Agenda and minutes

Venue: Norfolk Room, The Committee Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham

Items
No. Item

34.

Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 179 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 February 2009.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 24 February 2009 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

35.

Apologies (Agenda item 2)

To receive apologies for absence. 

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Mr R Goreham.

36.

Declaration of Interest (Agenda item 4)

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 or prejudicial interest.

Minutes:

The following declarations were made:

 

·              Lady K Fisher declared a personal interest in Agenda item 7 by virtue of her being on the YMCA Board. She also wished for it to be noted that a personal interest would also be declared if matters relating to Thetford Growth Point were discussed.

 

·              Messrs W Smith and P Claussen declared personal interests in Agenda item 19, Anglia Revenues and Benefits Partnership, the nature of which related to their positions on the Partnership Board.

 

·              Mr P Cowen declared a personal interest in Agenda item 16, Capita contract, by virtue of his profession as an architect in practice.

37.

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:

Messrs G Bambridge, B Borrett, P Cowen, P Duigan, K Gilbert, P Hewett, A Joel and J Labouchere and Mesdames M Chapman-Allen and E Gould.

38.

Annual Audit and Inspection Letter 2007/08 (Agenda item 7) pdf icon PDF 242 KB

Presented by Gill Bannister from the Audit Commission.

 

The Annual Audit Inspection letter is attached as a separate document.

Minutes:

The Policy and Performance Manager introduced Gill Bannister from the Audit Commission who was in attendance to present the Annual Audit Inspection letter.  She informed Members that this would be the last time the letter would be presented in its current format.

 

The report drew on the findings and conclusions from the audit of the Council and from any inspections that had been undertaken in the last year.  The letter included the Commission’s review on how well the Council had progressed and the auditor’s assessment of how well the Council had managed its finances.

 

The main messages for the Council were as follows:

 

  • Breckland Council was continuing to improve its performance although the rate of improvement had slowed.  A higher than average proportion of the Council’s performance indicators was amongst the best performers and most local priorities were being effectively tackled.

 

  • Crime levels were generally decreasing and the Council was showing stronger community leadership.  Services were becoming more accessible to different groups within the community, and were better tailored to their needs.

 

  • Strategic planning was strengthening with clear links being made between corporate, community and county plans.  Performance management was robust and the Council had capacity to deliver its plans.

 

  • An unqualified audit opinion on the 2007/08 statement of accounts and certified the completion of the audit had been issued.

 

  • It was concluded that, in all significant respects, the Council had made proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources for the year ending 31 March 2008.

 

  • The Council had been assessed as performing at level 3 in the ‘use of resources’ judgement which represented a significant improvement and indicated that the Council was performing well.

 

The action needed by the Council was as follows:

 

  • to continue to implement improvement plans to meet its key service priorities including those highlighted in the direction of the travel report;

 

  • to exercise strong governance and financial management to combat the pressures brought by the current economic climate; and

 

  • to continue to exercise strong governance through the period of uncertainty as the proposals for Norfolk local government re-organisation were clarified.

 

Breckland Council had 43% of its performance indicators amongst the highest performing for district councils in 2007/08; this was 10% above the national average.

 

A number of community events had been organised under the ‘Pride in Breckland’ banner; however, it was unclear what impact this had had on achieving the Council’s main aims.<1>

 

In 2007/08 the Council was amongst the worst performers for payment of invoices; however, the initial problems with the new electronic ordering system regarding invoice payments had since been addressed.

 

Support had been provided to specific areas and business sectors, for example through the major Rural Enterprise Valley project.  This had been completed and had met most of its aims in terms of support for the motorsport and advance engineering sector based along the A11 corridor.  The outcomes had been the sharing of best practice, increased turnover and creation of a substantial number of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.

39.

Annual Delivery Plan 2009/10 (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 292 KB

 Report of the Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio (Lady K Fisher).

Minutes:

The Policy and Performance Manager was in attendance and explained the purpose of the Annual Delivery Plan.

 

The Executive Member for Planning and the Environment queried the budget information on page 28 of the Plan.  She asked for her budget to be separated from the Transformation Portfolio.  The Assistant Director for Governance advised that confirmation of the Capita decision would mean that all of the Council’s budgets would have to be re-worked.  He would; however, get back to the Executive Member with a response.

 

Options

 

To approve, reject or amend the Annual Delivery Plan.

 

Reasons

 

The Audit Commission require Councils to have in place robust performance management systems.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the Annual Delivery Plan for 2009/10 be approved.

40.

Capital Programme 2008/09 (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 103 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio (Lady Kay Fisher).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A revised Capital Programme report had been circulated.

 

Capital investment played a key role in helping the Council to achieve its long term objectives. The report showed the out-turn on capital schemes in the 2008/09 Capital Programme along with the resources used to fund the programme.

 

The Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio introduced the report and requested that Members consider the Capital Programme prior to recommendation to Council. 

 

The Assistant Director for Governance outlined the key issues contained in the report.

 

Referring to paragraph 4.1 of the report, under Planning and Building Control, the under spend of £27,500 was requested to be rolled over on a scheme by scheme basis into 2009/10 for work to be completed on the GEODSYS and TLC project.

 

In addition to items noted in section 4 of the report, there had been requests for other proposed changes to the programme including work in progress.  These schemes had been added to the 2009/10 Capital programme as it was recognised that not all schemes finished at the end of each financial year.

 

The actual capital receipts in 2008/09 (6.1 of the report) now amounted to £398,802 as more money had recently been found.

 

The Executive Member for the Transformation Portfolio and the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission were pleased with the information presented and complimented the Finance team on a much more legible report.

 

Options

 

Members might wish to suggest alternative arrangements for amendments and associated financing to the 2008/09 Capital Programme.

 

The reason for the recommendation would ensure the Capital Programme for 2008/09 was amended along with the necessary funding.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that

 

1)           the Capital Programme for 2009/10 be approved;

 

1)           the associated financing be amended to reflect the items under paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2 of the report; and

 

2)           the funding as detailed in Appendix B of the report be approved to finance the Programme for 2008/09.

41.

Concessionary Bus Fares (Agenda item 10) pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio (Lady Kay Fisher).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report provided an update on recent changes to the concessionary bus fares scheme and sought clarification on areas where discretionary concessions might be applied.

 

The Executive Member for the Governance Portfolio explained that although various changes had been made to the scheme, she hoped that she would have the Members’ support as the scheme was of great benefit to council tax payers particularly to those in rural areas.

 

Some services that had previously been mandatory under the national scheme had now become discretionary, in that the district could make its own decision whether to grant a concession to journeys starting within their district.

 

A Member asked whether the Council could provide a new concessionary flexi bus service in the south of Attleborough as he had concerns with the amount of buses that had been withdrawn from around the Attleborough area as a whole.  He also asked that the Council supported a National Express coach from Attleborough to Thetford and to highlight the fact that it would be concessionary.

 

The Head of Finance explained that there had been a number of changes to the way in which the costs of the Norfolk scheme were allocated.  He asked that the surplus budget be removed to assist the Council’s efficiency plan, leaving sufficient funds to support the schemes outlined in the report.

 

The National Express coach route operating between Thetford and Norwich had allowed concessionary bus pass holders to travel free of charge since the new national scheme was introduced.  This scheme, however, now fell outside of the new guidelines and authorities had been requested to confirm whether they intended to continue to allow this concession.  The costs of granting a concession on this route were unknown, as the coach operator had never charged authorities for this service; therefore, the Council had not incurred any costs so far.  As a result, Breckland Council did not hold data to help forecast usage.  The Head of Finance explained that he would try to obtain some figures and would also keep a close eye on the numbers using it.<1>

 

Another Member said that he would find it very useful if the Council supported a flexibus/connect bus in his area (the Eynsford Ward), as public transport facilities in these particular areas were minimal.

 

The Chairman agreed that there were rural deprivation issues in Breckland and that residents should be allowed to access the main bus arteries. He suggested that the budget should be held in abeyance whilst further investigations took place with regard to the National Express coach matter.

 

The Deputy Leader felt that the Council should be careful with how it allocated these monies as Breckland had, in the past, received the lowest level of funding for public transport from Norfolk County Council even though Breckland had the highest level of elderly living in the area. 

Options

 

§               To remove the surplus budget to assist the Council’s efficiency plan.

 

§               To grant discretionary concessions to allow the continuation of concessions that were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.

42.

Breckland Council-Owned Land at Coronation Terrace, Caston (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Economic and Housing Portfolio (Paul Claussen).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Executive Member for the Economic and Housing Portfolio presented the report which concerned a request to transfer two areas of Breckland Council-owned land at Coronation terrace, Caston to Caston Parish Council at nil consideration to be retained as amenity areas for the benefit of the community.

 

Option 1

 

That these two areas of Breckland Council-owned land at Coronation Terrace, Caston be transferred a nil consideration to Caston Parish Council, subject to a covenant being imposed restricting the use of these areas to amenity purposes only and that the legal costs associated with such transfer(s) be borne by Caston Parish Council.

 

Option 2

 

That these two areas of Breckland Council-owned land at Coronation Terrace, Caston be transferred, at or above the District Valuer’s valuation, to Caston Parish Council subject to a covenant being imposed restricting the use of these areas of land to amenity purposes only and that the legal costs associated with such transfer(s) be borne by Caston Parish Council.

 

Option 3

 

That these two areas of Breckland Council-owned land at Coronation Terrace, Caston be sold on the open market thus receiving a minimum income of £1,950.00 plus VAT.

 

Option 4

 

That these two areas of Breckland Council-owned land at Coronation Terrace, Caston remain within Breckland Council’s ownership.

 

Reason

 

The parish would like these areas to remain as green space for the village use.  The Parish Council were currently planning a village enhancement scheme with new plants, bins etc.  If these areas of land could be included it would provide a welcoming entrance to the village.

 

RESOLVED that

 

1)           the transfer of the two areas of Breckland Council-owned land at Coronation Terrace, Caston to Caston Parish Council be approved at nil consideration;

 

2)           a covenant be imposed restricting the use of these areas of land to amenity purposes only; and

 

3)           the legal costs associated with such a transfer be borne by Caston Parish Council.

43.

Barnham Cross Estate, Thetford - Council-Owned Land at Beech Close (Agenda item 12) pdf icon PDF 81 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Economic and Housing Portfolio (Paul Claussen).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commercial Property Manager presented the report which sought Cabinet’s approval for the transfer of three areas of Council-owned land at Beech Close, Thetford, on the Barnham Cross Estate to Peddars Way Housing Association at nil consideration.  Breckland Council and Peddars Way Housing Association were currently working in partnership to regenerate and enhance this estate, maximising the use of the garage blocks, garage forecourts, off street parking areas and amenity areas and the land adjacent to the houses.

 

The Executive Member for the Transformation Portfolio felt that this would prevent inconvenience to other car users if approved.

 

Option 1                                         

 

That these areas of Council-owned land at Beech Close, Thetford be transferred, at nil consideration, to Peddars Way Housing Association to allow these areas of land to be used to create additional car parking provision.

 

Option 2

 

That these areas of Council-owned land at Beech Close, Thetford be transferred, at or above the District Valuer’s valuation to Peddars Way Housing Association to allow these areas of land to be used to create additional car parking provision.

 

Option 3

 

That these areas of Council-owned land at Beech Close, Thetford remain within Breckland Council’s ownership.

 

Reasons

 

·              The Council would lose responsibility for these areas of land at Beech Close, Thetford.

 

·              To support the regeneration and enhancement of the Barnham Cross Estate in Thetford.

 

·              To reduce off-street parking and illegal parking on open space.

 

RESOLVED that, the three areas of Council-owned land at Beech Close, Thetford, be transferred, at nil consideration, to Peddars Way Housing Association to allow these areas of land to be used to create additional car parking provision.

44.

Financial Inclusion Strategy (Agenda item 13) pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Economic and Housing Portfolio (Paul Claussen).

 

The Strategy is attached as a separate document.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Housing Manager presented the report which invited Members to consider and agree the Financial Inclusion Strategy for Breckland and recommend it to Council for approval.

 

This Strategy would set out the issues and extent of financial exclusion nationally and locally and identify the work currently happening across the District to promote financial inclusion and highlight any recommendations for improving financial awareness and solutions to reducing the impact of financial inclusion.

 

Options

 

1)           To agree to adopt the Strategy for financial inclusion would demonstrate the Council’s priority to improve the quality of life of residents currently facing severe hardship due to unemployment, reduction in income and loss of their homes.  The current financial climate had touched every resident in some way.  This Strategy enabled an opportunity to strengthen partnerships to deliver appropriate services to Breckland’s residents.

 

2)           Not to agree to adopt the Strategy would prevent a coordinated planned approach to service delivery for those requiring financial support.  It would undermine the partnerships that have been developed and demonstrate to residents that the Council did not recognise the difficulties that they might be facing in the current climate.

 

Reasons

 

This would be the first Financial Inclusion Strategy in Norfolk.  It aimed to build strong partnerships to deliver services to a cross section of the community.  Financial hardship did not just affect social housing tenants; it impacted on the young, the old, homeowners, those in work as well as those out of work.

 

The Strategy was a positive reaction from the Strategic Housing team on the impact on their service from those experiencing financial hardship.  Having a Strategy in place would enable the Housing team to have a platform to make funding bids to secure resources where actions needed to be delivered outside of the budget constraints.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the Financial Inclusion Strategy and associated action plan be adopted.<1>

45.

Housing Access Improvement and Development Officer (Agenda item 14) pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Economic & Housing Portfolio (Paul Claussen).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report requested Cabinet’s permission to use the external funding from Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services and Norfolk Supporting People to appoint the temporary post of a Housing Access Improvement and Development Officer.

 

Options

 

To approve or not to approve the funding for temporary post.

 

The reason for the recommendation was that at the General Purposes Committee meeting on 1st April 2009, it was resolved that, subject to the funding being approved, a temporary Housing Access Improvement and Development Officer be appointed

 

The risks of not appointing the temporary Housing Access Improvement and Development Officer were as follows:

 

§               Failure to deliver the recommendations of the Physical and Sensory Disability Strategy

 

§               Reputational damage with other key partners in the statutory and voluntary and service user sector

 

§               Failure to deliver key outcomes for vulnerable client groups

 

§               Failure to capitalise on funding and accommodation opportunities for this client group, impacting on delivery against LAA indicators 151 and 152

 

§               Missed opportunity to demonstrate the Council’s contribution to the wider Comprehensive Community Assessment agenda.

 

RESOLVED that the external funding from Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services and Norfolk Supporting People be used to appoint a temporary Housing Access Improvement and Development Officer for a two year fixed term to deliver the outcomes identified in the Housing Strategy 2008 for people with physical and sensory impairments.<1>

 

46.

Breckland Enterprise & Learning Account (BELA 3) (Agenda item 15) pdf icon PDF 97 KB

Report of the Executive Member for the Economic and Housing Portfolio (Paul Claussen).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report sought Cabinet’s approval for £20,000 funding to be released from the match funding reserve to enhance and enable Phase 3 of the ongoing Breckland Enterprise Learning Account (BELA) project which offered small grants of up to £500 to micro businesses based within the Breckland District.  The project had recently been awarded £10,000 from the Breckland Partnership to enable Phase 2 and the Board had recently agreed a further £5,000 towards Phase 3.

 

The Economic Development Officer explained that Appendix 1 of the report highlighted how many businesses had benefited from such grants.  This was considered to be good public relations for the Council as it was actually giving businesses something rather than taking away.  In response to a question asked at a previous Executive Board meeting, Members were informed that the total required from Breckland Match Funding Reserve equated to 38.46%.

 

The Executive Member for the Transformation Portfolio was in strong support of the recommendation as he felt that small grants of up to £500 would be most valuable to small businesses particularly in the current climate. 

 

The Economic Development Team were congratulated

 

Option 1

 

Members agree to funding the initiative to the full amount of £20,000 to enable an additional 50 (minimum) start up micro businesses across the Breckland District to directly benefit from the funding available thereby ensuring their needs were met especially during these challenging times, and progress towards meeting the Council’s own strategic aims.

 

Option 2

 

Members agree to fund the initiative to a lesser amount which would result in diminished outputs and outcomes for Breckland based start up and micro businesses.

 

Option 3

 

Members decline to agree funding to enable the project to continue.  If this was the case the project would diminish but would continue to run with the £5,000 awarded by the Breckland Partnership which would enable 10 further businesses to be assisted.

 

Reasons

 

Additional funding for this initiative would help maximise the opportunity for start up and micro businesses to obtain skills development, business support, essential items of equipment, advice and guidance at a time when businesses such as these were at their most vulnerable.

 

If the funding was not approved it would result in the subsequent scaling down of this initiative.

 

There was no other grant scheme like BELA available to businesses.  If Members declined to agree the funding the one small form of grant aid the business community could access would be gone along with the opportunities that it offered.

 

RESOLVED that £20,000 from the Match Funding Reserve (MFR) be approved to deliver the project to enable the Council & Breckland Partnership to assist a minimum of 50 businesses through a total fund of £25,000.

47.

Capita Contract (Agenda item 16) pdf icon PDF 159 KB

To agree and sign off the outstanding Capita contractual matters, in accordance with the Council’s decision.

 

Report of the Executive Member for the Transformation Portfolio (William Smith).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

David Spencer and Dave Jolley from Capita Symonds were in attendance for this item.

 

This item had been referred to Cabinet for a decision having regard to a range of issues that had emerged during final negotiations and due diligence that, in the opinion of the Deputy Chief Executive, had a material impact on the five criteria against which the contract was to be evaluated, and the risks associated with proceeding to execute the agreement. 

 

The report updated Members on these issues and the essential features of, and the risks associated with, the final draft of a contract between the Council and Capita Symonds Limited. 

 

Specific issues related to:

 

·              securing substantial efficiency savings;

·              generating significant income;

·              demonstrable improvements to the quality of service;

·              provisions for the return of s strong planning and building control service upon the termination of the contract; and

·              pension costs

 

There were concerns of how projected savings could be measured and whether the Council would end up paying more for services if a specification of work Capita would have to complete was not comprehensive enough.  There were also concerns about the legality of the delegated planning decisions and what would happen if the contract was terminated.

 

The Deputy Chief Executive was satisfied that the contractual arrangements that had been agreed with Capita had been met.  However, this did not necessarily mean that the Council should enter into the agreement.   It had become apparent that the negotiation process demonstrated that it would be impossible to devise a simple, robust mechanism for tracking the delivery of savings over time as the baseline and subsequent service levels demanded and provided would change.  This was not to say that savings would not be delivered; they could not, however, be identified with sufficient precision to be incorporated into the contract.  Members therefore needed to satisfy themselves that the mechanism for controlling costs as volumes changed would promote delivery of more efficient services than could otherwise be provided in-house over the same period.  Officers believed that if the service did remain in-house, it would be possible to formulate a management plan with a cost profile that would deliver savings over the 15 year period broadly comparable to those offered by Capita as guaranteed efficiency savings.

 

Members were informed that the arrangements for making delegated decisions had been agreed to the Deputy Chief Executive’s satisfaction. The Deputy Chief Executive explained that normally delegated decisions were made by the Head of Planning or one of his two principal officers.  In future, Capita’s agreed arrangement was that those officers would not now be able to make decisions on behalf of the Council.  They would instead have to prepare a notice of decision, complete with reasons and any conditions together with a Proforma report for the Deputy Chief Executive and he, or an officer authorised by him, would make the decision. 

 

If the contract was signed, Capita would provide all of the services that were presently provided by the authority’s Planning and Building Control teams,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.

48.

Member Development Panel - Annual Appointment (Agenda item 17)

To nominate representatives to the Member Development Panel for the ensuing year.

 

At the Cabinet meeting on 19 September 2006 (Minute No. 124/06 refers), it was resolved that the membership of the Panel should consist of:

 

  • Four Conservative representatives
  • One Labour representative
  • One Independent representative

 

Existing Members:  Mr I Sherwood (Chairman), Mr G Bambridge, Mrs M Chapman-Allen, Mr R Goreham and Mr K Gilbert (one vacancy).

Minutes:

RESOLVED that:

 

1)           the existing members of the Member Development Panel be re-appointed; and

 

2)            the vacancy be filled by Mrs D Irving.

49.

Reference from the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (Agenda item 18) pdf icon PDF 46 KB

To consider a reference from the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 26 March 2009.

Minutes:

Members approved the recommendation proposed by the Overview & Scrutiny Commission as it was felt that a more robust mechanism needed to be in place.

 

Options

 

1)           To approve the recommendation from the Overview & Scrutiny Commission.

 

2)           Not to approve the recommendation from the Overview & Scrutiny Commission.

 

Reason

 

Everyone within the Council needed to adhere to the procedure for the recording of complaints.

 

RESOLVED that a clear protocol be put in place for the reference of complaints through senior managers to ensure all complaints are logged into the system as appropriate.

50.

Anglia Revenues and Benefits Partnership - Additional Funding for Benefits Administration (Agenda item 19) pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Report of the meeting of the Joint Committee held on 5 March 2009.

Minutes:

The options available were:

 

1)           not to request the extra funding available from DWP and not to employ extra benefit officers; or

 

2)           to request the extra funding available as an additional subsidy to be used for temporary employment of agency staff within the Housing Benefits team.

 

The reason for the recommendation was to enable the ARP to continue to provide a Benefits service at the current level of performance whilst experiencing increasing workload.

 

RESOLVED that

 

1)           the release of the grant funding to the Partnership be approved; and

 

2)           the funding received by East Cambridgeshire and Forest heath be paid into the Partnership budgets held by Breckland Council and allocated accordingly to the Partner Authorities.

51.

Anglia Revenues and Benefits Partnership - Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) - Funding Update (Agenda item 19)

Minutes:

The options available were to:

 

1)           note the report and approve the extension of this key post; or

 

2)           reject the report and repay the surplus to the DWP.

 

The reasons for the recommendation were to provide an update on the project and to extend the key post as it had proved invaluable in terms of maximising income received on behalf of the three partner authorities.  As the post holder had been seconded into this role, the post, Council Tax Officer, had also been backfilled on a fixed-term contract.

 

RESOLVED that a supplementary budget, to be funded from the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP), as outlined in the report be approved.

52.

Next Meeting (Agenda item 20)

To note that the date of the next meeting of Cabinet will be held on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 at 9.30am in the Norfolk Room.

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Cabinet would be held on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 at 9.30am in the Norfolk Room.