Agenda and draft minutes

Strategy and Resources Committee - Thursday 13th June 2024 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Maldon District Council Offices, Princes Road, Maldon

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

Media

Items
No. Item

88.

Chairperson's Notices

Minutes:

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

89.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

There were none.

90.

Minutes of the Last meeting pdf icon PDF 927 KB

To consider the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee held on 14 March 2024 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

RESOLVED

 

(i)             that the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 14 March 2024 be received.

 

Minute No. 660 – Budgetary Control as at 31 December 2023

It was noted that reference to stake park on page 7 of the agenda pack should read skate park.

 

In response to a query regarding resolution (iv) of this Minute and the further detail requested in respect of the invest to save business case for the fixed-term IT Specialist role, the Chief Finance Officer confirmed that the information was still outstanding. It was agreed that this would be brought back to the next meeting of the Committee for noting.*

 

RESOLVED

 

(ii)            that subject to the above amendment the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 14 March 2024 be confirmed.

 

*Postscript note: It was clarified later in the meeting that the IT Specialist Role was no longer required and therefore the funding would remain in the Transformation Reserve (see Agenda Item 8 - Technology Strategy 2024 – 2027). Therefore, there was no need to report anything further back at the next meeting.

91.

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.

92.

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.

93.

Council Tax Empty Homes Premium Policy Revision pdf icon PDF 137 KB

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Chief Finance Officer informing Members of a delay to legislative provisions to increase the period of time before which Council Tax premium would become payable in certain circumstances. The report also sought consideration of whether the previously agreed Policy on Empty Homes Premiums should be amended to enable these provisions to be applied locally in advance of legislation being made.

 

The report provided background information regarding the Council’s prior agreement of the Empty Homes and Second Homes Premium Policy 2024 – 25 to enable the application of Council Tax premiums in respect of long-term empty homes after a period 12 months and from 1 April 2025 for second homes. At the time of approval Government guidance on exceptions to the premium was outstanding, this had since been received and the exceptions were set out in the report. A revised Policy was attached at Appendix A to the report.

 

In response to a question regarding the process followed when the Council received information about empty homes, the Assistant Director – Service Delivery outlined the process to confirm if a property constitutes an empty property, which included visits to the property if required and how once systems were updated this would automatically trigger the Council Tax premium at the appropriate time. She confirmed that the Council sought to deal with the receipt of such information as quickly as possible.

 

Councillor R H Siddall proposed that the recommendations set out in the report be agreed. This was duly seconded and agreed.

 

RECOMMENDED

 

(i)             That provision is made for an extension to the time before which a Council Tax premium becomes due in some limited circumstances, effective from 1 April 2024 until further guidance is issued or enabling legislation is made;

 

(ii)            that the revised Empty Homes and Second Homes Premium Policy 2024 - 25 at APPENDIX 1 to these Minutes, be approved;

 

(iii)           that the Head of Revenues and Benefits be granted delegated authority, in consultation with the Chairperson of the Strategy and Resources Committee, to make further technical amendments, to reflect updated guidance, as necessary.

94.

Project and Improvement Management Framework and Maldon District Council Productivity Plan pdf icon PDF 131 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 providing the Corporate Project Management Office (PMO) and Improvement Framework (the Framework), attached as Appendix 1 to the report, for review and adoption. As requested by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) the report also provided a Productivity Plan (attached as Appendix 2) for review and adoption.

 

Members were advised of the recent requirement from the DLUHC that Councils produce Productivity Plans as part of the Local Government Finance Settlement and the report outlined the requirements for Productivity Plans.

 

The Council’s Process Improvement Framework (Appendix 1) had been updated and built on learning and achievements of the last three years of activity of the previous Strategy. It also now included project management activity and contributing a staffing reduction. The Framework activity linked to the Data Management and Insight Strategy and Technology Strategy, which together then formed the basis for the Council’s Productivity Plan (Appendix 2).

 

In response to a query regarding the appointment of Member Improvement Champions, the Assistant Director – Programmes, Performance and Governance confirmed that appointment of these Member champions was on an annual basis and would be sought from the Performance, Governance & Audit and Overview & Scrutiny Committees at their first meetings of the municipal year.

 

Councillor N D Spenceley proposed that the recommendations set out in the report be agreed. This was duly seconded and agreed. Councillor K M H Lagan asked that his dissent be noted.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)             That the Project Management Office (PMO) and Improvement Strategic Framework (Appendix 1 to the report) be adopted;

 

(ii)            That the Committee approves the ‘Productivity Plan’ at Appendix 2 to the reportand receives a six-monthly update on this going forwards.

95.

Technology Strategy 2024 - 2027 pdf icon PDF 220 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 the Council’s approval of the Technology Strategy 2024 – 2027 (attached as Appendix 1 to the report) (the Strategy).

 

It was noted that the Technology Strategy defined how the Council would use technology and transform the way it worked digitally and would be a key component of the Council’s Productivity Plan, an expectation of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Strategy comprised of four priorities, set out in the report and aligned with the Council’s Corporate Plan 2024 – 2027.

 

In response to a request for in depth Member training to assist Members in understanding technology, the Assistant Director – Resources advised that regular sessions were being held with Members prior to Council meetings. The Leader of the Council clarified that should Members wish these to take place at a different time this could be considered by the Member Training Working Group.

 

During the debate that ensued and in response to a number of questions and queries the following information was provided by Officers:

 

·                the Assistant Director clarified that in respect of disposal of old IT equipment the Council’s Policy required that such equipment was first offered to Parish / Town Councils, following this the Council would try to sell the equipment. She highlighted the cost of disposal to the Council as such devices required all data to be wiped prior to repurposing, however interest had been received from a local company which repurposed devices for schools.

 

·                The Technology Strategy looked at the Council’s resources and what it wanted to achieve within the lifetime of the Strategy, three years in the case of this document. The use of Artificial Intelligence was detailed within the Strategy, although Officers confirmed that future Strategies would build on this. The Leader advised that the Council was working in partnership with other Councils across Essex in terms of investing in technology and developing a shared approach.

 

·                The Strategy would maintain current resources and budget with an aim to save and reduce budgets. It was noted that working in partnership with the Essex Digital Partnership would provide the Council with more capacity than if it was carrying out the work itself.

 

During the discussion the Chief Finance Officer referred back to the Minutes of the last meeting and Minute No. 660 – Budgetary Control as at 31 December 2023 and specifically resolution (iii) where the Committee agreed a drawdown from the Transformation Reserve for a two-year extension of a fixed-term IT specialist role. She reported that since that meeting it had been clarified that this role was no longer required and therefore, the investment requested was not required. The Director of Strategy and Resources apologised that this had not been reported back to Members.

 

Councillor R H Siddall proposed that the recommendation set out in the report be agreed. This was duly seconded and agreed.

 

RECOMMENDED that the Technology Strategy 2024 – 2027 (APPENDIX 2 to these Minutes) be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 95.

96.

Planning Policy Working Group pdf icon PDF 230 KB

To receive an update from the Chairperson of the Planning Policy Working Group following receipt of the Planning Policy Working Group report (copy enclosed) at the last meeting of this Committee.

Minutes:

Councillor K M H Lagan, Chairperson of the Planning Policy Working Group (the Working Group), presented the report of the Working Group, which provided an annual update on the work carried out by the Planning Policy Working Group during 2023 / 24. He reassured the Committee that the Working Group had, at its last meeting, discussed the involvement and input of more Members to ensure better input and understanding.

 

During the discussions that followed Councillor Lagan along with Officers provided the Committee with additional information which included:

 

·                The Working Group had requested a more detailed plan on a regular basis.

 

·                There were no direct actions points outstanding.

 

·                New Policies were being written and the Leader confirmed it had been agreed that briefings would take place in the summer to ensure all Members were kept up to date with progress. The Director of Service Delivery advised that diary dates for these briefings would follow shortly.

 

·                In response to a comment regarding pepper potting, Officers explained that the Council had previously decided not to do this. In respect of housing numbers and the Local Development Plan, it was confirmed that a briefing for Members would be arranged at the appropriate time.

 

During the discussions, Councillor W Stamp declared an interest as an Essex County Councillor.

 

The importance of regular updates and for Members to fully understand the process was noted.

 

Members were reminded that all agenda and Minutes of the Working Group were available to view via the Mod.Gov system.

 

RESOLVED that the content of the report be received.

97.

Appointment of Representatives on Outside Bodies and Working Groups pdf icon PDF 182 KB

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

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Strategy and Resources to appoint to Outside Bodies and Working Groups of the Strategy and Resources Committee for the ensuing municipal year.

 

The Chairperson called for nominations and the following was agreed.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)             That representatives of the Strategy and Resources Committee are appointed to the Outside Bodies as detailed below, for the ensuing Municipal Year;

 

Outside Body

2024 / 25 Representatives

Maldon Museum in the Park Liaison Committee

Councillors K M H Lagan and A M Lay

Maldon Citizens Advice Bureau Liaison Committee

Councillors A Fittock, N D Spenceley and M E Thompson

 

(ii)            That representatives of the Strategy and Resources Committee are appointed to the Working Groups as detailed below, for the ensuing Municipal Year.

 

Working Groups

2024 / 25 Representatives

Car Parking Task and Finish Working Group

Councillors J Driver, M F L Durham CC, A M Lay and W Stamp CC

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer Working Group

Councillors R H Siddall and M E Thompson

Waste Contract Member Working Group

Councillors M F L Durham CC, A S Fluker, K M H Lagan and R H Siddall

 

98.

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

Minutes:

The Chairperson announced that in accordance with Section 100b(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 he had agreed to allow the Chief Finance Officer to raise an urgent item of business. 

99.

Approval to Carry Forward Capital Funding for the Galleon Replacement from 2023 / 24 pdf icon PDF 121 KB

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

Minutes:

The Committee considered the urgent report of the Chief Finance Officer seeking Members’ agreement to carry forward the previously agreed capital budget of £226,000 from 2023 / 24 to 2024 / 25, to enable delivery of the Galleon play equipment replacement project to proceed at pace. It was noted that this matter was brought forward as an urgent item for consideration as the full list of 2023 / 24 carryforwards was not due to be considered by this Committee until 25 July 2024; however, in order to deliver this project within the planned timescale of 18 October 2024 it was necessary to place an order with the contractor by Monday 17 June 2024.

 

The report provided background information regarding the Galleon play equipment replacement project and the related timescales for delivery. In response to a question the Chief Finance Officer advised that the project was in place and planning permission had been sought, this request was to enable the funding to continue for delivery of the project.

 

Councillor A S Fluker proposed that the recommendation as set out in the report be agreed. This was duly agreed.

 

RESOLVED the 2023 / 24 capital funding of £226,000 allocated for the delivery of the Galleon Project be carried forward to 2024 / 25.

100.

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:

In response to a query regarding Agenda Item 13 – Authority to Write Off Unrecoverable Debt and why it was not being discussed in open business, Officers confirmed that the details relating to this specific case were not in the public domain and therefore considered private and confidential. Officers confirmed that other such cases had also been treated in this way. It was suggested that for future reference, standard guidance on such matters be obtained from the Monitoring Officer.

 

The Chairperson moved the recommendation which was duly seconded and agreed. Councillor A S Fluker requested that his dissent be noted.

 

RESOLVED that under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item(s) 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.

101.

Authority to Write Off Unrecoverable Debt

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

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Chief Finance Officer seeking Members’ approval to write off debt which exceeded the officer delegation limit of £10,000.

 

The report provided detailed information regarding outstanding debt in relation to an overpayment of Housing Benefit and Council Tax support and the action undertaken by the Council to recover these monies to date. It was noted that following a bankruptcy order this debt was no longer recoverable and therefore write off was sought.

 

In response to a query regarding the officer delegation limit of £10,000 Members were advised that this was set out in the Council’s Constitution and could be reviewed in the future, if required.

 

Councillor K M H Lagan proposed that the recommendation set out in the report be agreed. This was duly seconded and agreed. Councillor W Stamp asked that her dissent be recorded.

 

RESOLVED the write off totalling £17,035.82, broken down into £15,268.52 overpaid Housing Benefit and £1,767.31 Council Tax, be approved, due to the debt not being recoverable following a bankruptcy order.

102.

Procurement of Services

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 approval to procure and award a contract as set out in the report. Members’ agreement was also sought to grant the Director of Service Delivery delegated authority in consultation with the Chairperson of the Committee to award the contract upon receipt of bids and following full evaluation.

 

The report provided background information regarding the current contract and the request to retender the contract to ensure best value for money was achieved. A procurement process would be undertaken following consultation with internal stakeholders and following specific guidance to ensure required standards were met. The report detailed the proposed procurement process timetable.

 

Following presentation of the report by the Head of Environmental Health, Waste and Climate Action, Councillor R H Siddall referred to the size of the contract and proposed that recommendation (iv) be amended removing the delegation and instead forming a Task and Finish Working Group made up of himself, the Chairperson of this Committee and two other Members of this Committee to be involved in the decision making process reporting back to this Committee. This proposal was duly seconded. Councillor Siddall then proposed that Councillor N D Spenceley and W Stamp be the other two Members on the Working Group.

 

The Chairperson clarified that the proposal was to amend recommendation (iv) to create a Task and Finish Working Group which would report back to this Committee. Councillor Siddall then proposed that the recommendations as amended be agreed. This was duly seconded and agreed.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)         That the Council does not exercise its option to extend the contract (set out in the report) and follows the notice and procurement process as detailed in the report;

 

(ii)        That a Member Task and Finish Working Group with a Membership of Councillors M F L Durham CC (Chairperson of this Committee), R H Siddall (Leader of the Council), N D Spenceley and W Stamp be formed to consider award of the Contract (as detailed in (i) above) and to make recommendations to the Strategy and Resources Committee for decision and award of the contract.

103.

Proposed Contract Extension

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 extend the Advice Services Contract, as set out in the report, for a further three years to September 2027.

 

Members noted the original award of the contract was for three years with the option to extend the contract for a further three years.

 

The report provided information regarding the direct levels of funding for the contract, the service provided to residents, performance, and outcomes. It was noted the contract was managed by the Assistant Director – Customer Services and Operations with scrutiny from a six-monthly joint Member and Officer Contract Liaison meeting. The vital service provided by the contract particularly at the current times was highlighted.

 

Following presentation of the report by the Assistant Director, Councillor A S Fluker referred to the recommendation and proposed that this be a recommendation to the Council.

 

Councillor K M H Lagan proposed that the recommendations as set out in the report be agreed. This proposal was duly seconded.

 

In response to a comment regarding the contract, the Chief Finance Officer advised that the contract was RPI linked and would therefore go up with this. It was therefore agreed that recommendation (ii) be amended to read “that funding recommendations remain unchanged’.

 

Councillor Fluker withdrew his earlier proposition at this point.

 

The Chairperson moved the recommendations as amended. This was duly seconded and agreed.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)         That the current Advice Services Contract is extended for a further three years to September 2027,

 

(ii)        That funding recommendations remains unchanged;

 

(iii)       That Members note the significant positive outcomes being delivered under the current contract.

104.

Splash Park Operations 2024

To receive a verbal update from the Commercial Manager.

Minutes:

The Commercial Manager gave a verbal update on Splash Park Operation 2024 following a decision made by this Committee in February 2024 to open the Splash Park as per scenario 1 (as detailed in the report). He offered apologies to Members, specifically mentioning Councillor K M H Lagan, for a misinterpretation of the decision and subsequent instruction to the contractors.

 

The Chairperson thanked the Commercial Manager and proposed that the apology ended the matter.

 

The Director of Strategy and Resources added an apology from the Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) and confirmed that the process was back on track with the Splash Park opening the following day (14 June 2024).

 

The Head of Service Delivery reported that the Directors and Section 151 Officer would be referring this as a CLT matter to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (O&S) for consideration in due course. There was some discussion regarding this, and Members advised that the matter would be considered by the O&S Working Group who would decide if the matter was taken forward.

 

During the short discussion that followed, a number of Members commented, Councillor Lagan thanked the Officer and CLT for the apology, and Officers provided Members with additional information including changes already introduced by officers.

 

The Chairperson then declared that the matter was closed.

Appendices pdf icon PDF 184 KB

Additional documents: