Agenda and minutes

Budget, Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Monday, 17th January, 2022 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre, St Luke's Avenue, Harrogate HG1 2AE. This meeting will be livestreamed here: https://bit.ly/HarrogateYouTube (Copy and paste the link in your browser).. View directions

Contact: Claire Wilson - Scrutiny Officer  Tel: 01423 500600 ext. 58323 Email:  claire.wilson@harrogate.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

78.

Apologies for absence and notification of substitutes:

Minutes:

Notification had been received that Councillor Ann Myatt was to act as a substitute for Councillor Michael Harrison. Apologies were received from Councillor Bernard Bateman, Councillor John Mann and Councillor Norman Waller.

(2.01 pm)

79.

Declarations of interest:

Members to advise of any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

The Chair, Councillor Chris Aldred, expressed an interest in Minute 83/21 as he was a Member of the Local Government Branch of Unison. The Chair took part in all discussions including the vote, as due to the nature of the information and discussions at the meeting this was not considered a disclosable pecuniary interest.

(2.01 pm)

80.

Minutes: pdf icon PDF 234 KB

Of the meeting of 8 November 2021.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Commission held on 8 November 2021 were approved as a correct record.

 

(Eight Members voted for the motion and there was one abstention)

(2.02 pm)

81.

Exempt information:

To determine whether to exclude the press and public during the consideration of any exempt items – item 6 (part)

Minutes:

Appendix 4b of the report considered at Minute 83/21 and Appendix 9 of the report considered at (a) of Minute 83/21 were exempt by virtue of paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 as they contained information relating to the financial affairs of the Council and were considered commercially sensitive. Consideration of these items, however, took place in open session.

(2.04 pm)

82.

Public arrangements- questions:

To consider any questions under Standing Order 27.

Minutes:

There were none.

(2.04 pm)

83.

2022/23 Draft Budget and 2023/24 Indicative Budget: pdf icon PDF 142 KB

Please find attached the report from the Head of Finance which was considered at Cabinet on 5 January 2022. The Minute from the meeting of Cabinet will follow.

 

Please also find attached the reports for the following Cabinet Member Portfolios for consideration by the Commission and to agree the Overview and Scrutiny Commission Response:

 

(Please note that some Service budgets are split across more than one Portfolio holder, and this is indicated below. A timetable showing the provisional timetable for the meeting is available within "Provisional Budget Timetable".)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A report from the Head of Finance seeking approval from Cabinet for the Draft Budget for 2022/23 and Indicative Budget for 2023/24 had been circulated together with a covering report from the Scrutiny, Governance and Risk Manager setting out the process for scrutiny of the budget.

 

In addition, each Head of Service had submitted a report detailing the respective Service budget proposals for 2022/23 and indicative figures for 2023/24. Each report followed a standard format which included appendices detailing controllable budgets, a summary of budget movements, recommended reductions in existing expenditure, proposed new areas of income, recommended new areas of expenditure and a reserves summary.

 

The Chair referred to the informal meeting of the Commission which had taken place on 10 January 2022 at which a number of queries had been raised. The responses had been circulated to Members prior to the meeting and the Chair thanked officers and Cabinet Members for the prompt provision of responses. As a result of the informal meeting, a number of the service budget proposals were not included for detailed consideration and were therefore agreed. These were:

 

              Finance

              ICT

              Legal and Governance

              Organisational Development and Improvement

              Sport and Leisure

              Safer Communities

              Housing Revenue Account (although the Commission agreed a response to recommendations at Minute 85/21)

 

The Minutes of Cabinet held on 5 January 2022, detailing their considerations, had been circulated, together with the recommended budget proposals and the Commission was requested to consider its overall response to the budget prior to consideration by Council on 9 February 2022.

 

The Commission then commenced its examination of the draft budget for 2022/23 and the indicative budget for 2023/24.

 

Introduction

 

The Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development (CM REED) introduced the budget and thanked officers for their hard work in producing the statutory balanced budget which delivered efficiencies and cost savings as detailed in the appendices to the report. It was noted that due to Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) and the creation of new unitary authority this would be the last operational budget of Harrogate Borough Council (HBC).

 

CM REED referred to the impact of COVID-19 and the Council’s strong financial management. Key areas that were delivered through the budget included investment for growth, improving and optimising services, introducing new services and reducing costs in some areas.

 

The budget was subject to a public consultation and the responses were included as Appendix 7 to the report. The Council planned to support residents by cost control, this included recommending an increase in Council Tax of 1.99% and a guideline increase in some fees and charges of 2.5%. Both were below the rate of inflation that was currently at 4.6%. CM REED referred to the proportion of Council Tax that HBC received, £255.92 pa for a Band D property, and the services this included such as waste and recycling services, street cleaning, leisure and parks facilities, health services, social housing and homelessness support.

 

CM REED provided details of some  ...  view the full minutes text for item 83.

83a

Leader: pdf icon PDF 149 KB

·         Legal and Governance

·         Finance

·         Organisational Development and Improvement

·         Destination Management Organisation

·         HCC (exempt)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

              Legal and Governance:

 

Following the informal meeting of the Commission held on 10 January 2022, Members had decided not to consider this budget in detail as part of the scrutiny of the budget.

 

The service budget for Legal and Governance was therefore agreed.

 

              Finance:

 

Following the informal meeting of the Commission held on 10 January 2022, Members had decided not to consider this budget in detail as part of the scrutiny of the budget.

 

The service budget for Finance was therefore agreed.

 

              Organisational Development and Improvement (ODI):

 

Following the informal meeting of the Commission held on 10 January 2022, Members had decided not to consider this budget in detail as part of the scrutiny of the budget.

 

The service budget for ODI was therefore agreed.

 

              Destination Management Organisation:

 

The Chair welcomed the Leader, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Sport to the Meeting (CM CTS), the Director of Harrogate Convention Centre (HCC) and the Head of the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) to the meeting.

 

The Commission considered the DMO draft budget and the following areas were discussed:

 

Subvention fund: it was noted that the 2022/23 budget included a one-off budget of £450k to make provision for a subvention fund to attract events to the district (plus £50k from Harrogate Business Improvement District). This was a three-year fund designed to encourage organisers to host events at venues in the district, and make repeat bookings for events in future years. It was noted that this approach was common in the industry and this fund would help in terms of competing with other areas. The approach to attracting events would be strategic in that the DMO would take a proactive approach to encourage events that aligned with the pillars of the Destination Management Plan. A report with further details of the subvention fund had been taken to Management Board and would be brought to a meeting of Cabinet to be held on 1 March 2022. The intention was that this budgetary item would now form part of the base budget of the Council and therefore could potentially be carried forward into the new North Yorkshire Council budget.

 

Events calendar: one focus would be on planning events to boost the visitor economy in months when events did not occur and in quieter months (Jan – March for example). Events currently planned included an environmental event with activities cross the district, a fire garden (this was in partnership with Harrogate International Festivals), Queen’s Platinum Jubilee events and potentially a carnival event.

 

Welcome programme: the DMO ambition was to ensure event organisers and delegates had an exceptional welcome to ensure return visitation.

 

Funding for community events: it was noted that Parish Councils (and other groups) could apply to the Local Fund for grant support to help with costs associated with hosting events/celebrations (e.g., Jubilee events). The Local Lotto increased the funding available to applicants.

 

The Commission also considered Christmas events including those that had recently taken place. It was noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 83a

83b

Cabinet Member (Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development): pdf icon PDF 149 KB

·         Commercial elements in the budget

·         ICT

·         Legal and Governance (see papers under Leader)

·         Finance (see papers under Leader)

·         Organisational Development and Improvement (see papers under Leader)

·         Place-Shaping and Economic Growth (see papers under Cabinet Member for Planning)

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

              ICT:

 

Following the informal meeting of the Commission held on 10 January 2022, Members had decided not to consider this budget in detail as part of the scrutiny of the budget.

 

The service budget for ICT was therefore agreed.

 

              Legal and Governance: (see Minute under (a) Leader)

              ODI: (see Minute under (a) Leader)

              Finance: (see Minute under (a) Leader)

              Place-Shaping and Economic Growth: (see Minute under (c) Cabinet Member for Planning)

83c

Cabinet Member (Planning): pdf icon PDF 260 KB

·         Place-shaping and Economic Growth

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

              Place-Shaping and Economic Growth (PSEG):

 

The Chair welcomed the Director of Economy, Environment and Housing and the Head of Place-Shaping and Economic Growth (HoPSEG) to the meeting and thanked them for the detailed responses to queries that had been provided following the informal meeting of the Commission on the 10 January. The Commission had requested details of COVID-19 impacts for commercial property and planning fee income and information about allocation of resources across the service area.

 

Responsibility for the PSEG budget was split between a number of Cabinet Member portfolios. The Chair welcomed the Cabinet Member for Planning, the Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development, the Cabinet Member for Carbon Reduction and Sustainability and the Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Sport to meeting.

 

The Commission considered the Place-Shaping and Economic Growth draft budget and the following areas were discussed:

 

Commercial properties/rent levels: it was noted that rental increases following capital investment were in-line with private sector market rents. The Council had successfully completed several regeneration and upgrade projects and was able to offer a quality product that met market requirements.

 

Resources: the service had undergone a restructure and at the time of the recruitment freeze (linked to COVID-19) 30% of planning posts were vacant. It was noted that the service were confident demands for statutory planning services could be met in 2022/23. This was due to recent recruitment, appropriate resource allocation and the flexibility of the staffing structure that was now in place.

 

Review of service reserves (e.g., Horsefair drainage and Wakeman’s House): it was noted that future maintenance requirements from these projects would be funded from the Capital Investment Reserve allowing a release of previously earmarked funding.

 

Following a question from Councillor Ann Myatt about planning enforcement resolutions, it was confirmed that a new post had been created to monitor developer’s adherence to planning conditions, and the restructure in PSEG had also increased enforcement capacity. Regarding enforcement issues generally, the Council published an Enforcement Plan that provided details of the approach. Action must be proportionate and appropriate, and a collaborative resolution was usually sought ahead of any formal enforcement action. The Plan was available online and Members could request further information if required.

 

The HoPSEG confirmed that processing times for Land Charge searches were currently around five days, this was reduced from a peak of 37.5 days during the time when COVID-19 restrictions were in place, resulting in high demand and some resourcing issues.

83d

Cabinet Member (Environment, Waste Reduction and Recycling): pdf icon PDF 154 KB

·         Parks and Environmental Services

·         Place-Shaping and Economic Growth (see papers under Cabinet Member for Planning)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

                Place-Shaping and Economic Growth: (see Minute under (b) Cabinet Member Planning).

 

                Parks and Environmental Services:

 

The Chair welcomed the Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste Reduction and Recycling (CM EWRR) and the Head of Parks and Environmental Services (HoPES) to the meeting.

 

The CM EWRR addressed the Commission highlighting the achievements made by different areas of the service, this included a partnership with Harrogate College to provide apprenticeship programmes, HBC was also funding Heavy Goods Vehicle training for existing staff. A 50% rise in plant sales was reported along with a strong recovery within the trade waste service. The team had made improvements at some cemeteries and in the Valley Gardens, with extended opening times for games and two new play areas opened elsewhere in the district. Future plans included a tree planting scheme, jubilee themed floral displays and supporting a regular artisan market. The Harrogate district had high rates of recycling and low volumes of household waste. Challenges included rising fuel costs.

 

The Commission considered the Parks and Environmental Services draft budget and the following areas were discussed:

 

Allocation of resources in rural areas: it was noted that the Council provided services where it had a duty or where it was a landowner. There were also other services provided on a discretionary basis, such as the provision of street bins for dog waste. The Council had recently opened new play areas in Ripon and Knaresborough. It was also noted that the Council maintained a number of closed churchyards and play areas in rural areas. It was confirmed that Parish Councils could apply for additional bins for dog waste.  A current project was looking at an upgrade of all street bins across the district to reduce manual handling and allow collections to be managed on normal waste rounds. Consultation with parishes would take place as part of the roll out.  The Commission noted that a potential future work item could be focussed on the provision of all Council services/resources allocated to rural areas.

 

Food waste disposal: it was noted that the provision of food waste disposal would be subject to guidance/legislation from central Government.

 

Horticultural nursery sustainably: it was noted by the Commission that a gas boiler was used to heat greenhouses at the nursery. Councillor Ann Myatt suggested that stopping the use of annual bedding plants would remove the requirement for a heat source and could reduce costs and carbon emissions. The HoPES confirmed greenhouses were only heated for part of the year, as required and the area used was consolidated as far as possible.  The district was known for floral displays and they attracted visitors, contributing to the local economy. Executive Members confirmed that consideration of carbon reduction/sustainability was embedded in Council policies. The costs of new, green technology had to be justifiable and balanced with budgetary constraints and achieving the aims within the Carbon Reduction Strategy, which was in the process of being renewed.

 

Horticultural nursery commercial sales: it was noted that revenue  ...  view the full minutes text for item 83d

83e

Cabinet Member (Carbon Reduction and Sustainability):

·         Safer Communities (see papers under Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Communities)

·         Place-Shaping and Economic Growth (see papers under Cabinet Member for Planning)

·         Parks and Environmental Services (see papers under Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste Reduction and Recycling)

 

Minutes:

                Safer Communities: (see Minute under (f) Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Communities)

                Place-Shaping and Economic Growth: (see Minute under (c) Cabinet Member for Planning)

                Parks and Environmental Services: (see Minute under (d) Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste Reduction and Recycling)

83f

Cabinet Member (Housing and Safer Communities): pdf icon PDF 154 KB

·         Safer Communities

·         Housing and Property

·         Housing Revenue Account (this was considered at Cabinet on 5 January 2022, Minute from the meeting of Cabinet to follow)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

                Safer Communities:

 

Following the informal meeting of the Commission held on 10 January 2022, Members had decided not to consider this budget in detail as part of the scrutiny of the budget. The service budget for Safer Communities was therefore agreed.

 

The Commission noted the hard work, dedication and professionalism of Safer Communities staff in keeping people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, as highlighted by the Cabinet Member.

 

                Housing and Property:

 

The Chair welcomed the Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Communities (CM HSC) and the Head of Housing and Property to the meeting. The CM HSC provided a brief overview, outlining the setting for housing budgets and key achievements, which included new measures and facilities to help with rough sleeping/homelessness and building new homes to provide social housing. The Commission considered the Housing and Property Services draft budget and the following areas were discussed:

 

Bracewell Homes: increased salary recharge: it was noted that Bracewell Homes was a limited company owned by the council and the company did not directly employ staff. Work was undertaken by Officers within the Council, in addition to their work for the Council and recharged to the company. As the company developed work increased and therefore the recharged amount may increase. It was noted that the LGR process included the consideration of companies run by existing local authorities such as Bracewell Homes. 

 

Lifeline: it was noted that when NYCC withdrew funding to Lifeline the decision was taken to develop the service and market it to a wider group of people. The COVID-19 pandemic had made it difficult to market the service and consequently the predicted income could not be achieved.

 

Footway lighting: it was noted that the £16k to be removed from the budget would not result in cyclical inspections/work not taking place, as it would be included in the much larger work programme of the new authority.

 

New social housing: it was noted that the Council only built and bought homes to provide affordable social housing and not for commercial resale.

 

                Housing Revenue Account:

 

Following the informal meeting of the Commission held on 10 January 2022, Members had decided not to consider the Draft Housing Revenue Account Budget 2022/23 (HRA) in detail.

 

The HRA budget included the recommendation that a 2.5% increase in rent was applied for 2022/23. The Commission wanted to thank the Cabinet Member for this, noting it was below inflation and below the level that Local Authorities were permitted to increase rents (4.1%). The Council recognised there were significant pressures facing local residents at this time and intended to support people where possible. Not recommending the maximum increase was achievable because the HRA was in good condition due to many years of good management.

 

The Commission’s response to this budget was agreed at Minute 85/21.

83g

Cabinet Member (Culture, Tourism and Sport): pdf icon PDF 152 KB

·       Sport and Leisure

·       Destination Management Organisation (see papers under Leader)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

                Sport and Leisure:

 

Following the informal meeting of the Commission held on 10 January 2022 the Commission had decided not to consider this budget in detail as part of the scrutiny of the budget.  At the informal meeting Members queried how the Brimham’s Active (BA) budget was identified within HBC’s overall budget. It was confirmed that it was via the management fee in the Sport and Leisure service budget and shown in the following format:

 

       Included as expenditure in the HBC budget (a payment to BA for them to operate the Sport and Leisure service on behalf of HBC)

       Included as income in the BA budget

       These items therefore had a net nil impact overall

 

The service budget for Sport and Leisure was therefore agreed.

 

                Destination Management Organisation: (see Minute under (a) Leader)

 

SUMMARY

 

The Leader addressed the Commission and provided a strategic overview of the budget to the Commission. He explained that the strategy was to maintain existing services, support staff through the LGR process and enable projects and initiatives that were important for the district, to continue to progress and develop after the creation of a new unitary authority. The Leader referred to the recommended 1.99% rise in Council Tax, that was below the rate of inflation, he confirmed this was possible due to work over previous years to reduce the cost base, make the best use of assets and make efficiency savings.

 

The Leader referred to Minute 84/21 where potential alternative budgets could be considered. The Leader suggested that any such proposal should be submitted in good time before the Budget setting Council meeting, allowing time for any proposals to be subject to a similar scrutiny process.

 

The Leader thanked the Commission for their time and work with the budget scrutiny process and for the opportunity for Cabinet Members to attend and speak. He extended thanks for the hard work of officers and Cabinet Members in preparing the budget.

 (2.04 pm – 4.52 pm)

84.

Potential Alternative Budgets:

The Commission to consider any alternative budgets. (Copy to follow, if any)

Minutes:

There were no alternative budget proposals.

(4.52 pm)

85.

Overall Consideration of the 2022/23 Draft Budget and 2023/24 Indicative Budget and the Draft Housing Revenue Account Budget 2022/23:

The Commission to agree an overall response to Cabinet on the 2022/23 Draft Budget and 2023/24 Indicative Budget and the Draft Housing Revenue Account Budget 2022/23.

Minutes:

The Chair then asked the Commission to consider its overall response to the Draft Budget for 2022/23 and Indicative Budget for 2023/24, and the Draft Housing Revenue Account Budget 2022/23. The Chair referred to the recommendations of the Cabinet of 5 January 2022. The Overview and Scrutiny Commission response to the budget would be reported to Cabinet on 5 February 2022.

 

It was noted that the salary budgets reflected an assumed 2.5% pay award in 2022/23 and 2023/24. Throughout the consideration of the budget the Commission highlighted the importance of retaining and recruiting high quality staff members, accepting that this was even more challenging in an environment where HBC would cease to exist from April 2023.

 

On behalf of the Commission the Chairman thanked officers and Cabinet Members for all their hard work in responding to questions and attending the meeting.

 

The Commission then endorsed the recommendations of Cabinet in respect of the Draft Budget for 2022/23 and Indicative Budget for 2023/24.

 

That   (1) the Draft Budget for 2022/23 and Indicative Budget for 2023/24 are approved to be recommended to Council, in particular noting:

 

i) The proposed Council Tax increase for a Band D property of £5 in 2022/23 and an indicative 1.99% increase in 2023/24

 

ii) The resulting Council Tax requirement of £16,666,729 in 2022/23 and £17,251,356 in 2023/24

 

iii) The recommended minimum Working Balance level of £2,500,000

 

iv) The overall budget summaries in Appendices 1b, 2a and 2b

 

v) The net reductions in existing expenditure totalling £1,947k in 2022/23 and £2,081k in 2023/24 as shown in Appendix 3

 

vi) The increases or new areas of income totalling £3,420k in 2022/23 and £1,055k in 2023/24 as shown in Appendix 4 and the fees and charges schedules as shown in Appendix 4a and Appendix 4b (exempt)

 

vii) The new areas of expenditure totalling £631k in 2022/23 and net reductions of £440k in 2023/24 as shown in Appendix 5

 

viii) The use of the budget transition fund, with £623k being transferred back into the fund in 2022/23 and £765k being used in 2023/24.

 

(2) the growth proposed of £80k in 2022/23 (see paragraph 45 vi) be recommended for approval; and

 

(3) the £4,474k identified from the latest review of reserves is transferred to the Council Investment Reserve to fund the acceleration of Studio 2 works at HCC (£2,800k) and support the Carbon Reduction Strategy (£1,674k) (see paragraphs 55 and 56).

 

(Six Members voted for the motion and there were three abstentions)

 

The Commission endorsed the recommendations of Cabinet in respect of the Draft Housing Revenue Budget 2022/23:

 

That   (1) the draft HRA estimates for 2022/23 are approved; and

 

(2) a 2.5% increase in rent charged is applied for 2022/23.

 

(Six Members voted for the motion and there were three abstentions)

 

 (4.52 pm – 4.56 pm)

 

 

86.

Forward Plan of Key Decisions: pdf icon PDF 151 KB

To consider current forward plan items.

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Officer updated the Commission about two Key Decisions that were currently in the call-in period, ending on 18 January 2022. These were Business Rates 50% - Retention Pool 2022/23 (Forward Plan Ref: 48CA21) and Award of Contract – Electric Vehicle Charging Points (Forward Plan Ref: 51PSEG21).

(4.56 pm)

87.

Overview And Scrutiny Draft Work Programme 2021/22: pdf icon PDF 385 KB

The Scrutiny, Governance and Risk Manager to submit a written report.

Minutes:

The Scrutiny, Governance and Risk Manager (SGRM) referred to the written report, which included details of the Commission’s Draft Work Programme for 2021/22. A special meeting held on behalf of the Council scheduled for 13 December 202, where the Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire was due to present her annual report, had been postponed and a new date had not yet been arranged. The Commission agreed to arrange this as a special informal meeting so that it could be held remotely and provide more flexibility for meeting dates/times.

 

Planning Committee Referrals was a work item scheduled to be reviewed at the 31 January 2022 meeting of the Commission, however the service had requested that, due to service demands, this item was not considered at this meeting. The Commission agreed to de-prioritise this item on their 2021/22 work programme, this was due to impending Local Government Reorganisation and the fact that the existing Harrogate Borough Council scheme of delegation (for planning) would be replaced.

 

The SGRM explained that the scheduled meeting on 31 January 2022 had usually been included as an extra meeting to allow for additional time for budget consideration, which could be cancelled if this was not required following the first formal budget meeting. The meeting schedule on the 7 February 2022 was originally timetabled to consider performance and financial updates (quarter three). It had now been possible to move these items to the 31 January 2022 meeting, enabling them to be considered before Cabinet (2 February 2022). The Commission therefore agreed that the meeting scheduled for 7 February 2022 was cancelled.

(4.56 pm – 5.00 pm)