Agenda and draft minutes

Strategy and Resources Committee - Thursday 14th March 2024 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Maldon District Council Offices, Princes Road, Maldon. View directions

Contact: Committee Services  Email: committee.clerk@maldon.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

654.

Chairperson's Notices

Minutes:

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting and went through some general housekeeping arrangements for the meeting.

655.

Apologies for Absence and Substitution Notice

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors D O Bown, A M Lay, R H Siddall and M E Thompson.

 

In accordance with notice duly given Councillor E L Stephens was attending as a substitute for Councillor Siddall, and Councillor S J N Morgan was attending as a substitute for Councillor Thompson.

656.

Minutes - 25 January 2024 pdf icon PDF 7 MB

To consider the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee meeting held on 25 January 2024 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 29 January 2024 be approved and confirmed.

657.

Minutes - 1 February 2024 (special meeting) pdf icon PDF 127 KB

To consider the Minutes of the special Strategy and Resources Committee meeting held on 1 February 2024 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the Minutes of the special meeting of the Committee held on 1 February 2024 be approved and confirmed.

658.

Disclosure of Interest

To disclose the existence and nature of any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, Other Registrable interests and Non-Registrable Interests relating to items of business on the agenda having regard to paragraph 9 and Appendix B 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).

Minutes:

There were none.

659.

Public Participation

To receive the views of members of the public, of which prior notification in writing has been received (no later than noon on the Tuesday prior to the day of the meeting).

 

Should you wish to submit a question please complete the online form at:

www.maldon.gov.uk/publicparticipation.

Minutes:

No requests had been received.

660.

Budgetary Control as at 31 December 2023 pdf icon PDF 381 KB

To consider the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer providing financial performance information for the period 1 April – 31 December 2023.  The report provided an update on a number of areas including the following:

 

·                Gross Service Income and Expenditure;

 

·                Top Expenditure Areas and Variance Analysis;

 

·                Top Income Areas and Variance Analysis;

 

·                Salary Monitoring as at end of quarter 3;

 

·                Inflationary impact;

 

·                Impact on the General Fund Balance;

 

·                Capital Monitoring (Appendix 1)

 

It was noted that service related net expenditure budgets remained on track to underspend this financial year, with additional income offsetting cost pressures. The 2023 / 24 Budget allowed for higher inflationary costs, however budgets, in particular employee costs, remained under pressure. Investment income was expected to over-perform against the budget due to higher interest rates, increasing the Council’s overall projected underspend. Collection rates were out-performing current year expectations; however, the enduring cost-of-living crisis could yet create pressure on council tax and business rates income.

 

During the debate that ensued and in response to questions from Members, Officers advised that the Councill’s Reserve position, including the Transformation Reserve was reported annually to the Council through the outturn report. The Interim Chief Finance Officer advised that she could provide an update on the Council’s Reserves outside of the meeting.

 

Further details were provided regarding the role for which drawdown from the Transformation Reserve was requested. It was noted that the post was for a fixed two-year period and was required to help the Council deliver future savings. Members were advised that the Council did not have the resource or expertise required to take this work forward. Investing in this post would bring efficiencies which would then deliver ongoing savings. In response to questions, the Interim Chief Finance Officer advised she would monitor the related savings and provide an update to Members outside of the meeting. In response to a suggestion to defer the decision regarding this drawdown from Resources, Members were advised that delaying until June (the next scheduled meeting of this Committee) would make it difficult to retain continuity within the service.

 

Councillor S White proposed that consideration of the requested drawdown on Reserves be deferred as more background information was required along with a detailed report as to why this item was not in the budget as a growth item. The Chairperson highlighted that Officers did not want to defer the decision on this business, but he was happy for a full business case to be brought back to the Committee.

 

In response to questions raised, the Commercial Manager provided the following updates:

 

·                Following the successful award of a £100k government grant, a changing places facility was being installed at Blackwater Leisure Centre, this installation would include a hoist and support all persons using the Leisure Centre. The Committee were advised that work had started but it was expected that 50% would continue into the new financial year.

 

·                The Air Handling Unit moved air around the Leisure Centre and the Council was in a position  ...  view the full minutes text for item 660.

661.

Supplementary Estimates, Virements, Procurement Exemptions and Use of Reserves: Quarter 3 (1 October - 31 December 2023) pdf icon PDF 150 KB

To consider the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer reporting Virements, Supplementary Estimates and Procurement Exemptions agreed under delegated powers where they were below the levels requiring approval by the Committee.

 

It was noted that there were no supplementary estimates or use of reserves agreed during this period. Sections 3.3 and 3.5 of the report set out the virements and procurement exemptions agreed during this period.

 

In response to questions regarding procurement exemptions the following information was provided.

 

·                Beat the Street – The amount shown was for the total amount of the contract but 90% of this was not being funded by the Council.  The scheme would install boxing across the entire District and encourage all residents to become more active. It would also improve the Council’s and wellbeing outcomes.

 

·                Sonic Wall Firewall Uplift – The Corporate Leadership Team had gained assurance that the relevant research had been carried out and this proposed change would deliver the same service.

 

The Chairperson put the recommendations as set out the report and these were duly agreed.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)             That the virements as detailed in paragraph 3.3.1 be noted;

 

(ii)            That the procurement exemptions as detailed in paragraph 3.5.1 be noted.

662.

Review of Customer Strategy pdf icon PDF 139 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Service Delivery (copy enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Service Delivery seeking Members approval of a new Customer Commitment Statement (attached as Appendix to the report).  The report also provided an update on the significant progress that had been achieved in delivering the Council’s Customer Strategy.

 

Background information following the Council’s approval of its Customer Strategy in 2016 / 17 and the action plan developed together with the Council’s Transformation programme in 2018 / 19 were detailed within the report.

 

The Council’s Commitment statement set out the Council’s ongoing commitment to deliver good quality services, and ensures residents, businesses and customers understood what they could expect from the Council.

 

The Chairperson commented on this being a good piece of work and thanked the Assistant Director – Service Delivery for the work she had done on the various proposals brought forward to the Finance Working Group, which had discussed everything in detail. He advised the Council was in the best position given the financial situation. The Chairperson then moved the recommendations set out in the report.

 

Members debated the report and in response to comments raised, the following information was provided:

 

·                The Council would continue to focus on service improvements to maximise efficiency and through the changes / efficiencies some capacity could be released to manage demand. More customers using the digital services would free up staff to help support the most vulnerable customers who required face to face / telephone services. The Assistant Director – Service Delivery explained it was all about balance; ensuring the Council could deliver online whilst making sure it continuously improved and looked for efficiencies as well as maintaining the really vital face to face services for those that needed them.

 

·                The Director of Service Delivery provided an update regarding Planning Services, current recruitment issues and how the public could contact the Council in respect of planning. He reported that the Assistant Director – Planning and Implementation would be looking into both the access to Planning Officers and recruitment into vacant roles.

 

·                In response to a question about Planning Officers’ attending appeal hearings, Members were advised that Officers attended where necessary.

 

The Chairperson moved the recommendations set out in the report and these were duly agreed.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)             That Members considered the report and noted the significant progress that had been made in delivering improvements to the way in which the Council deliver its services;

 

(ii)            That the Customer Commitment Statement at Appendix 1 to the report, be approved.  This will be published on the Council’s website together with a summary of existing customer service standards.

663.

Work of the Planning Policy Working Group 2023 / 24 pdf icon PDF 147 KB

To consider the report of the Chairperson of the Planning Policy Working Group (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Chairperson of the Planning Policy Working Group providing Members with an annual update on the work carried out by the Planning Policy Working Group (PPWG) during 2023 / 24.

 

As well as detailing the work carried out by the PPWG, a workplan detailing the forthcoming work of the PPWG (up to September 2024), including briefing / training for all Members, was set out in the report. It was noted that the PPWG had assisted in the process of moving forward with the Local Development Plan (LDP) review.

 

The Chairperson presented the report to the Committee and commented on the great deal of work that the PPWG had undertaken.

 

At this point, a Member referred to responses from Essex County Council Education not supporting the Council’s Planning Strategy. A number of concerns were raised regarding the Council’s LDP review, including its rural policies, fiscal implications, strategic sites and the need for this committee to receive a regular progress update. In response to this discussion, the Chairperson requested that all comments be taken back to the PPWG.

 

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that it was not debating the LDP Review at this time, purely receiving the report of the PPWG. The Director of Service Delivery advised that Members’ comments would be fed back informally to the PPWG for their consideration and reminded the Committee that this meeting was not the vehicle to talk about the LDP. 

 

Following further debate, the Chairperson advised that he would ask the Chairperson of the PPWG to come and present his report at the next meeting of this Committee.

 

RESOLVED that the Committee received the content of the report.

664.

Response to Mid and South Essex NHS Integrated Care Board Consultation - Proposed Changes to Services at Local Community Hospitals pdf icon PDF 202 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources (copy enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources seeking Members’ approval of the Council’s response to the Mid and South Essex NHS Integrated Care Board (ICB) public consultation on proposed changes to services at local community hospitals.

 

The report provided details of the consultation, launched on 25 January 2024, and the reference group formed by the Council to inform the Council’s response. The Council’s proposed response to all 22 questions in the consultation was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. The importance of the Council, as a key stakeholder, making a formal response to this consultation was noted and that this would impact on the delivery and accessibility of vital community hospital and health services in the District.

 

During her presentation of the report, the Assistant Director – Strategy, Partnerships and Communications advised that the consultation had been extended for a further two weeks and now closed on 4 April 2024. The NHS website provided a Frequently Asked Questions document which within it set out details of potential sites and in response to comments the Assistant Director read out this list.

 

Councillor A S Fluker declared an interest in this item of business as a frequent user of the phlebotomy services at St. Peter’s hospital.

 

A lengthy debate ensued. Question 8 of the consultation referred to ‘your view about moving all other patient services out of St. Peter’s hospital’ and the Assistant Director explained that the Council’s response to this question had been split into two parts, the first being that the Council didn’t want to move services out of St. Peters hospital and secondly that it did want services to stay within the Maldon District. The Chairperson reported that Mr Daniel Doherty, Mid Essex NHS Alliance Director had informed the Council that the NHS would not close St. Peters hospital until the current services offered were available at another location elsewhere in the District. The work of the Council, Essex County Council, local Members of Parliament along with residents of Maldon was also highlighted.

 

The Chairperson moved the recommendation as set out in the report and this was duly agreed.

 

RESOLVED that the Council’s response (Appendix 1 to the report) to the Mid and South Essex NHS Integrated Care Board (ICB) public consultation on proposed changes to services at local community hospitals be agreed.

665.

Asset Management Strategy pdf icon PDF 199 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Service Delivery (copy enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Service Delivery presenting for Members’ approval the Asset Management Strategy 2024 – 2029 (the Strategy), attached as Appendix 1 to the report.

 

It was noted that the Strategy outlined the rationale and approach for how the Council would manage its estate for the next five years and responded to recommendations made within the 2021 / 22 Management of Property internal audit. 

 

The reported highlighted how the Council’s Corporate Projects and Asset Management Working Groups had some cross-over in their objectives. Officers were proposing that the two Working Groups be brought together to form a Strategic Assets Working Group. It was confirmed that this proposed change would be brought forward at the Statutory Annual meeting of the Council when the annual appointment to Working Groups was discussed.

 

In response to query, it was clarified that Appendix 1 to the report was incorrectly labelled as confidential draft.

 

The Commercial Manager provided Members with the following information in response to comments raised during the debate:

 

·                There was a definitive list of the assets that the Council owned, which was evaluated on a cyclical basis.

 

·                If the Strategy was approved, Officers would liaise with those organisations with space within the Council building and to whom a discount or free lease had been given. These organisations would be asked to provide an annual report or statement confirming how they were contributing towards the Council’s strategic objectives, and this would be brought forward for Members to consider in making a decision regarding the lease and discount. It was noted that this would ensure that the Council had a fair and equal process for everyone using the Council building as well as seeking to formalise the process and any discounts were given.

 

·                Where a shared meter for recording of utilities was not available, the cost would be based on the square footage that was occupied. It was not noted that this was usual practice.

 

·                Leases with a greater financial value or for more than 14 years would be brought to the Committee for consideration. For other commercial leases the Council had a Policy that required wherever possible Officers would seek market rent.

 

The Chairperson moved the recommendations set out in the report and these were duly agreed. Councillor S White advised that she did not support the recommendations.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)             That Members note it is proposed to consolidate the Corporate Projects Working Group and the Asset Management Working Group into one Working Group; The Strategic Assets Working Group, subject to ratification by the Council in May 2024;

 

RECOMMENDED

 

(ii)            That the Asset Management Strategy 2024-29 (attached at APPENDIX 1 to these Minutes) be approved.

666.

Any other items of business that the Chairperson of the Committee decides are urgent

Minutes:

There was none.

667.

Exclusion of the Public and Press

To resolve that under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act, and that this satisfies the public interest test.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Part 1of Schedule 12A to the Act, and that this satisfies the public interest test.

668.

Authority to Write Off Unrecoverable Debt

To consider the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer seeking Members’ approval to write off debt which had proved to be uncollectable, in accordance with the Council’s Financial Regulations.

 

Members noted that the Council had processes in place to ensure the timely and effective billing and collection of local taxes due, however there were occasions where debt was deemed unrecoverable. She confirmed that once a bankruptcy order had been served the Council could not take any further action. The report advised that the Council had pursued normal billing and recovery procedures in respect of the debts set out in the report up to the point that the debts became irrecoverable.

 

A debate ensued and in response to questions from the Committee, the Assistant Director – Service Delivery provided further information regarding the process that had been followed in relation to the two debts. She also referred to a report on the Council’s debt recover process considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in 2021 and agreed to circulate this to Members for their information.

 

The Chairperson moved the recommendation as set out in the report and this was duly agreed.

 

RESOLVED that the write-off of uncollectable business rates totalling £24,350.45 as set out in section 3.4 of the report, be approved.

669.

Business Continuity Strategy 2024 - 26

To consider the report of the Director of Service Delivery (copy enclosed).

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Service Delivery seeking Members’ approval to put in place a Business Continuity Strategy (BCS) (attached as Appendix 1 to the report), the first for the Council. It was noted that the BCS had been devised to help review and embed business continuity practice into the organisation of Maldon District Council.

 

The report provided background information regarding the Strategy which ensured the Council had a framework for regularly identifying and assessing risks associated with the continuation of its operations. It was noted that a scoring mechanism had been adopted to rank Council activities into critical, medium, or low categories. Individual business continuity plans followed seven business continuity principles which were detailed in the report. The Strategy also set out specific detail for ICT and customer services and how the Strategy and service plans were to be tested and developed.

 

Councillor A S Fluker referred to the Strategy being very robust and proposed that the Committee agree the recommendations as set out in the report. This proposal was duly agreed.

 

RECOMMENDED

 

(i)             That the Council approves the adoption of the Maldon District Council Business Continuity Strategy 2024 – 26 (the Strategy) attached at Appendix 1 to the report;

 

(ii)            That delegated authority be granted to the Director of Service Delivery in consultation with the Chairperson of the Strategy and Resources Committee to approve amendments to the policy during its lifetime;

 

(iii)           That this Strategy is presented for renewal to the Strategy and Resources Committee on a two-year cycle

670.

Proposal and Funding Request

To consider the report of the Director of Service Delivery (copy enclosed).

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Service Delivery seeking Members’ permission to secure Nomination Rights for two modular units of temporary hours to assist homeless adults with support needs from the District, subject to sufficient community sums be available.

 

The report provided detailed background information regarding the proposed purchase, set out a number of key benefits and risks in relation to it along with the financial considerations. Appendix 1 to the report provided a breakdown of the Council’s temporary / emergency provision.

 

The Chairperson put the recommendations as set out in the report and this was duly seconded.

 

In response to questions raised by Members, further information was provided by Officers.

 

Following further debate the Chairperson moved the recommendations and these were duly agreed.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)             That subject to sufficient future expected commuted sums being received, the Council agrees in principle to secure Nomination Rights in perpetuity for the two modular units identified in the report using funds from Section 106 Commuted Sums towards the provision of interim / temporary affordable housing;

 

(ii)            That following all necessary due diligence being undertaken, the Director of Service Delivery and the Section 151 Officer, in consultation with the Chairperson of the Strategy and Resources Committee, be given delegated authority to proceed with the purchase of the nomination rights once funding is confirmed.

 

Councillor W Stamp left the meeting during this item of business and did not return.

Appendices pdf icon PDF 695 KB