Agenda and minutes

Stronger Council Select Committee
Tuesday, 14th September, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: Adrian Hendry, Democratic Services  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

10.

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.

 

 

11.

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 A Lion would substitute for Councillor H Brady, Councillor J H Whitehouse would substitute for Councillor J M Whitehouse and Councillor C P Pond would substitute for Councillor R Brookes for the duration of this meeting.

 

 

12.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 2 MB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 20th July 2021.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved:

 

That the notes of the meeting held on 20th July 2021 were agreed as a correct record.

 

Councillor Lion asked about the Corporate Performance report which was sparsely populated and was concerned that had not been subsequently dealt with and wondered if we would be seeing a report in response. Mr Small (Strategic Director/S151 officer) responded that because of the date of the meeting the second quarter data was not available but in future if the updated data was not available, they would at least bring the completed data for the previous quarter.

 

 

 

13.

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 a personal interest in item 9, Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report, Q3 2020/21, by virtue of being on the Qualis board. The Councillor had determined that his interest was non-pecuniary and he would remain in the meeting for the consideration of this item but not take part in any discussions.

 

 

14.

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.

 

 

15.

Presentation from Council's Level 2 Apprentices

 

We are so proud of our Business Admin Apprentices : Isabella Cray, Luke Allen and Mitchell Kemp for successfully completing their Level 2 Business Admin Apprenticeships. In this meeting they will talk to you about their journeys so far and what they still hope to develop and learn within Epping Forest District Council.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that due to unforeseen circumstance the presentation due for this meeting could not be given. This item will be moved to a future meeting.

 

 

16.

Equality Policy pdf icon PDF 162 KB

To consider the attached draft Equality Policy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Larraine Miles the Policy and Strategy Analyst introduced the report on the updated Equality Policy. She noted that the Equality Act 2010 and Public Sector Equality Duty 2011 required public authorities to set and publish at least one Equality Objective every four years to demonstrate how they would eliminate discrimination and advance equality. They also required public authorities to publish information to show their compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty at least annually. Typically, this takes the form of an annual Equality Report or Statement. In addition to the Equality Act, the Council has a statutory duty to reduce health inequalities many of which were associated with protected characteristics under the Equality Act.

 

Our new Equality Objectives built on our previous objectives. They focused on what we would do to advance equality and how we would do it. The following Equality Objectives (2021-2025) were recommended to and agreed by Cabinet.

 

·         Equality Objective 1: To develop, and deliver in partnership, a District-level approach to growth and recovery that builds, and can demonstrate, an Epping Forest that works for all.

·         Equality Objective 2: To drive improvement in service delivery through the use of equality data and data on socio-economic deprivation.

·         Equality Objective 3: To develop a research and consultation strategy to understand the needs and experiences of our communities with a clear pathway or process to embed their knowledge and experience into service design, development and delivery.

·         Equality Objective 4: To understand, and evidence, the impact of our workforce initiatives on improving equality.

 

Proportionality was key in setting our objectives. We only had to publish one objective, but we have set four in order to be able to show progress made.

 

Councillor Janet Whitehouse commented that this was an interesting report.  She noted it mentioned that the Equality Impact Assessment was to be reviewed; she thought it was too long with too many pages that not everyone read. She hoped the Equality Impact Assessment would be produced in a different way in the future. However, she did not ask for an explanation as the officer was not there in person but on Zoom. Mr Small noted that bringing in an officer was not necessarily the most efficient way to deliver items. We had the ability to have hybrid meetings and this cuts out a lot of travel time. And, we were also looking to improve the sound quality in the Chamber. On the equality impact assessment, we may need to change the way we do this, and officers shall consider how it can be streamlined.

 

Councillor Lion noted it was an interesting and detailed report. How was this report going to be turned into an action plan and how would it be monitored? There was also a reference to a digital strategy; how would this be implemented and what actions were associated with equality? Ms Miles noted that in this digital age it was about digital inclusion and she wanted to bring that out in the report.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Change in order of the Agenda

Additional documents:

Minutes:

With the permission of the Chairman and the Committee, agenda item 10 (Review of Elections 2021) was brought forward.

 

 

18.

Review of Elections 2021 pdf icon PDF 282 KB

To consider the attached report reviewing the elections held in May 2021.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Team Manager – Democratic and Electoral Services, G Woodhall, introduced the report on the May 2021 elections. This report reviewed the planning processes and implementation of the following elections held on 6 May 2021:

 

            (a)        Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for Essex;

 

            (b)        County Council;

 

            (c)        District Council;

 

            (d)        Parish & Town Councils.       

 

In the opinion of the Returning Officer, the planning, management and delivery of all relevant processes for these elections was effective, especially given the circumstances under which these elections were held. The management and delivery of these elections had been reviewed by the Elections Planning Group – chaired by the Returning Officer – and any issues arising had been included within the report. Candidates and Agents involved in these elections had also been consulted and their responses were summarised within the report.

 

Due to the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020, the elections due for the Essex Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, 21 wards of the District Council and 14 of the District’s Town and Parish Councils were postponed from their original date of May 2020. In time, the Government decided to hold these elections in May 2021, and they were combined with the elections already scheduled for this date for Essex County Council.

 

The United Kingdom was still under restrictions due to the pandemic, when these elections were held. This necessitated certain changes to the arrangements for operating Polling Stations, with ‘one-way’ systems being used for larger stations or a ‘one-in-one-out’ system for the smaller stations. The operation of the Count also had to be re-thought, as there was a requirement to ensure that the Count Staff were socially distanced from each other whilst counting. In addition, with four elections being held simultaneously, the Count could not be completed in one session. Therefore, the Council could not use its normal venue of Debden Park High School, and the use of an aircraft hangar at North Weald Airfield from Weald Aviation was secured.

 

Finally, it was noted that the Council had also recently received notification that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England intended to undertake a full review of the Council’s size in terms of the number of Councillors and ward boundaries, which would culminate in all-out District Council elections in May 2024. The Council was overdue a review as the last such exercise took place in 1998. A briefing for Members would be held in the Autumn to provide further information.

 

Councillor Neville thanked the election team for enabling the elections to be run smoothly that day. He was not keen on the use of the Hanger as it had heating issues, but he was not sure the that the conference suite would be big enough.  He was glad the virtual briefing was well received and had greater numbers attending. It was a tough set of elections with so many in one day; but a good test run if we had to do it again.

 

Councillor Lion concurred with Councillor Neville, everything ran  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.

19.

Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report - Q3 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 250 KB

To consider the attached report on Qualis Monitoring for Quarter 3, 2020/21.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Director / S151 officer, Andrew Small introduced the third quarter Qualis Monitoring report for 2020/21. This report presented the third Quarter’s monitoring report for the Qualis trading year 2020/21 and covered the period from 1 October 2020 to 30 June 2021.   Because of the fall of meeting dates this report was being considered by Stronger Council Select Committee one day after Cabinet had considered the same paper. Comments made by the Select Committee would therefore be relayed directly to the Portfolio Holder.

 

Performance was measured against the business plan targets for 2020/21.  The Board report highlighted performance against these using the recognised Red, Amber, Green reporting system (RAG). Noting the objectives flagged as Amber or Red and the explanations provided, Qualis has again performed in line with expectations during the third Quarter.

 

Quails had highlighted where any of their targets were not being met and there were two notable ones. One was in terms of income and expenditure where they had a small loss this was due to the lack of planning permission for the development sites and until this had been achieved, they could not move forward and turn expenditure into profit. The other issue was their cash balance which was higher than anticipated because their third commercial acquisition did not happen until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Given this their financial position was as expected.

 

Councillor Neville commented that given the nature of loss and delay due to lack of planning permission, wanted to know what these delays were; and would they go to planning committee in October? Councillor Philip, the relevant Portfolio Holder, said that there had been delays with the Planning Authority and he could not guarantee when it would come to Committee; we should make the end of October, too late for Qualis as that was the end of their financial year. This was not a loss; it was just a different way of counting the money which had to sit in a different pot until it got moved on.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Committee discussed and commented on this report for the Qualis Portfolio Holder to consider.

 

 

20.

Quarter 4 Budget Monitoring Report 2020/21 (Final Outturn) pdf icon PDF 727 KB

To consider the final, quarter 4, budget monitoring report for 2020/21.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Finance Officer introduced the final Quarter 4 (Final Outturn) report for the full 2020/21 financial year for the 2020/21 General Fund and Housing Revenue Account positions, for both revenue and capital, as at 31st March 2021. These figures were still subject to the external audit process.

 

The General Fund revenue position in 2020/21 was dominated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Housing Revenue Account position was less affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, although there were some cost pressures to note, especially on Housing Repairs, which were not linked to the pandemic.

 

Councillor Bassett thanked him for the report saying it showed what a drastic impact Covid had. It was a good outcome at the end of the year. How would this year go? He was told that it was an extremely volatile year, but that this question would be answered in the next report.

 

Councillor Janet Whitehouse asked about voids; were we still responsible for this or was it Qualis; and if it was the Council, where did we get the staff to do it?  Councillor Philip answered that Qualis was our agent for repairs, historically we had an inability to hit our budget on repairs including voids, which had been rectified at the end of the year rather than changing it in the budget. As they had moved things across to Qualis we discovered that in this case we had worked from the budgeted figures not taken into account the adjustments that had been made.  Yes, we were still responsible for repairs to the Housing stock and we contract Qualis to do that work for us. We were also jointly accurately tracking the budget and had set an appropriate budget on what needed to be done. This was also an on demand service which we could not plan.

 

Mr Small noted that last year was an exceptional year, in which the government had given us £70million, showing how much more money we had to have to deal with the problems we had encountered.

 

Councillor Philip added that despite these problems we ended up within 1% of our predicted budget. But there would be significant challenges for 2022/23. He also noted that the Q2 results would be going to the November meeting, we were working very hard to make sure you got a more timely view of our budget. We were gradually improving where we were on our accounting position so if we did need to take action, we could do that during the year.

 

Councillor H Kane said she understood that the report had no risk implications, but we should look to any future warnings that these figures may indicate. Councillor Philip replied that they did look at how things went and would continue to learn lessons from the reports and were always looking to continually improve.

 

RESOLVED:

 

 

That the General Fund revenue, the Housing Revenue Account revenue and the Housing Revenue Account capital position at the end of Quarter 4 was noted.

 

 

21.

Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring report 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 727 KB

To consider the quarter 1, budget monitoring report for 2021/22.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Finance Officer introduced the Quarter 1 budget monitoring report for 2021/22. This report set out the 2021/22 General Fund and Housing Revenue Account positions, for both revenue and capital, as at 30th June 2021 (“Quarter 1”).

 

In terms of General Fund revenue expenditure – at the Quarter 1 stage – a budget over spend of £0.126 million was forecast, with projected net expenditure of £16.937 million against an overall budget provision of £16.811 million.

 

The financial pressures – especially on income – due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic had carried over into 2021/22. The single largest item related to Leisure Facilities whereby an overspend of £532,161 was forecast by the year end; although greatly reduced income was assumed from the contract with Places Leisure in 2021/22, the third lockdown and social distancing requirements extended beyond expectations at the time the Budget was developed in late January/early February 2021.

 

A delay in asset disposals to Qualis as part of the Regeneration element of the initiative was also causing some financial pressure in areas such as Building Costs and Interest Receivable.   

 

However, despite the pressure, a projected surplus on Financing and Recharges was expected to help avoid any major overspending.        

 

As with 2020/21, the Housing Revenue Account position was less affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, income from Council Dwellings was outperforming its budget, although there was some spending pressure on Housing Repairs, which was not linked to the pandemic.

 

Councillor Bassett said that this seemed more of the same and was not sure where we were; or on the amount of government support; or what projects would get finished or what projects won’t get finished; and what we should start and what we should defer to keep our balance OK. On the Qualis side we have been watching very carefully the cost of materials etc. which had risen dramatically, as well as the fact we can’t get hold of them. This was causing problems on the work they had to carry out. We seem to be doing reasonably OK from what he could see, but it would need close monitoring.

 

Mr Hartgrove said the point on inflation was a good one, the coming Medium Term Financial Plan would take on board these estimates but noted there were one or two challenging bits in there.

 

Councillor Philip said we should remember we had set the budget back in January and had no idea of how long the lockdowns would go on for or of the rise in the cost of materials etc. We were working hard to improve our revenue side and reduce costs and were getting a better view month on month on what was actually happening against our budget and it gave us a chance to review how we did things and keep the budget closer to what we expected it to be.

 

Councillor Lion noted that informing us of how our finances fitted together we needed to see service plans to inform us of what  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Dates of Future Meetings

To note the next meeting dates for this Committee will be held on;

 

16 November 2021;

18 January 2022;

03 March 2022; and

14 April 2022.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted their future meeting dates.