To consider the report of the Director of Service Delivery, (copy enclosed).
The Committee considered the report of the Director of Service Delivery seeking Members’ consideration of a request from the Maldon Citizens Advice (MCA) for a review of its funding. A copy of the request received was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
The report provided details of existing funding arrangements, the proposed changes and an additional funding request from MCA. It was noted that the increase in funding had not been built into current budgets and funding beyond 2022 should form part of the new contract due to be considered in Spring 2021.
The Chairman introduced Mr Philip Wakeling, Chairman of the Maldon and District Citizens Advice and advised that he had agreed to Mr Wakeling making a short presentation.
Mr Wakeling referred Members to the request submitted by the MCA and advised that they were seeking a new three-year contract with the Council for the provision of generalist advice. He explained that the MCA were about to make a bid to renew its contract for another five years with the National Lottery for specialist debt, homelessness prevention and welfare benefits, worth £350,000. It was hoped as part of this bid to demonstrate that they had secured funding with the District Council. Mr Wakeling outlined the services provided, the number of local residents supported by the MCA during a year and the benefits this in turn had provided. He informed the Committee that the services provided could not be obtained from any other source in the district. Mr Wakeling asked Members to support the request for renewal.
The Chairman thanked Mr Wakeling for his presentation and moved the recommendation as set out in the report. This was duly seconded.
Councillor Miss S White felt that the matter should be deferred and highlighted a number of concerns including the amount of funding provided. In response to comments the Director of Service Delivery advised that the purpose of the report was to consider a one-year extension to assist the CAB and proceed this with a detailed review and Value for Money (VMF) exercise in respect of a new contract with the MCA for future years commitment. He referred to the new Finance Member Working Group and how it could assist with this work.
In response to a question the Director of Service Delivery advised he did not have the detail regarding the charges made to the MCA relating to rent and utilities but would confirm this detail to all Members outside of the meeting.
Councillor Mrs P A Channer declared an interest in this item of business as she sat on the Citizens Advice Bureau Liaison Group.
A lengthy debate ensued during which a number of Members spoke in support of the work done by the MCA and its VFM.
In response to a question the Director of Service Delivery advised that if Members were minded to support the recommendation this would be included in the budget due to be considered at the January 2021 meeting of this Committee. Prior to that meeting Officers could undertake further dialogue with the MCA and report this through the Finance Member Working Group prior to consideration by the Committee. The Director advised it would not be possible to undertake the work required in terms of the three-year funding from 2022, however he would review the timetable to see whether it could be brought forward more expediently.
A question regarding other providers was raised and in response the Director of Service Delivery advised it was difficult to find alternative providers and outlined the process that would be followed as part of the procurement process.
The Chairman then put recommendation (i) as set out in the report to the Committee, this was duly agreed by assent.
The Chairman explained in recommendation (ii) the Committee were being asked to agree continuing funding (with an increase to £75,000) for 2021 / 22 to give security to the MCA. The Director of Service Delivery further clarified that if agreed this would go forward to the Council for approval as part of the 2021 / 22 budget setting process. This was put to the vote and duly agreed.
In respect of recommendation (iii) the Chairman proposed that this be amended to replace spring 2021 with as soon as feasibly possible. This was duly agreed by assent.
(i) That following consideration of the request from Maldon Citizens Advice at Appendix 1 to the report Members confirm that an increase in funding to Maldon Citizens Advice, from £73,500 to £75,000 be included in the budget process for 2021 / 22;
(ii) That funding of the Maldon Citizens Advice for 2022 onwards be considered as part of a report on future procurement to be brought back to the Strategy and Resources Committee as soon as feasibly possible.