Venue: Meeting Room, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford IP24 1BT
Contact: Committee Services, Breckland Council Tel: 01362 656870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 10 February 2011.
The minutes of the meeting held on 10 February 2011 were confirmed as a correct record but were not signed by the Chairman as the original was not available.
Confirmation of the relevance of 6/11 point 2 was requested regarding the significance of the deficit in the SEBC pension fund. It was confirmed that the deficit from previous years should not be funded by ARP.
A Member asked if there was any further information available regarding the localisation of Council Tax Benefit within the Universal Credit proposals. The Strategic Partnership Director confirmed that there have been no further updates.
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies had been received from Councillor E Stewart and Rod Urquhart.
To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any items of urgent business pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
There was none.
Declaration of Interest
Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests they may have in any of the following items on the agenda. The Members’ Code of Conduct requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a personal and/or prejudicial interest.
No declarations were made.
Performance Report (Standing Item)
To receive the latest Operational Performance Report.
The Strategic Manager presented the performance report for February 2011 which had been circulated electronically.
The partnership continued to work hard to provide an excellent service and had recently met with South Cambridgeshire District Council who had requested we provide help and advice to them for providing a better service to Registered Providers.
Indicator NI181 was amber for all three authorities and was unlikely to go green by the end of the financial year. It was noted that the target of 5 days was extremely challenging and although it was unlikely to be met, it would not be far out. ARP staff had worked hard to achieve the current performance with the extra work involved with SEBC joining the partnership.
It was noted that the performance figures would be amended from April to show a breakdown of overpayments to separate those due to fraud, and to show the amount of money/number of cases rather than a percentage, as agreed in the previous meeting. It was also noted that recovery of large fraud overpayments was often slow as recovery from ongoing Housing Benefit was restricted to £12 per week.
The Strategic Partnership Manager said that it was still possible that East Cambs could meet the 5 day target for NI181 but there were still problems with Council Tax collection.
Although staff at ARP were working hard to reduce NI181 across all three authorities there had been a higher number of new claims for Forest Heath received pro rata. Council Tax for Forest Heath was still a problem despite a recent Direct Debit Campaign.
Lesley Walker (ARP Income Manager) explained the ongoing Council Tax recovery strategy and current procedures:
A private company had offered a solution for identifying new properties but a sample data match they had provided had not found any significant data to work with. There was also a meeting on 15 April 2011 to discuss a County wide Single Person Review funded by Cambridge County. This was done for Forest Heath this year as a Suffolk wide exercise.
Lesley Walker requested that East Cambs had the same facilities for taking telephone payments as Breckland and Forest Heath. Cllr F Brown suggested that this would be part of the new East Cambs front of house arrangement but Sharon Jones questioned that there may be IT issues.
Members questioned the re-profiling for Forest Heath that had taken place and would be delaying some recovery until February and March 2011 – how confident were ARP that collection rates would catch up? Lesley Walker had extrapolated figures from ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
A Guide for Members.
A guide was circulated prior to the meeting and the Strategic Partnership Manager explained that it was for advice only and explained some recent changes to empty property exemptions.
Members questioned whether it would benefit some businesses not to register as empty as they may be entitled to 100% relief. The Strategic Partnership Manager pointed out that the Council might have to pay for the relief and explained that ARP looked at each individual case when offering advice on the best way to register, and were always looking to minimise the amount businesses had to pay. She requested that Councillors used the guide in conjunction with officers who might give individual help.
Cllr F Brown commented that there were a lot of Charity Shops selling new goods rather than used or second hand and the Strategic Partnership Manager agreed that an exercise was needed to look into these as ARP was only aware of cases that were reported at present, although all charities were looked into individually and consideration was given to whether the charity was local or national when requesting further details.
The Chairman asked for an update on the brewery situation and the Strategic Partnership Manager said she was waiting for a response to her enquiry and would ensure this was chased. She said that ARP had attempted to help breweries by writing to them when they were advertising and training landlords to offer advice and information on rateable values etc, but had had no response.
ARP Future Strategy
‘Strategic Development – Note for Joint Committee 17 March 2011’ was distributed by Andrew Claydon.
(a) Future Relationship Between ARP and ARPT
The Operation Improvement Board had discussed the Partnership’s aims and the alignment of the Company and Partnership in the transition of Welwyn and Hatfield leaving ARPT. It had been agreed that shares could be bought.
(b) Strategic Development
The board met for the first time on 16 March 2011 and had issued a draft guide to new partners joining. The message identified the aims and how they should be achieved, with some points still requiring discussion.
Andrew Claydon pointed out that the services in point (1) could be broader and not restricted to Revenues and Benefits alone and clarified that the intention of point (2e) was for the Partnership to help other partnerships to facilitate improvements but not to implement them
Cllr F Brown said that ARPT was the vehicle to deliver but the expertise came from within the partnership and clear direction was needed for the future.
Cllr W Smith agreed that the skills were within ARP but required the assets of ARPT and alignment needed to be agreed with East Cambs now. Cllr W Smith said ICT was a major support within ARP and he would be happy to place Breckland’s ICT under Forest Heath to share resource and skills base.
The Chairman suggested that a section was added to point (4) to state that Members would explore the possibility of close alignment between partners and ARPT.
A member suggested that an addition could be made surrounding ICT support, as this could help ARP build up specialism and help marketing and sales for ARPT.
It was agreed that an addition would be made to the end of point (1) to read ‘best practice, including relevant support services’
Cllr F Brown said that East Cambs would buy in with full support and this had already been approved by the Council. A three way meeting would be required between Chief Executives.
It was agreedthat the board would carry on working on the Strategic Development Paper and move forward with East Cambs by obtaining a valuation and agreeing figures.
To note the arrangements for the Annual meeting to be held on Thursday 16 June 2011 at 4pm.
The next meeting would be held on Thursday 16 June 2011 at 4.00 pm.
The Chairman asked for the following items to be added to the next Agenda:
(1)Update on the Brewery situation
(2)Process for identifying new homes for Council tax Purposes