Agenda and draft minutes

SPECIAL, Strategy and Resources Committee - Thursday 23rd November 2023 7.00 pm

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

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

Note: This meeting will start at 7:00pm 

Media

Items
No. Item

332.

Chairperson's Notices

Minutes:

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

333.

Apologies for Absence and Substitution Notice

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillor K Jennings and in accordance with notice duly given, Councillor N D Spenceley was attending as a substitute for Councillor Jennings.

334.

Minutes of the Last meeting pdf icon PDF 271 KB

To consider the Minutes of the Strategy and Resources Committee held on 9 November 2023 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

RESOLVED

 

(i)                that the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 9 November 2023 be received.

 

Minute No. 3 - Minutes of the last meeting

It was noted that reference to prosperity within this Minute should refer to posterity.  This typographical change was noted.

 

RESOLVED

 

(ii)              that subject to the above amendment the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 9 November 2023 be confirmed.

335.

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:

Councillor A S Fluker declared that he was a Harbour Commissioner.

336.

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:

In accordance with the Council’s Public Participation Scheme, Mr Syme, Chairman of the Maldon Society addressed the Committee in relation to Agenda Item 10 - Fees and Charges Schedule 2024 / 25, specifically the proposed increase in fees for Thames Barges at the Hythe Quay.

337.

Communications, Marketing and Engagement Plan pdf icon PDF 123 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 an update and seeking Members’ approval of the Communications, Marketing and Engagement Plan (the Plan) attached at Appendix A to the report.  The Plan formed the Council’s Communications, Marketing and Engagement approach and would be continuously updated to reflect new insights, decisions, opportunities and challenges.

 

The report provided background information regarding the Plan, the work of the Communications, Marketing and Engagement Team and the Tourism Group, recently established to which Councillors K Jennings and J C Stilts were appointed on behalf of the Council.

 

The Senior Specialist: Communications, Marketing and Engagement highlighted the work of the team which underpinned delivery of the Corporate Plan, supporting the Council’s key strategies and projects.  He explained that the Plan would be a living document and provided further update in respect of the Council’s website, film and TV work including the Essex Film Office and work of the tourism section of the team.

 

Councillor M F L Durham declared a registerable interest in this item of business as he was the Chairman of Visit Essex.  He referred to the Film Office being a new initiative from Essex County Council and provided the Committee with some further details regarding this.

 

Councillor J Driver highlighted a point of accuracy, noting that James Burrell-Cook was now a Councillor.  He suggested that under 3 – Principles the bullet relating to ‘digital first’ should be amended to refer to effective communication first and digital when social and economic channels were the most effective.  He felt this would broaden the scope and not exclude a large section of the community.  The Chairperson advised that Officers had noted this.

 

In response to questions raised, the Committee were advised that Officers were looking to hold events such as the walking festival across the whole of the District.  A member of Communications team attended corporate project discussions and were able to provide advice etc. where required.

 

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

 

RESOLVED that the Communications, Marketing and Engagement Plan (attached at Appendix A to the report) be approved.

338.

Supplementary Estimates, Virements, Procurement Exemptions and Use of Reserves: Quarter Two: 1 July - 30 September 2023 pdf icon PDF 145 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.  The report also provided details regarding procurement exemptions and the use of reserves.

 

It was noted that there were no virements or supplementary estimates agreed during this period. Sections 3.5.1 and 3.6.1 of the report set out the procurement exemptions and drawdown from reserves agreed during this period.

 

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

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)                That the procurement exemptions as detailed in paragraph 3.5.1 of the report be noted.

 

(ii)              That the drawdown from Reserves as detailed in paragraph 3.6.1 of the report be noted.

339.

Budgetary Control as at 30 September 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 information in relation to financial performance over the period 1 April to 30 September 2023.  The report provided an update on a number of areas including the following:

 

·                  Revenue budgets, including the net Service expenditure at Quarter 2 and reconciliation of the original to revised budget;

 

·                  Top Expenditure Areas and Variance – in relation to refuse and recycling a variance against each cost line was attached at Appendix 1 to the report; 

 

·                  Top Income Areas and Variance Analysis;

 

·                  Salary Monitoring as at 30 September 2023;

 

·                  Inflationary impact;

 

·                  Impact on the General Fund Balance;

 

·                  Capital monitoring – Appendix 2 to the report provided the current status and explanations in relation to the capital programme.

 

It was noted that the 2023 / 24 Budget provided for a higher impact of inflation, however budgets remined under pressure.  Although improved since the pandemic, the enduring cost-of-living crisis could yet create pressure on local tax collection rates.

 

During the lengthy debate that ensued, the Interim Chief Finance Officer provided further explanation in relation to a number of questions, this included:

 

·                  The Vacancy Factor was shown separately as a corporate adjustment when reporting employee variances as it was not possible to attribute this at the start of the year. 

 

·                  The Contingency Budget was not allocated for a specific purpose but for any unanticipated spend.  It was noted that it was not projected that this budget would be used for this financial year.  Under the Medium-Term Financial Strategy report, due to be considered at this meeting, Members were being asked to consider whether they wished to continue with this contingency for future years.

 

·                  Pension contributions were centrally controlled and therefore out of the Council’s direct control.

 

·                  Due to new Tenants at the Council offices, the Council was expected to overachieve its budget for lease income.  It was noted that any new tenants would contribute towards the overall running of the building.

 

·                  The Council’s Treasury Management Advisors provided advice in respect of the Council’s Treasury Management Strategy.

 

·                  The Business Rates equalisation reserve had been set up and was being used to manage fluctuations in the Council’s income.  At the beginning of the year when setting the budget the Council was unsure of the Business Rates levels to be achieved, the forecast budget had been overachieved and it was therefore appropriate to drawdown on that reserve to balance the budget for this year.  Without the drawdown the Council would be in a deficit position and these monies would have to be taken from the General Fund.

 

·                  New Homes Bonus was not detailed because this is in the base budget for the year and therefore did not require a specific budget.

 

In response to a question regarding table 3 of the report and those items with no variance, the Interim Chief Finance Officer explained how percentages may look low at this point in the year even though they were on track to be spent by the end of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 339.

340.

Medium-Term Financial Strategy Update 2024 / 25 to 2026 / 27 pdf icon PDF 461 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 presenting the revised Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) Update for 2024 / 25 to 2026 / 27.

 

Councillor M F L Durham declared an interest in this item of business as he sat on the Essex LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) Strategy Board and Investment Steering Committee.

 

The MTFS set out how the Council would manage its revenue finances and supported delivery of the Council’s objectives and priorities.  Following a detailed review of budgets, a number of changes had been identified and these were set out in table 1 to the report along with detailed information on the following areas:

 

·                  Changes to MTFS assumptions since February 2023

 

·                  Growths and avoidable pressures – During the budget review a number of budget pressures and growths were identified to meet service demand and had therefore been added to the MTFS.  These were set out in table 2 to the report.

 

·                  Repairs and Renewals – Table 3 identified a number of repairs and renewal expenditure that had been added to the MTFS.  It was noted this could largely be contained within the current budget, although £6,000 was being requested as growth for 2024 / 25.

 

·                  Inflation and Interest Rates – Although reduced and expected to reduce further HM Treasury was forecasting inflation rates to be above the 2% Bank of England target.

 

·                  Areas of uncertainty – These included Pension contributions, New Homes Bonus, Waste, staff pay, Council Tax and business rates.

 

·                  General Fund – Table 4 to the report highlighted the effect on the budget gap following approved amendments and investment returns.  Table 5 provided a projected General Fund Balance.

 

In response to a number of queries from Members, the Interim Chief Finance Officer clarified that:

 

·                  the Council was forecast to overachieve its investment income for this year and the target for 2024 / 25 was a reduction on what was expected to be achieved this year and reflected the gradual reduction in interest rates expected.  It was noted that this was based on advice from the Council’s Treasury Management providers.

 

·                  the Council was required to contribute to the historic pension deficit.  The reserve detailed the best estimate at this time, and this was monitored when the triannual pension evaluation took place.

 

·                  the growth in relation to recycling bags was based on best estimates in relation to the known volume, particular mention was made to the increased volume related to new houses.

 

In response to a question regarding the figures relating to the West Maldon Community Centre, Members were advised that although an estimate, Officers were confident the project could be delivered within the proposed budget

 

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

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)                That the assumptions underpinning the Medium-Term Financial Strategy Summary Update for 2023 / 24 to 2025 / 26 at Table 1 to the report be reviewed.

 

(ii)              That the projected impact on the General Fund Balance set out at Table  ...  view the full minutes text for item 340.

341.

Fees and Charges Schedule 2024 / 25 pdf icon PDF 132 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 reviewing the proposed 2024 / 25 fees and charges set at the discretion of the Council and forecast to generate greater than £2,000 each.  Those fees and charges anticipated to forecast less than £2,000 were also detailed and it was noted that these were reviewed and set by the Interim Chief Finance Officer under delegated powers.

 

The proposed fees and charges for 2024 / 25 were set out in Appendix A to the report and based on the Fees and Charges Policy report recommended by this Committee (on 21 September 2023) to the Council for approval.  Appendix B provided a summary of the proposed changes.  The report set out those charges where increases were proposed, and it was noted that there were two new charges proposed.  A table within section 4 of the report set out the income anticipated to be generated from the fees and charges.

 

During her presentation of the report the Interim Chief Finance Officer informed Members that the Fees and Charges Policy was due to be considered by the Council at its meeting on 29 November 2023.  She also highlighted an error in relation to wharfage fees policy where there was an oversight as the Council in February 2023 had agreed to continue to apply a 50% discount on those fees for a further three years and this had not been reflected in the policy.  A correction would therefore be brought forward to the next Council meeting prior to the Policy being agreed.  It was clarified that the report before the Committee at this meeting did not need amendment.

 

In response to further debate, the Chairperson clarified that the car parking charges had been recommended by the Car Park Working Group. 

 

The Chairperson then moved the recommendations as set out in the report and upon a vote being taken this was agreed.  Councillor A S Fluker requested that his vote against the recommendation be recorded.

 

RECOMMENDED that the detailed Fees and Charges Schedule for 2024 / 25 as set out in APPENDIX 1 to these Minutes, be agreed, subject to the Council’s approval of the Fees and Charges Policy on 29 November 2023.

342.

Capital Bids 2024 / 25 pdf icon PDF 148 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 seeking Members’ consideration of the Capital Projects brought forward by Officers (set out in Appendix A to the report), prior to approval of the 2024 / 25 budget and updated Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) in February 2024.

 

The 2024 / 25 Capital Project Bids were summarised in table 1 to the report with detailed projects sheets provided in Appendix A.  Members were reminded of the groups that each capital project had been categorised into by Officers.  It was noted that any revenue consequences of the approved capital projects would be included in the 2024 / 25 revenue budget.

 

Members discussed in detail the Capital Project bids submitted, and in response to questions the following information was provided by Officers:

 

·                  Capital investments were required to ensure service delivery, but also taking into consideration the wider public good.  Some of the items coming forward were cyclical and some end of life, however it was essential that assets were maintained to an acceptable standard.

 

·                  Parks and open spaces were an asset of the Council and had to be kept up to a minimum standard.  The investment set out in the report allowed this to take place.

 

·                  The Leisure Services contract was currently out to procurement and financial contributions in respect of leisure centre operation would be a key consideration of this process.

 

·                  Promenade Park Amphitheatre - Works identified for the Amphitheatre were to repair and retain the existing structure, it was confirmed that nothing was being removed.  Officers advised they would share some photos considered by the Asset Management Working Group with Members to offer further reassurance.

 

·                  Dengie 100 – Extend Gym and additional car parking - There was some discussion regarding the Dengie 100 Leisure Centre.  Officers outlined that the Rugby Club, who shared the facility, were expanding their footprint with works to start next year.  Members were advised, that with the current facilities the leisure centre was unable to increase its gym membership and the proposed investment would give the opportunity to expand the gym and possibly add a further studio.  It was noted that this capital project was an invest to save project and as part of the procurement process bidders were being asked to look at a range of options for capital investment.

 

·                  Goldhanger – Decommission current 10 garages on land as now a dangerous structure – In response to a question, the Interim Chief Finance Officer advised that this bid was to make the site safe and any decisions regarding matters such as compulsory purchase would be separate to that.

 

The Chairperson referred to the recommendation set out the report and reminded Members that the 2024 / 25 Capital Programme would be coming forward at the January 2024 meeting of this Committee prior to final approval by the Council.  Councillor A S Fluker proposed that the report be recommended to the Council for approval with the exception of the Dengie 100 capital bid which should go back  ...  view the full minutes text for item 342.

343.

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

Minutes:

There were none.

344.

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.

345.

Cemetery Service Review

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

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Service Delivery highlighting the recent Cemetery review and seeking Members’ approval to delegate authority to Officers to tender contracts as set out in the report.

 

The report set out the Service Standards that the Council strived to meet in respect of delivering the grounds maintenance services.  A full review of the Cemetery service had been undertaken in the summer of 2023 and the report provided a breakdown of the results and proposals address any points identified.

 

Members discussed the report and in response to comments raised further information and clarification was provided by Officers.

 

Councillor R H Siddall proposed that recommendation (iii) be amended to agree that in addition to the Section 151 Officer consultation should be with the Leader of the Council and Chairperson of the Strategy and Resources Committee.  This proposal was seconded.

 

The Chairperson then put the recommendations as set out in the report, with the above amendment to recommendation (iii) and these were agreed.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)                That Option 2, as set out in paragraph 4.3.5 of the report, be approved;

 

(ii)              That subject to (i) above, authority is delegated to the Director of Service Delivery in consultation with the Section 151 Officer to competitively tender both the Grounds Maintenance element of the Council’s Cemeteries and Highways Verge Cutting as per the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules;

 

(iii)             That subject to (i) above, delegated authority is given to the Director of Service Delivery in consultation with the Section 151 Officer, Leader of the Council and Chairperson of the Strategy and Resources Committee, to award the contract(s) to the successful bidder upon completion of the tender process;

 

(iv)             That Members note procurement of the Grave Digging Contract will be carried out separately but will not require Member approval due to the expected value of the contract.

346.

Events Strategy 2023 Update

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

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Service Delivery updating Members of the delivery of the Events and Concessions Strategy 2023 – 28 (the Strategy).  A summary of the 2023 season was set out in Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The report provided background information regarding events held by Maldon District Council (MDC) in its parks and open spaces.  In November 2022 this Committee had agreed the Strategy which specified that a summary of each summer season would be brought to Members for review and feedback.

 

It was noted that during 2023 the Council had hosted a diverse range of events and concessions the majority of which were delivered in partnership with Colchester Amphora and welcomed over 100,000 visitors to the District.  A table within the report provided Members with high level feedback and actions relating to some of the larger events / concessions that had taken place during the summer of 2023.  Details regarding related costs were also set out in the report.

 

The Committee discussed the report, with some Members referring to specific events that had taken place.  It was commented that going forward the Council should be looking to utilities all assets across the District for events etc.  In response to questions regarding the cost benefits of events Officers provided Members with further information.

 

The Chairperson put the recommendation set out in the report and it was noted that through the discussions that had taken place at this meeting the review and feedback had been carried out.

 

RESOLVED that Members’ review and feedback on the summary of the 2023 season (included with Appendix 1 to the report) be noted.

347.

Income and Savings Proposals 2024 / 25

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

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer presenting Members with income and savings options to address budget matters in 2024 / 25 and beyond.

 

The report provided an update in respect of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and budget gap for future years.  Following agreement of the Finance Peer Review Action Plan by the Council in July of this year, the Finance Working Group had met several times to consider options available to the Council to achieve it’s stated ambition of setting a balanced budget for 2024 / 25 and a sustainable MTFS.

 

The report set out a number of options to close the residual budget gap and Appendix 1 to the report detailed these savings, showing their Red, Amber, Green rating in terms of deliverability and impact.  The Chairperson confirmed to the Committee that all savings coming forward had been considered at length by the Finance Working Group.

 

Councillor A S Fluker spoke to the report and then proposed that subject to the removal of items 5 and 28 (as detailed in Appendix 1) all savings be agreed and presented to the Council.

 

In response to comments raised, the work of the Finance Working Group was detailed, and Members’ attention drawn to those savings rated Green.

 

In response to a comment regarding climate action, Members were reminded of the Council’s Climate Action Strategy and the regular briefings produced by the Climate Action Officer.

 

A lengthy debate ensued.  Following the debate Councillor Fluker amended his earlier motion proposing that item 5 be included and advising that item 28 would be subject to legislation.  He then proposed that the Section 151 Officer explore all the options as set out in Appendix 1 to the report and come back to this Committee with further information, at which point, if necessary, items could be excluded.  This was duly seconded.

 

In accordance with Procedure Rule No. 13 (3) Councillor Fluker requested a recorded vote. 

 

Before putting the proposal to Members and in response to a query, the Chairperson clarified that the proposal would involve the Finance Working Group and Section 151 Officer continuing to review all savings detailed in Appendix 1 before coming back to this Committee.  He then put the proposal to the Committee and the voting was as follows:

 

For the recommendation:

Councillors D O Bown, J Driver, M F L Durham, T Fittock, A S Fluker, A M Lay, N D Spenceley, M E Thompson and S White.

 

Against the recommendation:

Councillors R H Siddall and W Stamp.

 

Abstention:

There were none.

 

RESOLVED that the Finance Working Group and Section 151 Officer continue to review all individual saving lines at Appendix 1 to the report and report back to this Committee with further information prior to the Committee making a recommendation to the Council.

Appendix 1 pdf icon PDF 828 KB