considers the draft Budget proposals for 2022/23, as well as the associated documents.

 

The Cabinet were advised by the Section 151 Officer at their December meeting that – as required by law – that a balanced revenue position (eliminating a previously identified projected deficit of £1.504 million) had provisionally been reached for 2022/23 and that the medium-term financial position was broadly unchanged compared to the position presented on 11th October 2021 (and subsequently to this Committee on 16th November 2021); with a particular challenge still anticipated in 2024/25 and 2025/26 as a consequence of the forthcoming new Waste Management Contract. Some significant uncertainties remained however, especially as the annual Settlement for 2022/23 had yet to be announced by the Government at that stage.

 

The provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2022/23 was eventually released on 16th December 2021; the outcome for Epping Forest District Council was generally as expected and provided further assurance as to the underlying financial sustainability of the draft Budget proposals as currently presented.

 

Councillor Bassett thanked the officers for the report and making it easy for the layman to understand. He asked about the recent high rise in Gas and Electric prices and asked if the figures shown were current. C Hartgrove replied that these were the figures that he was given, but he would cross check them in the coming week. A Small added that inflation was one of the greatest risks facing the Council now. There was doubt about energy prices and now also about wage settlements. We have now got a one year Government settlement for the year ahead. We were expecting a three year settlement to give us some certainty but the government was still intending to implement a ‘fairer funding’ change to the way it distributed grant settlements and we did not know how that would impact upon us. But, the situation could be worse, and justified having a council tax increase after many years. Now was also the right time to build up the Council’s balances. It was a sound budget.

 

Councillor Neville thanked the officers for their hard work. It had been a difficult financial situation over the last few years. As for the fees and charges, he would like to see the figures associated with them as they  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.

43.

Dates of Future Meetings

To note the next meeting dates for this Committee:

 

3 March 2022; and

14 April 2022.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted their future meeting dates.