Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: THIS MEETING IS IN LINE WITH THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND POLICE AND CRIME PANELS (CORONAVIRUS) (FLEXIBILITY OF LOCAL AUTHORITY AND POLICE AND CRIME PANEL MEETINGS) (ENGLAND AND WALES) REGULATIONS 2020

Media

Items
No. Item

Chairman's Opening Remarks

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting he was pleased to see so many non-members in attendance.

 

The protocol for non-members wishing to ask questions was highlighted.

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Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 91 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 13 July 2020.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 13 July were confirmed as a correct record.  

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Apologies (Agenda item 2)

To receive apologies for absence. 

Minutes:

None received.

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Urgent Business (Agenda item 3)

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business, pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

None.

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Declaration of Interests (Agenda item 4)

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.  Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.

 

Minutes:

None declared.

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Non-Members Wishing to Address the Meeting (Agenda item 5)

To note the names of any non-members who wish to address the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillors Atterwill, Birt, Bowes, Bushell, Marion Chapman-Allen, Clarke, Crane, Duigan, Eagle, James, Kiddle-Morris, Ian Martin, Morton, Nunn, Terry and Wickerson were in attendance.

 

Councillor Morton raised a question under this item.

 

Central Government was coming forward with a number of funding initiatives in respect of climate change such as the Green Homes Grant (local authority delivery scheme), to improve the energy efficiency of low-income households.  Additionally, £1billion was going to be provided to encourage public sector decarbonisation.  He asked if the Cabinet Member for Sustainability could confirm that the Council was taking advantage of these funding initiatives to negate climate change in Breckland.   

 

In response, the Chairman advised that it was not normal practice for non-Members to ask questions under this item; however,  he assured Councillor Morton that Councillor Ian Sherwood, the Executive Member for Customer Engagement and the Council’s Member Champion for Breckland Sustainability Strategy would respond to this question under agenda item 11.

 

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Chairman's Announcements (If Any) (Agenda item 6)

Minutes:

The Leader knew that all Members were now aware that the Chief Executive, Anna Graves, had tended her resignation and would be leaving both authorities, Breckland Council and South Holland District Council, early in October 2020.

 

He had worked with the Chief Executive for the past five years as Leader and as Deputy Leader and her incredible contribution, energy and determination, not just to this Council, but to the wider success of local government in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and the Eastern region, had been recognised.  The networking and partnership skills built through her 30-year career in local government had helped position Breckland as a true partner of choice for many organisations within the eastern region and had made Breckland Council and its communities a greater place in which both residents and businesses could thrive.  She had also championed particular areas such as domestic violence and modern slavery, raising awareness not just in the public sector, but within the wider community as a whole. 

 

The Chairman pointed out that a formal announcement would be made at the Full Council meeting in September but in the meantime, he hoped that everyone would join him in offering their personal thanks to the Chief Executive for her tireless energy, commitment and service to the residents and businesses of Breckland and Norfolk and he wished her all the very best for the future.

 

He and Lord Porter were committed to the current partnership between Breckland and South Holland District Council and all options were now being looked at to cover the gap that the Chief Executive would create to deliver a road to recovery

 

The Chief Executive thanked the Chairman for his kind words.

 

On another matter, the Chairman highlighted the subject of the Devolution and Recovery White Paper that the Government had recently announced.  Members who followed the MJ or the LGA news would be aware that the Government intended to publish this White Paper in the autumn 2020.  Norfolk County Council was already holding a Cabinet meeting to discuss its commitment and direction of travel in response to the White Paper when published. 

 

Breckland Council was committed to work through the opportunities for change with its partners across Norfolk and the wider eastern region and develop all options to improve the lives of residents and businesses.   Everyone had a role to play in making sure that this publication was considered with an open mind but at present, without any details, it would be premature to discuss the options for Breckland Council; however, preparations were in hand to respond to the Government’s anticipated Recovery and Devolution White Paper once published.

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Breckland Community Funding Applications (Standing Item) (Agenda item 7)

To consider the grants put forward (if any). 

Minutes:

Although, there were no funding applications to report, Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Community, Leisure & Culture, took the opportunity to remind Members that the funding scheme, administered by the Community Foundation had re-opened on 1 September 2020

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Review of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) for 2021-22 (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Report by Councillor Philip Cowen, Executive Member for Finance and Growth.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Finance and Growth presented the report, thefirst of three papers that he would be reporting on, all of which were being provided against an unprecedented background that had not been experienced before.

 

This was the eighth year that Breckland Council had implemented this locally set Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme that had to be reviewed annually.  This latest iteration introduced a fluctuating earnings rule that would allow, if approved, a floating tolerance level to make it easier for customers to manage their finances month to month.

 

The current level of maximum benefit being 91.5% for working age claimants and a fully funded package for war pensioners, a key part of Breckland’s Armed Forces Covenant.

 

Whilst living through these unprecedented times and given the impact of the Pandemic, that was affecting all of society and the potential to have a greater impact on the most vulnerable, the fluctuating earnings rule had proved particularly beneficial to many in the Breckland community.

 

The report identified that Breckland Council had seen a 500% increase in workload as a result of COVID 19 and although this was now reducing to a more typical level, the impact of the pandemic had not disappeared and local flare ups were likely to lead to an increase in casework for the team once more.

 

There were two options for Members to consider as set out in section 2 of the report.  The recommendations in section 3 although unambiguous: should be retained and the scheme be reviewed again in the subsequent year.

 

Adrian Mills, Strategic Manager (Billing & Benefits) ARP, was in attendance to answer any questions.

 

Members were asked to support the recommendations.

 

Councillor Clarke welcomed the review and thanked the Executive Member for his report.  He asked however, if the Council would be looking at any changes to the categories of support due to the pandemic in any further reviews going forward.

 

The Executive Member for Finance & Growth expected an ‘open book’ review to examine the implications of what everyone had experienced this year and an all Member input into further reviews going forward would be welcomed.

 

The Executive Member for Community, Leisure & Culture was really pleased to note the introduction of fluctuated earnings within the scheme.  He felt that this was a small but significant strut in support for residents whose employment could vary from week to week in terms of income.

 

Options

 

1)     That the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2021-22 be reviewed as outlined within the report and that Cabinet agree to retain the existing scheme for the 2021-22 year.

 

2)     That the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2021-22 be reviewed as outlined within the report and Cabinet make other recommendations.

 

3)     Do nothing.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

The changes made to the current scheme have worked well – introducing a tolerance rule for the treatment of Universal Credit awards has reduced the number of notifications customers receive to amend their Council Tax payments, whilst providing stability for customer repayments  ...  view the full minutes text for item 55/20

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Revised budget 2020-21 (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Report by Councillor Philip Cowen, Executive Member for Finance and Growth.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Finance and Growth presented the report

 

During these unprecedented times, he doubted whether any Member could recall a time when the Council had to consider a change to the budget part way through a fiscal year.

 

COVID 19 had had a significant impact on the workings and financial status of Councils throughout the United Kingdom and Breckland was no exception.

 

In June 2020 an interim report had been presented on the likely and potential impact of COVID 19 on the budget that had been set prior to the world changing in March 2020.

 

The Council had suffered losses through reductions in its income streams as shown in paragraph 1.3 and it had experienced additional costs as identified in paragraph 1.4 of the report.

 

Government support had been received to target some of the gaps that the pandemic had created and whilst the Government support had been substantial, it had not funded the budget gap fully as a result of the impact of the pandemic on Breckland.

 

However, the Executive Member was pleased to report that Breckland Council, through its prudent fiscal management, had been able to absorb the majority of the financial gap by drawing down reserves as shown in Appendix A of the report.  This authority was confident that as it moved forward it would be able to put in place measures to address the £217k shortfall.

 

The Executive Member thanked the Teams within the Council who had worked in challenging and, at times, often difficult circumstances to put this revised budget together. This had been a workstream that had never been encountered before and hopefully one which would not occur again.

 

Full details that supported the revised budget had been set out in the report and appendix A highlighted the summary of the Revenue Budget amendments.

 

Alison Chubbock, the Chief Accountant and Deputy S151 Officer was in attendance to answer any questions.

 

Members were asked to support the recommendations.

 

Councillor Clarke also paid tribute to the work of the Teams in these difficult circumstances not only for remote working, but for the challenges faced in respect of the reduction to the Council’s position.  He had noticed that the Council had lost revenue in a number of areas in particular, commercial services, following a number of abatements for tenants and he wondered if it would be possible to have a breakdown of where those particular gaps were taking into account that this would be commercially sensitive information.

 

The Executive Member stated that there had been a great deal of information that had gone into producing this report and due to the commercially sensitive nature attached to it, it had been summarised accordingly. He was sure that the Chief Accountant and her Team would be able to pull together a supportive document for Members whilst recognising that some of this information might not be able to be released.

 

Councillor Hewett, the Executive Member for Contracts & Assets, commented that it was odd to publicise and reflect on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56/20

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Quarter 1 Financial Performance Report 2020-21 (Agenda item 10) pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Report by Councillor Philip Cowen, Executive Member for Finance and Growth.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Finance and Growth presented the report

 

As of 30 June 2020, the forecast overspend was projected to be £217k as mentioned in the previous agenda item.  This identified that, taking into account the lost income streams, the additional costs and the governmental assistance, coupled with Breckland’s ability to draw on reserves to bridge the gap, the Council was still showing a potential overspend on its revenue budget.

 

The Capital budgets were showing an underspend of £5.8m and the reasons for this had been explained on page 31 of the report in tables 1 and 2.  Additionally, there were some projects in the programme that had been funded externally through grant funding whereas others had been delayed for various reasons.

 

At this stage, it was anticipated that the majority of these capital projects would continue and some would be central to Breckland Council’s desire to Build Back Stronger and position Breckland, its residents and businesses in a better place and one that was more readily able to drive its economy forward as we come out of the pandemic.

 

Once again, the Executive Member was indebted to the Teams in Breckland who had been providing all the information to the Finance Team so that this position statement could be presented to the Cabinet in as full detail as possible.

 

The report was for noting only.

 

Councillor Birt appreciated that this report was a working document but had noticed on page 28 of the report pack that a number of items had been classified as one-offs mainly in respect of commercial related matters   He wanted to know if any projections could be carried out and how these would be quantified in future budgets.

 

In response, the Chief Accountant explained that it was going to be challenge setting the budget for next year, but Breckland Council was fortunate that the demand for commercial properties had remained high.  In these unprecedented times, lessons had been learnt and would be built upon and would be applied in the projections going forward in any future budget.

 

The Executive Member for Finance & Growth reminded Councillor Birt that this report highlighted the end of the first quarter, and it was the best guess that the Council had based on all the information that had been provided.  This authority was fortunate to be in a strong financial position and it would be able to pull back some of the overspends and the one-offs were just that, one-offs.  With some of the planning applications coming forward, Members could be assured that Breckland was a place where people wished to carry out and base their business. 

 

Options

 

1)     That the report and appendix be noted.

 

2)     Do nothing.

 

Reasons for Recommendation

 

To provide timely information to Members on the overall financial position of the Council, enabling resource re-allocation to priorities where necessary.

 

The report and appendix were otherwise noted.

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Breckland Sustainability Strategy (Standing Item) (Agenda item 11)

To receive a verbal update from Executive Member for Customer Engagement and Member Champion for Breckland Sustainability Strategy, Councillor Ian Sherwood.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Ian Sherwood, Executive Member for Customer Engagement & Member Champion for Breckland Sustainability Strategy reported on the following three areas:

 

·        the Carbon Audit,

·        the development of a Carbon Literacy toolkit; and

·        the LGA’s Net Zero Innovation programme.

 

Prior to that he commented on Councillor Morton’s point made earlier in the meeting and he was pleased to inform Members that the Council had applied for the Warm Housing Grant – Councillor Alison Webb, Executive Member for Health & Housing and her Team had submitted the application and a press release including all the details about the Grant was due out soon.  If further detail was required Councillor Morton was asked to contact him via email.

 

Carbon Audit

 

Members’ were reminded that the Council had been looking to procure a carbon audit.  All Councils across the country were all looking at climate change and sustainability programmes and many of the bigger carbon audit organisations were unfortunately booked for the foreseeable future. Subsequently, Officers had been asked to look for other available reputable companies or to find out if there were other ways to measure and reduce the Council’s carbon footprint. Further ideas would be forthcoming.

 

Development of a Carbon Literacy toolkit

 

The intern had been working very hard with Breckland Training Services to develop a Carbon Literacy Toolkit. Councillor Sherwood had carried out his own carbon audit and had been shocked with the results at how big his carbon footprint actually was.   The Carbon Literacy Toolkit would help individuals, businesses and organisations to understand the cause and how to reduce it and stop creating carbon that was damaging the environment.  This toolkit would first be tested with a small group of Members and Officers ahead of a wide roll out in November/December 2020. 

 

The LGA’s Net Zero Innovation programme

 

This was a new programme that the LGA had introduced for Climate Change Officers from Councils across all regions in England for an initial period of 12 months.  Breckland Council would be applying for this grant funding, if successful, it would allow the Council to work with organisations and universities across the country to help achieve their local carbon reduction goals and possible solutions to local challenges.  The LGA would grant fund successful Councils on the programme directly with up to £18k towards the cost of the project. 

 

Councillor Atterwill asked if it would be possible to have a written report in future possibly to Full Council to enable Members to monitor progress.  In response, Councillor Sherwood agreed to provide more written detail in future.  

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Next Meeting (Agenda item 12)

To note that the date of the next meeting of Cabinet will be held on Monday 19 October 2020 at 9.30am.

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting on Monday, 19 October 2020 at 9.30am were noted.