Venue: Level 5 Meeting Room, Breckland House, St Nicholas Street, Thetford. IP24 1BT
Contact: Democratic Services, Breckland Council Tel: 01362 656870
Chair and Vice-Chair
To appoint a Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson for the ensuing year:
The terms of reference of the Joint Committee stipulate that:
1. The persons eligible to be elected as Chair shall not be the appointees of a Council whose appointee held that position in any of the four previous years.
2. The persons eligible to be elected as Vice-Chair shall not be the appointees of a Council whose appointee held that position in the previous year.
3. The Chair and Vice-Chair shall not be appointees of the same Council.
For your information, the Chairmanship has to rotate round so that each Council takes its turn in a 5-year period (previous 6-year Chairmanship shown):
Fenland DC – 2022 (Current Chairperson)
East Cambs DC – 2021
Breckland DC –2020
West Suffolk DC – 2019
Waveney DC – 2018
Suffolk Coastal DC - June 2017
East Suffolk (current Vice Chair)
In accordance with the Terms of Reference, East Suffolk Council be appointed as Chairperson and West Suffolk Council be appointed as Vice Chairperson.
It had been noted that following a change to the East Suffolk Council representatives for the Joint Committee, Councillor Paul Ashton had been appointed as the Member representative and Councillor Peter Byatt had been appointed as the substitute.
In the absence of the outgoing Chairman, Councillor Jan French, Councillor Chris Boden her substitute welcomed everyone to the meeting and explained the procedure in relation to the respective appointments.
After being duly proposed and seconded and with no other nominations being made it was:
RESOLVED that Councillor Councillor Paul Ashton (East Suffolk) be appointed as Chairman for the ensuing year.
After being duly proposed and seconded and with no other nominations being made it was:
RESOLVED that Councillor Diane Hind (West Suffolk) be appointed as Vice-Chair for the ensuing year.
Councillor Paul Ashton in the Chair.
To appoint a Treasurer for the ensuing year.
After being duly proposed and seconded and with no other nominations being made it was RESOLVED that:
Breckland Council be appointed as Treasurer for the ensuing year.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 7 March 2023.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 7 March 2023 were agreed as a correct record.
To receive apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was received from Councillor French.
Rachael Mann, Director of Resources & Property (West Suffolk) advised that due to a technicality Councillor Hind had not officially been appointed as a Member of this Joint Committee until their Cabinet meeting which was being held later that evening. Councillor Hind would not therefore be able to vote on any matter on the agenda but would remain in the meeting to observe.
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.
The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011.
Report of Matthew Waite-Wright, Head of NNDR Recovery & Enforcement (ARP).
Matthew Waite-Wright, the Head of NNDR Recovery & Enforcement (ARP) provided Members with a detailed overview of the Performance Report 2022-23.
Overall, all partner Councils combined were on target in all areas except for the NNDR collections for Breckland Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council and East Suffolk Council. The reasons these particular councils had not reached their targets compared to the previous year were provided (see narrative included in the report).
An update on each service was then provided.
The Fraud & Compliance Team had exceeded their target and was being put forward for a national award.
The Fraud Manager and Assistant Fraud Manager had undertaken a review of the Fraud Service at Broadland and South Norfolk Councils. This was on a chargeable consultancy basis and a report had been produced detailing findings and recommendations. OIB and Joint Committee have agreed to the business cases submitted in respect of taking on fraud and Single Person Discounts (SPD) review work for Broadland and South Norfolk and taking on the SPD review work for seven Lincolnshire Councils, funded by the County Council. The Fraud Manager had been closely involved with the energy rebate schemes, having completed a fraud risk assessment and similar work would continue relating to the two new Energy Bill Support Schemes.
The Council Tax Billing Team had become more resilient and could now deal with more generic matters such as benefits.
The Valuation Office Agency revalued businesses for the 2023 Revaluation list, all lists were in balance and were actioned in time for annual billing 2023-24.
Over 50 projects were ongoing, and the annual billing had been a great success, and further automated services were now in place.
Councillor Boden declared an interest as he had previously been a Member of Cambridgeshire County Council. He asked a question about the 12-month trial period and what the metrics were on that.
Members were informed that the 12-month period was for this year and the Head of NNDR Recovery & Enforcement (ARP) said he was more than confident in meeting that target.
Adrian Mills, the Head of ARP, stated that the other Cambridgshire district authorities had been persuaded to follow the same model that ARP had operated for fraud since 2015 and hopefully, this would become a long-term arrangement.
Councillor Cowen referred to the setting of targets as it seemed that all targets were being overachieved and he had been particularly interested in getting a return of £2.8m on a target of £1.3m in respect of fraud & compliance. He asked what the target actually meant and what it would be set at for this service next year or had something exceptional occurred this year.
The Head of ARP said he would be happy to take this away and discuss it further with the Operational Improvement Board (OIB) but explained that it was difficult to set a target as it was difficult to estimate the value of single-person discount fraud.
Councillor Cowen felt that ARP was incredibly successful in clawing back money from people who ... view the full minutes text for item 16/23
Report by Alison Chubbock, Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer (BDC).
Alison Chubbock, Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer (BDC) presented the report.
In quarter 3 a forecast overspend of £761k for the year had been forecasted, therefore a movement of £1,202k could be seen since the last financial report. The main reason for this had been the late receipt of £988k of Government new burdensgrants, which had been previously reported but with no indication of values. In addition to this there was also increased enforcement income and a reduction in salary costs compared to the last forecasts
Further detail could be seen in Appendix A of the report.
Councillor Lay wondered why East Cambridgeshire District Council received the smallest portion of shares.
The Head of ARP explained that the factors that were taken into account were in the apportionment of partner shares.
1. The report and appendix be noted; and
2. The final full year variance at 31 March 2023 be shared between the partner authorities in the approved shares.
Report of Adrian Mills, Head of ARP.
The Head of ARP presented the ARP Service Plan and Risk Register and provided Members with a detailed overview of the work gained by the Partnership and the increase in demand.
Section 2.14 of the report showed the budget position, and Appendix A detailed the Service Delivery Plan highlighting the high-level actions that the service must implement to ensure that the varied demands on the service were being met.
The Cabinet Office conversations in respect of the DEA pilot scheme were still ongoing (see section 3.7 of the report).
Councillor Boden suggested a change to the Risk Register in terms of putting the risks in order of significance. He also mentioned the error made by one of the County Councils when they notified their precepts, and although he was aware that mistakes such as these could not be predicted, he asked if there were any measures that could be put in place to prevent such errors being repeated.
The Head of ARP said the change to the risk register matrix would be incorporated. In terms of the error made by the County, this was the first time that this had happened, but the figures would be re-checked with the County S151 Officer. It did not have an impact on annual billing as ARP was able to quickly re-bill at cost, fully
funded by the County Council.
Councillor Cowen drew attention to section 3.7 of the report where the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) were threatening to restrict the circulation of data if particular requirements were not complied with and asked for an update on this matter.
The Head of ARP explained that this was in terms of the Memorandum of Understanding that all authorities had to sign up to, in order to receive securely derived data from DWP and HMRC. The timeframe for this year’s MOU had been extended for a further month and ARP would be providing regular updates to OIB in due course. There was a risk to the partnership if access to secure data were to be removed given ARP’s automation, but ARP was and would continue to work with DWP and HMRC to be compliant.
Councillor Cowen felt that this could be an opportunity to offer our services to other authorities who had failed and asked that the risk be captured in the risk register.
Members were informed that DWP had been very clear of what was required from local authorities but there were some areas that ARP would not be compliant and there were some new stipulations that would have to be complied with.
Lorraine King, the Head of Benefits & Council Tax Billing (ARP) stated that DWP were aware that no authority would be currently in compliance.
The progress in respect of the December 2022 Service Delivery Plan was otherwise noted.
Report of Lorraine King, Head of Benefits & Council Tax Billing (ARP).
Lorraine King, Head of Benefits & Council Tax Billing (ARP), presented the report and provided Members with further updates since the publication of the report.
The help to claim scheme with CAB had been extended for another year to March 2024. Department was considering support required post April 2024.
Following the move to Universal Credit trials during 2022-23, managed migration for tax credit only cases were commencing nationally. CEOs would be contacted 4-6 weeks before their areas were impacted.
At the end of April 2023 East Suffolk, Fenland and West Suffolk CEOs received notification that DWP would start to issue migration notices to households claiming tax credits only in July 2023. This did not include households in receipt of housing benefit and tax credits. Migration of Housing benefit cases would take place during 2024-25.
The tax credit only cases could also be claiming Council Tax Reduction and a partly automated process was already in place to re-assess these cases as they moved across to Universal Credit.
The estimated number of CTRS claimants in receipt of tax credits only in East Suffolk, Fenland and West Suffolk was less than 100 cases per local authority.
It was noted that DWP had held a meeting with local authorities and had been informed that ARP was not expected to be involved and to signpost to DWP.
From ARP’s point of view, Councillor Boden asked if it would be easier if all 5 authorities were included in the same tranche.
The Head of Benefits & Council Tax Billing (ARP) explained that this would be dependent on the volumes.
The Head of ARP stated that the approach DWP was taking was unknown, but he had asked if the timetable would be repeated from this year, and they did not know.
The report was otherwise noted.
Report of Lorraine King, Head of Benefits & Council Tax Billing & Systems (ARP).
The Head of Benefits & Council Tax Billing (ARP) presented the report.
The Policy had been reviewed and as ARP did not have any employees the responsibility for health & safety of ARP Officers remained with the four employing authorities; therefore, a Policy Statement had been produced instead (see section 6).
Members’ attention was drawn to ARP’s responsibilities which could be seen at section 7 of the Statement.
It was noted that the Policy Statement would be reviewed as and when required.
Councillor Lay asked if the policies across the 5 authorities were radically different.
Members were informed that they were not, but it was ARP’s responsibility to work with each authority to ensure alignment where possible.
RESOLVED that the revised ARP Health & Safety Policy Statement for 2023 detailing individual employer’s responsibilities and ARP’s role in the review of those individual policies be approved.
Forthcoming Issues (Standing Item)
To note any items.
To note that the next meeting will be held on Tuesday, 12 September 2023 at 10am. Arrangements to be confirmed.
The arrangements for the next meeting on Tuesday, 12 September 2023 at 10am were noted. This meeting would be held via Teams and invites would be sent in due course.
The Head of ARP explained the arrangements for future meetings going forward.
A substitute would be required for Breckland Council for the September meeting.