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Note: Budget meeting
The Chairman welcomed everyone to this remote extraordinary meeting of the Maldon District Council, held under new regulations which had come into effect in response to the COVID-19 situation. The Chairman then went through some general housekeeping arrangements for the meeting.
A roll call of those Members present was taken.
Apologies for Absence
An apology for absence was received from Councillor R P F Dewick.
Declarations of Interest
To disclose the existence and nature of any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, other Pecuniary Interests or Non-Pecuniary Interests relating to items of business on the agenda having regard to paragraphs 6 - 8 inclusive of the Code of Conduct for Members.
(Members are reminded that they are also required to disclose any such interests as soon as they become aware should the need arise throughout the meeting).
Local Government Finance Act 1992 – Section 106
Will any Members affected by Section 106 please note that any declarations to that effect should be made on the commencement of the meeting or immediately on arrival if this is later. Under Section 106 a Member who has not paid an amount due in respect of their Council Tax for at least two months after it became payable is precluded from voting on any matters affecting the level of Council Tax or the arrangements for administering the Council Tax. (The Member is, however, entitled to speak).
The Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer advised Members that the Joint Standards Committee at its last meeting had under Section 33 of the Localism Act considered a dispensation request from Councillor S P Nunn. Although the Committee had agreed that the dispensation should be granted to Councillor Nunn and all Members upon further investigation the Officer had ascertained that Section 33 could only apply to the Member who had made the request and not all Members. The Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer reported that Councillor Nunn had disclosed a pecuniary interest to him and the Joint Standards Committee had granted Councillor Nunn a dispensation to remain in this meeting, debate and vote on all items of the budget.
Councillor Nunn thanked the Officer for explaining this and declared a pecuniary interest in relation to Fees and Charges (Agenda Item 5c Discretionary Fees and Charges 2021-22) specifically in relation to Wharfage or the like for barges as his wife worked as a caterer for one of the barge companies and he had given history tours from the barges. He explained that this was why he had sought a dispensation.
Councillor C Mayes disclosed a non-pecuniary interest in Agenda Item 5c Discretionary Fees and Charges 2021-22 as she was secretary to the Maldon and Heritage Harbour Association.
Councillor R G Boyce raised a point of order referring the Local Government Act 2011 Section 33 and a challenge he had made of the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer’s report to the Joint Standards Committee (JSC) meeting in relation to the dispensation. He believed a point of order he had raised at the JSC was correct and that this matter should not have been brought forward. In response the Chairman advised that the matter had been corrected by the Officer and clarified that the dispensation only applied to Councillor Nunn.
In response to another Point of Order raised by Councillor Boyce, the Chairman outlined the correction as advised by the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer and that he was happy with the decision.
Councillor M F L Durham declared a non-pecuniary interest as a member of Essex County Council and a governor of the Essex Partnership University NHS Trust in a voluntary position.
Councillor K M H Lagan declared a non-pecuniary interest in Agenda Item 5c Discretionary Fees and Charges 2021-22 as he was a member of the Maldon Harbour Commissioners and had had discussions with barge owners and operators over the years.
Councillor N Skeens clarified that normally in budget meetings he would declare an interest in relation to West Quay Houseboats Association which held a lease with the Council. He advised that this was not connected to the Discretionary Fees and Charges report but should any matter relating this organisation arise in the future he had a pecuniary interest.
Councillor J Stilts declared a non-pecuniary interest in Agenda Item 5c Discretionary Fees and Charges 2021-22 as she sat on the Maldon Heritage Harbour Committee and Little Ship Club ... view the full minutes text for item 278.
To consider the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee held on 28 January 2021, including the following recommendations to the Council:
· Minute 221 - Annual Review of Financial Regulations;
· Minute 222 - Contract Procedure Rules Review and Update;
· Minute 223 - Council Tax Support Scheme 2021 / 22;
· Minute 224 - Pay Policy Statement;
· Minute 225 - Insurance Tender.
Please note that the following recommendations are not for consideration at this point as they form part of Agenda Item 5 – 2021 / 22 Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy due to be considered at this meeting:
· Minute 216 - Discretionary Fees and Charges 2021 / 22;
· Minute 217 - Treasury Management Strategy 2021 / 22;
· Minute 218 - Capital and Investment Strategies for 2021 / 22 and Minimum Revenue Statement 2021 / 22;
· Minute 219 - Revised 2020 / 21 Estimates, Original 2021 / 22 Budget Estimates and Council Tax 2021 / 22;
· Minute 220 - Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021 / 22 to 2023 / 24.
(i) that the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee on 28 January 2021 be received.
The Chairman of the Strategy and Resources Committee presented the Minutes and the following recommendations for consideration by the Council. He advised that recommendations contained within the Minute Numbers 216 - 220 were not consideration as they formed part of Agenda Item 5 – 2021 / 22 Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy and therefore would be considered by the Council at that stage. This was duly seconded.
Councillor R G Boyce raised a point of order referring to the business detailed on the agenda for this meeting, commenting that this extraordinary meeting of the Council had been called to discuss the budget and that should be the only item of business for consideration. In response the Chairman of the Council advised that this was at his discretion and he was happy to allow these matters to be brought forward in the interest of efficiency for the Council.
Minute 221 – Annual Review of Financial Regulations
(ii) that the revised Financial Regulations, attached at Appendix 1 to the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee, be approved.
Minute 222 – Contract Procedure Rules Review and Update
(iii) That the revised Contract Procedure Rules at Appendix 2 to the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee be approved.
(iv) That the Director of Resources is authorised to make minor changes to the Contract Procedure Rules; minor changes are defined as:
• Changes in statutory framework, such as references to new or updated legislation;
• Changes in titles, names or terminology;
• Changes consequential to other constitutional changes already made.
Minute 223 – Council Tax Support Scheme 2021 / 22
(v) that the following changes to the existing Local Council Tax Support Scheme (LCTS) be approved:
(a) a cost of living increase in line with the Department for Work and Pensions schemes be included in the Local Council Tax Support Scheme for 2021 / 22 for Pensioners only;
(b) that any legislative changes being introduced to the Housing Benefit Scheme, for 2021 / 22 are mirrored in the Councils LCTS scheme to ensure consistency;
(c) that amendments to the discretionary provisions of the LCTS to ensure that the Council is able to administer the various schemes to reflect local and national guidance;
(d) that the LCTS may reflect any additional changes to government welfare benefit regulations during the year which are intended to:
• increase the income of benefit recipients; and
• be introduced during a financial year to;
to avoid any unintended consequences to customers.
(e) that this decision has been made following Members careful reading of and regard to the Equality Impact Assessment attached at Appendix 3 to the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee.
Minute 224 – Pay Policy Statement
(vi) that the Pay Policy Statement attached at Appendix 4 to the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee be adopted for 2021.
Minute 225 – Insurance Tender ... view the full minutes text for item 279.
To receive a Budget Statement from the Leader of the Council, to consider the following reports of the Section 151 Officer (copies enclosed) and to determine the level of Council Tax.
Members’ attention is drawn to the following Procedure rules:
· Voting - Procedure Rule 13(5) set outs the requirement for any vote taken at a budget decision meeting (as defined by the Local Government Finance Act 1992) to be recorded in the Minutes.
· Budget Speech – Procedure Rule 1(13)(a) Sets out the time limits in relation to the budget speech and (b) details the requirements for making alternative proposal or amendment as part of the Budget and Council Tax setting.
The Council considered the reports of the Section 151 Officer, on the recommendations of the Strategy and Resources Committee at its meeting on 28 January 2021 relating to the revenue budget and the proposed level of Council for 2021 / 22.
The Leader of the Council made a budget speech (attached at APPENDIX 1 to these Minutes) and commended the budget for 2021 / 22 to the Council.
In response to the budget speech, the Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Mrs P A Channer, thanked the Leader of the Council and commented on the speech, referring to:
· the good financial position the Council had started the year with and how the Council, like many other authorities, its residents and businesses had experienced unprecedented challenging times due to the impact of COVID-19. The Council’s emergency response to the pandemic had resulted in a higher expenditure than normal and she highlighted the support and relief provided by the Government. At this point, Councillor Mrs Channer thanked all Council officers for their work during the pandemic to ensure that services and support to residents was largely maintained.
· how the Council had lost income from a number of areas including, car parking income, events etc. However even though the Government had promised to extend the income compensation scheme the impact of COVID-19 was difficult to predict due to the ongoing uncertainty.
· the Council’s main sources of income and the items included in growth for 2021 / 22 including the Local Development Plan review, digitalisation projects etc.
· how the Council needed to be mindful of the transformation process it had been through and associated staff costs.
· the proposed £5 increase in council tax (the maximum possible) which equated to a 2.47% increase, 2½ times the rate of inflation. Councillor Mrs Channer again referred to COVID-19 the pressures, stress and losses faced by residents and businesses and how it had affected lives in immeasurable ways. She felt to support residents and customers council tax should be frozen and offset the £125,000 income that the 2.47% increase would bring.
Following her suggested freeze on council tax, Councillor Mrs Channer proceeded to outline the areas where savings could be made, advising that the total of the following was £125,000 meaning there would be no council tax increase and would this would have no increase to the general fund.
Councillor Mrs Channer explained that she felt this would reduce the stress and strain and impact on residents who were suffering at this time.
In response to a query the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer advised that he had taken the Opposition Leaders’ statement as a response to the Leaders’ speech and not a formal proposal. Councillor Mrs Channer raised a point of order regarding the process and putting forward an amendment to the budget. In response the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer referred to Procedure Rule 1, the process for the Leaders’ speech and how following a reply from the Leader to any comments from the Leader ... view the full minutes text for item 280.
To consider the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance, (copy enclosed).
The Council received the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance detailing the headline results of the Maldon High Street consultation as part of the Member-led High Street Reset and Recovery Group’s response to necessary restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 response and the funding opportunity to widen Maldon’s High Street. The report also highlighted existing work programmes and the partnership working with Essex County Council’s Strategic Highways and Transportation Team to move forward with a sustainable future for Maldon’s High Street and connectivity to the wider area.
The Leader of the Council presented the report and proposed it be noted in accordance with the recommendation set out within it. This was duly seconded.
In response to comments the Chairman reminded Members that this report was for noting and further reports would be brought back to the Council for consideration. Councillor Mrs J L Fleming provided an update on the work of the Covid-19 Working Group and the suggestion to undertake some pedestrian surveys.
The report was duly noted, by assent.
RESOLVED that Members note the significant work that has been undertaken to support Maldon High Street, including the survey undertaken and to note that this work will now be taken forward as part of business as usual and with the already agreed policies within the Local Development Plan.
To consider the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance, (copy enclosed).
The Council considered the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance seeking Members’ consideration of the implications of the Bradwell B Programme closedown and the opportunity to bring forward the review of the Local Development Plan (LDP), utilising work that had already commenced as much as possible and redeploying the fixed term staffing resources from the Bradwell B project.
Members were reminded of the letter received on 29 January 2021 from BRB advising the Council that due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, engagement with local authorities was to pause and the current funding agreement would be withdrawn for at least 12 months.
The report outlined:
· the impacts of the Bradwell B project closedown and BRB funding withdrawal;
· Local Development Plan review;
· staffing implications of delivering the LDP Reviewing;
· next steps.
The Leader of the Council presented the report and moved the recommendations as set out in report. This was duly seconded and agreed by assent.
(i) that the impacts of the Bradwell B project closedown and funding withdrawal be noted;
(ii) that Members agree there is an opportunity to bring forward the review of the Maldon District Local Development Plan, including utilising staff from the Bradwell Team where possible to accelerate delivery;
(iii) that Members consider and approve the Maldon District Local Development Scheme 2021 - 2024 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report.