Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services, Breckland Council  Tel: 01362 656870

Items
No. Item

32.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 65 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 10 September 2008.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 10 September 2008 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

33.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Mr. D. Burnip.  Apologies for late arrival were also received from Mr. P.D. Claussen.

 

34.

Performance Report (Agenda item 5)

Reports of the Operational Board:

3407a

Operational Performance as at 31 October 2008 pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A correction to the paragraph on successes and compliments (page 9) was made, which should have read: “During October, three team members visited Lord Walsingham Court in Thetford together with representatives of the Pension Service as part of the on-going drive to increase the uptake of benefits….”

 

In answer to a question, it was explained that following the changes to the national targets, there were no longer any targets relating to fraud investigations.  This was helpful because, as previously reported, these targets had been unrealistic and of little value.

 

A question about performance figures on complaints was raised and it was noted that arrangements for complaints management were covered under agenda item 8 (minute 37/08 below refers).

 

In regard to the impact on NDR collection, the situation regarding Woolworths was discussed.  It was explained that currently there was only one unit in debt.  The company’s Administrators could be billed direct, so it was anticipated that payments would be received.

 

However, in addition to Woolworths, there were a growing number of companies going into liquidation or bankruptcy leaving a significant NDR debt which would adversely affect the performance target on collection rates.  If the current trend continued, it would be necessary to review the targets.

 

In addition to NDR performance, the current downturn in the economic climate was also likely to impact on Council Tax and Housing Benefits payments and caseloads. 

 

The Joint Committee’s awareness was drawn to the fact that there was a risk that the situation, particularly regarding Housing Benefits, could entail the need for more staff resources beyond April 2009 if present trends continued.  (See also minute 35/08 below)

 

The position was noted.

3407b

Financial Performance as at 30 October 2008 pdf icon PDF 8 KB

Minutes:

The report was noted.

35.

Budget Surplus (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Report of the Operational Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A net surplus of £166,811 for the year 2007-08 was reported.

 

In view of the position noted in the previous item regarding the potential need for additional staff resources to meet increased demand in Housing Benefits as a direct consequence of the impact of the economic situation, the officers recommended that the surplus be re-allocated to the Partner authorities at the agreed ratio of Breckland 66% and Forest Heath 34% but that £50,000 (equivalent to two Assessor posts) of the surplus be held in reserve as a contingency for additional staff resources.

 

Breckland Council’s position was that the whole of its surplus allocation should be made to it for redistribution as appropriate, in accordance with Council policy.  Funding for additional resources would be considered subject to a detailed bid, as required for any other service area.

 

Forest Heath’s position was also that the whole of its surplus allocation should be made to it but that the Council was prepared to hold an amount in an earmarked reserve for release of funding on a case by case basis subject to need.

 

         RESOLVED that the report be noted and the full amount of £166,811 surplus for the year 2007-08 be redistributed to Breckland Council and Forest Heath District Council at the agreed share ratio.<1>

 

36.

Service Plan 2009-10 (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 67 KB

Report of the Operational Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

An updated schedule of annual targets (Appendix A) was circulated, together with a copy of the Risk Register (Appendix B).

 

It was suggested the following objectives should be grouped and developed into appropriate targets for each partner authority so that of achievements against them could be measured, particularly in regard to Council Tax:

 

Partnership Objectives:

§         Service efficiencies

§         Income generation

 

Service Efficiencies Objectives:

§         To reduce service provision costs without impacting on service delivery

 

Income Generation Objectives

§         To seek innovative ways of increasing Partnership income

 

It was also suggested the Service Plan should include provision for a business case to be made to support additional staffing requirements to meet the anticipated increased caseload in the Benefits service.

 

With regard to income generation, more information was requested to demonstrate how this was proposed to be achieved by the Partnership, bearing in mind that this was primarily achieved through the trading company.  If this could not be adequately demonstrated for the Partnership, it was suggested it should be removed from the Service Plan.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the Service Plan for 2009-10 be approved in principle, subject to a report back with further information on targets (in particular, Council Tax) and income generation as requested above; and

(2)         delegated authority be granted to the Partner Authorities’ Chief Officers to amend service targets / performance indicators as may be necessary.

 

37.

ARP Partnership - Review of Governance Arrangements (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Report of the Operational Board.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

So far as complaints handling was concerned, the Joint Committee agreed that, on balance, the consistency across services within each individual authority should take priority over the consistency across the Partnership.  Therefore, the action proposed by the consultant in the report that there should be a corporate complaints procedure for the Partnership was not supported, with members agreeing that the current practice for complaints to be dealt with under the scope of each authority’s procedures should continue.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the report be adopted and the following recommendations be approved:

 

(a)    Performance Management

The intention to align all partner targets remains as an aim and the extent to which this has been achieved within the current year is noted.  The appropriateness of setting common targets for Council Tax collection be reviewed as part of the target setting process for the new financial year.  (See minute 36/08 above)

 

(b)         Risk Management

         The proposed measures proposed in Appendix A of the report be adopted.

 

(c)         Complaints Management

The Partnership continues to operate within the scope of each individual authority’s complaints structure.

38.

The effect of the current financial crisis on the Benefits and Revenues Service (Agenda Item 9)

Report of the Operational Board.

Minutes:

This item was covered under minutes 34/08(a) and 35/08 above.

 

Mr. Colyer pointed out that this issue was to be included in the internal audit reports currently in progress at East Cambridgeshire District Council and Forest Health District Council.  He expected that the issues raised would apply equally to Breckland Council.

 

39.

RENT LOCALITIES AND THE HOUSE OF LORDS’ HEFFERNAN JUDGEMENT (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 53 KB

Report of the Operational Board.

Minutes:

This report outlined the effects of a recent House of Lords’ Judgement on the payment of housing benefits to people with private landlords.

 

The ultimate effect of the Judgement was that on renewal of housing benefit for customers with private landlords, the benefit was likely to reduce because of the way the Rent Service was being required to calculate rental charges.

 

The Rent Service was challenging the Judgement, as the ruling went against the Government’s original policy intention, and there could, therefore, be a further change of regulation.

 

It was uncertain at this stage whether there was likely to be any impact of this on the Local Housing Allowance scheme.

 

Affected customers were being given advice and information leaflets were being prepared.

 

The position was noted.

 

40.

Appointment of Auditor for 2008-09 (Agenda Item 11)

To consider the re-appointment of an Auditor for 2008-09.

 

The Audit Commission was approached at the start of 2007 to appoint an Auditor for the Joint Committee (Minute 9/07 refers).

 

The Audit Commission has proposed that Breckland Council’s Auditor, Andy Perrin of the Audit Commission’s Central Region, be appointed for this purpose.

 

Minutes:

It was noted that the Audit Commission had been requested to look at putting in joint audit arrangements for the Partnership.  This would avoid the need for three separate audits and should reduce audit costs.

 

RESOLVED that the appointment of Andy Perrin as Auditor for the Joint Committee for Breckland Council for 2008/09 as proposed by the Audit Commission be approved.<1>

 

41.

Next Meeting (Agenda Item 13)

To confirm the date of the next meeting on Thursday, 5 March 2008 at 4.00 p.m. at Level 8, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford.

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting on 5th March 2009 was confirmed.

 

42.

Exclusion of Press and Public

To consider passing the following resolution:

 

“That under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 3 and 4 of Schedule 12A to the Act.”

Minutes:

RESOLVED that under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 3 and 4 of Schedule 12A to the Act.

 

43.

The Future of the Anglia Revenues Partnership and ARP Trading Limited - Discussion Paper (Agenda item 15) and Valuation and Potential Share Allocation to East Cambridgeshire District Council (Agenda Item 16)

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive, Breckland Council.

Minutes:

Members welcomed these reports as the basis for further discussions.

 

It was agreed that the Partner Authorities needed to reach a consensus on the way forward as quickly as possible.  It was therefore proposed that a small senior officer working group be established to discuss the matter and produce a joint report with recommendations for consideration by each Council in February 2009.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)         an officer working group be established to consider and agree a joint report to the Partner Authorities with recommendations on the way forward by February 2009;

(2)         membership of the working group to be:

- East Cambridgeshire - Alex Colyer (substitute: John Hill)
- Forest Heath - Andrew Claydon (substitute: Lynda Pope)
- Breckland - Tim Leader (substitute: Rob Barlow)

- ARP – Steve Knights

 

44.

Annual Salary Review (Agenda Item 17)

Report of the Operational Board.

Minutes:

It was noted that the Joint Committee had previously agreed (Minute 31/08) that it remained the intention to undertake a review of the blended pay scheme once the review of the Breckland scheme had been completed.  It was understood that the Breckland scheme would be completed by March 2009.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)         the report be noted and the option to ring-fence all staff within the ARP (on Breckland Council and Forest Heath District Council terms and conditions) to be on a joint ARP salary that has an annual pay review linked to the national scheme be ratified, and payment to staff where monies are due be agreed;

(2)         a report on the Breckland BRRS salary scheme be presented to the next meeting of the Joint Committee to enable a review of the blended salary scheme to be considered.

 

45.

Items for Next Meeting (Agenda Item 12)

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

Minutes:

The following items were noted for the next meeting:

 

  • Report of the working group on the future of the Anglia Revenues Partnership and ARP Trading Ltd, including valuation and potential share allocation to East Cambridgeshire District Council

  • Presentation on Breckland pay scheme and review of ARP blended pay scheme