Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Council Chamber, County Hall, Rhadyr, Usk, NP15 1GA

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Interest.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

 

2.

Public Open Forum.

Minutes:

No members of the public were present.

 

3.

Budget Monitoring Report Month 7 - Report for quarterly scrutiny. pdf icon PDF 306 KB

Minutes:

The committee was presented with a report showing significant pressures, with an unprecedented shortfall of just under £4m at this stage – this is a rare situation and challenge for the Council. Children’s Services is by far the biggest pressure to contain, with an increase of looked-after children and very expensive placements, leading to a £2m overspend. Other notable areas are Adult and Social Care, and children with additional learning needs. A recovery plan has been prepared which can be put into effect quickly. The Council’s ability to make in-year savings is getting harder, the £4m overspend already takes into account the savings and cuts made. All expected measures are being taken.

 

Challenge:

 

How confident are we that the potential surplus from the Ealing judgement, or some of it, will come back to the Council?

 

There is a range of possible VAT recovery, we’re forecasting £1.9m in the mid-range. The risks are more around the very old elements of the claim: the older the claim the harder it is to make it. Therefore, there’s always a degree of risk that Customs will accept that position. KPMG has given reassurance that we are in a strong position. If we do go beyond the forecasted £1.9m the money will be used to benefit the end-of-year outturn position, offset against any further pressures that may come to the fore in the remainder of the year.

 

Given the slippage of £171k for Crick Care Home, if, by the end of the next financial year, we haven’t begun to spend money on the project, would we lose the grant from Welsh Govt?

 

The slippage of £171k noted in the report has been due to the planning application working its way through and being approved. There’s no real concern, there are risks identified around funding but these are more to do with care home replacement on the site. Conversations are ongoing, with reassurance being given to Welsh Govt.

 

How is investment in Spytty Park going, how is it balancing against Castle Gate, and what are the implications for Innovation House?

 

The Spytty Park investment is predicated on robust business cases, and prudence. Spytty Park has a strong occupancy, levels of commercial income come through ahead of baseline projections. Castle Gate is still generating commercial income to offset overall borrowing costs, but a few things have arisen to stop the target being met. Overall though, investment is fine, the portfolio is balanced. There’s a diversification of risk across the portfolio – this is the reason for investment in Spytty Park and Castle Gate. Recovery of income in Castle Gate is offset by recovery in Spytty Park. Castle Gate is running at 88% occupancy, we are working to fill the vacancies, which will then increase the income.

 

There have been delays in moving staff across to County Hall J Block, one consequence is it has blunted the ability to move Innovation House forward and make money from it. This has had an impact on income, but we  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Scrutiny of the draft Capital and Revenue proposals for 2020-21 within the context of the four year Medium Term Financial Plan. pdf icon PDF 187 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The committee was presented with a report that frames the current in-year challenges. As expected, many pressures are carrying through into next year amidst a set of wider challenges. The totality of pressures being managed and contained is just shy of £10m – this is significant. Adult and Social Care is the most significant aspect of the £10m pressure. ALN pressure continues and grows. The teacher pay and pension increase continues on into next year. These 3 areas make up more than £8m of the £10m.

 

A robust set of proposals has been brought to deal with the pressures. The core responsibility is to bring balanced proposals in March. When proposals went to consultation in December they weren’t fully balanced, with £1m still to organise. Consultation continues to tomorrow, 31st Jan. Cluster meetings have been held, consultations with budget, targeted events with headteachers, events with young people, etc. As many people as possible have been met with to get feedback. The main point of the feedback is the 2% regarding the schools budget. Cabinet is considering alternative proposals. The tax increase was originally 3.95% but 4.95% is now being proposed out of necessity, given the pressures.

 

Challenge:

 

Were headteachers consulted about the 2% saving against school budgets? Was the proposal subject to an Impact assessment?

 

Yes, headteachers were consulted, and fed into discussions with Cabinet. Conversations have continued, feedback has been received from parents etc. Cabinet has no appetite for imposing a 2% reduction, all alternative measures are being considered.

 

Does the freeze on employer’s pensions contributions affect the employees’ pensions?

 

No, freezing employer’s pensions contributions doesn’t affect employees.

 

Are there details of comparisons with other authorities, in terms of the increases in fees?

 

When managers assess charges relating to their service areas they look at the local market, cause and effects of price increases, sensitivity in the market, etc. Yes, they look at how they position themselves against other local authorities but equally, they will also look at how they sit alongside the private sector (depending on the nature of the fee and the charge), particularly when they’re in competition. Detail is hard to supply on this point as each budget holder and manager will take a different assessment depending on the nature of the fee and the charge.

 

The financial documentation mentions a favourable income from house building completions – in terms of the investment strategy, have we considered revenue from sales and income tax?

A motion has been put forward and work has been undertaken to assess the feasibility of setting up a development company – that work is ongoing. Some care needs to be taken on the timing of that, as the LDP strategy is making its way through to Council in March, but that is not the end of the process, so from a commercial perspective clarity would be needed in terms of the opportunities that present to the Council – whether to go alone or work with others to develop housing. The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Confirmation of Minutes pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on the 10th October 2019 were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.

 

6.

Economy and Development Select Committee Forward Work Programme. pdf icon PDF 294 KB

Minutes:

Councillor A. Davies suggested adding Scrutiny of the City Deal to programme, and to recognise that he is no longer on the joint committee. He proposed that Council consider a change of approach from MCC to the City Deal.

 

7.

Council and Cabinet Forward Work Planner. pdf icon PDF 520 KB

Minutes:

The next meeting is Thursday 27th February. There is an LDP workshop on 24th February.

 

8.

Next Meeting

Minutes:

Thursday 27th February 2020 at 10.00am.