Agenda and minutes

Venue: Level 8, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford

Contact: Committee Services, Breckland Council  Tel: 01362 656870

Items
No. Item

14.

Chairman and Vice-Chairman

To appoint a Chairman and Vice-Chairman for the ensuing year.

 

The terms of reference of the Joint Committee stipulate that

 

(1)   the persons eligible to be elected as Chairman shall not be the appointees of a Council whose appointee held that position in either of the two previous years;

(2)   the persons eligible to be elected as Vice-Chairman shall not be the appointees of a Council whose appointee held that position in the previous year; and

(3)   the Chairman and Vice-Chairman shall not be appointees of the same Council.

Minutes:

         RESOLVED that

 

(1)         Mr. G. Wilson be elected Chairman for the ensuing year; and

(2)         Mr. E. Stewart be appointed Vice-Chairman for the ensuing year.

 

15.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 95 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 28 February 2008.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 28 February 2008 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

The following updates to the minutes were noted:

 

(a)   Statement of Accounts 2006-07 ARP Joint Committee: Unaudited Draft (Minute 5/08) – The Statement of Accounts was presently with the Auditor.

(b)   Management Service Level Agreement (Minute 6/08) – The resolution of certain pension details was still in progress but it was anticipated this would be concluded shortly.

16.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillor John Humphreys, new Joint Committee Member for East Cambridgeshire District Council, who had been appointed to replace Councillor Peter Cresswell.

17.

Performance Reports (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Report of the Operational Board.

Additional documents:

1707a

Operational Performance as at 31 March 2008 & 30 April 2008 pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Performance Manager presented the reports covering the months of March and April 2008.

 

Successes during the period included attendance at two job fairs to provide benefits advice to workers made redundant by the closure of two companies and the nomination of the Partnership as an example of best practice by the Pension Service for its bereavement officer service.  The Partnership had also received a second Municipal Journal commendation for its benefits services and was also bidding for IRRV Benefits Team of the Year award.

 

Three complaints had been received during March in respect of Council Tax.  It was thought the reason for the rise in this number was as a result of the tougher stance being taken in enforcement of non-payers.

 

Progress of the discussions taking place with other authorities in regard to Partnership growth was noted.  It was also noted that East Cambridgeshire District Council was positively looking to move forward with the proposal to join ARP Trading.

 

So far as the performance statistics for the period were concerned, it was noted that the figures for collection of council tax had been affected by the timing of the Easter holiday.  Actual figures were requested to be circulated to members.  Collection rates generally among local authorities also appeared to be being affected by the current economic climate, although the evidence for this was anecdotal only at this stage.  This could mean that the overall year on year high performance levels might not be sustainable in the present climate.  The Partnership would be focusing on council tax collection in the coming year to raise performance in this area.

 

Performance in the national ratings was expected to be maintained at the upper or top quartile level.

 

For 2008-09, the national BVPI’s had changed and there were new Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOE), including one on fraud.  A report would be made to a future meeting on any implications of these on future performance requirements.

 

A recent drive towards promoting small business rate relief had significantly improved the uptake of this relief by small businesses.  Changes in the regulations now meant that non-domestic rates were payable on empty properties (after three or six months dependent on the type of property), although there were exemptions for certain types of property (e.g. a listed building) or if the rateable value was below the threshold.  Members were concerned that there had been little national publicity about these changes.  The Performance Manager explained that a presentation had been produced to explain the changes and impact and this would be made available to members.  More information would be made available when ready.  Officers were also happy to attend meetings if required.

 

The report was noted.

1707b

Financial Performance as at 31 March 2008

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Senior Accountant presented the report, the details of which were noted.

 

With regard to the Underspend figures, it was agreed more work was required to ensure that the ARP reserve in 2008-09 included provision for existing approved projects to be carried forward and the Joint Committee also needed to agree whether the overall Underspend and additional income should be retained by the ARP for forward projects or be returned to the Partner Authorities.

 

         RESOLVED that the officers be asked to recommend the amount of Underspend and additional income to be carried forward to the ARP Reserve for 2008-09 or to be shared by the relevant Authorities and, subject to prior consultation with the members of the Joint Committee, to submit the necessary report to the three partner authorities for their approval.

18.

FUNDING FOR INTRODUCTION OF EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT ALLOWANCE (ESA) (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Report of the Strategic Director.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Operations Manager presented the report which sought approval to the allocation of the funds awarded to each partner authority for the implementation of benefit changes consequent upon the introduction of the Employment Support Allowance (ESA).  The respective amounts concerned were: Forest Heath District Council £15,000, Breckland Council £35,149 and East Cambridgeshire District Council £17,024.  (DWP circular S2/2008 refers)

 

The new ESA was due to come into effect on 1st October 2008 and would replace Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support on the grounds of incapacity or disability for new customers.  There would be two types of ESA – income-related or contributory.  Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit regulations were to be amended to accommodate ESA and the new components, ensuring that the number of ‘losers’ compared to the existing system was kept to a minimum.

 

The funding awarded was provided by the DWP to implement these legislative changes and would enable the project to cover a period of consolidation to assist affected customers, stakeholders and officers during the transition and to consider ongoing procedural changes as the volume of cases increased.

 

It was pointed out that if the recommendation was approved, this would involve Breckland invoicing the two other partner authorities to draw the Grant income into the Partnership accounts held by Breckland.

 

         RECOMMEND to the relevant Committees of Forest Heath District Council, Breckland Council and East Cambridgeshire District Council that

(1)    approval is given to the release of the respective funds provided by DWP to allow the project to commence as follows:

 

§         Forest Heath District Council - £15,000

§         Breckland Council - £35,149

§         East Cambridgeshire District Council - £17,024

 

(2)    the funding received by East Cambridgeshire and Forest Heath District Councils is paid into the Partnership budgets held by Breckland; and

(3)    The Partnership budgets held by Breckland are increased by £67,173 to allow for the necessary changes to be made for the introduction of ESA.

 

A copy of the financial report in respect of this item is appended to these minutes.

19.

Local Housing Allowance & Safeguard Policy (Agenda Item 8)

1907a

Local Housing Allowance - Update pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Report of the Strategic Manager.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Operations Manager presented the report which updated the Joint Committee on progress with the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance, which came into force on 7 April 2008.  The LHA introduced a new way of working out Housing Benefit for private tenants.

 

The number of claims to date appeared low compared to the advice given by the Rent Service on levels to be expected.  A further meeting with the landlords’ group would therefore be held to ensure there were no unforeseen problems and to assess the impact of the new system.  Exact figures on the position to date would be circulated to members for information.<1>

 

The position was noted.

 

1907b

Safeguard Policy pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Report of the Strategic Director.

Minutes:

This item was deferred to the next meeting due to the inadvertent omission of the Policy appendix from the report.

20.

Items for Next Meeting (Agenda Item 9)

To note items for inclusion on the agenda for the next meeting.

Minutes:

The following items were noted for the next meeting:

 

  • Performance Report
  • Financial Performance Report
  • Local Housing Allowance Safeguard Policy

 

21.

Future Meetings Timetable

To confirm a timetable of meetings for the ensuing year as follows:

 

  • 11 September 2008
  • 11 December 2008
  • 05 March 2009

Minutes:

The following future meeting dates were agreed:

 

  • Wednesday, 10 September 2008
  • Thursday, 11 December 2008

 

The provisional date of 5 March 2009 remained to be confirmed nearer the time.

Employment Support Allowance_Appendix_ proforma b pdf icon PDF 64 KB