To consider the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer, (copy enclosed).
The Council considered the report of the Interim Chief Finance Officer reporting results of the Local Government Association (LGA) Finance Peer Challenge undertaken from 27 February – 1 March 2023 (attached at Appendix 1 to the report). The report also sought Members’ agreement of recommendations made in response to this.
The report provided a summary of the Peer Challenge findings which were detailed in Appendix 1 to the report and set out the six key recommendations. The Council had created an Action Plan (attached at Appendix 2) which set out the Council’s draft response to the six recommendations and the broader findings.
An updated Terms of Reference for the Finance Member Working Group was detailed in Appendix 3 and it was suggested that this Group be renamed, and its membership reviewed.
The Leader of the Council presented the report and moved the recommendations as set out within it. This proposal was duly seconded.
Councillor P L Spenceley referred to recommendation (v) and proposed an amendment to include political balance and allow substitutions. This proposal was duly seconded.
In response to a question regarding the proposed change to the Finance Working Group and adhering to the six-month rule, the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer referred Members to Procedure Rule 12 and clarified that the Officers’ report was made under Rule 5(6) so therefore Rule 12 did not apply.
Councillor N J Swindle left the meeting at this point.
Councillor A S Fluker referred to the excellent work of the LGA on the Council’s Medium-Term Financial Strategy and raised some questions in respect of the recommendations detailed in the report. He then proposed an additional recommendation that in the best interest of value for residents, businesses and customers and the protection of our resident’s cash reserves the Finance Working Group delivers a cost neutral budget for the municipal year 2024 / 25.
Councillor Swindle returned to, and Councillor A M Lay joined the meeting at this point.
A debate ensued and some comments were raised in respect of the individual recommendations contained in the report appendices. It was noted that Appendix 4 should refer to the Maldon District Independent Group.
Councillor R H Siddall proposed that the membership of the Finance Working Group be increased to ten Members for the remainder of the municipal year with additional Members from the Liberal Democrat and District Support Groups to ensure it was politically balanced. This proposal was duly seconded.
In response to a question, it was clarified that although called a Group the Finance Member Group would operate in the same way as a Working Group.
At the request of the Chairperson, Councillor Fluker repeated his motion adding in the words ‘endeavor to’. The Chairperson confirmed that this had been seconded and he would now move each recommendation individually.
Recommendations (i) – (iv) were duly agreed, along with the proposed amendment to recommendation (v). Councillor K M H Lagan asked that his dissent regarding recommendation (ii) be recorded.
Councillor Fluker confirmed his proposal, that in the best interest of value for residents, business and customers and customers & residents cash reserves the Finance Board Working Group endeavours to delivers a cost neutral budget for the municipal year 2024 / 25. This was duly agreed by assent.
The Chairperson advised the Council that it needed to appoint the two additional Members to the Working Group. Councillor J C Stilts nominated Councillor M G Neall and Councillor J Driver nominated Councilor N D Spenceley. Both nominations were duly seconded and agreed.
(i) that the contents of the Finance Peer Challenge report at Appendix 1 to the report, be noted;
(ii) that the Council’s response to the six key recommendations (1 - 6) set out in the draft Finance Peer Challenge Action Plan at Appendix 2 to the report, be approved;
(iii) That approval of the Council’s response to the other recommendations (7 - 36) set out in the draft Finance Peer Challenge Action Plan at Appendix 2 to the report, be delegated to the Finance Member Group;
(iv) That the revised Terms of Reference for the Finance Member Group as set out at Appendix 3 to the report be approved subject to an amendment to the Membership to include Councillors M G Neall and N D Spenceley, as detailed in the response to recommendation 5 of the draft Finance Peer Challenge Action Plan;
(v) that the revised membership of the Finance Member Group be approved, as detailed in the response to recommendation 5 of the draft Finance Peer Challenge Action Plan at Appendix 2 to the report and summarised at Appendix 4.
(vi) that in the best interest of value for residents, business and customers and customers & residents cash reserves the Finance Board Working Group endeavours to delivers a cost neutral budget for the municipal year 2024 / 25.